Coffee Plantations to Colonial Towns: 17 Places to Visit in Colombia

Looking for the best places to visit in Colombia? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Colombia has some really incredible landscapes; sprawling cities, colorful towns, sunny beaches, cool mountains, open savannahs and lush jungles. You can enjoy relaxation, adventure, family-friendly activities, delicious food and so much more within this beautiful country, nestled at the top of South America. 

Beautiful bay with white sand beach, blue water and big boulders in Tayrona national park in Colombia with soft focus

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 We turned to the PassportExplorers, a family of five who has been traveling the world full-time for over seven years, to provide you with a list of the best places in Colombia so you can plan a fantastic trip!

Top 17 Places to Visit in Colombia

You may be looking for the most popular places. Or you may be looking for the least touristy places. Perhaps you want to visit the best hidden gems in Colombia. From cities to national parks, pueblos to coastal beaches, here are some of the top places to visit in Colombia, in no particular order.

Bogota, Colombia - Jan. 28, 2023: Bogota cityscape at sunset. Vista aérea del centro de Bogotá Colombia al atardecer.
Photo credit: Ameer Mussard-Afcari/Shuuterstock.

1. Tayrona National Park

Tayrona Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in northern Colombia and the perfect destination to add to your Colombia itinerary. This large national park sits along Colombia’s Caribbean coast and has stunning beaches. You can reach Tayrona National Park by car from Cartagena, which takes approximately 5 hours.  Or, you can fly into Santa Marta and drive 45 minutes to Tayrona Park.

Like most national parks, you need to obtain a ticket to enter and the number of tickets is restricted each day. There are two entrances to choose from, though El Zaino seems to be the most popular. 

Tayrona National Natural Park is a beautiful place of Colombia's Caribbean Coast. Near to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, you can find white beaches, crystalline waters and beautiful nature.
Photo credit: Cesar Blanco/ Shuuterstock.

Note, that once you get your ticket at the entrance, you’ll need to drive, walk or take a shuttle to the actual start of the hiking trails. There are a few camping locations or you can even sleep in a hammock at Cabo San Juan.

Insider Tip: I recommend the hike to Arenillas and La Piscina.  These are gorgeous beaches where you can enjoy a refreshing swim. There are also a couple of restaurants on the beach so you can rehydrate and grab a bite to eat there as well.  

Along the trails, you’ll want to take some time to stop off and enjoy the coastal Caribbean vistas. There are a few vendors that set up temporary stands along the way. Or you may come across the local indigenous children selling fresh coconut water!  

Just note that there are times during the year when Tayrona completely shuts down so that the land has time to rest and revive.

2. Barichara

Barichara is located in Santander, between Bucaramanga and Villa de Leyva.  It will be one of your favorite places to visit in Colombia if you want to explore unique towns with few tourists.  

Because its location is a bit hard to get to, tourists don’t flock to Barichara.  But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth going! 

Barichara is actually known as one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia.  Unlike the typical colorful pueblos throughout Colombia, Barichara architecture is unique. The whitewashed houses and buildings are made of adobe clay with red terracotta tile roofs. 

street view of barichara colonial town, colombia
Photo credit: Jon Chica/ Shutterstock.

You can enjoy a tuk-tuk ride around town or opt to walk the ancient hike to Guane from Barichara. 

A couple of hours from Barichara is Chicamocha Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world.  You will likely drive past Chicamocha if you arrive at Bucaramanga airport.  Just note that the drive can be quite windy, which is difficult if you are prone to carsickness.  At Chicacmocha Canyon, you can enjoy a picnic, a hike, or even a cable car ride. 

3. Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva is located about 3 to 4 hours from Bogota.  It’s a charming Spanish colonial town in the highlands, where you can enjoy slightly cooler temperatures.  

Unlike other Colombian towns, Villa de Leyva’s main square, Plaza Mayor, is open. No trees and no gazebo.  Just cobblestone!  

Villa de Leyva, Colombia- January 5, 2023: Statue of Jesus on top of a hill with a panoramic view of the Colombian town Villa de Leyva
Photo credit: Simon Mayer/Shutterstock.

