What to see in Colombia: cities and attractions not to be missed

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Your bucket list does not include the Colombia? Our advice is to add it right away. Because? There are so many reasons. The beautiful beaches, the Andes, the Amazon Forest, good coffee, the many festivals and, above all, its inhabitants, always sunny and hospitable. Let's find out together what to see in Colombia, between cities, festivals and attractions not to be missed!


  1. Bogota
  2. Cartagena de Indias
  3. Medellin
  4. San Andrès archipelago
  5. Leticia
  6. Santa Marta
  7. Tayrona Park
  8. Ciudad Perdida - trekking route
  9. Tatacoa Desert
  10. The carnival of Barranquilla
  11. User questions and comments

1 - Bogota

Bogota is the capital of Colombia, therefore a must see city on your trip to South America. One of the most visited cities, it is also one of the "highest" capitals in the world, in fact it is located at over 2.600 meters.
There are so many things to see and visit, including: the Candelara, its beautiful and particular historical center; there Catredal Primada de Colombia, declared a national monument, seat of the archbishopric of the city; Plaza Bolivar, the most important square in Bogotà, where some of the most important buildings overlook; the Sanctuary of Monserrate, at 3.152 meters, traditionally considered the guardian of the city.

2 - Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena de Indias is the most colorful city in all of Colombia, a little pearl to discover! With its colorful colonial-style houses, you will feel like you have ended up in a postcard. Here too the things to see are different: the Plaza de Los Coches, connected to the Plaza de la Aduana da El Portal de los Dulches; The Iglesia de San Pedro Claver; the Gethsemane neighborhood.
In ancient times, when Europeans had colonized much of the Americas, Cartagena was one of the most important ports and its strategic position had made it strong from an economic and commercial point of view. A hub for the trade of all the riches from the Spanish colonies, it was one of the most targeted by pirates. For this reason, the walls were built within which the historic center is contained, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site and where all the tourists are concentrated. This elegant and well maintained area is completely different from the suburban area, scruffy and untidy. Another sign of the contradictions that characterize Colombia.

3 - Medellin

If Cartagena de Insias is the city of colors, Medellin is the city of eternal spring, as well as being the second largest city in Colombia. Thanks to the metro, gondola and escalator system you can visit all sixteen comunas in no time! There are many things to do: we advise you not to miss the panorama from the Barrio Santo Domingo over the whole city; or to go to Barrio Cerro Nutibara, where the sculpture park is located; the downtown, the chaotic and colorful historic center of the city.
Medellin is also the hometown and birthplace of the criminal and economic empire of Pablo Escobar, one of the richest and most powerful drug traffickers ever. And, precisely in Medellin, he was killed in a shooting with the police in 1993. From its history and the numerous television series that have been shot, such as Narcos, the city has benefited from a tourist point of view, and the places of Escobar real attractions for tourists.

4 - Archipelago of San Andrès

In the middle of the Caribbean Sea, a few hundred kilometers from the mainland, there is the Archipelago of San Andrés, a small corner of paradise in Colombia, with white beaches and crystal clear water.
Perfect destination if you love the beautiful sea and relaxation. In addition, this place is perfect for snorkeling and many other water sports.
In addition, San Andrés is also very lively from a cultural point of view: during the year there are many festivals, such as the Crab Festival, on January 1st, a great party with crab specialties and live music or the Green Moon Festival, which celebrates the local cuisine and culture of the island, with many events of literature, history, music and dance.
This can be a perfect destination to end your trip to Colombia.

5 - Leticia

If you are an explorer and have an adventurous personality, you cannot miss Leticia, la gateway to the Colombian Amazon. Capital of the Amazonas department, it is an important river port on the Amazon River and is the southernmost city in all of Colombia. It is located in the center of the Tres Fronteras, an area where the borders of Colombia, Peru and Brazil meet.
Here you can first visit the Jardin Zoologico, to discover the animals that populate the forest and the typical Amazonian Victoria, a typical plant, and then launch into the discovery of Parque Nacional Amacayacu, where you can take different itineraries, always accompanied by local guides.

6 - Santa Marta

Santa Marta is the second oldest city in all of South America and Colombians consider it the Pearl of the Caribbean. You must know that here you will not find the mass of tourists that there is in Cartagena de Indias or the nightlife of Bogota, on the contrary, this is a small and relaxing seaside resort, perfectly on a human scale, where you can experience the real Colombia. The historic center is small and cozy, perfect to visit on foot, and in the evening it is filled with musical groups that play in various clubs.
One of the most visited attractions is the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the farm that hosted Simon Bolivar in his last years of life. His bedside is still there, as is the clock, still standing on December 17, 1830, the day of his death.
Santa Marta is the gateway to Parque Tayrona, one of the most evocative places in all of Colombia. Furthermore, always from the city depart the tour to discover the Ciudad Perdida.

