Top 10 amazing places to visit in Colombia

Colombia has many beautiful and diverse places to visit. The list is considerably long. When our readers ask us which places we recommend to visit during their tour to Colombia, even for us, it is very difficult to choose. There are so much to see in Colombia, from historical colonial cities to spectacular natural parks or amazing virgin beaches. Therefore, today we decided to write about 10 of the most amazing places we think you could visit in Colombia, so you can have a general idea of what you can see there and where you would like to go.

10. La Candelaria in Bogota

The historic centre of Bogota is an incredible place. It is impossible to escape “history” when you are there. Many streets still retain their colonial charm and quite often you’ll find plaques reminding you that you are walking the same streets as Antonio Nariño, the first vice president of Colombia or Policarpa (commonly known as “la Pola”), a famous colonial and revolutionary martyr.

In the historic centre of Bogota, you can have a cup of world-famous Colombian coffee atop one of the most famous and iconic mountain peaks in Colombia—Cerro Monserrate. You can also check out the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) which house the largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold work in the world. You won’t leave this recently renovated and incredible museum disappointed. While in the historic center of Bogota, go ahead and check out the central plaza—Plaza de Bolívar and the famous historic neighborhood, la Candelaria. If you’ve got the time, spend some time in the churches scattered about the city centre, especially la Iglesia de San Francisco and La Tercera.

9. The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira

The small town of Zipaquira is famous for its salt mines and for the Salt Cathedral built inside the network of monumental chambers and tunnels that were left behind when commercial mining operations ceased. This cathedral is unlike any other in the world, in terms of its innovative architecture. It was opened in 1995 and represents an eclectic mix of religion and architecture to maximise protection from the ever-present risks of working in a mine.

Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira

Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira

The stations of the cross path across the mine is a poignant representation of Jesus’ last moments, which culminates in the three-part cavernous subterranean cathedral. Visitors are  impressed not only by the incredible engineering work and sculptures but also by the religious meaning and importance of this place for the miners.

8. Mompox

Mompox is a stunning Colombian town renowned for its architecture, culture and its great natural surrounding landscape. Mompox is a town frozen in time. While the rest of the country has evolved and modernised, Mompox looks pretty much as it used to be during colonial times, for this reason, it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1995.

Santa Cruz de Mompox (its official name) is located in an island surrounded by an arm of the Magdalena river, in the Momposina depression between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Sierra de San Lucas. The town was founded in 1540 and was an important trading centre during the Spanish rule due to its strategic location. The Magdalena is Colombia’s longest river and was the main transport route from the Caribbean coast to the centre of the country during colonial times. Mompox was also a safe place for the Spaniards to keep gold and other treasures protected from the siege of pirates and a refuge for the families running away from the pirate attacks in Cartagena.

La Concepcion Church in Mompox

La Concepcion Church in Mompox

7. Barichara

Perhaps the best known town in Santander, to many Colombians, is the small and colonial town of Barichara. Barichara lies a mere 2.5 hours outside the Santanderian capital city of Bucaramanga, but couldn’t be more different. Barichara has been deemed “the prettiest town in Colombia,” and offers a unique charming, colonial, and romantic atmosphere. When visiting this picturesque little town, make sure you check out the local artisan shops, try some hormigas culonas (giant ants)-a regional specialty, visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate, and climb to the Church of Santa Barbara, located at the top of a hill overlooking the town.

One of the colonial streets in Barichara

One of the colonial streets in Barichara

6. Cabo de la Vela in La Guajira

A visit to Cabo de la Vela requires a quite long journey to the north of the Caribbean coast, in the department of La Guajira, but it is worth it!

La Guajira with its desert and almost alien landscapes and the proud heritage and traditions of its indigenous inhabitants (the ‘Wayuu’) is one of the most amazing and remote places you can visit in Colombia, with Cabo de la Vela documented as the first point in the South American continent where an European laid foot back in 1499.

At Cabo de la Vela,  you will find beautiful places like: The “Pilon de Azucar, a small peak, from where you will see the stunning views of the region, and the beach “Ojo de agua”  a very nice beach to relax, enjoy the spectacular landscape and take a refreshing bath in the Caribbean sea. You will spend the night in one of the Rancherias managed by the local community, where you will have plenty of time to relax and learn a little bit about the Wayuu culture.

