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Colombia

Main attractions

Caño Cristales - the red Macarenia clavigera and pits shaped by stones, Colombia
Caño Cristales - the red Macarenia clavigera and pits shaped by stones / Mario Carvajal, / CC BY-SA 3.0

This enormous and extremely diverse country has many spectacular landmarks. Many Colombian attractions are little known and even not named - there are many wilderness areas still waiting for explorers.

The highlights of Colombia are:

  • Spectacular tablelands and remote mountain chains with countless waterfalls, numerous undiscovered species of plants and animals and archaeological monuments. Several tablelands are comparable to the famous Venezuelan tepuis but seem to be even more rich with endemic species of plants and animals. Most exotic could be Sierra de la Macarena (here is very special landmark - Caño Cristales) and the remote Chiribiquete tepuis. It is possible that in the past these remote areas saw development of some of the earliest cultures in South America.
  • Archaeological heritage - abandoned settlements, megaliths and petroglyphs. The myth of El Dorado was created by the traditions in Muisca Confederation - but besides this Colombia has many other amazing, somewhat mysterious archaeological monuments.
  • Historical cities with colonial architecture. Colombia has some of the oldest European built cities and towns in Americas, cities are rich with beautiful Late Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

Natural landmarks

Rock formations

  • Araracuara Canyon - Caquetá. Some 6 km long, spectacular canyon of Rio Caquetá. Located in pristine Amazonian selva, this canyon has up to 80 m tall, vertical walls, providing numerous impressive sights.
  • Cerros de Mavicure - Guainía. Giant cone shaped monoliths, rising at both banks of Inírida River. The tallest rises some 380 m tall.
  • Los Estoraques - Norte de Santander. Amazing cliff formations - hundreds of tall stacks of eroded rocks. Rich archaeological finds of an unknown culture.
  • Rumichaca natural bridge - Nariño and Ecuador, Carchi. Possibly the only natural bridge in the world, serving as a border check between two countries. Next to it stands Inca built artificial bridge. Here are located two ornate customs houses as well.
Tequendama Falls, Colombia
Tequendama Falls, Cundinamarca / FranciscoA. ZeaB., FlickrCC BY 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Bordones Falls - Huila. Nearly vertical, approximately 220 m (400 m?) tall waterfall.
  • Mortiño Falls - Huila. Approximately 170 m tall waterfall.
  • Raudal de Jirijirimo - Amazonas and Vaupés. Gorgeous waterfall in pristine selva, formed on Apaporis River. Total height of falls is some 60 m, width - more than 200 m. After the falls river enters in a spectacular canyon, where the walls above the river even are meeting, forming a natural bridge with tropical forest on it.
  • Tequendama Falls - Cundinamarca. Most impressive waterfall in Colombia. Water has a free, 130 - 160 m tall fall into an impressive canyon.
  • Tilupo Falls - Chocó. Picturesque, some 100 m tall falls.

Ecosystems

Sumapaz Páramo, Colombia
Sumapaz Páramo, Cundinamarca / Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero, FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0
  • Caño Cristales - Meta. Unique river with a bottom covered with the endemic Macarenia clavigera plants. These plants in the time period from the late July to November turn bright red, thus making the river very colorful and providing one of most spectacular sights in Colombia.
  • Malpelo shark population - Cauca, Malpelo Island. In the waters around the remote Malpelo Island live thousands of sharks. Here often can be observed hundreds of hammerhead sharks and many rare species of sharks. On the small island live 40 000 masked boobies (Sula dactylatra) - largest colony in the world.
  • Páramo de Chingaza - Cundinamarca and Meta. Highland moor with unique species of plants and animals. Spectacular are the fields of fraleijones (Espeletia).
  • Sumapaz Páramo - Cundinamarca. The largest paramo - Andean highland moor - in the world. Numerous endemic species including up to 12 m high Espeletia plants.
  • Wax palms of Cocora Valley - Quindío. The highest palms Ceroxylon quindiuense (Karsten) in the world. Although the measured height is 43 metres, it is told that these extremely slender palms can reach a height of 60 m, some sources mention even 80 m! This palm grows in mountains up to 3,500 m high - this also is a record for palms.

