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There’s no denying that Colombia is a beautiful country, filled with pristine beaches, lush jungles, colonial cobbled-street towns, and bustling, vibrant cities. But, it’s one of the least-visited countries in South America, which is likely to do with its dark past (think drug and gang crime).
However, in recent years, Colombia has “cleaned up its act,” as you may say with stricter punishment for those crimes. And today, Colombia is well and truly on the way to becoming a busy tourist destination.
And I say that’s great news! Colombia shouldn’t be avoided. In fact, it’s one of my favorite destinations in South America .
This stunning country has heaps to offer visitors, from cultural attractions to adventure activities and scenic hikes. The diversity of things to see and do here is incredible, from paragliding to joining a fast-paced ATV tour to learning all about the country’s most famous export on a coffee tour! You can even hike up a dormant snow-covered volcano!
In fact, there are so many amazing cities and towns and bucket-list-worthy activities that I was surprised by the lack of information on the internet about what you just HAVE TO DO in Colombia! This is why I’ve written this blog, to help others plan an epic vacation to Colombia. As you’ll see when you read this whopping list of 50 things to do in Colombia, there’s something for every tourist to enjoy!
Here’s everything you NEED to know about the best things to do and see in Colombia, including popular attractions and hidden gems.
- The BEST Things to do in Colombia
- 1. Explore Medellin
- 2. Visit Guatape
- 3. Tour of Comuna 13 in Medellin
- 4. Go paragliding
- 5. Watch a soccer/football match
- 6. Stay at a “destination hostel”
- 7. Go on an ATV Tour
- 8. Visit Tayrona National Park
- 9. Spend some time in Minca
- 10. Los Pinos hike
- 11. Lost City Trek
- 12. Eat fresh seafood (and a ton of it!)
- 13. Check out Las Lajas Cathedral
- 14. Spend time in Bogota
- 15. Coffee Tour
- 16. Whitewater rafting
- 17. River kayaking in San Gil
- 18. Pablo Escobar Tour
- 19. Food tour in Cartagena
- 20. Horseback riding
- 21. Dream hammocks
- 22. Sunset Cruise in Cartagena Bay
- 23. Explore the Walled City in Cartagena
- 24. Visit the mud volcano and pink sea
- 25. Go scuba diving
- 26. Wander the quaint town of Salento
- 27. Hike in Valle de Cocora
- 28. Chocolate tour from Salento
- 29. Hike to the Paramillo del Quindio Summit
- 30. Climb the Nevado del Tolima Summit
- 31. Lake Guatavita
- 32. Visit San Andres Island
- 33. Providencia Island
- 34. Visit Pueblito Paisa
- 35. Costeno Beach
- 36. Tubing El Buritaca River
- 37. Bungee jumping in San Gil
- 38. Emerald Museum and make your own Emerald ring in Bogota
- 39. Juan Curi Waterfall
- 40. Play Tejo
- 41. Spend time in the cute town of Barichara
- 42. Mountain biking in San Gil
- 43. Explore Chicamocha National Park
- 44. Canyoning
- 45. Panaver
- 46. Go fishing from Taganga
- 47. Playa Cristal
- 48. Bahia Concha
- 49. Spend time in Jardin
- 50. Visit the Rosario Islands
- Thanks for reading!
The BEST Things to do in Colombia
1. Explore Medellin
Medellin is one of the top cities to visit for almost every traveler to Colombia, so it’s only fitting that I include it first on my list of things to do in Colombia!
In the past, the city was known as “the most dangerous city in Colombia,” but today, the city is trying hard to erase its dark past, and now you’ll find the best cafes, bars, and restaurants in the country lining its center so if you’re a foodie you simply have to visit this vibrant city.
One of the best things to do in Medellin (and one of the cheapest) is a 4-hour free walking tour of downtown which gives you a unique insight into the city’s past and present. It visits some of the city’s top sights, and honestly, it’s the best walking tour I’ve ever done on my travels!
The only catch is that you must book this tour 24 hours in advance via Real City’s website. The tour is tip-based, and we advise you to tip between $10 and $15 USD per person.
If you’d prefer something a little more fast-paced, a bike tour of the city should do the trick. You can rent your own bike or book a half-day bike tour with an English-speaking guide. The latter is an excellent way to learn about the city’s areas, history, and traditions – and it costs just $26 USD per person!
Taking the cable car up to Parque Arvi is another activity you should add to your Medellin itinerary. The journey up boasts some spectacular views of the city. When you reach Parque Arvi, be sure to spend a few hours here. It is a huge park and ecological nature with tons of waterfalls, hiking trails (12 to be exact), and even an archeological site. And if you’re visiting on the weekend, be sure to check out Mercado Arví – a small farmers market of about 40 stands!
Medellin is my favorite city in all of Latin America and should be on every traveler’s Colombia Itinerary!
Related Read: Check out my detailed itinerary for spending 1 to 5 days in Medellin!
2. Visit Guatape
The small colorful town of Guatape is just a two-hour drive from Medellin and is famous for its brightly colored buildings and El Penol, a giant rock that boasts the “best views in the world,” according to locals.
Guatape is probably one of the most colorful towns I’ve ever visited, and nearly all of the buildings in town are painted a bright color and are decorated with zocalos (the pretty decorations painted on the lower half of the building!) It’s fair to see that Guatape is very Instagram-friendly!
One of the best things I did when we spent some time in Guatape was rent a scooter to explore the hidden waterfalls outside of town. It’s also a great place to party, and the prices are so low!
While in Guatape, you must venture to the top of El Penol, the huge rock that sits on the outskirts of town. Climb the 700 steps to the top and take in the amazing views of Guatape, the lake, and surrounding mountains. It’s quite the workout, but we must admit, the view is worth it!
You may choose to go on a day trip to Guatape from Medellin or spend a night or two here. If time allows, I definitely recommend spending a few nights here if you have time, but if a day trip is all you can squeeze in then this 8-hour day trip includes a boat ride on the lake and the chance to climb El Penol.
3. Tour of Comuna 13 in Medellin
In my opinion, no trip to Colombia is complete without a visit to Comuna 13, which was notoriously one of the most dangerous parts of Medellin! Thankfully today, this area has been gentrified and boasts a lively and safe atmosphere, colorful graffiti art, and awesome views of downtown Medellin on every corner!
The best way to see Comuna 13 is on a guided walking tour because then your guide will be able to show you the best of this fascinating area as well as tell stories of how unsafe this neighborhood was in the past. We loved this group tour because it gave us a chance to see just how much this area has changed, and we’re so glad we didn’t listen to the negative press about Comuna 13.
If you’d prefer a more personalized experience, then consider this highly-rated paid guided tour. The tour includes a professional guide and group numbers are limited (the free tour is not.) The tour has flawless reviews and the price is less than $20 USD per person – a great deal if you ask me!
4. Go paragliding
If you need a little adventure during your vacation to Colombia, then paragliding is the perfect activity for you. Paragliding, for those who don’t know, involves running off a cliff or hill with a parachute strapped to your back. You can try this thrilling sport in various areas of Colombia, but the best spots are Medellin and San Gil!
