Step inside Cartagena’s city walls and you can’t help but succumb to its charm. Bougainvillea dripping from balconies, canary-hued churches, and local women with bowls of fruit incredulously balanced on their heads are just a few reasons to visit this Caribbean gem. Just outside of the city are pristine white sand beaches and jewel-like islands – perfect for a day trip.
Valle de Cocora
The 200-ft wax palm trees that dot the luscious green Valle de Cocora look like gentle giants effortlessly swaying in the wind. Just outside the charming backpacker town of Salento, Valle de Cocora is a true nature gem of Colombia and is popular for hiking, horseback riding, and camping.
Tayrona National Park
A day spent at Tayrona is not just an adventure – it is a full immersion into what Colombia was like before modern civilization. This untamed jungle hugging the Caribbean coast is free of commercialism, cars, and people, except if you count the European tourists taking selfies in front of the secluded coves. The best way to experience Tayrona is on a beach sipping fresh coconut water – ah, true bliss.
Halfway between Cartagena and Tayrona is Santa Marta, the first city settled by the Spanish in 1525. While not nearly as popular as Cartagena, Santa Marta makes a great destination along the Caribbean coast if you’re seeking a more laid-back, tourist free atmosphere. Stroll through Parque de los Novios (Park of Lovers) and enjoy a relaxing dinner at an outdoor restaurant after the sun goes down.
Medellín has shed its bad reputation to become Colombia’s hippest city. Blessed with a temperate climate year round, the modern city set within a deep valley offers visitors world class dining, nightlife and museums to explore on every corner. Don’t miss Fernando Botero’s voluptuous bronze sculptures at Plaza Botero and the exciting modern art at Museo de Antioquia.
Most people think of coffee when they think of Colombia, so why not pay a visit to where it all comes from? The departments of Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío make up the heart of the Zona Cafetera, also called the Eje Cafetero (Coffee Axis). Stay at a finca (coffee farm) for an authentic and delicious experience.
Talk about a concrete jungle. Colombia’s capital is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re willing to accept its traffic and congestion, this city has plenty to offer. Stand alongside history at the expansive Plaza de Bolivar, enjoy a typical chocolate con queso (hot chocolate and cheese), and get some fresh air at the top of Monserrate, Bogotá’s enormous hill with incredible views of the sprawl below.
The small town of Guatapé is a colorful dream two hours from Medellín. The town is famous for the fresco-like adornment of its traditional houses. Brightly painted depictions of people, animals and shapes cover the lower half of many houses. It’s also known for La Piedra, a man made rock that tourists can climb 700+ steps to the top.
Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is one of Colombia’s most charming colonial cities. Settled in 1572, the colonial town has managed to retain its charm – think of whitewashed buildings and gorgeous plazas all surrounded by rolling hills. The heart of the town is the Plaza Mayor, the largest square in Colombia.
Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral
Just outside of Bogota is the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral, one of the most unique places in all of South America. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy the architectural wonder of the place – the cathedral, built in 1932, lies inside of an underground salt mine. Wandering through the glowing rooms of the cathedral will give you chills.
Hi! I’m Briana. I’m originally from Orange County (yes…The O.C.) but I’ve lived for the past three years in NYC. My high school yearbook quote was “I wander for distraction, but I travel for fulfillment” in case you were wondering how much I love travel!