My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogotá, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
33 incredible natural destinations in Colombia
Why do I come across 33 regions? Colombia has 33 departments and as a mega-diverse country, there is actually a natural wonder or natural spectacle in every corner of Colombia that a traveler should experience.
In the following text, we go on a journey through Colombia and discover the most beautiful places that Colombia travelers have to witness.
We will travel virtually to the most famous natural attractions as well as many unknown destinations.
The Amazon region covers roughly a third of the area of Colombia. To experience the Amazon up close, Leticia has been the best-known destination in the Amazon department so far and offers a huge variety of possible experiences.
This department is not yet very developed in terms of tourism, but it is the most advanced tourist destination among the departments in the Amazon region.
The small village of Puerto Nariño is a 2-3 hour boat ride and 87 km from Leticia. You are in the middle of the Amazon, you can stay there and there is even a decent hotel.
From Puerto Nariño there is the possibility of various excursions in the area, on foot or by boat. It also depends on the season, as the difference in water level is enormous.
Reserva Natural Palmari
Now I’m using a little trick because Palmari is on the Brazilian side. Leticia is a city, but it is partly in Colombia and partly in Brazil, so the border is not very far away and you can cross it on foot.
To reach Palmari, however, you have to plan 5 hours by boat at low tide and 4 hours at high tide.
Anyways, what you can experience there is an absolute Amazon adventure. From bird watching to jungle expeditions lasting several days, you can experience pretty much everything there.
The city of Medellín probably knows everyone who is interested in Colombia. However, the Antioquia department has much more to offer than its capital.
Jardín is a small town about 3 hours drive from Medellin. It is also a well-known cultural asset in the country and the colonial architecture is very well preserved.
There is pure nature around Jardín. There are several routes for hiking, rivers, and waterfalls.
Known as the most colorful village in Colombia, Guatape is Medellin’s number 1 destination. Climbing the big rock “El Penol” is of course mandatory during a visit.
However, the region has much more to offer. The man-made lake is responsible for an incredibly beautiful and spacious island landscape. You can either explore the area on foot or the water or indulge in one of the nautical sports.
There are also various overnight accommodations in all segments, spread across the various islands. You should therefore consider whether you want to stay two to three days instead of a day trip.
San Rafael was founded in 1864. The pretty little village is also a popular destination for city dwellers.
In addition to rivers, you will find natural pools, caves, hiking trails… Actually everything you need for an active time in the fresh air.
Granted, I haven’t been to Arauca yet. But I have already been invited several times. The department of Arauca is part of the Llanos and is therefore dominated by cattle breeding. Excellent cocoa is also produced.
There are also offers for sport fishing, as different rivers cross the department.
The territory of the department extends over the Eastern Cordilleras, up to the Cocuy National Park. From high mountains to the steppe, you can do very different activities in this very sparsely populated department. International tourism has so far arrived very sparingly in Arauca.
At Barranquilla, of course, everyone thinks of the carnival right away, but unfortunately, it only takes place once a year. However, outside the department’s capital, there are some efforts to develop the area for nature tourism and bird watching.
This nature reserve offers a nature experience on the hot Caribbean coast. The organization is still very young, but will hopefully develop over the next few years. You can hike, watch animals and cool off in the river.
Right next to the small village of Piojó, there is also a privately operated nature reserve where you can not only enjoy an excellent breakfast but also discover the local nature on good paths.
Bogotá, Bogotá D.C.
Bogota is the capital of Colombia and forms its own department. Although one might assume that a city of 10 million people cannot escape it, the city has some interesting green spots.
The whole eastern flank of the mountain range is also part of Bogota and offers some interesting excursion spots for nature lovers.
You can certainly count La Calera, Monserrate, La Chorrera, and a few other hikes. Furthermore, Bogota has some very large city parks and the Botanical Garden is an absolute showpiece and offers a unique experience.
