Situated at the northern tip of South America, Columbia has a rich culture filled with progressive cities, where visitors can lounge on pristine beaches, explore national parks, or walk ancient city walls. A country that has just started to find its tourism footing and has begun to emerge from its dark past, Colombia has climbed outside of its shell to shine brightly on the international stage. From the diverse history of ancient cities to breathtaking natural landscapes and charming cobblestone villages, Columbia is thrilling mix of unspoiled coasts, tropical rainforests, and rich culture, becoming a natural draw for travelers who are ready to go on once-in-a-lifetime outdoor adventures.
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Lounge on the beaches of Tayrona National Park
Located on Columbia’s Caribbean coast, Tayrona National Park is one of the country’s most popular parks. Boasting idyllic coral reefs, beautiful beaches, and sheltered bays, travelers can explore the expansive and rich mangroves and tropical jungles. Offering a wide variety of picturesque flora and fauna nestled against tranquil white sandy beaches, Tayrona National Park is beloved for its crystal clear waters and abundance of secluded spots. Whether you’re pitching a tent, hiking the trails, or lounging on one of the beaches, you’re sure to be confronted with some of the richest biodiversity the country has to offer.
Explore the walled city of Cartagena
Lush plazas filled with fruit vendors and street art, Cartagena is a kaleidoscope of colors and a photographer’s dream. Covered with fairy-tale romance among miles of centuries-old colonial stone walls, this UNESCO World Heritage site impresses travelers with its majestic churches and quaint cobblestone streets lined with old-world decor and balconies. Wandering through the maze of streets is the recommended way to get acquainted with Cartagena, where one can feel like they stepped back into another time period.
Marvel at the captivating Gold Museum
One of the star attractions in Bogotá and South America, the El Museu del Oro, or “Gold Museum,” has an extraordinary collection of pre-Hispanic historic gold artifacts, and is the largest in the world with over 30,000 pieces. Visitors can browse vibrant gold jewelry, masks, and ancient tools in addition to interesting thematic rooms filled with exhibits on pottery, stone, shell, and textile archaeological objects that date back to indigenous cultures.
Go underground to the Salt Cathedral
An hour north of Bogotá and visitors can experience a fascinating underground Roman Catholic church carved out of an abandoned mine. Known as the Salt Cathedral, this 5th-century church is deep within salt deposits near the city of Zipaquirá, an important center for trade in salt. Considered an architectural jewel, this structure is one of the most famous Catholic sanctuaries in the country. Once visitors descend underground, they will discover breathtaking salt sculptures situated next to a towering 16-foot high cross at the main altar.
Head for the tropical islands of San Andrés
San Andrés and its smaller sibling Providencia are two of Colombia’s most sought after island retreats. Located off the Caribbean coast, visitors will find underwater caves for diving and an abundance of unforgettable day trips. One of the most popular areas around San Andrés that can be reached by boat is Johnny Cay, known as the “island of sugar” because of its pristine white sandy beaches. Throw in swaying palm trees, tasty coconuts, and freshly caught seafood, and you are sure to feel like you’ve landed in paradise.
Browse notable artwork in The Botero Museum
Home to one of Latin America’s the most important international art collections, The Botero Museum boasts several halls of impressive artwork that include the likes of Picasso, Dali, Matisse, and Monet. Named after the most famous Colombian modern artist Fernando Botero, art aficionados can appreciate the museum’s collection of his robust paintings and sculptures that Botero donated himself. Situated in Bogotá’s charming historic center of the city, visitors will find informative audio guides in English, French, and Spanish.
Journey to the San Felip de Barajas Castle
A majestic fortress in the city of Cartagena, the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is a castle on the Hill of San Lázaro. Built by the Spanish during the colonial era, its towering presence approaches the city’s landscape. Boasting a series of historical walls and formidable bunkers, the highlight of the castle is its striking grand entrance and awe-inspiring architecture. Considered a fine example of Spanish military engineering, visitors can explore underground galleries and gunpowder warehouses.
Hike up Mount Monserrate
Dominating the city center of Bogotá, Mount Monserrate is a landmark that rises 10,000 feet above sea level. To reach the top of the mountain visitors have a variety of choices, as there is a cable car, train, and walking trails. Reaching the top is considered a rite of passage, with devout locals rising early on Sunday mornings, but visitors can be zipped up quickly on the popular cable cars for a chance to soak in the magnificent panoramic views over the sprawling city and explore the grounds of the mountaintop Catholic church.
Explore the tombs of Tierradentro National Park
Monumental statues of human figures are what set this archaeological park and UNESCO World Heritage site apart from others, as the Tierradentro National Park dates back to the 6th century. Here visitors will find huge underground tombs decorated with maintains or carvings scored into the rock and exhibit the culture of the pre-Hispanic society in the Andes. With five diverse areas of the park to explore, it is one of the most popular attractions in the country.
Experience the Lost City
Translating to “Lost City,” Ciudad Perdida is an ancient city that was discovered in 1972 that lies in the Sierra Nevada region of Colombia. Adventurous travelers can take the journey through the jungle to witness the 169 terraces built in the mountainside first hand and experience the unique 1,000-year-old city, an impressive 650 years older than Machu Picchu. Only accessible by foot, it is considered Columbia’s most thrilling and rewarding hikes.