Destinations in Colombia to add to your bucket list. With so many wildly varying destinations, planning a trip to Colombia can be overwhelming! To give you some inspiration, we’ve compiled a list for you.
Firstly, remember, Colombia isn’t the kind of country you can skip through in a couple of weeks and consider it “done.”
From the bustling, artistic vibe of the cities to the unspoiled beauty of its coasts, forests, deserts, and mountains, Colombia’s cultural and natural riches are almost infinite.
Some of the destinations in Colombia to add to your bucket list have become tourist hotspots, while others have only just been discovered. When you put them together, they’re proof of how diverse Colombia is.
1. The first destination in Colombia has to be THE COFFEE AND COUNTRYSIDE OF THE ZONA CAFETERIA.
Unsurprisingly, Colombia is synonymous with coffee. Furthermore, it is renowned for the quality of its hand-picked arabica beans. Hence, the evergreen Andean hills of the Zona Cafetera, coffee bushes blanket the steeply sloping sides of valleys with their distinctive, glossy foliage.
Be on the look out for Basket-toting harvesters who at sometimes are silhouetted against the morning mist.
Author’s note: The coffee fields of Quindo were my first destination in Colombia for my bucket list. Believe me, you will find it well placed to be your number one target.
The main cities of Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales generally serve as gateways to picturesque country villages. With brightly colored buildings and a spectacular mountain backdrop, once-sleepy Salento has become backpacker central.
Coffee plantations run daily tours from the main square. It’s a good base for arranging hiking trips to the nearby national parks. Far less touristy and arguably more authentic, check out Filandia, as it is a tiny, laidback pueblo.
Also, this region is nestled amid rolling green hills and blessed with some of rural Colombia’s best-preserved architecture. With accommodation ranging from the rustic to the luxurious, and also, attracting excellent views. You can also arrange to stay on a working coffee farm.
2. Your second destination in Colombia for your bucket list has to be THE COLONIAL CHARMS OF CARTAGENA.
Cartagena is Colombia’s premier tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. It’s one of the most exquisitely preserved colonial cities in South America. Not only that, it is a Caribbean port that was founded in 1533.
Remarkably, the trademark of Cartagena is its pastel-painted Spanish buildings and cobblestone streets concentrated in the old quarter of the city. All totally surrounded by 11km of fortified stone walls. Also around every corner is a piece of history. Whether it be a humble stone church, a richly ornamented cathedral, or a gothic-style bell tower.
What is more awesome, Cartagena is famous for its sunsets, attracting romancing couples who perch atop the ancient ramparts for the best views in town. In contrast, as evening fades, the night air fills with the sounds of cumbia and salsa. Hence, there’s as much dancing in the streets as in the city’s famously lively clubs.
Author’s Note: I fell in love with this city/port; it was such a contrast to the mountainous experience of the coffee fields. Cartagena is a fantastic choice for number two on your bucket list of destinations in Colombia to experience.
3. Next on your list of destinations in Colombia for your bucket list must be THE MYSTERIOUS RUINS OF CIUDAD PERDIDA.
One thousand two hundred years ago, the Tairona founded a great city in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Indeed it was an ingenious feat of engineering. With intricately cut stone buildings, a network of tiled roads, and over 250 circular terraces carved into the mountainside.
When the Spanish arrived, the Tairona fled, and their city was lost to the jungle for 400 years.
Getting to Ciudad Perdida (the “Lost City”) is a test of physical endurance. A four-day, 44km trek can only reach the ruins through dense jungle. Be warned, Hikers will battle treacherous ravines, relentless humidity, and swarming mosquitos. Subsequently, it is not for the faint-hearted.
Before you commit, remember, the accommodated is in forest camps, and bathing is beneath waterfalls. Yes, it may lack the ornate splendor of Machu Pichu. But what Ciudad Perdida offers is the chance to be one of the few adventurous souls to have laid eyes on the last traces of a civilization whose secrets remain almost entirely undiscovered.
4. THE GIANT WAX PALMS OF THE COCORA VALLEY.
Found only in the montane forests of the Colombian Andes, the Quindío giant wax palm is the world’s tallest palm tree. With curiously skinny trunks up to 60m high. Hence, these surreal, prehistoric-looking plants have become one of the most iconic images of Colombia’s natural beauty.
Nowhere are they more abundant than along the verdant green slopes of the Cocora Valley. That you will find in the heart of the coffee country.
Now, the best way to explore the valley is via a 15km round trek. Indeed, note, this trail traverses through cloud forests with abundant waterfalls and a series of river crossings over rickety wooden bridges.
Ending with the final few kilometers, climb steeply to almost 2,400m before descending into the valley, the breathtaking panorama of the palms providing a worthy pay-off after an exhausting (but beautiful) six-hour slog.
