Beaches, jungles, big cities? Colombia in South America has it all! Plan your trip today, and make sure you hit these beautiful cities in Colombia! From the largest city of Bogata to the cultural capital of Medellin, these Colombian cities have something for everyone.
Forget what you’ve heard – Colombia is the go-to country for South American travel and tourism is booming. It’s only a short flight away, the cost of living is cheap, and the food, nightlife, and nature are absolutely amazing. Whether you explore Columbia on a tour or solo, you must make sure to add these Columbian cities to your travel itinerary.
Table of Contents
Best Cities in Colombia
Colombia, in South America, has something for everyone, whether you are a nature lover or a foodie. If you are looking for beautiful colonial towns or a thriving metropolis, you’ve come to the right place. We are breaking down the best cities with tours and ideas on why you should visit and what there is to see and do.
Colombia’s capital city, Bogota is the largest city in the country and one of the largest cities in South America with 9 million people, Bogota has something for everyone.
Explore the old cobbled streets of the colorful La Candelaria district. La Candelaria is a village within the city is known for its cobblestone streets and the historic center. The neighborhood is home to a number of churches and cathedrals, such as the La Candelaria Church and the San Francisco Church. The neighborhood is also a popular destination for visitors during carnival time when the streets are filled with music and festivals.
There are a lot of cool museums, such as the Gold Museum, which showcases the country’s indigenous history, and the National Museum, which features a wide range of art and artifacts from around the world.
Breweries, clubs, and restaurants dominate the hip Zona Rosa Zone and guarantee an amazing (and maybe somewhat hazy) night out any day of the week. Just make sure you pack a jacket – at 8,600 feet, the altitude keeps the city of Bogota cool all year round.
Stay: Chapinero Neighborhood
Drink: Zona Rosa
Eat: La Puerta Falsa, Quatro Mesas, Andres Carne de Res
See: Monserrate, Candelaria, Simon Bolivar Square
2. Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena is another Colombian city you must visit. It’s steeped in beauty, mystery, and tropical heat. The beachside city was built with a colonial flair, and the brightly-covered houses of the old town are draped in flowers and greenery. Read more about Cartagena: Things to do in Cartagena – Visit the Jewel of Colombia
This beautiful colonial town on the Caribbean coast is one of the most popular Colombian cities to visit. The city is not only known for its stunning beaches and crystal clear waters but also for its history and culture.
Like most Colombian cities it is full of museums, such as the Palace of the Inquisition, which tells the story of the city’s colonial past, and the Castillo San Felipe, a fortress that offers panoramic views of the city. Just make sure you don’t miss a day trip to Playa Blanca, the gorgeous white sand beach stretching across Cartagena’s Caribbean islands. Paradise!
Where to Stay: Getsemani or Old town
Drink: El Arsenal, Cafe Havana, Trinidad Square
Eat: La Cevicheria, Porton de San Sebastion
See: Playa Blanca, Coral National Park, Old Town
Medellin has a bad rap as the home of Pablo Escobar, but the city has totally transformed itself in the past 15 years. The vibrant city of 2 million boasts some of the best nightlife in the country in the Poblado neighborhood, as well as a large and easy-to-access to its National Park on the surrounding mountainsides.
Make sure to a few of its many museums such as the Medellin Museum of Modern Art and the Antioquia Museum. There is also plenty of green space to relax in Arví Park, which offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding region.
You can visit the city any time of year, but the city really comes to life in early august during the festival of flowers, Fería de las Flores.
Drink: Happy Buddha Bar, Craft Beer Bar, Chupa Shots,
Eat: Querido Food & Love, Bonhomia
See: Cable Car, Parque Arvi, Guatape, City Tour
4. San Andres Island
This little-known Caribbean island is nestled near Nicaragua and about a 3-hour flight from Colombia’s mainland. San Andres is known for its crystal clear waters making it a popular destination for superb diving and snorkeling. Dive into the clear blue waters or just enjoy the year-round perfect weather and get away from it all.
The island is also home to several historical landmarks, such as the San Andres Lighthouse and the Fort of San Luis. If you love seafood, beaches, and lounging in the sun – the pace of this laid-back island is definitely for you.
San Andres Island essentials
Where to Stay: Rocky Cay or El Centro
Drink: Grab a bottle of liquor or wine and enjoy it laying on the beach
Eat: Rosa del Mar
See: Rocky Cay Island, San Luis Beach, West View
Jardin really is a town that time forgot. Step back in time in this little farming town untouched by modern times. Wander the wholesome market streets of the main square, visit the Basilica, and enjoy the many cafes and restaurants spreading their tables out into the sun.
Spend your days hiking the nearby mountainsides and waterfalls, and your nights sipping coffee with the locals. I promise you’ll never see Colombia the same after this.
Drink: Coffee in the many cafe’s surrounding the square
Eat: Cafe Europa
See: Hike to nearby waterfalls, horseback ride to la Cueva del Esplendor
6. Santa Marta
This quaint town set upon a beautiful backdrop of rolling hills. The oldest city in Colombia is home to a number of churches and cathedrals, such as the Cathedral of Santa Marta and the Church of San Francisco. The historic center is filled with colorful buildings as well as a number of museums, such as the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the former home of Simón Bolívar.
No trip to Colombia would be complete without spending time at the beach, and Santa Marta is a popular destination for tourists looking to relax by the sea with its beautiful beaches.
Santa Marta is a great base for exploring the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Tayorona National parks. If you are looking for something cool to see it also provides access to the famed Lost City of the Taironas. This trek takes you deep into the jungle to see a citadel that is older than Machu Pichhu.
Santa Marta Essentials
Stay: Historic Center for culture, El Rodadero for the beaches
Eat: Ouzo Restaurant for its Mediterranean-inspired menu
See: Parque Bolivar and the Santa Marta cathedral, Santa Marta Gold Museum, Beaches, and Nightlife
7. Villa de Leyva
This charming town in the Andean region of Colombia is a place where time stands still. It is one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia that is known for its whitewashed buildings and cobblestone streets.
Plaza Mayor is one of the largest main squares in South America paved with cobblestones and surrounded by colonial architecture. The magnificent Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, built in 1604, is also near the square. The building exhibits colonial baroque architecture and still has its altarpieces carved from wood and covered in gold.
The Paleontological Museum displays dinosaur fossils from the area and the Antonio Nariñohouse Museum is a good stop to see where the forefather of Colombia’s independence spent the last days of his life.
Located less than three hours from Bogota, this mountainous town is also a popular destination for mountain biking and hiking.
Villa de Leyva Essentials
Stay: Calle Caliente the Commercial Center Hotel Plazuela de San Agustín
Eat: La Tienda de Teresa.
See: El Fosil museum, Hike Mirador el Santo, Tour Terracotta House
8. San Gil
San Gil is located in the eastern part of Colombia and is known for its extreme sports. From paragliding to white-water rafting, and even bunjy jumping this is the place to visit for outdoor lovers.
The Fundación Santurbán Museum showcases the region’s natural history, and the Casa de la Cultura hosts exhibitions and events related to the arts and humanities. The town is also a popular destination for visitors looking to explore the coffee farms of the area.
San Gil Essentials
Stay: Hotel Campestre Palmas del Zamorano
Eat: Sample changua (egg and milk soup) or Hormigas Culonas (big butted ants)
See: Mountain Biking, White Water Rafting, Canyoning, Paragliding, waterfalls
This city is in the western part of Colombia and is known as the world capital of Salsa. If you want to really take in some Colombian nightlife, Cali is the place for dancing and partying. In many other cities in Latin America preserve the colonial buildings frozen in time, Cali has a more modern feel with colonial buildings mixed with new.
Outside of the nightlife, Cali has a rich history of Afro-Colombian culture with an impressive historic center. It is home to a number of museums, such as the Cali Art Museum and the La Tertulia Museum.
The town is also a popular destination for visitors looking to explore the coffee triangle as it is the heart of the coffee and sugar trade.
Travelers usually make their way to Cali to discover the famed archeological sites of Tierradentro and San Agustin which are a few hours outside the city. The San Agustin Archaeological Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is not to be missed. Its prehistoric megalithic sculptures predate the Mayans and Inca civilizations.
Stay: Centro District
Eat: Try cholado, (mixed fruit with condensed milk and syrup) Dine in the El Peñón district.
See: Watch a salsa show at Delirio, visit the bohemian neighborhood of San Antoni, El Cristo Rey (reminisce of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janiero)
Barranquilla is located on the Caribbean coast and the delta of the Magdalena River. It is famous for the Carnival of Barranquilla. It is the third-largest Carnival in the world!
Tourists are mostly attracted to Barranquilla for the festival, but it is also home to a number of interesting museums, such as the Barranquilla Museum of Modern Art. El Museo del Caribe traces the history and culture of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
Make sure to visit its numerous beautiful parks, such as the Metropolitan Park, which offers panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea. While in Barranquilla, make sure to stay out late to experience its lively nightlife.
Stay: Alto Prado – NH Collection Royal Suites
Drink: Coffee in the many cafe’s surrounding the square
Eat: whole fried fish, Cheese-filled arepas
See: Carnaval de Barranquilla, Beaches, Take the open-air train to where the Magdalena River meets the Caribbean Sea.
Popayán is a city located in the Andean region of Colombia. It has a population of approximately 350,000 people and is known for its beautiful colonial buildings and its annual Holy Week celebrations, which attract tourists from all over the world.
Known as the White City, Popayán is located in the department of Cauca. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and valleys. With a pleasant tropical climate with temperatures, Popayán is a good destination for travelers any time of the year.
Popayán is popular with tourists because of its cultural and historical attractions such as Popayán Cultural Center and several historical landmarks, such as the Popayán Cathedral and the San Francisco Church.
The city is also known for its excellent cuisine, which is influenced by both Spanish and indigenous traditions. The city is home to many restaurants and cafes that serve traditional Colombian dishes, such as ajiaco, a soup made with chicken, potatoes, and corn, and empanadas, pastries filled with meat and vegetables.
Stay: Historic Centre – Hotel Plazuela
Eat: tamales and empanadas filled with potatoes and peanuts and helados de paila
See: Parque Caldas, Puente Del Humilladero, Silvia Indigenous Market
Manizales is a city located in the Andean region of Colombia. It has a population of approximately 300,000 people and is the capital of the department of Caldas. The city is known for its beautiful natural surroundings, including the Los Nevados National Natural Park, which is home to several hiking trails and scenic viewpoints.
There are several cultural attractions in Manizales that are worth visiting, such as the Manizales Cathedral, which is a beautiful example of neo-gothic architecture, and the Casa de la Cultura, which hosts exhibitions and events related to the arts and humanities.
One of the best things to do in Manizales is to explore the Los Nevados National Natural Park. The park is home to several active volcanoes hiking trails, as well as a number of scenic viewpoints that offer panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The park is also home to a variety of plant and animal species, making it a popular destination for birdwatching and nature photography.
In addition to its natural beauty, Manizales is also known for its Colombian coffee and excellent cuisine, which is influenced by both Spanish and indigenous traditions. The city is home to a number of restaurants and cafes that serve traditional Colombian dishes, such as ajiaco, a soup made with chicken, and potatoes. Read more: Colombian Food: 28 Traditional Dishes to try in Colombia or at home
Stay: Zona Rosa – Hotel Varuna
Eat: Coffee at Hacienda Venecia and try Ajiaco soup
See: Ruiz Hot Springs, Los Nevados National Park, and Manizales Cathedral, Take in the views from the Skywalk.
Bucaramanga in north-central Colombia is known for its parks and amazing weather. The top attractions in this city have to be its green spaces. They are for nature lovers who want to take a break from the bustle of the city. It boasts of an impressive 160-parks scattered throughout the city the most famous include Parque Centenario, Parque Santander, and Romero park.
There are lots to do and see for locals and visitors alike starting with Chicamocha national park with activities such as; mountain climbing, paragliding, camping, fishing, and more. Other things to see include its many churches including the cathedral of the Holy family, the Museum of Modern Art of Bucaramanga, and Capillo de Los Dolore (the oldest temple in the city).
Bucaramanga also has lots of coffee, tobacco, cacao, corn, and pineapple farms scattered throughout its surrounding areas. Some of which offer tours and other activities for visitors.
Stay: Cabecera de Llano
Eat: Fritanga (Deep fried Yucca)
See: Catedral de la Sagrada Familia, Parque del Agua, many green spaces
Map of Colombian Cities
And these are some of the best cities in Colombia surrounded by beautiful landscapes, taking you off the beaten track or into the thick of things, a visit to one or many of these urban centers is sure to add to your Latin American travels.