In Medellin, paragliding is surprisingly cheap – for about $50 USD, you can go paragliding with an experienced instructor and soar above stunning mountain scenery on the outskirts of the city. Or if you have a bigger budget, you may like to do a paragliding experience over waterfalls!
As I said, another incredible spot to try paragliding in Colombia is in San Gil. The landscape surrounding the town is stunning, so it will definitely be a scenic flight! Most of the tours from San Gil take you to Chicamocha Canyon (which I’ll go into more detail on below), and if weather conditions are good, you will reach a height of 500 to 2400 meters (1,640 to 7,875 feet)! From way up high, you’ll be looking down on the winding Chicamocha River. This particular tour is very highly rated and includes transport, photos, and an English-speaking guide – it’s great value for $60 USD!
5. Watch a soccer/football match
Brazil isn’t the only soccer-loving nation in South America, in fact, soccer (or football as it’s also known) is easily the most popular sport on the continent, and Colombia is no different!
Colombians are avid soccer fans, and without a doubt, the best place to watch a game here is at the Atanasio Girardot Stadium in Medellin! The crowd is just so enthusiastic, and with a game being played every few days, you’re sure to have one happening during your stay in Medellin.
You can make your own way to the stadium and buy your ticket there or book an organized tour that will purchase your ticket for you and also organize group transport. I went on this particular tour and loved it because I was with a fun group of like-minded travelers. I chose to go on a tour since I don’t speak that much Spanish and buying a ticket on my own would be a challenge.
6. Stay at a “destination hostel”
Okay, I know what you might be thinking…what on earth is a “destination hostel”?! Well, it is exactly as the name suggests – a hostel that is a destination in its own right. These hostels have been popping up all over Colombia and you’ve probably seen a couple of them on your Instagram feed. From infinity pools in the mountains to a floating hostel in the middle of the ocean, there are some impressive hostels in Colombia!
Don’t be fooled by the word “hostel” either. They simply call themselves hostels because dorm rooms are available for more budget-conscious travelers, but private more luxurious rooms are also offered at most. These hostels are also gorgeous and are certainly not your typical backpacker hostel.
Some of our favorite destination hostels in Colombia include:
- Casa en el Agua near Cartagena – This hotel is located in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, it’s actually a floating hostel that is only accessible by boat from Cartagena. There are a variety of rooms available, from private rooms to bunk beds or even hammocks on the upper balcony where you’ll get a beautiful breeze in the evenings.
- Masaya Casas Viejas near Minca – Located in the mountains, this hostel is cheap and has the most epic infinity pool! The birdwatching at the hostel alone is epic and the sound of nature is loud. From the hostel, they have their own private trails to waterfalls and sunset viewpoints. They also offer daily yoga, massages, wildlife tours, and horseback riding tours. You can book Casa Viejas online here.
- Costeno Beach Hostel near Santa Marta and Tayrona – This hostel looks for like a fancy yoga retreat in Bali than a hostel in Colombia. Think gorgeous jungle plants, a huge pool, yoga on a wooden deck near the ocean – the list goes on and on. The hostel offers delicious group dinners each night as well as a variety of activities from surfing to horseback riding. You can book your stay at Costeno Beach Hostel online here.
- Rio Hostel near Santa Marta – This hostel is located right on the edge of a stunning river. They have become famous for their river tubing experience as well as regular jungle parties that often feature DJs from around the world. You can book Rio Hostel online here.
7. Go on an ATV Tour
Another great option for adventure lovers is a fast-paced ATV tour! These tours are the perfect way to see stunning mountain scenery while also getting your heart pumping. Three of the best places to try out ATV’ing in Colombia are Medellin, Cartagena, and Guatape.
The Medellin tours take place in the mountains surrounding the city, and the ATV trails here are so much fun and feature hills, dirt roads, and great city views! During our time in Medellin, we tried this private half-day quad tour, and we had the time of our lives! This 5-hour tour isn’t cheap at over $150 USD per person, but it includes all your safety gear as well as a delicious Colombian lunch at a trout farm.
From Guatape, the ATV tours tend to be shorter in length, averaging around 1.5 hours, and on a tour here, you’ll speed along gravel paths, through forests, and climb steeply up hillsides. If you’re staying in Medellin and are keen to try ATV’ing in Guatape, you can book this full-day ATV experience to Guatapé from Medellin.
And if you’re staying in Cartagena, we loved this ATV tour that takes you along a trail to see three different beaches, rock formations, and stunning cliffs. This 2.5-hour long tour is so much fun, and the best part was driving across the beaches at top speeds!
8. Visit Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park is a Colombian gem – known for its pristine beaches, hiking trails, lush jungle, and abundant wildlife. You can expect to see Cotton Top Tamarin monkeys, Capuchin monkeys, Howler monkeys, lots of colorful birds, and more on a visit here.
The park stretches over 150 kilometers square and is known as the nation’s poster child. In fact, I’m sure you’ll recognize photos of Tayrona from your Instagram feed!
The stunning beaches are, of course, what brings most visitors to Tayrona National Park, the most famous being Cabo San Juan (the one with the bungalow) – you will definitely have seen photos of it! Arrecifes beach is another stunning beach but you can’t actually step foot on it; only admire it from the hiking trail. My personal favorite beach here is La Piscina because you can swim in it and it’s a little less crowded than Cabo San Juan.
All the beaches are accessible via a hiking trail, with the hikes varying in length from 2 to 5 hours.
And even though Tayrona is known as a beachy heaven, you can’t actually swim at the majority of beaches in the park due to strong waves and currents. There are signs posted on the beaches that don’t permit swimming.
Santa Marta is the closest major town to Tayrona, at an hour’s drive, and Taganga is slightly further at an hour and 10 minutes. And even though I highly recommend spending a night or two in Tayrona, those short on time should book an organized day tour from Santa Marta.
There are some things you absolutely MUST know before visiting Tayrona National Park, and the first is that you need to buy medical insurance from the park before entering; your own medical insurance won’t cut it. But don’t worry; it’s not expensive at only 5,000 COP ($1 USD) per person per day. The second thing you should know is that Tayrona is closed at certain times of the year, so be sure to check that out here before you go!
The ticket price for Tayrona is 57,500 COP ($12 USD) per person. But the price increases to 68,000 ($14 USD) during the high season (December to February) and at holidays.
Related Read: If you want to spend the night, you have a few options for basic accommodation and campsites within the park. In our where to stay in Tayrona blog, we outline all of these in detail!
9. Spend some time in Minca
Minca is one of the coolest places to visit in Colombia. It’s a small village nestled in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, so as you can imagine, the views from here are pretty epic! There’s also lots of unique birdlife to be seen in the town, and the fact that it’s within easy access to coffee farms, waterfalls, and even breweries makes Minca a must-visit for every tourist to Colombia!
Plus, it’s also the gateway to the Lost City La Ciudad Perdida (more on that below!)
Located a short drive from the large city of Santa Marta, Minca was up until recently considered an off-the-beaten-path destination. Now, however, its popularity has increased significantly, especially with the backpacker crowd. Heaps of great hotels and hostels have opened up in the town as a result.
