THE BEST 10 NATURAL PLACES TO VISIT IN COLOMBIA IN 2024
Find below the best 10 Natural Places to visit in Colombia in 2024. The top 10 nature lovers’ destinations & natural attractions to travel in Colombia in 2024.
Brought to you by Mau, a Global Head of Marketing Strategy at eDigital and a travel & nature enthusiast.
THE TOP 10 NATURAL DESTINATIONS IN COLOMBIA
There are close to 60 national parks in Colombia, each unique in its abundance of natural wonders. They comprise everything from arid deserts, Caribbean coastal parks, and great swaths of the Amazon rainforest. Colombia indeed offers many options for any type of hiker, trekker, climber or just nature lover including those freak bird-watchers and whale watchers.
That said, there are considerations here that any traveller/trekker must take into account before embarking on a journey through the top 10 natural wonders of Colombia. For example, some of the below places are protected areas and sacred sites for Colombia’s indigenous people.
THE BEST 10 NATURAL ATTRACTIONS AND LANDMARKS IN COLOMBIA
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10. Providencia Island, Colombian Caribbean
As the cloud cover dissipates, the hypnotic beauty of the Caribbean sea’s many shades of blue can be seen through the aeroplane window.
It is impossible not to feel the excitement of the Colombian Caribbean on your skin.
Setting foot on solid ground, you can feel the heat combined with breezes that beckon you to walk these soft, sandy beaches and contemplate this postcard-worthy landscape.
Providencia Island is a multifaceted place, offering activities that range from the enjoyment of luxurious hotels to extreme sports. It is certainly worthwhile to take a tour of the island to grasp its different environments, each with its own charm. Providencia’s culture is equally diverse.
It won’t be a surprise you will meet Arabs, Africans, Europeans and Colombians from different regions and the island’s local inhabitants, who have their own gastronomic and musical traditions, as well as their own language: creole.
All of this makes Providencia an infinite mixture of colours, which you can appreciate as much in its waters as on the walls of its houses that serve as canvases for different urban artists to leave their mark.
My top three natural spots in Providencia Island, Colombia are:
- Cayo Cangrejo ( Crab’s Cay)
- Bahia Manzanillo (Manzanillo Bay & beach)
- La Cabeza de Morgan’s (Morgan’s Head)
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9. Ciudad Perdida – Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
Nature lovers will love this hike to the famous “Lost City” in Colombia. Adventuring to do it solo is doable but most people pay to do this hike with one of the few official tour operators in Santa Marta. Each option has its pros and cons. If you are travelling solo in Colombia I would suggest you support a local guide who then supports the local indigenous communities you will pass during this 4-5 day hike.
If you are already in Santa Marta and love bird-watching, you may want to enquire about bird-watching tours in Minca village, a 40-minute drive up the mountain from Santa Marta. Most bird-watching tours will take you to places near Cerro Kennedy (an area with sea views around 3 thousand metres above sea level).
Tip: the views during sunrise in Cerro Kennedy are stunning as you will sit above the clouds so if you can make it for sunrise and then bird-watching you will have the most epic morning. Cerro Kennedy is not included as a destination when hiking to Cuidad Perdida. You will need to arrange a separate/different tour to check out the birds near Cerro Kennedy.
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8. Caño Cristales – Serranía de la Macarena, Meta
Caño Cristales is located in the Serranía de la Macarena National Park in Colombia and has been described as the most beautiful river in the world, due to the many colours that can be seen through the water.
These amazing colours in the river are created by different plants, algae, sand and rocks. Most noticeable is the bright red, caused by a plant called Macarenia clavigera or as BBC called it: Colombia’s “Liquid rainbow” plant.
Macarenia clavigera is a tropical aquatic plant that is only encountered in a couple of rivers in Serranìa de la Macarena in Colombia, meaning it is unique to only this specific area in Colombia.
