The Wanderlust Guide to the best of Colombia

Shrugging off its edgy reputation, Colombia is a tantalising mixture of Andean foothills and Amazon jungle, pre-Columbian sites and Caribbean beaches – get there soon...

6 mins

It was once South America's kidnap capital, but now most of Colombia is now wholly safe and thrillingly uncommercialised – in 2010, Wanderlust readers voted it their favourite emerging destination worldwide.

Opportunities for climbing, trekking and diving are excellent. You can bathe in pools of volcanic mud, hike through acres of flowers, hole up in remote coffee fincas high in the mountains and revel at a plethora of music festivals. To top it all, there are some superb historical sites.

What are you waiting for?

Stone Man (Paul Morrison)

Looking for inspiration?

Something for everyone. It’s a worn-out cliché, trundled out by every tourist board on the planet. But in Colombia’s case, it’s actually true.

If colonial towns, haunting deserts and mysterious pre-Incan sites are your thing, Graeme Green recommends heading for the Colombia’s little-visited south. Chris Moss, on the other hand, suggests the country’s ‘coffee corner’, a region of verdant plantations, laid-back haciendas and stonking nightlife.

With both a Pacific and Caribbean coastline, whale watchers are spoiled for choice, says Nick Boulos. While Sarah Barrell reckons divers should head to the crystal clear waters of Islas del Rosario.

If ancient cultures are more your bag, Paul Morrison suggests coming face-to-face with the mysterious stone men of San Agustin.

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Discover Colombia's Latin quarter – Graeme Green

Coffee and culture in Colombia – Chris Moss

Whale watching in Colombia – Nick Boulos

Islas del Rosario: diving off Colombia's coast – Sarah Barrell

Faces in stone, Colombia – Paul Morrison

Cartagena (Wanderlust)

Fine-tune your itinerary

As the author of the Bradt guide to Colombia, there isn’t much that Sarah Woods doesn’t know about the country. When she’s not taking down all comers in the rough tumble world of Amazonian dominoes, she’s checking out some new, undiscovered corner of this amazingly diverse country.

That’s what makes her travel blueprint to Colombia indispensable. And why her travel itinerary guides to Bogotá, Cartagena and the north, and the south, are essential reading for anyone about to head there. From the unmissable sights to the gems that need a little more effort to reach, she’s got all corners covered.

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Travel blueprint: Colombia – Sarah Woods

Bogatá and around – Sarah Woods

Cartagena and the north – Sarah Woods

The south – Sarah Woods

Tierradentro (Thomas Rees)

Colombia's secrets revealed

After the sun sets, Cartagena comes to life. Let Sarah Barrell take you by the hand and lead you to the sizzling hotspots behind the ancient walls of El Centro.

Thomas Rees, on the other hand, wants to take you underground, to the tombs of Tierradentro, in the archaeological heart of western Colombia. It’s a heady mix of stunning scenery and pre-Columbian cave art, says Thomas. And best of all, you’ll have it pretty much to yourself.

If narco-nostalgia is more your thing, Nick Easen suggests dropping by Hacienda Napoles, the former hilltop lair of drug cartel leader, Pablo Escobar. Highlights include Escobar’s burned-out collection of old motor cars (including Al Capone’s gangster-mobile) and a pair of psychedelic tyrannosaurus chicks bursting out of eggs, while their mother does battle with a newly-painted concrete triceratops.

Lousie Spratt recommends four alternative day trips in Colombia. No concrete dinosaurs, sadly. Just untouched national parks, pristine tropical islands and time-capsule colonial villages.

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Cartagena, Colombia: the heroic city – Sarah Barrell

Exploring the tombs of Tierradentro, Colombia – Thomas Rees

Dinosaurs reign in Escobar's bizarre mansion – Nick Eason

4 alternative day trips in Colombia – Louise Sprat

Fruit Stand (Wanderlust)

Capturing it all on film

Bright. Colourful. Lively. Colombia is the perfect subject for an aspiring travel photographer.

The weekly markets, held in cities and tiny villages alike, are particularly photogenic and offer countless opportunities to capture that magic shot. Check out Steve Davey’s guide to photographing markets to make sure that yours are as good as can be.

Looking for inspiration? Graeme Green presents a gallery of photos from his adventures in the south of Colombia. And our readers have posted photos from their travels in Colombia, too.

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Photography tips: Markets – Steve Davey

On assignment with Graeme Green in Colombia

Readers' photos

Cartagena (Sarah Woods)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Colombia Travel Guide is the perfect place to start. Make sure you drop by our Colombia Essential Info page too, for more everyday (but equally vital) information.

If you have a particular question about Colombia, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum, where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions people have already asked about Colombia. The answer to yours might already be there.

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Colombia Travel Guide – Wanderlust Team

Colombia Essential Info – Wanderlust Team

myWanderlust Forum

Colombia Q & A

Whale watching (Nick Boulos)

Ready to go?

Here's a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From mountain treks to lost cities, and colonial city breaks to whale watching and diving tours, there's something to suit every taste and budget.

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Tripfinder can help you find adventures in Colombia

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