Bolívar, Cartagena de Indias
In the Bolivar department, I can definitely recommend the area around the Baru Peninsula. There are mangroves there, for example. The department also extends to Santander. The area around Mompox offers an incredibly beautiful lake landscape and is only sparsely populated.
Boyacá has a great wealth of natural resources. In addition to various paramos, for example near Villa de Leyva or Mongui, the Cocuy National Park is also part of the department.
Furthermore, parts of the Chicamocha trench are also located in the department. There is also a wonderful area for mountain biking around the village of Susacon.
Particularly noteworthy is the landscape around Guatavita, which is very inviting for hiking.
At Lake Tota, there is also a Playa Blanca, where you can take a boat out onto the lake or take a small tour up on horseback.
Where do we start in Caldas, because it is a true natural paradise! First of all, there is the Nevado del Ruiz, which rises in the immediate vicinity of the capital. If there is no seismic activity at the moment, you can go on nice tours there.
In addition, from there you can cycle down to Manizales or take longer tours.
There are some spectacular hotels near Villa Maria, with thermal baths and incredible views of the countryside. Sometimes it is even possible to observe the majestic Andean condor.
However, you can also get to the Salamina area and not only visit one of the most beautiful historic villages in Colombia, but also visit a nearby wax palm forest, where you can hike or ride a horse.
I recently visited Florencia. It is also one of those departments that have long been occupied by armed groups. Even for many Colombians, it is still unthinkable to even think about vacationing in this area.
During our visit, however, we noticed that there is untouched nature in this region as far as the eye can see. Tourist offers are emerging, but development will still take some time.
For an insight into this region I recommend you to watch the videos.
I can call Casanare my second home in Colombia with a clear conscience. I’ve been there a dozen times by now and I’ll keep going back there.
Although the department also partially extends over the eastern Cordilleras, we focus here on the flatlands. The flat grassland – Los Llanos, extends to Venezuela and is mostly used for cattle breeding. The climate is hot and the population is very scarce.
You can sometimes find huge fincas and hatos, which are now increasingly dedicated to sustainable tourism. Original forests are being reforested and wild animals are given more space.
This department is a good example of how tourism can promote positive development because, without additional income from travelers, local landowners would probably think twice about giving part of the pasture back to nature.
The tourist offers are also continuously improved. Even luxury glamping is now offered.
If you are looking for solitude in spectacular nature, would like to see animals on a safari, or would like to ride towards the sunset, this travel destination is perfect for you.
Popayan is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Colombia and has the perfect climate. However, this cannot hide the fact that the department is still in a complicated situation and many parts are unsafe.
Despite that, there is the Puracé National Park, which is about an hour’s drive from Popayan. The zone is inhabited by indigenous people and they also provide the local guides.
The park is a natural paradise and with a little luck, you can see a condor.
Non-Colombians are unlikely to have heard of this destination before. The department is located not far from the Caribbean coast, on the back of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
That is also the attraction that makes this destination so unique. The zone resembles the pre-Alps and the rivers from the mountains are crystal clear. The local indigenous peoples are vigilant to ensure that it stays that way.
From this side, too, the Sierra Nevada offers an absolute natural spectacle and, in addition to hiking and riding, you can also just swim and relax. Anyone who watches the video will certainly consider this destination.
The Chocó department would be a paradise for every nature lover. Located on the Pacific coast, it is not only one of the wettest areas in the world, but also one of the most biodiverse.
The area is sparsely populated and nature is largely left to its own devices.
Unfortunately, there are many problems in this area as well. The corruption is considered to be the worst in all of Colombia. There are many illegal mines and therefore immense pollution and various armed groups in connection with drug production and smuggling.
Therefore, there are only two destinations on the Pacific coast that can be described as safe, namely Bahia Solano and Nuqui.
A visit to one of the destinations mentioned is definitely worth it. You will experience a firework of nature because the Pacific coast is wild, unpredictable, and simply beautiful. You should plan a few days, however, as it can rain for a whole day.
