COLOMBIATHE AMERICAS

A Complete List Of Must Visit Towns In Colombia + My Experiences

Desert Towns, Beach Towns, Mountain Towns, Lake Town, Fossil Town, Trippy Town

“PUEBLOS MAGICOS”- This Spanish phrase is translated in English as “Magical Towns” and Colombia is full of them. It says that “The True Heart of India lies in its Villages” and the same goes for Colombia. The true heart of Colombia lies in its Towns. In this post, I will list down the must-visit towns in Colombia that have something unique to offer. Do not miss them! I have been to many towns before and after the quarantine period in Colombia. There’s something about Colombian towns which instantly attracts you. A unique mix of laid-back life, beautiful architecture, soothing nature, and friendly people. There’s so much to explore around these towns apart from what I have mentioned. So, on your next or first trip to Colombia. Ditch the cities and discover these towns!

PUERTO COLOMBIA: SECOND BIGGEST CARNIVAL

The first town I visited in Colombia was Puerto Colombia. It is a coastal town located near the city of Barranquilla in North Colombia. I traveled there to attend the second biggest carnival in the world which takes place every year in the month of February in Barranquilla. According to me, the best place to experience the carnival is Puerto Colombia. Uncrowded beaches are a bonus! You can read about my complete carnival experience here.

 

CABO DE LA VELA & PUNTA GALLINAS: WILD EXPERIENCE

If you are up for some wild experience out of your comfort zone. Head to Cabo de la vela and Punta Gallinas in the La Guijara department of North Colombia. These are desert towns along the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Very hot and very humid. The image of blue pristine beaches along the sand dunes is something you are not going to forget for a very long time. Also, Punta Gallinas is the northernmost point of South America. You can read about my complete experience of Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas here

MINCA: MOUNTAIN ESCAPE FROM BEACHES

If you are traveling in Northern Colombia and looking for an escape from hot weather and beaches like I wanted. Head to Minca. It is a small town located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. Minca is 20 km away from the city of Santa Marta. A perfect to be surrounded by nature and to do several hikes. You can read about my complete experience of Minca here.

JARDIN: BEAUTIFUL COLONIAL TOWN IN NATURE

After spending almost 6 months of Quarantine in Medellin, I begin my travel in Colombia and my first destination was Jardin. Jardin is a beautiful colonial town located in the department of Antioquia. A quiet little town is famous for its beautiful architecture, lush green vegetation, abundant rivers, and streams. You can read about my complete experience of Jardin here.

SANTA ROSA De CABAL & SALENTO: HOT SPRINGS & COCORA VALLEY

These towns lie in the famous Eje Cafetero region of Colombia which is renowned for coffee production. Santa Rosa de Cabal is located near the city of Pereira. My only purpose to visit the town was to experience the Hot springs. You can read about my complete experience of Santa Rosa de Cabal here. An hour’s drive from Periera towards the south will take you to the gorgeous and really touristic town of Salento. Salento is famous for its close proximity to Cocora Valley which inhabits the tallest palm trees in the world. You can read about my complete experience of Salento here.

 JUANCHACO & LADRILLEROS: WHALE WATCHING

Juanchaco & Ladrilleros are small towns along the pacific coast of Colombia. My only motto to visit these towns was to witness Whales. It is famous for whale-watching experiences. Also, if you want to experience the pacific coast of Colombia with a lesser crowd. This is the place for you. You can read about my complete experience here.

VILLAGARZON: WATERFALLS

Villagarzon is located in the southern department of Putumayo. Half an hour drive from the city of Mocoa. This small town is the perfect place to stay if you are looking to explore waterfalls in the region. The most famous one is “Fin del Mundo” waterfall. This region is populated by beautiful waterfalls and ponds. You can read about my complete experience here.

