Start straight at the top, and you'll find snowy mountain peaks and peculiar high-mountain plains; at the low elevations, you'll find tropical meadows or beaches scorched in the sunshine.
Colombia's list of must-do activities includes some of the best outdoor pursuits and in-depth cultural encounters available. For travel inspiration, continue reading for the ultimate Colombia bucket list and make your trip the most wonderful one.
15 Unforgettable Things to do in Colombia
There are many things to do in Colombia for tourists to discover, whether they are looking for pristine national parks and nature places or specific historic sites and ancient indigenous cultures.
1. Go Horseback Riding in Cocora Valley
The Cocora Valley is a national park in Colombia's coffee-growing region. The wax palm, also Colombia's national tree, grows in the valley and is the tallest palm tree in the world.
In Valle de Cocora, horseback riding is a fun way to explore the park's unspoiled natural beauty. The lovely village of Salento is close to Cocora. You can travel here for a one day trip or arrange to stay overnight if you want to stay longer.
2. Hike Through the Jungle to Ciudad Perdida
Spend three days hiking through lush tropical foliage before you reach a peak of Colombia's aptly called Ciudad Perdida (Hidden City).
It's difficult to get here due to the muddy, ascending routes and the humid jungle climate, but once you get there, you'll realize that all the sweat and tears are worth it. Ciudad Perdida, a genuinely great pre-Columbian metropolis, was constructed more than 1000 years ago by the Tayrona people.
3. Visit San Andrés Island
San Andrés Island, where the views are stunning, is just a short aircraft flight from the Colombian shore (roughly 500 miles). The Caribbean Sea surrounds the island, and it has a charming waterfront where visitors may unwind with a drink and a meal. If you’re seeking more active adventures, canoes are available for rental services, and it is just a short paddle to Johnny Cay, a stunning archipelago.
4. Explore Cartagena’s Old Town
This region of Cartagena is a treasure trove of culture and history because it was one of the first Spanish colonial settlements in South America. Take a stroll around the peaceful streets enclosed by the city's ancient walls, ride in a carriage pulled by horses, or treat your taste buds to one of the many tropical fruits available on the streets. These are some of our favorite things to do in the Old Town, making vacation to this part of Colombia so much fun.
5. Snorkel in the Coral Reef Surrounding Providencia
Colombia's Caribbean coast evokes feelings of paradise, and the emerald-green island of Providencia is around 800 kilometers north of the Colombian mainland.
The McBean Lagoon National Natural Area is distinguished by its dazzlingly colored waters. This is one of the nicest spots in Colombia for snorkeling because of the abundance of tropical fish, manta rays, and even sea turtles in the warm and transparent waters.
6. Visit the Bogota Gold Museum
The Bogota Gold Museum is one of the amazing things to do in Colombia. At only a few bucks for entrance, it's a stunning and cost-effective tourist destination in the country. The objects showcased were discovered throughout Colombia, including gold jewelry, masks, and tools. On Tuesday through Saturday, the museum is open from 9 am to 6 pm; on Sundays and major holidays, it is open from 10 am to 4 pm. Pre-book your tickets if you want to skip the lines.
7. Discover Cartagena’s Indigenous Heritage
With its towering churches, charming plazas, and renovated houses transformed into chic boutique hotels and restaurants offering Caribbean-inspired seafood specialties, the picturesque walled city of Cartagena has the impression of a movie set.
It's important to remember that Cartagena's colonial luxury was built on the trade of enslaved people and Spanish plunder. However, the city has a completely different side that visitors get to see. You can view displays of gold items made by the Indigenous people, who were the area's first occupants in the Museo del Oro Zen.
The traditional Colombian sombrero vueltiao hat is still created by weavers in this neighborhood today and is sold at market booths throughout the city.
8. Stargaze in the Mars-like Tatacoa Desert
The crimson Tatacoa Desert resembles Mars with its red clay undulations and appears to have been transplanted from Chile's Atacama. It's a dry tropical forest, but it has one thing in common with its Chilean neighbor: both are renowned for having bright night skies, which make them ideal for stargazing—the great visibility results from the region's warm, and dry climate.
