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Wondering what the best Colombia off the beaten path places to visit are? Add these incredible offbeat places to your Colombia Itinerary for the trip of a lifetime.
Colombia. It is a relatively offbeat country to visit compared to, say, France, Thailand, and Mexico, but it still gets a healthy amount of tourism and you can definitely see that reflected in the most visited places in the country – especially in Cartagena.
But there is much more to the country than Cartagena and the Caribbean Coast. To experience the best that Colombia has to offer, I highly recommend going to some of the lesser-visited places.
I have spent almost four months over two trips traveling around Colombia and I am completely in love with this beautiful country full of diverse landscapes and home to some of the friendliest people in the world.
I loved so many of the places I went on both visits but the below places were some of my absolute favorites, and a big part of why I loved them so much was because they aren’t overrun with tourists.
Make sure to add at least a couple of these amazing spots to your Colombia Itinerary along with the big-hitters like Cartagena, Salento, and Medellin – you won’t regret it!
The Best Offbeat Places To Add To Your Colombia Itinerary
I’m going to start with the most offbeat, under-visited place on this list: El Valle on the Pacific Coast. The Pacific Coast of Colombia in general is hard to get to and not developed much for tourism, if at all.
I chose to visit El Valle in Choco Region because I had heard about the pristine black sand beaches backed by thick jungle and I wanted to experience one of the least developed regions of Colombia.
I was absolutely blown away by the raw beauty and energy of the beaches, islands, and jungle in and around El Valle, and it quickly became one of my favorite places in the country.
There are tons of activities you can do in El Valle including surfing, jungle trekking, island-hopping, waterfall chasing, beach bumming, and whale watching in season. Check out my detailed guide to El Valle to find out more.
Jardin was one of my absolute favorite places we visited on my last trip to Colombia and I was kinda dumbfounded why this attractive and colorful town surrounded by verdant mountains and waterfalls wasn’t more firmly on the tourist trail.
It is kinda time-consuming to get there so I guess that’s why, although it is 100% worth the journey.
I thoroughly enjoyed hiking the trails in the mountains around town to viewpoints and waterfalls, bird watching, taking a tour to a waterfall that gushes through a hole in the roof of a cave (Cueva del Esplendor), riding a cable car into the nearby mountains, drinking excellent coffee at one of the many cafes, and sitting in the grand town square with a cold michelada, watching life go by.
Jardin is also home to high-stepping Paso Fino horses, and if you are lucky you might see them prancing around the main square. It’s quite a sight to see.
San Vicente Thermal Reserve
I love a hot spring, and there are lots to choose from in the Zona Cafetera (Coffee Region). We decided to spend a night at San Vicente Thermal Reserve and I am so glad we did because it was such a special experience.
The hot springs here are known as the most natural in Colombia and we loved the rustic but comfortable back-to-nature vibe. There are several pools filled with hot thermal water and surrounded by lush, forested mountains and gardens. My favorites were the natural river pools that you can reach by a short hike through the forest.
There are also rustic saunas, a hot river you can soak in, and an on-site restaurant where dinner and breakfast are included for a one-night stay.
I wished we had stayed longer than one night. It was mostly Colombian travelers so we definitely stood out but we were warmly welcomed.
San Andres and Providencia
If you want tropical island vibes and the best beaches in the country, don’t miss San Andres and Providencia – Colombia’s island paradises.
The best thing to do in San Andres is to just relax on the stunning beaches but there is also great diving, surprisingly good shopping, small offshore islands you can visit, and there are golf carts you can hire to explore all over the island.
San Andres may be off the beaten path for foreign tourists but it is super popular with Colombians, and when we visited a couple of weeks before Christmas it was a bustling time to be there. Outside of the holiday season, I have heard it is much quieter.
Nearby Providencia is even more offbeat and receives much less tourism. You can only reach this tiny tropical island by flying from San Andres. When we last visited Colombia in late 2021, Providencia was closed to tourism as it was rebuilding after a hurricane, but it is now open to tourism again and I really want to go!
Filandia is a small village in the Zona Cafetera that is home to bright white buildings with colorful trim and picturesque cobbled streets. It is an excellent alternative to nearby Salento which is the most popular place to visit in the coffee region, and comes with the crowds to prove it.
