Where to go in Colombia? From snowy peaks to deserts, jungles and beaches, not to mention history and culture, Colombia is a jewel. You can learn history, watch humpback give birth, take cooking classes, relax in a spa, or take some epic hikes in their national parks. The good news is citizens of many countries, including Canada, do not require a visa to visit Colombia. Find out which countries require a visa here.
The country is divided into regions, most notably The Andes, The Caribbean, The Pacific, and the Amazon Region part of The Amazon Rainforest. The Insular region is comprised of islands in both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, and Orinoquia Region borders Venezuela.
Here are some highlights:
The Andean Region
The Andes mountains form the most populous region of Colombia and contain the majority of the country’s urban centres. The region is divided into three branches known as “cordilleras” and include the cities of Bogota and Medellín. Colombian coffee is among the world’s best so visiting a coffee farm or staying on a hacienda will immerse you in the trade.
Bogota – is the capital and largest city, and the third highest capital in South America. It is a city known for its many museums, especially the Gold Museum, with over 55,000 pieces. The mountain Monserrate dominates the city center of Bogotá, so you cannot miss it. Rising to 3,152 metres above the sea level. Take the cable car to relish in the views of the city or visit the church and shrine at the top.
The city is close to the stunning Salt Cathedral, Zipaquirá. It is bizarre and amazing, with vast halls, crosses and altars carved out of an old salt mine. Zipaquira is near Bogota and can be visited on a day trip.
Medellin – Cable cars traverse the slopes of this fashionable Andean city, home to illuminating museums, enticing restaurants and legendary artist Fernando Botero. Medellin is situated in a narrow valley, and the moderate temperatures give the city its nickname – the City of Eternal Spring.
Parque Nacional Natural los Nevados – The national park boasts high mountains and beautiful scenery. There are many high altitude lakes, deep gorges, rainforest, glaciers, hot springs, and waterfalls. There are five main volcanoes, and many smaller volcanic cones, so hiking and climbing is varied. Travel time is 11 – 12 hours by vehicle from Bogota or 9 hours from Medellin.
The region is traversed by a number of rivers from the Andean highlands to the sea, including the Magdalena, Colombia’s principal river. The Caribbean region is also the location of the historic port cities of Santa Marta and Cartagena.
Cartagena – Latin America’s colonial queen of cities, Cartagena is a city of Baroque churches, elegant mansions, shady plazas and giant Spanish walls. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a maze of cobbled alleys, balconies covered in bougainvillea, and massive churches. Outside the walled city, Bocagrande is a place to sip coffee in trendy cafes and dine in upscale restaurants.
Ciudad Perdida – The name means ‘Lost City’ as it was lost around the time of the Spanish conquest and only ‘discovered’ again in the 1970s. Deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, it remains only accessible on foot by doing what is easily one of Colombia’s most exciting and breathtaking hikes.
Tayrona National Park – The park is a large protected area covering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains as they meet the Caribbean coast. It’s known for its coastal coves and lagoons, rainforest and rich biodiversity. The region was once the territory of the Tayrona people, and some archeological remains have been found in the park. One of Colombia’s most popular national parks, Tayrona scenery varies from sandy beaches along the coast in the north to rainforest at an altitude of 900 m on the southern limits of the park. Accommodations vary from hostels to upscale spas.
The Amazon Region is a region in southern Colombia over the Amazon Basin. The region is mostly covered by tropical jungle, which is a part of the massive Amazon rainforest. You can stay in Leticia and do day activities in the jungle, or alternatively go to Leticia then take a speed boat and stay in a lodge deep in the Amazon. Note that it is compulsory to have yellow fever vaccination taken at least 10 days prior to your arrival date.
There’s no shortage of things to do in the Amazon, so for the adventurous it’s a great place to visit. Activities include the following:
- Observe pink dolphins, exotic birds, alligators and other indigenous fauna and flora
- Visit indigenous communities
- Fishing and traditional craftsmanship
- Walks in the forest or to nearby lakes with native guides
- Swimming in natural pools
This region is distinguished by its high humidity. Precipitation is among the highest in the world, with an average of 4,000 mm (160 in) per year and some areas that receive as much as 12,000 mm (470 in) per year.
Whale watching at Colombia’s lush Pacific coast is one of the world’s best places to see humpbacks and their new-born calves. Between July and November, humpbacks arrive from Antarctica to mate and give birth to their young. Whale watching programs are offered in places like Bahia Solano and Nuquí (both in Chocó) and Gorgona Island (Cauca).
Orinoco (Orinoquia) Region
This less-visited region borders Venezuela and covers the departments of Meta, Arauca, Casanare and Vichada. The region is rich in oil and suitable for extensive ranching but sparsely populated.
The Insular Region is considered by some as a sixth region, comprising those areas outside continental Colombia, including the department of San Andrés y Providencia in the Caribbean Sea and the islands of Malpelo and Gorgona in the Pacific Ocean.
So, again where to go in Colombia? I say stick to The Andes, Caribbean, Pacific or Amazon for the best bang for your buck adventure. Here are a few tours to inspire you:
Colombia Express 9 days from $1889 CAD ($1495 US). Check out the resurgence of culture, art, and food in Bogotá and Medellín, dive deep into the Caribbean vibe in Cartagena, and enjoy the Latin-Caribbean fusion of flavours in local cuisine.
Caribbean Coast and Lost City 14 days from $2459 CAD ($1947 US). Trek through Tayrona National Park’s picturesque trails and have some downtime on the beach. Later, head to deep into the jungle to Teyuna – the fabled Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) older than Machu Picchu.
For these or any other tours in Colombia, contact us.