Adventure Travel in Colombia – A Thrill Seeker’s Paradise!
A Guide to the Best Colombian Adventure Travel
Feeling adventurous? A trip to Colombia has everything you need to get your blood pumping. Grueling multi-day treks, rugged wild-camping, paragliding, ATV-riding, and even canoeing deep into the Amazon Rainforest. Colombia’s diverse landscapes are apt to accommodate all varieties of thrill seekers who want to experience adventure travel in Colombia.
The pinnacle of adventure tourism in South America can be found between Colombia’s modern cities and tropical coastlines. The lesser visited regions of Colombia. Its deserts, mountains, and grasslands. Not everyone prioritizes these remote areas but for travelers seeking something to get the adrenaline pumping it helps to venture off-the-beaten-path.
But even travelers who for time purposes must stick to the Caribbean coast and major cities have a plethora of action-packed options to choose from.
Because let’s face it, these unique travel experiences are what makes us feel alive. We travel to the far corners of the world to test our limits and try something new. To get outside our comfort zone. It’s how we grow.
From easy excursions for beginners to adventures not for the faint of heart we’ll dive into the world of thrilling experiences within Colombia’s borders.
But first, and most importantly, travel insurance.
Travel insurance can be expensive and it is unlikely you’ll have to ever use it (let’s hope anyway). But the risk of having to pay thousands of dollars following a broken ankle or arm should outweigh your desire to save a few bucks.
Here are a few things you should consider…
- Pick a plan that works best for you. For us, baggage theft/loss coverage is a requirement. Losing your camera or laptop would put you out far more than the total cost of the insurance policy.
- Most travel insurance basic plans DO NOT cover adventure activities. Some companies consider snorkeling and “long hikes” to be adventure activities. Make sure to look at the details when picking a plan for adventure travel.
- Phenomenal adventure travel plan: WorldNomads. They cover over 150 different adventure activities and are the most widely used travel insurance plan by backpackers.
Even for budget travelers it’s important to have travel insurance. Because you never know when you’ll need it. It doesn’t only cover medical expenses but many plans also cover baggage theft, canceled flights (missed flights), and even delay of your trip.
(Read Also: 8 Best Places to Visit in Colombia)
Adventure Travel for Beginners
So what exactly classifies as “adventure tourism”?
For our purposes, anything that gets your blood pumping! Those outdoor activities that push your boundaries or get you your daily adrenaline rush. Activities for the thrill-seeker in all of us.
Our guide will include milder activities like snorkeling, trekking, and mountain-biking but also the more invigorating. Bungee-jumping, active-volcano summiting and deep-sea diving.
But first, some tips to get you started…
- Pick reputable tour operators. Do your research. With the right guides, you minimize the risk of injury and have a better experience overall.
- Support local tour operators and guides. Who better to share the experience with than a local.
- When venturing out on your own make sure to always bring enough supplies for overnight. Food, water, maps, etc. It’s always best to be prepared.
Colombia covers a hugely diverse landscape. But no matter what region you set out to explore there are outdoor adventures waiting for you.
Dividing Colombia regionally into the Caribbean Coast, the Pacific Coast, the Andes, the Grassland Plains, the Amazon Rainforest, the Coffee Region, and Major Metropolis‘ our guide will outline all the various adventures throughout the country.
Adventure Level: Activities labeled as “easy” can be attempted with little to no training or with an organized tour group. “Moderate” activities require some level of physical fitness and determination. “Not for the Faint of Heart” indicates an adventure that will physically push your limits or activities for the truly intrepid.
The balmy northern-most coastline of Colombia. Travelers flock to colorful Cartagena-the jewel of the Caribbean. But adventure awaits outside the cities ancient walls.
Tayrona National Park (Easy)
One of the most popular and easily accessible national parks in Colombia. Wild camp on the beaches, hike miles of jungle trails, and spot some of Colombia’s iconic wildlife. Hike deep into the center of the park to reach the indigenous village of Pueblito.