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7. Parque Nacional Natural El Cocuy, Boyacá
In a country known for tropical jungles and white-sand beaches, the glacial peaks of Parque Nacional Natural El Cocuy stand out. Located in the heart of the Andes (an 8-hour drive from either Bogotá or Bucaramanga), this untamed páramo highland ecoregion holds the best high-altitude hiking in Colombia.
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6. Colombian Amazon
When heading to the Colombian Amazon jungle, we suggest you visit these natural wonders:
- Amacayacu National Natural Park
- Raudal del Jirijirimo
- Reserva Natural Tanimboca, near canaloa, Mocagua, Leticia region. Go fishing at the near Matamatá river.
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5. Parque Nacional Natural de Los Nevados
Los Nevados National Natural Park is an area that contains some of the most impressive ice-peak volcanic mountains in Colombia. You can pick and choose which specific mountains and volcanos you visit. Professional mountaineering gear and the escort of a local guide are recommended.
The most popular peaks are:
- Nevado del Ruiz (5311 metres)
- Nevado del Tolima (5215 metres)
- El Cráter o Volcán de la Olleta (4855 m)
If you do not have the time or energy to invest in these challenging mountaineering adventures in Parque Los Nevados, you can make the perfect one-day visit to the famous Valle del Cocora with its impressive Palma de Cera (The world’s tallest palm trees) near beautiful colonial Salento town.
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4. Puracé National Natural Park
The Puracé volcano’s crater (photo above at 4580 metres high) is an andesitic stratovolcano located in the Puracé National Natural Park in the Cauca Department, Colombia. It is part of the North Volcanic Zone of the Andean Volcanic Belt. The volcano is located at the intersection of the Coconucos and Morris Faults.
You can hike up to Puracé volcano summit in a day hike, where you will pass through the typical Colombian highland Paramo landscapes, lakes and finally up volcanic sand before reaching the summit and the crater.
There are multiple ways to do so. Maybe one of the easiest ways is to join a tour from Popayan, the closest city or you can go solo but I do not recommend it for safety reasons: you may get lost, you may suffer an injury, you may get robbed etc.
Always hike with a group of experienced hikers and importantly have one or a couple of local tour guides with you so you get unique insights about the culture and nature of the area.
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3. Nuquí, Chocó
Nuquí is an absolute must for nature lovers. Nuquí is located on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Nuquí has a great cultural diversity as well as a big variety of flora and fauna.
You can book an eco hut and enjoy whale watching (July), surfing, yoga, fishing or just simply enjoy the jungle, waterfalls and waterholes around.
Nuquí is a naturally and culturally rich region where indigenous and black faces travel the mangrove swamps, and rainforest accompanied by those light, feathered, colourful beings, some of them habitual mariners, others terrestrial, some residents in this rainforest, others sporadic visitors, natural born nomads of the sky. The beaches, with fresh and saltwater sands, leaving behind torrential silvery waves to become verdant grounds, concealing the lairs of insects and amphibians who find nourishment in every drop of water. The leaves and roots of this inundated soil are home to microscopic beings who, with the patience of wisdom and with little change in their surroundings, sprout from the earth or a tree trunk or a stalk.
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Tip: if you have extra time, you can visit Tutunendo village, near Quibdo, Choco. In Tutunedo you can support the local Tour del Río (River Tour) an initiative that attempts to change the social imaginary that associates Choco only with the sea. Notable among its tourist attractions are la Piedra del Diablo, Sal de Frutas, Chaparraido, Playa Pepa, and La Angostura, all of which are beautiful spots secretly hidden in the rainforest.
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“We must change the current consumerist and extractivist relationship we have developed with all other living beings and the soil. We have to pay back our debts to all of them. All the food, wood, fresh water and minerals have been given to us. When we give back, everything will stay healthy and flourish.”
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2. San José del Guaviare
On the border between the departments of Meta and Guaviare, the Guayabero and Ariari Rivers converge in the middle of the Eastern Plains to become the Guaviare River. In the district of Cerro Azul, within the capital of the department, San José del Guaviare, you can find the Nuevo Tolima pictographs, a compendium of hundreds of ancient rock paintings whose meaning and date are still uncertain.