These kinds of statues can be seen all over the town

The Famous church in the town

From the archaeological park
Viewpoint in La Chaquira site

SAN AGUSTIN: MYSTERIOUS STATUES

Sometimes you visit a place and it keeps coming back to you. San Agustin is that kind of place. I wish I had spent more time there. The town has a strange mix of mysterious and homely vibes. The town of San Agustin is famous for its Archaeological Park which contains megalith sculptures. The origin of these statues is a mystery. There are several theories floating around. According to one outrageous theory, these statues are thrown out of a volcano thousands of years ago. These statues can be found all over the town apart from the Archaeological Park. Surrounded by mountains, The town has several trails and a perfect place to explore by walk. While exploring the town on foot, I met a hippie who invited me to the Rainbow community located deep inside the forest. The idea of exploring the unexplored always fascinated me but she was adamant that I stay for at least 2 weeks which was not an option for me. The next day, when I was about to leave San Agustin, she mysteriously told me about an Indian girl who has a golden voice and lives on a mountain who wants to meet me. I told her to gave me her number and I will speak with her on a phone but she refused because as per her that Indian girl doesn’t like to talk on a phone. Till now I am not sure what was that all about haha.

VILLAVIEJA: TATACOA DESERT

Villavieja is located in the department of Huila. It is 38 km from the city of Neiva. The only point of visiting this town is to visit the Tatacoa desert. You can get an Autorikshaw(Tuk-Tuk) from Villavieja to reach Tatacoa desert. The desert has two distinctive colors i.e. gray and ocher. I have never seen a place like this before. I with my Couchsurfing friends explored the desert by foot in the hot and humid afternoon. It was craziness-cum-adventure. Shortly after we went to a nearby swimming pool to cool it off. I missed a chance to witness the desert during the moonlight. Do not miss it! The desert looks magical during the night. There are several places to stay in the Tatacoa desert. There’s no entrance fee for the desert. You can see different colors of the Tatacoa desert at different times during the day (See pictures above).

James Bond style entry 😉
Salt mines

 

Water Mirror
Main altar
Local Dish: Ajiaco

 ZIPAQUIRA: SALT CATHEDRAL

Zipaquira is around 49 km from the capital city of Bogota. Like Villavieja is famous for the Tatacoa desert. Zipaquira is famous for Salt Cathedral. A true marvel! It is an underground church built within the tunnels of a Salt Mine. I had a great time exploring the salt cathedral. You need a whole day to explore it properly as apart from several sections and levels. There is a 3D short film, a light show, museums, a Water mirror, and several shops. The entrance fee is 57000 cop for Colombians and for foreigners 74000 cop for the regular ticket. Do try the local dish of Ajiaco when in Zipaquira.

Fossils can be seen on the walls of the town
Hike to the christ’s statue for the panoramic view of the town

Kronosaurus fossil
Clicked during the hike around the town
The main square (fully cobbled) of the villa de leyva town
The main square of Raquira Town
Waterfall near the require town
The town known for!

VILLA DE LEYVA & RAQUIRA: FOSSILS & HANDICRAFTS

Villa de Leyva is two and a half hours away from the capital city of Bogota. This beautiful town is known as The Fossil town of Colombia. You can even see fossils on the walls of the town. There are several museums in the town which are a must-visit like El Fosil, Museo Paleontológico, Casa Museo Antonio Narino, Museo Prehistorico etc. Kronosaurus fossil was found near to the town and now can be seen in the museum of “El Fosil”. Also, there are several hikes around the town. A special shoutout to the Empanadas in the town. Do not miss them! Half an hour away from Villa de Leyva lies the town of Raquira. Raquira is a town renowned for its pottery & hand-woven goods. There’s a waterfall called “Cascada El Anillo” close to the town of Raquira. Do visit! Both these towns lie in the department of Boyaca.

Natural jacuzzis!

red colour river 

GUADALUPE: NATURAL JACUZZIS

From Villa de Leyva, I traveled to Guadalupe after changing three means of transport but it was all worth it. Villa de leyva to Arcabuco. Hitchhiked from Arcabuco to Oiba. Oiba to Guadalupe. Guadalupe lies in the department of Santander. This town is a true hidden gem. The main attraction of the town is Las Gachas which is basically natural jacuzzis. There are many natural holes filled with the continuous water flow coming from the river Las Gachas. I have never seen anything like that. A true wonder of nature. Do wear proper footwear as the area is slippery and check the signboards or ask a local to know which holes are too deep to go inside. The river Las Gachas is colored red due to red rocks beneath the shallow water. It looks really majestic. Apart from this, there is a natural swimming pool, several waterfalls, the famous one is “Cascada La Llanera”, a cavern and viewpoints. Mountain biking is a famous activity to do in the region. Do not miss this town!

