21 Amazing Things to Do in Colombia
You'll never run out of things to do in Colombia these days!
I spent more time than planned in this wonderful nation, and I plan to spend way more. Sure, I spent a lot of time enjoying the crazy nightlife in Bogota, but I did manage to find the time to do a few touristy things in Colombia. Enjoy some of the stunning nature this South American country has to offer.
Believe me when I say, there's so much more to Colombia than the partying, cosas, and mujeres. This country has got everything an intrepid traveler could ask for:
Massive mountains, thick jungles, cosmopolitan cities, and beautiful beaches.
Whatever you're looking for on your travels, you'll find it somewhere here. The only downside is there are too many attractions to visit on one trip. A month of full-time, ball-busting travel will barely see you scratch the surface of this wondrous land. Heck, it was a real challenge to whittle this here list down to a meager 21 things to do in Colombia.
Te lo juro.
Nevertheless, I want to share some of my best experiences in Colombia after spending so much time here. So enough with my fluff. Let's delve into the rice and beans of this article…
Table of Contents
Things to Do In Bogota
Colombia's bustling cosmopolitan capital has plenty of urban adventures in store. If you're a city guy or gal, don't skip the capital of Colombia.
Bogota is criminally underrated. Here's why…
~ Party in Zona T
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Bogota has the best nightlife in all of Latin America. It's not even close, especially when you throw out tourist traps like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
Zona T has dozens, if not hundreds, of bars, pubs, and clubs. There are so many spots, you'll struggle to even check out every single one. There are just too many places to go to.
People go out to mingle, there's every type of music imaginable, and there's even a late-night spot that stays open until 6-7 in the morning. What more could you want? If you like to party, Bogota is a must-visit for a naughty weekend of rumba.
- Read More: Nightlife in Bogota, Colombia
~ Salto de Tequendama
As the largest “waste waterfall” in the world, Salto de Tequendama isn't a hugely popular tourist destination. To be frank, it smells like sh*t here. All of Bogota's waste gets sent to the river accompanying the waterfall. While the smell isn't pleasant, the views are absolutely amazing.
Situated about 30 minutes outside Bogota, you'll find a “haunted” hotel and a giant waterfall – an ideal scene for taking selfies and Instagram photos.
Most don't consider the waterfall an important tourist attraction in Colombia, but I loved it. We were the only tourists the day we went. We got a private tour of the old hotel, which was being renovated. Then we got free reign to take some photos from the giant balcony overlooking the falls.
- Read More: Bogota Travel Guide For Digital Nomads
~ Cerro Monserrate
Bogota is big. Gigantic. Monstrously massive.
To quantify the endless urban sprawl, this great metropolis is home to some 8+ million inhabitants–one of the most populous cities in South America.
Going up to a high vantage point is the only way to appreciate just how damn big Bogota is. And the highest spot in the whole metro area is the peak of the towering Cerro Monserrate. Dominating the scenery in the center of the city, this sacred mountain stretches some 10,000 feet above sea level — that's over 3,000 meters.
At these lofty heights, you'll be struggling to catch your breath in the thin high-altitude air. Thankfully, an ultramodern cable car will whisk you to the top so you don't have to bust a lung on the long uphill hike.
But if you're feeling energetic, there is a free hiking trail that winds its way to the peak. The route is popular with pilgrims, so expect to encounter an army of devout Colombians en-route. There have been reports of muggings along the way so don't bring any valuables and try to hike during the busier times of the day.
Where to Stay in Bogota?
Bogota, Colombia is an absolutely massive city. Almost intimidating when you first arrive. As such, you need to know exactly where to stay in Bogota.
That's where I come in! After living in the city, I've found there's only a few spots to stay while here. You've got Zona T, Chapinero, and Parque 93. That's about it.
Personally, I like to stay right around Zona T.
The red dot on the map below shows the epicenter of Zona T. Staying as close to that spot as possible is advised. Or something close to Parque El Virrey.
There's dozens upon dozens of hotels, hostels, and Airbnb options located throughout this part of town. You have a wealth of options to fit most budgets, although Zona T is pretty pricey.