It’s worth noting that the weather here is cooler than the other tourist hotspots in Colombia (averaging 32°C (89°F) to 33°C (92°F) during the day, while the evenings require a light jacket. It’s a nice break from the heat if that’s what you’re after!
Touring the La Victoria Coffee Farm is one of the best things to do in Minca, as its one of the oldest and biggest coffee farms in northern Colombia. This huge farm produces some of the finest coffee in the world, and on a tour here, you’ll learn all about how they grow and harvest their coffee.
Another popular activity in Minica is birdwatching. While you can do birdwatching on your own, going on this birdwatching tour comes highly recommended. The tour lasts for three hours, and the guide is a biologist who can tell you all about the birds you see. Plus, if you don’t have your own binoculars, they supply them!
Casas Viejas is a bar with a fantastic view, and it’s a 20-minute hike from La Victoria. Here, you can try local craft beer too!
Other things to do in Minca include swimming in Pozo Azul waterfall and hiking the Los Pinos hike (more on that below!)
10. Los Pinos hike
The Los Pinos is one of the best hikes from Minca. This 6-8 hour return hike leads through different landscapes, including a cloud forest at Los Pinos. The view from the top is simply incredible, and you can see Minca town, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and out as far as the beaches of Santa Marta!
There are various different routes and shortcuts to access Los Pinos, but the most popular is the trail that starts from Minca town and passes the Ear of the World waterfall and Marinka falls. Both waterfalls are scenic and make for a great stop-off for a refreshing swim. However, you will need to pay a small fee to access the popular Marinka waterfall, so be sure to bring some cash.
After a while, you can decide to climb steeply up to Los Pinos (this is called the shortcut trail) or head back down the steep trail from Marinka waterfall and take the longer, easier road option to the top. The whole hike is 22 km (13.7 mi) long, and is rated as moderate.
11. Lost City Trek
The Lost City, aka Ciudad Perdida, is a complex of ancient ruins that’s often compared to those at Machu Picchu. But, the Lost City was built between 700 and 800 AD making it over 600 years older than Machu Picchu! At its peak, the “Colombian Macchu Picchu” (as locals like to call it), was home to over 2,000 people (most of them farmers!) When the Spanish gained control of Colombia in the 16th Century, the city was abandoned and was eventually overtaken by the jungle!
Nowadays, you can visit the Lost City by going on a 4-day hike!
But the best thing about the Lost City is that it’s much quieter than Macchu Picchu. In fact, you likely won’t come across another group of hikers on your journey in!
It’s a four-day trek (46 km/29 mi return) to reach these impressive ruins, and all tours start in the town of Santa Marta – and this trek has massively gained in popularity in recent years. The hike highlights the best of secluded Colombia, and it follows along both jungle and mountain terrain. It’s quite a challenging hike, though, with plenty of steep sections, and at times, you’ll find yourself wading through deep mud!
With that said, for hikers especially, the Lost City Trek is easily one of the best things to do in Colombia!
12. Eat fresh seafood (and a ton of it!)
While you’re on the coast in Colombia, you really should take advantage of the fresh seafood on offer wherever you go! Honestly, while in Cartagena, Santa Marta, and Taganga, I think I ate seafood at least once every day – so yummy!
One of the most popular seafood dishes in Colombia is the whole fried fish. While it may not look that appealing (it is a whole fish on your plate, after all), trust me, it’s delicious! The fish skin is crispy from the oil and seasoned to perfection. It is usually served with plantain and coconut rice. This is my go-to meal for lunch.
Ceviche is also popular in Colombia. In fact, the best ceviche we ever had was actually in Cartagena at a place called La Cevicheria! La Cevicheria is one of the most famous and renowned restaurants in Cartagena, and here they serve a wide range of seafood dishes, and of course, ceviche is one of their specialties!
If you’re not familiar with ceviche, you should know this – it is a dish made from raw fresh fish cured in citrus juice. It was first invented by African slaves in Colombia and Peru. The Colombian and Peruvian versions of the dish are similar, but the Colombian version contains coconut, which I love!
It’s so popular that on busy days you’ll likely be waiting a few hours for a table. But luckily for us, we swung by around 3 pm and managed to nab a table without issue. I will add that if you plan on dining here at peak times (weekends or holidays), book in advance!
13. Check out Las Lajas Cathedral
Located near the border with Ecuador is the most impressive cathedral we’ve ever seen in Latin America! Las Lajas Sancutary (aka Las Lajas Cathedral) is simply stunning. The architecture is beautiful, but on top of that, the cathedral is also located on a hillside with mountains surrounding it.
The cathedral is said to have healing powers because, according to local legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to a mother and her deaf/mute daughter who were visiting during a bad storm, then years later, when the daughter died, the mother went back to the cathedral and was revived by the Virgin Mary.
But it’s not just the legend that attracts visitors; it’s so visually striking – spanning across the Guaitara River and in a gothic style, you simply have to see it in person to truly appreciate its beauty!
Now I have to be honest, unless you’re crossing the border from Ecuador, getting to Las Lajas is definitely a little challenging. It is well off the typical tourist trail, so some effort is required if this beautiful place is on your bucket-list. You can join a 3-day or 4-day tour from Pasto that both visit Las Lajas, which is the easiest option. Otherwise, take the bus to the city of Ipiales and visit Las Lajas via taxi or bus from there.
14. Spend time in Bogota
Bogota is the nation’s capital, and it’s where many travelers start their Colombian adventure. It’s a huge city with so much to see and do that you’re sure never to get bored! Creative, lively, and diverse, the city is one of those places that just oozes character!
Once upon a time, Bogota was seen as a no-go zone. In fact, some people still might express shock when you tell them you’re spending time there, but I say it’s time to do away with old stigmas. And thankfully, today, the Colombian capital is a thriving city!
Interestingly, Bogota is nicknamed “The Athens of America” due to a large number of universities and libraries here. It’s also a very diverse city, with over 68 ethnic groups and dialects – which makes for a unique melting pot of cultures, all coming together in one city!
A graffiti tour is a great way to start your time in Bogota. Not only will it help you to get your bearings, but you’ll learn all about the culture and history of this incredible city through the artwork. We HIGHLY recommend taking a graffiti tour in Bogota rather than trying to DIY it because your guide will take you to places you’d probably never stumble across by yourself.
Also, make sure to take the cable car up Monserrate Hill for one of the best views of Bogota! The journey only takes 4 minutes. Once you’re at the top, you can walk around the gardens, explore the Catholic sanctuary, or dine at one of the three restaurants.
And finally, not forgetting La Candelaria – this historic neighborhood is one of the most interesting areas of the entire city. Spend an hour or two walking around the area to admire the colorful buildings and eclectic mix of architectural styles. There are many beautiful colonial buildings here, including many important churches.
15. Coffee Tour
It’s common knowledge that some of the best coffee beans in the world are grown right here in Colombia! Colombians are very proud of their beans, and their coffee is so tasty. So if you’re a coffee lover (or even if you’re not), joining a coffee tour is a great way to see how one of the country’s main exports is grown and roasted.
Medellin and Salento are the best spots in the country to join a coffee tour.
