12 Unique Places to Visit in Colombia

Unique places to visit in Colombia

Last Updated on October 4, 2023

Planning a trip to Colombia? Travelers share below their favorite places in Colombia, how to get there, useful tips to know before visiting, and what to do once there.

Discover some of the most unique places to visit in Colombia during your trip. From natural wonders to picturesque towns, you’ll find a wide array of experiences, landscapes, and activities throughout the country.

Get ready as you embark on a journey through some of Colombia’s best destinations that you don’t want to miss!

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12 Unique Places to Visit in Colombia

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12 Unique Places to Visit in Colombia

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12 Unique Places to Visit in Colombia

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Caño Cristales

Caño Cristales, Colombia - Wikimedia
Picture by Mario Carvajal

By Giorgy of G-Extreme Travel

Ready to visit one of the most unique places in Colombia? Let’s take a wild ride down to Caño Cristales, or as most people like to call it, the “Rainbow River”.

This place isn’t just unique… it’s a dreamy palette of nature’s finest colors. Imagine swimming in a river that looks like it was painted by Picasso himself!

From June to November, this waterway transforms into a breathtaking spectacle of reds, blues, yellows, oranges, and even greens. It’s a special kind of river weed that changes color when it’s just the right temperature.

Unfortunately, during the first half of the year, the park is closed for recovery (also because this extraordinary event is not occurring). Mother Nature needs her beauty sleep too. But don’t worry, once she wakes up, she puts on the most vibrant show you’ve ever seen.

Therefore, it’s advisable to plan your visit carefully!

How would you be able to visit this unique place in Colombia? The easiest way is to fly to La Macarena, and then join a guided tour from there. They’ll take care of all the nitty-gritty details and guide you through the stunning landscapes this area has to offer.

Prepare to be mesmerized by the ethereal allure of this unique place in Colombia!

San Agustín, Colombia

San Agustín, Colombia

By Haley of Fernweh Foreigner

One of the less traveled and more unique destinations in southwest Colombia is the beautiful and historical town of San Agustín. It is not the easiest place to get to, but the nature and ancient sites make it well worth the trouble. 

Depending on where you are coming from and how much time you have, there are a few options for getting to this small town. The closest airport is about an hour away in Pitalito, but there is also an airport in Popayán about three and a half hours away. 

It is a bit of a longer ride to San Agustín from Popayán, but this route is highly recommended for beautiful views of nature like waterfalls and volcanoes. There are also bus options from the Coffee Region down to San Agustín but the ride will be significantly longer. 

The main draw for visiting San Agustín is the ancient history that surrounds this small town. Although the town was officially founded in the 1700s, the pre-Columbian cultures that lived here date back thousands of years. 

Today you can explore what these people left behind at places like the Parque Arqueológico De San Agustín, the La Pelota and El Purutal Archaeological Sites, and the La Chaquira Archeological Site

The beautiful nature surrounding this town and the archaeological parks is another reason this unique town shouldn’t be missed, and it can be experienced in a number of ways like hiking, mountain biking, jeep rides, or even river rafting. 

The town itself is very walkable but you typically will need transportation to get to activities and sites like the archeological parks. San Agustín also surprisingly has a decent amount of vegan food options for such a small Colombian town.

Rincón del Mar

Rincon Del Mar, Colombia

By Vicki of Vicki Viaja

Do you want to discover a unique place on the Caribbean coast without hordes of tourists? Then Rincón del Mar is the right place for you. In this small village near Cartagena, many residents still live from fishing, and tourism only arrived recently.

One of the best things to do in Rincón del Mar is to visit the stunning Caribbean beaches. There are still large undeveloped stretches of beach to be found here, where you can enjoy the transparent water without music, crowds of tourists, annoying vendors, or the like.

But also, the food in Rincón is excellent, and the restaurants offer plenty of local dishes made with fresh ingredients. So, sit down in one of the restaurants right on the beach, watch the fishermen as they return from the sea in their small boats, and listen to the sound of the waves.

Besides the idyllic beaches, be sure to join some of the tours offered in Rincón del Mar. There are a lot of options, like excursions to other beautiful Caribbean islands nearby. The tour through the mangroves around the small village is also a true highlight. On this tour, accompanied by an experienced guide, you can discover the exciting nature of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

Although the journey from Cartagena de India is not exactly easy – you first have to take the bus to San Onofre, and from there, continue by cab or motorcycle cab – it is definitely worth it. After all, here you can still find a real little gem on the Colombian coast.

