15 Top Things To See And Do In Colombia

top things to see and do in colombia travel guide mind blowing things to see and do in colombia

Planning a trip to South America and looking for the top things to see and do in Colombia? You’ve come to the right place!

From lively cities to diverse landscapes, Colombia has so much to offer for its travelers. During our Pan-American road trip, we loved it so much that we spent 3 months exploring the different regions of Colombia.

In recent years Colombia has become a huge attraction for international visitors. Some come to roam around its colorful towns, some for the incredible hiking in the Andes Mountain range and others to learn more about Colombia’s rich history and culture.

In this guide, I cover 15 of the best attractions to visit while traveling through this beautiful country!


Table Of Contents:


15 Top Things To See And Do In Colombia:

1. Stroll Around The Walled City

Walled City in Cartagena, Colombia.

Situated along the Caribbean coastline, Cartagena is a lively town and one of the best tourist destinations in all of Colombia.

Cartagena’s colorful colonial downtown mixed with warm, tropical weather makes it a much-desired vacation spot for locals and international tourists alike.

Cartagena’s Old Town, also known as the Walled City, is the best place to experience the essence of Cartagena’s history and culture.

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Old Town Cartagena
Old Town Cartagena

From neon-colored buildings to ruins remaining from defense walls surrounding Cartagena, its charm is undeniable.

The Walled City neighborhood is where you’ll find ladies dressed in colorful traditional outfits, street vendors yelling fruit names you’ve never heard of, endless historical attractions, and top-notch restaurants.

First time visiting Cartagena? Get your bearings on this Private Cartagena Walking Tour that will take you to all the top landmarks and neighborhoods!

Read Next: 15 Best Things To Do In Cartagena, Colombia

2. Take a Mud Bath At Totumo Volcano

Floating on top of El Totumo volcano.

El Totumo is a unique cone-shaped volcano. Instead of spewing hot lava at the top, this volcano is full of mud. The locals have turned Totumo volcano into a major attraction offering mud baths in the middle of it.

Taking a mud bath in the middle of a volcano was one of the coolest experiences I had during my time in Colombia. The mud is gravity-defying letting you float on top, similar to the Dead Sea.

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Totumo mud volcano
This may be the only “bath” where you will be dirtier getting out than getting in.

The mud itself is so thick that it prevents you from moving around quickly so you can float suspended on top without moving a single muscle. Visiting El Totumo mud volcano is worth the hour’s drive from Cartagena to experience it for yourself.

The cost to take a mud bath at Totumo Volcano is 10,000 pesos (around $3) plus 10,000 pesos for a shower after (to wash out all that mud from places you never knew it could get in!).

Don’t have a car to get there yourself? Book this Half-Day Tour to Totumo Mud Volcano from Cartagena that provides transportation and a local guide!

3. Relax At Santa Rosa Hot Springs

Santa Rosa Hot Springs in Colombia.

For those who enjoy soaking at outdoor hot springs, visiting Termales Santa Rosa De Cabal is a must!

Surrounded by waterfalls and a lush jungle setting, the Santa Rosa Hot Springs is a hidden oasis in Colombia.

Most of the pools at Thermal Spa Santa Rosa are manmade but the property is beautifully built and well taken care of.

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Santa Rosa Hot Springs
Lush jungle waterfalls at Termales Santa Rosa.

To beat the crowds try to go super early. If you’re looking for a fun environment go at night when the locals come here to socialize and party!

The entrance to the Santa Rosa Hot Springs costs 25,000 pesos (around $8). This provides access to bathe in multiple pools with various heat temperatures.

Plan an unforgettable experience by booking this Santa Rosa de Cabal and Hot Springs Day Tour from Pereira.

4. Roam The Colorful Streets Of Guatape

Colorful streets of Guatapé town in Antioquia, Colombia.

Located just two hours from Medellin, Guatapé is the perfect town for a quick day trip. Although downtown Guatape is quite small consisting of less than 10 street blocks, this little town is packed with liveliness and color!

Most of Guatape’s streets and buildings are painted in different colors ranging from pinks and yellows to greens, and blues.

The main attraction of the city is Plazoleta de Los Zócalos which has wide colorful stairs. Around this plaza, you will find cozy little cafes and street vendors selling handicrafts.

