Cities in Colombia offer endless unforgettable experiences. With historic architecture, thriving arts and culture, and lively nightlife, there’s something for everyone in Colombia’s urban destinations. And while they all share a unique color and vibrancy, each has its own distinctive identity.
Colombia has a rich and fascinating history, which has resulted in a dynamic and alluring culture blending both indigenous traditions and Spanish customs. And there’s nowhere better to immerse yourself in this culture than in the country's colorful cities, each with its own intriguing history celebrated through various festivals and monuments. To get a real flavor of the country’s diverse culture, visit a few Colombian cities on your trip.
The Colombian capital is the country’s biggest city, and is the third largest in South America. Often called the 'Athens of South America', it has a fantastic cultural scene. Whether you want to see striking street art or visit a gallery packed with world-renowned artists, there’s plenty to keep you busy on the arts scene here. Plus, there are a handful of fascinating museums, such as the Gold Museum, and brilliant restaurants in the historic downtown area of La Candelaria.
Cartagena was an important port on the Caribbean coast for centuries, and today it draws throngs of tourists to its beautiful old center surrounded by fortress-like walls. The streets here are lined with brightly colored colonial buildings where the likes of bougainvillea and hibiscus flowers tumble from balconies and over railings. This is the most picturesque city in Colombia by far.
Cali is the capital of salsa in Colombia, if not the world, and is home to countless salsa bars and dance schools. In between taking high-energy salsa lessons, don’t miss the city's fine museums, from galleries with changing modern art exhibitions and to the La Merced archaeological museum where pre-Colombian pottery is on display.
Few cities in the world have reinvented themselves as successfully as Medellin, former home to the notorious Pablo Escobar. Today this vibrant and welcoming city is home to a wave of digital nomads, innovative companies, and a thriving arts scene. Visitors can also look forward to some of Colombia's best dining and nightlife here, too.
Known locally as "Pasto" for short, this is one of Colombia's oldest cities, offering striking historical and cultural sites as well as modern marvels, like the Las Lajas Sanctuary church, which sits dramatically on a viaduct overlooking a river. Come to Pasto for direct access to some spectacular natural destinations, too, from lakes to volcanoes, all easily reached from the center. This is a fairly relaxed city for most of the year, but each January the Carnaval de Negros and Blancos sees the entire population go wild.
It would be impossible to enjoy all of Colombia’s best cities in one trip, so really think about the kind of vacation you want to help you narrow it down. Also keep in mind that the climate varies significantly throughout the country, from high-altitude Bogota which can occasionally get quite chilly, to hot and steamy Cartagena. Plan and pack accordingly.