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From the sandy beaches of the Caribbean to the colorful architecture and tropical Amazon Rainforest, Colombia boasts something for everyone. It’s historical colonial cities offer easy access to beautiful natural parks and snow-capped Andean peaks, while Bogota and Medellin are lined with bustling streets. From small-town charms to buzzing nightlife in Medellin, here are the most beautiful towns to visit in Colombia.
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A bustling city that’s considered the crown jewel of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena is one of the best-preserved colonial destinations in the Americas. History enthusiasts can explore the ancient fortifications or just meander through the old town to admire its colorful architecture, which house museums, palaces and churches. Photograph bougainvillea-covered balconies and ornate Catholic churches towering over the plaza, then visit Bocagrande to enjoy open-air cafes and restaurants serving up local delicacies.
Nicknamed the “Athens of South America”, Bogota was first settled by indigenous peoples. Explore one of the largest cities in South America and Colombia’s capital, which is home to historic landmarks that date back to 1538. Bogota has gone through a transformation that lures in travelers from around the world, with cultural attractions found in the historic district. Visit La Candelaria to browse cafe, churches and museums or take the kids to a planetarium, botanical garden or gold museum.
Founded in the 16th century, Villa de Leyva is excellently preserved with its Spanish colonial buildings that are found along its cobblestone square, which is the largest in the country. Admire its whitewashed walls and red-tile roofs, then sit with locals drinking beer in the main square. Just a four-hour drive from Bogota, its square regularly hosts celebrations and festivals, while museums honor notable leaders who fought for Colombian independence. Discover the countryside with a visit to the la Periquera waterfalls and the famous Casa Terracotta House built by Octavio Mendoza.
History enthusiasts will delight at the chance to visit San Gil, an old colonial town that’s located in the northeast region of Colombia. Founded in 1689 by the Spanish, it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with plenty of adventures on offer, from mountain biking and rafting to kayaking and biking. Meander through the picturesque city and stop to admire its ornate cathedral, the Parque La Libertad, while Parque El Gallineral is the center of the city’s social life and Plaza de Mercado is a covered market where you can pick up typical Colombian goods.
A laid-back town surrounded by Colombia’s natural beauty, San Agustin is also home to the remains of a forgotten civilization. Visit the archeological park and ancient site to see more than 500 monoliths, statues, petroglyphs and sarcophagi. History enthusiasts can learn about how the stone carvings were created by the pre-Inca culture between 100 A.D. and 1200 A.D., and why they represent human figures, monsters and animals such as snakes, birds and jaguars.
If you’re looking for superb diving in crystal clear waters then head to San Andres, a beautiful Colombian archipelago in the Caribbean. It’s white sand beaches and palm trees are its most notable feature, while its bright blue waters are full of marine life that can be admired on a diving or snorkeling adventure. Learn more about the island’s colorful culture with a walk around town, and when the sun sets you’ll discover its buzzing nightlife scene.
Medellin lures in visitors from around the world, who want to explore its array of cultural attractions. Noted for its Pablo Escobar history, the modern history boasts an array of attractions to enjoy, from a walk through the Old Quarter at Botero Plaza dotted with sculptures to the must-visit Museum of Antioquia. Head to the hills above town via the Comuna 13 to explore its colorful homes and street murals, then finish your day in El Poblado, the city’s trendiest neighborhood with boutique shops and popular eateries.
One of the most popular day trips from Medellin, Guatape is quaint town lined with colorful streets and local street vendors selling delicious fruit juice and regional delicacies. Sit down for a typical Colombian meal or head to the picturesque lake for a boat cruise of the region. Take a ride to El Penol to climb its 750 stairs that line the huge granite rock, which offers beautiful panoramic views from the top.
Located in southwestern Colombia, Popayan is one of the country’s most impressive colonial cities. Nicknamed the “White City” due to its unique architecture with chalk-white exteriors, the city is famed for its Maundy Thursday procession and lively nightlife scene. Step inside Iglesia de Ermita to see the city’s oldest church dating back to 1546, then admire the beautiful details of Iglesia de San Francisco.
Coffee lovers flock to Salento, as it’s located in a region called the Coffee Triangle that is dotted with coffee farms. It offers easy access to the towering wax palms of the Valle de Cocora, while its traditional adobe constructions with white walls and colorful wood roofs make for a beautiful backdrop. Take a tour of the region and you’ll have a chance to sample some of the famous coffee produced in the region.
Many consider Barichara to be one of the most beautiful colonial towns in Colombia. It’s a tiny village nestled in the hills of Santander, which boasts a landscape of whitewashed walls and red-tiled rooftops without the hordes of tourists in your way. Discover beautiful lookouts that offer a peek of the verdant peaks and river rapids found at the Suarez canyon, then meander through its quiet streets dotted with lovely squares.
Those looking for a quaint Colombian pueblo experience should head to Jardin, where you can watch the world go by as horses are moseying down the streets. It’s a coffee-producing town surrounded by a picturesque backdrop of banana plants and a towering Christ statue, the best thing to do in this town is to unwind and relax. Meander through the city and stop at local restaurants to enjoy a cold beverage or go on a horseback riding excursion outside of town near cascading waterfalls.