“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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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-GUANE-VILLANUEVA-JORDAN-LOS SANTOS: A TREK
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.