(Read Also: Guide to Tayrona National Park)
Ride an ATV through the Taroa Dunes in La Guajira (Easy)
Colombia’s northernmost region happens to be a painted orange desert. Traverse the dusty landscape via ATV either on your own or with a tour group. Drive until the red sand meets the blue ocean.
Hitch a Motorbike ride to Casa Elemento’s Hammocks in the Sky (Easy)
This journey begins by careening up a mountainside clinging to the back of an adolescent Colombian. 40-minutes later, or several hours if you instead choose to walk, you’ll find yourself at Casa Elemento. A hostel with some record-breaking hammocks. High above Minca, you’ll look down at the cloud forest from the worlds largest hammock. Relaxing and exhilarating all at once.
Snorkel/Dive in San Andres and Providencia (Moderate) (Recommended: April-November)
Although geographically closer to Nicaragua these Colombian white sand beaches paired with turquoise waters are home to arguably the best snorkeling and diving in the country. Visit while currents are weak and make sure to allow ample time to find your way to the islands as they can be difficult to get to.
Lost City Trek (Moderate+)
The main attraction. A strenuous 4, 5, or 6-day hike through jungle terrain past indigenous villages will lead you to the recently discovered ruins of the Tairona people. This site is believed to be 650 years older than Macchu Picchu. Difficulty depends on weather conditions.
(Read Also: Best Hikes in Colombia)
One of the lesser traveled regions of Colombia. Lush jungle, thriving marine ecosystems, and small fishing towns are scattered across Colombia’s untamed western coastline. Spend your time surfing, big-game fishing, or trekking through the jungle to visit some of the Afro-Colombian tribes.
Visit Utria National Park (Easy)
Plenty of serious hiking to do here. Some of the hikes will have you climbing through the jungle using all your limbs to pull yourself along as well as wading through the ocean. Jaguars still live in this thick jungle so keep your eyes peeled.
Purace National Park (Easy)
Just East of the southern Pacific coastline this 12-mile looping trail passes waterfalls and hot springs all the while in the shadow of the Purace Volcano.
Not for the Faint of Heart Adventure: Climb the Volcano. The 4-5 hour hike up the active volcano is made extra challenging by its 12,000 ft altitude. You’ll need gear, a guide, and the blessing of good weather but the truly intrepid will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the terrain below.
Dive at Gorgona Island (Moderate) (Recommended: August-October)
Diving certification required. Previously an island that housed prison inmates this deep blue paradise will bring you up close to humpback whales, whale sharks, sea turtles, reef sharks, and hammerhead sharks.
Dive at Malpelo Island (Not for the Faint of Heart)
Diving certification required. Known as the “Mount Everest” for shark enthusiasts. Schools of Hammerhead sharks swim here year-round. Scuba dive amongst them and look out for Silky and Galapagos sharks within their midst.
The alpine circuit. Rocky cliffs, snow-capped mountains, and plunging canyons. If you’re an aspiring or avid climber this is the region for you. But the adventure opportunities don’t stop there. The Andean region is home to San Gil the capital of adventure travel in Colombia.
The Town of San Gil
No guide of adventure travel in Colombia would be complete without mentioning San Gil. East of Medellin this town lives and breathes adventure. If you’re looking for easy access to some thrilling activities this is the place to visit. Here’s a quick look at some opportunities to get your heart-pumping in San Gil.
- White-Water Rafting the Suarez river. Class 4/5 rapids.
- Para-Gliding over Chichamocha Canyon. Often called the grand canyon of South America. Prepare yourself for stunning views of the endless valleys below.
- Bungee Jump over the Fonce River. 230 ft of death-defying drop.
- Canyoning. Tours that combine climbing, rappeling and exploring caves such as Cavern Antigua.
- Waterfall Abseiling at Juan Curi. Rappel 80 meters down the side of a cascading waterfall. A sure-fire way to get the blood pumping.
