What to do in Colombia: Top cities for ex-pats and investors

What to do in Colombia isn’t just a question – it’s an invitation to explore this country’s myriad possibilities. Known for its breathtaking landscapes, rich culture, and warm hospitality, Colombia is fast becoming a beacon for expats and investors alike. Nestled in the heart of South America, this vibrant nation offers opportunities to suit diverse interests and ambitions. 

From the bustling streets of Bogotá to the serene beaches of Santa Marta, each city offers a unique blend of attractions, business opportunities, and cultural experiences. In this blog, we dive into the heart of Colombia’s top cities, each a destination in its own right for those looking to invest, innovate, or simply immerse themselves in the Colombian way of life

Whether you’re drawn to the innovative pulse of Medellín, Cartagena’s historic charm, or Cali’s dynamic business environment, we’ll guide you through what to do, see, and experience. Join us as we discover the unique opportunities that make Colombia not just a place to visit but a place to live, work, and thrive.

Bogotá: Capital of opportunities

Business and investment climate

Colombia’s vibrant capital symbolizes opportunity in the heart of South America. A melting pot of culture, innovation, and entrepreneurship, this city is the country’s political and administrative center and a thriving hub for businesses and investors looking for fertile ground to grow. 

As we explore what to do in Colombia, we see that Bogotá stands out as a top destination for those looking to immerse themselves in a dynamic business and investment climate.

The city’s business environment is as diverse as its culture, offering large sectors ready for investment. From tech startups to real estate, fashion to fintech, Bogotá boasts a mature ecosystem that supports growth and innovation. Its strategic location and robust infrastructure make it a gateway to Latin American markets, attracting multinational corporations and local entrepreneurs.

Investment opportunities abound in Bogotá, driven by the city’s commitment to fostering an environment conducive to business success. Local government initiatives, such as startup tax incentives and support programs for foreign investors, highlight the city’s proactive approach to economic development. In addition, Bogotá’s workforce is highly educated and bilingual, providing a competitive advantage for companies looking to establish or expand operations.

For expats and investors wondering what to do in Colombia, Bogotá offers more than just business opportunities; the city’s cultural richness, diverse cuisine, and vibrant nightlife provide a lifestyle that seamlessly blends work and play. Networking events, coworking spaces, and business forums abound, facilitating connections and collaborations that enrich the professional experience.

At its core, Bogotá embodies the spirit of opportunity that defines Colombia. Whether you’re looking to invest in emerging markets, launch a startup, or simply immerse yourself in a culture of innovation, Bogotá is a city that invites you to explore, engage, and thrive.

Living in Bogotá

Living in Bogotá offers a unique blend of cultural richness, vibrant community events, and a desirable quality of life that attracts expats worldwide. Regarding things to do in Colombia, Bogotá stands out as a city of opportunity and where lifestyle and work are harmonious.

Bogotá’s cultural activities are as diverse as its population. The city is home to numerous museums, art galleries, and theaters that showcase Colombia’s rich heritage and contemporary art scene. From the historic Gold Museum to the cutting-edge Botero Museum, cultural enthusiasts have endless venues to explore. In addition, Bogotá’s calendar is littered with cultural festivals, music concerts, and art fairs, ensuring that there’s always something new to discover and experience.

One of Bogotá’s most celebrated initiatives is Ciclovía, a pioneering project that has inspired cities worldwide. Every Sunday and holiday, more than 120 kilometers of Bogotá’s streets are closed to vehicles and opened to cyclists, runners, and pedestrians. This innovative concept promotes healthy living, environmental awareness, and community cohesion. The Ciclovía is a perfect example of Bogotá’s commitment to public wellness and offers a unique way to explore the city and mingle with locals.

For expats looking to network and socialize, Bogotá provides ample opportunities. The city’s dynamic business environment is complemented by a wide range of networking events, meetups, and professional groups that cater to different interests and industries. Whether technology, entrepreneurship, the arts, or sustainability, you’ll find a community ready to welcome and collaborate with like-minded individuals.

