Colombia’s Top 16 Largest Cities: Exploring the Key Urban Centers

Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota Colombia

Last updated on July 7th, 2023 at 03:52 am

Dear Reader

My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!

When you think of Colombia, football, beautiful women, drugs and possibly even salsa usually come to mind first. However, Colombia offers an incredible diversity and a very exciting culture, although one should speak of different cultures in this country. Check out also our Colombia language guide!

In the following blog, I have summarized the largest and most famous cities in Colombia and created a practical overview. I hope that when you read it, you will feel immediately like traveling.

Exploring Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Other Coastal Cities on Colombia’s Atlantic Coast

Colombia’s Atlantic coast boasts an array of captivating coastal cities, each with its own unique charm and allure. Among the must-visit destinations is Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its well-preserved colonial architecture, vibrant plazas, and picturesque old town. Immerse yourself in the enchanting blend of history and Caribbean flair by exploring the cobbled streets, visiting the iconic Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, and soaking up the sun on the stunning beaches. Just a short distance away, Barranquilla, known as the “Golden Gate of Colombia,” awaits with its lively Carnival celebrations, rich cultural heritage, and bustling urban energy. Dive into the vibrant music scene, sample delicious Caribbean cuisine, and indulge in the vibrant street art that adorns the city’s walls. Along the Atlantic coast, you’ll also discover other hidden gems such as Santa Marta, a gateway to the breathtaking Tayrona National Park, and Riohacha, a coastal town offering a glimpse into the indigenous Wayuu culture. Prepare to be enchanted as you embark on a journey to these coastal cities, each promising a unique experience along Colombia’s Atlantic coast.

 Cartagena: Exploring the Colonial Beauty of Colombia’s Caribbean Gem

Department: Bolívar
Location: Caribbean coast
Climate: 24 – 32° Celsius / 75 – 155° Fahrenheit
Population: 900,000
Area: 572 square kilometers / 220 square miles
Elevation: 2 meters above sea level / 7 feet above sea level
Year of foundation: June 1, 1533

Regarding tourism, Cartagena is probably the most important Colombian city after Bogota and the capital of the department Bolivar. The perfect location right on the Caribbean Sea and the beautiful colonial old town enchant national and international tourists. Cruise ships also moor in Cartagena.

In the historical part you will find many sights, boutique hotels and restaurants. It is an El Dorado for tourists. The walled city is known to be a common honeymoon destination due to the romanticism of its streets and architecture. Right next to the historical part you will find the skyline of modern Cartagena, where the Colombian tourist, in particular, lingers.

Outside the tourist zones there are many very poor neighborhoods and tourists should not move around in these areas.


Cartagena was probably the most important port in Colombia, because the majority of the goods were transported from the hinterland to the coast and in the opposite direction by the Magdalena River, which flows into the sea at Barranquilla. During the colonial period, important raw materials, including gold, were shipped from Cartagena to Europe.

The wealth of the city got around quickly and Cartagena was repeatedly attacked. It was then decided to secure the city and build huge defenses and ramparts.


There are a number of islands around Cartagena, most of which are private. Excursion destinations outside the city are limited in options.


The largest economic sectors in Cartagena are tourism, industry, and trade. The port of Cartagena is still one of the most important in Colombia.

Art, culture, and tourism:

There is a huge tourist offer in Cartagena. Therefore I refer to my separate Cartagena travel guide for a holistic overview.


Cartagena not only has beautiful sides but I also have a love-hate relationship with the city. In the following video, I explain in more detail.

Barranquilla: Unveiling the Carnival Capital of Colombia

Department: Atlántico
Location: Caribbean coast
Climate: 23 – 34° Celsius / 73 – 93° Fahrenheit
Population: 1,2 million
Area: 154 square kilometers / 59 square miles
Elevation: 18 meters above sea level / 59 feet above sea level
Year of foundation: April 7, 1813

Barranquilla is the fourth largest city in Colombia and is strategically located on the delta of the Magdalena River. It is a typical trading city and some of its residents have become very wealthy. It is also the capital of the department Atlántico.

Barranquilla is best known for its carnival, which is considered the second largest in the world and has been recognized by UNESCO. Otherwise, the port city is not known as a tourist destination. However, efforts are being made to make the city more attractive. There are also many Lebanese restaurants that can be traced back to the corresponding migration.

