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Things to do in Colombia: the country's top attractions

by Pilar Dujan | March 12, 2024
Going to Santa Marta is one of the best things to do in Colombia

Prepare to explore all the wonders of Colombia! This South American country has so much to offer, from natural attractions to bustling cities with centuries of history. After applying for the Check Mig, choosing what to do is the most important part of planning your trip.

Here’s a list of some of the essential things to do in Colombia. All that’s left for you to do is to pick your favorites and plan your itinerary.

What to see in Colombia

The Walled City in Cartagena de Indias

Colorful colonial houses in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Cartagena’s Old Town, on the northern tip of the city, is a staple amongst the things to do in Colombia. The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is enclosed by 11km (almost 7 miles) of stone walls built to protect Cartagena from pirate attacks. They were finished in 1796 after more than 200 years of construction. 

It’s best enjoyed by walking around, taking in the colorful colonial houses and the classic cobblestone streets. It’s a meeting place for locals and tourists alike, and the perfect spot to enjoy Cartagena’s nightlife. 

To discover what attractions are inside the Walled City, read our guide to the things to do in Cartagena.

The Lost City in Tayrona Park

Staircase leading to a terrace built by the Tainos of Tayrona Natural Park

Visiting the Tayrona National Park is one of the best things to do in Colombia. It boasts stunning beaches, with a lush jungle and mountains behind them. You can, and should, spend at least one night inside the park to see the moon over the palm trees and rocks of the beach. 

But there’s more that lies hidden inside this natural park: the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City), built over 1000 years ago by the indigenous Tairona people, centuries before the arrival of the first Europeans. 

The multiple-day hike to reach the Lost City is one of the most taxing things to do in Colombia: walking through the jungle under the sun of the Caribbean is no easy task, but it’s doable and definitely worth it! It’s a peek inside what old civilizations looked like, something you won’t find in most tourist places.

San Agustin Archaeological Park

Statues of San Agustin Archeological Park

Another historical attraction in the things to do in Colombia! San Agustin Archeological Park is located in southwest Colombia, close to the border with Ecuador. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This archeological park is a display of pre-Columbian life in South America. You can see more than 100 sculptures shaped as humans and animals, used to mark tombs at the more than 50 burial sites found in the park. There’s also a museum within the park, which you should see to get the full picture of what life was like in Colombia centuries ago. 

What to do in Colombia

Relax in the Caribbean sea

Things to do in Colombia at the beach

Since the best time to visit Colombia is the summer, it’s no surprise that going to the beach is one of the most important things to do in Colombia. 

The beaches in Colombia include gems such as Barú, San Andrés, Rosario Islands and more. Pack your sunscreen and spend a day relaxing under the Caribbean sun

Taste the delicious Colombian coffee in the Eje Cafetero

The landscape of the coffee triangle or eje cafetero

The Eje Cafetero, or Coffee Triangle, is composed of three Colombian cities: Armenia, Pereira and Manizales. As the name hints, this is the area where they grow and harvest coffee beans.

If you love this drink, you can tour the fields and fincas, where they will teach you everything: from growing, to harvesting, to toasting the coffee beans. Of course, every tour ends with a tasting session, the best part of the day!

This region, not far away from Bogotá, is a landscape of just green hills and quiet. You can stay in a finca for a day or two to enjoy the pleasant and cool nights. It’s also close to another entry on the things to do in Colombia: Valle del Cocora.

Explore the Amazon

Boat in the Amazon

One of the most adventurous things to do in Colombia is exploring the natural wonder of the Amazon. You can start your journey into the “lungs of the Earth” from the Southern town of Leticia, which borders Perú and Brazil. Located right beside the Amazon river, from this small town you can book a tour to sail along the river or go hiking. You can plan it as a one or multiple-day excursion (the most recommended option). Get ready to see pink dolphins for the first time in your life!

Important places in Colombia for nature lovers

Cocora Valley (Valle del Cocora)

Palmtrees in Cocora Valley, things to do in Colombia

The Valle del Cocora is one of the key things to do in Colombia for those who love to immerse themselves in nature while on holiday. You can hike up to a viewpoint or do it on horseback, but the walk is not very demanding physically. 

Along the way, you’ll see the Quindío wax palms, extremely tall and skinny, and emblematic of this region. You’ll also see a small waterfall and, if you reach the top, you’ll find dozens of bird feeders for hummingbirds.

You can get to this natural attraction from the quaint and colorful town of Salento, which is worth the visit on its own. The town and the surrounding valley served as inspiration for the Disney movie “Encanto”. You can spot the characteristic palm trees in the background, and they’re even named in the song “What else can I do?”. 

Caño Cristales 

Plants in Caño Cristales in Colombia

Caño Cristales is one of the most visually stunning attractions in Colombia. It’s in an area that used to be heavily impacted by guerrillas, but it has been reclaimed and now it’s completely safe for the general public.

From June to November, the clear river turns red by an aquatic plant. It’s known as the “river of five colors” because the plant takes different shades when exposed to the light, which mixes beautifully with the colors of the environment.

You need to plan this excursion in advance: as a way to protect its environment, the number of visitors allowed in Caño Cristales is limited to 172 per day. However, it’s part of a bigger park, so there's always things waiting to be seen.

Piedra del Peñol (El Peñol de Guatapé)

Peñol de Guatapé or Piedra del Peñol in Guatape, Colombia

The Piedra del Peñol, also known as Peñol de Guatapé, is a 220 meter monolith, and part of the most taxing things to do in Colombia. That’s because you have to climb almost 700 steps to reach the top! It’s not for everybody but, if your body can manage it, you’ll get the most stunning panoramic views of the area.  

Tatacoa Desert

Red dunes in Tatacoa desert

Stargazing in the Tatacoa Desert is one of the most unique things to do in Colombia. It’s a dry tropical forest, not really a desert, although you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference by its landscape. You can explore it by walking around or renting a bike.

Due to its weather conditions, there’s usually a crystal-clear sky that makes it perfect for stargazing or to watch the most stunning sunsets. You don’t need to be a professional to enjoy it!

Best things to do in Colombia for free

Museo Botero

This museum honoring Colombian artist Fernando Botero is one of the essential things to do in Bogota. You can find his pieces all over the world, from Yerevan to Singapore! 

His unique and easily recognizable style known as “Boterismo” makes his paintings and sculptures amusing. The museum is quite small, so you can visit it quickly before moving on to other attractions in the area. 

Gold museum 

The Museo del oro (gold museum) is one of the top things to do in Colombia. It’s a great way to spend the day, looking at the most amazing indigenous jewelry while learning about their way of life. 

Even though it’s one of the most famous attractions in the country, it’s free on Sundays. You need to decide if you prefer the Sunday crowds or paying the ticket. It’s closed on Mondays.

But there’s more than one of these museums. One of the best things to do in this city for free is visiting their gold museum: the Museo del Oro Zenú (Zenu Gold Museum). This one is free all week long, but it’s smaller than the one found in Bogotá.