Best Things to Do in Colombia : 5 Incredible Experiences

Colombia is a beautiful country filled with friendly people, stunning landscapes, and a rich culture. Unfortunately though, it has also been a bit misunderstood.

Its reputation from the violence in the 1990’s does not seem to have left it just yet. When I decided to go to Colombia, the main reactions I got from people initially included things like “OMG! Why?” “Is it even safe?” “You are going to get shot!” : while said with the best of intentions, the drug cartel war-ridden Colombia of old has said goodbye- leaving us with the beautiful Colombia of now. 

Here is my list of the 5 best things to do in Colombia!:

1.) Coffee Plantations and Natural Landscapes of Minca

Seeing a real working coffee plantation in the mountains of the Minca region is an essential part of any visit to Colombia. We arrived to the city of Santa Marta via a shuttle bus from Cartagena, and arranged for a day trip into the mountains from local tour operator Fidel Travels.
The narrow, bumpy, roads were a bit treacherous-  but the views and experience were incredible! We made it up to Finca La Victoria, where we had a guided tour of the plantation, and of course some free samples! The natural beauty of this region is so lovely that UNESCO even listed it as a World Heritage Site!

2.) Parque Tayrona in the jungles near Santa Marta

Staying at La Brisa Loca Hostel in Santa Marta as a starting point, we took a local bus early in the morning to the nearby Tayrona National Park. Fun fact- my husband proposed to me there!! The park begins with a network of muddy, narrow trails that ultimately lead you to pristine beaches.
As many visitors do, we chose to bypass the mud, and rented horses for the day. We rode horse-back through the jungle for almost 2 hours, before arriving to “La Piscina” and “Cabo San Juan“, two great spots for swimming and relaxing.
These are truly exotic, isolated, and “wild” feeling beaches. They’re surrounded by the sounds of the jungle, and spending a day here was perfect. My one regret is not renting a hammock to spend the night on the island hut!

3.) Cerro Montserrate overlooking Bogotá

It seems that most great Latin American destinations have plenty of overlooks, or Cerros, for visitors to enjoy sweeping city views- and this one does not disappoint.
Spending time walking around the lively streets of Bogotá is great, but being able to head to the hills for some quiet viewing is nice too. You buy a ticket at the base to take a very steep funicular (teleférico) to the top of Montserrate, and can walk around the grounds while taking in spectacular views of the sprawling urban madness below.

4.) Chiva Bus Tour of Cartagena de Indias

This historical town on the coast of the Caribbean has an incredibly rich history, filled with stories of invasions, pirates, and romance from Love in the Time of Cholera! With the old fort (Castillo San Felipe de Barajas) as the centerpiece of the city, this lively colorful town has much to explore.
Given the extremely hot, humid air of Cartagena, a great way to see the sites and beat the heat is to have a city tour via Chiva Bus (a rustic, artisan style bus). We hopped on one of these colorful vehicles, and rode around the old and new parts of the town.
We spent time exploring the secret passageways and pirate traps of the old fortress, and made it up to Cerro de La Popa for a great city view. Driving past the pastel colonial era buildings with the wind in your face is a much better option than seeing the city on foot!
Cartagena, Fortaleza, Colombia, San Felipe de Barajas, best things to do in colombia
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
chiva bus, cartagena, colombia
Cartagena, Portal de los Dulces, Colombia
Portal de Los Dulces

5.) Cable Car over Medellín

The city that saw the most murders and violence during the 90’s seems to have made quite a recovery- the city of Medellín today is a modern, well-organized, and safe destination.  We took a walking tour with local guide Pablo, visited parks and museums (while admiring the artwork of Botero), and gave the innovative metro-cable a try.
The cable car was originally built to give people living in the higher parts of the city a way to come down into town for work. This was a great idea to aid with poverty and unemployment issues! Riding the cable car from bottom to top takes a little over an hour, and provides stunning views of the massive city below. It’s like an incredibly cheap city tour!
When you arrive at the top, it just gets better- you end up at the entry to Parque Arvi, a natural cloud forest.Medellin, Colombia, Cable Car
Medellin, Colombia, Parque Botero

⇒Click here for other fun day-trip ideas while in Colombia!⇐

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  • Reply Gemma Two Scots Abroad May 4, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Thank you for posting this! We head to Col on May 15th and it’s hard to picture all of the areas I read about. Very excited!

  • Reply Traveling Rockhopper April 2, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    I spent to Colombia only a few days, but I managed to do 3 out your 5 tips 🙂
    I think, visiting a coffee plantations was really great!
    Next time, I’ll complete the 5 😀

  • Reply Bernard Tan April 2, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    I have never been to Colombia but would love to try the cable car.

  • Reply Nicola Hilditch-Short April 3, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Such a colourful and lush country with so much to do, I hadn’t really thought too much about Colombia before but I think we would have a great time there getting out into nature. 🙂

  • Reply Laura Lynch April 3, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    These all look like fun things to do. The Chiva bus is perfect – just the way you want it to be! I’ve also been wanting to see Medellin. I didn’t know about the cable car. That’s a great view!

  • Reply Uncover your Caribbean April 3, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Colombia is such a magical place. This brings us back to great memories. The cable car is always a highlight.

  • Reply Mel Jones April 4, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Columbia seems like such a vibrant and colourful place. Beautiful nature and animals, definitely my type of place. I must say my favourite thing on your list is the cable cars, I try go on them whenever I am because you can’t beat the views and Medellín looks incredible!

  • Reply Elaine Masters April 4, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Sounds and looks wonderful. I’ve been hearing such great things about Columbia.

  • Reply Monika April 5, 2016 at 11:22 am

    I did only number 5 😉
    I spent over a month in Colombia but the country is so fascinating that I could have stayed there much longer and still there would be hundreds of things to do!

  • Reply anne October 5, 2016 at 11:10 am

    This has us so excited to explore Colombia soon! We are considering heading out early next year and residing in Medellin for a while, as our home base. 🙂

  • Reply stephanie November 8, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Colombia is def. on my list when i go to the south america.
    Thanks for sharing these tips.

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