Updated on 02/25/2024
I would also like to recommend our Colombia travel guide, which provides a perfect overview of the tourist attractions in Colombia. Enjoy reading it!
The 7 Wonders of Colombia: A Testament to Cultural and Architectural Majesty
The concept of the “7 Wonders of Colombia” was born from a unique initiative by the Colombian newspaper “El Tiempo” in 2007. Seeking to highlight the nation’s most impressive man-made structures, the survey involved readers and specialists in a three-phase process:
- Reader Nominations: The first phase invited newspaper readers to submit their recommendations of noteworthy structures.
- Specialist Shortlisting: From these submissions, specialists curated a list of 21 emblematic buildings, which were then scored based on votes.
- Final Voting: In the last phase, readers voted from the shortlist, culminating in the selection of Colombia’s seven wonders.
These wonders not only had to be man-made and located within Colombian territory but also needed to demonstrate cultural significance, architectural excellence, and completion. The selection of these sites aligns with the growing interest in international tourism in Colombia, showcasing the rich heritage and diverse architectural landscapes of the country.
The 7 Wonders of Colombia
- The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira: An underground cathedral carved from a salt mine, symbolizing faith and architectural ingenuity.
- The Sanctuary of Las Lajas: A stunning Gothic-style church built within a canyon, renowned for its beauty and historical tales.
- San Agustin Archaeological Park: A crucial pre-Hispanic archaeological site, featuring the largest collection of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in Latin America.
- Fortification of San Felipe de Cartagena: A mighty fortress in Cartagena, a historical bulwark against pirates and colonial powers.
- The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida): An ancient city in the Sierra Nevada, reflecting the sophisticated urban planning of the Tairona people.
- Tierradentro Archaeological Park: Home to an impressive array of pre-Columbian underground tombs and statues, shedding light on ancient burial practices.
- Teatro Colón: A neoclassical marvel in Bogotá, Colombia’s national theater and a testament to the country’s cultural and architectural evolution.
Each of these wonders embodies a unique aspect of Colombia’s rich cultural tapestry, making them essential destinations for those seeking to explore the depth and diversity of Colombian heritage.
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral
Website: Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral
Open Daily: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM
A Portal to History and Devotion
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, initially a humble place of worship established in 1932 within the salt mines, has become Colombia’s first architectural wonder. After the original cathedral was closed due to structural issues, the new cathedral was inaugurated in 1995, 60 meters from the original site, and has been attracting visitors from around the globe ever since.
Your Arrival at the Salt Cathedral
Via Public Transport
From Bogotá, head northeast to Zipaquirá by bus from the “Portal Norte” Transmilenio station.
On the Rails
Enjoy the Tren Turístico de la Sabana with its lively onboard atmosphere. Tickets are available online or at train stations in Bogotá.
In 2023, we proudly offered our first clients an unparalleled experience to the cathedral via helicopter, adding an aerial dimension to their visit.
2023 Ticket Prices:
- Adults: COP 63,000
- Seniors (60+): COP 57,000
- Children (12 and under): COP 57,000
The Salt Cathedral Experience
The cathedral is a feat of engineering, boasting multiple sections each symbolizing a religious significance. It includes:
- The Main Cathedral Area: Showcasing the three-part structure symbolizing Jesus’ birth, life, and resurrection.
- The Dome: Illuminated to represent the universe.
- The Cross: Known as the largest underground cross in the world.
Cultural and Spiritual Exploration
- The Way of the Cross: Visitors can embark on a spiritual journey through the 14 Stations of the Cross, artistically carved in salt.
- The Miner’s Route: Feel the life of a miner in this interactive experience.
- The Tutankhamun Museum: Delve into the history of the famous Egyptian pharaoh.
- The Climbing Wall: Challenge yourself on Colombia’s largest open-pit climbing wall.
- Brine Museum: Learn about the historical salt production process.
When to Visit
The cathedral is a year-round destination, having reopened with health protocols on October 1st, 2020. It’s advisable to visit outside of major holidays and weekends to avoid large crowds.
- Accessibility is a priority, with ramps available for those with physical disabilities.
- Children of all ages are welcome.
- English-speaking guides can be arranged.
- Pets are not permitted.
Las Lajas sanctuary
Las Lajas Sanctuary stands not only as a pinnacle of architectural brilliance in Colombia but also as a spectacle within a canyon, leaving every visitor in awe. Recognized by “The Telegraph” as one of the most beautiful churches globally, this Gothic masterpiece, with its towering 100-meter high bridge and the enchanting landscape, is a sight to behold.