Living in Bogotá also means enjoying a high quality of life. The city offers various cuisines, from traditional Colombian to international, to satisfy every palate. Green spaces, such as Simón Bolívar Park, offer a respite from city life, while the Usaquén Flea Market and the vibrant nightlife of Zona T offer leisure and entertainment options for all tastes.

In summary, Bogotá is more than just Colombia’s capital – it is a place where culture, community, and quality of life converge to create an enriching experience for expats. Whether cycling the Ciclovía, attending a networking event, or simply enjoying the city’s diverse cultural and leisure activities, Bogotá ensures that your life in Colombia will be vibrant and fulfilling.


Medellín: Innovation and culture

Tech startups and investment opportunities

Often hailed as the city of eternal spring, Medellín has become more than a scenic destination. It’s a prosperous nucleus of innovation and culture, making it a focal point for those considering what to do in Colombia, especially regarding tech startups and investment opportunities.

The city’s metamorphosis from a troubled past to a hub of innovation is inspiring. Medellín’s commitment to technology and entrepreneurship is evident in its vibrant startup ecosystem, recognized globally for its innovation. The city’s transformation has been driven by public initiatives, private investment, and a community spirit that champions progress and creativity.

At the heart of Medellín’s status as a tech hub are the numerous innovation parks and co-working spaces that dot the cityscape. Ruta N, a technology complex designed to foster innovation and business growth, is a testament to Medellín’s ambition. It provides startups the resources, networks, and environment to innovate and scale. This initiative, among other things, has attracted talent and investment worldwide, cementing Medellín’s reputation as a leader in Latin America’s tech scene.

The opportunities in Medellín’s startup ecosystem are vast and varied. From fintech and health tech to e-commerce and beyond, the city is home to many startups making waves locally and internationally. The supportive environment and access to capital and mentorship make Medellín an attractive destination for entrepreneurs looking to launch or expand their ventures.

Moreover, Medellín’s culture of innovation extends beyond its tech startups. The city’s transformation is also rooted in its cultural initiatives, from public libraries and community centers to art galleries and music festivals. This blend of technology and culture creates a dynamic atmosphere where creativity thrives, offering a unique lifestyle for expats and locals alike.

Cultural immersion and activities

For those wondering what to do in Colombia, Medellín offers a vibrant mix of cultural immersion and activities that go beyond the ordinary, painting the city as a destination and an experience. Often celebrated for its innovation, Medellín is equally proud of its rich cultural offerings, from captivating festivals to language exchange gatherings and a nightlife that pulses with energy.

Central to Medellín’s cultural appeal are its festivals, which are a spectacle of joy and color. With its iconic Silleteros Parade, the Flower Festival showcases the region’s artistic and horticultural talents, transforming the city into a canvas of floral designs that captivate locals and visitors alike. 

However, Medellín transforms during Christmas; its renowned Christmas lights (Alumbrados Navideños) elevate the festive season to another level, illuminating the city in a dazzling display of creativity and holiday spirit. This tradition lights up the city and the hearts of those who witness it, making it a must-see for anyone exploring Colombia at the end of the year.

Medellín’s vibrant nightlife and language exchange events highlight the city’s dynamic social scene. From bustling bars and clubs in the Poblado neighborhood to more laid-back gatherings in Laureles, there’s a rhythm to suit every taste. Language exchange meetings bridge cultures, allowing expats, travelers, and locals to share stories, language, and laughter, fostering community and belonging.

Adventure seekers and nature lovers will find their escape just a short trip from the city. Guatapé, with its strikingly colorful zócalos and the monolithic rock of El Peñol, offers breathtaking views and a serene escape from urban life. Meanwhile, Santa Fé de Antioquia, with its well-preserved colonial architecture and cobblestone streets, offers a step back in time and immerses visitors in Colombia’s rich history. 