The vibe in Filandia is much more relaxed and quiet, but there are still numerous excellent cafes and restaurants, local artisan stores where you can get tasteful souvenirs, and you can easily visit the area’s sights including coffee farms, and the scenic Valle de Cocora from here, instead of Salento.
I highly recommend getting off the beaten path in the Coffee Region and adding lovely Filandia to your Colombia Itinerary.
I visited Barichara on my first trip to Colombia in 2013 and was utterly charmed by this pretty town of cobbled streets and colonial architecture. It felt more like a Tuscan hilltop town than a town in Colombia.
There isn’t a ton of stuff to do in Barichara but it is the perfect place to relax and take in the views. One adventure that is definitely worth doing is the 3.2-mile hike on the Camino Real to Guane – a smaller colonial town that is even more laid back.
Villa de Leyva
Stunning Villa de Leyva is probably my favorite town in Colombia because it is just so beautiful (and there are lots of excellent bakeries).
This grand dame of a town is nestled in a high-altitude valley surrounded by mountains and is home to 600-year-old white-washed colonial buildings, moss-draped trees, and cobbled streets lined with cafes, bakeries, and artisan shops.
It is also home to one of the largest town squares in the Americas, Plaza Mayor, and it is abundant in marine fossils from the Cretaceous period when it was on the edge of a prehistoric ocean.
There are lots of activities in and around Villa de Leyva including hiking and horse riding in the mountains, visiting the nearby fossil museums, wine tasting, lake swimming, eating pastries (try milhojas), drinking Colombian craft beer at Bruder Cerveceria and Bogota Beer Company on Plaza Mayor, and just wandering around the town.
San Agustin is an important archeological site and town in the Andes Mountains of Colombia. There are numerous pre-Columbian statues and tombs that are in excellent condition – in fact, it is the largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America.
It is a mystery who created these detailed statues and they are a must-see if you are interested in pre-Columbian history. Along with visiting the UNESCO-listed Archeological Park, you can also hike and horse ride in the mountains around the town.
San Agustin is a true Colombia off the beaten path destination.
Puerto Nariño is an eco-village on the Amazon River populated by local indigenous people and surrounded by lush jungle. There are no vehicles here, you can see pink river dolphins playing from the river banks right in town, and there are tame macaws that will land on you if you have food for them (I found that out the hard way).
It is a very special place and a very worthy add to your Colombia Itinerary.
There are a couple of restaurants and gift shops around the village and you can take tours with local guides to nearby Lago Tarapoto for swimming, bird watching, and seeing more dolphins, and there is a viewing platform in town and some short hiking trails.
If you want to go to the Colombian Amazon, base yourself in lovely Puerto Nariño instead of Leticia, which is a pretty nondescript city. There are a number of multiday tours that embark from here too.
Popayan is known as the White City due to its white-washed buildings and it is a lovely, laidback city in the south of the country that doesn’t get a lot of tourists. There are lots of beautiful old churches, cobbled streets, and pretty squares in Popayan, making it the perfect small city to just wander in.
For a fun adventure, I highly recommend visiting Coconuco hot springs and then biking downhill back to the city. You can also do a volcano hike nearby.
I know Guatape is not exactly Colombia off the beaten path but staying there overnight is. Most travelers visit on a day trip from Medellin, but we stayed two nights there are loved walking around the town in the evening and early morning when the daytrippers weren’t there.
Guatape is one of the prettiest colonial towns in Colombia and is known for its colorful buildings with brightly painted murals. It is impossibly picturesque and is one of the best towns in Colombia to wander and admire the beauty.
You should also hike to the top of El Peñón de Guatapé, a giant rock with beautiful views over the landscape, and take a boat trip on Guatape Lake.
I hope I have convinced you to add some of these more offbeat places to your Colombia Itinerary. Colombia is truly an incredible country and I’m sure you will love it as much as I do.
The Best Insurance For Your Colombia Itinerary
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your Colombia trip, just to be on the safe side. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with.
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
If you liked this post, why not check out some more of my Colombia and South America posts:
- Why You Shouldn’t Miss El Valle on Colombia’s Pacific Coast
- Your Galapagos Islands Holiday: Things To Know Before You Go
- 8 Beautiful Galapagos Beaches You Shouldn’t Miss
- Colonial Mountain Towns and Exploring Bogota
- Exciting Times in Colombia’s Coffee Region
- The Beaches and Coastal Mountains on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia