An ideal destination for backpackers, Colombia has much to offer; whether you are looking for an affordable destination where you can make your money go further (and put off returning to that desk job), want to experience the amazing Amazon rainforest, while away the hours on a beautiful beach, or visit one of the thoroughly modern cities; there really is something for everyone.
If you like your beaches to contain white sand, meet with crystal clear turquoise water and have snorkelling & scuba diving opportunities a plenty, then you’ve definitely come to the right place, as Colombia has some of the best beaches in South America.
If you’re not a fan of beaches then here are my alternative top 5 places to visit:
Medellin is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in South America (often called “city of the eternal spring”) with plenty to see and do; a superb mixture of modern, bustling city, whilst retaining its unique heritage and beauty.
Due to it being around 5,000 ft above sea level and near to the Equator, it benefits from a subtropical climate and year round warm temperatures (the lowest around 15°C).
The city rose to prominence in the 1980’s due to the exploits of drug baron Pablo Escobar, but this has long since been forgotten and the welcoming and friendly locals mean it’s a much safer destination.
If your interested in hearing from another expat about the top things to do click on this link: http://wanderingtrader.com/colombia/best-things-to-do-and-see-in-colombia-tourist-attractions/
What visit to South America could be complete without visiting the Amazon Rainforest?
Covering over 1 billion acres and encompassing areas in Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru, the Amazon Rainforest produces around 20% of the worlds oxygen and contains half of the planets estimated species of plants, animals and insects.
A tour can easily be arranged from Leticia which is the capital of Colombia’s Amazonas region and there are a number of jungle lodges to stay at (July and August is the driest time of year to visit).
Cartagena is another of Colombia’s popular cities which combines a wealth of history – to be found in the old walled city – with modern conveniences, 5 star luxury hotels and beautiful Caribbean beaches (although I promised I wouldn’t say anything about those in this article…).
The historic centre of Cartagena is labelled a UNESCO World Heritage Site and should top any travellers list of places to see, especially at night when it is at its prettiest.
Read about more of the best things to do in Cartagena here.
If you fancy an adventure while you’re in Colombia then why not head to the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida). Not for the fainthearted, it’ll take a 5-6 day trek to reach the city, but what awaits you there is well worth the effort.
On your way through the 20km, you’ll cross various rivers, see indigenous villages and their inhabitants and see some amazing sights, culminating in reaching the spectacular ruins of Ciudad Perdida.
Located on an island in the Magdalena River and another of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites due to its well-preserved colonial architecture, Mompox (officially Santa Cruz de Mompox) is definitely worth a visit if you want to experience the town that time forgot.
With no bridge from the mainland, it’s no easy feat to reach Mompox, but for the determined the effort will be rewarded. The locals are a friendly bunch (something you’ll find a lot in Colombia) who always seem willing to share whatever they have with you.
While these are some of the top attractions in Colombia you may also be interested in reading the best things to do in Medellin at this link: http://wanderingtrader.com/colombia/medellin/best-things-to-do-see-in-medellin-tourist-attractions/
This post was provided by Chris Rowlands from the UK price comparison website moneysupermarket.com.
“The city rose to prominence in the 1980′s due to the exploits of drug baron Pablo Escobar, but this has long since been forgotten and the welcoming and friendly locals mean it’s a much safer destination.”
my perception is that medellin is still very violent in some parts. i thought that there was a great deal of violence in 2009 and 2010.
that said, i still really want to visit it! so correct me if im wrong….
William — yes, there are still some very dangerous communas (neighborhoods) in the city where gangs are battling, and displacing residents in the process. And yes, the murder rate has increased since 2009, but overall, I still believe it’s much safer than it was during the Escobar years. I wouldn’t be living here otherwise.
Read http://colombiareports.com for the current events here — both in Medellin and Colombia as a whole. It will help balance the image presented by the tourism board, and here on Medellin Living (where I prefer to focus on fun stuff like nightlife and festivals).
WHAT YOU JUST SAID IS 100 % TRUE I PRAISE YOU DAVE
Almost missed the part where it said not including beaches… I was going to spam you into next week with Tayrona loving.
Good list. Personally, I’m a big fan of Bogotá and would include it but I can see how it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Or should that be cup of coffee?
NOT MY CUP O COFFEE!
What about San Agustin – really mystical place. And then there is PNN Los Nevados – amazing trekking in the Andes.
