Southwest Colombia

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Southwest Colombia - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Jardín Botánico del Quindío (Butterfly Farm)

    One of Colombia's truly enjoyable nature outings is the Jardín Botánico del Quindío, an enormous complex of botanical gardens outside Armenia. The highlight here is...

    One of Colombia's truly enjoyable nature outings is the Jardín Botánico del Quindío, an enormous complex of botanical gardens outside Armenia. The highlight here is the mariposario, a butterfly-shaped butterfly house. It's home to about 1,500 butterflies, representing 50 different species. Roam the expansive botanical gardens and pay attention to the diverse species of orchid that grow in Colombia. Don't miss the seven-story lookout point, a great place to spot many of the 120 species of birds that call this region home. A cafeteria and souvenir shop round out the offerings here. Most of the exhibits here are labeled in English as well as Spanish, and bilingual tour guides are happy to show you around.

    Av. Centenario No. 15–190, Salento, Quindío, 631028, Colombia
    6-742–7254-ext. 105

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 20,000 pesos, Daily 9–4:30
  • 2. Parque Arqueológico Alto de los Idolos

    The Alto de los Idolos park, a few miles southwest of the town of Isnos, could be viewed as an extension of the San Agustín...

    The Alto de los Idolos park, a few miles southwest of the town of Isnos, could be viewed as an extension of the San Agustín park, with a single ticket valid for both sites. The tombs and sculptures here—they're also courtesy of the unknown people the Spaniards called "the San Agustín culture"—are fewer in number but better preserved than in the larger park. The 23 anthropomorphic and zoomorphic monoliths are carved from volcanic stones set in a U-shaped grassy expanse, the largest standing nearly 15 feet tall. There are also a number of raised tombs and sarcophagi to examine. Although there is information in English as well as Spanish, the experience is infinitely richer with a guide. Make the outing a day trip to allow time to soak up the atmosphere and the stunning views from the park, and allow time to head to the smaller Alto de las Piedras park, north of Isnos. Here there are a few burial sites and statues, some preserving traces of the original coloring work.

    San Agustín, Huila, 418068, Colombia
    1-444–0544-in Bogotá

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 20,000 pesos, Daily 8–4:30
  • 3. Parque Arqueológico de San Agustín

    The parks surrounding San Agustín make up the largest pre-Columbian site outside Central America and Peru and are part of a vast complex of tombs...

    The parks surrounding San Agustín make up the largest pre-Columbian site outside Central America and Peru and are part of a vast complex of tombs left by little-known cultures whose actual names are lost to history. One of these thrived in this region from AD 300–800 and was given the name "the San Agustín culture" by the Spanish settlers who stumbled upon their relics. (Carbon-14 dating places some of the works here as early as 3300 BC.) Altars and idols carved from volcanic rock make up the structures scattered throughout this ancient funerary complex. Some of the pieces have been donated from private collections. As with all the parks in the region, a guide is necessary to get a full understanding of what you're seeing. The folks at the Secretaria de Turismo or the Hacienda Anacaona can hook you up with one.

    San Agustín, Huila, 418068, Colombia
    8-837–9844

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 20,000 pesos, Daily 8–4:30
  • 4. Parque Arqueológico de Tierradentro

    Loosely translated, tierradentro means "within the ground." Within the ground here you'll find the New World's largest concentration of hypogea, or underground burial chambers, constructed...

    Loosely translated, tierradentro means "within the ground." Within the ground here you'll find the New World's largest concentration of hypogea, or underground burial chambers, constructed much like Rome's catacombs. The name of the pre-Columbian people who constructed the tombs has been lost. Most are thought to date from the 6th through 10th centuries. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995, many of the tombs—78 have been excavated so far—are up to 40 feet wide with walls painted with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures. Tierradentro, some five hours north of San Agustín, is a bit harder to reach than San Agustín and Alto de las Piedras parks; it's worth spending a night in nearby San Andrés. If traveling from Popayán, this makes an excellent midway stop before continuing on to San Agustín. As with the other parks, a guide is useful to help you understand what you're seeing here.

    San Agustín, Huila, 418068, Colombia
    1-444–0544-in Bogotá

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 20,000 pesos, Daily 8–4:30
  • 5. Valle de Cocora

    The most popular day trip from Salento is a visit to the Valle de Cocora, a narrowing canyon that follows the Río Quindío. Its verdant...