There are also many Lebanese restaurants that can be traced back to the corresponding migration.


Barranquilla was not founded during the colonial period, but the first mention dates back to 1533. The first Colombian airline was founded in the port city, which is known today as Avianca.


Efforts are being made to develop the Barranquilla region for tourism and various natural zones have been set up. Bird watching is now also offered.


The port of Barranquilla is one of the most important in the country today. The city is also the economic center of the Caribbean today and has industries such as the manufacturing industry, trade, finance, and fishing.

Some of the largest Colombian companies such as Avianca, Reficar, and Cementos Argos are based in Barranquilla.

Art, culture, and tourism:

As already mentioned, the second largest carnival after Rio de Janeiro takes place in Barranquilla. You can find out more about this in my travelogue about the carnival in Barranquilla.

Santa Marta: Discovering the Coastal Charm and Natural Wonders

Department: Magdalena
Location: Caribbean coast
Climate: 21 – 33° Celsius / 70 – 91° Fahrenheit
Population: 500,000
Area: 2.393 square kilometers / 924 square miles
Elevation: 5 meters above sea level / 16 feet above sea level
Year founded: July 29, 1525

Santa Marta is the capital of the department of Magdalena and is also very touristy. In contrast to the brother Cartagena, the majority of tourism consists of Colombians.

The city has a pretty historical core, which is also home to the nightlife district. There are also some pretty boutique hotels in the historic part of Santa Marta. The city spreads over a large area and is flanked by mountains from different sides.

The immediate mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are mostly owned by the indigenous people and reach the highest point in Colombia with the Pico Cristóbal Colón at 5,700 meters above sea level (18,700 feet above sea level).

Santa Marta is the perfect starting point for many leisure and holiday activities.


Santa Marta is considered the oldest city in Latin America and was founded by the Spanish. However, the area was inhabited by the Taironas long before. Today’s indigenous tribes are the Kogi, the Arhuaco (Ika) and the Wiwa.

The usual happened over the centuries and the indigenous people were decimated and finally fled to the mountains. Although Santa Marta prospered as a port city, the local population was partially decimated by various events such as illnesses and earthquakes.

Until 1995 there was also a direct train line from Bogota to Santa Marta, travel time 24 hours. However, visionary Colombian politicians saw no future on the train and operations ceased. For a while, Santa Marta was also shaped by the surrounding marijuana and coca cultivation.


Santa Marta has a spectacular region. Along the coast to the east, you will find Tayrona National Park, the most famous national park in Colombia. There are also wonderful beaches.

Other highlights are the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta with the lost city, which can be visited in a 4-day march. The whole area is a mixture of coast and mountain, in my opinion absolutely spectacular.


Santa Marta lives primarily from tourism. However, as a port city there is also trade, fishing, and agriculture. Bananas, coffee, cocoa, fruits, and yuca are grown.

Art, culture, and tourism:

There is a lot to experience and discover in Santa Marta. Therefore I refer to my Santa Marta travel guide for more detailed information.

Riohacha: Exploring the Indigenous Heritage and Beaches of La Guajira

Department: La Guajira
Location: Caribbean coast
Climate: 21 – 35° Celsius / 70 – 95° Fahrenheit
Population: 188,000
Area: 3,120 square kilometers / 1,205 square miles
Elevation: 5 meters above sea level / 16 feet above sea level
Year founded: 1547

Riohacha is the capital of the department of La Guajira and is located directly on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. The northern region consists mainly of desert and is inhabited by the Wayuu. This is also reflected in the population composition of the city.

Riohacha is one of the cities to which I attribute one of the greatest tourist potentials. The beach promenade runs in two directions and has two lanes each, the walkway being lined with indigenous traders. The beach sections are huge. However, the level of development is still very modest and the high corruption rate makes it doubtful that progress will be rapid.

With the immediate proximity to Venezuela, you can see the refugee crisis with your own eyes in Riohacha every day.


In the 16th century, locals started diving for pearls in the sea around Riohacha and provided the local population with an income. Francis Drake, the famous pirate, then attacked the city in 1596, because pearls were a great wealth at the time.

In 1769, Wayuu residents in the area rebelled, forcing local administrators to improve trading conditions.


The department of La Guajira has its borders next to Palomino, the Caribbean Sea, Venezuela and the department of Cesar.

