9 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Colombia

Jul 22, 2021

This mountainous South American country is truly a traveler's paradise. Ecotourism has opened up pristine rainforest reserves, while the ancient legacy of the ancient cultures that dominated the region for millennia can still be explored, including on Santarem, the ideal base for a visit to the mighty Tumaco fortress. It's here, that you'll find one of South America's finest colonial gems.

And then, of course, there's the region's very own famous product, the world-famous coffee. Named the "Coffee Capital of the World," Colombia has long been a paradise for coffee lovers. You'll find the best places to enjoy coffee, which may include wet-processed "robusta" beans, single-origin specialty coffees, or even the country's homegrown brand of caffeine, Coca Cola. There's also Colombia's amazing array of delicious local foods, which are truly as different as the cities themselves. To help you plan the best Colombia vacation, be sure to refer to our list of the top tourist attractions in Colombia.

Cartagena

Photo of Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena, Colombia: en.wikipedia.org

One of the oldest Spanish cities in the New World, Cartagena on the northern coast of Colombia is a bustling port and former jewel of Spain's old colonial empire. The city features walled and cobblestone streets lined with historic buildings built by the Spanish and by the vibrant local population that survives on trade with the mainland and surrounding islands. While some of the city's structures are dilapidated, the abundance of colonial buildings in the center means that you'll likely experience some difficulty finding an apartment to rent, particularly in September and October. At night, some of the city's liveliest clubs are found in the Barrio de Santa Cruz neighborhood of the older part of town. The best-known venue is a retro-styled sports bar, TV51, where music from the '80s and '90s echoes through the large, airy space. Another popular nightspot is known as Ambar, named for the local beer. Cartagena is best visited as part of a tour to nearby Islas del Rosario, a group of nearby islands. The archipelago features a handful of beaches and some terrific colonial towns, with Santa Catalina in particular noteworthy for the baroque church and convent that sit above a lovely old colonial plaza.

Bogotá

Photo of Bogotá
Bogotá: en.wikipedia.org

The University City of Bogotá is a modern and popular tourist destination, well known for the Plaza de Bolivar and the Cathedral of La Soledad. There are a number of tourist attractions in Bogotá, ranging from modern to unique. The Museo del Oro contains Bogotá's largest collection of gold from pre-Columbian Colombia. The central square is full of markets, as well as restaurants and typical street stalls selling typical food from different parts of the country. In addition to the markets, three shopping malls cater to every taste. The more expensive Palacio de Buenaventura is not to be missed, with luxury goods, impressive interiors, and modern art. Bogotá is Colombia's second largest city and a lively hub for culture, shopping, nightlife, and dining.

Cali

Cali, the third largest city in Colombia, is the capital of the Valle del Cauca Department. With a pretty central market area, a wealthy society of Barranquilla’s inhabitants and some ancient remains from colonial times, the city attracts many travelers due to its favorable location and interesting attractions. The Parque Central is the historical heart of the city and it is in this area, close to the river, where there are some squares and the Teatro Mayor, a few museums and the main sights, such as the central market, with its restaurants and cheap stores. The municipality has many plazas, one of which is the Plaza Murillo (Plaza Mayor), in front of the government palace, which is built in the traditional style. At the end of the 19th century, Cali became the cultural center of the country, and the great writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez was born in the city.

Medellin

Photo of MedellĂ­n
MedellĂ­n: en.wikipedia.org

Located along the northern coast of the Andes, Medellin is a city of over three million people, making it the third largest in Colombia, and one of the most developed in the country. The Art Deco Medellin metro is clean and well-kept. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes, bars and a vibrant nightlife, making it easy to find a place to sit back and relax after your day of exploring. The region is home to the emblematic Plazas El Dorado and San Martin, which are the points from which to start exploring this captivating city. The former is a cool, lively square that hosts the best festivals and parades of the year, while the latter is a spacious, landscaped garden with monuments that dates back to the Spanish conquest and contains various structures. Medellin is one of the safest cities in the world and has a lot to offer. Besides the food and the exciting nightlife, it has many museums and historical monuments that should not be missed.

Iguaque Falls

Photo of Tequendama Falls
Tequendama Falls: en.wikipedia.org

The main attraction of Iguaque Falls is the tremendous height they attain on the Iguaque River, which tumbles over terraces formed by the Andean mountain range. The river is split into three, and in the series of falls, weaves along a 600-meter-long channel, to the start of the most impressive fall of the three, the Trough of Power (Pico de la Tijera). This fantastic, horseshoe-shaped falls is so named because the river has carved a 5-meter-deep canyon (sillar) in the rock, before plummeting off a 200-meter drop to a churning pool. Plant life in the surrounding area includes the unusual air-breathing Barbudo tree, which uses water from the falls to survive on air, and water-lily species. To visit the falls, take a bus from MedellĂ­n.

