Exploring Colombia: 5 New Places I Want to Visit in 2013

Iglesia Santo Domingo
Iglesia Santo Domingo (photo: Fabian Ortiz)
Iglesia de Santa Barbara
Iglesia de Santa Barbara (photo: Mandy)

Now that I’ve committed to Colombia for the first three months of 2013, I’ve been thinking about the new places I want to visit most next year.

Believe it or not, there’s still a ton of places I have yet to explore in Colombia. I blame Medellin for being such a great place to live.

In 2013, I’m going to make an effort to take several trips around the country. I’ll be searching online for accommodation, and traveling by both bus and plane. Here are the places I have in mind.

1. Pueblos in Antioquia

Barbosa, Guarne, Santa Barbara, Jerico. There’s a seemingly endless list of pueblos in Antioquia where one can escape the big city for a quiet weekend.

I’ve seen the ones immediately north of Medellin, including Niquia, Copacabana, and Girardota.

Further afoot, from a tourism perspective, I’ve also spent weekends in the three biggest: Guatape, Santa Fe de Antioquia, and Jardin.

Now it’s time to check out some of the smaller ones, as Ryan has been doing, and writing about on this blog. If you have any suggestions for me, please leave them in the Comments below.

Bucaramanga (photo: yonolatengo)

2. Bucaramanga

Bucaramanga is the capital of the Santander province in eastern Colombia.

Based on a population of 1.2 million people, it’s the 6th largest city in the country, and a little less than half the size of Medellin. I like medium-sized cities, so I’d expect to enjoy it for this reason alone.

There are 160 parks, and is thus known as “La Ciudad de Los Parques” (“City of Parks”), in addition to “La Ciudad Bonita de Colombia” (“Colombia’s Beautiful City”).

In addition to being a green city, like Medellin, it also has similarly mild temperatures throughout the year (highs in the low 80’s, and low’s in the low 60’s F).

Reports from friends who have visited are all positive, which is ultimately the intel that matters most to me. I’m excited!

Paragliding in San Gil
Paragliding in San Gil (photo: Stephen Bugno)

3. San Gil

Bucaramanga is also the jumping off point for visiting San Gil, a pueblo located in the mountains south of the city.

I’ve wanted to visit San Gil since 2009, when I read in my Lonely Planet guidebook that it was the adventure capital of the country.

Whitewater rafting, paragliding, and a host of other activities are available to keep visitors having fun.

San Andres
San Andres (photo: Hotel San Luis Village San Andrés Islas)

4. San Andres

Located closer to the coast of Nicaragua then Colombia, the islands of San Andres offer all the traditional charms of Caribbean Island life (or vacationing).

It’s another destination I’ve held off on because the airfare is more expensive, but I think 2013 will be the year I make it happen.

Since it’s mostly a resort destination, I’ll be looking into package tours to try to save some dinero.

Iglesia Santo Domingo
Iglesia Santo Domingo (photo: Fabian Ortiz)

5. Popayan

Located south of Cali, Popayan is the capital of the Cauca province, and with a population of just a quarter million, I tend to think of it as a big pueblo.

Located at an altitude of about 1,700 meters, which is slightly higher than Medellin, its climate is slightly cooler (about 5 degrees Fahrenheit less for the average highs and lows).

But more than the climate, I’m anxious to see Popayan because it’s known as the “white city” on account of its whitewashed colonial architecture.

Popayan is a popular stop off for those traveling to Ecuador by bus. Because I flew straight to Quito from the USA in 2011, I missed this little gem.

What are your top five places in Colombia to visit in 2013?


This post was written by Dave, and brought to you by Trivago.

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  1. I like the small pueblos idea. My father was from Cisneros, Antioquia which has amazing creeks and rivers to swim in, plus it was one of those important towns where the main railroad used to go through. My mom is from Andes, Antioquia, which I’ve never visited but hear is quite amazing.

    Now, I have a few cousins from Cocorná and like Cisneros, it has great swimming places to go to. And one of my cousins has a small finca in Santuario, great place to visit.

  2. Hello Dave,

    beside the above mentioned destinations in Colombia, I would recommend San Agustín and Tierradentro to explore some pre-Columbian culture, even it is quite difficult to get there (bumpy roads for hours), but definitely worth to go.

    Near Popoyan is a small town called Silvia (30 minute drive by bus), where every Tuesday a market with some local dances is. Really great, if you would like to experience the locals. On the way to Silvia you might stop in Ccoconuco to have a bath in the hot springs. In Popoyan you might stay at the hostal from Tony and Kim (http://www.hosteltrail.com/).

    In the zona cafetera you can visit Salento (definitely go to hostal Lili) to explore the nearby coffee plantations and taste some great coffee from there.

    On the coast I went to Tolu, a small caribbean town with great islands arounds, definitely a great hint, I got from local Colombians. In the high peak season quite a lot Colombians are going there to spend their holiday in this lovely small town.

    Happy travels in Colombia!

  3. Hey Dave, right you are when you say “there’s a seemingly endless list of pueblos in Antioquia where one can escape the big city for a quiet weekend”. Some of my favorites include Venecia, Urrao, Amalfi and San Luis just to name a few. I’d suggest Puerto Berrío but it’s only nice for me because I have family there, otherwise it’s too damn hot and humid. I’m waiting for the day you buy a motorcycle to truly “puebliar” Colombian style.

    San Andrés needs the money right now ever since international courts gave up Colombia’s territorial claims to the sea surrounding San Andrés to Nicaragua. The fisherman that have depended on the sea for their livelihoods now will have to resort to tourism on the island.

    Popayán is a cool town with a large student population. I always have a great time while I’m there with the university students.

    I wish I could be there again to meet up with you in January but I’m going back to school. Have a great time Dave!

  4. In Colombia, I like the small towns, or at least the ones I’ve been to. Salento, San Agustin, Guatape. I thought Popoyan was lovely, but lacked things to “do.” Happy travels

  5. Debido a mi trabajo, conozco casi todos los pueblos de antioquia y te recomendaría que visitaras: Urrao, ciudad Bolívar,El carmen de viboral,la ceja,concepción (tiene un parque hermoso y es extremadamente tranquilo, aunque puede ser que no haya mucho para hacer), la zona de urabá deberías visitarla, para conocer los cultivos de banano, el mar antioqueño, las comunidades indígenas /te recomiendo apartadó como sitio base y de allí viajar a capurganá, necoclí,arboletes,chigorodó).Bueno hay muuucho por ver y espero te sirvan los consejos, quedo atenta si requieres más información.