The Foundation of Faith and Stone
Constructed meticulously from 1916 to 1949 using the ‘Laja’ stone, the church houses the venerated image of Nuestra Señora de las Lajas. In a testament to its spiritual significance, the Vatican sanctioned the canonical coronation of this sacred figure in 1951, and by 1954, it was consecrated as a basilica.
The Legend of Las Lajas
Wrapped in divine tales, the sanctuary is steeped in stories like that of Gonzalo Suarez, a soldier who found miracles at its steps. However, the cornerstone of its lore is the 1754 discovery of the image of the Lady of the Rosary by María Mueses de Quiñones and her once mute daughter Rosa, marking the beginning of the site’s pilgrimage legacy.
Journey to the Sanctuary
Situated in Ipiales, a border town near Ecuador, the sanctuary is about a 2-hour drive from Pasto. Reach Pasto by plane from Bogotá or by bus, and consider a private guide for an enriched experience. Park nearby and either stroll through the village or ride the gondola to the church’s doorstep.
The Heart of Ipiales
Ipiales is a city of steep streets, rich with restaurants and shops catering to travelers. Not to be missed is the main square’s 20 de Julio Park and the cathedral “San Pedro Mártir,” amidst the “City of Green Clouds,” so named for its unique sunsets.
Inside the Sanctuary
The church, perched upon a bridge over the Guáitara River canyon, offers an otherworldly view, earning it the moniker “miracle of God in the abyss.” Explore the interior’s stunning stained glass and the Museo Santuario Nuestra Señora de las Lajas, housing pre-Columbian art and religious works. At dusk, the church’s colorful illumination is a celestial display not to be missed.
When to Visit
While Nariño may be off the beaten path, a visit to this basilica is highly recommended. For the best experience, avoid Sundays, public holidays, Holy Week, or Christmas to escape the crowds.
San Agustin Archaeological Park
Hours of Operation
Open: Every day except Tuesdays, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Please verify the latest schedule on the official website before planning your visit.
Admission Fees (2021)
- Colombian Citizens: COP 27,000
- Students: COP 12,000
- Foreign Visitors: COP 38,000
UNESCO’s World Heritage Marvel
The San Agustín Archaeological Park, declared a World Heritage Site in 1995, stands as one of South America’s most significant archaeological treasures. Opened in 1935 in Colombia’s Huila department, it features the largest known necropolis in Latin America, with roots stretching back to 3000 BC.
The Augustinian Culture Revealed
By the time the Spanish conquest began, the indigenous culture had vanished, leaving behind mysteries now attributed to the Augustine Culture. Named in honor of Fray Agustin de la Coruña, this group is celebrated for their unique contributions to pre-Hispanic history.
Navigating to San Agustín
The park is accessible via Pitalito, with the journey from the local airport taking approximately one hour. Combining a visit with a trip to Popayán creates an enriching travel experience.
What to Anticipate in San Agustín
This heritage site is a beacon for cultural enthusiasts, boasting awe-inspiring archaeological landscapes and statues. The municipality offers varied attractions, from the pre-Columbian Museum Villa Real to outdoor activities like the Magdalena Street bike route.
Exploring the Archaeological Park
Luis Duque Gómez House Museum
Opened in 2013, the museum presents artifacts, statues, and historical photographs that chronicle the region’s rich cultural past.
Known as the park’s inaugural public square, Mesita A reveals a settlement dating back two millennia, with significant burial mounds as its highlight.
Home to over 60 statues, burial mounds, and graves, Mesita B provides a glimpse into the lives of the San Agustín culture.
Featuring a burial mound, statues, and graves, Mesita C offers further insights into the ancient rituals of the area.
The Forest of Statues
A collection of funerary statues found throughout the park, showcasing the artistic prowess of the indigenous peoples.
El Alto del Lavapatas
A significant hilltop site where remains of a dwelling and the oldest evidence of human activity in the Alto Magdalena were discovered.
Best Times to Visit
San Agustín Archaeological Park is an essential destination for anyone interested in Colombia’s pre-Hispanic cultures. The park is ideal for both casual visits along well-maintained ecological trails and more adventurous treks.
Tierradentro Archaeological Park: A Portal to Colombia’s Ancestral Past
Open: Monday to Sunday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Admission Fees (2021)
- Colombian Citizens: COP 35,000
- Students: COP 15,000
- Foreign Visitors: COP 50,000
- Free Admission: Children under 12, Seniors over 62, Indigenous communities, and local residents
The Essence of Tierradentro
Nestled in the Huila department, Tierradentro Archaeological Park offers a unique window into the burial practices of pre-Hispanic cultures. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park features hypogea, or underground burial chambers, dating from the 4th to the 9th century. These tombs, belonging to ancient farming communities, are a profound display of indigenous architectural ingenuity.
