Colombia really is the country that has it all: remarkably well-preserved historical sites from prehistory through to colonial times; vibrant modern cities; and amazing natural scenery from the Amazon rainforest to the continent's best beaches.
Anyone interested in history and culture will be enthralled by Colombia's ancient ruins. In the south of Colombia, the prehistoric cave tombs of Tierradentro and the giant stone idols and dolmens of San Agustin are immaculately preserved, while in the north the 'lost city' (Ciudad Perdida) of Teyuna offers a fascinating insight into South America on the cusp of the Spanish arrival.
And the country's colonial sites are no less interesting, from Cartagena, the "Jewel of the Caribbean" with the elegant wooden balconies of its mansions, and its thick city walls to defend from pirates, to the charming smaller towns such as Villa de Leyva or Popayan.
Colombia also spoils you for choice in terms of natural delights, with everything from stunning Caribbean beaches to snow-capped mountains, and from arid deserts to the lush Amazon rainforest.
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Our pick of the places you simply musn't miss on your holiday in Colombia.
Our guide to Colombia's incredibly varied landscapes and amazing wildlife.
From stone age idols and lost cities to grand colonial mansions and vibrant modern cities.
Some of our Holidays in Colombia
Culture and History in Colombia
Colombia's history is rich and multi-layered, and in fact in many ways is a microcosm of South America as a whole, showcasing complex and rich pre-Conquest societies, through the colonial culture and settlement that supplanted them, right through to the vibrant and progressive cultures of modern urban centres such as Bogota and Medellin.
Happily the country's history has also been very well-preserved, and hasn't been compromised by thousands of daily visitors in the way that has happened elsewhere in South America. Many prehistoric and pre-Conquest sites are in excellent states of repair, while Colombia's colonial architecture ranks with any on the continent.
In the south of Colombia, the twin World Heritage Sites of San Agustin and Tierradentro are some of the continent's most important historical sites but unlike sites in Mexico or Peru, you can frequently enjoy their giant stone statues and richly-carved rock temples and tombs entirely by yourself. Further north, the lost city of Teyune (better known as Ciudad Perdida) might be famous on the backpacker circuit, but with no roads or railways in place the only way to get there is to trek through the jungle and this means you can enjoy this fabulous site in relative seclusion.
Meanwhile, although you certainly won't have the stunning colonial centre of Cartagena entirely to yourself, its fabulous architecture is some of the best in South America. And smaller towns like Villa de Leyva and Popayan might not be quite so grand, but their relaxed pace of life and quiet charm mean that a trip to see them can be like stepping back in time - in the best possible way, of course!
And although Colombia's historical sites are one of its major attractions, you shouldn't ignore Colombia's modern culture either. Bogota's street art is world-famous, while the nightlife and music of cities like Medellin and Cali can be a great addition to any holiday in Colombia.
The Natural World in Colombia
Colombia's geography is tremendously varied. In a day you can travel from high Andean peaks down to the beaches and cliffs of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, or from lush green rainforest into the arid beauty of the Tatacoa Desert. And all this variety in scenery means that the country is a real haven for wildlife as well...
Primary forest covers almost half of Colombia, from the Amazon rainforest in the south-east of the country, to the cloud forests of the west and north. These areas are all highly bio-diverse and a major part of the reason that Colombia is home to a mind-boggling 51,000 different plant species, nearly 30% of which are endemic to Colombia. The country is also home to over 1800 species of birds, more than 600 types of amphibians, 520 species of reptiles, and over 450 species of mammals. Just for reference, the UK only has 24 native mammal species: quite a difference!
In fact, Colombia has more endemic animal species (ones which aren't found natively anywhere else) than any other country on earth. You can hope to see several species of sloths, monkeys, anteaters and manatees, as well as reclusive species such as pumas and spectacled bears, along with crocodiles, caimans and even the endangered pink dolphins of the Amazon. Meanwhile, in the skies above you can see everything from giant Andean condors to tiny hummingbirds. Our favourites, however, are the dozens of different species of brightly-coloured toucans to be found here in Colombia. As well as the jungle, areas like Mompox, with its lakes and rivers, are real havens for birds and fantastic places for birdwatching.
As well as the animals, one of the joys of travelling in Colombia is in enjoying the beautiful natural scenery, from the verdant rolling hills of the Coffee Region, to the dry red rocks of the beautiful Tatacoa Desert, Colombia has such variety in its landscapes that there is always something new to surprise you.
And, of course, if you're feeling a bit "travelled out", then one of the biggest arguments in favour of holidays in Colombia is that the country has arguably South America's best beaches in place like the Tayrona National Park, and the Caribbean islands of San Andres and Providencia.
Medical Advice for Colombia
Because of its tropical location, most holidays in Colombia will mean you need some sort of jabs, even if it's just updating your normal boosters. To find out exactly which immunisations for Colombia you might require, and which parts of Colombia require which vaccinations, check our our medical guide to Colombia to make sure.
Guide to Tipping and Currency in Colombia
Colombia's currency is the Colombian Peso and it's not too difficult to get hold of in the UK so long as you are ordering a reasonable amount. Alternatively, US dollars are easily exchanged in Colombia, and much more readily available here in the UK. However, unlike some other countries in South America, Dollars themselves cannot be used to pay for things in Colombia. Check out our guide to money in Colombia for more.
Language Guide to Colombia
English is not widely spoken in Colombia, particularly outside major cities such as Bogota and Cartagena, so although all the guides and drivers we provide in Colombia will speak good English, it can be a good idea to have a little bit of Spanish as well. Spanish in Colombia varies in pronunciation a great deal across the country, but our Colombia language guide will make sure you can at least order some food and a cold beer!
Climate and Weather in Colombia
Colombia's climate is highly dependent on the geography of the country, so the weather you experience on the Caribbean coast can be very different to what you experience in the Andes around Bogota, for example. Depending on where you plan to visit on your holiday in Colombia, you might need to pack very differently, so have a look at our guide to weather in Colombia to see what you might need to take.
Food and Drink in Colombia
Colombia's unique geography, from verdant tropical rainforest to arid desert, and from coastal wetlands to Andean peaks, means that you can grow just about everything somewhere in the country. Happily food in Colombia takes full advantage of this to offere you a mouth-watering range of delicacies... find out more