This collection of memories was created in an area near one of the most extraordinary landscapes in Colombia. There, in the Lindosa mountain range, the panorama of natural beauty exceeds imagination with its colourful rivers, high waterfalls and a diversity of fauna that dazzle the eyes.
Within this hot and humid paradise, a chain of rocky formations shelters the Nuevo Tolima pictographs, four big panels that show the spiritual and material concepts of the ancestral indigenous peoples.
There are three principal sites where visitors can observe these ancient ‘cave’ paintings:
- Nuevo Tolima
- Cerro Azul (also known as Cerro Pinturas)
- El Raudal del Guayabero
In fact, most people believe that the surrounding rock formations hold many more secrets yet to be revealed, but for now, nature lovers have to be content with these three natural wonders.
All three archeological sites have their unique charms, but for a short trip, a visit to anyone should satisfy your natural curiosity.
In short, Cerro Azul has probably the clearest and most well-preserved paintings, Nuevo Tolima is the most easily accessible and connects easily with a day trip to other unique sites such as the Ciudad de Piedra and Los Tuneles, and the Raudal del Guayabero is probably the most off-the-beaten-track site.
All of them offer the chance to hike along trails in the jungle, observe a variety of flora and fauna, and all three have spectacular viewpoints over the surrounding jungles.
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1. Cabo de la Vela (Cape of the Sail), La Guajira
The little beachside town of Cabo de La Vela in Colombia’s northern desert region of La Guajira is increasingly popular with travellers. The stunning location, unique landscapes and culture, and wonderful beaches make Cabo a great place to spend a few days kitesurfing. You can also climb Pilon de Azucar (a conical sacred hill by the local Wayuu indigenous people) or just chill at the nearby Pilon beach.
Go an extra mile: The most northerly point of South America is Punta Gallinas, a wild and remote desert peninsula a few hours north of Cabo de La Vela. The landscapes are truly unique and surreal and Punta Gallinas is one of the highlights of many travellers’ time in the Colombian Caribbean.
You can easily arrange the overnight trip to Punta Gallinas from Cabo, so make sure you include an extra couple of days on your itinerary to experience this magical place.
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OTHER TOP 3 NATURAL COLOMBIAN ATTRACTIONS
Gorgona and Malpelo Islands. Scuba divers will love visiting these two islands located in the Colombian pacific ocean.Puerto Carreño. Head to Puerto Carreño to really get off the grid, or fish the untouched waters of Río Guayabero, Rio Inirida, or Río Elvita. You will love fishing the giant Peacock Bass that can reach up to 10kg. Best time to visit January to March.
- Rio Claro (Clear River) Doradal, Antioquia. Rio Claro is a Natural Reserve located on the highway between Medellín and Bogotá with stunning crystalline waters flowing through a marble canyon, amazing wildlife, and some great activities like rafting and caving.
- El bosque de Pandora, El Peñón, Santander. People say that James Cameron visited this forest before he produced the famous movie: Avatar. You would not be surprised to consider this could be a fact after visiting this amazing place.
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OVER-RATED NATURAL PLACES TO AVOID IN COLOMBIA
- Rosario Islands (Islas del Rosario). Over commercialised and overpopulated islands near Cartagena, you will find a crazy crowd of drunk tourists and loud music at the floating bars.
- San Andres Islands. (San Andres). Overpopulation is a massive issue in San Andres island plus the lack of drinkable natural water. Most drinkable water is consumed from plastic bottled water transported from mainland Colombia. The island is full of tacky holiday resorts that have destroyed the natural wonders of the island.
Undoubtedly, Colombia is a country that will transform your soul. The richness of its biodiversity, landscapes and warm people will slowly enchant you and leave you with the best travel memories.
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THE BEST 10 PLACES TO VISIT IN COLOMBIA FOR NATURE LOVERS IN 2024
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