Before we came we knew that Colombia is known as an unsafe country to travel. The narco-trafficking has been the stereotype of Colombia. Yet, we wanted to experience it in the first person, by bicycle. Sounds crazy at the beginning, but the truth is we did it! After 4 months exploring we discovered that Colombia is actually worth to put in any destination bucket list. This is our list of our best 14 places!
We have to admit that our days in the city were quite overwhelming. Bogotá has so many things to offer that our brain couldn’t hold it. That, and also the fact that was our first time in the country. Was also the first time we both were traveling together and all excited with the “bicycle adventure“, that didn’t allowed us to really live Bogatá.
2. Bahia Concha (Tayrona Park)
The ‘WOW‘ effect of Bahia Concha made us feel worth it all the effort and pain, with our very first time traveling by bicycle. The bay is surrounded by natural hills and has the Isla de La Aguja in front. We could imagine why there is a myth that this bay used to be a paradise for pirates when they invaded Santa Marta. We totally felt that spirit. The water begins with a translucent crystal color and slowly fades into darker turquoise. It’s superb! If you ever come to Colombia make sure you don’t miss the Tayrona Park!!!
Cartagena is one of the beautiful cities we’ve ever been to in this country. It has the mixed charms between the colonial buildings as it is one of the oldest cities in Colombia and the modern architecture around the north area, near the Rafael Nunez International Airport. Since Cartagena is known for having a tropical climate with high humidity, we recommend exploring the old town in the morning before the sun gets too high. The old town is totally photogenic and it’s perfect for sketching and walk. It’s easy to get confused with “another tourists” in town, but search well for the unique places and try to talk with locals more than taking photos, they will love to talk back.
It’s true that Medellin was known as a dangerous city. Even now there are still some places that are better to avoid. However, we felt pretty safe during our stay. We heard that this city is on undergoing big revitalization. As a matter of fact, Medellin has a program anti-corruption and has very good public transportation such as tram, urban train, cable car, and free bike. Also, it’s well-known as the ‘city of eternal spring’ which obviously makes Medellin a preferable city for many Colombians and gringos! One of the things we did and we loved was the cable car to Arvi Park and then a walk in there.
Besides the famous Piedra del Penol, it has colonial brightly painted buildings with embellishments of local flowers, animals, and symbols of the past. The vibrancy of this town energized me. It’s one of the places that we would like to come back and spend more time to explore and enjoy. Guatape was the perfect day trip from Medellín. We got a mix of everything; nature, architecture, and traditional Colombian food. It was worth unique visit for sure!
6. Cocora Valley
The attraction in here is the environment itself. And of course, the wax palms that can get to 60 meters tall which is the national tree and symbol of Colombia. As it is a cloud forest, it was wet and muddy, with frequent rainfall. For us, The Cocora Valley was merely a breathtaking, stunning and surreal place. Definitely worth it.
7. Tatacoa Desert
There are not only coffee fields and dream beaches in Colombia. There are also incredibly fascinating deserts like the Tatacoa desert. This was our first time in such environment and sleeping on our tent was quite memorable. If you can make it to stay one or two nights in here, bring enough food and lots of water. Search for the artificial pool and go really in the morning when there’s no one around. Avoid the heat hours – 12h-15h and be amazed by what the sun does in this area.
Built between 1916 and 1949, this wonderful basilica rises on a narrow cliff, above the canyon of the Guáitara River. This beautiful structure surrounded by a large green forest is both surprising and mystical, and for us was the perfect “stamp” to leave Colombia with a good feeling. This place is quite common for local tourism too.
There were some towns that we didn’t expect that we will like nor unforgettable. Here is a list of the unexpected places we went and if you were wondering for more local and authentic parts in Colombia. This are great places to get off-the-beaten tracks and to see parts of Colombia that many never see, nor imagine exists.
It is impossible not to see the fruit ladies around the downtown streets of Cartagena. Once we were there, we met on of those ladies and she told us that she was from a town called San Basilio de Palenque, where the immense slaves from Africa, from the Congo and Angola, were brought by the Spaniards and who entered Colombia through the port of Cartagena, took refuge. In Palenque, they fought for their freedom and independence. And they did it. They remained for history as the first African people to gain their freedom, throughout America. After this conversation, we went to visit Palenque and boy, that was a time travel into Africa!
It is called Entrerrios because the town is located between two rivers: the Rio Grande and the Rio Chico. The fact that is small, clean and calm town, made us feel comfortable. Plus, we found a small bike shop that had almost everything we need at a good price! Aside from that, it has the Peñón de Entrerríos, a monolith with 75 meters high, similar to the famous Rock of Guatapé located in the Antioquia municipality of Guatapé, although smaller.
The area of Silvia is called the Colombian Switzerland as it is green, hilly and the air is great. There are people of Guambiano descent who preserve their traditional ways of life around Silvia. Also, they are known for their traditional clothing: blue scarf (worn as a sarong), rectangular ponchos, and black bowler hat for the men; black skirt, solid color top, blue scarf, and dark bowler hat for the women. The Guambiano people are quite endearing. They were modest but friendly. And every Tuesday, there is the indigenous market as a feast for the eyes, although we didn’t had the chance to see it because we were in different days.
Ok, Cali is a main attraction in Colombia, but for us it came without a serious plan or wish to visit. Why? We simply don’t like big cities and arriving with bicycles would be a terrible option! So we went by bus on our first time and it was a very good surprise. Cali contains a well-preserved historical center that makes this city walkable to wander around. Not like the weather along the coast, which was always humid and hot, in here it was actually pleasant. Although there are lot’s of options to eat in a more “western” style, the city actually offers a ton of local food and culture. We easily spend 3 great days in the city and Luis is not a fan of Salsa, otherwise we could have spend a week!
13. La Cumbre
La Cumbre is known for the simplicity of the people, lack of hustle-bustle, and a small-town way of life. But during the weekend, tourists from Cali travel to this town because of the location. The weather is colder and considered as a welcome respite from the sunny and often hot weather of Cali. It is a privileged place to see the beauty of the valley, offering wonderful landscapes that are manifested to a traveler like us. In here we tried for the first time a sweet called the “Obleas“ – biscuit roll.
For lake lovers and to have a break from Latino music, Cumbal lagoon is a great spot. As we were going south in Colombia we found this lake, which is also known as Lagoon of the Bolsa and lies on the foothills of Cumbal volcano, 13 km away from Guachucal. We spend half day here and there are some locals that can prepare “truchas” for your lunch – trout fish.
Colombia, was our first experience on our tour in South America. It will always be the first country that we traveled by bicycles and we actually improved / learned Spanish. Colombia it’s a country that has everything and most of all there is a lot of generosity on the people, that we had the luck to crossed their paths. Most of the time, they made our journey richer than we could ever ask. Apart from nice photographs and sketches, we also made a documentary – you can see it on our youtube channel – and a PDF book of our journey through Colombia. Grab your copy by becoming our Patron and for 1$ you can download the PDF and have access to exclusive contents!