Colombia is a country located in the northern part of South America known for its rich culture and world-famous coffee. Colombia has an extremely diverse terrain. Depending on the region, you will find cosmopolitan cities, rainforests, mountains, and beautiful beaches.
This country is flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. The Caribbean coastline is where you will find some of Colombia’s best beaches.
Colombia has successfully emerged from the umbrella of a tumultuous past. We’ve all seen the movies and TV shows that have sensationalized the drug cartels that ruled over most of Colombia from the 1970s to the 1990s. Travel to this country is relatively new but Colombia is quickly rising to the top of everyone’s bucket list. It has emerged as one of the top countries to visit when exploring South America.
Here are the top three cities to visit in Colombia.
Bogotá is not only Colombia’s capital, but also the largest city in the country. It is the financial hub of Colombia. This city is a blend of old colonial architecture, green hills, and modern buildings. The eastern border of Bogotá is lined by the Andes Mountains. This combination gives the city of Bogotá and interesting and unique landscape.
The climate of this city is usually overcast and a bit cool. The temperature is usually somewhere in the 60’s and the seasons are separated by a dry and rainy season. The rainy season is between March and December. The dry season is between January and March.
Most of the international travel into Colombia begins in the capital city of Bogotá. This is the perfect city to begin your exploration of Colombia.
Things To See
Start your exploration off in the La Candelaria district of Bogotá. This neighborhood is in the historical downtown center of the city and is where you will find most of the main attractions. La Candelaria is the oldest neighborhood in Bogotá. Here you will find cobblestone streets, Spanish colonial-era buildings, and centuries-old churches.
La Candelaria is also where you can explore some of Bogotá’s many museums. Visit the Botero Museum where you will find the works of Colombia’s most famous and world-renowned artist, Fernando Botero. In this district, you will also find the Gold Museum. This is the most popular museum in Colombia where you will find the largest collection of gold artifacts in the world.
Monserrate is a mountain, 10,000 feet high, that towers over the city of Bogotá. This mountain was considered to be a holy place for the indigenous people of Colombia and is now a popular tourist destination.
You can access the mountain by the Monserrate cable car which is an attraction in itself. This cable car allows you a beautiful view of the hills and city below. Once at the top of the mountain, you will find a 17th-century church, tourist shops, restaurants, and a panoramic view of Bogotá.
Day Trip to the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá
The Salt Cathedral in the city of Zipaquirá is only an hour away from Bogotá. This Roman Cathedral was built in the salt mines 660ft underground. The Cathedral is still in use and only accessible to tourist Monday-Saturday. Sundays are reserved for Church services.
The church is built into the tunnels and caves that were left behind by the salt miners. The temple is separated by three different tunnels, each representing the birth, death, and the life of Jesus Christ. This church is a fascinating architectural gem where you will find religious emblems and symbols etched directly into the rock.
You will most likely be flying into Bogota which is serviced by the El Dorado International Airport. There is a bus that leaves from the airport to the city center. You can also a Bogota airport taxi or an Uber which will have you in the city within 35 minutes.
Most of the major attractions are within walking distance of where most tourists stay. Uber is the best and safest way of traveling around Bogota. It is dangerous for tourists to flag down random taxis. It is recommended that if you need to call a cab, you use a reputable taxi service.
Medellín is Colombia’s second-largest metropolitan city. Medellín is a beautiful, cosmopolitan city that has great weather and is sometimes referred to as “the city of eternal spring” The weather in Medellín doesn’t really vary throughout the year. The temperature does not drop below 58ºf or rise above 81ºf during the course of the year.
Medellín has attracted one of the largest ex-pat communities in the world. Many young digital nomads come to live in this city due to it’s great weather, modern society, great culture, amazing nightlife, and low cost of living.
Things To See
Take a walk through the Plaza Botero where you will find 23 bronze sculptures created by Colombia’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero. Fernando Botero is a painter and sculptor who was born in Medellín, Colombia in the year 1932. He is by far the most famous artist born in Latin America. You will find his sculptures in major cities across the globe.
