Colombia is a fascinating country that boasts breathtaking scenery, rich culture, and a multitude of historic towns. The South American country is incredibly biodiverse–over half the country is cloaked in forests. Lonely Planet even named the cultural paradise as the second top country to visit in 2017. All kinds of travelers will enjoy discovering everything that Colombia has to offer but thrill seekers will find this list of ten adventurous activities in Colombia the most appealing. From paragliding off a mountain to canoeing through mangroves, here are 10 most epic adventures you can only have in Colombia.
Check the best flights to Colombia on Skyscanner!
CLIMB AND BATHE IN A MUD VOLCANO
For a memorable experience, hike up the 50-foot-tall Volcán de Lodo El Totumo near Cartagena. Once you get to the top you’ll propel your body inside an active volcano! Local legend believes that the explosive volcano was tamed by a cleric who used holy water to transform the fiery lava into healing mud. You won’t have to worry about sinking as you’ll actually float as you relax in the natural mud bath. As you lay back and enjoy the gooey goodness an attendee will massage the therapeutic mud into your skin which is enriched with natural minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and aluminum.
CANOE THROUGH MANGROVES
Join a tour with Ecomanglar in a traditional canoe and venture through the maze of mangroves that can be found in Bahia Malaga, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. You’ll discover a world of biodiversity and marine life while you explore the natural beauty of the ecosystems. The swamps will expose plants and animals that you’ve never heard of before. You’ll also sail to the El Morro freshwater pools where you can swim in the basin of a waterfall. Ecomanglar is a community-based association that invests in social and economic development projects on the Isla La Plata through authentic travel experiences and sustainable ecotourism. Many of their projects focus on women’s empowerment and creating job opportunities for underserved local women.
TASTE WORLD-FAMOUS COLOMBIAN COFFEE
Image courtesy of Better Places Travel
You could try the variety of local Colombian coffee beans at a cafe, or you could head out to venture around the country’s coffee regions. Strap on your boots and hike through valleys and take in the beauty of the coffee plantations spread out among the hills. Hacienda Guayabal offers tours of their eco-friendly family operated coffee farm and take guests on treks around their land. After you’ve explored the coffee farm and tried raw coffee cherries enjoy a fresh cup of supreme 100% Colombian coffee as you learn about the unique Colombian coffee making process.
TREK TO FIND THE LOST CITY
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Ciudad Perdida, Spanish for lost city, is an ancient archaeological site tucked away into Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Ancient is an understatement as it is believed that the UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 800 CE, nearly 650 years before Machu Picchu was built in nearby Peru. Hike through the lush jungle to reach the mystical Ciudad Perdida and then climb up 1,200 steps to explore the fascinating ruins left by the Tayrona tribe. The archeological park is also known as Teyuna is located on the banks of the Buritaca River.
CHASE WATERFALLS AND CHALLENGE YOUR MIND WITH MEDITATION
Image courtesy of Caminantes al Cielo
Join the nonprofit foundation Caminantes al Cielo for an ethical ecotourism experience that will have you hiking through incredible nature near Bogota in search of inner peace. You’ll head off-the-beaten-path to reach the beautiful quebrada de la vieja, quebrada de las delicias, or other natural waterfalls around Monserrate mountain. Your physical journey will halt so you can dabble in a meditative journey in the middle of nature–after all navigating your mind can be the biggest adventure! Caminantes al Cielo is dedicated to improving society through the integration of meditation in society.
LEARN HOW TO DANCE THE CHAMPETA
Image courtesy of FEM
This adventure will take you into a territory that leaves many terrified and shaking in their boots… a dance floor! To learn Champeta in an authentic atmosphere take a lesson in one of the coastal cities along the Pacific. This region is where the folk music originates from. Champeta has African influence and is incredibly fun to dance along to. Take your new moves out to a dance club and see if you can keep up with the locals. In Cartagena, travelers can join nonprofit Fundación por la Educación Multidimensional (FEM) to learn the popular dance at a local cultural center. The fees from the classes support local economic, educational, and sustainability initiatives in Cartagena.