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Guatape Plaza
Plazoleta de Los Zócalos in Guatapé.

The pace of life in Guatape is very relaxed compared to the busy city life in Medellin. This is one of the many reasons why both locals and international tourists love escaping here for the day.

Visitors can be found lazily roaming through the colorful streets or sitting at a café people watching. This region also offers fun outdoor activities like kayaking, hiking, and zip lining.

Get to know Guatape and enjoy a bit of adrenaline rush on this Guatape & Paragliding Private Tour from Medellin. Book it early as it’s likely to sell out!

5. Hike Up The Towering El Peñol Rock

El Peñol tourist attraction in Guatapé.

Situated on the outskirts of Guatape stands the towering El Peñol de Guatapé rock formation. If you’re looking for a hike offering fantastic panoramic views, this is the place to go!

With 740 stairs built into the mountain, this hike can be quite challenging. If you get tired along the way, there are plenty of areas to stop and rest.

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Penol rock
El Peñol de Guatapé rock in Colombia.

Once you reach the summit of this enormous rock, you will be greeted with panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, mountains, and rivers.

If you’re up for the challenge, the entrance to hike the Penol Rock costs 18,000 pesos ($6). At the top, you will find vendors selling snacks, ice cream, and beer to reward yourself after the strenuous hike!

For visiting this attraction I recommend booking this popular Guatape and Piedra del Peñol tour from Medellin (with over 2700 five-star reviews!).

6. Take an Air Tram To Santuario De Las Lajas

Las Lajas Sanctuary in Colombia.

The origins of Santuario De Las Lajas church go back to the 1750s when a mother and child took refuge from a rainstorm in a cave. In this cave, they witnessed an image of the Virgin Mary. This marked the location as sacred grounds and the Las Lajas Sanctuary was built in its place.

Over the years the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Las Lajas was expanded multiple times to accommodate all of its visitors. What you can see today is an elaborate church with a grand entrance and ornate interior.

There are a few designated parking lots next to the church where you can park for the visit. You can also arrive in a more adventurous way – by taking an air tram!

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Santuario De Las Lajas
Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Las Lajas.

For 16,000 pesos ($5) we took an air tram to and from the church passing scenic mountains, farmlands, and rivers along the way.

The entrance to the church itself is free. You have the option to see a museum inside for 3000 pesos ($1) that showcases religious relics and pottery from local indigenous groups.

If you choose to stay past sunset, the church’s exterior gets illuminated in various colors – quite the show to witness in person!

7. Enjoy The Quaint Town Of Salento

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Salento
The charming streets in Salento, Colombia.

Salento is a small town in the center of the coffee-growing region in Colombia.

Salento is one of the best places for touring local coffee plantations and learning more about the coffee harvesting process in Colombia.

After a coffee tour, set aside a couple of hours to stroll the colorful streets of Salento or hike up to the Mirador de Salento overlooking the city.

For an exciting evening out, enjoy a round of Tejo – a local Colombian game where the objective is to throw rocks at explosives while drinking beer. Quite a fun time!

Read Next: 10 Amazing Things To Do In Salento And Valle De Cocora

8. See Tall Palm Trees At Valle de Cocora

Explore Cocora Valley’s scenic landscapes on this Cocora Valley Hiking Tour.

The lush Valle De Cocora is a place like no other! Located on the outskirts of Salento town, Valle De Cocora is home to tall, skinny palm trees nestled in between foggy mountains and local farms.

These soaring wax palm trees are unique to this area, which makes it a must-see landmark while traveling through Colombia.

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Valle De Cocura hike
Valle de Cocora park in Colombia.

The Cocora Valley has a few trails that can be hiked ranging from short 1 hour hikes to more challenging 5 hour long hikes.

The entrance to hike the palm tree valley costs 3000 pesos ($1). You’ll also need to arrange a ride to the Palm Tree Valley and back from Salento for 55,000 pesos ($18) each way.

Visitor Tip: Book this private Cocora Valley Hiking Tour that will arrange transportation, entrance fees, and a local guide for you!

9. View Mars-Like Landscapes At Tatacoa Desert

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Tatacoa desert
Eroded hills in the Tatacoa Desert.

For most people, you either love the desert or you try to avoid the scorching heat as much as you can. But if there is one thing to agree on, the beauty of the Tatacoa Desert is like no other!