View after the hike
In our backyard!

MOGOTES: OFF THE BEATEN PATH

After Guadalupe, I took a bus to San Gil. A small city in the department of Santander. After reaching San Gil bus station, I was confused about where to go. There are so many towns near/around San Gil. My confusion was cleared when my Couchsurfing request was accepted and it took me to the town of Mogotes. Mogotes is not a tourist town. Virtually, no tourists go there. While walking in the town, I met many people who have never seen a person from India before. When I went to a grocery store, the guy literally called his friends to meet me as if they couldn’t believe that I was there. Mogotes is a quiet town surrounded by nature. Several trails to hike. Pozo Negro (pool with a waterfall) and Hoyo De Los Pájaros (cenote with bird nests) are two must-visit attractions near the town. Do visit the town to get away from the maddening crowd.

Barichara town
Old church in the town
From the viewpoint
The view of Barichara from the neighbouring mountain
On the way to Guane

Guane town
way to Villanueva
Villanueva main church
Clicked from the viewpoint (Chicamocha canyon) on the way to Jordan from Villanueva

Jordan town
The way to Los Santos town

BARICHARA-GUANE-VILLANUEVA-JORDAN-LOS SANTOS: A TREK

All these towns are located in the department of Santander. This is the famous trek which starts from Barichara and ends in Los Santos. It is 2 nights and 3 days trek and can be done without a guide. I managed to do the Barichara to Guane trek and Villanueva to Jordon trek. It took me around an hour or so for the first trek and almost 3 hours for the second one. Usually, people do Barichara to Guane & Guane to Villanueva on Day 1 and Villanueva to Jordan on Day 2, and Jordan to Los Santos on Day 3. There are accommodations available in each town. There’s a crazy story behind this trek that deserves a separate post. Just a heads up to keep an ample amount of water, sunscreen, and a sun hat for the scorching heat while doing this trail. Barichara is a cozy colonial town with some nice viewpoints, good food, beautiful churches, and museums. The path from Barcihara to Guane is well designed and constructed. It can be easily done even if you are not into hiking. It is a beautiful hike. Guane itself doesn’t have much to offer except the Museum of Paleontology & Archaeology which has a collection of more than 10000 fossils. Villanueva has nothing special to offer except a stop to spend a night and the same goes for Jordan town. On the way to Jordan from Villanueva, there’s a viewpoint from where you can have a stunning view of Chicamocha Canyon.

Colourful houses in the town
Cool artwork outside virtually every house/shop

The Lake!

The famous El Penol

The main square of San Carlos town
Beautiful graffiti in the town
A walk in the countryside

 

On the way to waterfalls
Made it!

GUATAPE & SAN CARLOS: LAKE TOWN & A HIDDEN GEM

From the department of Santander, I traveled back to the department of Antioquia to visit Guatape. Guatape is a beautiful lake town. El Penon, a large rock that visitors can climb is the most famous attraction of the town. I really enjoyed walking in this colorful town where you can spot the beautiful stonework outside almost every shop/house. There’s a waterfront boardwalk along the lake which is ideal for the morning walk. Water sports are quite famous in the town. Approx. 2 hrs drive from Guatape will take you to San Carlos. San Carlos is not as touristic as Guatape which makes it a perfect destination for me! La viejita, A nature trail with two waterfalls is a must-visit place. There are several waterfalls around the town. One day, I was invited by an American to his farm who has been living in Colombia for 2 decades. It was a long walk full of nature. I can walk all day given it is surrounded by soothing nature.