Córdoba is a coastal department, but also has some inland waters and mountains because it borders the Antioquia department.
In any case, one should keep the beaches in mind, because they are not visited by crowds of tourists.
Nature lovers should definitely visit the Parque Nacional Natural Paramillo.
Although Bogota D.C. forms its own department, Bogota is still the capital of the department of Cundinamarca. This region also has it all and offers countless activities for nature fans.
And best of all, most destinations can be reached relatively quickly from the capital.
You can find natural parks such as Chingaza, Quinini, Sumapaz, Pionono, Piedras del Tunjo, and Chicaque. Then there are various activities in the adjacent eastern Cordillera and the area around Villeta.
Guainia is the right destination for those who love adventure and not just nature. This department in the Amazon region borders on Venezuela.
The absolute highlight is probably the hills of Mavicure. There are hardly any better and more exclusive photo subjects.
There is also pure nature with other impressive landscapes, a variety of animals and plants, and lagoons.
Guaviare, San José del Guaviare
Guaviare is also one of the almost undiscovered regions of Colombia. One finds, for example, the Caño Sabana, which also takes on different colors at certain times of the year.
Or how about Puerta de Orión, a rock formation through which the sun shines through. Then there is the Cerro Azul, where you can marvel at characters from past cultures painted on the rocks.
The department of Huila also has a rich spectrum of nature to offer and the Tatacoa Desert in particular is located in this region. This is very well known for stargazing.
However, parts of the department are in the Cordilleras. There is also San Agustin, which is known for its archaeological excavations and parks. The environment is also beautiful and is shaped by the Magdalena River, whose catchment area is about as large as that of the Rhine.
Then there is Palestine, where my friend Michael and his family run their coffee farm. The village is already a bit remote and so is the finca, which has now been converted into a hotel. There are also interesting places to discover in the surrounding area, such as a cave with birds.
La Guajira, Riohacha
When thinking of La Guajira, many travelers first think of the desert that occupies the area of Alta Guajira. However, the department is large and parts of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta also belong to the area.
You can either travel in the Sierra Nevada or go on a desert trip. Although tourism is not very well established in this area either, I see huge potential for the future, because in my opinion, the area is simply spectacular.
Magdalena, Santa Marta
The Magdalena department is located on the Caribbean coast and the capital Santa Marta should be known to many travelers.
With a large part of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the department owns one of the most valuable regions of Colombia in my opinion. If you love nature and want to travel to one of the most beautiful zones in the country, you should definitely plan a visit to this mountain range.
The Meta department begins in the Chingaza National Park at an altitude of over 4,000 meters above sea level. Then it goes steeply down to the grassland of the Llanos, where you move at an altitude of around 300 meters above sea level.
Not only the Chingaza National Park is an absolute pearl, but also the flank of the Cordilleras in front of the capital Villavicencio. The Bosque Bavaria is not only a good destination for hiking in the vicinity of the city, but also for birding.
Deeper in the Llanos you will find the wide grassland and the many exciting animals of the region. Part of the tourism industry is now focusing on bird watching and eco-tourism.
Nature-loving travelers should definitely include this area on the shortlist.
Narino is an absolute nature department and nature lovers can let off steam in this area. Not only are there countless volcanoes, but also canyons, rivers, mountains, and even the Pacific coast.
On my last trip, we visited different bird watching destinations. The accommodations are not luxurious, but nature deserves 5 stars.
Norte de Santander, San José de Cúcuta
Norte de Santander has always been in the headlines and the department is considered a risk destination because there are armed groups.
Nevertheless, at the last tourism fair in Bogota, I had long conversations with local tour operators, who explained to me that the uncertainty only affects the north of the department.
The nature experiences offered are impressive, but I want to get an impression on-site before I make recommendations here. A visit to the region is therefore still pending on my part.
This department is another pearl that has found its way to tourism. Putumayo was also occupied by armed groups for a long time, but is now travelable.
