Thinking about traveling to Colombia and wondering if it is worth visiting? After having lived in Colombia and traveled throughout a majority of the country, I can say that it is one hundred percent worth visiting not only for its beauty but also its kind people, incredible hikes, fascinating history and so much more.
Is Colombia Worth Visiting in 2023?
A couple of years ago I packed up my things and moved myself to Colombia to teach English. Unfortunately a majority of the teachers went on strike about halfway through my year, but this gave me the chance to travel and visit loads of amazing places around the country.
Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, warm and welcoming locals, historic sites or breathtaking views, Colombia is the perfect place to live or travel, and it is definitely worth visiting.
What made Colombia worth visiting to me was the absolutely beautiful nature of this South American country.
I fell in love with hiking during my time here after making it up to a glacier, through a palm tree valley, up to a river with mountains and waterfalls surrounding it, down to a double waterfall, through the countryside to natural hot springs and through a jungle with monkeys in the trees.
The Best Things To Do In Colombia That Make It Worth Visiting
Colombia is full of incredible views, adorable towns and great active things to do, but below are a few of the best things to do while in this wonderful South American country.
If you’re looking to travel to more than just the big cities, check out our other post on the 15 Most Beautiful Places In Colombia where you can also find things to do in each of these towns.
1. Take A Hike Through The Valle del Cocora In Salento
Salento is one of the cutest small towns in Colombia with some of the most beautiful surrounding nature in the whole country.
The hike through the Valle del Cocora and the Bosque de Las Palmas is strenuous and hard, but one of the most rewarding hikes with outstanding views. I went counterclockwise on this AllTrails loop and was blown away by the view at Finca la Montaña.
It can easily be reached and done on your own and through the bus systems, but for an easier and simpler experience (especially if you don’t speak Spanish) a tour would be your best option.
➡️ For a Cocora Valley Hiking Tour with Pickup around the Coffee Region, we recommend booking your tour here with Gran Colombia Tours.
2. Climb The Steps of Piedra del Peñol In Guatapé
Guatapé is located about two hours outside of Medellín and is one of the most popular day trip destinations from the city.
The most popular thing to do in Guatapé is to climb the more than 700 zig zagging steps up to the top of Piedra del Peñol. At the top you’ll have 360 degree views of Guatapé and the surrounding lake.
Guatapé can be reached by bus from Medellín and you can tour the rock and the town on your own but again if you don’t speak Spanish and want the easiest experience, a tour will be your best, stress free option.
➡️ For a full day Guatapé Tour from Medellín, we recommend booking your tour here with Tours Guatape.
3. Descend Into A Salt Mine At The Catedral de Sal In Zipaquirá
Located a little more than an hour north of Bogotá, the Catedral de Sal is literally a cathedral inside of a salt mine (if you’re claustrophobic, this one might not be for you).
Traffic through Bogotá is pretty horrendous and tends to take a lot longer than the estimated time. Busses do run between Bogotá city and the town of Zipaquirá but a guided tour might be a quicker and mush less stressful option for visiting the Salt Cathedral.
➡️ For a Salt Cathedral and Guatavita Lagoon Tour from Bogotá, we recommend booking your tour here with Transfers & Tours Colombia.
4. Mountain Bike Through The Colonial City Of Villa de Leyva
Visiting the small town of Villa de Leyva, about three hours north of Bogotá, will feel like stepping back into Colonial times. The beautiful cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings make this on of the most charming towns in Colombia.
I rented a mountain bike once I was in town and took it to explore the surrounding area. My favorite was riding up the mountain and visiting the Santo Ecce Homo Monastery that was built in 1620.
5. Play The Typical Colombian Game Of Tejo In Bogotá
The most Colombian thing you could do while visiting this South American country is playing the game of Tejo. It is kind of like the game of cornhole but much more explosive with targets made out of gunpowder.
Generally you get to play Tejo for free by buying beer (whether you drink it or not), and you can find places to play Tejo all over the country. It is best to go with a group (preferably with Spanish speakers) but there are also tours available to make things easier and less awkward.
➡️ For a guided Tejo Tour in Bogotá, we recommend booking your tour here with Gran Colombia Tours.
Where To Stay In Colombia in 2023
Colombia has loads of great cities and towns to visit which makes it a little difficult to decide where you should visit.
Our number one destination recommendation in Colombia is the Coffee Region, but Bogotá and Medellín are also must sees in this country, and Cali is a popular salsa destination as well. If you have the time to venture further, Villa de Leyva is another great town to add to your Colombia itinerary.