This means that La Guajira consists partly of a desert, but also includes parts of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. There is also part of the Serranía del Perijá, a mountain range that also forms the border with Venezuela.

The department, therefore, has a wide variety of ecosystems and incredible beauty.


La Guajira is one of the poorest departments in the country. Industrialization is not very pronounced. In addition to coal mining, tourism and trade are the main sources of income.

According to unconfirmed statements, the corruption rate is so high that local politicians in association with companies (also international commodity giants) operate past the state. And displacements, water theft and other serious crimes are not uncommon.

Art, culture, and tourism:

La Guajira is a real pearl of tourism. If you have a bit of an adventurous spirit and can do without the 5-star hotel, you should definitely explore this region. More information can be found in my La Guajira travel guide.

Valledupar: Exploring the Vallenato Heartland in Colombia

Department: Cesar
Location: Eastern Andes
Climate: 17 – 36° Celsius / 63 – 97° Fahrenheit
Population: 500,000
Area: 4,977 square kilometers / 1,922 square miles
Elevation: 180 meters above sea level / 591 feet above sea level
Year of foundation: January 6, 1550

Valledupar is the capital of the Department of Cesar and is located in Colombia on the Caribbean coast, but is located around 90 kilometers from the coast.

Furthermore, Valledupar is situated on the backside of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. On the other side, you can find the Serranía del Perijá.


Before the Spanish colonization, the Chimilas inhabited the area.

During and after the Second World War, many Germans, French, and Italians immigrated to Valledupar.

In the 80s, the area was hit by a wave of violence. The armed groups in the mountains were demobilized in the 2000s.


The whole region around Valledupar is absolutely spectacular and can be compared to the area around the Rocky Mountains or the Swiss Alps. You can therefore either go to the coast from the lowlands or visit the mountains.


The area has agriculture, cattle breeding, and trade. The city also benefits from the 2 large coalmines Cerrejon and Drummond.

Art, culture, and tourism:

Valledupar and the entire region are still very undiscovered in terms of tourism, although the area is spectacular. The rivers from the Sierra Nevada are crystal clear and the natural pools are reminiscent of the Verzasca Valley in Switzerland. There is also huge potential for bird watching.

Exploring the Coastal Delights: Pacific Coast Cities of Colombia

Embark on a journey along Colombia’s Pacific coast and discover a breathtaking array of landscapes and captivating cities. Begin your exploration in Buenaventura, the country’s largest Pacific port, where you’ll encounter pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and a vibrant Afro-Colombian culture. Immerse yourself in the rhythm of the city, savor delicious seafood, witness traditional Pacific dance performances, and experience the warmth of the local community.

Explore Cali, known as the ‘Salsa Capital of the World.’ Dance the night away to infectious beats and sample delectable Colombian cuisine. Further south, you can explore the colonial charm and stunning landscapes of the Galeras Volcano and Puracé National Natural Park in the city of Pasto.

Discover the idyllic beaches of Tumaco, famous for their abundant marine life and picturesque shores. Whether you seek adventure, cultural experiences, or a tranquil beach getaway, the Pacific coast cities of Colombia offer an unforgettable journey through the coastal delights of this vibrant region.

Buenaventura: Exploring Colombia’s Largest Pacific Port City

Department: Valle del Cauca
Location: Pacific coast
Climate: 19-34° C / 66 – 93° Fahrenheit
Population: 430,000
Area: 6,078 square kilometers / 2,347 square miles
Elevation: 5 meters above sea level / 16 feet above sea level
Year of foundation: 14 July 1540

Buenaventura is the most important port city to the Pacific Sea and also one of the few direct entrances. The local port is therefore very important for Colombia.

The majority of the local population is Afro-Colombian.

Buenaventura is not a gem, but it does offer transportation to all destinations on the Pacific coast.

Even with excellent knowledge of Spanish, it is sometimes impossible to understand the local population.


Buenaventura was first established as a port for river navigation. The function as a seaport was only started around 1819.


The region around Buenaventura is mostly the wild Pacific coast. There are a few islands including the marine-biodiverse Malpelo.

From Buenaventura, you can reach some spectacular destinations that are hardly accessible to tourists. The old road to Cali is also considered the El Dorado for bird watchers. However, the region is currently partially classified as unsafe.


