close

Colombia Highlights: My 13 favorite travel moments in Colombia

Colombia Highlights1

I spent 9 weeks in Colombia, longer than I’ve spent anywhere else in the past couple of years (except for New York), and I would have even stayed longer, had Mexico not called my name. Looking back, I can’t believe I almost canceled my trip – I would have missed so many amazing experiences. In short, I loved my time in Colombia. It was one of the best trips I’ve taken, and while I was concerned about safety as a solo female traveler in Colombia prior to my trip, I never felt in danger. I found beautiful beaches, gorgeous Spanish-colonial towns, a vibrant nightlife in Bogota and Medellin, some of the best fruit I’ve ever eaten, a spiritual awakening in the Amazon, the ruins of an ancient city in the Sierra Nevada mountains, great new friends and memories that will stay with me forever.Colombia HighlightsI will tell you about most places I visited in more detail over the coming months, but I thought I’d start by sharing my favorite travel moments in Colombia with you:

1 Chilling in the giant hammock in Minca

I think reading about ‘the giant hammock’ was one of the things that convinced me to visit Minca, a small village in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern Colombia. A huge hammock with amazing mountain views? What’s not to love?! The hammock, which you find a steep 3-hour walk up the mountain from Minca, belongs to the Casa Elemento hostel and was well worth the long walk for a relaxing afternoon. But everything else I did in Minca was memorable, as well: we toured a coffee finca, visited and swam in the waterfalls around town and sampled local artisan beers.

Read more about my time in Minca here: Chasing waterfalls in Mincaminca giant hammock

2 Trekking to the Lost City

I had been fascinated by this trek to the ruins of a pre-Columbian ancient city high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains ever since I had first heard about it a few years ago, but I wasn’t sure if I was able to finish a 4-day trek through mountains and jungle in 90F heat. It turned out I was able to finish it, and the four days of trekking turned out to be some of my best days in Colombia. The walk through the beautiful mountain scenery, through the jungle, across rivers, passing indigenous villages, and finally climbing up 1,200 stairs, was worth every painful step, and the ruins of the Lost City itself were more remarkable than I thought they’d be. I was lucky enough to have a great group of fellow trekkers whose company made me get through the hard parts of the hike – lots of steep mountain trails, which nearly killed me.Colombia Lost City Trek

3 Tubing in Palomino

I went to Palomino for the beach, but ended up enjoying the river that runs from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which hug the coastline here, much more than the ocean! In Palomino, the waves are so high that it is nearly impossible to go for a swim, but luckily the little beach town has a river that is slowly flowing from the mountains into the ocean, and the conditions are perfect for river tubing. My friend and I went for a late afternoon tubing tour and I loved floating on the river, surrounded by lush green jungle, listening to the birds and watching the Golden Hour covering everything in a beautiful golden light.

Read more about my time in Palomino here: Caribbean vibes and a giant scare in Palominopalomino tubing

4 A street art tour in Bogota

I mentioned before that I was surprised by Bogota – in a good way! I expected to dislike the city, because many travelers rush through here, unimpressed by Colombia’s capital. I, however, ended up spending more time here than expected, and got to know the city better than most travelers who only spend a couple of nights here. My favorite thing about Bogota? The sprawling street art scene! No matter where in Bogota you are, there is street art everywhere. I spent most of my time in the historic La Candelaria neighborhood, which is probably the neighborhood with the most street art in the city. Obviously, I was in street art heaven and couldn’t put my camera down. But what was even better than just snapping away whenever I walked by an awesome graffiti was learning about Bogota’s graffiti and street art scene during a free street art walk through La Candelaria. If you love street art and find yourself in Bogota, I highly recommend taking this tour.Bogota Street Art

5 The sunsets in Cartagena

Cartagena definitely wins the prize for the best sunsets I saw in Colombia! No matter if from the thick stone walls that surround the Old City or from the sandy beaches of Bocagrande, the new part of town, every sunset was spectacular. But not only the sunsets were lovely – Cartagena itself was a picture-perfect town, easily the prettiest town I visited in Colombia, and I took nearly 1,000 photos of its brightly colored Spanish-colonial houses, flower-filled wooden balconies and eye-catching door knockers. I extended my stay in Cartagena twice because I couldn’t pull myself away from this gorgeous city!

