Colombia, with its craggy, snow-topped mountains, rivers, caves, oceans and lakes, is a thrill-seekers paradise with every corner a new opportunity for extreme sports.
From the celebrated ‘capital’ of Colombian extreme sports San Gil, to lesser-known destinations, it’s one of the best countries in South America for adrenaline junkies. Caving, paragliding, rafting, diving and more – here are Colombia’s greatest extreme sports and where people can take part in them.
Several places in Colombia are suitable for paragliding thanks to the country’s generally warm, windy and spectacular landscapes – providing quite a sight for those brave enough to soar above them. The launches are typically carried out from the top of high hills or cliffs, with a tandem instructor strapped in and ready to support.
The rainy season can put a stop to paragliding in certain areas of the country, so it’s best to book into this high-flying experience when the weather is likely to be more suitable. The flights themselves vary in length and difficulty, with long and short voyages on offer alongside the option to undertake 360-degree stunts, spins and loops.
Instructors and providers will most likely offer customers the opportunity to be recorded during their flight, which make for permanent memories.
The best-known places for paragliding in Colombia are Chicamocha Canyon near San Gil, Territorio Paraiso near Cali, San Felix, Jerico or Jardin near Medellin.
2. Kite Surfing
One of the more difficult extreme sports, kite-surfing has become more and more popular in Colombia. The country is home to two of the best ocean and freshwater kite-surfing spots on the planet.
In Cabo de la Vela, on the country’s desert Caribbean coast, wind conditions are optimal all throughout the year, which means theoretically this sport is possible almost 365 days per year. Howeverthe official season for the sport runs from December to May, so this may be worth taking into account.
There are a handful of different kite-surfing schools and hostels in Cabo. Down south, near Cali, Calima Lake is renowned as one of the best freshwater kite-surfing spots in the world, with favourable winds year round and more than enough experienced instructors operating in the area.
Those who prefer a ‘deeper’ form of extreme sport can explore the caves of Rio Claro (Antioquia), Cueva de la Vaca (Santander) or Cueva Caja de Agua (Huila), where they can descend into the rocky chambers through small, narrow tunnels that lead directly to rooms which can be more than 20 meters high.
Cave-explorers will have the opportunity to see fauna that only exist in the darkest of places, as well as ancient rock formations.
4. Scuba Diving, A Serene Extreme Sport in Colombia
With more than 3,000 kilometers of coastline on both the Pacific and the Caribbean – the only country in South America to have both – scuba diving in Colombia is extremely popular. The best known-area is Taganga, on the Caribbean coast, where introductory courses are plentiful and won’t break the bank.
The most spectacular diving, however, is around the islands of San Andres and Providencia, where UNESCO-protected reefs shelter populations of sharks, dolphins and turtles. A more beautiful region still is on the Pacific side. The Gorgona and Malpelo islands are difficult to get to, but provide the opportunity to spot some of the ocean’s star turns: whale sharks, humpback whales and hammerhead sharks.
5. White Water Rafting
Colombia is blessed with three ranges of the Andes and thousands of rivers, making it one of the best places to go white water rafting. The best spot is San Gil in Santander Department – known as Colombia’s extreme sports capital – where excursions down the Suarez River are sought after by many.
Those who yearn for more thrills and adventure can head off on a multi-day rafting trip along the Samana River in Antioquia, where curling, boisterous rapids up to level five roll through an isolated jungle canyon.
6. Bungee Jumping (Probably the Scariest Extreme Sport in Colombia)
Once again San Gil is the best spot for an extreme sport, with a number of operators offering bungee jumping. Some companies will take bungee jumpers over the Fonce River, enticing them to jump from a 70-meter-high crane suspended above.
It has even been known for heavier jumpers to dunk their heads into the water at the bottom of the fall.
Canyoning is a more unusual extreme sport which encompasses several other activities, including swimming, climbing, rappelling and jumping. The objective of canyoning is to go from higher upstream areas to downstream areas, via canyons, rivers, waterfalls and gorges.
The obstacles canyoners encounter are what make the sport so extreme. There will be rocks, slippery surfaces, rushing water and sometimes not a whole lot to hold onto, and the idea is to overcome all of these hazards by walking, swimming, climbing and sliding.
This sport comes with strict safety instructions, and can be experienced in places such as Santander.
8. Rock Climbing
With its enormous mountains and canyons, Colombia offers some challenging spots to enjoy rock climbing. Two places stand out above the rest. Firstly, the small town of Suesca, which lies just north of Bogota, boasts massive cliffs that are ideal for climbers of all levels and abilities, and several companies there lead rock climbing activities.
The second place is in the Chicamocha Canyon, where a hostel named Refugio La Roca offers more than 200 climbing routes in the La Mojarra Climbing Park.
Mountains, jungles and deserts make Colombia’s terrain especially attractive to hikers, who can breathe in the rich diversity of nature while they put one foot in front of the other.
Some of the best hikes in Colombia include the Lost City, for its jungle and ruins, the Cocuy National Park for its snow-topped mountains and its glaciers, Purace national park, which boasts a volcano and plenty of fauna, Cocora Valley, with its huge palm trees, Tatacoa Desert and its amazing landforms, and the Amazon and Tayrona Park, which again exhibits lots of impressive fauna and flora.
10. Mountain Biking, A Favourite Extreme Sport in Colombia
Cycling is a sport appreciated greatly by many Colombians. In the country it plays out on the well-maintained roads and mountainous terrain. The most popular areas with mountain bikers are San Gil, with the Chicamocha canyon route, Armenia with the Penas Blancas route, Medellin with the Santa Elena and Guatape routes, and Salento with the Alegria and Simon Bolivar courses.