Tags
Show More

An Indian Traveler

Hello! My name is Saurabh and I am the voice behind the “An Indian Traveler” blog. I'm a cinephile, travel writer, an avid traveler with a song stuck in my head which I keep humming till ad nauseam :)

Related Articles

23 Comments

  1. Ah! I haven’t been to Colombia, but it looks so lovely. I’d definitely visit Jardin! It looks so serene and gorgeous. I’d balance it out by heading to Puerto Colombia for the carnival – that looks so fun!! 🙂

  2. We have only had one quick visit to Columbia. But we knew we wanted to go back. Now I know I need to plan to visit the towns of Columbia. They truly have unique aspects to experience. I thought I would want the beach towns. But Jardin looks like a stunning spot in the forest with waterfalls. And those red rock vistas remind me of visits to Utah! One day we will get back. Pinned this for future reference.

  3. Your photos are incredible and really capture the beauty of South America. I’ll admit I tend to gravitate towards cities in new countries so your post was a great reminder to check out the smaller towns. I love that you can find everything from whales and beautiful beaches to statues and lakes in Columbian towns!

  4. Oh my God all these are such pretty and amazing towns. I would love to visit each one of them and soak in the culture. Colombia seems very pretty and looks like I need to add it to my list of places to visit. I would especially head to Jardin as it looks more green and close to the nature. Thanks for this list, I am book marking this post for future.

  5. Colombia is one of the countries I really want to see in South America. I love the photos! It’s so beautiful. I can’t wait for the pandemic to be over!

  6. I have not been to Colombia and the idea of magical towns is intriguing. Sounds as though carnival in Puerto Colombia is amazing. I would love to visit the coffee plantations and relax in a hot spring in Eje Cafetero. Your photos of the landscapes and waterfalls are gorgeous. For me, El Penon is not to be missed, I’m drawn to all the bright colors

  7. Colombia is a vibrant country, just look at that culture. I also love those colorful dresses. I would love to see a festival or dance in Colombia,

  8. There are sooo many fabulous options! I love this post!

    In particular I love the look of the Tatacoa desert (wooooow) and Guatape – what a stunning area! Although It’s awesome that you got to visit some more remote areas like Mogotes! Colombia is just sooo varied and fun to explore. I hope I can follow in your footsteps at some point.

  9. Gosh Darn it Saurabh….I was like, Cant wait to see the places he went in Colombia and if we had been there…and then as I kept reading I realized I HAVENT BEEN ANYWHERE in Colombia. I mean the only place I sort of was in that you sort of hit was Puerto Colombia near Barranquilla and sort of Minca though we didnt go very far into it. Sadly we mainly did all the coastal towns. But now I have an entire new Colombia Bucket List cause I want to see the bizarre statues in St. Augustin, the Tatacoa Desert, and definitely El Penol. Plus you had me at hot springs cause those jacuzzi holes near Las Gachas look fun too!

  10. I had no idea Colombia had such fantastic small towns and scenery. We visited mostly the bigger cities and I lost my heart in Cartagena, which I think has one of the most beautiful downtown areas I know. And we loved Villa de Leyva too. There is so much fantastic colonial architecture, but it is very touristy.

  11. I never have visited Columbia. While reading the post, I kept thinking I had found my favorite places, and then the next place was even better! Great information and the photos are so beautiful!

  12. Colombian towns and their street art look interesting! I love the colors of the carnival. There are beaches, mountains, gardens and waterfalls too. That image of the waterfall looks stunning! I am adding Colombia to my bucket list. Thanks for a detailed blog! 🙂

  13. I haven’t been to Colombia yet, but it is on my list. A fascinating and inspiring article. You show fascinating places. I would definitely like to see Jardin, Juanchaco & Ladrilleros, Villavieja, Villanueva. I love hiking and nature, so I think most of the places you described would be perfect for me.

  14. This indeed looks like some magical towns, I can see why it was named that. Lots of great hiking, waterfalls, history, and festivals. Thanks for sharing a bit more about this place that I haven’t heard too much about.

  15. Wow! The variety of things to see and do in Colombia is fascinating. My son would be thrilled to see Kronosaurus fossil since he is very interested on those. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience. Truly enjoyed reading your post.

  16. I’m jealous of how much of Colombia you’ve seen! I loved Zipaquirá when I visited but there are clearly so many other small towns worth exploring! Villavieja is absolutely stunning; I had no idea that Colombia had dessert landscapes like that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close
Close