White beaches, lush jungle or magnificent old towns: Colombia is probably one of the most diverse and adventurous countries we have ever traveled to. In this post, I’ll reveal the best places to visit in Colombia, the most beautiful sights and give you useful travel tips for Colombia!
As always, at the end of this post you will find a map with all the places mentioned in this post so that you travel well prepared to Colombia.
When is the best time to visit Colombia?
Colombia’s proximity to the equator creates a relatively consistent tropical climate year-round. However, you need to always consider your exact destination in Colombia. The coffee regions in the center of the country tend to be very humid and rain is almost always to be expected. In the north of the country, on the Caribbean Sea, you can count on a lot of sunshine.
The ideal travel months, with the least rainfall in the entire country, are December and March – this is the high season for tourists to travel to Colombia. In May and June, on the other hand, most rain falls, with frequent heavy downpours.
How long should your trip to Colombia be?
The best places to visit in Colombia are very diverse and it is quite possible to spend several weeks in the country without getting bored. For a tour of the country I would recommend at least one week. Depending on how relaxed you want to make your travel plan and how much time you have available, this can of course be extended as you like.
What is the easiest way to travel to Colombia?
The best way to travel to Colombia is by plane via the nation’s capital Bogota. However, we personally opted for connecting flights via Miami directly to the first stop on our list: Medellin.
We also mostly flew within Colombia, as the various sights in the country are often far apart. For shorter distances, we decided to book a driver with a guide, as the routes would often have been too adventurous for us to simply use a rental car. This hold especially true in the coffee region in the heart of the country.
Is Colombia safe to travel?
When it comes to Colombia as a travel destination, most of us often think of drug gangs and street wars – especially in Medellin. Unfortunately, this reputation was true for the 1960s to early 2000s in Colombia. However, since 2016 the civil war between the government and the FARC has ended and a peace treaty has been signed. The country has developed a lot in recent years and even what used to be “Colombia’s most dangerous district” – Comuna 13 in Medellin – is now a hip bohemian district and tourist destination.
We felt comfortable and safe at all times and the locals were open and welcoming.
Of course, you should stow away your valuables in busy areas like the center of Bogota or Medellin to protect yourself from pickpockets. But this is probably hold true for every major city in the world.
What are the best places to visit in Colombia? These are my Colombia travel tips!
The infamous city of Medellin should without a doubt be on your list of top things to do in Colombia! The city impressed us with its diversity of history, art and lifestyle.
Which sights in Medellin should you not miss?
- Walking through the historical center, Centro Historico de Medellin with the Centro Comercial Palacio Nacional is a must do for Medellin.
- A ride on the Metro cable car to the highest part of the city, soaring over the legendary, colorful favelas.
- visiting Comuna 13: In total, Medellin has 16 municipalities. Comuna 13 is best known for the Narcos series and has historically been considered the most dangerous place in Colombia. The reason for this was the bloody street wars between rebels, which have shaped the area for years. In October 2002, the government put an end to the guerrillas in Comuna 13 and ensured peace through a large-scale military operation. Today the municipality is a hip artists’ quarter with impressive street art, shops and studios and has become a highlight for tourists.
- My Medellin travel tip: Visit the small shop “Cremas Doña Consuelo”. Here you can find a popular local snack, the homemade popsicles. The classic consists of frozen green mango with passion fruit, dip in lime juice with a pinch of salt. Super refreshing after exploring Comuna 13!
- Visit the idyllic and rural Rionegro region outside of Medellin. It is ideal for an unforgettable quad tour with great views or trails for hiking.
Hotel tip for Medellin:
Hotel Patio del Mundo – A small family run hotel with a great location and surrounded by lots of tropical greenery. You won’t even feel like you’re in the middle of a big city.
Restaurant tips for Medellin:
- Carmen – one of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America
- Oci – a hip and cool dinner location with a great atmosphere
Hotel Patio del Mundo
After your visit to Medellin, Guatape should definitely not be missing on your Colombia list with the best places to visit in Colombia.
La Piedra del Peñol
The region Guatape with the city of the same name is particularly known for one of the most famous sights in Colombia: the striking monolith “La Piedra del Peñol”.
The 200 meter high granite rock can be climbed on 720 steps. At the summit you can enjoy the best view of the artificial reservoir Peñol, which stretches across Guatape and uses turbines to provide more than 5% of Colombia’s total electricity supply.
A ticket to climb La Piedra del Peñol costs 20,000 Colombian pesos (around 4,50 USD) per person.
Travel tip for Guatape: A helicopter flight over Lake Peñol and around the iconic rock is an unforgettable experience with amazing views.
After climbing La Piedra del Peñol, be sure to stop by Guatape City for lunch. All the houses in the city have a colorful base that is characteristic of the city, which means that the Little Town has many colorful photo opportunities to offer.
We were lucky and found the best spot in Guatape City by accident: it offers a unique view of the granite rock La Piedra del Peñol. I marked the exact location on the map at the end of this post.
