Colombia, a land rich in history and tradition, hosts a collection of towns that encapsulate the very essence of the country. Recognizing 17 of these charming locales as ‘Heritage Towns’, Colombia’s Ministry of Tourism proudly waves the flag of cultural and architectural pride.
Colombia’s heritage towns
The Tourism Network of Heritage Towns is an initiative aimed at promoting Colombian cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. With the goal of projecting these destinations through tourism, the network creates opportunities for sustainable development for the communities partaking in this program.
These 17 towns stand out for their unique architecture, indigenous culture, distinct cuisine, natural surroundings, and their contribution to the history and development of Colombia. They serve as a cherished option for cultural tourism, diversifying the offerings for both domestic and international visitors.
Known as “the most beautiful town in Colombia”, Barichara in the department of Santander is an architectural masterpiece. Cobbled streets, whitewashed walls, and red-tiled roofs make this place a dream destination. Just a 35-minute drive from San Gil, the adventure sports capital, Barichara is perfect for a day trip.
Villa de Leyva, Boyaca
Villa de Leyva, one of Colombia’s most popular towns, stands out for its cobbled alleys and impressive square, one of the largest in South America. With a varied offering of boutique hotels and restaurants, it’s perfect for a weekend of discovery just a short trip from Bogota.
Founded in 1539, Honda is a historical gem lying on the banks of the Magdalena River. With over 40 bridges crossing the river and its tributaries, Honda is known as the “Town of Bridges”. Its historic center houses well-preserved buildings and a fascinating museum about the river. Nearly four hours from Bogota, it’s ideal for a weekend getaway.
Guaduas, the birthplace of independence heroine Policarpa Salavarrieta, offers a breathtaking viewpoint overlooking the Tolima and Ruiz snow-capped volcanoes. This picturesque town on the road between Bogota and Honda is a treasure waiting to be discovered.
Situated on an island in the Magdalena River, Mompox is famous for its well-preserved buildings. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this town offers a unique experience of isolation and charm.
In southern Antioquia, Jardin is known for its well-preserved colonial architecture. The town, with its brightly painted buildings and cobbled streets, is a popular weekend destination from Medellin, a three-hour drive away.
Jerico, in southern Antioquia (three hours from Medellin), is a significant center for religious tourism. The birthplace of Colombia’s first saint, Sister Laura Montoya, Jerico offers monuments dedicated to her as well as stunning views of the Cauca Valley.
La Playa de Belen, North Santander
Located 124 miles northwest of Cucuta, La Playa de Belen is a remote treasure with cobbled streets and whitewashed walls. Despite its isolated location, this town is an undiscovered gem with a unique charm.
Socorro, in Santander, was founded in 1681 and played a vital role in the Comuneros Revolt of 1781. This place, half an hour from San Gil, is an easy escape with a rich history to explore.
Founded in 1601, Mongui in Boyaca is a lesser-known colonial gem compared to its famous neighbor, Villa de Leyva. With beautiful colonial architecture, Mongui is an essential stop for history enthusiasts.
Known as the “Town of Light”, Salamina in Caldas is famous for its contribution to literary and musical culture. A two-hour trip from Manizales will take you to this hidden treasure.
Santa Cruz de Lorica, Cordoba
Located in Cordoba, an hour from Monteria, Santa Cruz de Lorica reflects the influence of Syrian and Lebanese immigration in its unique architecture. Its riverfront market is a charming place to explore.
San Juan de Giron, Santander
Just outside Bucaramanga, San Juan de Giron is known for its colonial architecture and brown balconies. A short bus ride from Bucaramanga will take you to this charming town.
Less than an hour from Santa Marta, Cienaga is a lesser-known but equally charming heritage town. With a history dating back to an indigenous village, Cienaga offers authentic Caribbean charm. Its historic center was declared a National Cultural Heritage of Colombia in 1996.
Santa Fe de Antioquia
Founded in 1541, Santa Fe de Antioquia was once the capital of the Antioquia department. Located 50 miles south of Medellin, this town has long been a popular destination thanks to its warm climate and colonial architecture.
Guadalajara de Buga, Cauca Valley
Buga, founded in 1555, is known for its church, the Basilica of the Lord of Miracles. This image of Christ, called El Señor de los Milagros, attracts around 3 million visitors each year. An hour’s drive from Cali, Buga is a destination full of history and spirituality.
Located in the department of Caldas, Aguadas is renowned for its iraca palm handicrafts and its role as the venue for the National Colombian Festival of Pasillo, an Andean rhythm. From Manizales, an approximately 4-hour journey will take you to this town full of art and tradition. Aguadas offers a unique blend of cultural richness and historical significance.