Welcoming, sophisticated people, epic scenery, timeless colonial towns and outdoor adventures galore, Colombia has been waiting to be discovered. From the cloud-forested mountains of the Andes to the jungles of the Amazon, from the gorgeous old town of Cartagena to the Lost City and from the pretty coffee plantations in the highlands to the palm-fringed beaches of the Caribbean, Colombia is one varied, fascinating country.
best time to travel
While temperatures are steady throughout the year, rainfall does vary significantly. The driest months, and the best times to travel to Colombia, are December to March and July to August.
places to go
Colombia's vibrant capital rarely elicits love at first sight, but after a while the place grows on you, what with its historic downtown filled with colonial houses, cool restaurants and bars and beautiful churches and convents. Throw in great nightlife and some great museums and you have a city well worth exploring.
Villa de Leyva
Tucked into some spectacular mountain scenery, the photogenic village of Villa de Leyva with its cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved towns in Colombia.
Zipaquirá salt cathedral
A quarter of a million tons of salt was removed to carve this spectacular underground cathedral out of an old salt mine.
Right behind Cartagena as Colombia's most impressive colonial settlement, Popayán, nicknamed "The White City" is well known for its beautiful churches and mansions. Throw is a dose of volcanoes, hot springs and indigenous markets and you have a "must-see" destination.
Los Nevados National Park
Stunning mountain scenery of snow-capped volcanoes, icy glaciers and wild rivers form the main ingredients that bring travellers to Los Nevados National Park. Hike through mountain villages or to the oh-so-blue Laguna del Otún and Valle de Cocora and experience this magnificent park first-hand.
Due to its great climate, Colombia is famous for its coffee. With it's towering palm trees, the pretty hills around the town of Armenia are the perfect place to learn more about coffee culture while staying on an estancia.
Nick-named the City of Eternal Spring, mountain-ringed Medellín is no longer the city of drug lord Pablo Escobar. A bustling downtown, a vibrant nightlife, top-notch restaurants and some very interesting museums are but some of the reasons travellers linger here.
Superbly preserved as the continent's colonial jewel, Cartagena is a dazzling ensemble of Baroque churches, beautiful mansions, shady plazas and giant city walls. Soak up the sensual atmosphere, romance and intrigue as you wander through this enigmatic town.
Tayrona National Park
Deep-green jungles tumble down steep mountains all the way to incredibly white-sand beaches at Tayrona National Park. Hikes in forests lorded over by snow-capped mountains are but one of the many activities on offer, while palm-fringed waters invite you to snorkel and swim or just simply soak up the sun.
Lost to mankind until its rediscovery in the 1970's, Colombia's Lost City remains only accessible via one of country's most breathtaking treks.
The prettiest and best-preserved colonial-style village in the country, Barichara is home to whitewashed buildings with red-tiled roofs, cobblestone streets and a bohemian lifestyle.
The Adventure Capital of Colombia, San Gil is where thrill-seekers go to do white-water rafting, paragliding, caving, rappelling and trekking.
In Sierra de La Macarena NP, a series of rivers, waterfalls. swimming holes and streams form the Caño Cristales. Also known as the "Liquid Rainbow" the rivers change colour from the end of July through November and various shades of yellow, green, blue and black can be observed. Most spectacular of all are the red hues caused by large numbers of plants growing on the riverbed.
Chiribiquete is the world's largest tract of protected rainforest and declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Inaccessible to people, one can fly over to experience the magnificent landscapes of tepuis, table-top mountains that abruptly rise from the forest.
Off limits for many years, Los Llanos is quickly reestablishing itself as Colombia's premier wildlife destination. Large herds of capybara roam an endless sea of green grasslands, home to over 100 species of mammals and more than 700 bird species.
Food, glorious food
What would travel be without food? In Colombia you will likely be served arepa (corn bread) or ajiaco (soup made with chicken, potato, corn, capers, avocado and sour cream). Heavy-hitting meat dishes include Bandeja Paisa (steak, pork crackling and chorizo sausages), sancocho (plantain, yuca, potato and soup) and lechona (stuffed baked pig). Gourmands will find high-end options in Bogotá, Medellín and Cartagena.
Ride an aerial car
In Medellín two cable cars replacing subway lines make for great sightseeing. And at 6.3 kms, the Chicamocha Canyon Gondola is one of the longest aerial tramways in the world.
Follow the beautiful forest trails and spot one of three monkey species living in Tayrona park. Red Howler monkeys make terrifying bellowing noises from the jungle at dusk and dawn.
Sleep in a hammock
If you have ever fallen sleep in a hammock at a cottage, you know what we talk about... Lay down, relax and let the wind and jungle sounds put you into a deep relaxing sleep.
Totumo Volcano, Colombia's mud volcano a short drive from Cartagena, is a great place to float in the mud and get dirty.
Walls all over Bogotá have been used by both home-grown and world-renowned artists as canvases for some spectacular street art.
Incorporating cultural elements three continents, Colombia's carnival is at their best in Barranquilla - four days of music and dance!
Gold & art in Bogotá
Bogotá's Gold Museum is perhaps one of the best in Latin America showcasing artifacts from all major indigenous cultures in Colombia. Museo Botero hosts splendid paintings and sculptures of Colombia's most famous artist.
Rafting, kayaking, paragliding, caving, biking, canyoning, hiking, rappelling, trekking, horseback riding, rock-climbing, diving and surfing - all activities that make for an adventurous time in Colombia. San Gil is considered Colombia’s adventure capital.
Trek to the Lost City
The Ciudad Perdida trek is a four or five-day 46 km hike through the forests of the Sierra Nevada, passing villages and crossing rivers. A final 1200-step staircase will take you to the terraced ruins of Teyuna, a capital city built by the Tayrona civilization in 800 A.D.
Hike the Andes
With mountains everywhere good hikes are plenty. Besides Ciudad Perdida some of the best walks are enjoying the wildlife of Tayrona, the spectacular scenery of Los Nevados and the unique landscapes of the Cocora Valley.
Down to the grind
The countryside around Armenia is coffee country par excellence. Learn about the growing and production of coffee while staying at an authentic coffee estancia. Ride a horse through the hills, go on a hike, look out for birds or have a swim - it is all in a day's work!
Take an old indigenous game consisting of throwing gold discs into a hole and add gunpowder to the mix - the explosive national game of Tejo is the result!
Spot a bird
With over 1900 species of bird, more than any other country in the world, Colombia is one of the premier birding destinations in the world. There is a wide variety of ecosystems, each with their own bird species, to be explored.
Travel to Los Llanos for an incredible wildlife experience. Herds of capybara and other wildlife including agouti, wild pig, anteater, armadillo, anaconda, turtles, deer, fox and caiman abound. If you are lucky you may even spot an illusive jaguar, ocelot or puma.
Swim in a red river
Caño Cristales is a series of rivers which change colour from the end of July through November. Most spectacular of all are the red hues caused by large numbers of plants growing on the riverbed. And you can swim in it!