What are the best places to explore in Colombia?

Cast all of your outdated ideas aside, like drug wars and gangsters, and you’ll find that Colombia is a nation brimming with confidence and rushing headfirst into a more peaceful and prosperous future. In this land of contrasts.

What are the best places to explore in Colombia?

You’ll encounter snow-capped Andean peaks, tropical Amazonian jungles, turquoise Caribbean coasts, and two sun-kissed deserts. You’ll also find a host of spectacular attractions at the places in between, from the bustling cities of Cartagena and Medellin to the quiet colonial villages of Salento and Mompox.

1. Cartagena

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  • Cartagena is the crown jewel of Colombia’s Caribbean coast and one of the best-preserved colonial destinations in the Americas. Take a stroll through the historic walled city, and you may feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to a different era.
  • Beyond the old city center lies laid-back Getsemani, and along the oceanfront is Bocagrande, a newer part of town, where upscale condos and hotels fight for prime seafront real estate. And less than an hour away by boat are islands and beaches, offering ideal getaways and day trips.

Best Areas to Stay in Cartagena

If you are really interested in a beach vacation, you might also want to consider staying in the Islas del Rosario, the islands around Cartagena, where you can find beautiful soft-sand beaches, including the famous Playa Blanca, and some outstanding beach resorts. This archipelago is popular with everyone, from couples and families to solo travelers, and luxury travelers to backpackers.

Some of the key attractions are :

  1. Plaza de Los Coches and the Torre del Reloj (clock tower), where horse-carriages line up to take tourists on a tour of the city
  2.  Plaza Santo Domingo, a great place to sit at an outdoor table and watch life goes by; and the beautiful
  3. Plaza de la Inquisición (also known as Plaza Bolivar), where you can relax below shady trees or feed the pigeons. The historic walls that surround the city are themselves an attraction.

2. Medellin

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  • Bogotá might be the Colombian capital, but it’s the smaller and more manageable city of Medellin that tends to capture the hearts of visitors. Medellin was dubbed the most dangerous city in the world in the early 1990s, but a quarter of a century later, it has earned a reputation for something entirely different: innovation.
  • The city boasts cable cars linking the settlements in its hills to a modern metro system in the valley below, a greenbelt of lush “eco-parks,” and striking libraries and community centers in some of the poorest neighborhoods.

Some of the key attractions are:

  1. A great day of sightseeing might start in the Old Quarter at Botero Plaza, where you’ll find a collection of 23 portly sculptures donated by the beloved Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
  2. Adjacent to the plaza is the must-visit Museum of Antioquia and the striking Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture.
  3. Then, head into the hills above the town by riding the sleek escalator system through Comuna 13 to explore this neighborhood’s colorful homes and elaborate street murals.

3. Eje Cafetero

  • The world’s third-largest producer of coffee beans, Colombia is a fantastic country for tastings and tours. The vast majority of production takes place in the subtropical Andean hills west of Bogota between the small cities of Armenia, Pereira, and Manizales.
  • This region, known as the Eje Cafetero (or Coffee Axis), is home to a growing number of coffee plantations that have opened up their operations to the public in recent years for tours, tastings, and lavish farm stays.

Some of the key attractions are:

  1. The small resort town of Salento is easily the most attractive place to base yourself, with numerous farm tours nearby and plenty of things to do.
  2. You’ll also have easy access to attractions like Cocora Valley, home to the tallest palm trees in the world.
  3. You can rent bicycles from Salento to explore the region under your own steam or ride on one of the old-fashioned Willy jeeps that serve as the town’s de facto taxis.

4. Leticia

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  • Picture the Amazon, and Colombia may not be the first country to come to mind – which is odd, because about a third of the nation is blanketed in its thick (and often impenetrable) jungles. The capital of the vast Amazon Basin is the small frontier town of Leticia, which sits along the banks of the mighty Amazon River, right where Colombia bumps up against Brazil and Peru.

Some of the key attractions are:

  1. Leticia makes a great base for eco-tourismwildlife safaris, or hikes into the Amazon to learn about the indigenous tribes that call this area home. The only way to arrive here is by plane from Bogota, and you can continue onward by boat either downriver to Manaus, Brazil, or upriver to Iquitos, Peru.

5. Tayrona National Natural Park

  • You’ll find some of the best beaches in Colombia within the protected Tayrona National Natural Park, which is known for its palm-shaded coves and crystal-clear coastal lagoons. Most beaches are set against the dramatic mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, whose rainforested hills make for a great side trip on any beach vacation.

Some of the key attractions are:

  1. Tayrona is also a fantastic place for snorkeling in protected areas near La Piscinabeach and Cabo San Juan. Though remote, these secluded beaches aren’t exactly a secret, so it’s best to visit in low season (February to November) to avoid the massive crowds.
  2. Also, unless you’re paying for the lavish Ecohabs Tayrona, be prepared to sleep in a tent (or hammock) at one of the many beachside campgrounds.

Source: PlanetWare


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