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12 Amazing Things To Do in Colombia (for 2022)

There's no shortage of unique and amazing things to do in Colombia, including activities and attractions for all ages and budgets.

While the country's tourism industry has matured in the last ten years, industrious Colombians and expats consistently launch new businesses to guide and support travelers.

A Colombian flag in a blue sky

Despite the security improvements, street theft is still a common problem in major cities like Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota. Minimize your risk by avoiding cell phone use in the streets, taxis, and rideshares. Ensure your data is backed up to the cloud. And invest in travel insurance in case of theft or loss.

The majority of nationalities do not require a visa to enter Colombia. However, the Colombia Check Mig, an online form, must be completed before arrival. The system is known to be buggy, but natvisa.com has an article detailing the issues and its solutions, so it's worth checking out.

Top Things To Do in Colombia

1. Walk the Old City Cartagena

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, walking through the historic old town of Cartagena continues to be one of the top things to do in Colombia for travelers from around the world. The colonial architecture of this walled city offers photographers endless possibilities of colorful streets and street art.

Photography Tip: The best natural lighting at sunrise and the hour before sunset makes for incredible images.

The best way to experience Cartagena's Old Town is to walk the streets — you can't help but feel transported back in time. Colombia's beloved Nobel Prize-winning novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, had a home here, where the movie adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera was filmed.

Walking Cartagena's Old Town is a popular thing to do in Colombia.
Cartagena's Old Town

Would you feel more comfortable on an organized trip to Colombia? G Adventures offers small group tours to Colombia for adventurous souls.

Below are two itineraries to consider, both of which include Cartagena:

2. Relax in Tayrona National Park

Located on Colombia's Caribbean coast, about five hours east of Cartagena, Tayrona National Park (Parque Tayrona) is a relatively undeveloped national park where the jungle meets secluded beaches.

Relax in a hammock, and allow time to slow down while you treasure what many travelers consider to be one of the best beaches in South America. Take your time hiking along the beaches that line the coast until you reach Playa Cabo San Juan, my recommended pick for the best place to stay.

Parque Tayrona on Colombia's Caribbean coast.
Parque Tayrona

To see all the current and available options for accommodation in Parque Tayrona, check out Booking.com.

3. Party in Medellin

Enjoy the constant Spring-like weather of Medellin with a night out on the town. While Parque Lleras is the central nightlife district (referred to locally as La Zona Rosa), there are plenty of other options. Barrio Colombia, Las Palmas, La 70, and La 33 are some of the best places with nightclubs (discotecas) for travelers to party with the locals.

The dress is casual at 95% of the places, with only a few, such as the Envy rooftop bar at The Charlee Hotel, enforcing a dress code (don't wear athletic sneakers). The best time to go out is around 9 p.m. on a Saturday if you want to see the city begin to buzz with excitement.

Dave has his picture taken with dancers at a club in Medellin, CO.
Dave with dancers at a Medellin club

The nightlife in Medellin is inexpensive by U.S. standards. Bottle service in Colombia is the norm, not an ostentatious display of wealth like you find in major American cities. A small bottle of rum or aguardiente, the local firewater, may set you back $20 and is typically split with whoever you're going out with. And if you're going solo, the beer is cheap, too!

Heading to Medellin and need a place to stay? Check out our list of the best hostels in Medellin.

A scenic view of El Poblado, Medellin
El Poblado, Medellin

Related: 8 Essential Things to Do in Medellin

4. Go Horseback Riding in Cocora Valley (Valle de Cocora)

The Cocora Valley or Valle de Cocora is a national park situated in the center of Colombia's coffee-growing region. The valley is home to the world's tallest palm tree, the wax palm, also Colombia's national tree. While you're here, you'll have a chance to visit a Colombian coffee farm.

What better way of experiencing this cloud forest region than by horseback riding in Valle de Cocora, a fun way to explore the park's natural beauty.

My favorite thing to do in Colombia is hike in Cocora Valley.
Cocora Valley

Cocora is easily accessible from the charming town of Salento. You can get here via a day trip or plan to spend more time by booking a stay. Share jeeps leave every morning to take tourists to the park. You'll have the option to either walk or go horseback riding, and I recommend choosing the latter as the trail can be muddy and hard to navigate.

Rubber boots may be available through your hostel and are a good idea, given how muddy the trail can get. Bring a lightweight rain jacket as it rains often.

5. Learn to Salsa in Colombia

Cali is considered one of the top salsa dancing cities in Latin America and is home to some of the country's leading professional dancers. A large number of dance academies offer lessons to locals and visitors alike.

At night, hitting the city's salsa clubs and dance floors to practice what you learned in class ranks among the top things to do in Colombia. And if you're lucky, there will be some professional dancers who will perform for free to inspire everyone to get up and dance.

Salsa dancing at Zoe on a Saturday night
Salsa dancing

Where to Go Salsa Dancing in Cali

There are many nightclubs in Cali where you can watch and even try salsa dancing for yourself. There's often live music on the weekends, too.

The salsa clubs I recommend are:

  • Tin Tin Deo (Cl. 5 #3871) is open Thursday, Saturday, and Monday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 04:30 a.m.
  • El Rincon De Heberth (Cra. 24 #5-32) is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.
  • MalaMana Salsa Bar (Cra. 4 #9-59) is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.

