Colombia Things to Do Tips by MalenaN Top 5 Page for this destination
Colombia Things to Do: 238 reviews and 508 photos
Museo del Oro, Bogotá
The Gold Museum in Bogotá has got a fantastic collection of gold objects from many pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia. It is displayed in a very good way and the different cultures are presented. Altogether the museum has got around 50 000 objects of gold, wood, pottery, textile and stone in its collection. To be able to show more the museum is now building more galleries for exhibitions which should be ready in 2008. The gold museum in Bogotá is one of the most important gold museums in the world, if not the most important one. Don’t miss it!
I visited the Gold Museum on a holiday and then admission was free. There was a lot of visitors, but I arrived early and then there was no queue jet. When I left the museum there was a long line of people outside waiting to enter.
The museum is closed on Mondays. It is open Tuesday - Saturday between 9 - 18, and on Sundays (and holidays) between 10 - 16.
Address: Calle 16 No. 5-41
Directions: Recommendable to take a TransMilenio from Autonorte southbound to Av. Jimenez, switch Eastbound until reaching the pedestrian area, then 6 blocks NE bound.
Phone: 1 - 284 7450
Isla Gorgona is an island, and national park, on the Colombian Pacific coast in Departmento del Cauca. It is a 9 km long and 2,5 km wide island. At the south western tip is the smaller island Isla Gorgonilla, which also belongs to the national park. Isla Gorgona is situated 50 km from the coast. It is hot and humid on Isla Gorgona the year round with an average temperature of 27°C and an annual rainfall of 4000 mm. It rains all year round but more in September and October and less in February and March.
On the island there are petroglyfs, stone statue and a ceremonial site made by Indian tribes. Other artefacts has also been found and they show that people lived on the island at least as far back as 3300 years ago. In 1527 the conquistador Francisco Pizarro came here and he was the one who gave Isla Gorgona its name, after the Greek Gorgon. It was named Isla Gorgona because of all the snakes that were found on the island. The island then became a pirates lair, and during the 20th century Colombia’s high security prison was situated here. In 1984 the national park was established and it has now become a place for research and eco-tourism.
Isla Gorgona is a volcanic island covered with dense tropical rainforest. The highest peak is 330 metres. There is a high diversity of flora and fauna on the island, and because the island has been separated for a long time from the continent many endemic species can be found here. Some of the animals that can be seen on the island are monkeys, lizards, snakes, frogs, caimans, bats and birds. And in the water there are humpback whales, dolphins, turtles and much more.
No people are living on Isla Gorgona permanently, but only the people working with the national park and tourism and researchers. There are not many tourists at a time on the island. I booked my tour via Aviatur in Bogotá a week before my visit. I stayed on the Island Tuesday - Saturday. The first days we were only 5 - 7 tourists, but for the weekend some more arrived. As a tourist there are a few walks you can do, but you must always go with a guide. You can also snorkel, dive or go whale-watching. It is a great experience and I enjoyed my visit very much!
Directions: On the pacific coast, in Departamento del Cauca.
Islas del Rosario
Islas del Rosario is an archipelago situated about 35 km southwest of Cartagena. The islands and the reefs are part of a national park, Parque Nacional Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo. The archipelago consists of around 30 coral islands with low vegetation. Some of the islands are very small with only one house. Many of those smaller islands are privately owned. But for those who want to stay over night there are a few hotels and houses for rent on the bigger islands. Most people visit Islas del Rosario on a daytrip from Cartagena though, and so did I.
There are no big beaches on the islands but there are smaller strips of white sand where you can swim (if you are visiting on a daytrip you will probably stop at the larger Playa Blanca on the way back to Cartagena) and the reefs are good for snorkelling and diving. But unfortunately the reefs are not as good as they used to be as warm water currents have destroyed much. On one of the islands there is also an aquarium to visit.
(There will be more information about the aquarium and the daytrip to the islands on my Cartagena page).
Directions: Departamento de Bolívar, 35 km southwest of Cartagena.
View over San Gil from the hostel
Many tourists come to San Gil to do outdoor activities. There are plenty of exciting sports to choose among, like rafting, paragliding, bungyjumping, horseback riding, caving, kayaking, rappelling, hiking and climbing.
San Gil is a pleasant town, and with so many exiting things to do it is easy to stay longer than you intended to. I had already stayed longer than I planed to in Venezuela and didn’t want to skip any of the destinations in front of me, so after three nights in San Gil I moved on, but I could easily have stayed longer. Besides all the outdoor activities San Gil has got some nice colonial houses, a beautiful park and a nice central square. San Gil is also near to the lovely small colonial town Barichara.
Directions: San Gil is situated in Departamento de Santander, south of Bucaramanga.
Street in Barichara
Barichara is a charming colonial town with whitewashed houses and stone paved streets. The stone used on the streets is a brown stone found locally in Santander. Barichara was founded in 1705 and in 1978 it was declared a national monument. Since then the town has been carefully restored with a good result, and new modern buildings are not allowed to be built. Barichara is situated at an altitude of 1340 metres and the average temperature is 22° C, so it has got a pleasant climate.
The Guane Indians were the original inhabitants in this area and their word Barachalá (from which Barichara comes) means “a good place for a rest”. That is absolutely true today. Barichara is a very tranquil little town situated 20 km northwest of San Gil. I visited on a daytrip in the middle of the week and it was very quiet. I walked around the streets, visited the town’s four churches and a museum, had lunch at a restaurant and ate an ice cream at the central square.