Hotel tip for Guatape and the surrounding area:
- Glamping Hotel Bosko with a sky pool and a view of the reservoir is a unique place to stay in bubble rooms. However, you can also just stop by for lunch to see the hotel and enjoy the view.
→ Book it here!
- Cannúa Lodge is located right between Guatape and Medellin in the middle of the jungle on a hill. You sleep in luxurious eco tree houses and enjoy a unique view of the sunset. The hotel also has a great restaurant using ingredients from their own garden and local area.
→ Book it here!
The coffee region with the Vallee de Cocora (Cocora Valley)
The green heart of Colombia, where some of the best coffees in the world originates, is best reached with a 45-minute flight from Medellin to Pereira.
The region impresses with its dense green cloud forests and of course the lush plantations. Although it is the place in Colombia with the most rainfall per year, for me the Cocora Valley is the most beautiful place to visit in Colombia!
The heart of the region is Salento, a small, colorful town from which jeep tours to the Cocora Valley start. The valley is particularly well-known for the “Bosque de Palmas”, the forest of palm trees. In this cloud forest you will find the highest palm species in the world: the wax palms, which grow up to 60 meters high.
Entrance to the palm forest is only 6,000 Colombian pesos (1,35 USD) per person and you will pass several magical viewpoints on your hike – the second one on the trail is particularly impressive.
Let yourself be enchanted by the unique nature – it feels like a journey into a prehistoric time!
Back in Salento you should definitely stroll a little through the colorful and pretty town, where you will find numerous small shops and restaurants. Especially recommendable: The Bernabe restaurant, with delicious local dishes and fresh coffee from the region. It was one of the best restaurants we ate at in Colombia.
A visit to the coffee plantations with a tasting is also a must-do in the region. You will find numerous small coffee producers just a few minutes’ drive from Salento. I can recommend the Ocaso Coffee House. Here the coffee is grown organically and in an environmentally friendly manner. You see how coffee grows and processed. After the tour you can taste test the different beans and preparation methods while enjoying a unique view over the valley.
Hotel tip for the coffee region:
Hacienda Bambusa – This unique hotel was the inspiration for the Disney film Encanto. It is charming small hotel, with a gorgeous courtyard and pool surrounded by lush nature.
Cartagena is probably the most beautiful city in Colombia which can be found on the north coast of the Landes on the Caribbean Sea.
The colonial style old town is particularly worth seeing. It is surrounded by the 16th century wall which offers a great view of the new part of the city called “little Miami”. I advise you to come here at sunset to enjoy the unique atmosphere and the view.
Strolling through the streets of the old town you will see numerous beautiful houses. One would like to photograph every corner of the city and linger in every cute cafe or restaurant.
Travel Tips for Cartagena:
- The bohemian Getsemani district, with street art, great restaurants and fewer tourists, is the hippest part of the city.
- A rum tasting should, without a doubt, be part of your visit to Cartagena. We loved the tasting at El Arsenal Cartagena where we had the chance to taste different local varieties.
- The rooftop terrace of the Movich Hotel offers the best view over Cartagena. In the late afternoon, the rooftop bar also welcome out of house guests, and you can enjoy the sunset with cool drinks and snacks. I would recommend a reservation, especially on weekends.
Rooftop Movich Hotel
Hotel tip for Cartagena:
Casa San Agustin is my favorite hotel in Cartagena. It is located in a colonial-style building, which has been restored in its original style. There is a great pool in the courtyard and the breakfast was top notch!
Hotel Casa San Agustin
Bar tip for Catagena:
Cartagena also has a lot to offer in the evening, from festivals in the streets to unique bars. I found the Alquímico Bar particularly interesting. On weekends you may even have to queue to get in, but the wait is well worth it: an astonishing cocktail bar awaits you in a stately villa that extends over several floors. The bar has already received several awards and offers great signature drinks!
More places to see when traveling to Colombia
Unfortunately, we were not able to visit these sights in Colombia ourselves due to lack of time, but they are definitely on our list for the next visit:
- Isla Baru: Not far off the coast of Cartagena you will find the island “Isla Baru”, which can be reached by boat taxi from the port of Cartagena. White beaches, blue water and palm trees swaying in the wind await you here. It is the ideal place to spend a few relaxing days after exploring all the sights in Colombia.
- Bogotá: With almost 8 million inhabitants, the capital of Colombia is almost the size of New York City. It has a lot of attractions to offer and due to its high altitude, 2,500m above sea level and surrounded by the Andes, there are also numerous viewpoints. In addition, Bogota is the ideal starting point for hikes in the beautiful nature and high biodiversity of the Andes.
For me, Colombia was one of the most adventurous destinations we have traveled to this year. I was always surprised by the unique beauty and the variety of sights in Colombia. The country should, without a doubt, be on your Latin America travel list.
I hope my Colombia travel tips inspire you to plan your own trip to Colombia. Let me know if you have any questions about the country or the individual locations. You can easily leave a comment or send me a message on Instagram.