Overall, I'd recommend…
The Best Mid-Range Hotel in Zona T: Hotel Saint Simon
Despite being located in the middle of the action, Saint Simon has enough soundproofing to guarantee a peaceful night's sleep. The staff are pretty chill, too, and give you more than enough privacy, if ya know what I mean.
Hotel Saint Simon is located in the heart of all the action in Zona T. You'll be within walking distance to everything. From bars to restaurants to gyms and yoga studios. The decor is more than modern enough and the staff at the hotel is top-notch. The hotel is soundproof, which is ideal in the busy Zona T area.
Things to Do In Santa Marta…and Beyond
Oh, Santa Marta! While the city itself Santa Marta itself isn't my favorite spot in Colombia, there's no denying some of the incredible adventures to experience nearby.
So here's a few things to do in Santa Marta and beyond…
~ Visit Parque Tayrona
Thousands of tourists visit Parque Tayrona every damn day.
Because it's worth it. The stunning beaches. The mountain hikes. Palm trees all over. If you come to Colombia and skip Parque Tayrona, you missed out.
Parque Tayrona truly is a tropical paradise. Some of the best beaches I've ever seen are here–I'm talking crystal clear waters lining pristine white sand that's fringed by massive palm trees.
While there are dozens of amazing things to do in Colombia, I'd venture to say that a visit to Parque Tayrona is the only “MUST” in Colombia. Make it a priority to take a trip when you're in the country.
It's just a short trip from Santa Marta.
- Read More: Fantastic Beaches in Santa Marta, Colombia
~ The Lost City
Does hiking through dense South American jungle towards a lost pre-colonial city sound like something out of an Indian Jones flick?
Well, you can do that shit for real in Colombia, and it's one heck of an awesome trek.
Santa Marta serves as the base for embarking on the Lost City Trek, which sees you slog through thick vegetation for four difficult days. This is no walk in the park–the Ciudad Perdida trek will have you sweat bucketloads each day and sleep rough every night.
But all the mud and bugs of the arduous journey will be worth it when the 1,200-year-old ruins appear majestically through a forest clearing — a climactic moment you'll remember for years to come.
Most trekkers reckon it's one of the top hikes on the continent, and I'd be inclined to agree.
~ ‘Hang Ten' at Palomino
Colombia's Caribbean coast isn't all tranquil turquoise waters lapping gently at the sand. The surfs' up in places like Palomino.
Colombians and a small contingent of foreign backpackers come to this sleepy little beach town near Parque Tayrona to catch some waves, which is more accessible than the far-flung Pacific Coast. If you're not big on surfing, you can go river tubing, wildlife spotting, or horseback riding on the beach instead.
Nature buffs should book themselves into one of the region's eco-lodge, which are wonderful. I highly recommend staying here while in Palomino.
Where to Stay In Santa Marta?
You need a ‘base' when exploring Santa Marta. The city itself isn't huge, but you'll be enjoying nature all around. As such, Santa Marta has three areas for travelers to stay…
Taganga is where the backpackers stay. Rodadero is a more upmarket area that traveling Colombians frequent when in Santa Marta. Centro is the easiest area to visit everywhere else in and around Santa Marta.
For me, Centro is the best area in Santa Marta. You'll have easy access to beaches, nightlife, and tour guides. There's also ample restaurants all around and the area is fairly safe overall.
If you choose to stay in El Centro, then do yourself right and stay at:
The Best Hotel in El Centro is the Bonita Bay Concept Hotel.
This funky little number has sweeping ocean views, quirky contemporary decor, and a delicious buffet breakfast to recover your strength after a long liquor-infused evening.
You'll be smack dab in the middle of all the action in Santa Marta, with easy access to the stunning nature and tours on the outside of the city.
Things to Do in Cartagena
Cartagena is Colombia's most touristic city due to its colonial history and cool Caribbean vibe. Not to mention the easy flights to the USA.
As such, you'll find a ton of things to do in Cartagena. No traveler should get bored in this bustling Caribbean city on the beach.
~ Explore the Old City
While every tourist that goes to Cartagena checks out the Old City, there's a reason – it's amazing. The Old City aka Ciudad Amurallada is one of the finest colonial cities in the world.