5. THE BEACHES AND WILDLIFE OF TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK.
Discover the ruggedly scenic Caribbean coastline that forms the northern border of Tayrona National Park. You´ll find, a series of rainforest hiking trails that lead to pristine golden sand beaches. Indeed, smile at the thought of you standing in awe of the beaches set against the emerald green backdrop of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Knowing they are recognized as the world’s highest coastal mountain range.
A vital wildlife sanctuary, the park protects one of the last remaining populations of cotton-top tamarins. While you can visit on a day trip from Santa Marta. The alternative way to experience Tayrona is to hire a tent on one of the park’s designated camping beaches.
Note, Tayrona is sacred to the indigenous Kogi. The park occasionally closes to limit the impact of visitors and allow the Kogi guardians to perform their protective rituals over the land.
6. Sixth on your list of destinations in Colombia for your bucket list should include THE KALEIDOSCOPIC COLOURS OF CAÑO CRISTALES.
Considered off-limits for years due to guerrilla presence. Thankfully, today’s travelers can safely venture off the beaten track to marvel at Caño Cristales. A river that a spectacular biological phenomenon transforms every year.
Also, known as the “River of Five Colours.” Algal blooms turn the shimmering cascades of Caño Cristales’ into liquid rainbows. You will also, witness numerous mixes of yellow, green, blue, and black between July and November. Not forgetting red in every shade, from hot pink to deep maroon.
Within the Serrania de la Macarena National Park, remember, reaching the river requires a guided excursion by boat and on foot. While there’s no swimming in Caño Cristales. There is a nearby natural pool for cooling off after the humid two-kilometer hike.
7. THE TROPICAL ISLAND PARADISE OF PROVIDENCIA.
Far off Colombia’s northern coast lies the remote archipelago of San Andres and Providencia. Surprisingly, San Andres is the most prominent and most accessible to reach of the two main islands. But Providencia is the very definition of a “paradise island,” with far fewer tourists, no cars, and a population of only 6,000.
The island is ringed by mangrove forests, coral reefs, and clear turquoise waters. Indeed it is perfect for snorkeling and diving. The local Raizal people maintain a strongly Afro-Caribbean identity and speak an English-based creole.
8. THE SNOW-CAPPED PEAKS OF SIERRA NEVADA DEL COCUY NATIONAL PARK.
One of Colombia’s most pristine wilderness areas, El Cocuy commands some of South America’s most impressive mountain scenery. A vast expanse of snow-capped summits, glacial lakes, and wildflower carpeted valleys. There are 15 peaks above 5,000m, making Cocuy a legendary stomping ground among mountain climbers.
Not a climber? It’s still possible to explore the park’s numerous day trails. Or embark on Colombia’s most epic high altitude hike, the five-day Cocuy Circuit.
This arduous but enormously rewarding trek involves crossing several passes over 4,000m to some of the park’s most remote and beautiful stretches.
9. For me, one of the most exciting destinations in Colombia for your bucket list has got to be. THE WILDLIFE OF THE COLOMBIAN AMAZON RAINFOREST.
While most travelers head for Brazil or Peru to fulfill their Amazon adventure fantasies. The Colombian Amazon remains largely off the tourist radar.
Hemmed in by impenetrable jungle terrain and without road access. The Department of Amazona essentially is cut off from the rest of the country.
The only practical way is flying to Leticia, a surprisingly bustling port town. That’s a stone’s throw from the Brazilian and Peruvian borders.
Leticia serves as a springboard for boat access to remote eco-lodges in the middle of the rainforest.
Here, you can get a glimpse into Amazona’s indigenous communities’ daily lives and go on wildlife walks to spot monkeys, sloths, and macaws. Why not try your hand at piranha fishing?
There’s even the chance of an unforgettable encounter with pink river dolphins, they are known to accompany canoers on occasion playfully.
10. Last but not least. The 10th destination in Colombia for your bucket list is THE COASTAL DESERTS OF LA GUAJIRA.
The isolated Caribbean outpost of La Guajira is South America’s most northerly point – a desert landscape that possesses a strange, mesmerizingly simple beauty.
After a few days here, city life feels like a distant memory. Scorching dunes tumble down to striking aquamarine bays. Beyond cactus-strewn badlands is a green mangrove oasis harboring flocks of showy pink flamingos.
We are coming towards the end of this article titled Destinations in Colombia for your bucket list. Therefore, I want to end on the subject of the Wayuu.
The Wayuu are the traditional custodians of La Guajira, a region utterly distinct from the rest of Colombia, with its language and culture.
La Guajira remains relatively undeveloped for now, attracting a small but growing number of travelers. Some come for excellent kite surfing. Others simply unwind and appreciate life’s simple pleasures – eating a humble meal of grilled fish on the beach.
You will often find travelers sleeping on hammocks beneath the stars or contemplating the sunset from a deserted cove.
Here are some more great information articles about the beautiful country of Colombia and its people.
Written by: Fiona Davies (extreme pillion rider and adventure travel writer.)
Edited for SEO optimization by Mike Bowley at www.mikedbowley.com