Cali: Salsa and business synergy

Agribusiness and real estate investments

Cali, affectionately known as the Salsa Capital of the World, offers a rhythmic blend of culture and commerce that entices business investors as it is to dance enthusiasts. 

This vibrant city is at the forefront of Colombia’s agricultural and real estate sectors, offering unique opportunities for those looking to invest in a dynamic market. Let’s explore why Cali is not only a destination for dance but also a hotspot for agribusiness and real estate investment, shedding light on what to do in Colombia for prospective investors and expatriates.

Its strategic location in the fertile Valle del Cauca makes it an agribusiness powerhouse (Learn more about the Colombia Timber project), driving Colombia’s agricultural innovation and production. The region’s rich soils and ideal climate support various crops, from sugarcane and coffee to exotic fruits, offering lucrative investment opportunities

Investors can tap into a well-established agricultural network, benefiting from Colombia’s growing export market and the increasing global demand for organic and sustainably farmed produce and choosing to invest in a product. This sector promises financial returns and contributes to sustainable development and innovation in farming techniques, making it an attractive option for environmentally conscious investors.

Beyond the fields, Cali’s real estate market is experiencing rapid growth, fueled by an influx of domestic and international investors attracted by the city’s economic potential and quality of life. Cali’s real estate offers diverse investment opportunities, from upscale residential developments to commercial properties and innovative co-working spaces. The city’s commitment to infrastructure and urban renewal projects further enhances its attractiveness as an investment destination, promising both short-term gains and long-term appreciation. 

Real estate investors in Cali benefit from competitive prices compared to other major Colombian cities while tapping into a market with high rental demand and a growing tourism sector driven by salsa enthusiasts and cultural tourists. The synergy between Cali’s agribusiness potential and its real estate boom creates a comprehensive investment landscape where the traditional and the modern merge to form a promising economic environment.

Cali embodies a unique blend of salsa and business synergy, making it an attractive city for those considering what to do in Colombia. Whether you’re drawn to the allure of the dance floor or the lure of a thriving marketplace, Cali offers a rhythm of agribusiness and real estate investment opportunities that resonate with the dynamic pulse of Colombia’s economy.

Leisure and lifestyle

Cali, the world’s salsa capital, offers diverse leisure and lifestyle options that entice expats and tourists alike to dive deep into its rhythmic heart. In Cali, salsa is not just a dance; it’s a lifestyle, a universal language that unites people of all backgrounds. Here, the streets, clubs, and festivals pulse with the energy of salsa, offering a unique cultural immersion that is both exhilarating and profoundly communal. 

Salsa culture in Cali goes beyond the dance floor and into the city’s soul. For expats looking to connect with the local community, there’s no better way than through salsa. Dance schools and clubs offer classes for all levels, from beginners who want to learn the basics to seasoned dancers who wish to refine their moves. The communal spirit of salsa extends to nightly gatherings in clubs and bars, where locals and foreigners alike share the joy of dancing, creating friendships and memories.

The natural landscapes offer a perfect counterbalance to the urban energy. Lago Calima, a serene lake in the nearby mountains, provides a tranquil escape with water sports, hiking, and relaxation opportunities. The lake’s calm waters and gentle breezes make it an ideal spot for sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking, while the surrounding areas offer picturesque trails for nature lovers. Lago Calima is a testament to Cali’s diverse recreational offerings, combining salsa’s exhilaration with nature’s tranquility.

The Feria de Cali encapsulates the city’s vibrant culture, drawing visitors worldwide to its week-long celebration each December. The festival is a dazzling display of music, dance, concerts, and parades, with the Salsódromo – a parade dedicated exclusively to salsa dancers – as its highlight. The Feria is not just a party; it’s a cultural showcase that highlights the city’s artistic talents and traditions, making it a must-see for anyone looking to experience the essence of Cali.