There are lots of coffee bean plantations near Medellin, and you can take a private tour of one of them and uncover their unique process of growing and roasting coffee. This particular tour lasts 4 to 5 hours, and it includes transportation, coffee, snacks, and a guide. This tour will make you appreciate coffee like never before, from picking the beans to learning how to make their traditional tintico (another name for Colombian coffee).
But I will say that if you are planning to visit Salento in the Southern region of Colombia, you should save your coffee tour for there. Salento is a world-famous coffee-growing region, and the tours here are not only cheaper, but the plantations are massive and cover almost every hillside!
As you can imagine, there are lots of coffee tours on offer from Salento. And I’ve listed two of the best ones below:
- Be a Farmer for the Day – Explore the “Coffee Triangle” in a more hands-on way with this tour. You will get to pick coffee cherries off the trees, plant some coffee seeds, and taste-test the coffee! Then, finish the tour by watching the production process. For $78 USD, this is hand down one of the best coffee tours for those who want to experience a little bit of everything!
- Cocora Valley and Coffee Farm – This tour offers the best of both worlds – seeing the best of the Cocora Valley and a visit to a Coffee Farm.
16. Whitewater rafting
Another bucket-list-worthy experience you may not immediately associate with Colombia is whitewater rafting, yet it’s a popular activity in both Medellin and San Gil. Just imagine navigating class 3-5 rapids and taking in breathtaking rainforest scenery at the same time.
If you’re an outdoorsy person who loves a challenge, then whitewater rafting in Colombia definitely should be added to your list of things to do in Colombia!
From Medellin, this Rio Verde Day Trip combines a hike through the jungle followed by over 18 miles of rafting, plus a stop at a waterfall for a swim and some lunch. It’s an early start from Medellin as the river is a 2-hour drive from the city – but breakfast is also included! The rafting includes thrilling rapids but also some sections where you can paddle slower and take in the breathtaking scenery.
Whitewater rafting is another very popular activity in San Gil. Yep, just outside San Gil, you have a rare opportunity to raft Class 5 rapids on the Rio Suarez (these rapids are really intense and guarantee an adrenaline rush!) We chose Rio Suarez, and it was so much fun, although be warned, you will get wet!
The tour company, Colombia Rafting Expeditions, is very experienced and has high safety standards. You can choose from this full-day tour on Class 5 rapids or this half-day Class 3 trip if you’d prefer a slower-paced (less scary!)rafting experience.
17. River kayaking in San Gil
Although whitewater rafting is amazing, I actually prefer kayaking, specifically river kayaking. I tried it for the first time in Chile, and even though it’s challenging, learning this unique sport was one of the best decisions I’ve made!
In San Gil, you can learn to kayak, so if you love whitewater rafting or just water sports in general, I say try it out! But I highly recommend doing a lesson if it’s your first time as it’s surprisingly difficult to stay upright.
During the lesson, you’ll be taught rescue procedures, how to stay upright, and how to roll in your kayak. These are all such important skills to have if you plan on going kayaking on your own!
You can choose a 1-day or a 3-day course. Or for the great price of $78 USD, this half-day course is a great introduction to kayaking, and it includes an expert guide, all equipment, and lunch.
18. Pablo Escobar Tour
The name Pablo Escobar is synonymous with Colombia, and in fact, many people come to the country specifically to do a Pablo Escobar tour. This is crazy, considering Escobar was a Drug Lord and leader of the Medellin drug cartel and was nicknamed the ‘King of Cocaine,’ so, as you can guess, he wasn’t a nice person (to put it mildly!)
Many Medellin locals have sad stories about how his crimes have affected them or a loved one, so all I’ll say is to keep that in mind before booking a tour.
However, those interested in the life and crimes of Pablo Escobar can book a guided tour in Medellin and learn from a local guide about his history and how it’s affected the country. It’s one of the most popular tours in Medellin!
On this specific tour, you’ll learn about Escobar’s impact on the city and visit lots of places around Medellin important to the notorious drug lord – including his grave.
Another Pablo Escobar tour you can do in Colombia is from Guatape. Yes, the “King of Cocaine” once owned an extravagant mansion on the edge of a lake near Guatape. And although you can no longer go inside the house, you can do a boat tour that passes by the mansion (it’s now in ruin) and includes some fascinating facts about Escobar! These tours must be booked when you arrive though as the agency does not operate online.
19. Food tour in Cartagena
One of the best things about traveling to a new country is trying the food! I mean, food is an important part of any culture, so it only makes sense that you taste the local cuisine when you get to Colombia. And the best way to try local food!? On a food tour with a local guide, of course!
If you’re looking for a great food tour, then consider this 2.5-hour street food tour in Cartagena. On the tour you’ll try over ten different street foods from six different locations in the Corralito de Piedra area of the city and learn all about the culture and history of Cartagena.
What’s great about this tour is that your local guide will take you to hidden vendors that you wouldn’t necessarily notice on your own, and you’ll get to try some really interesting local dishes! All tastings are included, but if you want to buy a bigger plate (like I did), you will need to pay extra. Plus, it’s great value for money at $39 USD per person!
20. Horseback riding
If ATV’ing or river kayaking sounds too extreme to you, why not consider a tranquil horseback riding tour through the mountains around Medellin instead?
There are different types of tours available depending on your experience level, and the tour guides are so friendly and helpful! Plus, the horses are well cared for and calm, which makes a big difference if you’re a nervous rider. This private tour is highly-rated and works out under $100 USD per person, it includes transportation to and from Medellin.
Salento is another great place to try horseback riding, and there are many tours there that offer the chance to ride through the stunning landscapes surrounding the town. One of the most popular areas to try horseback riding here is in the Valle de Cocora, a renowned hiking spot, but for those not so keen on walking, you can ride a horse through the hills and valleys and see much more than you would on foot!
Again, the horses in Salento are well looked after, so you know you’re making an ethical choice when you book a horseriding tour here. This particular horseback riding tour has great reviews and is two hours long!
From Cartagena, on the other hand, you can go horseriding along the beach, which makes for a unique and, quite frankly, romantic experience. This horseback riding tour takes you to the beaches of Manzanillo. Which starts with a visit to a traditional ranch for a Colombian Paso Horse Show before your hour-long trot along the beach!
21. Dream hammocks
If you have an adventurous soul, then you should not miss this! Imagine yourself taking a nap on a hammock that’s hanging a whopping 492 feet above the ground.
You can take in the gorgeous scenery while relaxing in one of these high-strung hammocks in La Ceja Nature Reserve. This is one of the most bucket-list-worthy things to do in Colombia, in my opinion!
It goes without saying that if you have a fear of heights, this is not the activity for you!
If you’re feeling brave, then you should book this Dream Hammock tour for $200 USD per person. You will spend about 8 hours in La Ceja nature reserve, where you will go ziplining, hike to a beautiful waterfall, and test your nerves on one of these hammocks. The tour includes transportation from Medellin, all the above activities, a guide, plus insurance.
22. Sunset Cruise in Cartagena Bay
One of the best and most memorable things to do in Cartagena is a cruise on the stunning Cartagena Bay.