6. Trek to Ciudad Perdida

If you want to feel like Indiana Jones, add The Lost City (La Ciudad Perdida) to your bucket list of things to do in Colombia. While this archaeological site is not as grand as Machu Picchu, many travelers to Colombia have proclaimed it to be one of the best adventures in South America.

Explorers trekking to The Lost City can spend up to a week in the Colombian jungle. The out and back journey begins by booking a tour in Santa Marta or Taganga to La Ciudad Perdida. Note that it is not possible to do this excursion without a guide.

Ciudad Perdida, aka "The Lost City" requires a 3-4 day jungle hike to visit
Ciudad Perdida (photo: Rory MacLeod)

Book a Guided Tour

The 7-day Colombia Lost City Trek by G Adventures leaves from and returns to Santa Marta. 

7.  Visit the Bogota Gold Museum (Museo del Oro)

Colombia's biggest gold museum is one of the main attractions in the capital of Bogota. It's an impressive and inexpensive thing to do in Colombia at only a few dollars admission. The museum offers a unique perspective on the country's history.

Gold jewelry, masks, and tools are among the artifacts on display, having been recovered throughout Colombia.

Bogota's Museo del Oro is one of the best things to do in Colombia.
A gold mask in Bogota's Museo del Oro

The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. Admission is 4,000 Colombian pesos, but it is FREE for everyone on Sundays.

8.  Experience Rural Life in Colombian Small Towns (Pueblos)

Colombia is known in South America for its picturesque towns. Only an hour or two outside most big cities like Medellin and Bogota are small pueblos that offer insights into Colombia's rural way of life. Some of the prettiest pueblos include Guatape, Jardin, Salento, and Barichara.

Colorful Guatape, Colombia
A colorful street in Guatape

While they share a typical layout centered around the central plaza, each pueblo has its own identity and energy. My favorite? The colorful town of Guatape, scenes from which you'll see on many postcards.

9. Ride up the 5,300-Meter Nevado del Ruiz Volcano

Have you ever wanted to go up a volcano? Sign up with one of several tour companies in Manizales, and you can be driven up Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia's second-tallest volcano.

As you approach 13,123 feet (4,000 meters) in elevation, you may have the chance to stand in the snow depending on the time of year. As you ride up, marvel at the changes in the landscape.

The snow-covered road up Nevado del Ruiz volcano.
The snow-covered road on the drive up Nevado del Ruiz

Most tours will pick you up at your hotel, bring you up to the volcano and then stop at hot springs on the way back to the city, offering you a chance to relax after a long, cold morning. Be sure to bring your swimming trunks! Book this tour!

10. Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in San Andres and Providencia

Put on your snorkel gear and get in the water to enjoy crystal clear waters and excellent snorkeling and diving off the coast of San Andres and Providencia. It's some of the most beautiful turquoise water in South America and one of the top things to do in Colombia.

These two Caribbean islands are closer to the coast of Nicaragua than Colombia.

Turquoise waters surround Crab Caye, a small island near Providencia
Crab Caye, Providencia

Getting here is easy as regular flights leave from several Colombian cities, including Bogota and Santa Marta. International flights serve the airport in San Andres.

11. Outdoor Adventures in San Gil

Want an adrenaline rush? Why not try paragliding, whitewater rafting, and mountain biking in San Gil. The town in Eastern Colombia is considered the adventure sports capital of the country. If adventure is your thing, go here for some of the best things to do in Colombia.

Paragliding in Medellin is one of the most thrilling things to do in Colombia.
Paragliding in Medellin

There are many tour companies in San Gil, but I recommend this tour with Parapente San Gil.

12. Las Lajas Sanctuary (Sanutario de las Lajas)

Las Lajas Sanctuary in South America is The National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Las Lajas, more commonly known as Las Lajas Shrine. This magnificent basilica church is in Southern Colombia (a ten-minute drive from the small city of Ipiales) and built into the Guaitara River canyon. A trip to see this dramatic and magnificent church is a must thing to do in Colombia.

Want an even better view? Take the cable car from the top of the canyon down to the church. Information on hours and admission prices can be found on their website.

The dramatic Las Lajas Sanctuary in Colombia
The dramatic Las Lajas Sanctuary in Colombia

***

This list is just the tip of the iceberg for fun things to do in Colombia. I spent three and a half years living in Colombia over seven years and still didn't get to all the great places I wanted to see.

Visiting the Amazon rainforest, Cano Cristales (“River of Five Colors”), and the Pacific Coast of Colombia are all things I'd like to do on future trips to the country.

Visit Colombia

If you'd like to visit Colombia but would feel more comfortable with support, consider a small group tour with G Adventures: 

Colombia Express is perfect if you're short on time. This nine-day trip includes quick stops in Bogota, the coffee region, Medellin, and Cartagena. 

Classic Colombia includes everything above, plus additional time on the Caribbean coast in Santa Marta, Taganga, Parque Tayrona, and Minca. 

Colombia Multisport & Lost City Trek is for the active traveler who would enjoy whitewater rafting in San Gil and trekking to the ruins of the Lost City. Plus, there's ample time on this 17-day tour to walk around the cities of Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena. Paragliding is available in Medellin, too.

Last Updated on July 20, 2022 by Dave Lee

amy byrne

Monday 12th of October 2015

currently planning a trip to Colombian iv being reading mix reviews about the town of taganga is it worth visiting we are backpacking also mixed reviews about Parque Tayrona beaches are they beautiful and worth visiting, is there any recommendations you can give me on places on the Colombian coast