Preserving Indigenous Heritage
The Paeces, an indigenous community in the region, have been the custodians of this sacred land, ensuring the preservation and respect of these ancestral sites.
Journey to Tierradentro
Located in the municipality of Inza, Cauca department, Tierradentro is accessible via various routes. One can opt for an all-inclusive tour, or travel independently by taking a Jeep Colectivo from the terminal to El Crucero, and then a Bus Colectivo to the park. The journey is approximately 3 hours from Popayán and 5 hours from San Agustín.
Discovering the Park’s Wonders
Tierradentro offers a blend of history, culture, and nature. Visitors can explore the hills dotted with hypogea and delve into the local archaeological museum.
Opened in 2014, the museum showcases tools, goldsmith artifacts, funerary urns, and other items from the indigenous community that once thrived in Tierradentro.
The park’s main attraction, these collective burial chambers are architectural marvels. The hypogea, some up to 9 meters deep, reflect the domestic architecture of their time with intricate motifs and designs. Visitors can witness human figure statues and monumental tomb structures from the 6th to the 10th centuries.
Why Visit Tierradentro?
This UNESCO site provides a rare insight into a civilization long gone, offering a unique perspective on Colombian history and heritage. For travelers, it’s a journey not just through space, but time – uncovering the secrets of those who walked these lands centuries ago.
Recommendations for Visitors
- Adhere to the park’s regulations to preserve its sanctity.
- Carry a raincoat, as the weather fluctuates between 16°C and 18°C.
- Use sun protection to guard against the high-altitude sun.
Tierradentro Archaeological Park stands as a testament to Colombia’s rich and diverse history, beckoning explorers to uncover its hidden narratives.
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas: Cartagena’s Monumental Fortress
Open: Monday to Sunday, 8 AM to 6 PM
Admission Fees (2021)
- General Admission: COP 20,000
- Reduced Price: COP 10,500 (children ages 6-13, students)
Cartagena: A Caribbean Gem Steeped in History
Cartagena is a vibrant tapestry of past and present, where colonial heritage meets the allure of the Caribbean. The city was a focal point of historical invasions and pirate attacks, due to its strategic location and wealth. Remembering the 1586 siege by Sir Francis Drake, it’s evident why the Spanish empire fortified this coastal jewel.
The Birth of a Fortress
Responding to the threats of piracy, the Spaniards embarked on constructing the formidable Fort of San Felipe de Barajas. Starting in 1536 and completed in 1657, this hilltop bastion was built by the Spanish military with the aid of African slaves.
A Historical Bulwark: San Felipe de Barajas
Perched atop San Lazaro Hill, the fortress witnessed pivotal battles, including Baron de Pointis’ 1697 victory and the famed English assault led by Edward Vernon in 1741. It was the ingenuity of Blas de Lezo’s trench defense that ultimately repelled Vernon’s forces, cementing the fort’s invincible legacy.
Navigating to San Felipe Castle
Located just a 10-minute walk from Cartagena’s iconic clock tower, San Felipe de Barajas Castle is easily accessible. While a short walk from the historic center is feasible, a taxi is recommended to avoid the heat. Always agree on the fare before departing.
As the capital of the Bolívar department, Cartagena captivates visitors with its pristine beaches, historic sites, and the renowned walled city. For an in-depth exploration, consider our comprehensive travel guide to Cartagena: Pelecanus Travel Guide to Cartagena
The Castle’s Treasures
The imposing fortifications and labyrinthine tunnels narrate tales of bygone conflicts, revealing the lengths to which attackers went to claim the city’s riches. The fortress is a vast monument with numerous chambers, where guided tours can enhance the experience.
Highlights of the Castle
- A complex tunnel system, strategically designed to disorient and entrap enemies.
- The underground barracks capable of housing 350 soldiers, complete with provisions and armaments for prolonged sieges.
- The sloped walls, constructed with stone blocks sourced from nearby coasts, illustrate the fort’s enduring architecture.
When to Visit and Why
Castillo San Felipe is a testament to colonial military engineering, preserved over centuries. Recognized by UNESCO as part of Cartagena’s World Heritage designation, the fortress offers a tangible connection to the rich history of the Americas and is a must-visit for those seeking to unravel the mysteries of Colombia’s past.
The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida)
Journey to the Ancient Teyuna
In the heart of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta lies Ciudad Perdida, the ‘Lost City,’ a testament to the ingenuity of the Tairona people. Founded around 700 AD, this pre-Columbian city predates Peru’s famed Machu Picchu by some 600 years, offering a unique glimpse into an ancient civilization.
