The colourful capital of Colombia, Bogotá has a rich history. From its amazing colonial buildings and landmarks, such as the Capitol Municipal Palace and the beautiful Museo Botero, Bogotá’s amazing architecture is juxtaposed with new-age art: street art, to be precise. This amazing city is covered with over 5000 murals – both legal and illegal. One of the best ways to get to know this cultural city is to go on your own street art walking tour. Snake through the winding paths of La Candelaria, Bogotá’s old town, where you’ll find works from both international artists and local favourites like Toxicomano & DJ Lu and Stinkfish. Better yet, jump on artist-led walking tours, where your guide will explain the cultural significance behind some of the city’s most famous murals. Dive into the art scene of Bogotá Colombia.
Trek in the Cocora Valley
For lovers of nature, you’ll want to spend some time getting lost in the Cocora Valley. The heart of the Eje Cafetero, the Colombian coffee region, apart from producing the country’s famous beans, it’s also the only place to see wax palms in their natural habitat. The world’s tallest palm trees, their slender trunks shoot up 60 meters into the sky and are topped with a handful of leaves, looking like something straight out of a Dr Seuss book. The lush, rolling green hills of this stunning valley are contrasted with the Colombian Andes on the horizon line, which makes for the perfect hiking backdrop. Stay in the nearby town of Salento to catch a jeep to the Cocora Valley hiking trials, which will lead you safely to all the best vistas of this natural wonder.
Wander through the streets of Old Town Cartagena
If you’ve come to see Colombia for a taste of the old times, put this one on your list. The Old Town of the city of Cartagena is a magnificent Walled City located on the country’s Caribbean Coast. Back in the day, Old Cartagena was one of Colonial Spain’s important ports. With massive stone fortresses guarding its 11 kilometre-long wall, once you set foot inside this city, you’ll understand why the Spanish wanted to protect it so heavily. The Old Town is something out of a children’s book, with narrow, winding streets leading to main squares lined with old churches, monasteries and mansions. These beautiful, multi-coloured buildings are a photographer’s dream. Spend some time getting lost in this maze-like city and snapping a few selfies on the way.
Go mud-bathing at Totumo Volcano
Apart from its beautiful Old Town, Cartagena also boasts another famous Colombian attraction: the Totumo Volcano. Legend has it that this volcano used to spew fire, lava and ashes, thanks to the work of the Devil. A local priest sprinkled Holy Water into its mouth and transformed its fiery matter into mud. Now, the Totumo Volcano is something of a tourist attraction. Containing calcium, magnesium and aluminium, this is no ordinary mud: this stuff is seriously good for your skin. Make the most of this muddy miracle and bathe inside it. Remember to wear your swimsuit and leave everything else behind – it’ll probably get destroyed in this thick mud bath.
Trek to the Lost City of Teyuna
In the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, bordering the Caribbean Sea on the north coast of Colombia, you’ll find the hidden the ruins of an ancient indigenous town called Teyuna. Known as the Lost City, Teyuna was built in 800 AD by the Tayronas, a native group who inhabited the area long before the arrival of the Spanish. With its raised stone platforms and terrace-like complexes, Teyuna is an architectural mystery. The only way to explore this city? By going on a trek. Hike up the mountainous landscape and through the lush Colombian forest to reach this abandoned city. You might even be lucky enough to meet some of the Kogi tribe, the native people who still inhabit the area.
Things to do in Colombia
Carnaval de Barranquilla
Much like other Carnival celebrations around the work, the Carnaval de Barranquilla occurs in the days leading up to the start of the Catholic season of Lent. The Carnival of Barranquilla is the second largest carnival celebration in the world – second only to the one in Rio de Janeiro – and is celebrated with parades, music and dancing. Party with the locals at Carnaval if you’re in Colombia in late February.
Festival de las Flores
The Feria de las Flores is a Flower Festival that takes place in Medellin, Antioquía in early August. Usually lasting for about 10 days, this festival is a celebration of flower farmers and florists, which kicks off with a parade and finishes with amazing floral displays all over the city.
Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro
One of the biggest performing arts festivals in the world, the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro is the Ibero-american Theatre Festival. This unique event happens every two years in Bogotá, usually beginning during the Catholic season of Lent and finishing during Semana Santa, or Holy Week. This festival hosts concerts and theatre performances all around the city.