I had been recommended to take the track to the nice village Guane from Barichara. It is an old Spanish trail which has been declared a national monument. Since than the path has been restored and laid with stones so it is easy to walk and it takes about one and a half hour. There are beautiful views along the walk. Well, I didn’t feel I had the time, but if I ever come to Barichara again I would do the walk.
The main street in Guapí
Guapí is a town and municipality in the Department of Cauca. The town is situated near the Pacific coast by Rio Guapí. The town was founded in 1772 and today the municipality has got about 30 000 inhabitants. The main economical activities in the area are agriculture, fishing and mining. Being on the pacific coast Guapí has got a hot and humid climate year round. No roads are leading to Guapí, but the town can be reached by daily flights from Cali (there are also flights from Popayan, but I don’t think they leave daily). And there is a boat going between Buenaventura and Guapí.
I visited Guapí on my way to, and from, Isla Gorgona. Before going to Isla Gorgona we had to wait for the boat to leave, and meanwhile we took a walk through the small town with a local guy who was also going to Isla Gorgona. Coming back from Isla Gorgona I stayed a day and a night in Guapí. When I booked my Isla Gorgona tour I had been told that there were no flights back to Cali the day I wanted to leave. I thought it was too expensive to stay on Isla Gorgona for another day and thought it could be interesting to stay in Guapí, which is very different from other parts of Colombia that I have visited.
It was nice to hang around here for a day, walk around or sit at a café. The town feels colourful and lively, but with a relaxed atmosphere. There is the main street with shops and panadeías, a main square and then there is the street near the river where the market is. On the steps down to the river women are doing the laundry and on the river the traffic is busier than on the streets. There are no cars in the town, well at least only a few and some motorbikes.
I enjoyed my stay and think it is absolutely worth staying the night here on your way back from Isla Gorgona.
Colourful houses by the main square
It is easy to stay many days in Salento. The small town has a relaxed atmosphere and colourful historic houses. The surrounding landscape is beautiful with green rolling hills. Besides strolling around in the town, sit down at a café and watch people or walk up to Alto de la Cruz there are many things to do outside the town. In Cocora Valley there are many nice walking trails and you can visit one of the coffee farms for a guided tour and there is a Butterfly farm (which I did not visit). While you are in Salento you must try the trout which is served at every restaurant and prepared in many different ways. It is quiet during the week but at weekends many visitors come.
Salento is situated 24 km northeast of the department capital Armenia, at an altitude of 1900 metres. It is the oldest town in Quindío and was founded in 1850. In 1865 the town was named Nuevo Salento. The main economical activities in Salento is agriculture, cattle and eco-tourism.
Directions: Departamento del Quindío
Cocora Valley is situated 11 km from Salento. A lot of tourists come to Cocora, especially at weekends. Here you have an amazing landscape of green valleys, cloud forest and the famous wax palm. There are many good hiking trails and you can also go horse riding in the valley. There are also three restaurants where you, among other things, can eat trout, which is famous for the area.
The wax palm (palma de cera) is Colombia’s national tree. It is a tall growing palm tree, actually the highest palm tree in the world, and the trees can be 60 metres high. It is a beautiful sight to see the top of the palm trees tower above the forest were it groves. The wax palms grove at an altitude between 2000 - 3000 metres. The number of wax palms in Colombia have been reduced because of cultivation, livestock, cutting for Palm Sunday and tapping of the wax, but since 1985 it has been prohibited to cut the palm tree for commercial use. In Cocora valley you can see the wax palm in a beautiful environment and a lot of them in the same area.
Cocora Valley belongs to Los Nevados National Park.
Directions: Near Salento, in Departamento del Quindio.
Botero at Plazoleta de las Esculturas
Many people think of drugs and violence when they hear of Medellín. And that was how it used to be. Under the 1980s Medellín was the centre of Colombia’s cocaine cartels and killings and other violence was common. In 1991, for example, 6349 people were murdered in the city and that was one of the highest murder rates in the world. But since Pablo Escobar (leader of the Medellín cartel) died in 1993 it has only become better and Medellín is now considered to be one of the safest cities in Latin America.
Medellín is often called The City of Eternal Spring, because of its climate. The city is situated in Aburrá Valley at an elevation of about 1500 metres. That gives Medellín an average temperature of an agreeable 23° C. Through the city, towards north, flows Medellín River.
Medellín is the second biggest city in Colombia with a population of 2,5 millions. For a tourist there are many things to do. There are several museums and old churches to visit, Botero statues and monuments to look at and excellent opportunities to do paragliding. If you have never tried paragliding before you should really take the chance to do a tandem flight while you are in Medellín. Many people come here for the nightlife, which has the reputation to be one of the best in Colombia. And some people come here for plastic surgery.
Directions: In Departamento de Antioquia.
The cathedral in Manizales
Manizales is the capital of Department of Caldas. The city is situated on ridges which makes many of the streets steep. And as the city is situated at an altitude just above 2000 metres the average temperature is 18°C. Manizales has a population of 420 000 inhabitants. The city is a main centre of the coffee trade in the region and there is a large student population. Manizales was founded as late as 1849 by people from Antioquia, who came here because of the civil war.
There are not many old buildings in Manizales as the city has been destroyed by earthquakes and fires in the past. But the Neo Gothic Cathedral is interesting to see and there are a few museums, among others a small gold museum. And from Manizales it is easy to visit Los Nevados National Park and a coffee farm in Zona Cafetera.
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