Compared to places like Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo, Ciudad Amurallada truly shines. The area is beautiful and a must for any visitors to Colombia's Caribbean coast. Here you'll find amazing architecture, stunning ocean views, and so much more.
The best thing to do?
Grab a cup of amazing Colombian coffee and start exploring every nook and cranny in the morning before it gets too hot.
- Read More: Cartagena Travel Guide For Digital Nomads
~ San Fernando de Bocachica
One of the best tourist experiences in my life was visiting San Fernando de Bocachica near Cartagena. We took a small boat to the island where this colonial Spanish slave prison was located.
It was deserted outside of a few local kids running around. We had this giant prison filled with stunning views all to ourselves. No other travelers. No other gringos. It was amazing.
We took stupid photos, climbed through tunnels with local kids playing a joke on us, and generally had an amazing time. If you're in Cartagena, you absolutely must check it out.
Make sure to check this out!
Where to Stay in Cartagena?
You have a lot of options when deciding where to stay in Cartagena. The city is filled with tourism, and you'll find hotels, hostels, and Airbnb options in every part of town.
My favorite area of Cartagena? That's gotta be Getsemani.
This small neighborhood has gotten a facelift over the last few years, and today Getsemani is packed with travelers and backpackers. You'll find everything from dirty hostels to upmarket boutiques around this area. See the map below for how central a location this is:
You'll find dozens of lodging options here. But there's one that stands above the rest…
My favorite? The best hotel in Getsemani is the Hotel Capellán.
Featuring stunning boutique decor, sweet swimming pool, and the best rooftop views of stunning Cartegana — you won't find a better hotel in Getsemani.
The location is absolutely ideal if you're interested in Cartagena nightlife. You'll be just a short walk from dozens of pubs and nightclubs when staying at this stunning spot.
Prices are more than reasonable too.
Things to Do in Medellin
Mesmerizing Medellin has become a hotspot for the digital nomad crowd in recent years, and it's not hard to see why. However, the city doesn't boost too many tourist attractions.
The attraction is the city itself. The stunning mountain views, the perfect weather all year long, the friendly locals, and so on.
However, there's still a few things to do in Medellin…
~ Learn Spanish @ BaseLang
Medellin doesn't have all that many must-see attractions unless you're into those lame Pablo Escobar tours. The city's skyrocketing success is more to do with how wonderfully livable it is. A low cost of living, fun nightlife, perpetually perfect weather, and unbelievably attractive women draw scores of gringos here every year, most of whom linger around much longer than expected.
But if you're to make the most of your time living in the ‘City of Eternal Spring,' then you simply must learn a bit of the local lingo. Speaking conversational Spanish will let you integrate into the local culture, woo those gorgeous paisa women, and negotiate a fair price on everything.
Plus, you'll have mastered a language that over 400+ million people speak worldwide, which is going to look pretty neat on your resume. Learning Spanish during your stay in Medellin just makes a lot of sense.
I studied at Baselang and can confirm these guys have got the goods. Within a month, I could hold a conversation. Over two months later, I could wax lyrical with the locals like a born and bred paisa. Ok, maybe that's a bit much. But I was speaking well after studying with these guys. BaseLang offers online classes and in-person lessons in Medellin.
~ Guatape + Piedra del Peñol
Situated around 90+ minutes from downtown Medellin, the picturesque resort town of Guatape features quaint technicolor houses. Straddling the town is a glistening man-made lake, whose clear turquoise waters have become a haven for all sorts of water sports and aquatic events.
The highlight of Guatape, however, is the incredible Piedra del Peñol. This enormous granite rock rises vertically from the valley floor some 600+ feet into the air — a spectacular sight to behold. The Tahamies Indians used to consider the rock sacred, and it ain't hard to imagine why.
The best thing about the Piedra del Peñol is you can hike up a series of some 720 stairs and enjoy epic views at the top. On a clear day, you'll be able to observe the entire man-made dam.
This is the #1 tourist attraction around Medellin, and highly recommended.
Where to Stay in Medellin?
Medellin is pretty large city, with a number of solid neighborhoods. Both tourist areas and residential spots. It can be confusing figuring out where to stay on your first trip.
