7 Best Things to Do in Colombia [Traveler’s Guide]

Best things to do in Colombia

If you are a world traveler and have yet to visit the northernmost region of South America than you are missing out! Colombia is the place I have called home the last 6 months and have fallen in love with it and the wonderful people that live here.

Colombia may have disappeared as a top tourist destination in the past few decades due to guerilla violence but in recent years, with beefed-up security and recent peace agreements, I have noticed Colombia is a very safe country to travel to.

I have never really felt threatened here.

Colombia has much to offer visitors, whether you are looking to see World Heritage Sites, visit the Amazon rainforest, head to the beach, go hiking in the lost city or stroll through the old Spanish fort.

Below you will find 7 of the best things to do in Colombia.

Top 7 Things To Do In Colombia

1) Eje Cafetero

Top Places to go in Colombia

If you are a coffee aficionado, then you can’t miss Eje Cafetero. Eje Cafetero is just outside of Medellin in the region of Antioquia and is Colombia’s biggest coffee producer.

Here you will be able to participate in coffee tastings, go on tours of coffee farms to learn how coffee is grown and turned into the bean you buy at the store.

If you visit a local coffee farm you will notice that many of them are organic.

We went on one these coffee tastings and had the opportunity to see the entire process of cultivating and making coffee from start to finish.

All in all, it was a delicious tasting.

Coffee Tasting

Salento is a good base town from which you can book tours. From Salento, you can take a short car ride to the Cocora Valley, which has the world’s tallest palm trees.

It was truly a fantastic sight to see as we went on horseback rides in and around the valley. It was picturesque.

Salento is easily one of the most-traveled spots in Colombia and for good reason!

2) Cartagena

Best things in Cartagena

Cartagena is probably my top-recommended tourist destination for anyone coming to Colombia for the first time.

There is so much to see in terms of history and style and plenty of relaxation to be done with nearby crystal clear beaches (Playa Blanca) in surrounding islands.

You can see it all whether you are looking for the beach or the old city square.

Located on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena was the first Spanish settlement in Colombia. Its well-preserved old town called Ciudad Amurallada (Walled City) is a World Heritage Site.

Just walking through the town square and grabbing a bite to eat or a beverage is a magical experience engaging the senses.

In the old town, you should visit Plaza Trinidad, which is the oldest part of the quarter and boasts many local restaurants. For a more modern feel, visit Bocagrande, the new part of Cartagena.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

Finally, one of my favorite things to do in Cartagena is to visit the old Spanish fort that the Spaniards used to fend off the invading British navy.

It was a fantastic experience walking in and out of the interior tunnels of the fort and see the base up close and personal.

Also, it came with a spectacular view of the city and water.

3) Leticia

Leticia in Colombia

If you are up for an Amazonian adventure, Leticia is your Colombian base town.

Since it is deep in the rainforest it is only accessible by plane from Bogotá. From Leticia, you can go on hikes or safaris or take an eco-tour and learn about the indigenous tribes in the region.

You can travel from here by boat to Manaus, Brazil or Iquitos, Peru.

If you love the jungle and want to get a full experience, make sure you head hear to Leticia for a marvelous experience.

Just don't forget the bug spray!

visiting Colombia rainforest

This is on my "places to visit" list but unfortunately, I still have not made my way to the Amazonian rainforest just yet.

4) Tayrona National Park

Things to see in Colombia

The best thing to do in Santa Marta is to take a short trip to the Tayrona National Park located on the Caribbean coast just outside of the city. 

The spectacular park boasts multiple beautiful beaches, palm-shaded coves, and a lagoon called La Piscina. In La Piscina, you can go snorkeling in a protected swimming area near a natural reef and view marine animals such as lobsters and rays.

Visiting Parque Tayrona

If you want to go hiking, there are sandy hiking trails or you can take a day trip to the nearby rainforest in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains.

We just got back from Parque Tayrona and were blown away by the beauty all around us – it was like hiking in the rainforest with the Atlantic coast next to you.

We took a short day trip that brought us to various beaches and a guided half-day hike. Don’t worry, we had plenty of time to relax by the beach and enjoy a beverage.

You can also stay overnight at the park in cabins, tents or even a hotel if that’s your preference. To avoid the crowds, visit in the low season from February to November.

5) Ciudad Perdida

Ciudad perdida

Have you ever wanted to visit the lost city? Well, now you can in Colombia!

Ciudad Perdida, also known as the Lost City of Teyune, is located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains.

Basically, it’s Colombia’s version of the Inka Trail in Peru. If you are an extreme adventurer and love the long backpacking trips, then this is the trip for you!

Lost City of Colombia

It is one of the largest pre-Colombian settlements in the Americas, but just like Machu Picchu it was only recently discovered. 

It was rediscovered only in the 1970s.

Many of the stone circular terraces left from its 8th to 14th century inhabitants still exist. It was left by the Tayrona Indians, which had since been overgrown by jungle.

For those wanting the full experience, make sure to go on the intense four-day 44-kilometer hike.

They will set you up with a whole crew of porters and cooks to make sure your exhausting hike is a good one.  One thing to keep in mind is that you must book a tour to visit this great park.

Finally, since the Ciudad Perdida has not yet built up the reputation of Machu Picchu, you can do the backpacking trip from considerably less money and at the same time not be around the massive crowds that I experienced in Machu Picchu.

6) Caño Cristales

Top things to do in Colombia

Caño Cristales is one of the most beautiful destinations in all of Colombia.

It is known as the Liquid Rainbow or the River of Five Colors due to the plants, rocks, sand and algae in the river that make it appear black, white, green, yellow and a vibrant red.

It’s truly spectacular to see. I’d be surprised if you haven’t seen pictures of it yet.

Places in Colombia

To enjoy the colors to their fullest, visit in July to November when there is an algal bloom.

In Caño Cristales, you can enjoy hiking along the river canyon, the waterfall called Los Cuarzos and natural swimming pools.

To reach Caño Cristales, go to La Macarena, which can be reached by plane from Bogotá or Villacencio.

Trust me it is worth the journey.

7) Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá

Best things in Colombia

Finally, rounding out our list of the best places to visit in Colombia is none other than the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá.  It is a legendary tourist spot that Colombians and extranjeros rave about.

Zipaquirá is the salt-mining capital of Colombia. Located in one of its disused mines is the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, which is constructed almost entirely of salt.

This salt mine was built 200 meters underground! That’s over 2 football fields in depth for those not well-versed in distances.

In addition to being a popular tourist attraction, it hosts a congregation of around 3,000 people every Sunday.

Around the cathedral is a Salt Park, where you can see mine landmarks and visit the Brine Museum to learn about the salt industry.

If you want to see a glimpse of Colombia’s most beautiful artistry, this might be just the place for you.

Salt Cathedral

Summing It Up   

where to go in Colombia

Colombia is a remarkable place in so many ways.  It is a country I have come to love as the people are extremely humble and kind and filled with lots of joy.

Are you thinking I am making that up? A recent poll rated Colombia the happiest country in the world as 87% of Colombians said they are happy. 

Beyond the wonderful people, it is a country filled with fascinating history, culture and of course natural attractions.

We have listed seven of the best things to do in Colombia and each one has its own special treasure. If you have been considering visiting Colombia but have been unsure of where to go or uncertain about safety, use this list as your impetus to go.

Do you have any questions about Colombia? Feel free to leave a comment below and I will make sure to get back to you.

About the author

Nate Alger

Nate is avid CrossFitter who loves pushing his body to the max in his attempt to look stronger. He loves toppling outrageous hiking adventures. Some of his most recent excursions include the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and the Half Dome hike in Yosemite National Park.

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