Other natural landmarks

  • El Totumo - Bolívar. 15 m tall, conical mud volcano with warm mud pool in the crater.
  • Guácharo Caves - Huila, Caquetá. Large caves (Indio Cave, Hoyo Cave, Cueva de los Guácharos and others) in exotic tropical rainforest, with waterfalls falling over the entrance of the main cave. In these caves live guácharo (Steatornis caripensis) - unusual birds. The area is rich with endemic plants and animals.
  • Lloro - Chocó. This town has the highest average annual precipitation - 13,300 mm per year. Contrary to Cherrapunji and Mawsynram, here is not pronounced rain season - here it rains every day.
  • Rio Itoco emerald mines in Muzo - Boyacá. The site where the best emeralds in the world are found. Other famous mines are in Chivor and Coscuez.

Man made landmarks

Statues in San Agustin, Colombia
Statues in San Agustin, Colombia / Photo from Amazonia Virtual, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Megaliths

  • Alto de las Piedras - Huila. An archaeological site, a part of San Agustín monument. Site contains stone sculptures and remnants of different structures from AD 100 - 1200. Contains such valuable stone statues as Doble Yo, El Tablón, La Chaquira and others.
  • Alto de los Idolos - Huila. An archaeological site, a part of San Agustín monument. Site contains stone sculptures and remnants of different structures from AD 100 - 1200. Tallest statue reaches 7 m height.
  • Monquirá Archaeological Park - Boyacá. Interesting group of megalithic monuments, which includes some 30 large phallic columns (El Infiernito) and several hundred smaller columns. Site includes a dolmen. Created around 200 BC.
  • San Agustín - Huila. Impressive group of megaliths from AD 100 - 1200, some up to 4 metres tall. This is the largest group of megalithic sculptures in South America. The numerous large sized sculptures have a high art value. This area is 78 ha in size and includes such sites as Las Mesitas with artificial mounds, terraces and tombs.

Ancient burials

  • Alto de El Aguacate - Cauca. A group of beautiful, underground rock-cut tombs with 58 graves. Some of these graves are adorned with cliff paintings in red and black colors. Built around 500 - 900 AD. Tombs can be accessed by descending a narrow, spiral staircase. Nearby are several more sites with such rock-cut tombs - El Tablón, Alto del Duende, Alto de Segovia, Alto de San Andrés. In this area are located numerous large stone statues.
  • Malagana Treasure - Valle del Cauca. Prehistoric burial mounds from roughly 300 BC - 300 AD. Accidentally discovered in 1992, when widespread looting of the graveyard started. More than 140 kg of golden items were looted until the process was stopped.

Rock art, petroglyphs

Fuente de Lavapatas, Colombia
Fuente de Lavapatas / Mario Carvajal, Flickr, CC BY 2.0
  • Chiribiquete petroglyphs in Cañón del Tigre and elsewhere in Serrania de Chiribiquete - Caquetá. 36 shelters with prehistoric paintings in pristine, spectacular area, drawn here at least 3600 BC. Shelters inhabited until roughly 1400 AD. Rock art in Serrania de Chiribiquete is widespread, this area is one of the richest in South America in this respect.
  • El Encanto - Caquetá. Rock wall with a group of large, interesting petroglyphs.
  • Fuente de Lavapatas - Huila. Unique rock cut monument next to a natural spring. Most likely this is a sacred site of San Agustín culture. In the bedrock of the stream has been cut a complex system of canals, which from above forms a representation of snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles. Water flows through this eerie work of art without loosing a drop.
  • La Yunga Rock - Cauca. A stone covered with amazing petroglyphs - 267 signs which look like some undeciphered writing.
  • Piedras de Tunja petroglyphs - Cundinamarca. A group of stones and larger rocks covered with prehistoric paintings, made up to 10,000 years ago. Unfortunately most of these paintings have been damaged.
  • Sáchica cliff paintings - Boyacá. 14 groups of prehistoric cliff paintings in red and black colors. Could be created around the 4th century AD. Drawings show humans, Sun, animals and plants, spyrals.
Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
Ciudad Perdida / William Neuheisel, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Other archaeological monuments

  • Ciudad Perdida (Buritaca 200) - Magdalena. One of the most interesting Pre-Columbian sites in South America - ruins of mountain-top city built around 800 AD. City was built on 169 terraces, which were cut in the mountainside and contains numerous amazing artefacts, including a possible map of surroundings cut in stone.
  • El Morro del Tulcán - Cauca, Popayán. A truncated pyramid, built in the time period from 500 to 1535 AD.
  • Guatavita Lake - Cundinamarca. A site of legends, possibly a sacred lake of Muisca people. According to the legend in this lake was celebrated a ritual, where the king of Muisca was covered with golden dust and he washed of the gold in the lake, other golden items were sacrified in the lake. This gave a rise to the legend of El Dorado. Another site where this legend could originate is Siecha Lakes, Cundinamarca.
  • Puerto Hormiga shell ring - Bolívar. Large and very ancient shell ring - a ring-shaped wall of shell middens, 85 m wide and with 1.2 m high walls. Developed around the 4th - 12th millenium BC.

