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What to Do in Colombia

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With vividly painted colonial cities, rain forests rich with wildlife, Caribbean beaches, and Andean mountains, visiting Colombia can mean dramatically different things. Choose one or several experiences and dive into this exciting region.
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Monserrate Bogotá, Colombia
The peak called Monserrate towers over central Bogotá and lends its name to the church that tops it. Perched more than 10,000 feet above sea level, the sanctuary—dedicated to the Passion of Christ—has beautiful gardens...
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Bogotá’s museum of all things gold is one of Colombia’s greatest treasures. Yet despite the name, you’ll find more here than just the precious metal. In addition to stunning displays drawing on a collection of more than...
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Set within the Banco de la República’s museum complex, the Botero Museum offers a sampling of paintings and sculptures by famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero, best known for his still lifes and his exaggeratedly rotund human...
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Bogotá, Bogota, Colombia
Since Bogotá relaxed its rules about street art, the usual hurried scrawls that used to cover walls in some neighborhoods have been replaced by beautiful murals of vivid color and pleasing form. Though some are purely decorative—often...
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Dg. 68 #1242, Bogotá, Colombia
After more than a decade as one of the Bogotá art scene’s nerve centers—in addition to being a Pan-American landmark—Nueveochenta, founded by former Colombian president César Gaviria, now operates out of a house...
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Cl. 79b, Bogotá, Colombia
Calle 79b (between Carreras 7a and 9a) is a favorite Bogotá destination, where restaurants, indie galleries, design stores, bars, and, above all, antiques shops come together. A visit to the Zona Rosa isn’t complete without...
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Parque De La Sal, Zipaquirá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
About an hour north of Bogotá lies the so-called Salt Cathedral, an intriguing and impressive church that has been sculpted from the empty chambers of a working salt mine, one that’s been in operation since pre-Hispanic times....
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Calle 119 Con Carrera 6a, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
Every Sunday and on holidays, the streets and open spaces of Bogotá’s Usaquén neighborhood overflow with stall after stall selling handicrafts, jewelry, leather goods, and snacks—and with thousands of Bogotanos out for a...
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12, Calle 81-82 #11-94, Bogotá, Colombia
Aficionados of the high-end love the window-shopping and elegant eating in Zona T. Retail therapy reaches a peak at the Centro Andino and El Retiro shopping malls, chockablock with glitzy boutiques hawking refined Colombian and foreign labels;...
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Lake Guatavita, Sesquilé, Cundinamarca, Colombia
This lake set amid lofty mountains is a mystical, peaceful spot with a fascinating history of indigenous princesses, gold-covered chieftains, and treasure-gouging conquistadors—purportedly the site where the El Dorado legend began (indeed,...
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Cl. 73 #51d14, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Medellín’s botanical garden is a 35-acre oasis of green amid the bustling city. Stroll through lush tropical vegetation, towering trees, and flowering bushes to a quiet, picturesque pond amid the gardens. Or peek into a butterfly...
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Carabobo, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
At the center of Medellín, Plaza Botero gets its name from Colombian artist Fernando Botero, who donated 23 of his much-loved, disproportionate-bodied bronze sculptures to the city. There’s a huge chubby head, a reclining woman, and...
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Via a Piedras Blancas, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Medellín’s urban renewal, following decades as one of the world’s murder capitals, has drawn international attention. Perhaps nothing symbolizes the revival more than the Metrocable, a system of cable cars that connect the city...
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Cl. 10 #25-18, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
The Parque Lleras neighborhood is the throbbing heart of Medellín nightlife. The namesake park is tiny, but its surrounding blocks are packed with bars, restaurants, and clubs, many featuring terraces. Wherever you choose to go, it’s...
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Parque Bicentenario, Cl. 51 #36-66, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
This sobering museum reminds visitors that Colombia’s beauty, natural and otherwise, has often coexisted with civil war and its brutal violence. Galleries present stories and images as well as survivor, victim, and ex-combatant testimonies....
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Cra. 12 #9-70, Santa Fé de Antioquia, Santafé de Antioquia, Antioquia, Colombia
Located about an hour from Medellín, Santa Fe merits a detour for its lovely, well-preserved colonial architecture. The town was Antioquia province’s capital before Medellín, from 1584 until 1826, and time seems to have stopped...
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a 53a-90, Cl. 44 #53a-2, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
The name of this park, which alludes to going barefoot, is both description and invitation. Take off your shoes and tread among nature’s sublime textures in the park’s sandpits, Zen garden, fountains, and leafy grasses. You’ll...
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Cra. 53 #7375, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
The four huge red cubes set amid the verdant mountains around Medellín will seize your attention and pique your curiosity—they are pavilions that architect Alejandro Echeverri designed to house Parque Explora, a science museum that is...
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Cl. 71, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
This two-auditorium space—with adjacent performance venues—is a lot more than simply a place to catch great concerts. Part of Parque de los Deseos and constructed opposite the city’s planetarium, it emerged from a citizen...
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Cra. 43 #59-03, Barranquilla, Atlántico, Colombia
Founded in 1954, La Cueva, in the seaside town of Barranquilla, gained renown as a favorite watering hole of some of Colombia’s most famous artists, writers, and intellectuals, most notably the so-called Barranquilla Group—which...