The Tatacoa Desert is a dry area in Colombia that consists of unique red and orange landscapes as far as you can see.

For first-time visitors, I recommend stopping by Mirador El Cuzco which has a great viewpoint of this Mars-like setting.

From the viewpoint, you can also go on a 2-hour hike weaving through bare orange canyons. If you choose to do the hike, make sure to bring plenty of water bottles and sunscreen to battle the unforgiving desert heat.

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Tatacoa Desert Los Hoyos Swimming Pool
Los Hoyos swimming pool.

After the hike cool off at Piscina Los Hoyos nestled between grey desert hills, a different but equally beautiful setting within the Tatacoa Desert.

Entrance to Los Hoyos costs 8000 pesos (around $3). This includes access to 3 different pools and cold showers that will bring pleasant relief from the desert heat.

10. Hike To a Glacier In Sierra Nevada del Cocuy

Alpine lake at Sierra Nevada del Cocuy in Colombia.

Parque Nacional Natural El Cocuy is one of the best places in Colombia for outdoor activities and going on incredible treks in the mountains.

Sierra Nevada del Cocuy is one of the last places in Colombia where you can see glaciers up close in person.

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia El Cocuy National Park
Parque Nacional Natural El Cocuy in Colombia.

The park currently has three open hikes, each ranging around 12 miles in length. Along the way, you can enjoy views of diverse landscapes and stop by gorgeous blue glacier lakes.

The park has a few requirements that need to be arranged before heading out on the hikes. Check out our El Cocuy National Park Trekking guide here for all you need to know to hike in this region.

Read Next: 12 Incredible Hikes To Do In South America

11. Visit District 13 In Medellin

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Communa 13 free walking tour in Medellin
Exploring beautiful street art on a walking tour at Communa 13 district in Medellin.

Colombia has a complicated history of battling drug wars and internal civil unrest.

To get a little glimpse of Colombia’s history and to learn more about the challenges they have faced in the past, I highly recommend taking a walking tour of Communa 13 – what used to be one of the toughest neighborhoods in Medellin.

In the past, this was a place where drugs were sold on street corners and where murders were part of everyday crime. Now this district has been turned around into one of Medellin’s favorite areas full of street art, dance performances, and boutique coffee shops.

It’s a great place to spend a few hours, mingle with the locals, and hear stories of perseverance and hope.

Book Comuna 13 Graffiti and Street Food Tour Here!

12. Explore Unique Landscapes At Los Estoraques

Unique rock formations at Área Natural Única Los Estoraques.

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area is one of the best-hidden gems in Colombia. With incredible natural landscapes and only a handful of visitors a day, this park was one of my favorite destinations during our travels in Colombia.

Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area is home to tall natural formations carved by wind and water over the years.

The park offers incredible trails that lead to overlooks of dramatic drop-offs plummeting into dark valleys below.

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area
Los Estoraques Unique Natural Area in Colombia.

Other trails lead through the ground level offering a different perspective of the canyons and caves all around.

Although I enjoyed how accessible and open the trails were, I wouldn’t be lying that sitting at the edge of these drop-offs made my stomach flutter a bit!

The entrance to hike trails at Los Estoraques costs just 5000 pesos ($2) – a bargain.

13. See Colombia’s Largest Square

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Villa De Leyva Square
Villa de Leyva Main Square.

Villa de Leyva is one of Colombia’s most charming sleepy towns with stunning mountains as its backdrop.

Located a bit far away from major cities, Villa De Leyva remains untouched by major tourism which is why we found it so appealing.

It’s one of those places where life just seems to slow down, a place where you can find yourself enjoying a relaxing brunch or lazily strolling its cobblestone streets.

The town of Villa De Leyva centers around its plaza which is the largest square in Colombia. Villa De Leyva has made many efforts to preserve its original colonial-style architecture with beautiful white-colored buildings.

14. Go On a Bike Tour In Bogotá

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Bogota Bike Tour
Beautiful street art in Bogota, Colombia.

As the capital of Colombia, Bogotá is the largest city in the country and houses over 10 million people within its metropolitan area.

In Bogotá, skyscrapers soar across the landscape as far as the eye can see and the streets are packed full with people rushing about their day. Bogotá can be quite an intimidating city to visit for first-time travelers who are not familiar with its layout and different neighborhoods.