We also suggest sticking with hotels over Airbnb’s in Colombia unless you’re able to find a very highly rated and reputable rental option.
➡️ For a list of hotel options in Medellín, we recommend booking your hotel here with Booking.com and clicking the map to search in the best areas.
Bogotá is the capital and largest city in Colombia, which makes it one of the less safe cities in the country but one that is definitely still worth visiting. Traffic is also pretty bad here so choosing the right location is important for safety and convenience.
Being the largest city in Colombia, Bogotá has lots of great activities, awesome day trips, and a good number of healthy, allergy friendly, and vegan places to eat.
I stayed in the Usaquén area at Hotel Estelar La Fontana as well as the Courtyard by Marriott Bogota Airport and loved them both except for the longer distance to the Centro. Other good areas include Zona Rosa, La Candelaria, Chapinero, and La Macarena.
➡️ For a list of hotel options in Bogotá, we recommend booking your hotel here with Booking.com and clicking the map to search in the best areas.
📍 Pereira (Coffee Region)
Pereira is the best base city to explore the Coffee Region and towns like Salento, Filandia, Santa Rosa de Cabal, Manizales and even Cali. All of these can be explored on day trips but you may want to spend more time in each of them.
I lived in Dosquebradas (across the bridge from the main part of Pereira) which is a nice and cheap area to stay. You can easily get on the Santa Rosa de Cabal bus (heading southwest on Carrera 16, not north) and take it all the way to the end at the transportation center where you can find other busses to other cities and towns.
Two other nice areas to stay in Pereira include the City Center and Circunvalar.
➡️ For a list of hotel options in Pereira, we recommend booking your hotel here with Booking.com and clicking the map to search in the best areas.
📍 Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is a very small town so staying anywhere near the main square is the best option here. It’s one of the towns in Colombia that takes a little more effort to get to, but Villa de Leyva is charming, beautiful, and well worth visiting.
➡️ For a list of hotel options in Villa de Leyva, we recommend booking your hotel here with Booking.com.
How To Get Around Colombia?
Getting around Colombia is very easy within the major cities as well as getting from city to city. The best options for transportation will depend on the amount of time you have to visit and your desired destinations, but below are a few ways you can get around Colombia.
🚌 Public Transportation: The bus system in Colombia is one of the easiest, cheapest and most popular ways to get around cities and from city to city. This is your best option for traveling to the smaller towns that don’t have airports.
🚙 Uber: Uber is a better option than taxi’s in Colombia but because of their rivalry with the taxi drivers, there are some details and safety tips you should know about using Uber in Colombia.
✈️ Plane: If you don’t have much time in Colombia, flying between the bigger cities will be your best option. Avianca is the most popular airline in the country.
🚉 Metro: Bigger cities like Bogotá and Medellín have a metro system that is generally both safe and cheap.
Is Colombia Safe For Travelers?
Despite its troubled past, I found Colombia to be a very safe place to travel even as a solo female traveler. Of course there are certain precautions you should take like you would anywhere in the world, but Colombia is generally a safe place for travelers.
Safety Tips you need to follow
✔️ Safety Tip: Avoid late nights out alone with or without alcohol. Avoid putting yourself in these kind of easy opportunity positions for theft or worse.
✔️ Safety Tip: No dar papaya. This Colombian saying means a combination of not putting yourself in vulnerable situations as well as not giving anyone an easy chance to take advantage of you (leaving your phone on the table in a restaurant).
✔️ Safety Tip: Don’t hail taxi’s from the street. Taxi’s are notorious for not being safe in Colombia so avoiding them when possible is a great idea. Ride shares are great alternatives but there are more details and safety tips for Uber you should know about before visiting Colombia.
✔️ Safety Tip: Avoid street food. Especially for those with food allergies or healthy eating lifestyles, avoid street foods because they are not regulated (generally containing lots of bacteria our stomaches aren’t used to, I got sick a few times) and they are not the healthiest options.
✔️ Safety Tip: Don’t carry all of your money, credit cards or passport with you at once. We suggest only taking a copy of your passport when you go out and keeping money and credit cards in a few different places (hotel, backpack, pocket, money belt, shoe, etc.).
Wrap Up: Is Colombia Worth Visiting in 2023?
Whether you’re looking to find beautiful nature, have fun outdoor adventures, see history that dates back thousands of years or just explore somewhere new, Colombia is one of the best places to travel and is by far one of the best South American countries that is definitely worth visiting.