things to do in colombia
things to do in colombia
How To Empower Locals In Colombia By Booking Unique Tours. Photo courtesy of the CadaVida Foundation, whose tagline is “Unleashing Women’s Potential.”

By Katie Foote, Epicure & Culture Contributor 

Colombia has shed its status as one of the world’s most dangerous countries, and travelers are now visiting to explore adventurous offerings, salsa-centric nightlife, incredible biodiversity and well-preserved Andean villages. As tourism in the destination grows, it’s important to keep sustainable tourism in mind, being conscious to benefit the local community when visiting.

To help, we’ve rounded up some of Colombia’s most fantastic locally-led tours that also give back to the community and support local nonprofits, including:

things to do in colombia
Explore Bogota’s Urban Art With Bogota Graffiti. Photo courtesy of Visit.Org

1) Explore Urban Art (Bogota)

Bogota has always been a playground for street artists, who used to sneak around local police to create their masterpieces. This changed in 2011 when a young artist painting a city underpass was shot dead by police, igniting global outrage and a condemnation from the United Nations, and causing Bogota’s mayor to decriminalize street art. Today the city is a mecca for urban art, with 8,000 active street artists.

Sure, you can simply wander and take photos; but we recommend getting fully immersed with a Bogota Graffiti Tour. The experience connects you with a graffiti artist who guides you through the pieces, describing artistic techniques and recounting the socio-political inspiration behind the images.

Tour proceeds compensate the guides and support local art projects and artists. Click here for more information. This private tour costs $86 per group.

Go local in #Colombia with these 5 #unique tours led by nonprofits. #travelgood Click To Tweet
things to do in colombia
Building houses with TECHO. Photo courtesy of Visit.Org

2) Build Homes Alongside Locals (Various Cities)

Spend three days bonding with other travelers and locals as you help construct emergency housing around Colombia with TECHO. Participating in a weekend build immerses you in communities in cities including Bogota, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Medellin and Cali to gain a different perspective from most tourists. You’ll work alongside the beneficiary family with 8-10 volunteers, sharing stories and making memories together.

Tour proceeds support the continuation of TECHO’s programs and projects in the fields of construction, education, health, employment, infrastructure and labor around Colombia.

Click here for more information. A weekend build of 3 days, 3 nights costs $20 per person.

things to do in colombia
See the transformation of Medellin with CadaVida Foundation. Photo courtesy of Visit.Org

3) Witness the Transformation of Comuna 13 (Medellin)

Comuna 13 in Medellin is an incredibly poignant example of Colombia’s ability to transform impoverished areas into resilient communities. For years, Comuna 13 was a playground for drug and gang violence, considered one of the most dangerous areas in the world. This five-hour tour, created by local residents, takes you to witness the area’s tangible turnaround from a personal perspective.

You’ll take the Metrocable and soar 1,300 feet above the city before hiking up a hillside to see the outdoor escalator that connected Comuna 13 residents with the rest of the city and turned the area around. At the top of the hill enjoy 360-degree views of Medellin and visit the modern Biblioteca Espana. Your tour concludes at the CadaVida Foundation, where you’ll munch on local snacks and learn about their social entrepreneurial projects that improve the lives of local single mothers and promote the financial independence of women, which your tour helps support.

The tour costs $27 per person. Click here for more information.

What's on your #Colombia bucket list? We recommend these 5 experiences! #travelgood Click To Tweet

Touring Santa Marta with Tiempo de Juego. Photo courtesy of

4) Trek Through Taganga (Santa Marta, Colombia)

Taganga’s magical location between mountains and the Caribbean coast turned a tiny fishing village into a tourism magnet. If you want to explore the idyllic environment and avoid the crowds, Taganga’s Fisherman Cooperative shares their favorite spots. Pocho, your local guide, takes you to a secluded beach frequented only by fishermen. Trek along a pre-Columbian road through the dry tropical forest and learn about native planets in one of the area’s most endangered ecosystems.

After hiking uphill to enjoy a panoramic view of both the village and the city of Santa Marta, descend to Bonito Gordo beach. Relax on this white sand beach and splash in the turquoise waters as Pocho prepares fire-roasted fresh fish and Colombian coffee sweetened with local brown sugar.

Profits from the tour are reinvested in Tiempo de Juego’s programs in Santa Marta, which helps at risk youth gain leadership skills and stay out of trouble through football.

The 12-hour tour costs $48 per person. Click here for more information.

things to do in colombia
Explore the countryside with Red Adelco. Photo courtesy of Visit.Org

5) Appreciate The Colombian Countryside (Villa de Leyva)

Trade time in the city for the tranquility of the Colombian countryside on a four-day educational tour of Boyacae. Each day provides hands-on experiences focused on different aspects of Boyacae’s rich artistic, culinary and agricultural heritage. Spend your first day alongside blackberry farmers learning about agricultural traditions, while Day Two is dedicated to art as you craft your own piece from ceramic mold, wool, tagua or palmicho. You’ll spend Day Three in nature, tasting traditional foods with locals and learning about their lives. End in the culturally-rich colonial town of Villa de Leyva, enjoying 16th century architecture and cobblestone streets. Here, you’ll learn about the life and work of resident Luis Alberto Acuaa — a talented painter, sculptor and writer — before spending your night dancing to traditional carranga music and sampling the city’s tastiest dishes.

Proceeds from your visit will be directly reinvested in projects that support social and economic development in Alto Ricuarte.

This four-day tour costs $160 per person. Click here for more information.

Which of these will you add to your itinerary when looking for things to do in Colombia? Any other social good experiences you’d recommend? 

Katie Foote

Katie Foote may be a physicist by trade but she spent several years travelling the world as much as possible. After four years of semi-nomadic life, she spent a couple years in Auckland, New Zealand and recently moved to Vancouver, Canada. Despite living more traditionally, she has insight on how to travel the world on a graduate student budget (cheap!), explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and authentically experiencing new places by connecting to locals. When she's not doing physics or globe-trotting, she likes kickboxing, yoga and exploring her extraordinary new backyard of British Columbia.

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1 Comment

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