Hidden Gems of the Colombian Wilderness
Over the past decade, Colombia has all but become the new Thailand as far as budget-friendly, culture-shocking backpacker destinations go. Previously notorious and dangerous cities such as Medellín have become massive metropolitans with world-renowned nightlife scenes that won’t break the bank, while small colonial towns like Salento offer a weekend getaway to the enchanting Cocora Valley, where some of the worlds best coffee is produced.
However, it’s not all about the partying and café! Colombia is an incredibly vast country with astounding diversity in climate and landscape, making it a gold mine for outdoor-enthusiasts. You can hit the bars anywhere–but don’t miss out on these incredible experiences on your Colombia trip!
Colombia, or Mars? In the nation’s second largest arid region, you’ll find the stunning rigid mountains of the Tatacoa Desert (technically a semi-arid dry tropical forest… details, details). The unique and mesmerizing panoramic of this hidden gem will leave you in awe as you hike, bike, or take a guided tour through the landscape.
This is an epic spot for admiring the sky, whether it be stargazing (in its famous observatory, or with the naked eye), or watching some of the most magical sunsets in the world. Tatacoa is located smack in-between Bogota and Cali, so it’s the perfect stop to make to break up a road trip with something extraordinary.
The Colombian Machu Picchu, this excursion is not for the faint of heart! Hiking up to this incredible archaeological site of the abandoned Lost City will take you approximately 4 days to complete. Make your way through the Colombian Sierra Nevada, stopping at camps along the way to rest overnight, and finally, you will reach these mysterious ruins (which are 650 years older than even Machu Picchu… but who’s counting?).
The hike is considered to be moderate in difficulty and demands a 9,000 ft increase in elevation over about 28 miles of muddy trails. Don’t count on monotony, though! Expect to pass by waterfalls, native villages, over rivers, and more as you explore the exciting Colombian jungle. This is without a doubt an item worthy of your bucket list!
Also known as “The River of 5 Colors,” this river is a must-see if outrageous hues and beautiful scenery are up your alley. This picturesque landmark is regarded at the most spectacular natural wonder in all of Colombia, and for good reason. The vibrant greens, reds, yellows, blues, and blacks are the treasures of the isolated mountain range of Serranía de la Macarena, but can only be seen between June and November while the seasons are changing and the conditions permit.
Algae has never taken your breath away quite like this before, and when the time is right, this eye-catching phenomena crawls along the bottom of the entire river, through caverns, and over waterfalls. Be warned, though, this isn’t something you’ll be able to just stumble upon. Trekking through the unmarked trails of this mountain range is no easy task, and doing your research beforehand is essential. Yet, this once-in-a-lifetime experience is definitely worth the trouble. Just don’t forget your camera, or a bathing suit!
Dunas de Taroa
Now, here’s something you don’t see every day. If you’ve never sand-boarded down colossal sand dunes straight into the ocean before, this is one of few places on Earth to make that happen! This fascinating destination is located in the Guajira desert, the Northernmost point of Colombia, where flawlessly formed sand dunes run seamlessly into clean beaches and warm blue Caribbean water. Body surf, sunbathe, sand board, go off-roading, or hop on an ATV if you’re looking for something a bit more fast-paced, but don’t miss out on this utterly unusual corner of the country.
Visitors will find that there is simply no better combination than the salt water, desert sun, and marine breeze breathing life into this haven for adventurers. Prepare for this double-whammy of beach + desert sun rays with a hat and sunblock, and enjoy what is perhaps the last frontier of South America with sand between your toes and salt in your hair.
MORE: Quebec City might be the last place you think of when considering where to plan your next adventure. But the Canadian city offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation year-round!