Discover the Top 11 Unique Colombian Destinations that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. From the historic streets of Cartagena to the natural wonders of Tayrona National Park, explore vibrant cities, stunning landscapes, and cultural treasures in this captivating South American country.
Here’s our list of the the Top 11 Unique Colombian Destinations based on what our travelers ask for on our curated itineraries.
There’s nowhere quite like Cartagena, which is why it’s on the top of our list of unique Colombian destinations. the Colombian Caribbean’s most famous city is a magical place where romance and enchantment seem to be built into the very foundations upon which the stone walls and colonial houses stand.
Each street is more beautiful than the last, and there’s history around every corner. With plenty of day-trips to picturesque Caribbean islands and historical towns available, and even dugout canoe tours around the biodiverse mangrove ecosystems surrounding the city, there’s plenty to keep you busy on a trip to Cartagena.
And, at the end of the day, as the sun sets over the Caribbean from the top of the city walls and the sea breeze blows across the rooftops, you will feel as if you’ve stepped right out of the pages of a Garcia Marquez novel.
Bogotá is second on our list of unique Colombian destinations. The Colombian capital is a tantalizing mixture of the past and present, with cosmopolitan bars and gourmet restaurants rubbing shoulders with some of Colombia’s oldest and most important historical buildings and monuments.
Surrounded by vast moorlands and protected cloud forest, Bogota is more than just an urban travel destination, but it certainly delivers in that respect as well, with world-class museums, gorgeous parks and gardens, and bustling Sunday markets.
Once the forgotten capital of South America, Bogota’s star is on the rise and the city is fast becoming one of the continent’s most talked-about unique Colombian destinations.
Next on our list of unique Colombian destinations is Medellín. Colombia’s second city is a story of success against all odds. Once considered the most dangerous city on the planet, Medellín has reinvented itself as an innovative and progressive city and has become one of the must-visit South American cities in recent years.
The ‘City of Eternal Spring’ boasts a wonderful climate, captivating art and culture, and some of the most pioneering architectural projects in the Americas. Spend the day exploring museums, art galleries, and boutique shops, before enjoying dinner at some of Colombia’s finest restaurants.
And all of it surrounded the indefatigable charm and kindness of paísas, as Medellin’s garrulous residents are known. There’s a reason why the world is finally talking about Medellin in positive terms and undoubtedly high on our list of unique Colombian destinations.
4. Coffee Region
The Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, as it’s officially known, is possibly one of the most unique Colombian destinations. The Colombian Coffee Region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s easy to see why when you visit – old traditions are still very much alive in this stunning part of the country, as colorful chiva trucks and Jeep Willys drive coffee farmers from their plantations into pretty little towns to sell those magical beans to make a cup of the world’s finest coffee.
With breathtaking Andean landscapes and some of Colombia’s loveliest Heritage Towns, the Coffee Region is always a highlight of any trip to South America. Visitors can spend the day hiking, birdwatching, picking their own coffee, before finishing up the day chilling in a hammock in a beautiful boutique countryside hotel.
Staying the in the Coffee Region, Salento’s unique wax palms makes it a requirement on the list of the most unique Colombian destinations. Salento is the most famous town in the Coffee Region: the Quindio town is a charming mix of traditional architecture and luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants.
Locals in cowboy hats and ponchos line the streets, sipping local coffee from tin cups and sharing the day’s news, while surrounded by local craft shops and hole-in-the-wall cafes.
Salento’s proximity to the majestic Cocora Valley, with its giant palm trees and stunning cloud forest landscapes, makes it simply one of Colombia’s premier destinations.
6. Tayrona National Park
Colombia’s most famous National Park is where the verdant jungles of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains meet the sparkling waters of the Caribbean Sea.
With hidden ruins of ancient Indigenous cities, stunningly picturesque white-sand beaches fringed by palm trees, hiking trails through the jungle, and a wealth of endemic animals and birds, including monkeys, poison arrow frogs, basilisk lizards, and even jaguars, Tayrona is an ecotourism paradise.
Whether you want to spend the day hiking through the jungle discovering the wonderful world of Tayrona’s wildlife or simply relax in a hammock soaking up the sun and sea breeze, this National Park which ranks high on the list of unique Colombian destinations is the place to visit.
7. Santa Marta
Santa Marta is the second oldest surviving city in South America – and the oldest in Colombia – having been founded by Spanish conquistadors back in 1525. Situated on a beautiful Caribbean bay, Santa Marta is ideally located to explore the wonders of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Minca, Tayrona National Park, Palomino) the wild, windswept deserts of La Guajira, and local Heritage Towns like Cienaga and Aracataca.
However, there’s more to Santa Marta than just a good base: the old town is still remarkably intact, and sipping a cocktail by the rooftop pool of your hotel while the sun sets into the Caribbean is a quintessentially Colombian travel experience. Santa Marta might not get the plaudits normally reserved for Cartagena, but the city has its own unique charm and its mixture of European, Indigenous, and African influences makes for a fascinating destination.
Once a simple fishing village on the shores of the Caribbean, Palomino has blossomed into an internationally-recognized travel destination over the past few years.
Why? Put simply, Palomino is the perfect fusion of everything that is so special about the Colombian Caribbean and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains: crystalline rivers flowing from forgotten glacial peaks through the jungle to the sea, ancient Indigenous cultures hidden deep in the forest, and stunning beaches fringed by palm trees and boutique hotels.
From the beach itself it’s even possible to see the distant snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the highest coastal mountains on earth – Palomino is the perfect representation of what is so miraculous about Colombia: from coral reefs to glaciers in just 40km!
9. Rosario Islands
A gorgeous archipelago and National Park located just 100km from the city of Cartagena, the Rosario Islands (or Coral Islands of Rosario to give them their full title) are the ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and offer a wide range of activities including scuba diving, snorkeling, water sports, sunbathing, and relaxing in a hammock with a good book and a Coco Loco – a fresh coconut and rum cocktail!
From luxurious beachside hotels on Isla Múcura and Isla Grande, to upmarket beach clubs like Blue Apple, the Rosario Islands are a haven of peace and calm surrounded the azure waters of the Colombian Caribbean.
10. Villa de Leyva
Rounding out our list of unique Colombia destinations is Villa de Leyva. A colonial heritage town in the semi-desert landscapes of Boyacá region, Villa de Leyva’s location away from major trade routes means that the town has undergone practically no development over the past 400 years.
As a result of this Villa de Leyva remains one of the most well-preserved colonial towns in all of Colombia, with its cobbled streets and startlingly bright whitewashed walls still dating back to the 16th century. The focal point of the town is the gorgeous Plaza Mayor, the largest square in Colombia and believed to be the largest entirely cobbled square in South America.
Day-trips to local Indigenous archaeological sites, museums housing paleontological remains, and sacred lakes in the high Andean moorlands are all available, or you could simply choose to relax in Villa de Leyva, soaking up the historical atmosphere, and sipping on some locally-produced wine (the best in Colombia). Whatever you choose, Villa de Leyva is sure to capture your imagination.
The Amazon rainforest – the very name conjures up romantic images of dense jungle, ancient cultures, and unique animals. The wild Colombian Amazon is no different, and a trip to the heart of the world’s largest rainforest is always filled with surprises and unforgettable experiences, whether it’s watching pink dolphins jumping out of the muddy waters of the Amazon or discovering the traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the jungle.
From the Amazon capital of Leticia, with its luxury jungle lodges and tours, to the off-the-beaten track regions of Guaviare and Guainía, with their ancient rock art and giant jungle mountains, the Colombian Amazon is a rich and diverse region and one which you will never forget experiencing.