Grab a seat at one of the cafes at the edges of Plaza Mayor to enjoy some people-watching or meander down the cobblestone streets to all the shops and restaurants.

You can also consider a tour of the famous Terracotta House!

4. Raquira

Raquira is Colombia’s pottery capital. It is located about 30 minutes outside of Villa de Leyva. 

The history of pottery and ceramics in Raquira began in pre-Colombian times. This colorful town in Colombia boasts shop after shop of handmade ceramics.  

Typical souvenirs for sale in a shop in Raquira in Boyaca, Colombia
Photo credit: juan carlos tinjaca/ Shuterstock.

If you love pottery, this is the perfect place to take a ceramics workshop. Try your hand at the pottery wheel or learn how to carve designs from your clay sculptures.

Insider Tip: Wondering what to buy in Colombia?  When visiting Raquira, you may want to leave a little extra space in your luggage to take home some beautiful pottery!

5. Bogotá – the Nation’s Capital

Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá is located at high altitude in the Andean Mountains, which makes for cooler and misty weather.

Bogota is a perfect Colombian city to visit if you are looking for big city vibes without a big touristy feel. 

Colorful building in La Candelaria neighborhood in the historic center of Bogota, Colombia
Photo credit: Jess Kraft/ Shutterstock.

Insider Tip: We recommend taking a food tour through Paloquemao Market, a perfect way to try all the delicious exotic fruits in Colombia. 

You can also opt to take the funicular railway to Montserrat to enjoy panoramic views of Bogota.  

Bogota also has many museums, including the Gold Museum and Emerald Museums.  For art lovers, make sure to check out the Botero Museum. 

6. Medellin

Medellin is the city celebrated for its perfect weather and is therefore known as the city of eternal spring!  It is a sprawling city, which you can really get a feel for by taking the cable car to the top. (Your metro pass allows you on the cable car too!).  

Downtown Medellín, Plaza Botero and at the intersection of Calle 52 and Carrera 51. It is located diagonally from Parque Berrío Station.
Photo credit: Juanfercano/ Shutterstock.

Of course, Medellin is famous for Comuna 13, a neighborhood transformed from its troubling past to a tourist mecca filled with street vendors, graffiti artists, and even elevators to help make the trip to the top easier for locals and tourists alike. 

A stay in Medellin is also the perfect base in Colombia, as you can easily reach the coffee region, as well as famous sites such as the gigantic rock, El Penol. 

7. Guatapé – El Peñol

Guatapé is located a couple of hours outside of Medellin. It often makes a great day trip from Medellin but you may choose to stay overnight in Guatapé in order to enjoy the colorful town, the lake and El Peñol. 

El Peñol is the infamous rock, which you can climb via some 800 stairs to the top for gorgeous panoramic views of the waterways surrounding Guatapé.

guatape, colombia. 19th august, 2022: colorful street of guatape colonial town, colombia
Photo credit: Jon Chica/Shutterstock.

In Guatapé, you’ll notice all the homes are adorned with colorful art panels, called zocalos.  Along the waterfront, you can grab a boat ride on the lake to see El Penol in the distance.  Just note that there is no swimming in this lake. 

Insider Tip: For children, there is a nice playground in the center of town (something you don’t always find in Colombia)!

8. Coffee Axis

Colombia’s main tourist coffee region is located between Bogota and Medellin.  We say tourist coffee region because according to many locals, there are better areas for coffee in Colombia.  However, the Coffee Axis (or often called the Coffee Triangle) is the easiest coffee area for tourists to access.

You can take a domestic flight to Pereira and choose from the numerous towns in the region to base yourself in during your exploration of the Zona Cafetera. The coffee region is quite large, so it can take hours to drive from one area to another.

Salento,Quindío/Colombia - October 25, 2020:The Cocora Valley is an excellent tourist site on Colombia's coffee axis and in sight its country vehicle symbol and mean of transport of the region
Photo credit: ValenPh /Shutterstock.