Jardín, Colombia

Main Square Jardin, Colombia

By Cynthia of Sharing the Wander

Jardín, Colombia is a 3 to 4-hour bus ride from the megacity of Medellín, and feels a world away. Here, you’ll find a small town deep in the jungles, surrounded by coffee plantations. The town is centered around a small square with a cathedral. There are cafes all around the square where you will see locals leaning against the colorful walls enjoying a cup of coffee. 

There are many activities in Jardín, including walking to the viewpoint of Mirador Cristo Rey. It’s a lovely hike up through farmers’ fields, but if it has rained recently, it can get muddy and slippery. You can also take a car or tuk-tuk to the top. You’ll find a small café at the base of the Christ statue where you can order a dessert or a fresh juice while you enjoy the views in front of you. 

One of the most popular things to do in Jardin is visit a coffee farm. Plan a visit to Finca Los Angeles which is run by 5th generation farmers. They will help you arrange a taxi to and from their farm. Once there, they will explain all about the coffee industry, give you a tour, and you can even help pick some coffee beans! Of course, at the end, you’ll get to taste some of their coffee as well. 

There are lots of delicious restaurants in Jardin- head to Cafe Macanas for coffee and pastries. Don’t miss a meal at Bella Italia for amazing homemade Italian food. For a more traditional meal, get the Menú del Día at Journal

The best time to visit Jardin is in the dry season between December and February. Regardless of when you visit, rain showers can pop up quickly at any time, so plan to carry an umbrella or rain jacket with you when out exploring.

Cartagena

Cartagena

By Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across The World

The gorgeous Caribbean city of Cartagena was founded in 1533 and it is often the starting point of a trip to Colombia. The city has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984, and rightly so. It truly is a unique place to visit, with a lot to offer to visitors in terms of activities and attractions. 

Among the best things to do in Cartagena there definitely is a walking tour of the Old City. Here, you will be able to find examples of perfectly kept colonial buildings, and some of the best museums in the city. The best one is probably the Museo del Oro Zenu, which will give you great insights into the pre-colonial past of the country.

Within the walls of the Old City, you will be able to spot the Porta del Reloj (the clocktower) and the well-kept cathedral.

Another part of Cartagena that you should not skip is the colorful Getsemani District, a maze of narrow alleys and beautiful courtyards located a few minutes walk from the Old City. Here, you could consider joining a street art tour, or simply plan to hang out in Plaza de la Trinidad. It’s a favorite spot of locals and tourists alike in the evening, once the temperatures are a bit more forgiving. 

If you are a fan of literature consider going on a tour to follow the footsteps of famous Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature and one of the main representatives of the Magical Realism style that is typical of Latin America.

Finally, plan an extra day in the city to actually get out of the city. One of the easiest places to visit on a day trip from Cartagena is the Islas del Rosario Archipelago, home of nice beaches and clear waters that are great for snorkeling. 

Salento and the Valle de Cocora

Zona Cafetera, Colombia

By Sarah of A Social Nomad

The town of Salento in the central Zona Cafetera of Colombia is perfect for a hike in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and to sample some fabulous coffee. This gorgeous Colombian pueblo has palm trees in the main town square and is one of the oldest Quindio province towns, with some original cobble-stoned streets here from when it was founded in 1850.

It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage location since 2011 when this area of the province was named a Coffee Cultural Landscape. 

Just a 25-minute jeep ride away from the center of town is one of the best things to do in Salentovisiting the Cocora Valley, where you’ll find the 18-meter-high wax palms for which the valley is famous. 

There’s an easy way to get to see the palm and an adventurous way (hiking), anyway, it’s a Colombia bucket list for sure. The hiking is incredible here, and a 7-mile loop trail through the palm trees will take you to the cloud forest, up 2840 meters to Finca Montaña, and then down to a spectacular view.

If you don’t want to hike you can just enjoy the views from where the jeep drops you off and stroll around the area.

Don’t miss the wild hummingbirds near the Casa Colibri, a lovely accompaniment to breakfast.

The other top thing to do in Salento is to take a coffee tour, there are several famous coffee fincas here, with the Plantation House Salento being a great option.  You’ll not only visit coffee plants, but learn about the process, and most importantly taste the end product.