The area is not heavily populated and the “Fin del Mundo” waterfall is already a figurehead.
You can still find a large number of waterfalls and pure nature in the whole area. In addition to hiking and, of course, horse riding, there are already offers for canyoning.
However, since the department is also part of the Amazon region, not all destinations are accessible by roads.
Quindio is probably the most touristic of the regions in the coffee triangle. The areas around the Valle de Cocora and Salento act like magnets. Nevertheless, there are many other great destinations and nature experiences in the area.
For example, if you take the road to Tolima from Salento, you won’t cry tears after the Cocora Valley. You will find a large number of wax palms and unspoiled nature there and, best of all, very few tourists.
Then you should also take a trip to the Buenavista area. Not only are there authentic villages there, but also a coffee-growing area with a great view.
Risaralda also offers fantastic nature experiences. Especially towards Choco, where the area is getting more and more influence from the Pacific.
It is not for nothing that this region is also one of the most important bird-watching destinations. The area around Apia in particular is spectacular and worth a visit at any time thanks to the view over the entire valley.
San Andrés y Providencia, San Andrés
Although the south of the island of San Andres offers a beautiful landscape and is not yet littered with ugly buildings, I still advise against a visit. The island has dedicated itself to mass tourism and in my opinion, it will destroy itself in the next few years.
In contrast to San Andres, Providencia, only a 15-minute flight away, has a very protectionist policy. This means that the island has remained a true paradise so far and is not overrun by tourists.
In addition to beautiful secluded beaches, you can also go on boat tours, hike, dive, relax and, above all, eat very well on the island.
The region around the department of Santander is predestined for fresh air activities. The Cañon de Chicamocha alone is worth a trip.
A real cluster for outdoor sports enthusiasts has developed in the region around San Gil and nothing is left to be desired.
With La Mesa de los Santos, Barichara, Socorro, and San Juan de Giron, the department also offers great cultural destinations with magnificent nature in the surrounding area.
The department of Sucre is best known for its beaches and Colombians from Antioquia like to visit this region for beach holidays.
Destinations like Tolu, Cienaga de la Leche, and the island of San Bernardo should definitely be looked at more closely.
Parts of Tolima still belong to the Coffee Triangle and the department also has areas in the Cordilleras. Nature-lovers should definitely add the Canon de Combeima to their list.
This area, below the Nevado del Tolima, is not only very easy to reach, but also offers beautiful nature.
Valle del Cauca, Cali
I have already visited the Valle del Cauca department several times and nature lovers will get their money’s worth here. Adjacent to the Coffee Triangle, the area also has a connection to the Pacific.
From Buenaventura on the Pacific, you can either reach various destinations in the Pacific by boat or take the old roads to Cali.
This area offers a great diversity of flora and fauna and is also very suitable for bird watching. However, you should travel to the region with an appropriate tour operator.
Furthermore, there are various activities in the area around Cali, which make every nature lover’s heart beat faster.
The Vaupés department is a 100% Amazon department and can only be reached by plane. Waterways are mainly used for transport within the department.
Outside the capital Mitu, which has around 30,000 inhabitants, all activities are nature-related.
Meanwhile, there are already some good initiatives for municipal tourism.
Vichada, Puerto Carreño
The Vichada department is part of the Llanos region and also borders Venezuela. The sparsely populated area does not yet have much tourism, but it has a few gems to offer.
The Parque Nacional Natural El Tuparro is definitely worth a visit. The river landscape and the great diversity of species in every respect are legendary.
Activities such as fishing, horse riding, or a Llanos safari can also be undertaken.
Colombia Travel Guides
If you are meanwhile convinced that you should head for Colombia, I will offer you some navigation aids below.
- Colombia Travel Guide
- Bogotá Travel Guide
- Medellin Travel Guide
- Santa Marta Travel Guide
- Cartagena Travel Guide
- La Guajira Travel Guide
- Llanos Travel Guide
- Providencia Travel Guide
- Coffee Triangle Travel Guide
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