There are so many great cruises to choose from in the city, and which one you choose depends on your budget and the type of experience you want. Be it a dinner cruise, or a romantic sunset cruise – you’ll be treated to some awesome views of the city and heaps of photo opportunities!
This particular sunset cruise takes place on board a catamaran and features an open bar for 1.5 hours. And the good news – it costs just $25 USD per person. It’s a small group tour – limited to just 12 people, so it’s a great way to meet people, but not feel too crowded. Plus, you’ll take in spectacular views as the sky turns pink.
23. Explore the Walled City in Cartagena
On your visit to Cartagena, you’ll notice the city has two very different sides – the modern, vibrant ‘new city’ and Cartagena Old Town, which is home to colorful buildings and lovely town squares. In fact, the old part of the city is where tourists tend to spend most of their time!
The best way to appreciate and understand the walled city of Cartagena, also known as the old town, is on a walking tour. There are many different walking tours available here, from private to group tours. But, I was really impressed by this free walking tour in Cartagena, which is 3 hours long and offers a fantastic introduction to the old part of Cartagena.
If you want a more personal tour, we recommend this exact tour, which visits the top sights in Cartagena, such as Plaza Aduana, Torre del Reloj, and Plaza Santo Domingo, as well as some lesser-known gems. The tour is 3 hours long and costs just $54 USD per person.
Some other sights we highly recommend checking out in the Old City of Cartagena is Getsimani, known as the party area of the city and home to some impressive street art. If you’re an art fan, you should join this street art tour which is led by an art historian!
The Gold Museum in Cartagena (Museo del Oro Zenú) is another must-visit while in Cartagena Old Town, and it’s FREE! The museum showcases native art as well as lots of ancient artifacts that were made by the Zenú people who inhabited this coastal area around Cartagena.
My top tip, though, is to end your day here by watching the sunset from the old fort wall! It’s magical!
24. Visit the mud volcano and pink sea
For a truly memorable experience in Colombia, why not take a dip in the El Totumo mud volcano and see the naturally pink waters at Salinas de Galerazamba? It’s an easy hour’s drive from Cartagena, or if you don’t have a rental car, you can join a tour from Cartagena!
Personally, I loved this private tour because it avoids the crowds as you get there as soon as it opens at 7 am, or you can choose the later option at 2:30 pm. The space in the mud volcano is limited, so by getting there earlier, you’ll have it pretty much to yourself, and it will be a much more enjoyable experience.
The mud at this volcano supposedly has healing properties, and when you wash it off, your skin feels super smooth. I will say, though, that you should bring extra pesos with you (for tips) as there are locals here who will offer you a massage, take photos of you, or help you wash the mud off. We recommend tipping $2-3 for any of the above services, but your guide can assist if you’re unsure.
After washing off the mud, it’s a 15-minute drive to Salinas de Galerazamba, aka the “Pink Sea .”These man-made lakes are part of a salt mine – you’ll see the salt crystals along the edge and at the bottom of the pools. But these salt crystals are very sharp, so no swimming is allowed here.
The vibrancy of the pink color depends on whether or not there has been a lot of rain recently and varies throughout the year.
25. Go scuba diving
If you want to go scuba diving while in Colombia, then you’re in luck, there are several places you can do it, including Santa Marta, San Andres Island, Taganga, and Cartagena. The crystal clear Caribbean waters surrounding the country are ideal for scuba diving, and when visibility is good, you can see so much!
There are both boat dives and shore dives available in these destinations, and a varied selection of scuba companies to choose from. So, whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’re sure to find a tour suitable for you!
Plus, diving in Colombia is relatively cheap when compared to other places around South America.
One of the best companies in Santa Marta is Caribbean Pro Centro de Buceo which offer different dive course and tours.
If you’re on a budget, consider doing your dive in Taganga because the prices here are lower than elsewhere in Colombia. As a result, many tourists choose to get PADI (scuba) certified in Taganga before attempting the more challenging dives on the islands close to Cartagena or on San Andres Island.
While if you’re after a world-class scuba diving destination with crystal clear waters and well-preserved coral then look no further than San Andres Island. But you should know that diving here is more expensive than elsewhere in the country!
If you don’t have your certification, you can do a “Discovery Dive” here, where you will be accompanied by a PADI-certified diver. Whereas if you’re experienced, then Blue Life Dive is a great choice; we went with them when we stayed in San Andres, and they were so professional and knowledgeable. On our tour, we dived at Los Recuerdos and La Rocosa (a cave with an opening at the top to let light in) – so cool!
And finally, if you’re in Cartagena and don’t have the time to commit to a full scuba diving course, this one-day scuba mini course is perfect! You’ll get all the instruction in an afternoon, including practice in a pool, and then the next day, you’ll head out for a dive!
26. Wander the quaint town of Salento
Salento is a tiny town nestled in the stunning Cocora Valley and is well-known for the excellent coffee produced here. However, the region has only somewhat recently opened to tourists due to Guerrilla groups controlling the area in the past. Thankfully, today Salento is considered one of the best places to visit in Colombia; in fact, I’ve yet to meet someone who didn’t fall in love with Salento’s charms.
Salento is tiny, and I mean that literally – everything is within walking distance. There’s one main plaza with street markets and a few tourist streets off that where you’ll find the Cafes, restaurants, and boutique shops.
What I really love about Salento is its relaxed vibe. It’s so different from other parts of Colombia, and on top of that, the locals are very friendly. In fact, if Salento wasn’t so remote, we would have spent longer here!
The best things to do in Salento include horseback riding, visiting Valle de Cocora – there are daily shuttles running from the town every day (more on the below), or joining a coffee tour. As I said, the coffee beans grown in Salento are considered to be some of the best in the world, so if you’re a coffee lover, Salento is the best place in the country to do a coffee tour.
There’s also a fantastic sunset spot right above the town center. To reach it, follow Carrera 5 street out of town, and then you will see lots of stairs built into the side of the hill. It’s a short but grueling climb, but the views are outstanding, as you can see from the photo above!
Getting to Salento is easy by public bus. However, you will need to change buses in Armenia (the capital of the region). From Medellin, however, there is a shuttle bus that goes directly to Salento, and that operates a couple of times a day!
27. Hike in Valle de Cocora
The Valle de Cocora, a 25-minute drive from Salento, is a breathtaking open valley that’s dotted with hundreds of Palma de Cera, otherwise known as the world’s tallest palm tree. These trees are Colombia’s national tree and can reach up to 60 meters (197 feet) tall!
There’s a loop trail here that’s 10.6 km (6.6 miles) long and should take about 4.5 hours to hike. The loop is challenging in parts but overall pretty straightforward. The first part of the trail is through open fields, and it is here you will likely see the Andean Condor – the biggest flying bird in the world!
After about an hour on the trail, you will come to a fork with a sign displaying “Acaime La Case de Los Colibris,” aka the Hummingbird House. We highly recommend following this (although it’s off the main trail, it’s so worth it!). It’s about 1 km long and leads into a traditional Colombian home where you can try hot chocolate and cheese made from the family’s farm. But the best thing, and how it got its name, is that you’ll be drinking and eating surrounded by hummingbirds who feed on the many birdfeeders around the home! You will need to pay 5,000 COP ($1.70) to the family, but that includes your drink.