Salento is easy to reach – there’s a bus from Medellin for which you can book your ticket online. If you’re coming from Jardin, take a bus to Rio Sucio, and then one to Salento – neither bus is bookable online, you just have to turn up with cash.

Paloquemao Fruit Market, Bogota

Paloquemao Fruit Market

By Gladis of Happiness on the Way

Visiting Paloquemao Fruit Market, Bogota’s largest local farmers’ market, is one of the unique things you can do in Bogota. This bustling market is a unique tapestry of colors, flavors, and culture that offers an authentic Colombian experience.

In Paloquemao, you’ll have a chance to explore various local and exotic fruits. You can discover exotic fruits like lulo, guanabana, and maracuyá, each with a distinct flavor. You’ll be captivated by the kaleidoscope of colors and fragrances while strolling through the market’s vibrant alleys.

But Paloquemao is more than just a feast for the senses; it’s a chance to engage with locals. Strike up a conversation with the friendly vendors, and you’ll learn about the origin of these fruits and where they’re exported.

Don’t miss the chance to savor fresh fruit juices extracted right before your eyes. The taste is unparalleled, as the fruits are as fresh as can be. And when it comes to coffee, Colombia is renowned for producing some of the world’s finest beans. Treat yourself to freshly brewed Colombian coffee and savor the rich, aromatic flavors.

Beyond fruits, vegetables, and coffee, Paloquemao Market is also a paradise for flower enthusiasts. You can purchase the most exquisite and freshest blooms, adding a burst of color and fragrance to your visit.

To make the most of your trip to Paloquemao, arrive early in the morning to catch the market at its liveliest, and bring some Colombian pesos. To get to Paloquemao, take a taxi, use a ride-sharing app, or hop off at Estación Paloquemao Transmilenio.

Paloquemao Fruit Market is not just a market; it’s an immersion into Colombian culture, a sensory delight, and an opportunity to connect with the heart and soul of this vibrant country. So, when you’re in Bogotá, put this extraordinary place on your must-visit list.

Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas

Beach in La Guajira, Colombia

By Pati of Pati’s Journey Within

Visiting Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas is still a pretty unique thing to do in Colombia mostly due to how remote and how full of contrasts this area is. La Guajira is one of the most extreme parts of Colombia. It is at the same time extremely beautiful and extremely disadvantaged. And yet it is one of the most incredible Colombian adventures you could take.

Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas are like no other place you will ever visit. Cabo de la Vela has the most beautiful coastline and is a paradise for kitesurfers. Punta Gallinas is the northernmost point of the Colombian mainland and South America. With breathtaking landscapes, turquoise sea, sand dunes, and a vast desert – La Guajira is truly spectacular.

La Guajira is home to the indigenous Wayuu people, who are some of the most resistant people of South America yet some of the poorest people in South America. The Wayuu have inhabited the harsh environment of the La Guajira desert for centuries. They lived off the land, made handicrafts, and passed on all their knowledge

It is recommended to take an organized 3-day tour to see both Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas. The agency organizes the accommodation, meals, and transport, but most importantly it ensures the safety of the trip. You will stay overnight in one of the rancherias and sleep in the traditional hammock, which is surprisingly comfortable.

During the day you drive through the desert in an off-road vehicle and visit some of the most beautiful yet deserted beaches in Colombia. This trip is simply magical.

The best place to start the trip is either Riohacha or Palomino. There is also the option of starting from Santa Marta, but given the length of the drive, this is not recommended.

Capurgana and Sapzurro

By Daniela of Unique Universe

Capurgana and Sapzurro offer a unique blend of breathtaking natural scenery, exotic wildlife, and cultural influences from Colombia and Panama. If you want to get away from the crowds and explore somewhere different, this destination should be at the top of your list.

These two small towns, located on the Colombian Caribbean border with Panama, are partially only accessible by boat. But don’t let their remote locations fool you—there are plenty of great activities here. Unspoiled beaches, lush jungle scenery, exotic wildlife, and a unique cultural mix await you! 

The lush jungle scenery surrounding the beaches is also home to various unique flora and fauna, and we loved discovering the area. We enjoyed exploring the area by boat down the Atrato River, hiking through the jungle, or visiting the nearby San Blas Islands.

