With Colombia becoming a more and more popular tourist destination, it’s getting harder to find those unique “escapes” – places that have a lot to offer, without the crowds of camera-wielding tourists. Sure, you’ve probably heard all about the ochre-colored colonial streets of Cartagena, lush rolling hills of the coffee region, and sprawling sky-high metropolis of Bogotá, but what about the northern-most point of South America, Colombia’s cowboy country, or its very own Alcatraz island? Most likely not. Although you probably won’t find first-class accommodation in any of these places, they are known as some of Colombia’s best kept secrets, and a visit to any one of those on the list is sure to provide you with the adventure of a lifetime. Let’s get started!
1. Punta Gallinas
If you’re looking for a remote destination, friendly locals, and sand dunes that slide right into the Caribbean Sea, then Punta Gallinas is the place to be. The most northern point of South America can be a bit of a challenge to get to (taking a number of buses, colectivos, trucks, etc.), but seeing the endless sand dunes roll into its turquoise waters while being the only one on the beach is truly a spectacular experience.
Found where the Andes crumble into the Amazon in southwestern Colombia, Mocoa is a nature-lover’s paradise. Until recently, some of the surrounding areas have been a bit sketchy, but Mocoa has been a safe tourist destination for years now. Though you’ll be hard-pressed to find many other Gringos, this small jungle town is a backpacker’s dream. You’ll find cheap accommodation and food, amazing wildlife, stunning waterfalls, and an endless jungle to explore.
If you’re looking to discover more hidden gems, check out these excellent activities which explore some lesser known beauty spots here.
Many people come to Colombia’s northern coast in search of white sand beaches and crystalline water, skipping over the country’s Pacific beaches entirely and missing out on an incredible hidden gem – Capurganá. Capurganá (and its neighboring village Sapzurro) feature idyllic palm-lined beaches, some of the country’s best seafood, and the nearby Cascada del Cielo waterfall. This tiny fishing village is the perfect place to soak up the sun and get in some of that well-deserved R&R.
4. Los Llanos Orientales
Stretching from central Colombia to the Venezuelan border, “los llanos orientales”, or “the eastern plains” are Colombia’s “Wild West”…well, Wild East in this case. With cowboys on horseback, some of the country’s most scenic views, and the chance to see anteaters, hundreds of different types of birds, anacondas and even jaguars, this is one place you can’t miss out on. If you don’t come for the wildlife, come for the local culture. The “llaneros” are some of Colombia’s most friendly and welcoming people.
5. San Agustín
Nestled in the Andes Mountains, San Agustín’s Archaeological Park is Colombia’s answer to Easter Island and its famous moai. With more than 500 giant statues depicting human-like bodies and sacred creatures carved from volcanic rock, this mystical location is one of the most important archaeological sites in South America, and gives history-enthusiasts a peak into San Agustín’s ancient civilization.
6. Gorgona Island
Our third and final “beach-destination” on the list, Gorgona Island is a bit different from the first two. Full of both ancient and modern history, as well as a wide array of fascinating flora and fauna, Gorgona Island is the ultimate adventure destination and definitely not for the faint of heart. Originally inhabited by the Kuna people, Francisco Pizzaro and his men were trapped on this island for 7 months. They named it “Gorgon”, meaning “Medusa”, due to its huge snake population. Finally, from 1959 to 1984 the island was used as a penal colony for some of Colombia’s most violent criminals. Remnants of the prison can still be found, overgrown by the dense jungle.
If these 6 destinations aren’t enough, or you’d like more information on great places to visit in Colombia, download the TheBesty app to book the best tours and activities, discover fun things to do, and find the guaranteed lowest prices on hotel bookings – all in Latin America.