For expats, Cali offers a lifestyle combining salsa’s intensity with its natural surroundings’ tranquility. Engaging with the local community through dance, exploring the beauty of places like Lago Calima, and participating in iconic events like the Feria de Cali provide a rich, fulfilling experience. 

In Cali, leisure and lifestyle are intertwined with the city’s cultural heartbeat, offering a variety of ways to live, learn, and connect. This vibrant mix of activities and cultural immersion is what Colombia is all about for those seeking a life of rhythm and harmony.


Cartagena: Historic charm and investment appeal

Tourism and hospitality investments

Its historic charm and picturesque streets make it a reference point for tourism and investment in Colombia. This coastal city, known for its stunning colonial architecture and vibrant culture, presents a lucrative landscape for those with their eyes on the tourism and hospitality sector. Let’s delve into Cartagena’s investment prospects and highlight why it’s a top destination for those wondering what to do in Colombia, especially when considering investment opportunities.

Cartagena’s tourism sector has flourished due to its ability to offer a unique blend of historical richness, cultural experiences, and natural beauty. The city’s UNESCO World Heritage status attracts a global audience eager to explore its well-preserved colonial district, lively plazas, and idyllic beaches

This steady influx of tourists creates a demand for various hospitality services, from luxury hotels to charming boutique accommodations, offering investors many opportunities to tap into this vibrant market.

Investment in Cartagena’s hospitality sector is supported by the city’s strategic initiatives to enhance the tourist experience. Projects to preserve historical sites, improve infrastructure, and promote cultural festivals make Cartagena even more attractive to international visitors. 

Additionally, the growth of eco-tourism and wellness travel trends aligns with Cartagena’s offerings, from serene beachfront resorts to eco-friendly tours of the nearby Rosario Islands, further expanding the investment horizon.

The potential for hospitality investment in Cartagena extends beyond traditional lodging to include culinary ventures, event spaces, and tour operations. The city’s gastronomic scene, which blends Caribbean flavors with international cuisine, offers fertile ground for restaurants and cafes looking to cater to the diverse palates of global visitors. Similarly, Cartagena’s reputation as a premier destination for weddings and conferences opens avenues for investment in event planning and management services.

Cartagena presents a compelling case for exploring the tourism and hospitality sector for expats and investors considering what to do in Colombia. The city’s historic charm and a robust and growing demand for quality tourism experiences offer a promising landscape for investments that promise financial returns and the opportunity to be part of Cartagena’s vibrant cultural scenario.

Experiencing cartagena

Experiencing Cartagena offers an immersion into a world where history echoes from ancient walls and a vibrant culture pulsates through the streets. Cartagena offers an unforgettable lifestyle for those wondering what to do in Colombia, especially expats looking for a mix of leisure and exploration. 

A fortress of history and heritage, Cartagena stands as a witness to Colombia’s colonial past. The city’s historical significance is palpable within the walls of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where cobblestone streets lead to grand plazas, centuries-old churches, and stately mansions. 

Walking tours of this area unravel the city’s colonial history and immerse visitors in tales of pirates, the gold trade, and the quest for independence, making it a must for anyone fascinated by the past.

Beyond its historical allure, Cartagena is a canvas of cultural richness. The city offers various cultural tours showcasing its diverse heritage, from Afro-Colombian music workshops to art walks through local galleries and street art. These experiences allow expats to immerse themselves in the city’s artistic and cultural expressions, providing insight into the traditions and stories that shape local identity. Cartagena’s cultural festivals are celebrated with music, dance, and parades, and expats are invited to share in the joyful spirit that animates the city.

The beach lifestyle in and around Cartagena is an invitation to relax and enjoy life’s pleasures. The city’s beaches, with their golden sands and turquoise waters, are perfect for days spent basking in the sun. For those who seek tranquility away from the city’s hustle and bustle, the Rosario and Barú islands offer a serene escape. Easily accessible from Cartagena, these paradise spots are ideal for snorkeling in coral reefs, lounging on pristine beaches, and indulging in fresh seafood, embodying the idyllic Caribbean lifestyle.