The region is of course known for the lush green hillside coffee farms, known as fincas.  Colombia is known as a coffee country and renown for having some of the best coffee in the world. This area is the perfect place to take a Jeep Tour to reach some of the coffee plantations and explore the many towns in the region.   

9. Cartagena

One of the most popular cities in Colombia, Cartagena is known for its hot, humid beach vibe and enchanting old town. The colorful streets are full of music, people, culture, shops and restaurants. Several parts of Cartagena, the walled city, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

In the evenings, as the sun sets, enjoy a beautiful walk on top of the walls that surround the old town in this historic city.  

Or perhaps meander to Getsemani – known as one of the world’s coolest neighborhoods. The streets are lined with art and in the evening are hopping with musicians and street vendors, as the restaurants spill into the streets. 

View of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
Photo credit: rocharibeiro/Shutterstock.

History buffs will enjoy the fortress of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas which is located on a strategic hill location on San Lázaro.  It’s an impressive fort which overlooks the city and the sea.

Bocagrande is Cartagena’s newer neighborhood. It’s a place to check out for luxury real estate and modern condos along the seafront. 

Cartagena airport has a neighborhood feel and is easy to fly in and out of. Therefore, this is one of the easiest international airports to fly into and is an excellent base for exploring the northern coast of Colombia.

10. Isla Baru

Baru is located about a 2-hour drive or 30-minute speedboat ride from Cartagena.  The nice thing about Baru, unlike many of the popular islands near Cartagena, is that you don’t have to rely on just boat transportation.  Technically Baru is a Peninsula, although it was cut off from the mainland by a canal, it is still connected by a bridge.

Beautiful Playa Blanca or White Beach on the Caribbean island of Isla Baru, close to Cartagena, Colombia
Photo credit: Fotos593/Shutterstock.

Insider Tip: If you are arriving after dark, I would suggest arranging transportation ahead of time, as the road to Baru can be a bit bumpy and there aren’t many street lights once you get out of the city. 

Isla Baru boosts some nice luxury eco-resorts, as well as beautiful turquoise water and fine white sand! 

It’s a place to enjoy water sports, get away from overpopulated beaches and relax in the Carribean sun!

11. Salento

Do you know the colorful pueblos depicted in the movie Encanto? You’ll feel like you are taking a step into the movie when you are walking about Salento.  

Like most Colombian towns, there is a central plaza. If you are traveling with kids in Colombia, they will love the Mini Jeep Willy’s set up in the plaza. For what is equivalent to a couple of dollars, you can choose your favorite mini jeep and one of the local men will push it around the plaza.

Empty streets of Salento Quindio on March 23, 2016
Photo credit: Orchid photho/Shutterstock.

Walking through the town of Salento, you will find endless cute shops, restaurants and street vendors.  For a unique snack, check out the Jugo de Chontaduro y Borojo food cart and of course, grab a popsicle at the gelataria. Colombian snacks and casual dishes are always a treat!

Salento is also really close to Cocora Valley.  Seeing the tall wax palms (the national tree of Colombia) and hiking in Cocora Valley is definitely one of the top things to do in Colombia.

12. Ciudad Perdida, The Lost City

If you are looking for a bit of adventure and want to enjoy a true trek in Colombia, check out La Ciudad Perdida.  Translated, it means The Lost City. It is an ancient city and archaeological site located in the north of Colombia.  

To get to Ciudad Perdida is no easy feat. It is a 4 to 5 day trek with overnights in jungle camps (don’t expect any sort of luxury accommodations). You must book through a tour operator to access the trek to The Lost City. 

scenery around the Lost City named Ciudad Perdida in Colombia
Photo credit: PRILL/ Shutterstock.

While it isn’t the most challenging hike, it certainly is no easy feat either. However, coming upon this ancient indigenous city will undoubtedly be one of the most rewarding places you will visit on your trip to Colombia.

Note that there are times throughout the year when the trails are completely closed.  Like Tayrona Park, there is an agreement with the indigenous communities to allow the land to rest and revive. 

