When I say Colombia shocked me with how diverse its landscapes are, I’m not exaggerating, and this blog post will show you why. Across a total of 10 destinations and 1620 miles (trust me, I tracked it my iPhone – how millennial of me) we saw desert, jungle, mountains, cities and oceans.
Over two weeks we went from staying in a city that was colder than London at the time, to another city with 90% humidity at 37 degrees Celsius. It was something I didn’t expect to experience in a reasonably average-sized country, but it was certainly one of the things that gave Colombia such character – as well as the locals and the art (in case you missed my last blog post!)
Tucan Travel created this Classic Colombia tour in order to showcase as much of the country’s beauty as physically possible in 2 weeks and boy did it not disappoint. In this blog post I’ll walk you through my top 5 favourite locations and explain why they may not be the well-known ‘go-to’ places you’d expect.
Villa de Leyva
This quaint, colonial town is situated 2,150m above sea level, but do not let its peaceful-looking streets fool you. Scattered on the outskirts of this town are a ton of adventures waiting for you to go on.
Our first stop on our day of adventures around Villa de Leyva was Terracotta House. A beautiful piece of architecture practically taken straight out of a 'Flintstones' episode. It was fascinating to explore its red clay walls and mosaic décor - very bizarre tourist attraction created by artist Octavio Mendoza, but it made for some funky photos!
A 10-minute drive from Terracotta House will take you to Pozos Azules, where you can hike around the stunningly turquoise lakes – a colouration due to the combination of minerals present in the water.
Another half-hour taxi ride will take you to Raquira, one of my favourite towns we visited. A tiny village painted with colourful storefronts, Raquira is known as the land of vibrant colours and souvenir shops.
(And the tastiest Mushroom soup at 'Yo ♥ Raquira'.)
Other attractions and things to do surrounding Villa de Leyva include:
-Dinosaur Fossil Museum
-Benedictino San Jose Monastery
My favourite location of the trip, hands down. Originally a tropical forest, this now barren desert and its unique rock formations gave me some serious Arizona vibes. We hiked through 89% humidity (meaning we were dripping with sweat by the end) and our incredible Tucan guide, Juan, told us all about how the landscape formed over thousands of years.
We tasted the native fruit plant, identified different types of fossils we found and said hello to the local wildlife. It was an awesome few hours, and we were often the only people we could see for miles.
The desert is located on the outskirts of a town called Villavieja. We took a tuk-tuk from our hotel (I know, it was a strange concoction of Arizona AND Asia vibes) and we also received some much-needed free refreshments after our hike.
A true ‘off-the-beaten-path’ experience. Highly, highly recommend!
Tayrona National Park
Is there any better reward after a 3-hour hike through a jungle in 90% humidity than to swim in the Caribbean Sea with these incredible views?
Maybe an ice-cold beer, but that’s pretty much all I can think of.
Tayrona National Park is a dense rainforest on the edge of the north Colombian coast. You have the option of braving the 3-hour walk to the beach, or you can get there via horseback. We went for the walk, as we were told that it’s the best route to spot members of the animal and insect kingdom.
The tropical wildlife was everywhere, and we even had the opportunity to buy a refreshing coconut from the local indigenous tribe that live in the rainforest.
Personally, I would describe San Agustin as the true heart of Colombia. Riding horses through the hills of Hulia with a local guide and the most incredible views is much more how I pictured my Colombian experience to look like (unlike hiking through a desert which I did not expect).
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, home to the San Agustin Archaeological Park which accommodates hundreds of statues created by the pre-Colombian community and late eight century Amazonians. We visited the park during our stay in San Agustin and thanks to our guide, we left with a lot more knowledge about the history of Colombia and ancient traditions.
However, the highlight for me was the lodge we stayed in for 2 nights - Hacienda Anacoana. It was a gorgeous homestay with the most incredible view (and the comfiest hammocks I’ve ever slept in).
A 45-minute bus ride away from the coastal town of Santa Marta, Minca is certainly a highlight for any backpacker who visits. With a huge circuit of viewpoints, coffee and cacao plantations, waterfalls and hiking routes surrounding the small centre of the town, Minca will keep you busy however long you stay.
The thing that attracted me the most to this town hidden in the mountains was Casa Elemento – a hostel with the largest hammocks in the world, accompanying the most amazing views overlooking the mountain tops...
As you can see, the day I visited Minca, the clouds were not my friend. One thing I learnt from my visit to South East Asia during Thailand’s monsoon season is that you’re not always guaranteed the clear blue skies that you see on Pinterest. That’s one of the many realities of travelling. So instead, I got chatting with some backpackers and made some new friends, which is why, despite the crappy weather, Minca still ended up being one of my favourite spots.
(You can see what the views were supposed to look like here!)
I loved all of these destinations for so many different reasons, but mostly due to the fact that they were all so different from each other.
I want to thank Tucan Travel for giving me this trip of a lifetime and to anyone who is on the fence about visiting Colombia, do me a favour and just go!