This is an excellent list, especially for people who may not be able to visit all the best places in Colombia. It would be hard to choose just one, but that street in Cartagena looks just stunning.
the truth is that homicide rates in Medellín today are almost as high as they were back in the 80s. which proves security has a lot to do with perception and the circumstances you are in when visiting a city. Medellín is perceived as safe despite the high homicide rates because of many reasons, being a cultural and civil rennaisance one of them. also, most people assumes that violence is homogeneous all along Colombia or all along the city, when thet truth is that you have to look how violence affects particularly the poorest people.
sorry for bad English.
JoacoCanal’s comment is not accurate about “homicide rates in Medellín today are almost as high as they were back in the 80s”. The homicide rate at the end of the 1980s in Medellín ranged from 150 in 1987 (out of 100,000) to 250 in 1989. The homicide rate peaked in 1991 at over 350 and has been declining for most years since. In 2012, the homicide rate was 49.1 out of 100,000 in Medellín, putting Medellín’s homicide rate lower than the homicide rate in New Orleans and Detroit. And in particular comunas in Medellín the homicide rate is significantly lower than the city as a whole – for example, in El Poblado the homicide rate was much less than 10 in 2012. And FYI, Cali currently has the highest homicide rate of the bigger cities in Colombia.
Bogota should absolutely be included on this list. The city really has a lot more to offer than Medellin culturally, and the Zona Rosa in Bogota beats Parque Lleras in Medellin hands down in size, bars, clubs, and women…it is, however, pricier.
I want To Go So Bad!!!
I visited Colombia a few years back and I’m proud to say that nothing bad happened during my stay. I would not hesitate to visit the country again. In fact, it’s one of my most favorite places on earth because of the people, rich culture, nice attractions and the climate. My favorite travel show (Raw Travel) will be featuring Medellin and other awesome places in Colombia this week. Can’t wait to see it. Here’s a preview of the upcoming episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsEYEJnkbH0
“(something you’ll find a lot in Columbia)”.
Sorry to be “that guy” but it irks me whenever any writes about Colombia and spells it incorrectly. Otherwise a good summary of the top attractions.
I agree with Toby that Bogota deserves a mention although I understand if a visitor is on a limited time frame that I’d prioritise the northern coast and Medellin over it. In my opinion Ecuador is a better country to access the Amazon from but it’s good to see the Amazon region of Colombia opening up.
I’m not sure if it’s okay (delete this comment if it isn’t) but I put together a comprehensive guide to anyone looking to trek into Ciudad Perdida here: http://laciudadperdida.com
It’s pretty exciting thinking about that whole region of Colombia. So much to explore of the Sierra Nevadas and even the ruins of Ciudad Perdida are only 10% uncovered (Global Heritage Fund estimate).
Hi Matt, thanks for pointing out the spelling error. I missed it when I reviewed the post before hitting “publish.”
I’ve only been to the Amazon in southern Peru so far, but I had a friend come up to Colombia via both the Brazilian Amazon, and the Colombian Amazon, and he said his homestay experience in Colombia (outside of Leticia) was a better experience (and less commercial). I’d like to get down there this year, before it turns into more of the Brazilian version.
I did the Brazilian side as well as the Ecuador and Colombia side (although only briefly). I agree about the Brazilian side being pretty commercialised.
Medellin and Cartagena are fun and a must visit. When you are going to Ciudad Perdida you should stay in Taganga! It is an awesome place with nice beaches and right next to the national park. San Andres is also missing in your list! Look at this awesome island http://sanandres-colombia.com, it is also in the top destinations in the Lonely Planet. Great blog 🙂 Cheers Jamie
This list is missing several popular tourist places in Colombia. I would add Tayrona National Park, Salento and the coffee zone, Guatape and El Peñol, Popayán, San Andrés and Providencia as well as Bogotá. I believe all of these are more popular with tourists than Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) and the Amazon rainforest.
I absolutely loved Cartagena, but was unimpressed by Bogota. Havn’t been to Medellin but would really like to see how it compares.
One comment regarding Mompox: I fully agree that it is an absolutely lovely destination (though the charm of its historic center does not quite reach Cartagena’s (however, less crowded with tourists) Contrary to what I have read a couple of times and also in your report: I did not find it that difficult to reach, there is a daily bus from Cartagena’s bus terminal to Mompox, the crossing on the ferry (If I remember correctly, around 45 or 60 minutes) is part and parcel of the bus ticket. If you want go get from Mompox to Santa Marta, there are Minibuses which take you straight from Mompox to your direction in Sta Marta. No hassle at all!
I appreciate your sharing. I must say that your shared all these places are the best for having fun and tourists can enjoy some time with mates. I also enjoyed myself while I was visiting this kind of places. I hope you will spent really good time there.