Colombia… a guide to the country
A country full of history, leafy national parks and all-round charm, here is our guide to the many attractions of Colombia.
Bogotá, the charismatic capital
Bogotá, the fascinating capital of Colombia, is home to the superb Gold Museum, with the world’s most complete collection of ancient gold artefacts. The historic Candelaria district has colonial heritage and a cable car climbs up the Monserrat Hill for panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountains. At Zipaquirá, an amazing cathedral is built inside an old salt mine, while further north see the Guatavita lake, a famous sacred site of the pre-Columbian Muisca people and part of the El Dorado myth.
Villa de Leyva, a colonial city
Villa de Leyva, a 3.5-hour drive from Bogotá, is one of Colombia’s finest colonial towns with a beautiful main square and cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses. Nearby attractions include a museum with a 120-million-year-old kronosaurus fossil, the remains of a Muisca astronomical observatory, the superbly preserved colonial-era Santo Ecce Homo convent and the artisan village of Raquira.
The charm of the Coffee Country
Tucked in the mountains of central Colombia, the rolling slopes of the coffee region are dotted with numerous coffee plantations and picturesque villages. The cloudforest of Los Nevados National Park is home to hummingbirds and orchids, while native wax palm trees, the tallest in the world, grow in the verdant Cocora valley. It is possible to relax in a delightful hacienda (converted country house) and learn about the production of high quality coffee beans at a local plantation.
The historic Cartagena de Indias
The colourful Caribbean port of Cartagena is a true colonial gem and one of the most beautiful. The Unesco protected walled city enchants visitors with its well-preserved colonial architecture. Old Spanish fortifications, historic convents, winding narrow streets, stunning mansions with overhanging flower-filled balconies and small plazas are best explored on foot. Stays in charming boutique hotels can be arranged as well as day trips to the nearby Rosario Islands with clear waters and coral reefs.
Santa Marta & Tayrona National Park
The oldest town in Colombia, the coastal city of Santa Marta lies a 4-hour drive from Cartagena and has faded colonial architecture, lively nightlife and nearby sandy beaches. However, just a 1-hour away by road is the real draw: the wild and rugged Tayrona National Park, where the lush slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains meet the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. This beautiful park features untouched rainforest, home to spider monkeys, red squirrels and numerous birds, pre-Columbian Tayrona civilisation sites and unspoiled palm-fringed beaches. The attractive wooden bungalows of Ecohabs all have sea views and offer a relaxing end to a holiday.
Medellín, and its cosmopolitan centre
Medellín, in the fertile Aburra valley in the central Andean highlands, is known as the ‘City of the Eternal Spring’ due to its year-round warm weather. The troubled years of the 1980s and 90s are long gone and today it is a safe, stylish and cosmopolitan city, and a shining example of social transformation and urban regeneration. Stroll through leafy sculpture filled parks, travel on the pioneering public transportation network with modern urban trains and cable cars, discover the vibrant cultural and artistic scene, and enjoy a wide range of elegant restaurants, upmarket bars, shops and galleries.
The ruins of San Agustín
San Agustín is located in south-western Colombia, between the central and eastern cordillera mountain ranges. Reached by road from the city of Neiva, and surrounded by rolling green hills, the pleasant little town is the base to explore the nearby pre-Columbian ruins of the San Agustín Archaeological Park, as well as smaller sites such as Alto de los Ídolos and Alto de las Piedras, and the splendid scenery of the Magdalena river gorges. The ancient, mysterious and elaborate ceremonial sites here feature huge carved stones, burial tombs and impressive statues.
Treasures of Colombia travels from Andean peaks to tropical Caribbean coastlines, taking in coffee plantations, the excellent Gold Museum, and beautiful colonial cities. Find out more >