If you don’t fancy walking, you can book a horseriding tour along some of the trails.
Getting to Valle de Cocora from Salento is easy. Every day at the central plaza, several 4-wheel drives wait to drive tourists into the valley. The jeeps wait until they are full and the price is just 4,000 COP($0.85 USD) per person. Top tip – get the one that departs at 7:30 am to beat the crowds!
28. Chocolate tour from Salento
As well as producing excellent coffee, the area surrounding Salento is also ideal for growing cocoa beans – which is what chocolate is made from! In fact, coffee and chocolate are two of Colombia’s biggest exports!
On this tour, you will head into the jungle and learn about how chocolate is produced. You will get to see how they roast and then melt the cacao seeds into chocolate and even get the chance to try the process yourself. And at the end, taste the chocolate for yourself! Then, take a walk through the farm’s coffee and chocolate growing fields and learn all about how the environment and care are needed to grow good cacao.
Lunch and snacks are included as well as transportation. Allow around 7 hours for this tour.
29. Hike to the Paramillo del Quindio Summit
The Paramillio del Quindio is a beautiful hike in Los Nevados National Park, which is located in the Colombian Andes and bordered by the cities of Manizales and Pereira.
This is, in fact, the least well-known hike in the park, yet this mountain is easily the prettiest here, with spectacular colorful sands and an overall unique landscape which crosses four different ecosystems.
Allow three days to do this challenging trek, which takes you up the Cocora Valley and then into Paramos before reaching the summit of Paramillo del Quindio – which is situated at 4,750 meters above sea level. You will be trekking an average of 7 hours each day,
Unlike Nevado del Tolima, another mountain climb in the park (which I detail more below), Paramillo del Quindo is not a snowy peak, and the terrain is considerably easier.
Because of the challenging and lengthy nature of this particular trail, we advise going on a guided tour.
30. Climb the Nevado del Tolima Summit
If you’re up for even more of a challenge, you can climb the Nevado del Tolima in Los Nevados National Park. This is a more popular hike because it’s so bucket-list-worthy. Yes, this peak is, in fact, a dormant volcano that’s always covered in snow because it sits so high above sea level (a whopping 5,212 meters!)
To hike to the snowy summit and back again will take you a grueling four long days. And each day is a long hiking day of 12 hours or so. But the views from the top are amazing and you’ll be able to see two different glaciers on a clear day.
Because this is such a tough hike, we recommend that only those with mountaineering experience do it on a guided tour. Nevado del Tolimo is easily one of the best trails in South America.
31. Lake Guatavita
Lake Guatavita is a sacred lagoon situated a 1.5-hour drive from Bogota. This lake is famous for being the setting of the legend of El Dorado and is a popular spot for both locals and tourists alike.
El Dorado is a mythical city that was rumored to be full of gold, and the legend goes that the Indigenous people of Colombia used to cover themselves in gold dust and dive into the lake as part of a religious ritual.
The lake is much more than a beautiful natural feature – it’s steeped in culture and history, and a guided tour is the best way to make the most of it. This Lake Guatavita tour will teach you all about the lake’s formation, the El Dorado legend, and the Indigenous people who used to live in the area.
You’ll also get to enjoy a guided hike where you’ll spot fascinating local wildlife and you can take a tour of the nearby village, with lunch at a local restaurant if you wish.
Taking a tour also means you won’t have to worry about transportation to and from the lake since it’s included in the price. The tour guide will regale you with stories and interesting facts about Lake Guatavita throughout, which was personally our favorite part of this tour.
The tour costs $97 USD per person and lasts around 7 hours, so it’s a full-day activity. For active and adventurous travelers, it’s a must!
32. Visit San Andres Island
One of the most beautiful places you can visit in Colombia is the remote, tiny island of San Andres. San Andres Island officially belongs to Colombia, but interestingly enough, San Andres is actually geographically much closer to Nicaragua!
This little island paradise is smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean, so remote that the only way to get there is by plane. Luckily, flights are frequent (and cheap!) from cities in Colombia including Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota. In fact, we got return flights from Cartagena to San Andres Island for less than $100 USD each!
Once on San Andres Island there are plenty of things to do and see to keep you busy. First of all, we recommend renting a buggy or scooter as your mode of transport to get around the island. There is a 26-kilometer ring road around the island, and with your own wheels, you are free to explore at your own pace and take advantage of the seemingly endless beaches. We found plenty of beaches to enjoy all to ourselves!
Scuba diving is also very popular on San Andres Island, as is snorkeling. Head to Johnny Cay or Rocky Cay for a day of excellent snorkeling!
33. Providencia Island
While we’re on the topic of tropical islands, let’s add another one to the list. Providencia Island is a small island close to San Andres – and it’s gained popularity in recent years especially with international tourists, thanks to its relaxed vibe and spectacular beaches.
Because it’s further away from San Andres Island, it attracts fewer visitors, and if you’re lucky, you may even have one of the beaches here all to yourself! The water surrounding the island is nicknamed “the sea of seven colors” because of all the various shades of blue.
However, I should add that it is pricier than San Andres, so if you’re on a budget, you may want to avoid it!
The island has a Caribbean vibe, and the best way to get around its 8 square miles is by golf cart. The best things to do on Providencia include snorkeling, swimming, and hiking.
To get to Providencia, you can either take a flight or a ferry from San Andres Island. The ferry is 3.5 hours long and costs 215,000 COP ($48 USD), but it can be a rough crossing, so if you suffer from seasickness, be sure to pack some medication!
The flight is the best option in my opinion as it takes just 20 minutes. Flights can be purchased for around 250,000-300,000 COP; however, they tend to book out quickly.
You can also book an organized overnight tour to Providencia from San Andres Island, which includes your accommodation and transport.
Because Providencia takes a bit of effort to get to, we recommend spending a few nights here. You can book your hotel in Providencia online in advance.
34. Visit Pueblito Paisa
Under a 10-minute drive from Medellin CBD is a sweet mountaintop town called Pueblito Paisa. The town is modeled on the Colombian colonial towns from the 16th century when the country was ruled by the Spanish. This small town is well worth making a day trip from Medellin to eat traditional food, wander the cute streets, and take some epic photos of Medellin city from the many viewpoints in the town.
Honestly, Pueblito Paisa looks like a movie set!
To get here from Medellin, take the subway as far as Exposiciones station and walk a few minutes through 33rd Avenue until you see the sign for Cerro Nutibara (Nutibarra Hill). The walk to Pueblito Paisa is only 1 mile from here – you can walk it or take a cab!
While if you’d prefer a guided tour, you should take this Medellin Private Tour. It’s 5 hours long and costs $89 USD per person. This particular tour visits the top attractions in Medellin, finishing at at Pueblito Paisa.
35. Costeno Beach
Costeño Beach is one of the best beaches in Colombia. It’s quite remote, an hour’s drive from Santa Marta city, but it’s also close to the stunning Tayrona National Park. There are no shops and just a few hotels and hostels here, and it’s accessible via a dirt road. But that’s what gives the beach its charm – it seems miles away from the rest of Colombia and has more of an island feel to it!