Visit the Observatorio Astronómico de la Tatacoa en Villavieja for a stargazing tour. On the clearest nights, the owner can show you up to 88 recognized constellations.
9. Whitewater Rafting in San Gil
Whitewater rafting at San Gil is highly recommended for a truly thrilling experience. Three rivers await you at the center of Colombia's adventure sports. Several businesses provide thrilling excursions to the surrounding rapids from the town center, with stunning scenery and heart-stopping drops assured wherever you go.
While rafting excursions along the tranquil Río Fonce are just as beautiful, those along the difficult Rio Chicamocha and Rio Suarez will undoubtedly put your talents to the test.
10. Explore Guatape Town
Guatape, frequently called Colombia's most colorful town, has countless pieces of extremely amazing street art and blocks of vibrantly painted structures.
The well-known resort town is situated in a picturesque lakeside location, about two hours' drive east of Medellin, on top of all its cheerful hues. A photographer's paradise, the small town's historic houses are embellished with countless zocalos, stunning paintings that show a wide range of animals, occasions, and scenes from everyday village life.
You can browse the artisan gift shops or pause for a coffee or meal at one of the charming little local cafes in addition to roaming around and taking pictures of its colorful streetscapes.
11. Eat Your Way Around Medellin
This tour brings you to more exact locations outside Medellin's bustling city center. You're guaranteed to end up in locations you wouldn't anticipate or be able to find on your own, from empanadas in a church to local bakery specialties to a 400-year-old market for a little fruit tour. Fresh ingredients and numerous sweet/salty pairings are used in Colombian cuisine. Enjoy this tasty town food tour and learn about Colombia’s culture deeply.
12. Travel Back in Time in Colonial Heritage Mompox
One of the unforgettable things to do in Colombia is to explore this surreal city, and we can assure you that you won't regret coming here before it becomes famous. Mompox, where Bolivar gathered his forces, was the first location to declare independence and was established by the Spanish in 1530.
The building has been preserved to an incredible degree, and the new lodging alternatives, like the stunning Portal de la Marquesa Boutique Hotel, are in keeping with the character of the community. You might easily lose hours meandering the streets, taking in the ambiance while drastically slowing down your speed
13. Sample Colombia’s Tastiest Export
One of Colombia's most significant exports is high-quality coffee, and coffee lovers will find their second home in one of the coffee fincas situated in the Zona Cafetera's verdant hills.
Long-standing fincas, like the fourth-generation Hacienda Venecia in the vicinity of Manizales, allow you to learn about bean cultivation and sample “cupping,” the practice of tasting freshly brewed coffee. But beware! After tasting some of the best coffee beans in the world at their source, you might find it difficult to enjoy a cup elsewhere.
14. Join the Party at the Carnaval de Barranquilla
During the yearly Carnival celebrations in the city, Barranquilla's throbbing streets host Colombia's most vibrant street party. These celebrations offer an enthusiastic display of pageantry. The Carnaval de Barranquilla was recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco in 2008 due to its centrality to the city's character.
Immerse yourself in the dancing, and you might even join a local dance group on their float, which might be one of the craziest things you do in Colombia and the most unforgettable you'll ever do.
15. Visit Johnny Cay
The sun-kissed sands of Johnny Cay are unbeatable if you're seeking some much-needed rest after all the strenuous adventure sports and sightseeing. The little coral islet, located in the glittering Caribbean Sea, is nestled next to the nearby San Andres.
The picturesque isle, sometimes called Cayo Sucre or Islote Sucre in Spanish, with its palm-fringed beaches, is only reachable from San Andres by boat. Its towering coconut plantations are now protected as a part of a regional park, and the reefs around it are teeming with marine life.
Pick up your travel bucket list and write down these amazing things to do and enjoy in Colombia. These are our top picks!
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I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.