Living in Cartagena means embracing a lifestyle where history, culture, and leisure converge. For expats and investors considering what to do in Colombia, Cartagena offers a vibrant tableau of experiences that enrich life and provide endless opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. Whether delving into the city’s storied past, participating in its cultural tapestry, or enjoying its beachside leisure, Cartagena is a captivating destination that promises a fulfilling and enriching expat experience.


Santa Marta and the Caribbean Coast: Nature and growth

Eco-tourism and real estate

Santa Marta and the Caribbean Coast are Colombia’s jewels. Lush mountains meet crystal-clear Caribbean waters there, presenting unique opportunities in eco-tourism and coastal real estate that captivate expats and investors alike. When pondering what to do in Colombia, considering Santa Marta’s burgeoning potential in these areas offers exciting prospects for those looking to engage with nature and contribute to sustainable growth.

Santa Marta, between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Caribbean Sea, is a haven for eco-tourism. The city serves as a gateway to the Tayrona National Natural Park, a pristine area of biodiversity that attracts nature enthusiasts from around the globe. 

Eco-tourism projects in Santa Marta and its surroundings allow visitors to explore untouched beaches, rainforests, and indigenous cultures. They also promote conservation efforts and sustainable travel experiences. These initiatives showcase Colombia’s commitment to preserving its natural wonders while providing meaningful encounters for tourists.

The potential for coastal real estate in Santa Marta is equally promising, driven by the city’s natural beauty, growing tourism sector, and demand for waterfront properties. The region’s real estate market is ripe with opportunities for development, from luxury resorts and condominiums to eco-friendly lodges that cater to the eco-conscious traveler. 

Investing in Santa Marta’s real estate offers the dual benefit of contributing to the region’s economic growth while enjoying the lifestyle and natural splendor that the Caribbean Coast provides.

Adventure and relaxation

When exploring what to do in Colombia, the blend of adventure and relaxation found on the Caribbean coast, especially around Santa Marta, becomes a compelling highlight. This region is a paradise for those seeking the thrill of outdoor adventure and the tranquility of beach life, with Tayrona National Park and the serene beaches of Palomino standing out as must-see destinations.

Tayrona National Park, a biodiversity sanctuary, offers various trails that wind through lush rainforests and lead to hidden beaches, each offering a unique perspective on Colombia’s natural beauty. The park’s well-preserved ecosystems offer adventurers the chance to immerse themselves in nature, spotting exotic wildlife and discovering pristine beaches where the jungle meets the sea. Hiking in Tayrona is more than just a physical activity; it’s an opportunity to connect with the earth and experience the pristine beauty of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

Just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Santa Marta, Palomino offers a different kind of allure. This laid-back beach town is the epitome of Caribbean relaxation, with long stretches of white sand, gently swaying palm trees, and waves soothing sound. Expats and visitors alike can relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy the slower pace of coastal life. Whether you’re surfing the waves, tubing down the Palomino River, or enjoying a cocktail as the sun sets, Palomino embodies the serene side of things to do in Colombia.

The contrast between the adrenaline rush of exploring Tayrona National Park and the serene relaxation of Palomino’s beaches exemplifies the diverse appeal of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. This region offers a balanced mix of adventure and leisure, making it an ideal destination for expats and investors looking for the best of both worlds. Whether you’re drawn to the challenge of a jungle trek or the tranquility of the beach, Santa Marta and its surrounding areas offer the best of both worlds.

Parque Tayrona

Barranquilla: Emerging market with cultural richness

Industrial and commercial investments

In the vibrant heart of Colombia lies Barranquilla, a city blossoming as an emerging market rich in cultural heritage and ripe with industrial development and trade opportunities. Known for its dynamic Carnaval, Barranquilla is also a testament to Colombia’s industrial prowess and commercial potential, making it an intriguing destination for investors and expats considering what to do in Colombia.