- Mountain Biking through the Suarez Canyon. Biking down the canyon you’ll get well acquainted with nature before descending into the beautiful pueblo of Barichara.
- Caving. Visit the Yeso’s or Indio’s Cave outside of town. Helmets and headlamps required. Claustrophobic? This is not for you.
Explore Vaso (Cow) Cave in San Gil (Not for the Faint of Heart)
This cave deserves a special mention. Slide your way through wet and dirty crevasses passing bats, stalactites, stalagmites, and ducking into the deep recesses of the cave. One portion of the trip requires you to swim underwater through a passageway into the next portion of the cave. If your claustrophobic, can’t swim, or get anxious even reading this it may not be the activity for you.
El Cocoy National Park (Not for the Faint of Heart)
Andean mountain peaks featuring the rare Colombian snowfall sightings. 31 miles of trails stretch past glacial lakes and rocky valleys. Prepare to wild camp in the cold elements, traverse glaciers, and do some serious high-altitude hiking. The tallest peaks reach up to 17,000ft.
Easy Adventure: Day trips to the park are also available for those seeking just a taste of the great outdoors. The hike to Laguna de la Plaza (the parks most picturesque lake) is just 10 hours round trip.
El Trampolin de la Muerte (Not for the Faint of Heart)
You may have heard of the “death road” in Bolivia, this is its counterpart in Colombia. Mountain Bike your way along twisting gravel roads framed by steep drop-offs, lush green mountains, and roadside waterfalls for the most scenic bike route in Colombia. This is the road less traveled so saddle up and expect to have the views to yourself.
Also known as Llanos Orientales. Vast tropical grassland stretching all the way to Venezuela. This region can be difficult to traverse due to its dense vegetation. But that makes it all the more appealing (and rewarding) to adventure enthusiasts seeking the best adventure travel in colombia.
Try Your Hand at Lassoing a Horse (Easy)
Many tours in this area of Colombia let you immerse yourself in the cowboy culture of Llaneros. Ride a horse, herd, and milk some cattle and really connect to your rugged outdoorsy side.
The Mavecure Hills (Easy)
The hills themselves qualify as an adventure just to reach. A flight from Bogota to the eastern Guainia region followed by a long canoe ride down Inirida river. Reaching the hills, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the vast jungle that surrounds you. Truly a magical experience.
One of planet Earth’s few remaining mysteries. Colombia takes extraordinary care of its rainforest. A truly unexplored frontier, those who venture into the depths of the jungle will be rewarded with unique and immersive adventures.
Hunt for Caiman & Fish for Piranhas (Easy)
A favorite pastime in the Amazon. As darkness falls you’ll take to the waters in search of elusive Caiman. Our guide seemed to think attempting to catch them with your bare hands was acceptable form.
Zipline through Nature Reserves Outside Leticia (Easy)
A road named “The Kilometers” leads to several nature reserves all offering zip lining through the canopy and hiking through the jungle. Have your very own Tarzan moment in the lungs of our planet.
Canoe Through the Flooded Canopy of the Amazon Jungle (Not for the Faint of Heart)
Leticia, Colombia. Home to Colombia’s Amazonas region. During the rainy season, the banks of the Amazon river flood the rainforest with up to 6 meters of water. Back in town, you can hire a local to take you via canoe deep into the Amazon. There you will sleep (likely in a hammock) on a floating platform surrounded by the sounds of the jungle. Expect awe-inspiring wildlife sightings and plenty of insects.
Easy Adventure: Eco-Hotels and hostels in the area have single-day group tours into the Amazon. You forgo the overnight experience and have to share the jungle with others but it’s a lot less rugged.
The rolling green hills surrounding Medellin provide opportunities for trekking, biking, horseback riding, and rock-climbing. While the gushing rivers that feed the various fincas in the region provide the perfect environment for water sports.