Cabo de la Vela - La Guajira, Colombia

Cabo de la Vela – La Guajira, Colombia

5. Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva is definitely the most touristy and popular town in Boyaca. This colonial village frozen in time will make you feel like you have been transported back to the colonial times. Its main plaza is surrounded by magnificent colonial structures and a beautiful parish church, the area of the plaza is about 14000 square meters and it is considered the largest plaza in Colombia. The town has various historic sites, which are also museums like: La Casa Museo Antonio Nariño, (Antonio Nariño is a Colombian independence hero), the Museo del Carmen, a religious museum exhibiting valuable paintings and religious objects from the 16th century onwards, and the Paleontological Museum, which has a collection of fossils dating from the Cretaceous and Mesozoic period when this area was covered by the sea.

Near Villa de Leyva you can also visit the Archeological Park of Moniquira, also known as “El Infiernito“. This is an old Muisca sanctuary with a solar calendar and huge sculptures to the fertility of the land. You can also visit the Fossil Museum to see the petrified skeleton of a large marine reptile that inhabited this region 120 million years ago.

Villa de Leyva main square

Villa de Leyva main square

4. The Coffee Region

Colombia’s coffee region is also called the Coffee Triangle. This fertile region, located in the heart of the Andes, is where the majority of the famous Colombian coffee is produced. This region is not only blessed  with the perfect weather conditions to grow the best quality coffee but  also with a great variety of options for rural tourism, including visits to coffee farms to learn about the coffee production process, hiking in natural parks or visiting traditional paisa towns.

Valle de Cocora in the Coffee Region

Valle de Cocora in the Coffee Region

3. Cartagena

Cartagena is the capital city of the Colombian department of Bolívar and is located along the central part of the Colombian Caribbean Coast. Cartagena was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984 for its historical importance as a port city, as well as for its impressive fortification.  It was one of the first cities founded in Latin America so its colourful streets are full of history. It is within the walled city that you will find the historic heart and soul of this colonial city. The architecture, the historical sites, the colours, the sounds, the aromas and the atmosphere within the walled city are not only inspiring, but many say they also come together to create the perfect ambience for a little romance.

The walls and fort of Cartagena - Colombia

The walls and fort of Cartagena – Colombia

2. Tayrona National Natural Park

The Tayrona National Natural Park is another place of immense natural beauty with a high diversity of fauna and flora. The park lies at the Caribbean coast near Santa Marta. It is home of the most beautiful beaches in the country. You can spend a day hiking along its rain forest eco-system and sandy beaches, and have the opportunity to swim, or practice snorkeling at some of the beaches where is safe to do it.

Tayrona Natural National Park, Colombia - Image Copyright Uncover Colombia 2012

Tayrona Natural National Park, Colombia

1. Caño Cristales

Caño Cristales is the most beautiful river in Colombia and perhaps one of the most unspoiled natural places to visit in this diverse country. Caño Cristales is located inside the National Natural Park La Macarena in the department of Meta in the Eastern region of Colombia know as The Plains.

Caño Cristales is an unique natural wonder due to its  outstanding combination of colours like yellow, green, blue, black and specially the red colour given by the sub aquatic plant “Macarenia clavigera”. This plant lines on the floor of the river and turns red during the wet season (from June to November); during this period of time  the water flows too fast and deep, obscuring the bottom of the river and cutting off sunlight that turns the Macarenia clavigera red.  The other colours are given by the minerals found on the rocks of the river.

At Caño Cristales, you can trek along the three branches of the river to see the spectacular succession of rapids, waterfalls and natural pools running throughout the old rocks of the canyon. There, you can take pictures, swim or just enjoy the astonishing views of this paradisiacal place.

Caño Cristales

Caño Cristales

We hope you decide to visit as many of these amazing places as you can.

Happy travels!

The Uncover Colombia Team

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8 thoughts on “Top 10 amazing places to visit in Colombia

  1. Pingback: Uncover Colombia at the World Travel Market Exhibition in London | Travel, Discover, Experience

  2. I have visited a few, my next trip I do plan to visit the Pacific side and I MUST head back to Villa de Leyva, Santa Marta and San Andres.

    • Absolutely! My dad is Colombian and I make a point to visit a new region or site every other year. And, of course, to visit family. I’ve traveled by car, foot, boat, 10 passenger plane, and bus and never felt safer (or happier!). It’s spectacular!

  3. Pingback: Most Visit Archaeological Sites in Colombia | Travel, Discover, Experience

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