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.
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:
- Classic Colombia – departs from Bogota and includes stops in the coffee region, Medellin, Cartagena, Santa Marta, and Parque Tayrona
- Colombia's Caribbean Coast & Lost City – a 14-day tour along the Caribbean coast, including a jungle trek to The Lost City
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.
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.
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.
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.
6. Trek to Ciudad Perdida
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.
The 7-day Colombia Lost City Trek by G Adventures leaves from and returns to Santa Marta.
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.
8. Experience Rural Life in Pueblos
While they share a typical layout, centered around the central plaza, each pueblo has its own identity and energy.
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 the long, cold morning.
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 and Whitewater Rafting in San Gil
San Gil is the adventure sports capital of Colombia. Set amongst mountains, a wide variety of activities are on offer, including paragliding, whitewater rafting, and mountain biking.
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.