    The most popular day trip from Salento is a visit to the Valle de Cocora, a narrowing canyon that follows the Río Quindío. Its verdant slopes are punctuated by regal wax palms measuring as much as 200 feet in height. These palms, Colombia’s national tree, are the world’s tallest.Tour companies deposit you at the Vereda de Cocora, an area with small restaurants and a kiosk where you can grab food or equipment (like rubber boots, available to rent, for the frequently muddy paths ahead). The quickest path to the most popular viewpoint is a 20-minute walk that takes you past a private farm, which requires a small fee to visit, before weaving upward towards the mist-shrouded volcanic peaks of the PNN Los Nevados. For a longer hike, head through a blue gate past the kiosk and follow a circular path that leads through luxuriant farmlands, cloud forests, and over wooden suspension bridges. Watch for a small hummingbird sanctuary—it serves a thick hot chocolate that will bolster you for the last few hours.

    Salento, Quindío, 631028, Colombia

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily
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  • 6. Zoologico de Cali

    A modern, well-kept zoo, arguably the best in Colombia, makes for an excellent family outing and an opportunity to see a range of indigenous species...

    A modern, well-kept zoo, arguably the best in Colombia, makes for an excellent family outing and an opportunity to see a range of indigenous species including Amazonian tapir and jaguars. A complete tour takes a good couple of hours and the restaurant is surprisingly good.

    Cra. 2 Oeste con Calle 14, Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia
    2-488–0888

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 18,000 Pesos
  • 7. Catedral Metropolitana

    Although ground was broken in 1772, construction on the Metropolitan Cathedral was halted during the war for independence. The grand structure wasn't completed until 1841...

    Although ground was broken in 1772, construction on the Metropolitan Cathedral was halted during the war for independence. The grand structure wasn't completed until 1841 and the current facade dates from 1930. The pale interior of this massive temple is complemented by its marble columns and brilliantly gilded altar.

    Calle 11 No. 5–39, Cali, Valle del Cauca, 760044, Colombia
    2-881–1378

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed daily noon--3, Weekdays 6–noon and 3–8, weekends 7am–8pm
  • 8. Cerro de los Cristales and the Cristo Rey

    The Hill of the Crystals affords a spectacular view of the city. The monumental statue of Christ at the top is visible for miles. A...

    The Hill of the Crystals affords a spectacular view of the city. The monumental statue of Christ at the top is visible for miles. A taxi from downtown should cost about 50,000 pesos round-trip. Be sure to ask the driver to wait for you.

    Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia
  • 9. Iglesia de la Ermita

    A neo-Gothic church built between 1930 and 1948, the white-and-blue Hermitage Church has become such an enduring symbol of Cali that it is one of...

    A neo-Gothic church built between 1930 and 1948, the white-and-blue Hermitage Church has become such an enduring symbol of Cali that it is one of the most common images on postcards.

    Carrera 1 at Calle 13, Cali, Valle del Cauca, 760044, Colombia
    2-881–8553

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed weekdays noon--2:30, Sat. noon--4 pm, Sun. noon--5 pm, Weekdays 6:30–noon and 2:30–6, Sat. 6:30–noon and 4–5:30, Sun. 8–noon and 5–6
  • 10. Iglesia de San Francisco

    This large brick church and the adjacent Franciscan monastery date from the early 19th century. The church's brick Torre Mudéjar (Moorish Tower) is considered one...

    This large brick church and the adjacent Franciscan monastery date from the early 19th century. The church's brick Torre Mudéjar (Moorish Tower) is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish-Moorish architecture in South America. The church's impressive frescoes, painted by Mauricio Ramelli, depict the life of St. Francis.

    Carrera 6 between Calles 9 and 10, Cali, Valle del Cauca, 760044, Colombia
    2-880–2797

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.--Sat. 11:30--4 , Sun. 11:30--4:30, Mon.–Sat. 6:30–11:30 and 4–6, Sun. 6:30–11:30 and 4:30–7
  • 11. Iglesia de San Francisco

    Popayán's most important colonial church is in remarkable condition, thanks to extensive renovation following the 1983 earthquake. The baroque church's bright interior has gilded wooden...

    Popayán's most important colonial church is in remarkable condition, thanks to extensive renovation following the 1983 earthquake. The baroque church's bright interior has gilded wooden altars, and its tower holds a 3-ton bell.

    Calle 4 at Carrera 9, Popayán, Cauca, 190003, Colombia
    2-824–0160

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Daily 7–7
  • 12. Iglesia de San José

    This 18th-century Jesuit church, painted a bright yellow, is one of Popayán's most distinctive structures. Unfortunately, it's open only for masses....

    This 18th-century Jesuit church, painted a bright yellow, is one of Popayán's most distinctive structures. Unfortunately, it's open only for masses.

    Calle 5 at Carrera 8, Popayán, Cauca, 190003, Colombia
  • 13. Iglesia de Santo Domingo

    After an earthquake destroyed the original chapel, the Dominicans built this baroque-style church in 1741. It's notable for the stonework around its doorway, which depicts...

