As I’ve said before, I don’t always know where I’m going – or indeed, how long I’ll be there. So, for me at least, it’s always a good idea to have some outline of the country’s highlights before I set off on another adventure.
And one of the places on a lot of people’s ‘to go’ list is Colombia. After all, it’s the second happiest place in the world, according to Gallup. Boasting diverse, and equally brilliant attractions, it’s not hard to see why – the Amazon jungle, Andean peaks and beaches to rival the world’s best, to name just some.
What is hard though, is narrowing down the places on offer to ‘must-sees’. But I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, so here goes:
Take a short trip to Monkey Island
A playful start, Isla de los Micos (Monkey Island) is home to around 5,000 primates. They will jump all over you trying to get some food, but it makes for great photos.
Reach the summit of El Peñon
If it’s great photos you’re after, there are few better spots than El Peñon. This huge stone rises 650 feet above Guatape and can be climbed via a 649-step staircase wedged into a gaping crack in the rock.
What awaits you at the summit is a three-story viewing tower (yet more stairs), typical souvenir stands and some of Latin America’s best views.
It’s worth dedicating time to take it all in – or to take a nap, as some visitors suggest.
Visit the Lost City
Assuming you’re refreshed, set high in the hills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range is Ciudad Perdida. The only way to reach it is to hike.
Better known as Colombia’s Lost City, it was built in the 11th century by the Tayrona people. Although it was only rediscovered in the 1970s, there are a number of five-day treks and guides available from the coastal town of Santa Marta.
Best hurry up though. Secret Traveller mention the Lost City in their top 8 destinations no one knows about, so if you felt late to the game visiting Machu Picchu in Peru, now’s the time to visit the Lost City to beat the tourist rush.
Spend time in and around Cartagena
If hiking isn’t for you, the city of Cartagena boasts a historic old town – a Unesco World Heritage site, that’s enclosed within 6.8 miles of stone walls. A little friendlier on the feet.
There’s a beach too and the beautiful shores of Isla de Barú and Islas del Rosario (great for scuba diving amongst coral reefs) are reachable by boat.
Not content with all of this? Close to Cartagena is El Totumo – a mud volcano, popular for its mineral-rich ‘healing’ mud. It’s supposedly the best way to get dirty in Colombia.
Fly in San Gil
Billed as Colombia’s adventure capital, San Gil makes it onto the list for its tandem flights and paragliding courses. Flights over the Chicamocha Canyon aren’t cheap, but you get around 45 minutes in the air and the pilots will do aerobatics – if your stomach can handle it.
It’s not the best place to learn to fly solo in Colombia, however. This accolade probably falls to Bucaramanga.
Wake up and smell the coffee
Now this isn’t an attraction as such. But it’s something you can’t skip out on when visiting because, of course, Colombia is known worldwide for its coffee.
You can go on tours for several days to learn all about the planting, harvesting and roasting processes. But if your budget is a bit tighter, this blogger has documented all she learnt from a tour in the coffee region of Salento. You can then pick up your 100% Colombian coffee hit from street vendors at as little as 6p a time.
It’s not often you get to see everything you hoped to. Journeys throw you curve balls, just as life does, and sometimes it’s these smaller treats that stick with you the most!
Finally, there’s no doubt that I’ve missed some of Colombia’s many highlights, so please add what makes it to the top of your Colombia must-see list in the comments below. Hopefully you’ll be heading there one day soon and can report back.