Situated on the Caribbean coast, the waves at Costeño Beach are rough, which means it isn’t ideal for swimming, but it’s perfect for surfing. So, a good idea is to join a surf lesson while you’re here. Costeño Beach Hostel has a surf school, and you don’t have to stay at the hostel to join a group or private lesson. Lessons start from 13,0202 COP ($27 USD) for a 2.5-hour group lesson. Expect to pay 15,000 COP ($3 USD) for a board rental for an hour and up to 55,000 COP ($11.50 USD) for a full-day rental.
Another one of the best activities to do here is to join a yoga class. Most of the hostels and hotels here offer some kind of yoga class with a view of the beach. The prices for these are around 25,000 COP ($5.20 USD).
36. Tubing El Buritaca River
Tubing down the El Buritaca River is a very popular activity in Northern Colombia that I’m sure you’ve heard about. This thrilling activity was made famous by El Rio Hostel in Buritaca, and many people stay at the hostel just to try out the incredible river tubing nearby.
Tours are on offer from nearby Santa Marta and Costeno beach (book through your accommodation) and involve a two-hour walk along the Quebrada del Platano trail, where your guide will point out flora and fauna as well as any wildlife. Expect to see lots of birds on your walk, as over 200 different species call this area home, including macaws, toucans, hummingbirds, and parrots.
Then it’s time for the tubing – you’ll spend about 45 minutes to two hours navigating the winding river (depending on the tour you choose!) Expect lots of bumps and to get wet. You’ll then stop for lunch at La Esplendorosa restaurant for some lunch!
It’s worth noting that the river is at its fastest flowing in the rainy season (April to May and October to November). When we visited in March, it was quite a slow float!
Important: If you’d prefer not to do a guided tour, you can just book the transport and tube hire through your accommodation. I booked mine through Costeño Beach Hostel, and it was 60,000 COP ($17 USD) with transport and tube hire.
37. Bungee jumping in San Gil
San Gil in Northern Colombia is most well-known for having one of the cheapest bungee jumps in the world. Yep, this 70-meter (230 feet) high bungee costs just 80,000 COP (or about $22 USD). But just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s unsafe; in fact, I found the entire experience to be very professional and safe!
The bungee is operated by Colombia Bungee Jumping, and it is secured to a crane and hangs over a river. And thanks to its prime position, you can enjoy a gorgeous view of the city from the top, where you jump
Getting to the bungee is a short taxi ride from San Gil which costs around 10,000 COP ($2 USD) each way.
38. Emerald Museum and make your own Emerald ring in Bogota
I bet you didn’t know that Colombia is the emerald capital of the world! In fact, they produce 70-90% of the global emerald market right here!
And the International Emerald Museum in downtown Bogota (near the Museo d’Oro) is the perfect place to learn about the Colombian emerald trade. I should add that this is a private museum, so reservations need to be made in advance via Whatsapp!
And after visiting the Emerald Museum, why not go one step further and make your own emerald ring?
This hands-on workshop is not only interesting, but you will leave with a beautiful souvenir – an emerald ring!
An experienced designer will guide you as you create a bespoke piece of jewelry using Colombian emeralds. You’ll have the chance to try different setting techniques and design your ring exactly how you want it.
The workshop costs $100 USD per person and includes a small emerald and a silver ring. You can also upgrade to a larger stone or a gold ring for an additional fee, which you can arrange directly with the workshop.
39. Juan Curi Waterfall
Juan Curi Waterfall (or Cascada de Juan Curi) is one of the tallest waterfalls in Colombia at a massive 250-meter (820 feet) tall. It’s located a 30-minute drive from San Gil and is next to the town of Palenque. But what makes it most impressive is not its height – it’s that it’s surrounded by lush greenery. It’s so photogenic!
It’s easy to get there on your own (without a guided tour) from San Gil; just hop on the bus at stand 4 at the bus terminal in town. Just make sure to ask the driver to stop at “Juan Curti.” This costs just 5,000 COP ($1 USD) each way.
When you reach the falls, you can choose to simply relax in the bottom pools or, if you’re feeling brave, rappel down the rock face next to the falls. This can be booked when you get there and costs 70,000 COP ($10 USD).
Even if you don’t want to try rappelling, you should still climb to the top of the falls for an amazing view!
Or, if you would prefer to have a guide with you, book this private full-day tour of Cascada de Juan Curi. The default pick-up for the tour is from Bucaramanga, but they can also pick you up from San Gil. It includes all transport, a guide, entrance fees, and the option to stop and do more activities on your return to San Gil (for an extra fee!)
40. Play Tejo
While visiting Colombia, you need to go give tejo a go! This crazy game involves throwing a disk at a target that’s loaded with gunpowder. If you hit the target it will explode!
The game is believed to have originated around 500 years ago when it was played by native people who used a golden disc (called a zepguagoscua) to throw at the target!
Today, tejo competitions are highly organized events; they are known as “Torneos Relampago” and are typically played on weekends throughout the country. But it’s also become a very popular game for tourists to play, with many hostels throughout Colombia hosting “tejo nights.”
41. Spend time in the cute town of Barichara
The cute town of Barichara, a 45-minute drive from San Gil, is filled with cobbled streets and whitewashed buildings. The word “Barichara” means “place to rest,” and when you visit, you’ll understand why – it has such a relaxed vibe.
The churches are the most notable buildings in the town, and while wandering the town, you definitely should check them out. The most impressive is the Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción, which is made of sandstone and boasts a gold-leaf altar inside. Other must-visit churches in Barichara include Capilla de Santa Barbara, set on a hilltop with awesome views, and the whitewashed Capilla de San Antonio.
After wandering the beautiful streets and churches here, be sure to pop into a local restaurant for some food or even visit a bar to try Chica or Sabajon, strong liquor produced in the region.
If you are a fan of history and architecture, maybe this walking tour will pique your interest. Over 3 hours, you will really get to see the best of Barichara, with a stop at a local coffee shop. You’ll also learn heaps about the town, including how a Spanish conquest led to its creation of the town.
If you plan to spend a night or more here (I highly recommend doing this), then you should consider hiking the Royal Road to Jordan on this $50 USD eco hiking tour. The route is 5 km (3.1 mi) each way and offers stunning views of the Chicamocha Canyon as you walk along the Río Chicamocha. Along the river, you will stop at “Shangri-La” (aka the walkers’ refuge) which has a restaurant, natural pool, cabins, and hammocks.
42. Mountain biking in San Gil
Another awesome adventure activity you can try out from San Gil is mountain biking along the stunning Chicamocha Canyon and into Barichara! Because the trail is so scenic, as you can imagine, it’s an incredibly popular thing to do in Colombia!
The total length of the trail is over 61 kilometers (38 miles), and it’s classed as moderate to difficult. So, because of its length and challenging nature, I say it is best completed on an organized tour. Thankfully, the first section of the tour is downhill, but the trail is a little bumpy, so some mountain biking experience will help you out on this part. The last 16 kilometers (10 miles) of the trail goes uphill (although not too steep), and this part of the trail path is much better maintained.
