Adrenaline junkies might hyperventilate when they discover Colombia. From almost every vantage point there’s a snowcapped peak to climb, an untamed river to ride or some sunken coral reef to explore.

Colombia’s waters are a good (and cheap) place to learn to scuba dive. All along its 3000km of coastline, but especially around Santa Marta and Taganga, and also on the islands of San Andres and Providencia – home to the world’s third-largest barrier reef – operators offer week-long PADI certification courses for around COP$650,000. Be sure to enquire about the reputation of dive operators before signing up, check their PADI or NAUI accreditation, the instructor-to-student ratio and ask for recommendations from other divers. Snorkelling is also particularly good on the islands.

There is a concentration of Class II–IV rapids among the many rivers in the departamento of Santander – three intersect near San Gil – that offer some spectacular challenges to white-water rafting enthusiasts, while the river near San Agustin gives you a somewhat tamer ride.

Hiking in Colombia is second to none: there are demanding week-long adventures in Parque Nacional de Cocuy, jungle treks to the spectacular ruins of Ciudad Perdida, and shorter but no less attractive rambles around Manizales and Salento in coffee country.

Football is the national sport and Colombians have a reputation for being some of South America’s most skilled players. Cycling is also a common passion – the mountainous land here is made for rugged biking – and Colombians regularly compete in the Tour de France.

Essentials

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Colombia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Providencia: an introduction to Colombia’s Caribbean island

Providencia: an introduction to Colombia’s Caribbean island

Colombia meets Jamaica? Not quite, but two competing images loom large over the Caribbean island of Providencia: Bob Marley, adopted saint of the local Raizal p…

11 Mar 2016 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
12 tips for backpacking Colombia

12 tips for backpacking Colombia

Colombia is a nation on the rise. The land of Shakira, Gabriel García Márquez and James Rodríguez has it all, from the bougainvillea-festooned streets of Car…

22 Feb 2016 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
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