As the most important port city to the Pacific, trade is one of the most important sources of income. 60% of the goods of Colombia are processed through this port. There are also fisheries, raw material extraction (gold) and tourism.

Art, culture, and tourism:

Buenaventura is known for its good food and fresh fish. Anyone who has visited the Pacific coast knows about its magic.

As one of the wettest zones in the world, the region is also considered one of the most biodiverse. This region offers a lot of variety from whale watching to bird watching and exploring rare plants and animals.


Department: Valle del Cauca
Location: Western Andes
Climate: 16 – 31° Celsius / 61 – 88° Fahrenheit
Population: 2.5 million
Area: 564 square kilometers / 218 square miles
Elevation: 1,018 meters above sea level / 3,340 feet above sea level
Year founded: July 25, 1536

Cali is certainly not the most beautiful and safest city in Colombia, and with its entry in the top 40 most dangerous cities in the world, it also won no prize. As the world capital of salsa and with an unbeatable culinary offer, Cali catapults itself back into pole position.

It’s hard to explain, but something incomprehensible casts a spell over visitors and many tourists get stranded and find it difficult to get away. Anyone who has been there and after a few salsa hours stormed the nightlife can empathize with my feelings.


Cali has long been a small town. However, growth was initiated with the opening of the Panama Canal and the opening of a railway line around 1915.

In the following years, connections to Bogota and Buenaventura were established, which continued to drive growth. The Cali Cartel was also a direct competitor to the Medellin Cartel in the 90s.


Cali, with its proximity to the Pacific coast, has spectacular nature. Lake Calima, just an hour’s drive away, offers around 300 days of wind and is perfect for windsurfing or kite surfing.


Cali and the department are the third-largest economic force in Colombia. The nearby seaport makes Cali a flourishing commercial city. Sugar canes are also grown in the region.

Art, culture, and tourism:

As already mentioned, Cali is especially known for dancing salsa. It is also the most attractive city for urban bird watching.

The San Antonio district is certainly the most touristy and has dance schools, hotels, hostels, restaurants, and a popular viewpoint.

In the Heart of the Andes: Colombian Cities Surrounded by Mountains

Bogotá: Discovering the Cultural and Political Capital of Colombia

Department: Cundinamarca
Location: Eastern Andes
Climate: 7-20° Celsius / 45-68° Fahrenheit
Population: 10 million
Area: 1,587 square kilometers / 613 square miles
Elevation: 2,640 meters above sea level / 8,661 feet above sea level
Year of foundation: August 6, 1538

Bogota is not only the political, cultural and economic center of Colombia but also my home for years. The city in the Andes has a lot to offer and you can easily spend a week here without getting bored.

The traffic jams are legendary and the local population loses hours commuting every day. The traffic infrastructure cannot handle the masses and ancient buses sometimes let entire streets sink into thick smoke.

Nevertheless, Bogota offers a variety that other cities can only dream of.


The Bogota plain used to be inhabited by the Muiscas. The gold-seeking Spaniards reached the region around 1537. The expedition started in 1536 from Santa Marta with 800 strong men and reached its destination with only 162 remaining.

It was also not so long ago that the FARC rebels besieged the city and a terrestrial trip out of the city was a big risk. In the 2000 years, however, the FARC was pushed back to the outskirts of Colombia and a peace treaty is in effect today. Almost all of Colombia can now be safely traveled by car from Bogota.


Bogota’s surface is huge and it can take hours to get out of the city due to traffic. However, the surrounding area offers very exciting destinations. From Paramos over mountains to deeper and hot regions and colonial cities as well as national parks, the offer is huge.

Many local families travel to nearby towns on weekends to have lunch in country restaurants, to visit natural reserves or cultural attractions and to spend a relaxing holiday.


As an economic center, 25% of national value creation takes place in Bogota. 20% of all companies are registered in the capital.

Art, culture, and tourism:

Bogota offers an incredible variety of tourist and cultural offers. You can find more information on this topic in my Bogota travel guide.

Medellin: Unveiling the Vibrant City of Eternal Spring

Department: Antioquia
Location: Central Andes
Climate: 16 – 28° Celsius / 61 – 82° Fahrenheit
Population: 2.5 million
Area: 382 square kilometers / 147 square miles
Elevation: 1,500 meters above sea / 4,921 feet above sea level
Year of foundation: 2 March 1616

Medellin is also known as the city of eternal spring. The climate is mild and very pleasant. The only downside is that the pollution rarely leaves the valley and a smog roof often covers you.

