Things to do in Colombia
Welcome to Colombia
From the Caribbean coast and the peaks of the Andes to the relics of ancient pre-Columbian civilizations and freshly roasted coffee, Colombia epitomizes South America.
Top 10 attractions in Colombia
Take the wooden steps up the 15-meter mud mound that is Totumo Volcano (Volcán de Lodo El Totumo) then look down to be greeted by a mud bath big enough to fit dozens of bathers. A popular day trip from Cartagena, it's said that the volcano goes hundreds of meters deep, but when you dip into the warm mud you'll find that it's so dense it's impossible to do anything but bob about at the top. While wallowing, it’s possible to pay one of the attendants for a personal massage. Legend has it that Totumo Volcano used to spew out fire and lava, but a local priest, believing such hellfire to be the work of the devil, used holy water to turn it all to mud. After the bath, everyone heads to the next-door lagoon to wash off the gloop, which local women will help you wash off with buckets of water, for a small fee, if you wish....
Hidden among the mountains about 50 miles (80 km) from Medellin is the beautiful town of Guatapé. Founded in 1811, this town is now situated on the reservoir of a hydro-electric dam that was built in the late 1960s, when more than 7.5 square miles (2,000 hectares) were flooded to create the dam. The incredible beauty of the reservoir and the views of the lush vegetation on the lake are unforgettable. Ferries on the lake take visitors to recreational areas on nearby islands and to see Pablo Escobar’s former mansion. The boardwalk by the water fills with vendors selling regional food and crafts. The town is famous for zócalos, decorative tiles along the lower part of the facades of the buildings in the historic center. These tiles in bright colors and patterns are connected to life in the community, telling the history of the town and the beliefs of the people....
A leisurely walk through the narrow streets of Old Town Cartagena, with bougainvillea spilling off second-floor balconies and brightly painted Colonial houses, invites visitors to escape into the past. The bustle of daily life mixes with the historical architecture of this walled city by the ocean. In addition to the beautiful boutique stores, numerous restaurants, and colorful street vendors, there are many treasures to see around town and just outside the city walls. The leafy Plaza de Bolivar serves as a good place to start a tour in Cartagena and to see some of the local culture and buy fruit from the colorfully dressed women known as palanqueras. Next to the plaza, the free Gold Museum (Museo de Oro) displays pieces that tell the history of the Zenú indigenous tribe. The nearby Palace of the Inquisition (Palacio de la Inquisición) provides a rather gruesome look at Colombia’s past and the Spanish Inquisition -- some of the torture devices used on the accused are on display....
The Lost City, or Ciudad Perdida, is the archaeological site of an ancient indigenous city in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Thought to have been a commercial center for trade around 700 A.D., its population probably ranged between 1,400 and 3,000 inhabitants. Hidden in the jungle for over a thousand years, the Lost City was found in 1972 when treasure hunters followed a series of stone steps leading up to an abandoned city. The Lost City is open to visitors, but the trip is not for the faint of heart. The nearly 30 mile trek takes visitors through farmland and jungle on an unforgettable six-day journey. Part of the adventure includes trekking over mountains filled with exotic plants and animals, climbing stone paths through dense jungle, bathing in waterfalls and sleeping in indigenous villages. Upon arriving at Lost City, climb more than 1,000 stone steps to the top of the site for incredible views of the surrounding mountains and jungle....
The beautiful city of Medellin has an efficient metro system that runs north-south along the valley, but for many years the neighborhoods in the surrounding mountains found it difficult to get to the public transportation routes. It was difficult for buses to get up the steep roads leading up to the barrios in the hills, and it would take residents hours to get down to city to work or study. These transportation difficulties increased social problems in these communities. But in 2004 a new, ingenuous new cable car system came into use. It is part of the public transportation service from the neighborhoods in the mountains surrounding the city to the metro system in the valley. This cable car carries tens of thousands of passengers each day in a system that has changed the lives of those who live in these neighborhoods, giving them access to work and study opportunities they didn’t have before. The trip to the city that once took hours now takes just 15 minutes....
Mists permitting, you’ll be able to see the gleaming white Basílica del Señor de Monserrate high above the city, beckoning from the thickly forested mountains that form Bogota’s spectacular backdrop. Originally built as a monastery in 1657, it is no wonder that this glorious spot has been a site of pilgrimage ever since. The original stone path marked by statues depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross still leads from the colonial Candelaria district up to the sanctuary. It is a steep climb to a chilly 3152m (10,339ft) still used by pilgrims (and exercise buffs), particularly on weekends and religious holidays. Most tourists take advantage of either the funicular, a steeply pitched train, or teleferico, a cable car system, which both make the trip inexpensively throughout the day. If you do choose to walk, note that there have been muggings, so it might not be the best choice if you’re alone with an expensive camera....
You might want to start your exploration at tiny Plazuela Del Chorro Del Quevedo, where this city was supposedly founded in 1537, by Spanish Conquistador Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada. (Of course it is much, much older; Jimenez merely renamed the ancient indigenous town of Bacata “Bogota.”) However, this plaza—now the epicenter of Bogota’s hipster scene, with plenty of tattoos, Chucks, handmade jewelry and fire dancers—doesn’t really get going until dusk. Be sure to stop into one of the cool little cafes for the Candelaria’s signature beverage, a traditional Andean canelazo, made with sugarcane liquor, cinnamon and panela sugar, served steaming hot for the chill altitude. But begin instead at sprawling Plaza Bolivar, surrounded by picturesque streets lined with more tejas-topped adobes, interspersed with the city’s finest museums, coolest casas cultural, and most ornate churches....
Lleras Park (Parque Lleras) forms the social center of the upscale neighborhood of El Poblado, a haven for gourmet restaurants, trendy cocktail bars, and youth hostels. The area is undoubtedly one of the safest Medellín neighborhoods to explore by night, when strings of lights illuminate the park and bars spring to life with DJs and young, fashionable Colombian crowds....
The absolutely adorable Spanish pueblito (“little town”) of Paisa, founded in 1978, crowns 80m (262ft) Cerro Nutibara, a natural landmark named for legendary Cacique (Chief) Nuibara. It would worth climbing just for the views. Today it is home to a perfect central plaza, surrounded by colonial adobes rescued from an actual Spanish outpost since flooded by the Penol-Guatape Hydroelectric Project. The beautifully restored buildings, complete with flower-draped wooden balconies and ceramic tejas tiles, is centered on the single cutest Catholic chapel you’ve ever seen. While originally designed to depict businesses you’d find in a typical rural community—pharmacy, tobacconist, barber—as well as a school and city hall, have been largely replaced with souvenir shops, and the place is populated by a surprising number of mimes and living statues, especially on weekends....
Top activities in Colombia
Frequently Asked Questions
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What are the top things to do in Colombia?
What are the top activities in Colombia?
Top activities in Colombia include:
Discover the top things to do in Colombia.
- Excursion to the Rosario Islands
- Full-Day Rosario Islands Including Barú, Cholon and Playa Blanca
- Full-Day Guatapé (Pueblo de Zocalos) from Medellín
- La Candelaria + Optional Monserrate + Optional Gold Museum Bogotá City Tour 5-7H
- Guatape Tour, Piedra del Peñol Including a Boat Tour
Discover the top things to do in Colombia.
What are the top things to do near Colombia?
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Things to do near Colombia
- Things to do in Bogotá
- Things to do in Medellín
- Things to do in Cartagena
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