Colombia is a country of contrasts, from bustling cities to colonial villages, with spectacular attractions in between. If you’re planning a trip to this South American country, here are the ten best places you simply cannot miss.
Cartagena is a captivating city, the crown jewel of its Caribbean coast, and once you reach this destination, you will understand why. Its colorful colonial streets are perfect for taking a walk through the historic city. With its lovely vibe, you may feel like you stepped into a different moment in time. These centuries-old walls and colonial architecture attract visitors that immediately discover the charm of this historic city. Its unique location also offers day trips or quick getaways by boat to the nearby islands and beaches.
The second-largest city in Colombia is a city of constant transformation and improvement. There so many things to do in Medellin, starting at Botero Plaza, where you can admire sculptures from the famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero. And in the same place, you can visit the Antioquia Museum. If you head to the hills, the Comuna 13 neighborhood is worth exploring with its street graffiti and urban art scene. You can end your day at El Poblado, for fine dining, shopping, and where many hotels are located.
The capital city of Colombia, and its beating heart, is the nation’s largest city and its capital. There are so many things to do in Bogota, and we suggest you start with its historic colonial center, La Candelaria. Nestled between green hills, the city has a unique atmosphere, combining urban architecture and colonial charm. If you visit the North of Bogota, you will find the best boutiques, shops, and fine dining at world-class restaurants.
Tayrona National Park
With its crystal-clear lagoons, white-sand beaches, deep jungle, and palm-shaded coves, the Tayrona National Natural Park is a breathtaking place. Located in the northernmost part of Colombia, this is one of the most sought-after destinations. Here you will find some of the best beaches in Colombia, with scenery set against the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. A fabulous spot for swimming and snorkeling in the protected areas near Cabo San Juan and La Piscina Beach. There are also plenty of sandy trails you can hike with spectacular views of the Caribbean.
Considered by many as the Jewel of the Caribbean, this island will captivate you. If you want to relax, you have found the right place. There are plenty of things to do on this paradise island, including hiking its lush green mountains. You can also enjoy the most stunning beaches, with their golden sands and palm trees. The island is part of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, protected by UNESCO, so you will be able to explore its incredible marine biodiversity.
This picturesque small town is one of Colombia’s best-kept secrets. Located in the Andes Mountains of western Colombia and with the world-famous San Agustín Archaeological Park, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You can visit the town’s central plaza with its numerous cafés and the San Agustin Temple, for a cultural tour and people watching. If you visit the park, you can see the impressive group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America.
Colombia is the third-largest producer of coffee beans globally, and if you’re a coffee-lover, you can find excellent tours and tastings. In the Andean Hills, West of Bogota, you will find the Coffee Axis between the towns of Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales. Here you can visit an increasing number of coffee plantations that include unbelievable tours, and tastings and you can even book a stay on the farms.
The Lost City
One of Colombia’s most popular attractions is the trek to the Lost City. Discovered in the seventies, this lost city was hidden in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. Tayrona Indians built this ancient city between the 8th and 14th centuries, and much of it remains buried under the jungle. Admire the stone terraces and stairways of one of the largest settlements discovered in the Americas.
Los Nevados National Park
Located in the coffee production region of the Colombian Andes and centered around the active volcano Nevado del Ruiz, and by the snowy peaked Nevado del Tolima volcano, you will find this incredible park. If you’re up for an amazing adventure, you can hike and admire the park’s backcountry. You will be able to spot the local wildlife, including bears, eagles, tiger cats, pumas, Andean condors, parrots, and many hummingbirds.
Santuario de las Lajas
One of the most fascinating religious structures in Colombia is the Santuario de Las Lajas. Its impressive Gothic-style cathedral was built on a bridge over the Guaitara River and labeled one of the most beautiful churches in the world. Built in the early 1900s with donations from locals, it was declared a basilica in 1954 by the Vatican.
With plenty of unique places and famous Colombian hospitality, you will undoubtedly want to come back for more. When visiting Colombia, make sure these ten must-visit destinations are on your itinerary.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com