The city has a modern infrastructure and is considered the country’s innovation center. Many foreign travelers, digital nomads, backpackers, and retirees have been captivated by the city in recent years. The consequences are gentrification and various types of prostitution.

I actually like Medellin, but I have developed an ambivalent relationship because there are too many “ugly” foreigners in the city in my opinion, and the trend is rising.


From 1900 to 1950, the population in Medellin multiplied several times due to industrialization. The city established itself as a hub for gold and coffee.

Medellin became particularly famous through Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, who rose to become the richest man in the world with his Medellin drug cartel. His empire, however, found a sudden end on 2 December 1993 with his shooting.

Although an estimated 15,000 dead are directly or indirectly attributed to his account, a distorted picture is reflected thanks to global media influence. The majority of Colombians want the monster and mass murderer’s capital to be erased from history. The numbers of ignorant foreign tourists that demand after Pablo Escobar tours or otherwise related activities, don’t let the Colombians forget their pain.


The region around Medellin is very exciting in every direction. You will soon be on the Pacific coast with a small plane. There are also various historic colonial towns in the immediate vicinity. The coffee triangle is also within reach.


After Bogota, Medellin is the second-largest economic center in Colombia. Around 8% of the country’s national value added is achieved. The textile industry, metal processing, and electronics form some of the largest sectors.

Art, culture, and tourism:

For an overview of the various offers, I refer to my detailed Medellin travel guide.

Popayan: Exploring the Colonial Charms of Colombia’s White City

Department: Cauca
Location: Central Andes
Climate: 12 – 25° Celsius / 54 – 77° Fahrenheit
Population: 300,000
Area: 512 square kilometers / 198 square miles
Elevation: 1,760 meters above sea level / 5,774 feet above sea level
Year founded: January 13, 1537

Popayan is the capital of the department Cauca and is also called the white city and is beautiful. The historical center is perfect to explore on foot and offers a perfect ambiance.

As a student city, however, the destination also suffers from corresponding demonstrations, in which the historic buildings are unfortunately regularly messed up with smears. Probably, proof that students are not always smart.

UNESCO has also recognized Popayan for its gastronomy.


Also, Popayan was founded by the Spaniards, the area was already populated but also before. The owners of various gold mines settled in Popayan, which led to magnificent buildings.


The region around Popayan also offers beautiful nature but has been unstable for years. Different armed groups are active and the situation is very complicated. The last time I was there, I felt that there was a military checkpoint every 6 miles (10 km).

The Puracé National Park is known for observing the Condor. It is the territory of local indigenous people. Local tour operators sometimes denounce the local natives as drunken hillbillies. This was preceded by a dispute over an access restriction for more than 30 tourists a day, which was repeatedly disregarded by the tour operators. However, there are also reports that the feeding of the Condor by the local indigenous is not carried out properly and on a daily basis.


Cauca is one of the poorest departments in the country and has no major industrialization. In addition to agriculture, income from trade and tourism is generated.

Art, culture, and tourism:

Popayan offers an El Dorado for lovers of colonial history. There is a wonderful city center to admire, as well as the associated churches. Right next to the colonial center there is the viewpoint of the 3 crosses and the Morro del Tulcán, which is very busy at sunset.

There is also a good culinary offer. In addition, there is “The Night of the Museums”, where the city center is closed and restaurants are serving food on the streets. There are street artists too.

Pasto: Discovering the Cultural Heritage of Southern Colombia

Department: Nariño
Location: Central Andes
Climate: 9 – 17° Celsius / 48 – 63° Fahrenheit
Population: 400,000
Area: 1,181 square kilometers / 456 square miles
Elevation: 2,520 meters above sea level / 8,268 feet above sea level
Year of foundation: June 24, 1537

San Juan de Pasto is the capital of the department of Nariño. It is located in the very south of the country and offers a direct view of the Galeras volcano, which is mostly cloudy and is also a military restricted area. The last eruption was in 1993.


There is no Simón Bolívar square in Pasto. This was because the local population rebelled against the great liberator and refused to submit to his tyranny. In 1861 during a civil war, Pasto was also declared as the national capital for 6 months.