7 - Parque Tayrona

Parque Tayrona is a real spectacle of nature, located about 35 kilometers from Santa Marta and is one of the things that you absolutely must not miss during your trip to Colombia.
Here you will find yourself in front of dream beaches, a huge jungle and you can come across several exotic animals.
In addition, some indigenous peoples still live in the area who protect the park and help preserve it.
The park extends for 15.000 hectares, of which 3.000 are marine area. Among the animals it hosts, there are also the panther, the leopard and the puma.
In addition to plant and animal species, during your excursions you will come across numerous archaeological ruins, testifying to the ancient presence of the Tayrona tribe, who settled in this area since the pre-Columbian era and well after the arrival of the Conquistadores.

8 - Ciudad Perdida - trekking route

From Santa Marta, in addition to reaching the Parque Taryona, many tours depart for another truly spectacular destination, the Ciudad Perdida. If you are a lover of nature and adventure, then you absolutely cannot miss the trek to Ciudad Perdida. It is definitely not an easy trek, it requires a good physical shape and you have to choose very carefully which tour to start with, but it is one of the most beautiful routes in all of South America. Also, you won't find many tourists, as most prefer to stay close to the coast.
You must know that Ciudad Perdida is a ancient Teyuna sanctuary dating back to the eighth century AD. and is located in the middle of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, surrounded by tropical jungle. Only discovered in 1972 by some explorers, today it is the most famous archaeological site in Colombia and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is considered a sacred place for the three ethnic groups living in this area, the Kogi, the Wiwa and the Arhuaco. The territory you will visit is under indigenous jurisdiction and your guides will therefore be people of indigenous tribes. The route can only be done with a guide, not alone, and will keep you busy for a few days.

9 - Tatacoa Desert

But Colombia is not just beaches and forests. Also in this country you will find a part of the desert, the Tatacoa Desert. Located between the Western and Central Cordillera, it extends for about 56.500 hectares and has an altitude between 386 and 900 meters above sea level.
Its views will give you a unique experience and memories! You have several alternatives to visit the desert: by bicycle, on horseback, by motorbike or three-wheeler. We also recommend that you spend the night and lose yourself in counting all the stars you will see in the sky, an unforgettable experience.
During your visit, remember not to miss the following points: the Laberintos del Cusco, rock formations that turn completely red at sunset; the astronomical observatory, where you can admire all the constellations; the Ventanas viewpoint, where you can admire a unique panorama and the gaze reaches up to the reliefs of the Western Cordillera.

10 - The carnival of Barranquilla

As a last thing not to be missed in Colombia we suggest an event, but not just any one, but the Carnival of Barranquilla, the second most important carnival in the world after the best known and most famous of Rio de Janeiro. Since 2003 this event is UNESCO World Heritage Site and every year it moves millions of people.
The celebrations begin on Carnival Saturday and last until Tuesday. The strong point of this carnival is the union of all the cultures that coexist in Colombia. You can see the European one, the African one with all colored costumes and elaborate masks and the India one.

Where it is

Colombia is located in South America, in the northwestern part. Nearby are Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Panama and it is the only South American country to overlook the two oceans that bathe the continent, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It also includes some beautiful islands, which are worth a visit: the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina.
Let's see together what the 10 things to see in Colombia, between cities, parks and archipelagos.

Travel informed: useful information and necessary documents

  • Inhabitants: 49 million
  • Capital: Bogota
  • Languages: Spanish; English in the Caribbean islands of San Andreas and Providencia
  • Local currency: Colombian Peso (€ 1,00 = COP 3.780,05)
  • Weather: varies depending on the area and very quickly. Generally the dry season runs from December to February; in the remaining months the climate varies according to the altitude and the position of the various cities being a very large country. The southern part is crossed by the equator, so here and in the lowland areas you will find very high temperatures, always above 30 °, while in areas above 2.000 meters it is almost always cold, with temperatures between 10 ° and 15 °.
  • Time zone: 6 hours behind Italy; 7 hours behind when it's daylight saving time
  • vaccinations: Yellow fever vaccine required for travel within the country, especially in nature parks.
  • Entry requirements: a passport with at least 6 months of residual validity and a return or exit flight ticket are mandatory in the case of travel to another country. A visa is not required for a tourist stay of less than 90 days.
  • Travel / health insurance: recommended.

    Tours and excursions in Colombia

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