This tour is available to be booked through Colombian Bike Junkies. And be prepared for a full day of biking (as it’s 12 hours long!) Don’t worry; you will get some scenic stop-offs. Plus, lunch, snacks, beer, and transport are included too. All in all, this tour will set you back $90 USD!
43. Explore Chicamocha National Park
An hour and 15 minutes from San Gil, Chicamocha National Park isn’t your normal national park. This park is, in fact, a theme park that overlooks the breathtaking Chicamocha Canyon. Most people visit the park just to see the canyon, but there are heaps of other fun activities on offer here, like paragliding, ziplining, riding a cable car across the canyon, or visiting the Guane Museum, which tells the history of the Guane Indians.
The cable car at Chicamocha is one of the longest in the world, at a whopping 6.3 kilometers (3.9 miles) – and the views of the canyon from the cable car are some of the best in the park!
Or, if you’re an adventurous soul, you can try this paragliding tour over the canyon! You will be flying for 20 minutes, and your instructor for this thrilling activity has over 10 years of experience, so you know you’re in good hands. You can meet at the paragliding office in the park or head to their office in San Gil and be driven from there.
The entrance fee to the park is 30,000 COP ($6 USD) per adult, and you can buy combo tickets that include the gondola. My top tip is to come at sunset and enjoy the views of the canyon!
Chicamocha National Park’s hours of operation are Wednesday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm.
You can also hire a private guide to take you around all of the sights of this national park!
Canyoning is another adventure activity in San Gil that I love. In fact, I’ve done canyoning in many different spots, and the canyoning experience in San Gil is one of the best I’ve done. For those who don’t know, canyoning involves rappelling down waterfalls, jumping, swimming, and climbing through the canyon. It certainly gets your adrenalin pumping!
In San Gil, you can book this guided tour for just $34 USD and head off into Las Lajas Canyon for the adventure of a lifetime. The tour includes transport from San Gil, a guide, water, and all your equipment. This includes a wet suit for the cold water.
Seriously, if you haven’t been canyoning before, you need to give this extreme sport a try!
An 18-kilometer (11.2 miles) drive from San Gil is an awesome natural swimming lake called Panaver. But it’s not just swimming that you can do here – there’s also a bubble ball that you climb into and roll down a rapid into a lake, a waterslide, and a zipline that ends in the water. Or you can rent a motorized or row boat to cruise the lake at whatever pace you please. For water-lovers, this is a must-do in the San Gil area!
Admission to Panaver is so cheap at just 10,000 COP ($2 USD) per person, and then you can just pay extra to do whatever activities you, please. But, if you’re on a budget, you can simply pay the $2 and go swimming in the lake. Or, if you have your own fishing rods, you can go fishing here!
There’s a restaurant here, too that serves up delicious Colombian fare, and if you fancy spending the night, there are camping spots (but you need to be part of a group of at least 15 to book it!)
46. Go fishing from Taganga
Taganga is a small fishing village about 10 minutes from Santa Marta, and yep you guessed it, one of the best things to do here is go fishing! You can catch large fish like swordfish, tuna, snapper, and cojinoas in the waters here.
When I’m on vacation, I love heading out with a few beers on a fishing trip to bring home a tasty dinner. So, if you love fishing, like me, I wouldn’t pass on this opportunity.
You can book a fishing tour with a registered travel agency in Taganga town, like this one, or just negotiate with one of the local fishermen to bring you. The latter option will definitely be the most budget-friendly but will require some good understanding of Spanish.
Spearfishing is also possible from Taganga!
47. Playa Cristal
Playa Cristal is widely regarded as one of the best beaches in all of Colombia! It’s located in a sheltered bay and has white sand and crystal-clear water. And because of the calm, warm waters here, it’s an ideal snorkeling spot, and you can expect to see plenty of brightly colored fish under the water here.
In fact, Playa Cristal is actually part of Tayrona National Park, but it’s only accessible by boat, and the only way to get here is on a day trip from Taganga. Because of its seclusion, Playa Cristal is much less crowded than other beaches in Tayrona National Park, like Cabo San Juan.
There are a few restaurants and other food vendors along the beach here.
From Taganga, you can book your return trip to Playa Cristal online in advance.
48. Bahia Concha
Bahia Concha is another stunning beach that’s located just 30 minutes from Santa Marta and an hour’s drive from Taganga. And because it’s road-accessible unlike Playa Cristal, it’s much busier and attracts both locals and tourists. I should add that you can also catch a boat here from Taganga. The beach is surrounded by mountains and with fine white sand contrasting the bright blue water; the scene here is picture-perfect! There’s also a river on the far end of the beach!
It’s a very family-friendly beach thanks to the shade provided by the many trees that line the beach, and you can hang a hammock and relax here or take some welcome relief from the hot Colombian sun.
49. Spend time in Jardin
Jardin near Medellin is known as the “less touristic Salento,” and because it’s just 131 km (81 miles) from Medellin, many locals come here to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Yet it remains somewhat of a secret spot to tourists, and it has yet to garner the same crowds that say Guatape or Salento attract- but it’s the peaceful atmosphere in the town that I love!
Jardin is surrounded by coffee plantations, and it’s like stepping back in time. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s changed very little in the past 400 years – at least, that’s what the locals there told me.
In Jardin, there are many things to do. Some of the best activities include – coffee plantation tours, hopping on the cable car for a stunning view of the town, Gallito de Roca sighting, horse riding tours, and, my personal favorite, drinking coffee in the main square.
Also, be sure to check out the main cathedral, as the interior is simply stunning. The botanical gardens are also a nice way to spend an hour or two.
50. Visit the Rosario Islands
The Rosario Islands are a collection of 30 beautiful Caribbean islands situated off the coast of Cartagena, and conveniently, some are just an hour’s boat journey away.
Two of the most popular Rosario Islands include Isla Baru and Isla Grande. What makes Isla Baru so popular is that you can reach it via car because a bridge connects it to the mainland. Playa Blanca is a famous beach here, and you can visit it on a day tour if you wish. But, if you want a true island escape and really get away from it all, you’re best to visit Isla Grande.
On Isla Grande, there is a range of accommodation options, and you can enjoy a luxury or cheap escape. From the island, you can do snorkeling tours and boat trips and eat fresh seafood right from the ocean.
Another Island that’s visited on a day trip from Cartagena is Isla Cholon. On weekends Colombians and tourists meet at a sand bar, and a wild party is hosted during the day. This is a must-do for anyone who loves to party Colombian style!
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Thanks for reading!
Phew, if you’ve managed to read to end of this whopper of a list of 50 best things to do in Colombia, I think congratulations are in order. As I said earlier, Colombia is one of my favorite countries in the world and I’m just itching to get back and explore this friendly and naturally beautiful nation!
I hope you found this guide to the best things to do in Colombia helpful, and if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments below, we respond to them all!
Bure sure to browse our massive collection of blogs about Colombia too – you’re sure to find more helpful info!
Here are a few of our favorite South American blogs which you’re sure to find helpful:
12 Things to KNOW Before Booking a Trip to the San Blas Islands
24 Amazing Things to do in Quito, Ecuador