So, here's the absolute best area:
- Poblado / Provenza
This neighorhood is upper-class and costly. But you get what you pay for, as you'll find some of the best restaurants and hotels in all of Colombia here. Te lo juro.
You'll find more than enough lodging around the Provenza area. Hotels, hostels, and more. However, there's one spot that tends to be a bit better than the rest…
My favorite hotel in Medellin? The Click Clack.
Just a truly stunning boutique hotel. With an incredible location walking distance to Parque Lleras and all the great clubs/bars in Provenza, this is the perfect hotel for first-timers to Medellin.
The price is reasonable, the decor is modern, and the views spectacular. I've yet to hear a negative thing about this hotel and many Medellin digital nomads stay here on every trip back to the city. Highly recommended. This is also a great place to book a week or two, while looking for long-term living options in the city.
Things to Do In Cali…and Beyond
“Cali es Cali y lo demas es loma.”
Some claim Cali, Colombia is the favorite spot in the whole country. Others claim the city can't hold a candle to Medellin and it's too dangerous.
The truth lies somewhere in-between. But there's certainly a lot to love here…
~ Dance Salsa
Gringos can't dance. Why? Because Colombian moms teach their kids to dance salsa before they even start walking. You'll see 5-year olds who can dance salsa better than you ever could in Cali.
Still, taking a few lessons and working on your salsa dancing is a must when in Cali, Colombia. As the salsa dancing capital of the world, you won't find a better place to bust a move. Plus, it's cheap to take classes and lessons.
A few salsa bars have beginner lessons and classes during the week before the floor opens up and everyone starts dancing. Just ask around while in Cali. Or head over to El Manicero and take some group lessons with the locals.
~ Moto-Train to San Cipriano
Getting to this chilled out Afro-Colombian village is half the fun.
Due to the difficult dense jungle terrain, the locals invented an ingenious method of transportation, creating a motorbike-like trolley to blast along the train tracks at breakneck speed. And on a tour of the unusual site, you'll get to experience the adrenaline pumping ride for yourself while sitting on a rustic wooden platform.
Don't worry! Only a few people have crashed, so it's “relatively” safe. Upon arrival, you can swim or go tubing in jungle rivers with crystal clear water.
Definitely for the more adventurous types!
Where to Stay in Cali, Colombia?
There's a handful of solid neighborhoods in Cali, Colombia.
I won't list them all here, as you just need a quick bit of information on where to stay in Cali, Colombia. If that's the case, then I recommend checking out El Penon — located above the San Antonio area. Here you'll find some fine bars, along with modern high-rise apartments and hotels.
Around this area, you won't be lacking for hotel and hostel options. There's dozens of spots to stay in El Penon. However, one stands out just a bit above the rest:
My top hotel pick in the city? Hotel Dann Cali
Hotel Dann Cali offers the perfect location in Cali, Colombia. You'll find everything you need within walking distance, along with stunning views and modern decor.
The pool area offers great views and is an ideal place to hang out. Plus, this hotel isn't too pricey. It's easy to get rooms for well under $100 bucks a night.
One of the best hotels in all of Cali, Colombia!
Things to Do in the Coffee Zone
Oh, and we can't forget about Zona Cafetera!
While Medellin and Cartagena get most of Colombia's tourism dollars, especially from international arrivals, the ‘Coffee Zone' shouldn't be skipped.
In the interior of Colombia, you'll find amazing hiking, friendly people, and some of the best views in the world.
So, here's a few things to do in Zona Cafetera…
~ Valle de Cocora
The highlight of El Cafetero, Valle de Cocora features the highest palm trees in the whole world. The trees are called the Quindio Wax Palm Tree and offer unique photo opportunities. You'll find stunning views, mountain landscapes, and great hiking throughout the valley.
Located outside Salento, and a short drive from both Armenia and Pereira – Valle de Cocora is a must if you're in the coffee region of Colombia.
You can even rent a horse to hike up to the top where you'll find amazing views. Just be careful! My horse bucked me off and I went rolling down the mountain for a bit. Not a pleasant experience!