Read more about my time in Cartagena: Cartagena – The perfect introduction to Colombiacartagena walls sunset

6 Kayaking in the Amazon

I spent eight days in the Amazon – a last-minute addition to my itinerary, and I am glad I spent the extra cash for the plane ticket into the Amazonas region (the only way to get there is to fly in). While I found the lack of wildlife encounters a bit disappointing, I found the Amazon River and life along the Amazon fascinating – and a kayaking trip that brought me up close with the giant trees of the Amazon was an experience I won’t forget anytime soon.Colombian Amazon Kayaking

7 Feasting on fresh fruit everywhere

Colombia’s wide range of exotic fruit is incredible – there are so many fruits in this country that I had never even heard of. My mission was to try them all! And I did a good job, with daily fruit salads from street vendors in Cartagena, or a thick slice of pineapple to start my day with in Santa Marta (for about $0.30!). In the Amazon, I got to taste local fruits like Cupuacu, anona, aguaje, granadilla, uvilla or tumbo – all fruits which can be found only there, and aren’t exported. But even fruit I already knew, like mango, zapote, pineapple, papaya, guava, or guyabana tasted juicier and sweeter than in other places. The fruits were one of my favorite things about Colombia.Colombian fruit

8 Hiking through the Valle de Cocora

The Valle de Cocora near Salento, right in the heart of Colombia’s coffee region, is one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been to: green mountainsides filled with these tall, up to 60 meter high wax palm trees which tower high above cattle farms. The hike I did was beautiful, and being a 4-hour round trip, it was a good workout at the same time.valle de cocora

9 Visiting coffee plantations in Quindio and Magdalena

Coffee is probably my biggest vice, and so it was a given that I’d visit Colombia’s coffee region to see where some of the world’s best coffee is from. I had toured a coffee finca a few years ago in Guatemala, and even though I knew the process would be pretty much the same, I was happy to see again how the bean makes its way from the farm into my cup – even twice, because I ended up not only visiting a coffee plantation in the zona cafeteria, but also in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a lesser known and considerably smaller coffee producing region in Colombia. The old-fashioned family-run coffee plantation I visited there, Finca La Victoria, including a tasting of a freshly brewed cup, was a highlight of the trip for this coffee lover.Coffee in Colombia

10 Stepping back in time in Villa De Leyva

It took me only about one minute to fall in love with Villa De Leyva, which is often called the most beautiful colonial village in Colombia, and I am nodding my head in approval – I don’t think there’s a place prettier than Villa de Leyva with its whitewashed houses, cobble stone streets and its vast town square, flanked by bright white houses on all sides, and with a Spanish-colonial church that dates back to 1608. Wandering the streets of the village I couldn’t help but think: this place hasn’t changed at all since it was founded in 1572! Okay, there might be cars in Villa De Leyva these days, but other than that, I really don’t think it has changed much over the past 500 years.Villa De Leyva

11 Beach day in Playa Blanca

I love going to the beach, and I went to quite a few beaches in Colombia, all along the Caribbean Coast. My favorite beach day? Playa Blanca near Cartagena! Cartagena is hot and humid year round, but luckily there are a few places where you can take a break from the heat for a while. Playa Blanca on Baru Island is one such place, an easy 45-minute bus ride away. Playa Blanca means White Beach, and that’s exactly what it is: a white sand beach with clear turquoise waters which is so pretty that I ended up spending most of the day staring out at the ocean instead of reading my book.playa blanca

12 Seeing Botero’s art in Medellin and Bogota

Fernando Botero is one of Colombia’s most famous artists and I love his ‘fat people’ paintings and sculptures. I’ve seen his sculptures of voluminous women, men and animals in London, Jerusalem, Barcelona, Paris, New York, Mexico and Singapore, and now I was finally in his home country – excited to see more of his art here, and find out more about the artist. I can’t help but smile when I look at his ‘fat people’ sculptures and paintings – his signature style – and seeing more of his art around Colombia was wonderful. I loved the Botero Museum in Bogota, but Medellin’s Museum of Antioquia and the Parque de Las Esculturas, right outside the museum, were my absolute favorite places to learn more about Botero and more of his art.Botero Sculptures Colombia

13 Salsa nights in Bogota

I didn’t make it to Cali, where most female travelers seem to end up to learn how to salsa, but I would have loved to learn salsa steps. However, I ran out of time. What I did have time for though? To visit quite a few excellent salsa bars, in which I danced several nights away (without exactly knowing how to salsa, but I had fun nonetheless). I was surprised that it was in Bogota of all places that I found such great salsa bars, but I had a super guide who introduced me to Bogota’s nightlife and made the city much more fun for me than I thought it’d be, as I mentioned above. One salsa highlight was the salsa bar inside El Theatron, which the biggest gay & lesbian night club in all of South America.salsa dancing colombiaFor more Colombia photos, check out my Facebook photo album here.