    After an earthquake destroyed the original chapel, the Dominicans built this baroque-style church in 1741. It's notable for the stonework around its doorway, which depicts exotic flowers and animals, and for the silver Virgin Mary behind its altar, brought from Spain in 1588. A former monastery next door now houses the regional university.

    Calle 4 No. 4–15, Popayán, Cauca, 190003, Colombia
    2-824–3305

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Daily 8–7
  • 14. Iglesia y Museo Arqueólogico de la Merced

    The Church of Grace, Cali's oldest house of worship, was completed in 1680. It stands on the site where the city's founders celebrated their first...

    The Church of Grace, Cali's oldest house of worship, was completed in 1680. It stands on the site where the city's founders celebrated their first religious service in 1536. The museum, which shares the space, has a collection of pre-Columbian ceramics from the region's major cultures, including the Quimbaya, Teirradentro, San Agustín, and Nariño. The garden houses a replica of a funerary mound found in Tierradentro.

    Carrera 3 No. 6–62, Cali, Valle del Cauca, 760044, Colombia
    2-888–0646

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 4,000 Pesos, Closed daily noon--1 pm
  • 15. Museo Arquidiocesano de Arte Religioso

    Housed in a lovely colonial mansion, the Archdiocesan Museum of Religious Art has a collection made up predominately of paintings, but it also has some...

    Housed in a lovely colonial mansion, the Archdiocesan Museum of Religious Art has a collection made up predominately of paintings, but it also has some valuable gold and silver artifacts. The works here exemplify the so-called Quito School of colonial-era art: Old World religious subjects were overlaid with Andean motifs.

    Calle 4 No. 4–56, Popayán, Cauca, 190003, Colombia
    2-824–2759

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 5,000 pesos, Closed Sun.
  • 16. Museo Casa Mosquera

    One of Popayán's founding families once owned this now-restored colonial house and the religious art displayed inside. Among the family's various famous sons, most notable...

    One of Popayán's founding families once owned this now-restored colonial house and the religious art displayed inside. Among the family's various famous sons, most notable was General Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera, president of Colombia in the 1800s. Across the street is the Casa Caldas, the local tourist office, where you can pick up a city map and get the lay of the land from the friendly folks here.

    Calle 3 No. 5–14, Popayán, Cauca, 190003, Colombia
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 2,000 Pesos, Closed weekdays noon--2, Weekdays 8–noon and 2–6, weekends 9–1
  • 17. Museo de la Caña de Azucar

    Cali is Colombia's premier sugarcane-growing area, and this museum in the countryside east of the city offers a brief history of the industry and processes....

    Cali is Colombia's premier sugarcane-growing area, and this museum in the countryside east of the city offers a brief history of the industry and processes. The grounds around the museum are gorgeous, with sprawling and perfectly kept gardens worth exploring.

    Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia
    2-667–0196

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 18,000 pesos
  • 18. Palacio Nacional

    Intricately carved doors under equally ornate arches adorn the 1933 National Palace, on the east side of Plaza de Caicedo. This neoclassical government building houses...

    Intricately carved doors under equally ornate arches adorn the 1933 National Palace, on the east side of Plaza de Caicedo. This neoclassical government building houses a small museum that commemorates 300 years of growing and processing sugarcane, for which Cali and the surrounding Valle del Cauca are famous.

    Carrera 4 at Calle 12, Cali, Valle del Cauca, 760044, Colombia
    2-889–3265

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed weekdays noon--2 and weekends, Weekdays 9–noon and 2–4
  • 19. Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados

    The volcanic peaks that grace the eastern skyline of the coffee region are bound by the PNN Los Nevados, one of Colombia's natural treasures and...

    The volcanic peaks that grace the eastern skyline of the coffee region are bound by the PNN Los Nevados, one of Colombia's natural treasures and a magnet for adventure seekers. Trails through the park can take explorers through cloud forests, high-altitude grassy páramo plains, and up to vast glaciers. There are many trails, both low and high altitude (to the lower slopes of the 17,060-foot Nevado del Tolima peak), as well as horseback-riding opportunities. The slightly higher (and perpetually active) Nevado del Ruiz volcano dominates the park. Hikers should seek out a tour company, like Paramo Trek in Salento, or an agency like Adventure Colombia that can organize 4x4 drives deep into the park.

    Quindío, Colombia

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 35,000 pesos
  • 20. Paseo de Bolívar

    Tropical trees shade this large park on the Río Cali's north bank. The modern buildings to the west house municipal offices and are collectively known...

    Tropical trees shade this large park on the Río Cali's north bank. The modern buildings to the west house municipal offices and are collectively known as the CAM, a term also used by locals to identify the park.

    Av. 6 and Río Cali, Cali, Valle del Cauca, 760044, Colombia

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