The most popular activity is the jungle hike between the two towns. The scenery is breathtaking, and you can dip in one of the natural swimming holes along the way. 

If you’re looking for something more relaxing, take a boat ride or a much shorter hike to the beachfront village of La Miel in Panama. Several smaller beaches can only be accessed by boat or foot. 

So pack your bags, get off the beaten track, and start exploring all that Capurgana and Sapzurro offer!

The easiest way to get to Capurgana and Sapzurro is by boat. The towns are accessible from the mainland port of Turbo or Necocli, which is located about three hours southwest of Medellin. The boat ride may be rough and boats leave only early in the morning. So most likely you will have to spend a night in Necocli, a charming beach town. 

San Basilio de Palenque

Palenque, Colombia

By Kristin of Growing Global Citizens

If you are a traveler who is interested in history or Afro-Latino culture, you can’t miss San Basilio de Palenque, a UNESCO-recognized site. This town was formed in 1603 by formerly enslaved Africans who had been able to run away from their captors in Cartagena. Over the years it developed its own unique culture based on African traditions, many of which are still practiced today.

Visiting Palenque is an easy day trip from Cartagena. You’ll need to go with a guided tour, which will pick you up and drive you the 60-90 minutes it takes to get to Palenque, depending on traffic. 

Once in the town, you’ll be taken to a number of different sights including meeting a medicine man and learning traditional healing practices, seeing champeta dance, and jumping in a boxing ring to learn about Palenque native Kid Pambelé, the best boxer in the history of Colombia. 

You’ll also get to learn a bit of the Palenquero language, see gorgeous street art and, if you are lucky, try some African drumming.

Your tour will likely include a simple but tasty lunch at the house of a community member and the chance to shop for local snacks and souvenirs before you leave. 

Palenque’s history makes it an off-the-beaten-path site that provides a unique experience.

Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park

By Claire of Tales of a Backpacker

Tayrona National Park on Colombia’s Caribbean coast is one of the best places to visit in Colombia, an incredible place covering around 150 km2 of land and 30 km2 of ocean habitat. Here you can explore lush rainforests, enjoy beautiful beaches, and learn more about the indigenous culture of the region.   

The main entrance to the park is at El Zaíno. There are shuttles that run from Santa Marta to El Zaíno and other stops along the coast like Palamino.  From the entrance, you’ll need to hike for around 2 hours to get to the best beaches.  You can also take a boat from Taganga but the journey can be very rough! 

While you could visit Tayrona on a day trip, I’d recommend spending at least a night or two here to enjoy the beaches after the day trippers have gone. There is a variety of accommodation in Tayrona National Park, from luxury ecohabs to camping and sleeping in a hammock so you’ll find something to suit every budget. 

Cabo San Juan del Guia is the most popular beach to camp and swim – some of the beaches in Tayrona have dangerous currents so pay attention to the signage to stay safe while in the water. 

Away from the beach, take the time to explore some of the hiking trails in the park, keeping a lookout for animals like the endangered cotton-top tamarin, as well as howler monkeys, bats, birds, butterflies, and a host of other creatures. 

Indigenous people still live in Tayrona National Park, and you may well see them on the hiking trails. You can also hike to El Pueblito, a settlement deep in the jungle where some of the Kogi people live.

Guatape

Guatepe is one of the most unique places to visit in Colombia thanks to its colorful buildings, beautiful lake, and the famous Piedra del Peñol. Located in Antioquia near Medellín, it’s a must-see in the area.

You can visit as a day trip from Medellín. If you don’t have a car take the bus to the rock then you can either take a cab or catch a bus to the town center. You can also book a guided tour or plan to spend a few nights there.

The main thing to do there is to climb the 740 steps leading to the top of Piedra del Peñol, a giant granite rock formation. From there you’ll get stunning views over the lake and small islands. At the bottom, you’ll find several shops and restaurants.

Don’t miss the picturesque town known for its colorful houses, paved streets, and wooden bas-reliefs. Stroll around starting at the main plaza and just get lost in the small streets.

Another great thing to do there is to rent a kayak and explore the waterways, go with a local guide to see all the top spots! There are plenty of other watersports you can do as well, like jet skiing, wakeboarding, and flyboarding.

You’ll also find several nice hikes leading to villages, caves, coffee farms, and waterfalls. Look on Maps.Me for the trails or go on a group excursion.

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Unique Places to Visit in Colombia