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12 Things To Do On A Short Trip To Colombia

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While Colombia may not have always been a popular tourist destination, the country has been attracting more and more visitors over the years particular after the 1990s. The country offers some incredible excursions and tour options - from coffee tasting and cycling routes to sprawling beaches and captivating museums.

You could so much time exploring Colombia and all it has to offer, and it can be hard to figure out what to pack into a single short trip. To help you make the most of your time in this beautiful, diverse country, here are 12 things you can do on a short trip to Colombia.

1. Explore the Caribbean Coast

Skyline of Cartagena
Skyline of Cartagena

Where else could you experience such stunning beauty and fascinating history at the same time? Colombia’s Caribbean Coast is equally known for its long, sandy beaches and its historical sites.

Cartagena is the jewel in the Caribbean Coast’s crown. Tour this beautiful colonial city to really see the Spanish influence on the country. You’ll want to look up here, as a lot of the city’s charm comes from its gorgeous architecture - from ornate balconies to details on the colonial houses that line the streets.

Best time to visit: November, when you can enjoy Cartagena carnival!

Entrance fee: None for the city, but there may be entrance fees for the different attractions

Things to do:

  • Sprawl out on one of the Caribbean Coast’s many beautiful beaches
  • Walk along the walls of the Ciudad Amurallada in Cartagena
  • Visit the Castillo de Felipe de Barajas, the strongest fortress the Spaniards ever built (with great sunset views)

2. Take a boat ride to the Islas del Rosario

Islas del Rosario
Islas del Rosario

If you make it to Cartagena, you simply can’t miss the nearby Islas del Rosario. This archipelago is made up of 47 islands, so you’ll want to make a full day out of this adventure. It is also one of Colombia’s 46 national parks. 

The islands sit just about 35 km off the coast of Cartagena and are a true tropical paradise. Trust us - you’ve never seen turquoise waters like these before! You can visit the islands by grabbing a boat ride at the port in Cartagena.

Best time to visit: October to April are the driest months, perfect for water sports and relaxing on the beach

Entrance fee: A tour to the Islas typically costs around 90,000 pesos (USD 32*) plus a port tax fee of 12,000 pesos (USD 4.50*)

Things to do:

  • The islands have some truly beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters - perfect for snorkelling and diving, so be sure to pack your swimsuit!
  • Combine your day trip with a visit to Oceanarium Rosario Islands, the park’s aquarium, for some impressive dolphin shows
  • If time allows, consider spending a night on one of the islands to really make the most of your visit

3. Do a coffee tasting tour in the Coffee Zone

Colombian Coffee
Colombian coffee beans are known all over the world

Perhaps Colombia’s most popular destination among visitors, the Coffee Zone (or the Zona Cafetera) is made up of three municipalities: Quindío, Risaralda, and Caldas. By visiting one of the region’s ‘fincas’ (coffee farms), you’ll taste some of the freshest, most authentic coffees in the world with flavours you’ve never experienced before. Even tea drinkers will love a tour of this region!

Best time to visit: Anytime! The climate here is mild year-round

Entrance fee: A guided tour of a coffee farm typically costs about 15,000 pesos (USD 5.35*)

Things to do:

  • Learn about how the coffee beans are planted, grown, harvested, roasted and exported
  • Visit the nearby town of Salento for stunning views of the Valle de Cocora
  • Taste some bandeja paisa with your coffee, a traditional Colombian dish of red beans, rice, meat, plantains, avocado and usually an assortment of other delicious local foods

4. Hike through Parque Tayrona

Tayrona Park
Tayrona National Park is known for its biodiversity

Tayrona National Park is another of Colombia’s beautiful national parks. This particular park offers an incredibly diverse landscape. Inside, you’ll find everything from azure sea waves crashing onto white sandy beaches to lush, vibrant tropical forests teeming with wildlife. Parque Tayrona (Tayrona Park) is another of Colombia’s beautiful national parks. This particular park offers an incredibly diverse landscape. Inside, you’ll find everything from azure sea waves crashing onto white sandy beaches to lush, vibrant tropical forests teeming with wildlife.

If you choose to hike through the park, you’re in for a real treat. One second you’ll be walking along the shore, the next you’ll find yourself trekking through a dense jungle. It’s the experience of a lifetime.

Best time to visit: December to April, especially if you want to visit the beaches! 

