Colombia is one of those countries that seems so intriguing to me. Perched at the very northern tip of South America, it’s really started to pique my interest in wanting to visit. That being said, most of my knowledge of Colombia has been centred around Medellin and Bogota… until now.
We recently got chatting to Thomas all about Colombia which, after his epic travels across the country, made me want to visit even more. As with any new and exciting place to visit, it’s often the usual suspects that spring to mind; the beaches, the jungle, more beaches and possibly even a little trip to Bogota.
Thankfully, he made me realise quite how much more there is to Colombia, as long as you’re willing to scratch the surface. That’s why we were so excited to share his wealth of experience in travelling in Colombia.
Take a look at 10 of the best towns you need to visit on your trip to Colombia.
Capurgana is a Colombian town surrounded by the Darien Gap and the Caribbean sea. It’s the perfect place to stroll down the streets, grab a freshly squeezed juice and take a quick dip in the ocean (all before breakfast). Once you’re fully awake, you can choose between the different activities to do around the area. A trip to The Diana Waterfall or Avocado Bay? Snorkelling or diving to observe the sea life? A napping session in your favourite hammock?
The vibe of Capurgana is just so relaxed. You won’t find any car except the occasional muddy tractor. Make sure to enjoy the Vallenato music you’re almost guaranteed to hear and, of course, learn to play dominos.
How to get there: By boat from Necocli or Turbo – Around 2 hours | Sometimes it can be a little bumpy, be ready to ride like a Cowboy during the windy season. 🤣
Sapzurro is an idyllic little place to spend some quiet time and totally chill out. It’s actually Capurgana twin sister and the last village in Colombia (before reaching Panama).
Spend your days immersed in your favourite book (on the beach or in a hammock, of course) or enjoy a few drinks on the bay. If you’re looking for a little workout, you can go to La Miel in Panama (about 400 metres away) – There are looooooads of steps to climb!
Also, to celebrate my first article on HandLugaggeOnly, I’m willing to give you a delicious secret. Once in Sapzurro, ask for Chila. You will LOVE her homemade ice cream it’s delicious.
How to get there: Take a speedboat from Capurgana – 10 min
3.) Cabo de la Vela
With a strong wind and a vast beach, Cabo de la Vela is the perfect spot for kitesurfers and windsurfers.
Living there is quite an unusual experience because the Colombian town is located in the desert of La Guajira and often somewhat isolated in terms of consistent power or water… just lean into this and you’ll love Cabo de la Vela. Be prepared to take quite a few bucket showers (yes, they are a thing) but what the town lacks in bath-tubs, it makes up with in yummy plantains and mountains of fresh fish.
The town is also the best place to start a trip to Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point of Colombia. Oh yes, the sunsets of the town are pretty amazing too
How to get there: With a 4*4 from Uribia or 4 Vias – Around 2-3 hours
For many Colombians, it’s the most beautiful colonial town in Colombia. it’s also much less chaotic than other towns and I can totally understand why Barichara seduces so many visitors.
White walls, perfect cobblestones streets, red/orange churches and secret patios. It’s a quiet place with lovely squares. Don’t miss the viewpoint on the canyon and the Suarez river at Parque para las Artes.
For the bravest of visitors, you can try a food speciality. It’s an insect living in the ground, and there are billions of them on earth. Yes, you can eat grilled ANTS!! Funny fact, they are called ‘Hormigas culonas’ because they have a rather large bottom. 🤣 🐜
How to get there: Take a bus from the Terminalito in San Gil. 20 min
5.) Villa de Leyva
Do you plan to get to San Gil by bus from Bogota? If it’s the case, you should stop in Villa de Leyva.
In my opinion, it’s a more authentic place than Barichara. Streets are not perfectly flat, and people are drinking a beer or aguardiente (local beverage) at dusk on the main square.
Explore the Paramo de Iguaque or discover the countryside with a little local bus in the direction of la Periquera (Waterfalls) or Raquira to visit the market on Sundays (or the monastery).
Make sure you also see the Casa Terracotta House that’s been built by Octavio Mendoza. It’s out of this world!
And don’t forget to try their delicious bread and chocolate – Yeah I’m French, so I’m walking every day with a loaf of bread and bottle of wine in my backpack. #StereotypeAreSometimesTrue 🥖 🇫🇷
How to get there: Take the bus at North Satellite Terminal in Bogota – Around 4 hours
Mongui is a lovely colonial town with cobblestone streets, white walls, many national monuments and quiet and lovely atmosphere. What you might not know id that Mongui is also famous for two other reasons.