BE AMAZED BY HUMPBACK WHALES AS YOU WATCH FROM A DISTANCE
Photo courtesy of Ecomanglar
If you’re visiting the Colombian Pacific coast between July and November, book a whale watching excursion. Humpback whales migrate up from Antarctica to the warm ocean waters during these months to mate and reproduce. If you’re lucky you may even see one of these gentle giants jump for joy out of the water and into the air, a sight you’ll certainly always remember. Bahía Málaga is a common place for the aquatic mammals to gather to reproduce. Be sure to book a boat excursion with an ethical tour company that won’t chase or circle the whales which can cause them distress.
RUN OFF THE EDGE OF A MOUNTAIN IN ORDER TO FLY
Photo courtesy of Leo Tisseau / Flickr
Colombia is home to many mountain ranges making it possible to paraglide at different destinations around the country. Santander is known as the paragliding capital of Colombia with mellow temperatures year round and clear skies that allow adrenaline junkies to get their fix. At the same time, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Chicamocha Canyon and Bucaramanga as you launch yourself into the air. It’s also possible to paraglide near Medellin and Bogota.
DISCOVER THE MAGNIFICENT MULTI-COLOURED CAÑO CRISTALES RIVER
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
An adventurous trip to Colombia would not be complete without a visit to the country’s first natural wonder, the technicolored Caño Cristales River. The colorful illusion comes from the unique plant life that lives on the banks and bed of the river. It’s preferred you don’t swim here as you could harm the living creatures but you can trek along the shore and enjoy the spectacular rainbow hues. Mambe is a nonprofit organization that takes travelers on an immersive experience to visit Caño Cristales spring while engaging with locals from La Macarena town. The fee of the tour is invested into their programs that benefit indigenous persons.
GET TO KNOW COLOMBIA’S ARTISTIC SIDE ON GRAFFITI TOURS
Image courtesy of Bogota Graffiti
Street art is one of my favorite things to discover when I travel and Colombia didn’t disappoint. It’s an excellent way to get an idea of the feelings of the local people as many artists use the medium to express their thoughts about political and social issues. In Medellin, there’s a graffiti tour organized by the youth development organization, Casa Kolacho. The tour takes travelers around to see the most unique and vibrant murals and learn about the history of graffiti in the area. There’s also Bogota Graffiti which is a nonprofit that empowers local artists with the fund raised from their dynamic street art tours.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO TO COLOMBIA
If you’re looking to have incredible adventures in Colombia that will also support community-based tourism create a bespoke itinerary with Better Places Travel. BPT is an international responsible tourism operator that folds sustainable aspects into all portions of their customizable itineraries. They can help travelers arrange to experience these 10 Colombian adventures. BPT also takes guests to visit the natural wonder of the rock formations of the Tatacoa Desert, swim in thermal springs, explore the Tayrona National Park, experience culture in UNESCO World Heritage villages, snorkel in the Rosario islands, and tube down bending rivers. Whatever adventures you want to have in Colombia can be made possible with BPT and in a sustainable way that supports the communities that you’re visiting.
There are many unique accommodation options in Colombia from farm stays on coffee plantations to ecolodges. The BPT Colombia travel specialists recommend staying at the eco-friendly Finca Villa Maria, hospedería Villa de Leyva, the charming colonial Hotel Casa Galeria, Playa la Roca beachside bungalows, in the heart of Tayrona park in Kogui style bungalows at an ecolodge, or at the natural haven Cabañas El Refugio on Airbnb. You can save US$40 off your first booking of US$75 (or €32 towards your first trip of €61) on Airbnb and by using my referral link. While in Colombia spend a few nights in a homestay for a meaningful and adventurous travel experience.
Before visiting Colombia for a series of epic adventures with Better Places Travel or on your own make sure to purchase a travel insurance plan from World Nomads to protect yourself as you explore. World Nomads packages cover various adventure activities so be sure to shop their various plans to chose one that will offer you coverage for the experiences you’ll have throughout the duration of your trip.
To prepare for your trip read up on culture, history, and travel in Colombia.
Have you had any adventure travel experiences in Colombia? Share them with us in the comments!
This article was made possible due to a collaboration with Better Places Travel. However, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Please read the Miss Filatelista disclosure policy for more information.