When it comes to Colombia the first thing that usually comes to mind is drug lords, gangs or wars. Cast all of your outdated ideas aside, once you find out about the majestic landscapes and the magical realism that only Colombia has in store for tourists with its biodiversity.
From the imposing Andean peaks to the vast amazon rainforest, Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world with bird, amphibian, butterfly, and frog species indigenous to the country, that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. With coastlines along both the Pacific Ocean and the turquoise Caribbean Sea, Colombia is the only country in South America with this privileged location, which includes having one of the most unique and extensive coral reefs in the world.
You’ll also find a host of spectacular attractions at the places in between two fearful desserts and the ancient city of Cartagena. Here are our top 10 destinations in Colombia to have in mind for your next trip.
Located in northern Colombia, along the Caribbean, Cartagena is the main tourist attraction in Colombia. The city includes an ancient walled city and has the surreal Rosario Islands nearby.
With 13 kilometers of colonial walls around the downtown, the walled city exhibits its picturesque buildings and houses with a contrast between ancient and modern that only Cartagena can host, housing a variety of luxurious hotels and restaurants.
Outside the walls, Cartagena will dazzle you with the contrast between mighty buildings and dreamy beaches. Going slightly off the city, fifteen minutes from Cartagena by boat you’ll find the crystal-coast island of Rosario, whose beaches will enchant you with activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving.
2. San Andres Island
This quirky Caribbean Island leaves many first-time visitors perplexed. Located closer to Nicaragua than to Colombia and with inhabitants commonly speaking their native language, San Andrés is certainly unique.
With 13 kilometers of crystal-clear water beaches, the island was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the year 2000. Known as the “Seaflower”, the Reserve includes not only islands, but also about 10% of the Caribbean Sea, covering an area of 300,000 square kilometers.
The purpose of the declaration is to ensure that ecosystems rich in biodiversity are well preserved and protected. Exhibiting a breathtaking coral reef and some of the world’s greatest marine biodiversity just waiting to be explored by the activities of snorkeling and scuba diving that the island provides.
When it comes to the amazon rainforest, the first country that comes to mind usually is not Colombia. However, with a 10% of its mighty jungle living within it, the Colombian Amazon region with its capital Leticia is often a major destination for eco-tourism.
Wildlife safaris, hikes into the Amazon to learn about the indigenous tribes that call this area home, and access to the amazon river, there are no shortage of options for those who love nature. With the river running through half of the southern region in Colombia, this border city limits with the Brazilian rainforest, making it only possible to arrive by plane from Bogota.
4. Eje Cafetero
The world’s third largest coffee producer in the world, with infinite coffee plantations within this Andean region located at the center of the Colombian territory.
Located hours away from some of the biggest cities in Colombia including the capital Bogota, and important cities like Medellin and Cali, the Eje Cafetero (or Coffee Axis), is the place where the world-famous Colombian coffee is grown.
The Eje Cafetero plantations were not always a tourist attraction, just a few years ago indigenous people from the region opened their doors to these magical and dense coffee plantations, reportedly in the biggest coffee plantations in the world.
These small (and often organic) plantations are the kind of places where the farmer-owner might take an hour out of his day to explain the process of how a humble “cherry” turns into a coffee bean that will one day be roasted and ground into a latte back home. You can also find the National Coffee Park or Parque Nacional del Café where you can enjoy rides and learn about the coffee growing process.
Within the region you can also find the Cocora Valley, a magical landscape with the tallest palm trees in the world, so high that you cannot see the top due to the dense fog, giving this a mysterious but outstanding view.
5. Caño Cristal
Offering an extraordinary view of a “rainbow river” because of the colorful pebbles that line the bottom of the river and surrounded by countless of indigenous flowers, Caño Cristal seems surreal.
With its ferocious waterfalls this place offers the tourist an uncommon hiking experience. Hunted by the Colombian guerrillas for many years, this breathtaking landscape is back to business after many years, being protected by Colombian government and attracting thousands of tourists in recent years.
6. Tayrona National Park
Bewildering beaches and towering palm trees, surrounded by a colossal beach. Sounds like a dream destination, a paradise on Earth located in northern Colombia.
The Tayrona National Park is no doubt one of the most idiosyncratic places Colombia has. With a marvelous contrast between jungle and beach this destination offers a wide variety of attractions besides the extraordinary.