The second largest city in Colombia, Medellín is modern and vibrant, and has a lot of time for the arts. Visit the museums and parks, learn to tango and embrace the serious nightlife on offer. The annual Festival of Flowers in August is superb.
A great town to visit en route to the south, Popayán is a vision of beautifully kept and restored colonial architecture. Wander around the stunning streets and visit the beautiful churches, in particular Belén, which is perched on a hilltop and provides lovely views. Easter week here is particularly impressive.
Santa Cruz de Mompox
Known simply as Mompox, this tiny colonial gem is off the main tourist path due to its comparative inaccessibility. But it’s worth the trip by bus and boat; the architecture is remarkably well preserved and maintained, and the town has a sleepy, friendly feel about it.
In the south of Colombia, discover the tombs of Tierradentro National Park, dug by a pre-Columbian race on a series of hilltops. Hike or horse ride your way around the beautiful park and climb in and out of the well-preserved tombs, some of which are 6m (20ft) deep.
Zona Cafetera (Coffee Zone/Triangle)
Colombia is famous for its coffee, and you can take a trip to the high-altitude grassland, visit the coffee haciendas and hike or ride through the landscape, trying different coffees all the way. The triangle is made up of Quindío, Caldas and Risaralda – there are plenty of towns in the area in which to stay.
The best time to visit is for the Barranquilla Carnaval, when vibrant costumes, energetic dancing and lively music transform the industrial port. The main parades take place on the three days preceding Ash Wednesday and are second in size only to Rio's carnival.
Head for the dizzying heights of Bogotá, which sits at 2,600m (8,600ft). A city of many parts, Bogotá has a swish, modern side and a windy, narrow streets side, overlooked by a mountain viewpoint. On Sundays and holidays from 0700 to 1400, 121km (75 miles) of the streets are turned into car-free cycle ways, so explore the city on two wheels. Historical landmarks include the Capitol (congress building) and the cathedral (the Capilla del Sangrario) on the main square, the Plaza Bolivar.
Be bewitched by the colonial port of Cartagena, its balconied streets dense with history and overhung by bougainvillea. From here you can take trips to local coral islands, the Islas del Rosario, beaches, dive sites, mangrove labyrinths and a mud volcano.
Climb high into the jungle-covered Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to the archaeological ruins of the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City), discovered in 1976. This six-day trek is not for the faint-hearted, but is very rewarding. (Travellers are strongly advised to check local advice first, as the area has been unsafe in the past.)
Climb Nevado del Ruiz
Climb the snow-capped Nevado del Ruiz: the 5,400m (17,717ft) peak is one of five permanently white-tipped volcanoes in Los Nevados National Park (www.parquesnacionales.gov.co). Guided treks are available from Manizales.
Cycle or skate along car-free roads in central Bogotá on Sundays and holidays from 0700 to 1400, 121km (75 miles) of the capital's streets are transformed into ciclovías (cycleways) (www.idrd.gov.co).
Dive Seaflower Biosphere Reserve
Dive into the tropical waters of the UNESCO Seaflower Biosphere Reserve around San Andrés and Providencia, home to a multitude of fish and coral species. Other diving hotspots include the Islas del Rosario and Tayrona National Park. Raft the rapids on the Rio Negro in Cundinamarca and Fonce or kayak through the Chicamocha canyon in Santander.
Get sucked into the El Dorado dream: visit Bogotá's astonishing Gold Museum, housing an extraordinary wealth of glistening pre-Columbian treasures. Also take the cable car to a mountaintop overlooking the city for sunset.
Wander among voluptuous sculptures created by Colombian artist Fernando Botero in the Plaza Botero, found in Bogotá’s La Candelaria; or see around 120 of his paintings, as well as an impressive collection of Impressionist and modern art, at the Museo Botero.
Head off-road on a motorbike or 4-wheel drive vehicle: Colombia's rugged terrain is ideally suited to driving enthusiasts seeking a muddy challenge.
San Agustin statues
Weave your way around more than 500 mysterious pre-Columbian stone statues and tombs in one of South America's most fascinating archaeological sites, San Agustín. It is the largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures on the continent.
San Andres and Providencia islands
Fly to the tropical islands of San Andrés and its smaller sibling Providencia, one of the Caribbean's most unspoilt gems, north of the Colombian coast. They were once the headquarters of the English pirate Captain Henry Morgan.
Tayrona National Park
Go to the Tayrona National Park, some 35km (22 miles) east of Santa Marta, to see one of the country's most popular parks. Its major attraction is its deep bays, shaded with coconut trees, beautiful beaches and several coral reefs – get back to nature and remember your mosquito repellent.
Take a jungle tour into the Amazon basin, which covers almost one-third of Colombia's territory. Boat trips depart from Leticia to the nearby Amacayu National Park and often include visits to Indian tribes.
Travel to Zipaquirá and enter the famous Salt Cathedral, an underground church built within a salt mine, in the body of a mountain. Stalactites and specks of salt jostle with crosses and chapels