Back
Fruit vendor in Medellin, Colombia

A lot has changed about Latin America since the 1980's when we started operating, yet no country’s rise in tourism circles has been more meteoric than that of Colombia. A far cry from the no-go zone it once was, Colombia has emerged from its dark past with an infectious enthusiasm. The modern Colombia is a land of beauty, in practically everything.

Colombia’s tourism ministry famously adopted the slogan “the only risk is never wanting to leave”. This is, of course, inaccurate: calling this a “risk” would imply the possibility of it not happening.

Its kaleidoscope of natural wonders includes the highest number of bird species of any country on the planet, thanks to its diversity of habitats, from arid deserts to luxuriant cloud forests. Its history is a saga told through pre-Incan ruins in the wilderness, Caribbean cities that date back to the Spanish Empire’s early days and pastel-coloured hillside towns that compete to become the Balamory of Latin America.

And while the world is slowly getting to know Colombia, the country still packs plenty of surprises, from the hurricane of jacarandas that graces Medellin every year to the backwater colonial city of Mompós.

Contents

Bogotá - A Cosmopolitan and Cultural Hub

View of Bogota from Montserrate hill.

Bogotá, the vibrant capital city of Colombia, offers a captivating blend of history, art and bustling city life.

La Candelaria is the focal point of many visits here, with its colonial architecture and cobblestone streets not dissimilar from countryside towns – albeit with a splash of street art here and there. In this area you’ll find landmarks like Plaza de Bolivar and the impressive Catedral Primada, the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) and the Botero Museum, showcasing works by renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

COL_Bogota_Street Art_BL

Looming over Bogotá, and especially prominent from Plaza de Bolivar, is Montserrate Hill. Initially the site of an indigenous temple to the tribe’s sun god, the Conquistadors constructed the monastery that currently occupies the summit. Today, visitors can hike up or take a cable car for a panoramic view of the city. The lifts run into the night, making this an excellent (and safe) spot to watch the sun set.

Near the city are several worthwhile day trips, including the remarkable Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, constructed within the 200-metre-deep salt mines, the charming old town of Vila de Leyva and the cloud forest reserves and waterfalls of Chicaque Nature Reserve.

----Read more about Bogotá----

Guatavita Lake in Colombia Bogota

 

Medellín – A city reborn

A cathedral in the centre of Medellin

Once known for its turbulent past, Medellín has emerged as a vibrant and innovative city, capturing the hearts of visitors from around the world. Nestled in a scenic valley surrounded by lush mountains, Medellín offers a pleasant climate year-round – hence its nickname “The City of Eternal Spring”. As you stroll through its streets, you'll be captivated by its blend of modern architecture, lively plazas and captivating street art.

The city's transformation is most evident in the Comuna 13 neighbourhood, where vibrant murals adorn the walls and escalators climb the steep hillsides, connecting residents and visitors alike. Explore the Botero Plaza and its museum, home to the renowned artist’s comically bulbous sculptures and paintings respectively. For a spot of nature, take a ride on the Medellín Metro Cable for panoramic views of the city, followed by a glide over the cloud forests that top the hills.

COL_Medellin_CableCar_Shutterstock_1105539185

Fun fact: while cable cars are nowadays a feature of many hilly Latin American cities, Medellín was the first to adopt them as a means of public transport.

If you happen to visit in the first week of August, don’t miss the annual Flower Festival. Marking the official start of spring, botanists transform the city into a horticultural mosaic with parades and flower shows. It being Colombia, there’s plenty of music, and it being Medellín, a special cycling event is held to celebrate the city’s excellent cycling infrastructure.

----Read more about Medellín----

COL_MedellinFlowerFestival_shutterstock_1152962423

 

The Coffee Region – A world of aromas

Man picking coffee cherries

Colombia's Coffee Region, known as the Zona Cafetera, is a paradise for coffee lovers and nature enthusiasts. Rolling hills blanketed with emerald-green coffee plantations create a picturesque backdrop for immersing yourself in the coffee-making process. Visit a traditional finca (farm) to learn about the art of cultivating, harvesting and roasting coffee beans.

Beyond coffee, the region offers stunning landscapes and outdoor adventures. Hike through the lush Cocora Valley, home to the towering wax palms, Colombia's national tree. Base yourself in a comfy plantation lodge, or one of the region’s colourful towns – Salento and Jardin, with their brightly coloured doors and balconies, are particularly renowned.

----Read more about the Coffee Region----

Mary Anne Nelson ©

The Colombian Amazon – A harmony between humans and nature

COL_Amazon_shutterstock_764587453

For an off-the-beaten-path experience, venture south to the Colombian Amazon, a pristine rainforest teeming with biodiversity and indigenous cultures.

The main entry point, Leticia, is worth a stopover even if you’re eager to get stuck into nature: every evening, swarms of parakeets thousands-strong flock to the central plaza. Not far upriver is the world-apart community of Puerto Nariño, with its absence of vehicles and community-led projects that encourage recycling and conservation.

Of course, the highlight of your time here will be a jaunt into the- forest. Navigating the Amazon's winding waterways, you'll almost certainly encounter pink river dolphins as they briefly surface, exotic bird species from egrets to umbrellabirds, and lush vegetation.