Opt In Image
Beyond the Blog: Get updates straight to your inbox!

Keep up with me! Get updates, additional stories that don't make it on the blog, future travel plans, and travel tips. I also answer reader questions and have some pretty sweet travel giveaways exclusive to newsletter subscribers!

Tags : colombia

29 Comments

    1. So many stories to tell, Kate! I’m already planning my return trip to Colombia, because there’s so much more to see 🙂

  1. We’re spending just under a month in Colombia- hope to tick as many as we can off this list. Planning on going to Minca next and heading to the hammock for an amazing view. We couldn’t get enough of Botero’s art in Bogota!

    1. So happy to hear that there are other Botero fans, Siobhan 🙂 I hope you’re enjoying Minca (and the hammock!) as much as I did.. there are some other cool hammocks in the jungle at Casa Elemento, check them out, too 😀

    1. It was heavenly, Linda 🙂 And Botero’s art is fabulous. If you ever stumble upon a Botero exhibit somewhere, make sure to go check it out 🙂

      1. I saw that Botero has some interesting sculptures in Erevan, Armenia and I’m quite interested in the near future to go on a tour in Georgia and Armenia to see the sights. Maybe I’ll spot some of his sculptures there 🙂

  2. I can’t wait to go back! Honestly: I think one ccould spend month and months in Colombia. I really enjoyed the friendly people and left with quite a few lasting friendships. But I see you (dis-)covered some of Colombia’s best sights.

    1. Months and months for sure, Juergen… I have so many more places that I want to see in Colombia – I’ll be back for sure! 🙂

    1. So happy to hear that you’re heading to Colombia!! If you need any specific tips, feel free to email me anytime, Monique 🙂

  3. Hey there! I just recently found your blog and I am so excited to read more! Beautiful photos and recap of Colombia – it’s a country that is really high on my list, and I’m glad to hear that you had such a positive experience there. Great post! 🙂

  4. This is brilliant! Love all these travel moments, truly inspirational . Also that giant hammock looks awesome and so does the white sand beach and the Amazon River 🙂

    1. Hi Mark, no housesits in Colombia – just traveling.. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a housesit in Colombia advertised on any of the websites I use! If there was one though, I’d definitely apply 🙂

    1. There’s soooo much to see – I spent two weeks on the Caribbean coast alone and that was only east of Cartagena – there were several places west of Cartagena that sounded amazing, too, but I just didn’t have the time… and then there’s the Pacific Coast and so much more in the center of the country that I want to see, like Barichara or San Gil… and all the places around Medellin that people kept telling me about that sounded amazing.. aaah, the list is endless!!

  5. Nice selection! Don’t think the giant hammock was there when I went. Guess I’ll have to go back 🙂 Did you make it to Mompos at all?

    1. I didn’t make it to Mompos, Neil – I had to google it just now, somehow I hadn’t heard of it… It looks like a nice city!! Should I put it on my list of places to visit next time I’m in Colombia? 🙂

  6. Love, love, loooove the idea of a kayaking tour on the Amazon! I’ve done a lot of half day kayaking trips in the last year and they’re such a great way to see the area, especially in those types of remote places.

    1. Edwina – kayaking in the Amazon was definitely one for the books! Can’t wait to see where I’ll have my next unforgettable kayaking adventure 🙂

  7. I missed Villa de Leyva in both of my Colombia trips..looks like I have to go back! Was the whole city like the pictures you shared or was there a more “modern” Colombian city around it?

    1. You do have to go back, Christian! And no – there was no modern city around it, it really is like stepping back in time 🙂

  8. OH MY GOD. THAT HAMMOCK. I won’t lie, Columbia wasn’t on my top listen of countries to visit on my trip to South America (at the moment, I think I’m only going to have 4 months off work total) but your posts have really made me rethink that decision!

    Danielle / http://www.escapingessex.com

  9. Columbia is at the top of my list for travel destinations this year! I hope to visit in July. What are your thoughts on this time of the year? Do you have a “perfect” time to visit?

    1. Hi Rachel, the perfect time for Colombia is actually December to April. I know that the summer months (esp July – September) can be pretty rainy. That doesn’t mean it’ll rain all day, but there’ll be rainy afternoons and it’s overall cloudier. I know that the trek to the Lost City and Tayrona National Park are pretty muddy during that time. AdventurousKate visited in August and said she had to escape the pressing humidity along the coast. So I don’t know how I feel about July, but Lonely Planet has always good information on ‘Best time to visit’ (I usually look through their free samples on Amazon which has the first chapters of the book)

Leave a Response

css.php