Museum of Modern Art

Photo of Bogotá Museum of Modern Art
Bogotá Museum of Modern Art: en.wikipedia.org

Colombia's Museum of Modern Art is housed in a dramatic colonial building on a cobblestoned plaza in the city's arts district. It's an excellent resource for anyone interested in Latin American art, particularly in the work of its founder and first director, the painter, sculptor and painter Fernando Botero, and other important Colombian artists like Bernadino Barka, Fernando Botero, Enrique Grau, Raquel Freire, Juan Manuel Cárdenas, Luis Alberto Machado, and Abelardo Estorino. There is also a permanent exhibition on Salvador Dali's life and work.

Colombian Coffee

Photo of Coffee production in Colombia
Coffee production in Colombia: en.wikipedia.org

There is something strangely uplifting about the drink known as coffee. In much of the world, it is the breakfast meal or a means of alerting yourself to the workday, but in Colombia, coffee is the main daily meal, the only food for many and, as such, something to be savored. Colombia is the most important coffee-producing country in the world, with over 5,000 coffee plantations and coffee-growing regions scattered around the country. The world's highest elevation in a coffee plantation is El Nevado de Mocoa, with an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet. If you have a chance to visit Bogotá, you should take the chance to sample real Colombian coffee, such as Starbucks in the Shopping Mall Boquete, El Caracol in Chapinero and La Une Café in Centro de Bogotá. Be sure to try some Colombian cuisine such as arepas, empanadas, sweet breads, casado, quesadillas, and the traditional Colombian favorite pan de coco (coconut bread). The national dish is el plato paisa, a fish dish made with paiche or mahigan, a type of dolphin, but all fish are included in the national food culture. Because of Colombia's lush vegetation, many of the country's most famous dishes are vegetarian, and among the most popular are the tropical fruits, which include dragon fruit, jackfruit, mango, and papaya.

Santa Marta

Photo of Santa Marta
Santa Marta: en.wikipedia.org

Take a trip to Santa Marta, located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, to escape the crowds. It's one of the best-kept secrets of the country. Santa Marta is the capital of the department of Magdalena, the setting of many old ghost tales, while also being home to a few. Located a few kilometers from the sea, Santa Marta is a historic colonial town nestled in a verdant, hilly valley. Sitting on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Santa Marta's architecture is typical of Caribbean cities and towns. Unfortunately, while it is beautifully situated, the roads can be unreliable, making transportation a problem. That said, the city has many attractions, from old churches and colonial houses to festivals, and a truly stunning beach and old town. Santa Marta's main attraction is its beaches. Almost all of them are quiet, with stunning seas, powdery white sands, and, of course, seafood. Many of them are spectacular; even the least expensive are fine, and during low season they're almost deserted. The less expensive hotels and guesthouses tend to offer parking and Wi-Fi.

Salento

Photo of Salento, QuindĂ­o
Salento, QuindĂ­o: en.wikipedia.org

Salento is the region in southern Italy that gives the country its name. It is made up of a series of islands in the Adriatic, notably Salento itself (with a population of around 85,000 people), Corfu, Ponza, Ischia, Procida, Palmarola, Eraclea Minoa, Capodimonte and Fregenalto. It is one of the most visited regions of the country and it is easy to get from anywhere in the world. Most of Salento is a protected region, rich in folklore, splendid scenery, delicious food and wines, and fascinating history. The main port is Bari. The main places to visit are the little village of Montallegro in the national park of the Prealpi Apuane, not far from the sea; San Giuliano, the village where the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio was born; the Acquedolci town, with the exceptional late medieval town of San Pietro; the seaside towns of Santa Maria di Leuca, Mola e Pilara; San Pantaleo, the ancient and famous city of Otranto and the medieval island of Ischia, where the villas of Umberto I and III and Mount Epomeo are located. Other remarkable cities of the Salento region are Castel del Monte, Castellaneta, and Marina di Ragusa. Salento is not as wealthy as Tuscany or Rome, but this does not mean it has nothing to offer. Just to mention the most famous sites: the Forte Vigliena, a natural fortress with a very particular shape, the English Cemetery of San Giusto d'Acqui, the Castle of San Giuliano, and the Osteria Francescana.