First, It’s well known for the production of homemade leather footballs. You can buy one as a souvenir and visit the different factories. Football is an essential part of the Colombian culture, so don’t be surprised if you end up watching or playing a game or two! ⚽️
And by visiting Mogui, you also have access to the Paramo de Oceta, It’s one of the most beautiful paramos in the world. Paramo is an ecosystem between the forest line and the snowline and is truly beautiful.
How to get there: Take a bus from Sogamoso – Around 1 hour
It’s a famous day trip from Medellin, and it’s simple to do by yourself. You tricky planning is needed.
Wander between the colourful streets in Guatape with a delicious fruit juice in your hand. Once you’re a little tired, find a local restaurant and try a typical Colombian meal. Interested in an Ajiaco or a Bandeja paisa?
After that, you can hang out near the beautiful lake. Maybe a boat ride could help you to digest your lunch.
After spending the day on the lake, grab a tuk-tuk and go in the direction of El Peñol. It’s a huge granitic rock with an astonishing 360-degree view at the top. However, you have to climb the 750 stairs first if you want to enjoy it. Best pack those comfy shoes!
How to get there: Take a bus from Bogota – Around 2 hours
Jerico became a famous religious stop after Sister Laura Montoya, a “Jericoana,” was declared a Saint-Colombia’s first. Don’t hesitate to stop there if you’re going south to Salento.
It’s a small village surrounded by green mountains, with a massive Cathedral on the main square. I’m always impressed how these monuments are enormous in comparison to the houses around. It’s typical from the Colombian colonial town, especially in the department of Antioquia. One of my favourites.
There are different viewpoints to admire the city from. The best one is from Parque de Los Nubes. I recommend you arrive early in the morning if you want to have a clear view, it really is a gorgeous time to arrive. If you want to step away from hotel life, it’s even possible to camp for free here, something I’m itching to do when I visit again.
How to get there: Take a bus from Medellin – Around 3 hours
I’m a big fan of Jardin. It’s a popular spot but not as much in comparison with Barichara or Guatape.
There is a big coffee culture in Jardin that is amazing at breakfast. Their coffee is the best! The inhabitants can spend the day in the main square with a coffee cup in their hand, a cowboy hat to protect their eyes from the sun or the (occasional) shower. You should drink one at Cafe Macanas for sure. ☕️
For a more adventurous day, you can horse-ride outside the town to discover the coffee plantations and waterfalls or take the old school cable car made from wood. It’s also the best place to observe the bird Cock of the Rock.
And I have to tell you something; I ate the best trout of my life at the restaurant l’Argelia. If you get a chance, head here for great seafood! 🐟
How to get there: Take a bus from Medellin – Around 3-4 hours
There are coffee farms across all of Colombia, but most of the growers are in a region called the Coffee Triangle, with Salento being a part of it.
The town of Salento is similar to Jardin and Guatape. All the houses are made with white walls and colourful wood roofs and doors. Take the main street in the direction of the Mirador. You will be surrounded by gorgeous little shops, local restaurants and Tejo – Colombian game you should definitely see.
If coffee really is your thing you’ve come to the right place. There are many choices of tours that I guarantee will suit every budget. It will depend on the duration of the visit, the spoken language and the number of degustations. If you’re looking for a full experience, I recommend you Ocaso farm.
Top tip to remember: Salento is not only famous for its coffee or colourful streets. You can also explore the Valle de Cocora, a surrealistic landscape where the tallest wax palms in the world (up to 60 m) are growing.
Where to choose
In the end, It’s totally fine if you don’t visit all these spots during your time in Colombia. I guess most of you are travelling to share experiences and memories. You’ll find friendly Colombians people everywhere (I promise). Whether you’re looking for a little slice of luxury, finding a place on Airbnb or backpacking Colombia, the whole country is an exceptional place to explore. You’re going to love it!
During his globetrotting trip, Thomas fell head over heels for Colombia and quickly realised that lots of the information about the country is either missing or not quite accurate for us travellers. Thomas then started his epic blog, Tomplanmytrip to help all travellers to discover the secrets of Colombia.