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What do you look for when you visit a city for the first time? Cosmopolitan center or important cultural scene? Museum city or party city? We have gathered for you the main cities of Colombia, the ones that are worth a visit, according to your tastes of course, and your expectations.
Charming, surprising, marvelous, unique… each one brings its own little plus, by its cultural attraction, its authenticity or its beauty, quite simply.
You will find in this article the presentation of the favorite cities for Adventure Colombia, but also cities that are not necessarily worth the detour, to avoid disappointment.
1. Bogota, capital of Colombia
Bogotá is the gigantic capital of Colombia. Bogotá remains very Latin, very authentic, preserved from globalization, in a way. Make a stop in La Candelaria!
When you travel to Colombia and make a stop in Bogota, the main reason to visit the colonial district of La Candelaria, a small village within the city with its cobblestone streets and colorful houses. It is here that you will find the greatest concentration of superb museums of the city, as well as the superb churches of the colonial time, all more breathtaking than the others.
But Bogotá is full of small neighborhoods, each one different from the other, that are worth a visit, such as Quinta Camacho and its brick houses, the Parque de la 93 and its small concerts, the Parque de Los Novios for a bit of green or the bohemian neighborhood of Chapinero alto…
It is also a gastronomic city where you can find many quality Colombian and world restaurants. It is also the cultural capital of Colombia where you will find many art galleries, exhibitions and many varied and interesting cultural events.
Bogotá deserves a few days to discover all its authentic little corners, its historical relics and its bustling life, under the sign of diversity. Want to know more? Visit Bogotá : Travel Guide.
2. Medellin, la ville au printemps éternel
If you have any doubts about visiting Medellin, don’t hesitate. It is for many a city not to be missed during a stay in Colombia because Medellin is one of the most attractive cities in the country. Second city of Colombia, center of the Colombian fashion, cultural platform in full boom… Medellin is modern, dynamic and cosmopolitan, with a Latin touch that gives it a unique charm and authenticity.
An unmissable step!
Medellin, a major center of Colombian culture, awaits you with its great diversity of museums, theaters, art galleries, its active nightlife with numerous bars, discotheques but also varied and delicious restaurants.
Home of great artists of this world, such as the unique Fernando Botero, you will be charmed by its electric atmosphere, but also by the magical region that surrounds it. For more information, visit Medellin : Travel Guide.
3. Cartagena, the beautiful colonial city
Cartagena de Indias, the country’s colonial treasure, the architectural jewel of Latin America… you have to know it at least once in your life. No matter the world, the tourists and the street vendors, Cartagena de Indias is filled with colors and bougainvillea that attract the whole world. Its history, beauty, architecture and climate charm many.
A city full of history
In Cartagena, you will feel like you are in a pirate movie, in the setting of a newly built city, where slaves arrived in colonial ships. Cannons, fortresses, churches and a cathedral from the past will take you back in time, because Cartagena is an open-air museum, a unique emotion in the world, the gateway to South America of the colonists, and still today thanks to its internationally known port.
Its architecture, beautiful colonial houses and picturesque streets scented by the scent of tropical fruits and a delicious sea breeze make the unique charm of this illustrious city, considered the most beautiful colonial city in South America. Cartagena’s soft nights, illuminated with colors that contrast with its colonial history, make it the ideal destination for those who love romance.
Two districts are for us absolutely essential.
The first one is the historical center, the heart of the city, the ideal place to stroll through the flowered streets, at the feet of breathtaking colonial buildings. This is where you will find the most beautiful churches, museums, luxury stores, great hotels and restaurants. From the historical center, you can reach the completely intact wall, for a drink and a walk at sunset.
The second is the district of Getsémani. More authentic and less polished, it remains very colorful with beautiful buildings and huge bougainvilleas that run down the streets. Here you can even admire street art on some facades. There are many hotels and restaurants, more affordable. The atmosphere is festive in the evening, with many young people (and not so young) who meet on the main square to get ready to party until the end of the night!
For more information, visit Cartagena : Travel Guide.
4. Cali, world capital of Salsa!
Unconditional temple of the salsa, 3rd city of the country, warm and full of joy, Cali enchants the travelers. For many Cali is like a small village, a seaside resort with its large palm trees, its flowery avenues and its summer climate.
Cali is a pleasant stop for an immersion in a culture rich in diversity, coming from the winds of the Pacific coast and the indigenous communities, the Calima culture. Spend 1 or 2 days in this city bubbling with life and music before leaving to discover the south of the country, or the Pacific coast, through Buenaventura.
If you want to visit a city that is not very touristy, to party until the end of the night with the Caleños and to spend an authentic and typical Colombian moment, Cali is the place to go! For more information, read our Cali and surroundings : Travel Guide.
5. Santa Marta
Santa Marta is the perfect starting point to explore the Caribbean coast of Colombia as well as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, considered the heart of the earth by the local indigenous communities. From Santa Marta you can visit the Tayrona Park, The Lost City, Minca, Palomino, La Ciénaga Grande, La Nueva Venecia… and many other unexplored and absolutely magical places.
The city itself has an interesting center because it was the first city built by the conquistadors on Colombian soil. It is also a nice city to party in for an evening. Apart from that, there are some nice beaches in the area but you don’t have to linger there. For more information, visit Santa Marta : Travel Guide.
One of the largest ports in the country, Barranquilla is a dynamic city with an important economic center. It is not an attractive city for tourists, except for the Carnival of Barranquilla!
The Carnival of Barranquilla takes place every year in February, and it is the 3rd biggest carnival in the world, after Venice and Rio de Janeiro! If you are in the area at this time of the year, don’t miss it and make the detour, see the trip!
The gateway to the Llanos… Villavicencio is authentic, a showcase of the incredible llanera culture. It is the ideal stopover for a glimpse of this magical region, or a starting point for excursions into the depths of the Llanos, for a real adventure, off the beaten track. On weekends, the city comes alive with the arrival of the Bogotanos for a weekend of festivities and sun!
In Villavicencio, you will eat well, dance a lot and see some beautiful landscapes. It’s not a must-see, but it’s a nice place, far enough away from the very touristy areas.
8. San Gil
North of Bogota, not far from Barichara, you will find the city of San Gil. Gateway to the Chicamocha Canyon, the city is well known for its extreme sports! Rafting, paragliding, trekking, mountain biking… in San Gil you will be spoiled for choice, and the thrills take place in breathtaking scenery, right in the heart of the Andean mountains. For more information, visit Things to do in Santander?
You will probably pass through Bucaramanga if you visit Villa de Leyva and Barichara from Bogota. Bucaramanga is an important economic center with an airport that will allow you to continue your route to the coast, Medellin, the south… wherever you want! Here you will find many students, making the city quite festive, especially on weekends!