Lleras Park is a square located in the Zona Rosa neighborhood of Medellín. The park is a well-known tourist destination and a gathering place for many of the visitors and ex-pats living in Medellín. The square is surrounded by cafes, bars, and restaurants. Zona Rosa is also considered to be the main destination for nightlife in Medellín.
Take a break from the bustling cityscape of Medellín and spend some time at Jardín Botanico. Jardín Botanico is a 34-acre botanical garden and park.
The gardens are where you can go to see several hundred different species of plants and flowers native to the land. Walking through these beautiful gardens you will also encounter wild iguanas, parrots, and turtles. The botanical gardens also have a lake, a butterfly house, a tropical forest, as well as other exhibits. You can also enjoy lunch at one of the garden’s restaurants or cafes.
Medellíns Metro Cable Cars
One of the major appeals of Medellín, especially for the ex-pat community is the modern mass transportation system available. Medellín has a metro system that includes 27 metro stations, 15 metro cable stations, 3 tramway stations as well as bus lines.
Unlike some other tourist locations, the Medellín metro cables were not designed for tourism. These cable cars were designed to transport residents to some of the steeper areas of the city. However, cable cars are a major draw for tourists. Riding the cable cars, you get a spectacular bird’s eye view of the rich, green city of Medellín.
Medellín is serviced by the Medellín Jose Marie Cordova Airport. If arriving by plane, the easiest way into the city is the Aeropuerto airport buses. Buses run until the last flight of the day and will have you in the city in 25 minutes. You can also take one of the official taxi cabs from the airport or you can use Uber.
Getting around the city is extremely easy. As I’ve mentioned above the city of Medellín has an extensive public transportation system including trains, trams, cable cars, and buses.
The beautiful city of Cartagena is Colombia’s number one tourist destination. Colonized by Spain in the 1500s, the city of Cartagena sits in the far north section of the country and is bordered by the Caribbean Sea. The location of Cartagena was a draw for Spanish colonizers that used this port city to transport goods by sea during the colonial-era.
The city of Cartagena is a fascinating gem that has maintained many of its historic houses and buildings from the colonial-era.
This city is a tropical location, so the temperature is separated by a rainy and a dry season. Otherwise, the temperature is usually somewhere between 76ºF and 88ºF, which makes this city the perfect vacation spot to visit year-round.
Things to See
The Walled City
The Walled City of Cartagena is a historic area that is enclosed by a fortress built in the 16th century. It was designed to protect the city from pirating and invasions. The preservation of this walled city has earned it a place on the list of Unesco World Heritage sites.
Stepping into the walled city is like taking a step back in time. The 500 year old fort, made from stone, surrounds the city. Once inside you will find beautiful old colorful houses and narrow winding streets. This is also a trendy area where you will find cute little plazas, boutique hotels, shops, and restaurants.
Plaza Santo Domingo
Experience the taste of Cartagena and enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants surrounding the most popular square in Cartagena.
Plaza Santo Domingo is named for the 16th-century church that sits on one corner of the square. In the center of the square is another one of Fernando Botero’s large sculptures. The architecture surrounding the square are quaint Spanish colonial-era building with intricate balconies. Take a stroll or enjoy a meal while listening to the street musicians and enjoying the lively scene.
Playa Blanca Beach
Although Cartagena is on the Caribbean coast it isn’t necessarily considered a great beach destination. There are some beaches nearby but if you want to experience that turquoise blue water and white sandy beaches that we associate with the Caribbean Sea, then you want to take a short day trip to Playa Blanca beach, on the beautiful island of Isla Baru.
Playa Blanca Beach is only about an hour’s drive away. There are buses and tours that will get you there, but the best way to and from the beach is by ferry or speedboat. The ferry will take about two hours and it’s about 45 minutes by speedboat.
This beach has miles of beautiful white sand beaches and beautiful clear water. There are also plenty of vendors offering jet ski rentals and other water sports.
Cartagena is serviced by the Rafael Núñez International Airport. You can get to the city center with one of the Cartagena airport taxis or with Uber. Cartagena is not very big and you will most likely end up walking to most of the tourist sites. Otherwise, you will need to take a taxi or call an Uber.