Historical cities and towns

  • Cartagena Old City with fortifications - Bolivar. Cartagena was one of the most important cities in Caribbean area in the 16th - early 19th century and huge number of ornate, beautiful structures were built in this time. The historical centre is located on scenic peninsula. The fortifications of Cartagena are the most extensive fortifications from the 16th - 18th century in Americas. Especially impressive is Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (1639 - 1657) - the largest Spanish built fort in Americas.
  • Historical centre of Popayán - Cauca. Beautiful, well preserved colonial city with numerous sumptuous and interesting buildings.
  • Salamina - Caldas. Historical town, established in 1825. Town has picturesque, rich architecture with ornate woodwork.
  • Santa Cruz del Islote - Bolívar. Area of this island is mere 1 ha but it has 1247 inhabitants thus making it the most densely inhabited island in the world.
  • Santa Cruz de Mompox - Bolívar. Historical town, established in 1537. Town was rich thanks to the nearby goldmines and as a result here in the 17th - 18th were been built numerous ornate houses. The houses show both the Spanish and local influences and have been well preserved. Characteristic feature is the use of wrought, decorative iron.
  • Villa de Leyva - Boyacá. One of the most picturesque villages in Colombia. The colonial architecture surrounds enormous central plaza which has area of 1.4 ha.

Churches

San Francisco Church in Mompox, Colombia
San Francisco Church in Mompox / O--o, Wikimedia CommonsCC BY 3.0
  • Cartagena Cathedral - Bolivar. This church is one of the oldest in Americas and was built in Late Renaissance (Herrera) style in 1577 - 1612.
  • Inmaculada Concepción Church in Mompox - Bolívar. Large, beautiful church. First church was built here in 1541, current one - after 1839.
  • Las Lajas Sanctuary - Nariño. Beautiful Neo-Gothic cathedral, built in 1916 - 1949. Unusual due to its location over deep gorge where apparition of Virgin Mary happened.
  • Nuestra Señora del Carmen Church - Bogotá Capital District. Ornate Neo-Gothic - Neo-Bysantine church, built in 1926 - 1938.
  • San Francisco Church in Mompox - Bolívar. Historical church with unusual facade design, built in 1564 and rebuilt in later times.
  • San Francisco Church in Popayán - Cauca. One of the most beautiful Baroque style structures in Colombia. Originally built in the 16th century, but rebuilt in 1765 - 1788.
  • Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá - Cundinamarca. Church, which is built 200 m underground in a salt mine. The church was built in 1991 - 1995 and has beautiful architecture.
  • Santa Bárbara Church in Mompox - Bolívar. Beautiful church in Late Renaissance style, built in 1613. Next to the church stands round bell tower in Baroque style.
Muisca art in Gold Museum, Bogotá
Muisca art in Gold Museum, Bogotá / Jack Zalium, FlickrCC BY 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Gold Museum - Bogotá Capital District. The biggest collection of pre-Hispanic gold work in the world, one of the most spectacular archaeological museums in the world. Contains the unique Muisca raft - a golden raft showing the El Dorado ceremony.
  • Teatro Colón - Bogotá Capital District. A theatre building, constructed in 1892. Very impressive is the interior.

List of described attractions by departments

Colombia is divided into 32 departments and a capital district – Bogotá:

Amazonas
Antioquia
Arauca
Atlántico
Bogotá Capital District
Bolívar
Boyacá
Caldas
Caquetá
Casanare
Cauca
Cesar
Chocó
Cundinamarca
Guainía
Guaviare
Huila
La Guajira
Magdalena
Meta
ArrowCaño CristalesEcosystems
Nariño
ArrowLas Lajas SanctuaryChurches
Norte de Santander
Putumayo
Quindío
Risaralda
San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina
Santander
Sucre
Tolima
Valle del Cauca
Vaupés
Vichada

Map of Colombia

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