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Colombia: An exceptional historical and natural heritage.
Tourism in Colombia means discovering extraordinary landscapes. Snowy peaks, Andean mountains, green valleys, deserts, heavenly beaches, tropical jungles… Colombia has a great diversity of breathtaking landscapes, with the greatest biodiversity in the world, after Brazil. Colombia is also rich of its history, of its cultural heritage of the colonial period. An intact and colorful architecture that will transport you to the past. Colombia is also a fragile country, a country that has known war, deforestation, illegal trafficking of wild animals, fracking … To protect this beautiful natural and cultural heritage, UNESCO has classified 9 places in its list. Here are the different Colombian sites classified as World Heritage by UNESCO.
1. Port, fortresses and monumental complex of Cartagena
Founded in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena is a treasure city from the colonial era. Its historic center was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. It is surrounded by a great wall that protected it from pirate invasions. Its architecture, beautiful colonial houses and picturesque streets scented with 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.
Center of economic and cultural exchanges, the city magnificently displays its colonial past, with the rich houses and buildings built over the centuries by the great landowners. A must-see city in Colombia, Cartagena de Indias is without a doubt the most beautiful gateway to the Caribbean and its cultural treasures. For more information, visit the following articles:
2. Los Katíos National Park
Los Katios National Park is located not far from the border with Panama, in the northwest of Colombia. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. This beautiful park, with low hills, plains and tropical forests, extends over 72,000 hectares. It is home to many endangered species and endemic plants, where there are also many ecosystems, from swamps to flood forests. Until 2015, this natural site was classified as endangered by UNESCO, due to deforestation but also to hunting and illegal fishing. It was also an area of armed conflict. Now, the site is much better protected against all these attacks, and it was removed from the list of sites in danger.
3. Historical Center of Santa Cruz de Mompox
The historic center of the city of Mompox was declared a UNESCO cultural and religious heritage site in 1995. Santa Cruz de Mompox is located in the lands of the Caribbean Coast, nicknamed “the savanna of the Caribbean.” Founded in 1537 by Don Alfonso de Heredia, on the banks of the Magdalena River, its colonial architecture has remained intact, surrounded by beautiful landscapes of swamps. Religious city par excellence, Mompox is THE city with Popayan where you must go to see the superb processions of the holy week. Mompox is the symbol of all the imagination that surrounds the works of Garcia Marquez, and especially his work Macondo. It was Gabriel Garcia Marquez who said “Mompox does not exist, sometimes we dream of it, but it does not exist.” This is where Toto la Momposina, a great Colombian singer, was born. In addition, goldsmithing is an important source of income for the city, along with fishing and tourism, which is however not very developed, making Mompós an authentic and off the beaten track destination.
4. Archaeological Park of San Agustin
San Agustin was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. It is a very welcoming traditional village located in the heart of the great Andes Mountains in southern Colombia. Here we discover the largest archaeological area of the country with its gigantic and imposing stone statues, reliefs, funerary tumuli, paved paths and terraces, unique vestiges of a mysterious civilization that disappeared long before the arrival of the Spaniards. The little we know about these people is that they did not have a written language and that they were masters of sculpture thanks to the volcanic rocks of the region that they transformed into more than 500 life-size statues scattered over the hills of San Agustin. It is an exceptional site that is worth the trip. For more information, visit San Agustín: Travel Guide
5. National Archaeological Park of Tierradentro
Five hours further north of San Agustín is the archaeological site of Tierradentro, classified World Heritage by UNESCO since 1995, where the Paeces Indians dug ancestral tombs, deep and complex, decorated with geometric figures painted in white, red and black. This people is still linked to its “land of the interior”, so named by the conquistadors who had great difficulty in penetrating this area where mountains and canyons meet. This rugged terrain allowed the Paeces to resist fiercely, and to ensure the survival of their culture thanks to their descendants who still walk the thousand-year-old paths of Tierradentro. There are several sites of interest to visit in Tierradentro, for a trip into the pre-Columbian past of Colombia. For example, the panorama of El Aguacate, the municipality of San Andrés de Pisimbalá, the sites Alto San Andres and Alto de Segovia… For more information, visit Tierradentro.
6. Malpelo Wildlife Sanctuary
The Malpelo Island Wildlife Sanctuary is a marine park, classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006. Located 490 km off Buenaventura, it is one of the best spots in the world to practice scuba diving, meeting hammerhead sharks and other impressive species of sharks and underwater. In the waters of Malpelo, discover sea bats, sea eagles, manta rays, leopard, green cod, dolphins, turtles and many others. In the heart of the Pacific Ocean, this totally preserved island is worth the trip! Count 8 days for a stay on Malpelo Island.
7. Cultural landscape of Colombian coffee
The coffee region, also called “Eje Cafetero”, is nestled between the mountains of the central Andes. Its landscape was classified UNESCO World Heritage in 2011. The aroma of coffee, the red of the Yipaos (Jeeps), the transportation in Chivas, the innate kindness and hospitality of its people, the colorful haciendas and villages with their typical handicrafts reflect all the flavors of Colombia.
It was in the 18th century, due to the decline of gold extraction in the department of Antioquia, that the colonization of the coffee triangle by the antioqueños began. The bamboo forests were quickly transformed into coffee plantations that grew in ideal conditions. It is the small producers that have helped the economic growth of the region, making Colombia the third largest exporter of coffee in the world (after Brazil and Vietnam), its arabica being considered the best in the world.
The landscape of the coffee region is very rich in diversity. With the influence of the Pacific Ocean, one discovers a varied and luxuriant vegetation in a tropical rainforest of mountain where the colored flowers, notably various species of orchids, attract an important variety of hummingbirds and other birds. The region has thermal springs in the middle of the mountains, the páramos, unique landscapes of the Andes, and valleys planted with huge wax palms, the national tree and emblem of the region, without forgetting the numerous coffee plantations that run through the mountains of the region and make all the charm and beauty of this place. For more information, visit Salento and Cocora Valley: Travel Guide.
8. Qhapaq Ñan, Andean road network
Qhapaq Ñan, also known as the Inca Trail, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. Its name means “royal path” in the Quechua language. This beautiful path through the Andean mountains of South America starts from the city of San Juan de Pasto, in southern Colombia, and ends in Santiago de Chile, passing through the city of Cusco, Peru. This route was created by the Incas as the main strategic axis at the political and economic level. Together with its secondary roads, Qhapaq Ñan represents more than 23,000 km of tracks, roads, and paths. Its main road between Pasto and Santiago extends for 6,000km. For more information, visit San Juan de Pasto: Travel Guide.
9. Chiribiquete National Park – “The Maloca of the Jaguar
Chiribiquete National Park was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018. It is the largest protected site in Colombia, in the northwest of the Amazon, as it covers 2.7 million hectares. It is also the park with the greatest biodiversity in the world, refuge of the Jaguar in particular. It is also a park that houses many prehistoric and pre-Columbian relics. Land of Tepuys (tabular mountains), there are more than 75,000 rock paintings, from more than 20,000 years before Christ. These paintings have been discovered in more than 60 shelters that line the sandstone rocks and plateaus. It is a sacred land for the indigenous communities of the region. This decision by UNESCO will help reduce deforestation in the region and protect the Amazon Jaguar, a species highly threatened by this tragedy.