The South American country of Colombia spreads over more than 1’000 million km^2 and is home to more than 49 million Colombians. And not so long ago it was considered a dangerous country ruled by drug kingpins. But all this has changed.
Meanwhile its safe for individual travelers to explore the sheer beauty this country has to offer. But because it is still so big we want to present you the best places to visit in Colombia and how to combine them. This list includes a lot of Colombia tourist attractions and are all safe places to visit in Colombia.
Best time to visit Colombia
We traveled Colombia in October and November which is considered the rainy season but didn’t had a lot of rain. But if you want to have maximum chances for good weather then you better go in the dry season between December and February. Shoulder season is from March to September with a secondary rainy season in April/May in Bogota, Medellin and Cali.
Cartagena – Colonial Beauty
We started our Colombia trip in Cartagena and made our way first to the east and then to the south until we reached Cali.
The old town of Cartagena is for sure one of the best places to visit in Colombia. It is full of beautiful colonial buildings with matching balconies and doors and everything looks like it had been repainted the night before. It only takes a few hours to explore all its cobblestone streets but to get the history of this town we can clearly recommend a free walking tour.
An insider tip is also the suburb called Getsemani with its beautiful street art, the small restaurants, cafes and bars.
Tayrona National Park – Pure Nature
From Cartagena you will reach Santa Marta within 4.5h by bus. And the next morning it takes you only one hour by bus to reach the entrance of the crown jewel of the Colombian Caribbean coast.
In terms of natural beauty this national park is clearly one of the best places to visit in Colombia. It is an absolute gem with a magnificent rainforest and spectacular beaches. And for the really adventurous there is the chance to spend the night in a hammock on a tiny peninsula at the Cabo San Juan beach with the most amazing view on the sea and the rainforest you can imagine.
Palomino – Relaxing Days
Only a one-hour drive from Tayrona National Park there is the charming coastal town of Palomino. It is situated right at the Caribbean coast of Colombia and offers warm temperatures, nice beaches, beautiful rainforest, tubing and great pizza.
Medellin – City of Transformation
Within one hour of flying from Cartagena, you reach the former most dangerous city in the world – Medellin. It is probably one of the most interesting cities we have ever been to. The change this city and Colombia as a whole was and is undergoing is impressive. You can best experience this change from violence to prosperity by taking a free city walking tour and a free walking tour through “comuna 13”, the former most dangerous suburb of Medellin.
After many failed attempts the government managed to regain control over this comuna and initialized several projects to improve the living conditions. One of those projects was to incentive local graffiti artists to put their street art on the walls to attract tourists. Another government project was to establish a network of cable cars to reach the steepest parts of this city and it is pure fun to ride them. Medellin is also a great place to learn Spanish and so we took another week of classroom training there.
675 steps of Guatape
Within a 1.5h drive from Medellin you can reach one of the most beautiful towns ever seen, called Guatape. The houses in this town are painted in beautiful colors and decorated with Zocalos, hip high wooden decorations.
And close by is El Penol, a monolith 220m in height and shaped like an egg. He stands there completely on his own and after climbing his 675 steps you can enjoy a marvelous view over the maybe most beautiful artificial lake there is.
Green Hills of Jardin
Jardin is located in the most beautiful green hills you can imagine and it only takes about 4h by bus to reach them from Medellin. In this beautiful colonial town everything is centered around a big plaza in front of an even bigger church. On this plaza the entire town meets for a chat, a coffee or a drink. And on the weekends the caballeros present their skills on the horses.
Salento – Centre of the Zona Cafetera
There is a direct bus from Medellin that takes about 7h or you can fly to Armenia and then take a taxi to reach Salento. This beautiful town sits right in the center of the coffee region of Colombia. There you can learn everything there is to know about coffee and of course also taste as much as you like from this marvelous drink.
Besides drinking coffee there is a six-hour hike into the Cocora Valley to enjoy. This hike not only leads you through beautiful green hills and up the rainforest, you also have the chance to observe hummingbirds and the gigantic wax palm trees.
Salsa Capital Cali
Within about 4h by bus you reach the salsa capital of Colombia – Cali. We only spent one night there as we had our flight to Ecuador the next day. But when we went for dinner that night, they recommended us not to walk after dark. Colombia is still not a completely safe country but with some common sense you can enjoy an absolute fantastic trip in this marvelous country.