The region around Pasto is incredibly exciting. With the “La Cocha” lagoon, Nariño has the second-largest natural body of water in the country. There are various volcanoes.

However, the department extends to the Pacific coast. The coastal town of Tumaco has long been considered a fire hazard due to drug production and its trade. On my last visit, however, the military and police had presence everywhere and it seemed relatively safe. The place has also established itself as a weekend destination for beach and party vacations for Colombians.

The border with Ecuador is also just a stone’s throw away.


Agriculture still makes up a large part of the economy. There is also an intensive trade with Ecuador. Although the area is spectacular, tourism is still small.

Art, culture, and tourism:

Pasto offers a number of sights in the historic center but then exhausted itself relatively quickly. The famous black and white carnival is worth mentioning, which is also recognized by UNESCO.

In the south, you will find Las Lajas Cathedral, which I think is absolutely spectacular. The area is also ideal for outdoor activities.

Manizales: Exploring the Coffee Region’s Capital in the Andes

Department: Caldas
Location: Central Andes
Climate: 11 – 22° Celsius / 52 – 72° Fahrenheit
Population: 440,000
Area: 571 square kilometers / 220 square miles
Elevation: 2,160 meters above sea / 7,087 feet
Year of foundation: October 12, 1849

Manizales is the capital of the department Caldas and a member of the coffee zone in Colombia, also known as “El Paisaje Cultural Cafetero de Colombia (PCC)”, which is a cultural heritage of UNESCO.

The city is built in the immediate vicinity of Nevado del Ruiz, a still active volcano. Accordingly, there are some hot springs that are worth a trip. The city is also built on a hill and the streets are sometimes very steep.


From 1950 to 1970 Manizales was the epicenter of coffee in Colombia. In the 1990s, however, local politics decided to diversify and build up other economic sectors. Since 2018, Manizales has also been the city where the easiest way to start a business.


Manizales has a spectacular landscape and ranges from the volcano to the coffee growing area.

The connection routes are also very good since the rest of the region is well connected by a motorway. Manizales is usually cold and rainy, so flight operations are only of limited reliability. However, a new airport is under construction and should ensure better connections in the future.


In addition to coffee, tourism is also an important source of income today. Liquor, shoes, tires, chocolate and other products are also manufactured.

Art, culture and tourism:

Manizales and the region offer a variety of activities, including a renowned yearly festival. For more details, I refer to my coffee triangle travel guide.

Pereira: Unveiling the Dynamic City Amidst Coffee Plantations

Department: Risaralda
Location: Central Andes
Climate: 17- 27° Celsius / 63 – 81° Fahrenheit
Population: 500,000
Area: 702 square kilometers / 271 square miles
Elevation: 1.411 meters above sea level / 4.629 feet above sea level
Founding year: August 30, 1863

Pereira is the capital of the department Risaralda and a member of the coffee zone in Colombia, also known as “El Paisaje Cultural Cafetero de Colombia (PCC)”, which is a cultural heritage of UNESCO.

Pereira is the most populated area in the coffee zone.


The area around the city was inhabited by the Quimbaya and the Pijao in the pre-Colombian era. In 1920 there was a migration wave from Antioquia, attracted by the good economic opportunities in coffee growing.


In the region around Pereira, there are wonderful landscapes and coffee growing. There is also a connecting road to Quibdó, the capital of Chocó.


The economy of the city and the region is well diversified. Due to its geographical location, the trading business and services developed splendidly.

Art, culture, and tourism:

Pereira and the region offer a variety of attractions. For more details, I refer to my coffee triangle travel guide.

Armenia: Discovering the Natural Beauty of Colombia’s Coffee Triangle

Department: Quindío
Location: Central Andes
Climate: 15 – 28° Celsius / 59 – 82° Fahrenheit
Population: 300,000
Area: 650 square kilometers / 251 square miles
Elevation: 1.551 meters above sea level / 5.089 feet above sea level
Year founded: October 14, 1889

Armenia is the capital of the department Quindío and a member of the coffee zone in Colombia, also known as “El Paisaje Cultural Cafetero de Colombia (PCC)”, which is a cultural heritage of UNESCO.

Armenia is probably the most famous city among foreign travelers because the destinations Salento and the Cocora Valley are in the immediate vicinity.


The area was inhabited by the Quimbaya indigenous people 500 years before Christ, which then disappeared after the Conquest.