Entrance fee: It costs 54,500 pesos for foreigners to enter the park (USD 19.35*)

Things to do:

  • Climb la Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s lost city (see number 7 on this list for more details)
  • Visit the town of Pueblito where you can familiarize yourself with the ways of the Kogi tribe, a group indigenous to this area

5. Tour Villa de Leyva on horseback

If you’re a fan of colonial architecture and history, Villa de Leyva is a must-see! This beautiful historical town is located about four hours from Bogota by car. It is rich in history and played a huge role in the fight for Colombian independence from the Spaniards.If you’re a fan of colonial architecture and history, Villa de Leyva is a must-see! This beautiful historical town is located about four hours from Bogota by car. It is rich in history and played a huge role in the fight for Colombian independence from the Spaniards.

We highly recommend taking a horseback tour of the town, so you can experience its beauty and learn more about its history (while saving your energy for all those hikes you want to do!).

Best time to visit: The weather is best (and warmest) between April and June

Entrance fee: There is no fee to visit the city

Things to do:

  • Hike the Laguna de Iguaque, a popular trail in the town featuring gorgeous flora and fauna
  • Tour a local vineyard (this area is known for its delicious wine)
  • Visit the house where Antonio Nariño, the first president of Colombia, spent his last days
  • Walk along the cobbled streets and simply embrace the town’s atmosphere

6. Visit the Gold Museum in Bogota

Bogota gold museum
One of the displays at the Bogota gold museum

Bogota is Colombia’s capital city, meaning it is quite busy and boisterous (as capitals tend to be). However, that also means there is a great deal to see and do here! 

One of the most popular destinations in Bogota is the Museo de Oro, or the Gold Museum, receiving more than 50,000 visitors a year! Inside, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of gold artefacts (and lots and lots of sparkle). You can also learn about the impact gold had on Colombia’s history and its significance to the country’s indigenous tribes.

Best time to visit: Anytime! The museum is open 9am-6pm on Tuesday-Saturday with shortened hours of 10am-4pm on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays.

Entrance fee: 3,000 pesos (just over USD 1*) and free on Sundays

Things to do:

  • In addition to all the gold, see more than 20,000 artefacts made of bone, stone, ceramic and textiles from the country’s 13 pre-Hispanic societies
  • Take a tour to learn more! English tours begin at 11 am and 4 pm, every day of the week except Mondays

7. Trek to the Lost City

Ciudad Perdida
Ciudad Perdida

This one isn’t for the faint of heart - but it is an absolute must if you’re looking for a life-changing experience on your visit to Colombia. Ciudad Perdida, or the Lost City, is only accessible by foot and it’s a somewhat challenging four- to six-day trek to reach it. But you can trust us, the views are well worth it! This one isn’t for the faint of heart but it is an absolute must if you’re looking for a life-changing experience on your visit to Colombia. 

The Lost City was built in the 14th century but was only re-discovered in 1976. And it’s no wonder why, considering the city is truly “lost” in the dense tropical rainforest in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region. Only about 20 people attempt this trek each day (compared to more than 500 people who trek Peru’s Inca Trail daily)

Best time to visit: Trek between December to April if you want to avoid the insects!

Entrance fee: Tour costs vary with most wavering around 850,000 pesos (USD 300*) for a four-day excursion

Things to do:

  • Enjoy views of the Sierra Nevada valley
  • Take a dip in the swimming hole at Mumake along the trail route
  • Learn about the site’s discovery and excavation

8. Cycle around Bogota

Cycling in Bogota
Cycling in Bogota

Colombia’s capital city has so much more to offer than just spectacular museums - there’s also some amazing restaurants, historical corners, beautiful architecture, cultural sites, and even craft breweries. 

There are plenty of ways to explore Bogota, including by foot or public transportation, but we highly recommend checking out one of the city’s bike tours. It’s a fun way to get to know the city’s many unique corners and hot spots, plus you’ll get all sorts of insider tips from your tour guide.

Best time to visit: December, January, July and August are the city’s driest months

Entrance fee: No fee to visit the city!

