I’m sure there are many places on your travel bucket list – mine is already very long, and every time I scroll through Instagram I end up adding somewhere else to this list. Here I’m going to speak about why Colombia is somewhere you should prioritise when you’re thinking about where to travel to next, showing you just five of the amazing places you must visit there.
I spent 11 weeks in Colombia as part of my Year Abroad 2 years ago. After having spent 4 months in Barcelona, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my voyage to South America. Colombia didn’t disappoint and would make an excellent travel destination for anybody, due to the variety that the country has to offer.
Stargaze in the Tatacoa Desert
I was lucky enough to spend 3 days in the Tatacoa Desert (Desierto de la Tatacoa), which was a truly incredible experience.
The desert is split into two distinct areas: the grey desert and the red desert. The grey section is very arid and flat, allowing you to see very far into the distance.
The red part was a completely different beast and provided an amazing contrast – the fact that two areas so close together could be so different was fascinating. You’re encouraged to take your shoes off in this area as the ground is very squidgy and the minerals in the mud are supposed to be good for your feet. The shapes and twists of the features here seem other-worldly, and I’ve truly never seen anything like it in my life.
You’re also able to do some amazing stargazing while you’re in the desert. The skies are extremely clear and you can spot all the constellations that are visible from that part of the world, using telescopes to get a much better view of each star. This is possible as you’re far from any artificial light and the region is close to the Equator.
Get cultural in Cartagena
This was somewhere I didn’t manage to go to during my time in Colombia, but a place that I have heard very good things about.
Cartagena is a port city that was one of Spain’s main ports used for trade and the shipment of slaves during the colonial period.
The first big draw for travellers is that the city is located on the Caribbean coast, meaning you get amazing weather there. In addition to this, there’s lots of incredible fresh food – there’s lots of fish as well as a multitude of different juices to try out.
The place is brimming with culture. There is a huge amount of colour in the cities (see below) and you’ll immediately be struck by the different shades of building. You’ll also regularly see women dressed in very bright clothing walking around the town – many of these are Afro-Colombian women who have become synonymous with the city.
The port is also surrounded by walls and fortresses which were created to protect against pirate attacks. The walled city and fortresses received the honour of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Feel really short in the Valle de Cócora
This is an amazing place located in the ‘zona cafetera’ (Coffee Region) of Colombia. To get here you’ll want to first set up shop in Salento, a cute little town that lies a few hours’ drive west of Bogotá, the country’s capital city.
From here you can jump on the back of a jeep down the road to the valley, and you’ll be met with some amazing views. The area is best-known for the Quindío wax palm trees that populate the region, Colombia’s national tree and the tallest type of palm tree in the world. They can grow up to an amazing 60 metres high, providing a surreal setting in this pocket of the country.
You can take some hiking loops around the area, which will allow you to get close to the trees and explore the surrounding greenery and jungle. Do be careful to try and go on a day when it’s not raining, though – I was unfortunate to get stuck in a downpour halfway around the loop, meaning it was a good few hours worth of walking (including some slips in the mud) before having to hitchhike back to Salento! You’ve been warned.
Go back in time at the Ciudad Perdida
Known as the ‘Machu Picchu of Colombia’, I wouldn’t quite compare this place to the giant that is the Peruvian Wonder of the World, but a trip here is definitely worth it when you travel to the country.
The monument is believed to have been a site of the Tairona people who were based in the area a long time before the arrival of Columbus. It is also thought that the site has been there since 800 AD. There are many terraces, paved paths and circular plazas in the area tucked away within the jungle, and being there makes you feel so far away from any civilisation.
The closest city to this monument is Santa Marta, another place on the Caribbean coast of the country. From here there is a bit of a drive, but then you arrive at the start of the hiking trail. You can do 4-, 5- or 6- day treks to the site depending on how intense you want to go and how pressed for time you are. I did the 4-day trek and didn’t find it too demanding, but I’m fairly active and it’s always better safe than sorry when trekking.
One of the things I liked most about this trekking route is that the only way to reach the Ciudad Perdida is by foot – no train, bus or car can take you to the end of the trail. This is one huge plus that it has over other routes such as Machu Picchu: because there are so many ways to get there, it means they’re always going to be a lot busier and the sites can end up being overcrowded.
Forget what I said earlier though when it comes to the last part of the trek – this is indeed quite challenging as it requires a steep upwards climb up more than 1,000 steps to reach the much-desired Ciudad Perdida.
These are 4 places that I think you’ll love if you decide to visit Colombia, but there are plenty more amazing places that could be added to the list. Excited to travel to Colombia yet??