The city was founded in 1889, after the colonists from Antioquia, Cauca and the Cundiboyacense plateau arrived in the region.


The region around Armenia is hilly and then rises sharply in the central Cordilleras. The area is beautiful and already well developed for tourism.

There is a connecting road to Tolima, which is closed regularly depending on the weather due to landslides or accidents.


Tourism is already well developed in Armenia and throughout the department. Agriculture and trade are also carried out.

Art, culture, and tourism:

Armenia and the region offer a variety of attractions. For more details, I refer to my coffee triangle travel guide.

Bucaramanga Unveiling the City of Parks in Northeastern Colombia

Department: Santander
Location: Eastern Andes
Climate: 18 – 29° C / 64 – 84° Fahrenheit
Population: 600,000
Area: 162 square kilometers / 63 square miles
Elevation: 959 meters above sea level / 3,146 feet above sea level
Year of foundation: December 22, 1622

Bucaramanga is a very well organized and tidy city. It is also the capital of the department Santander.

For foreigners who want to immigrate to Colombia, this city should certainly be considered. Not only does the city have good infrastructure and educational opportunities, but the region also has spectacular natural treasures.


The indigenous people in the region before the appearance of the Spaniards were the Guanes. The village grew until its official foundation in 1622. Its streets were walked by the famous Jose Celestino Mutis with his Botanical Expedition and then by Simon Bolivar.

It was 1857 when it was named the capital of Santander.


The region around Bucaramanga offers incredible diversity.

There are colonial villages, including Barichara, which is considered the most beautiful colonial village in Colombia. Next is the Chicamocha Canyon, which is over 227 kilometers (141 miles) long and measures over 2 kilometers (6,600 feet) at its deepest point. San Gil, which is also close by, is considered the Colombian risk sports destination par excellence.


Bucaramanga is economically well diversified. There is agro-industry, cattle breeding, breweries, oil, mines and industry.

Art, cultures and tourism:

Bucaramanga itself is not very well known as a tourist destination, but the Santander region. The “Cañón del Chicamocha”, San Gil and Barichara are real tourist magnets. The region around La Mesa de los Santos is also extremely popular. From there you can take the gondola lift down the gorge and up the other side.


Rather a funny specialty is the call of women, the “Santandereanas”. They are said to be “bravas”, which means freely translated as wild or spirited. It is said in Colombia that the women of Santander tell you their opinion directly and without hesitation. I personally can partially confirm this.

Beyond the Main Attractions: Exploring Lesser-Known Cities Across Colombia

Yopal: Exploring the Natural Wonders of the Eastern Plains in Colombia

Department: Casanare
Location: Orinoco
Climate: 21 – 34° Celsius / 70 – 93° Fahrenheit
Population: 170,000
Area: 2,771 square kilometers / 1,070 square miles
Elevation: 350 meters above sea level / 1,148 feet above sea level
Year of foundation: February 22, 1915

Yopal is the capital of the department Casanare, which is part of the Orinoco or Llanos region. The city has grown rapidly in recent years and is not necessarily a pearl. Public places are not necessarily worth visiting.

Local gastronomy has a peculiarity. Because cattle breeding is one of the main industries, delicious beef is available in many places. The specialty is called “Mamona”. Capybara is also delicious.


The region was formerly part of the department Boyacá but was declared an independent department on July 4, 1991. Before the 19th century, indigenous people mostly inhabited the area.

Over time, immigration increased and cattle breeding developed.


The Llanos is a wide plain that reaches as far as Venezuela. The region has an incredible variety of exciting animals that live alongside cattle breeding.


In Casanare, livestock, monocultures, and oil make up the largest part of the income. However, tourism is growing.

Art, culture, and tourism:

I have written my own Llanos travel guide for the region, which I would like to refer to here.

Colombia Travel Guides

Here you will find travel guides for the most popular regions in Colombia, which we have put together during our extensive travels around the country.

Travel Guides to Colombia’s Small Towns

Here you will find travel guides for less popular destinations in Colombia. Some of these destinations are even real insider tips and not even known to the Colombians as travel destinations.

Dear Reader

  • Liked our content? You are welcome to share it and spread the message that Colombia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Leave a Reply

Related Posts

On our Blog you will find information about our past experiences as well as useful tips for planning your trip to Colombia.