Things to do:

  • Spend some time soaking up the atmosphere in Plaza Bolivar, the city’s main square
  • See the city from Cerro Monserrate (Monserrate Mountain) - you can hike to the top or take the funicular or aerial tram
  • Pop into Andrés Carne de Res, a popular bar and restaurant, for a taste of Bogota nightlife

9. Discover the Colombian Amazon

Colombian Amazon
A reflection of the sky on the clear waters of the Colombian Amazon

It’s no wonder this is on our list - many people visit Colombia (and South America in general) just for a taste of the Amazon rainforest! After all, nearly one-third of the country is covered in dense, lush jungle. If you’re looking for some gorgeous scenery and a glimpse at Colombia’s diverse wildlife, a trek through the Colombian Amazon is an absolute must.

Best time to visit: The Amazon is great year-round, whether you visit during the wet season (January to June) or dry season (July to December)

Entrance fee: 30,000 pesos (USD 10.65*) to enter areas covered by the Mundo Amazonico national park

Things to do:

  • Book a tour to meet some of the country’s Amazonian indigenous tribes and get to know their culture
  • Visit Leticia, a beautiful Amazonian city right on the border between Colombia, Peru and Brazil
  • The Putumayo and Caqueta regions of the Colombian Amazon offer some great waterfall hikes and rafting excursions

10. Go salsa dancing in Cali

Salsa dancing in Cali
Salsa dancing in Cali

No, not California. Cali is a boisterous city in the south of Colombia and is in fact known as the country’s salsa capital! Here you’ll find plenty of fantastic salsa clubs, particular in the Barrio Juanchito area of the city. 

The nightlife in Cali really starts to heat up in the early hours of the morning (post-midnight), but there are plenty of bars to visit before you hit the dance floor. So get dressed up and wear some comfortable shoes - you’ll be dancing until the sun comes up!

Best time to visit: Visit at the end of December to enjoy the city’s annual salsa festival, Delirio Salsa

Entrance fee: The cover charge for most dance clubs is around 5,000 pesos (USD 1.80*)

Things to do:

  • Cali is also known for its bullfighting in the Plaza de Toros Cañaveralejo and its musical concerts at the Estadio Pascual Guerrero
  • Visit the artisanal park of Loma de la Cruz for some local handicrafts and spectacular views over the city
  • After your night out, enjoy a meal of ‘Pandebono’ - a local traditional bread made of corn flour, eggs and cheese

11. Explore an underground salt cathedral

Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira

Not far from the busy city of Bogota you’ll find the quiet, quaint paradise of Zipaquirá. A beautiful colonial town, it is also home to an underground salt cathedral (the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá) that attracts thousands of visitors every year. 

This church was built in the 1950s in the tunnels of a former salt mine by the town’s miners and sits an impressive 200 metres underground! It’s considered to be one of the greatest examples of modern Colombian architecture. Catholics from around Colombia and beyond come here every year.

Best time to visit: Visit on a Sunday to see the cathedral in use

Entrance fee: 50,000 pesos for foreigners (USD 17.75*). Your ticket also includes a two-hour guided tour and a 3D movie

Things to do:

  • Explore the church’s three sections representing the birth, life and death of Jesus
  • Visit the rest of the Parque de la Sal (Salt Park) complex, including the mining museum
  • Pop into the town of Zipaquirá and visit the El Abra archaeological site, home to one of the oldest human settlements in the Americas

12. Cycle the Alto de Letras

This one isn’t for beginners: Alto de Letras is the longest cycling climb in the world, raising about 3,700 m over just 80 km! Despite the steep incline and the thin mountainous air at the top, avid cyclists travel from around the world every single year to take it on. It takes around 5 hours to complete.

If you’re up for the challenge, the climb starts in the town of Mariquita and travels all the way up to the top at the Páramo de Letras pass. Bear in mind that the temperature drops significantly as you go up: starting at about 20-30°C at the bottom but dropping to 5-1°C at the top.

Best time to visit: You can cycle the Alto de Letras year-round

Entrance fee: Free! 

Things to do:

  • Be sure to pack your camera to capture the stunning views on the way up (a great excuse for a break)
  • It’s a six-hour drive from Medellin to Mariquita (where the climb starts), so be sure to stop on the way and enjoy the sites. A great pit-stop on your way back to Medellin is Nevado del Ruiz, an active volcano

These just some of the great things you can do on a short trip to Colombia. However, this country hides many secrets at every corner — watch out for the quaint coffee shops, the amazing street art or the lovely colored houses that line the street. Colombia has something for everyone! 

*Please note that the prices mentioned are as of July 2018

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