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Things To Do in Colombia: Activities & Attractions

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

While the country's tourism industry is still maturing, industrious Colombians and expats are consistently launching new businesses to guide and support travelers.

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

Despite the improvements in security, street theft is still a common problem in major cities such as Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota. 

Minimize your risk by avoiding cell phone use in the streets, taxis, and Ubers.

Ensure your data is backed up to the cloud. And invest in travel insurance in case of theft or loss. 

Top 10 Things To Do in Colombia

1. Walk Old Cartagena

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, walking through the historic city center of Cartagena continues to be one of the top things to do in Colombia for travelers from around the world.

As you walk the streets or, perhaps, take a carriage ride instead, you can't help but feel transported back in time.

Colombia's beloved Nobel Prize-winning novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, had a home here, and it's where the movie adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera was filmed.

The colorful colonial architecture offers photographers endless possibilities, with the best natural lighting at sunrise and in the hour before sunset.

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

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

Parque Tayrona on Colombia's Caribbean coast.
Parque Tayrona

2. Relax in Parque Tayrona

Located on the Caribbean coast about six hours east of Cartagena, Parque Tayrona is a relatively undeveloped national park where the jungle meets secluded beaches.

Take your time hiking along beaches until you reach Playa Cabo San Juan, my pick for the best place to stay. 

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.

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

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

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 too.

Barrio Colombia, Las Palmas, La 70, and La 33 all feature a variety of nightclubs (discotecas) for travelers to party with the locals.

The dress is casual at 95 percent 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 nightlife in Medellin is inexpensive by US 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!

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

See also: 8 Essential Things to Do in Medellin (on Your First Trip)

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

4. Go Horseback Riding in Valle de Cocora

The 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, which is also the national tree of Colombia. 

Cocora is easily accessible from the colorful pueblo of Salento. Share jeeps leave every morning to take tourists to the park. 

You'll have the option to either walk or go horseback riding. Choose the latter as the trail can be muddy and hard to navigate. 

Horseback riding in Valle de Cocora offers a fun way to experience the region's natural beauty.

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.

Photos of salsa musicians line a wall at Zaperoco bar in Cali, Colombia
Photos of salsa musicians line a wall at Zaperoco bar

5. Learn to Salsa in Cali

Widely considered one of the top salsa dancing cities in the world, Cali is home to some of the country's top professional dancers.

A large number of dance academies offer lessons to locals and visitors alike.

At night, hitting the city's salsa clubs to practice what you learned in class ranks among the top things to do in Colombia.

Professional dancers perform for free to inspire everyone to get up and dance. 

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

6. Trek to Ciudad Perdida

Spend up to a week in the Colombian jungle on a trek from Santa Marta or Taganga to Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City).

More than a few travelers have proclaimed it to be one of the best adventures in all of South America.

If you want to feel like Indiana Jones, add this to your bucket list of things to do in Colombia.

Guided Tour

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

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

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

Colombia's biggest gold museum is in the capital of Bogota.

It's a bargain to visit at only a few dollars admission and offers a unique perspective on the country's history.

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

Colorful Guatape, Colombia
A colorful street in Guatape

8.  Experience Rural Life in Pueblos

An hour or two outside of most big cities like Medellin and Bogota are small pueblos that offer insights into the rural way of life in Colombia.

While they share a typical layout, centered around the central plaza, each pueblo has its own identity and energy.

Some of the prettiest pueblos include GuatapeJardin, Salento, and Barichara.

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

9. Ride up the 5,300-Meter Nevado del Ruiz 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 4,000 meters in elevation, you may have the chance to stand in the snow (depending on the time of year).

Either way, the interesting changes to the landscape as you continue to gain in elevation are worth the effort.

Most tours stop at hot springs on the way back to the city, offering you a chance to relax after a long, cold morning.

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

10. Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in San Andres and Providencia

Enjoy crystal clear waters and excellent snorkeling and diving off the coast of San Andres and Providencia.

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

Regular flights leave from several Colombian cities, including Bogota and Santa Marta.

The airport on San Andres is served by international flights from other countries, too. 

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

Honorable Mention

Paragliding, whitewater rafting, and mountain biking in San Gil, the adventure sports capital of Colombia.

***

It goes without saying this list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fun things to do in Colombia.

I (Dave) spent three and a half years in the country and still didn't get to all the places I wanted to see.

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 October 21, 2021 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