For my first trip to Colombia I followed the path of the typical tourist: Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellin. It obviously impressed me because I came back to Colombia to live for two years. The people of Colombia are so friendly, so patient (which is great if you’re trying to learn Spanish), and such wonderful caring people. I find over and over again that once people come to Colombia, they don’t want to leave. While my tourist trip through the big cities inspired me to come back, I now suggest to people coming to Colombia for the first time to try something different. There are so many incredible places to visit in Colombia where you can become fully immersed in the culture and see the unique beauty this country has to offer. So without further ado, these are some of my favorite and awe-inspiring places of Colombia.
Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Playa_de_Trigana.jpg
This little gem is kind of a trek to get to, but well worth it if you want to be on a beautiful secluded beach with some Colombian charm. If you’re coming from inland Colombia, you either have to take a bus to the Atlantic coast or fly to the nearest airport and then take an hour long water taxi (or a lancha as they call it) to get to Triganá. All the beaches I have visited on the coast of Colombia have beautiful blue water, but as you approach this inlet beach, the water turns to a crystal clear green, unlike anything I have ever seen. It is a small peaceful beach with different housing options along the shore. The accommodation is typically a fixed payment that includes all meals, and there is a small beachside store for anything else you may find yourself craving. There’s only one bar on the beach that plays incredible music and I would walk past it throughout the night and stop to have a drink or salsa dance before continuing my stroll.
There is also a strenuous hike inland where you find yourself climbing up big rocks instead of an actual trail and you’ll see incredible wildlife, including the poisonous green and black dart frog.
What I loved about this place is that I felt totally safe at all times; safe from violence, robbery, and judgment. The town’s electricity shuts off at 10 and the only lights are from the occasional generator, which makes it an amazing place to stargaze. I sat on my hotel’s roof (where they dry the laundry, not some fancy rooftop bar) and watched the stars all night. I saw nine shooting stars that night. This was one of my most magical moments in all of my time in Colombia, and I would suggest it to anyone.
As far a pure draw-dropping beauty is concerned, the Cocora Valley is at the top of my list of places to visit in Colombia. Home to the largest palm tree in the world, the wax palm, which can reach a height of 200ft, has a way of reminding you how grand this world is and how tiny we are. There are multiple trail options of different lengths to explore the Valley, and you reach a point in the hike where you look out at the mountains and see tall wax palms all around you. One of the additional options is the hike up to see the hummingbird sanctuary, where they fly all around you while you sip on a typical Colombian hot chocolate with quesito. Then you continue hiking, going a different way than you came, forming a big loop, and hop on the back of your jeep and hold on to get back to the town of Salento.
Salento is one of the most charming places in Colombia. It is a quaint cobblestone town filled with color with friendly people and lots of charm. Normally I am typically not interested in anything that is classified as a “souvenir,” but the streets of Salento are filled with beautiful and unique local artisan crafts and jewelry and I found myself wanting to buy one of everything. The region is famous for “trucha” (trout), prepared in a way you’ve never seen before, and in almost any restaurant in town.
Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reserva_Natural_R%C3%ADo_Claro_117.jpg
Rio Claro is a hot tourist destination for Colombians looking for a few days outside of the city, but is still relatively off the beaten path for foreigners. As its name implies, this river is famous because of its clarity, which is especially beautiful while partaking in all of the outdoor activities this place has to offer. They offer zip-lining along the river, rock climbing, tubing, and rafting, but the best by far in my opinion is the cavern tour because I had never done anything like it. The tour starts with a hike uphill until you reach the entry point of the cavern. Once you enter the cavern, it is completely dark except for your flashlight. What I love about this tour is that it is completely authentic. There are no paths or mood lighting. We were following the path of the flowing water, which meant that we were walking through the water, using the natural drops in the limestone as waterslides into pitch black swimming holes. You finally see daylight again back at Rio Claro, where climbing down a rope in a waterfall finishes the tour.
Rio Claro is another package deal, where you choose your room and your three meals are included, which were all fantastic. The rooms are meant to immerse you in nature, with one wall open to the rainforest and overlooking the river. Visitors walk along a magical path from their rooms to the main dining hall where they have a plethora of games to choose from to hang out after you’ve finished eating.
While Triganá is a little more complicated to get to with the boat ride, Rio Claro, Salento, and the Cocora Valley are all relatively easy to get to by bus, especially if you’re already planning to bus from Medellin to Bogota or Cali. If you have time in your schedule for some extra stops, these are definitely worth checking out.
About the Author
Cameron Matthews is an international nomad, preferring to stay for extended periods of time in foreign countries, but never having lived anywhere longer than 3 years in her entire life! She loves learning new languages and has learned to embrace feeling awkward in foreign situations. She loves going on shorter vacations, but her passion is connecting with the culture and seeing the world from a different perspective. She is still unsure of what exactly she wants out of this life, but she knows it will always involve travel. Check out her blog at www.sunscreenrecommended.com.