Between its dense jungles, barren deserts, lively cities, and unbelievable national parks, the Caribbean Coast is a stunningly varied terrain and a must-see for any traveler to Colombia. Whatever you want out of Colombia, you are sure to find a piece of it here.

The coast’s crown jewel is Cartagena, perhaps the most well known spot in the country. While not a beach destination, this walled city has a distinct vibe that can only be defined by its trendy European nightlife, Spanish colonial, republican, and modern architecture, and Afro-Caribbean tropical exuberance. There is no better way to experience its essence than by getting lost along the romantic maze of cobblestone alleys, bougainvillea-covered balconies, and church-lined plazas within the city’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To obtain a taste of the region’s coastal pleasures, retreat to the white sand beaches and coral reefs of the islands of El Rosario and Santa Marta nearby. The first city in Colombia and the oldest in South America, Santa Marta is a popular getaway for locals in search of rum and sun. It may be the city where the legendary liberator Simón Bolívar breathed his last, but it is best recognized as the gateway to Tayrona National Park, the country’s main attraction for outdoor enthusiasts flaunting a privileged location between the pristine coast and the isolated Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. Within the park’s unique coral formations and jungle vegetation is the one-time Tayrona capital, Ciudad Perdida, one of the continent’s most mysterious and lovingly preserved ancient cities, second only to Machu Picchu.