The Path to Discovery
Ciudad Perdida remained concealed from modern civilization until its rediscovery in the 1970s. Today, it’s accessible through a multi-day trek through the diverse ecosystem of the Sierra Nevada, presenting a perfect blend of challenge and reward for adventurers.
Your Expedition Begins
Embark on a 4, 5, or 6-day hike from Santa Marta, traversing 50 km of lush rainforest, river crossings, and steep inclines. For those pressed for time or seeking an alternative perspective, helicopter tours offer an aerial view of this archaeological wonder.
Santa Marta: A Gateway to Adventure
Santa Marta, the starting point of the trek, is a hub of culture and nature. With its beautiful beaches, such as Taganga and Playa Blanca, and proximity to Tayrona Park and the indigenous communities of the Sierra Nevada, it’s a destination rich in experiences.
Within the Lost City
The Ciudad Perdida trek is an immersive journey. Expect hot and humid conditions, challenging terrain, and the constant company of tropical wildlife. As you navigate the path, the city reveals its splendors, including terraces, ceremonial centers, and a profound connection to the indigenous heritage.
The Trek Itinerary
Gather at 8:00 AM for transport to the trailhead, ‘El Mamey,’ where your expedition into the past commences.
An early start takes you deeper into the indigenous reserve, ascending into the realm of the Taironas.
By dawn, prepare for the final leg to Ciudad Perdida. Lighten your load, carrying only essentials, as you ascend to the archaeological site.
Retrace your steps back to civilization, enriched by the experience of having walked in the footsteps of an ancient culture.
Visiting the Lost City: A Timeless Encounter
Ciudad Perdida offers an unparalleled adventure for those drawn to the mysteries of ancient civilizations. Despite the constant tropical climate, it’s advisable to avoid the rainy season and peak tourist periods for the most enjoyable experience.
Recommendations for Trekkers
A moderate level of fitness is recommended to undertake the Ciudad Perdida trek. Embrace the journey with a spirit of adventure, and be prepared for the physical demands of the trail and the natural beauty that awaits.
Teatro Colón: A Jewel of Colombian Culture in Bogotá
Discover the Grandeur of Teatro Colón
Website: Teatro Colón Hours of Operation: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
A Masterpiece of Italian Architecture
Designed by Italian architect Pietro Cantini, the construction of Teatro Colón from 1885 to 1895 was a feat of architectural brilliance. To realize Cantini’s sophisticated vision, a vocational school was established, equipping workers with the necessary skills for this grand project.
On the site of the former Maldonado Theater, the Teatro Colón emerged as an iconic symbol of Colombian culture. In 1895, President Rafael Núñez initiated its transformation, expropriating the land to create what is now a celebrated national treasure.
A Stage for All Arts
Teatro Colón is a vibrant hub for the arts, hosting a diverse array of performances including dance, theater, opera, and various music genres. Despite being lesser-known among travelers, it’s a remarkable destination in Bogotá’s old town, offering tours in Spanish and other languages upon request.
Getting to Teatro Colón
Located at the heart of Bogotá, the theater’s address is Calle 10 # 5-32, La Candelaria. It’s easily accessible and sits amidst the rich cultural landscape of Colombia’s capital.
Bogotá: A City of Rich Cultural Tapestry
The capital city is renowned for its museums, historical sites like La Candelaria, and a plethora of attractions, ensuring that visitors never run out of things to explore. For a deeper dive, consider exploring a comprehensive travel guide to Bogotá.
Inside the Teatro Colón
The theater spans three levels with a seating capacity of approximately 900. Each level offers a unique experience:
- Main Hall: The heart of the theater with 785 seats, it has hosted numerous esteemed artists and high-profile national and international performances.
- Foyer: Located on the second level, this space is perfect for music concerts with small orchestras, chamber groups, and recitals, accommodating up to 120 guests.
- Victor Mallarino Hall: Situated on the third level, this hall has witnessed the rise of Colombia’s first trained actors, contributing significantly to the nation’s theatrical history.
The theater also boasts the majestic “de Gatti” curtain, crafted in Florence, Italy, measuring 8.75 meters in height and 11.35 meters in width. Additionally, visitors can explore the theater’s documentation center, which houses around 15,000 texts and references about the theater’s history and restorations.
Why Visit Teatro Colón?
As Colombia’s national theater, Teatro Colón is a neoclassical masterpiece sprawling over 2,400 square meters. Declared a national monument and recognized as one of the seven wonders of Colombia, it’s a must-visit for anyone interested in the arts, history, and architecture.
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