Carnaval de Negros y Blancos
Arising out of native Andean and Hispanic traditions, the Carnaval de negros y blancos (the Black and White Carnival) is held every year in Juan de Pasto in south-western Colombia. This celebration runs from 28 December to 6 January each year, which begins with the Carnival of Water – one massive water fight – and features a ritual mass effigy on New Year’s Eve to burn away the past year.
Top Festivals in Colombia
There’s always a reason to celebrate in Colombia. This expressive country loves to party and will find every excuse to do so. From hailing in the new year to celebrating their local florists, here are our picks for the top five festivals in Colombia that you’ve got to check out.
The Museo de Oro is Bogota’s Gold Museum, located in the historic city centre. This museum features two floors of over 55,000 individual pieces of gold, many of which are necklaces, ornaments and sacred items of Colombia’s indigenous communities. Learn more about Colombia’s indigenous history and the story of El Dorado at this fascinating museum.
Colombian National Museum
For lovers of history, get a good grip on Colombia’s past at the National Museum in Bogota, known as the Museo Nacional. The oldest museum in Colombia, this fascinating space contains over 20,000 artefacts dating back to 10,000 BC. Learn about Colombia’s ancient civilisations all the way through the Spanish colonisation to the present day at this awesome history museum.
Named after the famous Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, the Botero Art Museum in Bogota has an impressive collection of modern art. What was once Botero’s personal collection, having donated 208 pieces of art to the museum, including original works by Picasso and Monet, the collection is housed in a beautiful colonial building with a quaint garden and courtyard.
Medellín Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art of Medellín has amazing collection of 19th and 20th century artworks. Featuring artworks by Colombian arts like Débora Arango, who were born in Medellín, the building is a masterpiece in-and-of itself. You won’t be able to miss its concrete jenga block-like structure.
Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino
Located in the city of Santa Marta, La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino (Spanish for Quinta of Saint Peter of Alexandria) is a 17th century ranch famous for being the death place of Simón Bolívar, a Colombian revolutionary. This former rum, honey and panela plantation is now a museum that tells about the 19th century Colombian struggle for independence and the role Bolívar played.
Top 5 Museums & Galleries in Colombia
With its incredible history and mix of ethnic groups, there’s so much to learn about the culture of Colombia. Dig up some of Colombia’s best stories at some of its best museums. Here are our picks for the top five museums to visit in Colombia:
One of the most popular Colombian dishes, Bandeja Paisa hails from the Andean region of the country. This hearty platter is made up of beans, white rice, chicharrón (fried pork belly), carne en polvo (powdered beef), chorizo, fried egg, avocado and arepa (cheese and cornmeal patties). Grab a serve from La Casa de Beto in Medellín.
Best eaten at La Casa de Beto, Cra. 37 #8a-28, Envigado, Medellín
The perfect meal for a colder day, ajiaco is a thick, creamy chicken soup made with three kinds of potatoes. This delicious soup is given its distinctive green colour by guascas, a native mountain herb with an aroma somewhere in between bay leaves and parsley. Chow down on a bowl from 3 Tipicos in Medellín.
Best eaten at 3 Tipicos, Cra. 34 #7-05, Medellín
When it comes to snacks, Colombians do it right. You’ll find street vendors all over the country frying up fresh chicharrón. This crispy fried pork belly oozes fat, grease and some seriously delicious aromas. Dig into some chicharrón at Love Chicharrón in Bogotá, but be warned: it’s way too easy to go overboard with this stuff.
Best eaten at Love Chicharrón, Cl. 119 #13-08, Bogotá
Another famous Colombian soup, mondongo is made using pork, tripe and chorizo. A signature dish of the Andean region of the country, these different meats are slowly cooked until tender. Flavoured with capsicum, onions, carrot, celery, garlic and herbs, this meaty dish is served with white rice, avocado, banana and drizzled with lime juice.
Best eaten at Mar Carbón & Mondongos, Cl. 60 #9 A-09, Bogotá
Tamales are a staple found in different countries across Latin America, but the Colombian version is one of the most unique. These delicious bundles are generally made with masa, dough made from corn or rice, chickpeas or yellow peas, chicken, pork belly, egg, and vegetables. What sets Colombian tamales apart from the rest is that they’re wrapped in a banana leaf before being steamed in a huge pot for several hours.
Best eaten at La Puerta Falsa, Cl. 11 #6-50, Bogotá
Food in Colombia
Meaty, hearty and delicious, Colombian food is a feast for the senses. Enjoy eating your way around this amazing country with all the delicious dishes that are on offer. From ajiaco to tamales, here are our picks for the top five Colombian foods you’ve got to try.