13. San Gil

Speaking of adventure, if you are looking for the best places in Colombia for unique adventurous activities, check out San Gil.  It’s also a bit off the main tourist routes of Colombia.  

Waterfall near San Gil Colombia - Cascada de Juan Curi
Photo credit: Owen Ruck / Shutterstock.

In order to get to San Gil, you will likely fly into Bucaramanga. From there, you can catch a bus or arrange private transportation to San Gil (about 3 hours by car). 

While in San Gil you can enjoy bungy jumping, white water rafting, paragliding, hiking to waterfalls, canyoning, river kayaking and so much more!

14. Mompox 

Mompox is another off-the-beaten-path destination in Colombia, which makes it a great place to visit for those trying to get off the popular tourist circuit. 

Mompox is also referred to as Mompós. You’ll feel like you are visiting the past, as the town hasn’t modernized like the rest of Colombia. It has a rich history and was a place where gold was stored to prevent pirates from accessing the riches. Therefore, you can take part in jewelry workshops here in Mompox.

The morning lights of Mompós, colombia
Photo credit: Sebastian Delgado C/ Shutterstock.

While in Mompox, you’ll also want to visit Aracataca village, which was the home of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombian author of the famous book, One Hundred Years of Solitude. In this village, you can explore the many locations mentioned in the novel, including the railway station and river.  You can also visit the school that Gabriel Garcia Marquez attended.

15. Bahia Solano 

Bahia Solano is definitely worthy of putting on your Colombia trip list if you are visiting between June and November.  Located on the Pacific Coast, this area is known for incredible whale watching (mainly humpbacks), crystal-clear waters, and lush rainforest.

Humpback whale tail - Bahia Solano, Colombia
Photo credit: Stephen Turvey/ Shutterstock.

From Bahia Solano, you can also consider visiting other towns along the Pacific Coast, which boast a variety of wildlife, turtle reserves, national parks, and adventure.

16. Cali

Cali is the hotspot for dancing in Colombia. In particular, this is where you go for salsa dancing!  Take some salsa lessons, hit the dance floor and enjoy this party music city!

You can also enjoy strolling through the many parks in Cali.  If you have not been to Rio to see Christ the Redeemer, you can have your chance to experience something similar in Cali by taking a walk up to El Cristo Rey.

Front view of Cristo del Rey statue of Cali against a blue sky with international flags waving around. Colombia
Photo credit: Watch The World/ Shutterstock.

Cali is also known for its foodie culture, innovative cuisine and delicious street food. 

Given it isn’t one of the most popular cities to visit in Colombia, you will likely have an authentic Colombian experience in Cali. 

 17. Yopal

If you want to experience a bit of cowboy lifestyle in Colombia, check out Yopal. Here you will get to experience the savanna in Colombia.  Yes, Colombia really does have such a variety of landscapes!

Yopal, Casanare, Colombia. March 9, 2018: Panoramic of the city on a beautiful sunny day
Photo credit: oscar garces/ Shutterstock.

The open plains of Yopal have a rich biodiversity, where you can spot anteaters, various monkeys, birds, and river wildlife as well.  Those who have been dreaming of being a cowboy can saddle up on horseback to ride through the savanna.  Or, you can enjoy a peaceful canoe ride down the Cavo Sur River.

Explore the Best Places to Visit in Colombia

Colombia has such diverse landscapes, activities, and climates. Whether you’re seeking adventure, culture, or relaxation, Colombia has it all. It has emerged as one of the most affordable and top destinations. Given the array of experiences in Colombia, a trip here can cater to everyone’s interests and preferences.

Photo credit: Luis Inacio P Prado / Shutterstock.

When trying to figure out which are the best places to visit in Colombia, consider what you want your trip to entail. Ask yourself what types of memories you want to leave with.  In Colombia, it can literally include a little bit of everything!

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Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.

Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.

Welcome to xoxoBella! I am Bella Bucchiotti and I am a recipe developer, content creator and writer. Here you will find delicious recipes, travel inspiration, crafts, pet tips and more.

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