Colombia has some of the world’s most beautiful islands, with varied eco-systems and ways of life.
These islands form an important part of Colombia’s history too. Some were once home to fortresses and penal colonies but are now excellent spots for diving, bird-watching and relaxing. Here are a few must-visit Colombian islands:
(1) San Andrés and Providencia
San Andrés and Providencia are Caribbean islands, encircled by reefs with incredible biodiversity, famous for their beaches, corals, geysers and coves. San Andrés is the capital and Providencia located 92 km to the north of it. These islands are much-loved for snorkelling, scuba-diving and the clarity of their seas. They are 750 km north of Colombia but only about a 90 minute flight from Medellín.
(2) Gorgona Island
Gorgona is Colombia’s “Alcatraz” island. It sits some 35 km from the country’s Pacific coast and was used as jail until it was converted into a natural park in 1985, because it is home to so many endemic species. You can still see some of the old prison buildings on the island, although most visitors prefer to don diving masks these days and explore below the ocean’s surface.
(3) Malpelo Island
Malpelo may look like a deserted volcanic rock but it’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to the variety of creatures found in its waters, including swarms of hammerheads and sighting of the rare Smalltooth sand tiger shark. The island, which appears barren despite its visiting birds and burgeoning plantlife, is 500 km west of Colombia’s Pacific coast.
(4) Tierra Bomba
Tierra Bomba is just south of Cartagena and known for its 43 km-long coastline, which boasts some fabulous beaches. Visitors who tire of sunning themselves and gorging on the island’s freshly caught fish usually spend a few hours exploring the ruins at the Castle of San Fernando de Bocachica too. The island is home to some 9,000 people.
(5) Rosario Islands
The Rosario archipelago contains some 30 islands, about 45 km from Cartagena on the Caribbean coast and easily reached by boat. The islands include the San Bernardo National Park, which is famous for its coral reefs and seagrasses and home to more than 170 species of fish. The natural aquarium on San Martín de Pajarales island is a very popular spot with travellers.
(6) Santa Cruz de Islote
Santa Cruz del Islote is a partially artificial island off the coast from departamento Bolivar. It forms part of the archipelago of San Bernardo. It’s significant population (around 1200) compared to its small size makes it among the most densely populated islands in the entire world.
They have electricity between 7pm and 11pm, but only when residents donate enough money to power the generator. Islanders know their way of life is fascinating for tourists and welcome visitors to their island.