The 5 Best Cities to Visit in Colombia

Colombia is home to abundant natural beauty, including rainforests, deserts, mountains and islands. The country also has culturally rich cities to explore. Keep reading to find out the best cities to visit in Colombia based on your interests. 

Bogota

Old and new in Bogota, Colombia

It only seems right to start our list of the best cities to visit in Colombia with the capital. Fascinating Bogota is well known for its pretty colonial plazas and towering skyscrapers. With a population of over 8 million people, the city is full of vibrant street art, delicious food and historical attractions. 

What to do in Bogota

The Gold Museum was named one of the best museums in the history of the planet by National Geographic and is one of the top things to do in Bogota. Among the 34,000 gold pieces within the museum, you will find the iconic poporo quimbaya. This piece has become an essential part of Colombian cultural identity. 

Next up is Plaza Bolivar. What was once a public circus and bull market is now the heart of the historic center of Bogota. Be sure to check out the cathedral, Palacio Lievano and Mayor’s office that surround the plaza. 

As you wander around, marvel at the colorful street art adorning the streets. This creative art, once illegal, now depicts old myths and political messages. La Candelaria is the most well-known district to admire these murals. 

Medellin

Botero sculpture in Medellin, Colombia

Nestled in a valley inland, the city of Medellin has recently made headlines for its booming tourism industry. With the urban transformation many areas have undergone, it reflects ‘New Colombia’ and is now one of the best cities to visit in Colombia.  

What to do in Medellin

To learn more about the history of Medellin, head to the historic center and visit the Palace of Culture, the Museum of Antioquia, and the Plaza Botero. The plaza is one of the city’s main attractions, where you can see 23 sculptures by the famous Colombian artist Botero.  

Don’t miss Comuna 13, one of the top-rated activities in Medellin. Previously, this neighborhood was run by violent gangs and was one of Colombia’s most dangerous areas. However, in the past 10 years, it’s been completely revitalized. And now it’s a creative hub with vibrant street art, dancing locals and lively atmosphere. 

If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, head to Pablo Escobar’s abandoned mansion. It’s been converted into a paintball arena. 

We also highly recommend you head to a soccer game. The atmosphere is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Truly passionate supporters!

For a day trip, look no further than Guatapé. It takes two hours by car to get from Medellin to Guatapé. Wander around the small streets of this colorful pueblo (village). Take in the vibrant colors of the houses and cute ornaments to match. 

Don’t miss The Rock (Piedra del Peñol), a 10 million-ton rock with 675 steps to the top—if you are game enough! 

Santa Marta 

tans sand Santa Marta beaches in Colombia

Continuing on, another one of the best cities to visit in Colombia is Santa Marta. It’s a great place to base yourself for exploring some nearby attractions. In saying that, the city’s coastal location means you can easily come here to enjoy some days in the sun. 

What to do in Santa Marta 

We don’t need to tell you how to enjoy a day at the beach. Instead, let’s look at the best day trips to take from this city. Starting with Tayrona National Park. Known for its diverse wildlife, pristine beaches and fantastic hiking options. While you can’t swim at all of the beaches due to strong currents, Cabo San Juan makes for the perfect beach day. 

Entry to Tayrona National Park is $16.60 in the high season and $14 in the low season. Don’t forget to bring along your passport for verification. 

Next up is Ciudad Perdida, otherwise known as The Lost City. Built around 800 CE, the area contains 169 terraces carved into the mountains. Getting there requires a four to five day trek through the jungle. It’s not a walk in the park, or erm, jungle—you’ll cross through rivers and take on high altitudes. For you adventurers, make sure to join a guided tour for the Lost City trek. 

For activities in Santa Marta itself, visit Parque de Los Novios for a little culture and Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino for a little history. 

Cartagena 

colorful homes in Cartagena, Colombia

Situated on the Caribbean Coast, Cartagena is popular not only due to its tropical climate but also as one of Colombia’s most beautiful places. 

History? Check. 

Colonial architecture? Check. 

Tropical islands? Check. 

Nightlife? Check. 

What to do in Cartagena 

First on the list of things to do in this Colombian City is to explore the walled area. Our advice is to organize a walking tour of the rainbow-colored streets as you take in the history of Cartagena

At the end of the day, grab a drink and stroll along the fort wall. Thank us later! 

It’s not a secret that Colombia is known for its coffee. Of course, you could cafe hop on your own, but why not up it by doing a coffee workshop? That way, you can really understand what the coffee culture is all about. 

You can’t visit without having a beach day. Some of the best are located on the neighboring Rosario Islands. There are 27 islands within this national park, the main one being Isla Grande. It’ll take you one hour from Cartagena to Isla Grande, meaning you’ll be in paradise before you know it.

Locations you should explore on your day trip include La Piscinita, known for its incredible snorkeling. And Agua Azu, which is a beautiful beach spot. 

Cali 

white architecture in Cali
Photo©kulo

Cali’s nightlife is one of the many reasons people flock to this area—it’s the home of salsa dancing. It also has an exciting history, with some outstanding museums and churches. It’s the best city in Colombia if you want to get your shimmy on.

What to do in Cali

Obviously, we need to start with salsa dancing. If you’re a newbie at it, take a lesson or two. Then visit the famous clubs of Tin Tin Deo and La Topa Tolondra for a night of dancing and music. The first has free salsa classes on a Thursday evening. 

You can’t visit Cali without trying the local food. As one of the oldest cities in Colombia, the Indigenous, African, and Spanish traditions mean the flavors are unique. The best way to experience the local cuisine is by taking a street food tour. 

Finally, for you history buffs, don’t forget to check out the Iglesia de la Ermita and the Museum of Religious Art La Merced. 

Since you’re planning a trip to the best cities in the country, be sure to check out all the ways Bookaway can help you get around in Colombia.

FAQ

What languages are spoken in Colombia?

The official language is Spanish. 

Do you need to tip in Colombia?

It’s not mandatory, but of course, it is welcomed.

Are there any major events or festivals in Colombia?

Barranquilla Carnival is probably the most well-known event. It is the second-largest Carnival in the world and takes place in February. Also, in December is Cali Fair, one of the most famous salsa dancing festivals in the world. 

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