~ Termales de Santa Rosa
You're going to be all grubby and sore after the Zona Cafetera hike, so why not treat yourself to a jolly good soak. Perched up above the town of Santa Rosa de Cabal are these steamy hot springs, which consist of two separate sections about one kilometer apart.
The thickly forested mountain scenery here is spectacular, and the pools come in a wide variety of different sizes and temps.
Make sure you come here on a weekday, though! During weekends and holidays, this spot gets crazy packed.
Things to Do in Colombia…Outside the Big Cities
While Colombia features cosmopolitan cities and la rumba, there's a lot to be said for getting away from the tourist traps and out into the “real” Colombia.
With that in mind, here's a few more highlights throughout the country…
~ Carnival in Barranquilla
Nobody parties as hard as Colombia.
And no Colombians party as hard as during carnival in Barranquilla.
The debaucherous five-day event attracts scores of fiesta-mad Colombians every year, who go berserk during their last chance to sin before lent — a catholic tradition and the motivation behind carnival. The country's top performers belt out their biggest hits and wild street parties extend as far as the eye can see.
I know a thing or two about partying in South America. And I can promise you it doesn't get much better than this.
~ Chill at Isla Fuerte
Off the Carribean coast of Colombia lies one of the most laid back destinations on earth:
A bonafide tropical paradise, there isn't much here to do other than lay back on a hammock and relax. If you're determined to do something, there are plenty of marine life-rich coral reefs around to explore. SCUBA divers will be heaven as Isla Fuerte boasts some of the finest dive sites in the Caribbean.
Alternatively, circumnavigate the island on foot or on a mountain bike, encountering sloths, butterflies, and thick mangroves along the way.
Other than that, it's all about soaking up the Caribbean sun and relishing in those chilled out island vibes.
~ Cabo de La Vela
Another breathtakingly beautiful but scarcely explored Colombian attraction is Cabo de La Vela, a charming little beach town on the northern tip of the country.
With spectacular arid landscapes as far as the eye can see, Cabo de La Vela is slowly becoming popular so I recommend you get in quick before everyone else. Kitesurfing, hiking, beach bumming and shopping for indigenous Wayuu artisanal wares are the main drawcards here.
~ Jungle Safari in Leticia
You've heard about the multi-day jungle excursions elsewhere in the continent, but did you know Colombia also boasts a sizable slice of the Amazon? And it's very much open to tourism.
A number of well-established lodges reside deep in the jungle around Leticia, a remote border town wedged between Brazil and Peru. Tours typically last three to four days and include a number of safari trips through rivers and swamps in a dugout canoe. Wildlife spotting opportunities here match anywhere else in South America.
~ Adventure Sports in San Gil
Adrenaline junkies should make a beeline for San Gil, Colombia's premier extreme sports destination. A wide range of death-defying activities is available here, although safety standards are incredibly strict so you should come out of the experience in one piece.
Activities such as biking, zipline, white water rafting, base jumping, climbing, canyoning, repelling, and tubing are guaranteed to get the heart pumping.
~ Volcanoes at Los Nevados
Fancy climbing a mountain on your trip to Colombia? Well, you can do exactly that, or a volcano, in Los Nevados National Park.
Wedged firmly within the Pacific Ring of Fire, there's plenty of sky-high volcanoes to summit in this awe-inspiring national park. Nevado del Tolima is the toughest but the most rewarding in terms of scenery. El Rancho and Nevado de Santa Isabel are quite a bit easier, so consider doing these as a warm-up first.
Whichever you go with, these climbs are no easy feat so get plenty of training in and hire a reputable guide.
~ Las Lajas Sanctuary
I'll happily skip the main cathedral of any given city in search of other attractions, but Las Lajas Sanctuary is something else for its incredible architectural design.
The ornate church juts out horizontally over a steep ravine with an impressive amount of stonework supporting the holy temple.
It's an awesome sight to behold, and its convenient location on the border with Ecuador makes it easy to visit for anyone crossing overland.
Above you'll find a small sampling of my favorite things to do in Colombia. With such a large and diverse country, there was no way I could cover them all.
If you're headed to the South American nation, try to enjoy a few of these things while exploring the unique Colombian culture.
No matter what part of the country you go to and what things you do in Colombia, you'll have a damn good time.
Ya tu sabes.