----Read more about the Colombian Amazon----

Los Llanos – Colombia’s wildlife highlight

Capybara in the water in Los Llanos

If you’ve a love for nature then prepare to be mesmerized by Los Llanos, a rugged savanna stretching across eastern Colombia and Venezuela. African-style jeep safaris will get you close to the herds of capybara and flocks of jabiru that call this area home. Alternatively, embark on a boat safari and witness caimans basking in the sun along the riverbanks, and maybe an anaconda if luck is on your side.

A pair of jabiru storks with the sun setting in the background

The novelty of tourism shines when you experience the region's unique Llanero culture. Characterized by horseback riding, cattle herding and traditional music, this Colombian cowboy culture remains an authentic affair. Whether you watch them round up zebu cattle, put on a Joropo music performance in the evening (their preferred post-workday ritual) or cook up an asado barbecue, you’ll be experiencing a taste of how the Llaneros have always lived.

----Read more about Los Llanos----

 

Cartagena – Where history meets Caribbean charm

The sun setting over Cartagena, with the cathedral and skyline in view

Travel back in time in the enchanting city of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage site that embodies the spirit of the country’s Caribbean region. Its well-preserved colonial architecture, cobblestone streets and colourful facades are spellbinding, and fruit stands and coconut vendors add to the atmosphere.

COL_Cartagena_BL – 12

To take a guided tour around the old city walls or go museum-hopping is to learn about Cartagena’s rich history. This city grew as the primary collection point for gold from across the Spanish empire, drawing in pirate attacks by such figures as Sir Francis Drake and Henry Morgan. Cartagena’s importance also led to the unexpected arrival of the Spanish Inquisition.

To experience Cartagena’s less polished side, wander through the charming Getsemani neighbourhood, an old neighbourhood where vibrant street art and lively squares add a splash of activity to the colonial buildings. Nearby is a small park where semi-wild sloths and monkeys live.

----Read more about Cartagena----

 

Mompós – A hidden colonial gem

Arches in Mompos' main cathedral

Tucked away on an island in the Magdalena River, Mompós was founded by the Spanish as a riverside alternative to Cartagena – far enough inland to be out of the reach of marauding pirates, but close enough to the coast for ships to reach its port. Then the site of the empire’s Royal Mint, Mompós was back then the third most important city in Colombia. Nowadays, with its population of thirty thousand, it’s a far cry from a metropolis. Not that the town’s laidback residents are complaining, nor the trickle of tourists who make it out here.

Grand colonial mansions and beautiful churches line the riverbanks and the cobblestone streets, most of them beautifully restored. Visit the Santa Barbara Church, an architectural masterpiece, and explore the nearby La Tertulia Museum, which showcases local art and artefacts. All this is best done in the morning – Mompós hot afternoons are the preserve of card games or pool time, with an ice-cold beer in hand.

----Read more about Mompós----

 

Tayrona National Park – Caribbean Colombia at its finest

One of Tayrona's beaces with a hut on a hill nearby

Tayrona National Park is a pristine coastal paradise where dense jungles meet turquoise waters. A network of hiking trails takes you through lush forests and down the coast, past a series of viewpoints overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including capuchin monkeys and colourful birds, as you stroll down the boardwalks.

The piece de resistance, though, is Tayrona’s beaches. After a walk in the heat, the lukewarm waters of the Caribbean will be nothing short of bliss. When you’ve cooled off, the soft powdery sand will beckon you back ashore. Spending the night here is the highlight of many visitors’ itineraries, especially in the thatched-roof cabins atop the giant coastal boulders.

----Read more about Tayrona----

A beach in Tayrona

 

Popayán – Colonial elegance

Popayan's main cathedral

Known as the White City, Popayán enchants visitors with its well-preserved colonial architecture and rich cultural heritage. Like Cordoba in Argentina or Cuenca in Ecuador, Popayán is a university town that at once sets its sights on the past and the future.

The city's historic centre is a maze of whitewashed buildings with ornate balconies, baroque churches and interesting museums. Don't miss the Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations, during which the city comes alive with processions, music and traditional religious rituals.

An easy day trip from Popayán is Tierradentro archaeological park, where a series of pre-Hispanic burial chambers have been unearthed. Each has a spiral staircase and chambers adorned with wall art, windowing the artistic and architectural talents of these ancient civilisations.

----Read more about Popayán----

One of Tierradentro's tombs, with patterns painted across the walls

Browse our selection of Colombia holidays if you're feeling inspired, or get in touch with one of our travel experts to discuss your ideal trip.

Tailor-made holidays

Flexible, custom-made holidays to Latin America created to match your exact requirements: our tailor-made itineraries are as unique as the clients for whom they are designed.

Design my trip

Papagaio

Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration
Bartolome, Galápagos

Meet our team

Real Latin american experts

  • Juliet
    Juliet Ellwood - Travel Expert

    After graduating with a degree in Anthropology and History and having been fascinated by Latin America since childhood by the book featuring photos of Nazca, Juliet first visited the region in 2003. Since then, Juliet has visited the majority of countries in Latin America but has particularly extensive experience with Peru, a country she loves for many reasons but not least, its incredible archaeological richness and delicious food!

  • Hannah
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Paul Winrow Giffin
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Chris
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

  • Kathryn
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Heloise
    Heloise Buxton - Travel Expert

    Heloise started her Latin American journey as an exchange student in Santiago, Chile. With extended summer holidays this was the perfect opportunity to backpack through Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.

0 1 2 3 4 5