Strategically located on the Caribbean coast, Barranquilla is an important maritime gateway, connecting Colombia to international markets through its bustling port. This advantage positions the city as a commercial and industrial activity hub, offering untapped potential in the manufacturing and logistics sectors. The city’s commitment to economic growth is evident in its modern infrastructure, which supports businesses and facilitates efficient trade operations.

In addition, Barranquilla’s economic landscape is characterized by a supportive environment for entrepreneurs and investors. Initiatives to promote industrial innovation and commercial expansion have attracted the attention of domestic and international investors, attracted by the city’s strategic location and government incentives for business development.

This emerging market promises a return on investment and immerses you in the rich tapestry of Colombian culture. Experiencing Barranquilla means engaging with a community that values innovation, celebrates its cultural diversity, and is eager to welcome new ideas and people.

Barranquilla offers a unique blend of industrial and cultural opportunities for those looking to explore what to do in Colombia. Whether you’re interested in tapping into the city’s commercial potential or simply soaking up its vibrant atmosphere, Barranquilla represents a side of Colombia where tradition and progress dance hand in hand. Investors and expats will discover a lively city ready to welcome them into its next chapter.

Carnival and community

Barranquilla’s Carnival is a magnificent canvas showcasing Colombia’s rich tapestry of cultures, colors, and communal harmony. Renowned as one of the most vibrant and lively celebrations in the world, this festival encapsulates the spirit of what to do in Colombia, offering a unique glimpse into the heart and soul of its people.

The Carnival, a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, transforms Barranquilla into a whirlwind of music, dance, and tradition. It’s not just an event; it’s a communal expression of identity, unity, and joy. From the elaborate costumes to the rhythmic beats of cumbia and mapalé, each festival element weaves together the diverse threads of indigenous, African, and European influences that define Colombia.

Engaging with the Barranquilla Carnival allows expats and investors to immerse themselves in a profound cultural experience, witnessing the unparalleled creativity and warmth of the Colombian community. The festival is a testament to the importance of culture in fostering social cohesion and shared identity, inviting everyone to participate in the celebration of life.

For those pondering what to do in Colombia, the Carnival in Barranquilla offers an opportunity to observe and actively participate in a cultural phenomenon that epitomizes the joy of Colombian life. It’s a chance to connect with the local community deeper, understanding the values and traditions that fuel the country’s vibrant spirit.

During the Carnival’s joyous chaos, visitors and residents find common ground, sharing in the collective euphoria that permeates the city. This celebration goes beyond mere entertainment; it’s a powerful expression of community, an invitation to join in the dance of life that pulsates through the streets of Barranquilla and the heart of Colombia.



Colombia, a country bursting with cultural vibrancy, natural beauty, and burgeoning business opportunities, has emerged as a central hub for expats and investors. As we traveled through the top cities, each offered a unique tapestry of experiences, blending historic charm with modern innovation. From Bogotá’s bustling business climate to Medellín’s tech-forward ethos, Cali’s salsa rhythms, Cartagena’s historical allure, and Santa Marta’s natural wonders, Colombia offers a diverse array of opportunities for those who want to weave their stories into its fabric.

Barranquilla’s industrial prowess and festive spirit underscore the country’s multifaceted appeal, combining commercial potential with cultural richness. These cities serve as beacons of progress and tradition and as gateways to understanding Colombia’s soul. For expats and investors wondering what to do in Colombia, the answer lies in the many paths that can be taken – each leading to personal and professional fulfillment within this dynamic landscape.
Embracing Colombia means engaging with its people, culture, and opportunities. Colombia offers a canvas to build a vibrant future, whether drawn to its cities for business, lifestyle, or a blend of both. As this guide shows, Colombia is not just a destination but a starting point for discovery, growth, and connection. Welcome to Colombia, where every experience enriches, and every investment bears fruit. You are invited to be part of an ongoing story of transformation and resilience.

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