One of the best ways to get bearings of the city is by taking the Bogotá Bike Tour which takes visitors through different districts.

During this bike tour, you’ll stop by markets, coffee roasting companies and end the day by playing a local game of Tejo. We took this bike tour during our time in Bogota and found it to be very helpful!

A lot of the tour focuses on artistic and up-and-coming neighborhoods, not just the historical center, providing a glimpse of the city from a unique perspective.

Book Bogotá Bike Tour Here!

15. Go Paragliding At Mirador Cocorná

Top Things To See And Do In Colombia Paragliding At Cocorna Mirador
Paragliders at Mirador Cocorná.

For a more adventurous way to take in Colombia’s beautiful landscape, head over to Cocorna Viewpoint for a fun time paragliding.

For 120,000 pesos ($40) expert guides will fly you over waterfalls and rolling green hills for a bird’s view of the surrounding areas.

Located just an hour outside of Medellin, here you can also enjoy a relaxing meal at Cocorna Restaurant and Viewpoint overlooking the valley below.


Colombia was one of our favorite countries to visit during our Pan-American trip. The friendly locals and rich history captivated us during our South America trip and made it hard to move on to Ecuador.

Are you planning a trip to Colombia? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!

To read more about our favorite places in South America, check out these posts next:

This post is written by Laura Sausina. Hi, I’m the founder of the Fun Life Crisis travel blog and I’ve been traveling the world for the past 7 years. Here I share my experiences and tips to help 100,000 people a month turn their travel dreams into reality! Read more about me here.


Pin It For Later!

11 thoughts on “15 Top Things To See And Do In Colombia”

  1. hello!! i love you site!
    My friend and I are planning a trip to Colombia and we are so excited! We definitely want to visit the sites that you all visited!
    We land in Bogota. Do you recommend we rent a car? or what other ways do you recommend us getting around Colombia? And any other recommendations as to what to pack? How much money we should bring, etc? Much appreciated!

    1. Hey Jessica,

      Colombia is pretty spread out so having a car is definitely a bonus. We had a car in Colombia and it made getting around so much easier. There are probably public buses too but then you depend on their schedules and availability.

      Colombia is pretty hot so pack light clothes. For big cities like Bogota, I recommend wearing something more conservative so you don’t draw attention to yourself. But in the smaller towns, you can pretty much wear anything.

      I believe we spent around $70/day in Colombia between the both of us. But we travel pretty cheaply and we slept in our van so we saved money on hotels. Most entrances and attractions are under $10 per person.

      Laura

    1. Hi Ash,

      We spent a few months in Colombia but we travel super slow and often stop for extended times. If you went at a faster pace I bet you could see all of these places within a couple of few weeks.

      Cheers,
      Laura

  2. What type of fees and paperwork did you have to deal with while driving through colombia? I have lived there but I always used the public transportation or rented motorcycles. I’m envious of your adventure!

    1. Hey Alan,

      We traveled in our personal car through most of South America including Colombia. To cross borders in a car and to drive you will need a valid driver’s license, car registration paperwork (in your name), a TIP (temporary import permit), and Colombia car insurance. Most border crossings don’t charge a fee if you plan to travel around. Other than that, you might end up paying quite a bit in toll fees in Colombia since there are a lot of toll roads.

      Hope this helps!
      Laura

  3. Hi,
    Hello there, You’ve performed a fantastic job. I’ll certainly Digg it . It was definitely informative and the post is really fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting such posts.

    Thanks

  4. Hi Laura,
    I love your post! Columbia was not on my radar until I saw your post, so thank you:) Where is the first photo taken? The one where there is a wall surrounding an outdoor shower/fountain?

    1. Hi Gabriella! Glad you enjoyed the post. The feature photo was taken at the beautiful Santa Rosa Hot Springs in Colombia. Cheers!

  5. Hello!

    For hiking in Colombia, would you recommend running shoes or actual hiking boots? I haven’t decided if I’ll be doing any hiking or not but I don’t wanna bring hiking boots just cause either.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Susan! For the most part, you can go hiking in Colombia wearing just running shoes. If you plan to visit and hike at El Cocuy National Park, for that location I do recommend actual hiking boots since you’ll be hiking in wet and muddy conditions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *