When people ask us, “What is your favourite place during your whole world trip?” we often find it hard to choose among the many great places that we have visited. In South America, however, Colombia is one of our favourite countries. Some people have the notion that Colombia is not a safe country to visit. The country’s drug cartel history puts people off but that time has long past. Colombia has slowly recovered and now is the time to visit, as the exchange rate makes it great value. Here are 12 top places to see in Colombia!
The Colonial Walled City of Cartagena
With its flower draped balconies, colourful walls and intricate doors, the walled city of Cartagena is filled with some of the Colombia’s most impressive Spanish colonial architecture. Wander around on foot and visit the grand churches and squares. You can also take a carriage ride at night for a more romantic visit. If you’re travelling as a couple, this is definitely one of the top places to see in Colombia if you’re travelling as a couple.
Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park is Colombia’s most popular national park and home to some of the best beaches in the country. Just make sure you manage your expectations. The beaches are nothing like those in Southeast Asia (I’m from the Philippines) but worth a day trip if you are looking for some beach time.
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With charming white houses with orange roofs, and a majestic church in the main square, Barichara is a place fit for a Spanish telenovela. It is one of the most beautiful small towns we have visited around the world and our favourite town in Colombia.
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An interesting nature walk from Barichara will take you to its smaller sibling, Guane. With similar architecture but with hardly any tourists, it’s hard not to also love this small colonial town.
From being one of the world’s most dangerous cities two decades ago, Medellin has risen to show its transformation to the world. From the efficient metro system which includes cable cars towards hillside neighborhoods to the impressive art works by one of Colombia’s most renowned artists, Fernando Botero, there is a lot to like about this city. Among the cities in Colombia, this is one of the top places to see.
READ MORE: A Quick Taste of Medellin, Colombia
El Peñón de Guatapé
Is it from outer space? The Rock of Guatape makes for an interesting day trip from Medellin. The huge rock has been installed with stairs, with around 650 steps to reach the peak, which offers splendid views of the man-made lake and its lush islands.
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Valle de Cocora, Salento
Apart from being a famous part of Colombia’s zona cafetera, Salento is known as the gateway to the striking landscape of Valle de Cocora, famous for its tall slender wax palms. My friend said Valle de Cocora was like a world from Dr. Seuss. It’s surreal.
READ MORE: A Day Hike to Valle de Cocora, Colombia
Villa De Leyva
From its cobble stone streets to its white heritage houses, Villa de Leyva is like a place frozen it time. If you loved Cartagena, you will appreciate the quiet charm and well preserved colonial architecture of Villa de Leyva. There are also other interesting sites just outside of town. If you have more time in Villa de Leyva, visit the Pozo Azules, the Terra Cotta house and the Paleontological museums near town.
The Old Town of Bogota
If you are thinking of skipping Bogota – don’t. The outside parts of the Bogota seem uninteresting but its old town is definitely worth a look. Take a stroll along its narrow streets and take witness to its colourful old houses, stunning churches and its massive main square. You can also see the president’s house from outside the gates! When you’re in Bogota’s old town, the Gold Museum is a must-see.
Desierto de la Tatacoa
Otherworldly terrain awaits in Desierto de la Tatacoa, with its dry and arid landscapes. The Tatacoa Desert has two distinctive areas based on colour, orange in the Cuzco area and gray in the Los Hoyos area. You can rent a bike or walk between the two.
READ MORE: A Night in the Tatacoa Desert
The Smiling Statues of San Agustin
Colombia doesn’t seem that old after seeing so much Spanish colonial architecture, but it is. If you didn’t have time to do the Ciudad Perdida or Lost City Trek, you can admire some of the world’s most impressive collection of pre-Colombian statues in San Agustin’s archaeological park. There are other archaeological sites in the area which you can visit over several days.
READ MORE: The Smiling Statues of San Agustin
Las Lajas Sanctuary, Ipiales
If you’re crossing the border from Ipiales, Colombia to Ecuador, make sure to visit the Las Lajas Sanctuary, a Catholic church built inside the canyon of Guáitara river. Las Lajas Sanctuary is one of the most beautiful churches we’ve seen in Latin America, with its impressive Gothic architecture.
Have you been to Colombia? Do you have anything to add to our list of top places to see in Colombia?
Do you want to travel to Colombia? Which place are you most excited to visit?
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