- LOST CITY TREK IN LA SIERRA NEVADA DE SANTA MARTA
This five-day trek to the ancient Lost City really connected me with the wonder of Colombia’s ancient cultures. It was built in about 800AD (650 years before Machu Picchu) by the Tayrona people (who still exist at high altitudes) and an expedition offers hikers the unique opportunity to breathe in the past and take in the rich biological heritage of the area. Visit: http://turcoltravel.com/en
- CAÑO CRISTALES, THE RIVER OF SEVEN COLOURS
In the east of Colombia, in the Sierra de la Macarena mountain range, babbles a unique river. Caño Cristales is dull in appearance for most of the year; however, between September and November, it explodes in a vivacious kaleidoscope of colours thanks to an aquatic plant, Macarenia clavigera. Visit: www.caminantesdelretorno.com for more information.
- SALT CATHEDRAL, ZIPAQUIRÁ
Just one hour’s drive north of Bogotá lies a wonder of human skill and art. The one-of-a-kind Salt Cathedral was built deep underground in the largest reserve of salt rock in the world and is considered Colombia’s “modern-age architectural jewel”.
- TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK
The Tayrona National Park is my favourite place to lie back, read and enjoy the breathtaking beauty around me while the fresh sea breeze gently rocks my hammock. Take a short trek to the ruins of Pueblito (“Little City”), built by the Tayrona people. If you’re feeling adventurous, book a diving trip with marine biologists and explore the colourful marine life below. Visit: www.quimeradivers.com
5. VILLA DE LEYVA
Stop by for a day or three in this historical town 150km north of Bogotá and marvel at its flawlessly conserved, colonial whitewashed walls, original cobbled streets and picturesque atmosphere. Time has stood still here and no modern architecture exists. Be sure to visit the old astronomic observatory, El Infiernito (”Little Hell”), made of phallic stones, about 30km from the town centre.
- CARTAGENA DE INDIAS
This romantic, fairytale city on the Caribbean coast is mesmerising with its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, charming cobbled streets and rich local culture. Immerse yourself in its legends and ancient history and breathe in fresh, salty air as you meander through the old city. Add a touch of magic by doing a walking audio tour of the city, which follows the footsteps of legendary novelist Gabriel García Márquez.
- COFFEE ZONE, SALENTO
For a chance to wake up and smell crisp mountain air and fresh coffee brewing, head to Salento, a small village in the central coffee-growing area. From here you can explore the Valle de Cocora, home of Colombia’s national symbol, the unique wax palm, which grows up to 60m tall. Enjoy the surreal scenery by hiking through the mountains and the region’s remarkable landscapes.
- GORGONA ISLAND
Situated 56km off the west coast of Colombia in the Pacific Ocean, Gorgona Island (of volcanic origin) is a tiny, protected reserve perfect for snorkellers, divers and whale-watchers (pods of humpbacks pass by from July-October). Previously the “Alcatraz” of Colombia, this ecological gem is neither cheap nor easy to reach, so it’s much less travelled – but it’s certainly worth the effort.
- SAN AGUSTÍN ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK
This Unesco World Heritage site honours ceremonial funeral grounds dating back to pre-Hispanic times. Located in the south of Colombia, San Agustín is home to over 500 giant stone statues, sarcophagi, tombs and ruins. This incredible scenery was built by Indians who used sculpture to express their religious beliefs.
- ARCHIPELAGO OF SAN ANDRÉS, PROVIDENCIA AND SANTA CATALINA
The fusion of Dutch, Spanish, English and African influences on this Caribbean island has created a wonderfully rich culture, intertwined with wisdom, traditions, languages and music from far-off countries. The remote beaches, pristine coral reefs and truly multi-cultural society add a flavourful Caribbean ambience to your Colombian journey – and sipping coco locos (a local rum-based cocktail) and buying duty-free imports aren’t so bad either.