Cocora Valley Trek (Easy)
Beginning in the sleepy hills of Salento, this misty hike will take you past the world’s tallest palm trees. Constantly craning your neck to see the 80 meter tall tops of the Dr. Suess trees. The views from the peak looking out on the valley below will take your breath away.
Horseback Tour of the Fincas in Zona Cafetera (Easy)
Cross rivers, traverse mountainous terrain and see where your morning cup of coffee comes from. All from the back of a horse. No experience necessary.
(Read Also: A Journey into Colombia’s Coffee Region)
La Casa en el Aire (Easy)
A basic accommodation attached (seemingly impossibly) to the rocky face of a cliff. You can pendulum swing off the balcony over the hills far below or scoot along in a hammock out on the ziplines. One thing is for sure, you’ll get plenty of hang time here.
La Mojarra and Suesca (Moderate)
La Mojarra is known for the most picturesque climbing in Colombia. Red rocky cliffs against a backdrop of green valleys far below. While Suesca is deemed the mecca of climbing in Colombia.
Whether you’re a beginner with zero experience or a practiced free-soloist you’ll find one of the 400+ climbing routes suited to your skill level.
Where to Stay: Refugio la Roca. A climbers paradise. Overlooking the Grand Chicamocha canyon your room is perched right on the edge of the cliffside. Accommodation with a side of adventure.
Ride the Rapids of Rio Verde (Moderate)
Intermediate level rapids on green waters that pass through secluded lagoons, beaches, and waterfalls. A white-water rapid ride through the undeveloped rainforest.
Nevado del Tolima Summit (Not for the Faint of Heart)
This is no walk in the park. I couldn’t in good conscience call this volcano a “hike”. Its summit sits at 17,310 ft. It requires three-days of trekking at high altitude, crossing glaciers with crampons, and a whole lot of luck. Perhaps the most physically challenging adventure activity in Colombia.
Any itinerary should make time for Medellin and Bogota. Colombia’s thriving and modern yet historical cities. For those who can’t explore the more remote regions of Colombia, there are still some adventurous activities just outside the city limits. Here’s what you can partake in nearby.
Check out our full guides on visiting Medellin and Bogota before your visit.
Hike Monserrate Mountain in Bogota (Easy)
Visible from practically anywhere in the city, Monserrate stands high above Bogota. Traditionally a religious pilgrimage but now also frequented by fitness enthusiasts, the hike itself is made difficult by elevation. Already sitting at 8,660 ft the nearly 1,700 ft elevation increase really takes its toll. A cable car and funicular run throughout the day to allow easy access to the summit. Views of the city are incredible.
Climb 740 Steps up the Peñol of Guatapé (Easy)
The views are simply unrivaled. The unique landscape of Guatapé is indescribable. Just a short bus ride from Medellin this town CAN be seen during a day trip. But adventure-seekers should stay overnight to indulge in both the climb and exploring the lake by kayak.
(Read Also: Things to Do in Guatape)
Go Paragliding in Medellin (Moderate)
Medellin is a stunning city. A modern eco-friendly metropolis surrounded on all sides by lush green mountains. Now imagine soaring over the red brick buildings below with the wind in your hair. This breezy city is the perfect base for some tandem paragliding.
Colombia has endless opportunities for adrenaline junkies and outdoor enthusiasts. So get inspired and trek to the mountains, raft the rivers, drive across the sand dunes, and glide around in the breezy skies during your visit.
Adventure Travel in Colombia With Like-Minded 25-45 Year Olds
We’re Other Way Round and we bring together groups of adventurous travellers aged 25-45 for an immersive & authentic experience of travelling Colombia. Here’s some of our most popular Colombian adventure trips.
MOUNTAINS & PUEBLOS
8 Days in and around Colombia’s Andes mountain region covering Medellin, Guatape & Jardin. See Itinerary
BEACHES & JUNGLES
8 Days exploring the most exotic places in Colombia including Cartagena, Bogota & Parque Tayron. See Itinerary
15 Days covering the very best that Colombia has to offer. See Itinerary