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Carrera 44 #72- 263, Barranquilla, Atlántico, Colombia
Barranquilla’s famed pre-Lenten carnival is the supreme forum for residents’ festive spirits, but that same dance-till-you-drop energy can be found all year round at La Troja, now in its 52nd year. The barroom is a no-frills, open-air...
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Cra. 54 ##70-10, Barranquilla, Atlántico, Colombia
El Prado, a grand hotel that stands as a testimony to Barranquilla’s golden days as Colombia’s gateway to the world, is now on the nation’s registry of historic places. When it opened in 1930, it boasted of being the first luxury...
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Cl. 36 #46 - 66, Barranquilla, Atlántico, Colombia
Colombians from the Caribbean coast, known as Costeños, are immensely proud of their cultural, musical, literary, and historical heritage, all of which are on display at this interactive museum. The country's famous shore stretches from the...
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Murillo Toro y El Progreso #41, Barranquilla, Atlántico, Colombia
Parque de los Novios, in the center of Santa Marta’s colonial sector, is perfect for people-watching in the late afternoons when the tropical heat abates. Everyone from the gentry to the common folk—not to mention a plethora of brides...
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Av. del Libertador - Sector San Pedro Alejandrino, Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia
The 17th-century estate where Simón Bolívar died in 1830 is the site of several Bolivar monuments as well as an art museum featuring works by Latin American artists inspired by Bolívar, the hero who freed Bolivia, Colombia, ...
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Magdalena, Colombia
Tayrona National Natural Park has become such a popular destination during typical vacation periods that authorities have had to limit admission. But an off-season visit offers singular luxuries like miles of all-but-solitary beaches, jungle...
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Dibulla, La Guajira, Colombia
You’d be forgiven for passing straight through “downtown” Palomino without giving it a second look, but slow down to discover a real-life paradise between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and amazing, almost deserted,...
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Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia
Ciudad Perdida (or “lost city”) is believed to have been a political and spiritual center for the people that inhabited the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta highlands around 800 C.E. Treasure hunters "discovered" the complex in the 1970s...
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calle san Augustin nº 6-14, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
The best way to enjoy Cartagena’s historic center is simply to get lost. Wander the narrow streets that flow past gaily colored edifices and into small, leafy parks or sprawling plazas. Stroll the city ramparts, the walls built starting in...
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Catch a boat from the dock just opposite the Cartagena city gate and take a ride out to the Islas del Rosario, a protected archipelago of 27 coral islands surrounded by reefs teeming with exquisite flora and fauna. Island activities include...
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Getsemani, Cartagena, Cartagena Province, Bolivar, Colombia
Once one of Cartagena’s seedier areas, Getsemaní has recently claimed its spot as the city’s hippest barrio. Walk its tiny streets, lined with quaint colonial architecture—some of which is adorned with beautiful graffiti....
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Cr 4 # De La Merced 3638 Carrera 10 Centro, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
The gilt, plush decor, and stunning architecture at the Teatro Adolfo Mejía are a spectacle in themselves; the guided tours will direct your attention to the marble staircase, imported from Italy, and to a frescoed ceiling depicting the...
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Cra. 17, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
A short walk from the city sits imposing Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, covering almost the whole of San Lázaro Hill, 135 feet above sea level. The castillo bit is something of a misnomer, as the structure is not technically a castle but a...
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Pueblo Rico, Risaralda, Colombia
Up in the rolling hills of Colombia’s Caldas, Quindío, and Risaralda regions, some coffee plantations offer guest accommodations for visitors looking to lap up traditional coffee culture (pardon the pun). Many of the farms give tours...
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Salento, Quindio, Colombia
Officially founded in 1865, Salento is one of Colombia’s quaintest, most traditional towns. Its main street, the cobblestoned Calle Real, is lined with handicraft shops and restaurants that serve delicious, locally farmed trout (among many...
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Km 3 vía al Valle del Cauca, Calarcá, Quindío, Colombia
The lush and varied Quindío Botanical Garden is home to a spectacular butterfly house, or mariposario, built in the insect’s distinctive shape and containing some 1,000 butterflies of different types that flit between the...
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Nuquí, Choco, Colombia
Each year humpback whales (known around here as yubartas) migrate some 5,000 miles from the Antarctic and southern Chile to Colombia’s Pacific coast. The whales spend July to November mating and giving birth, and then frolicking with their...
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These two dreamy islands, part of a Caribbean archipelago far closer to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, are still considered Colombia’s territory. Crystal-clear seas in every shade of blue and impeccable white-sand beaches have made them favorite...
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Santa Cruz de Mompox, Mompós, Bolivar, Colombia
The languid, poetic pace of life at Mompox, a mostly untouched colonial village not far from the Caribbean shoreline on the banks of the Magdalena River, evokes García Márquez novels like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the...
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San Agustín, Huila, Colombia
This mysterious archeological site near the town of San Agustín is hard to get to, but well worth the trip. The hundreds of megalithic stone sculptures found here are believed to have been carved between 50 and 400 C.E.; many were likely...