Colombia’s extensive water features and mountainous landscapes lend themselves perfectly to a wide variety of extreme sports. Some of the most popular are detailed below.
Many parts of Colombia are ideally suited to paragliding due to the prevalence of strong thermal winds, impressive scenery and the elevated terrain.
Paragliding flights begin on high ground, often over sheer drops. Aside for trained and experienced paragliding, all trips involve being strapped to an instructor who has responsibility for handling the equipment, who manages the take-off and landing procedures, and determines the route and length of the flight. To be able to do a solo flight, visitors would have to undertake a full length course, which lasts several days. Such courses are offered in various parts of Colombia, for example in Territorio Paraíso outside Cali.
A larger number of operators throughout the country offered the accompanied version of paragliding. Climatic and topographical conditions are best for paragliding in Medellin, Sopó and Guasca in the Bogota region, Cauca Valley and in Chicamocha Canyon in Santander. All offer impressive views over the surrounding natural scenery and it is in these destinations that the majority of paragliding companies are situated. Trips run throughout the year, but may be subject to last-minute cancellations if weather conditions are adverse. This is obviously more likely in wetter parts of the country and, where applicable, in the rainy season.
The prevalence of mountains in Colombia also makes the country highly apt for rafting. There are numerous sites scattered throughout Colombia, with the most popular international sites being on Chicamocha and Fonce rivers in the Santander region. The starting point for rafting tours along the river is the popular backpacker town of San Gil. Rivers here pass through striking rock formations and canyons, with rapids reaching up to Grade IV in parts of the river.
Rivers near san gil pass through striking rock formations and canyons
Other popular rafting areas are along the Magdalena River in Huila, in the Barragan River in the coffee region’s Quindio, and in Rio Negro in Cundinamarca. Other lesser known sites include Melgar and Flandes in Tolima, San Juan in Antioquia and in Cauca.
The same combination of geographical features also makes Colombia a great destination for those wishing to engage in canyoning (an extreme sport combining exploration of rocky rivers with waterfall abseiling). This activity is generally offered as a tour – including experienced guides and hire of all necessary equipment – leaving from sites including San Gil, Medellin and Tobia in Cundinamarca. The waterfalls of Juan Curi in Santander (near San Gil) are the most visited canyoning destination, and feature a descent of 65m from top to bottom.
Typically such tours involve a few hours trekking up or down a river, jumping off rocky outcrops and occasionally also scaling walls or small waterfalls. Where waterfalls are too large to descend on foot, tour participants will abseil down one-by-one under the supervision of the group leaders. There is generally somewhere between one and three of such descents in each trip, but it is worth checking how many there will be before signing.
Canyoning is a physically demanding activity, but one which is highly enjoyable and well worth the exertion. Tour prices vary throughout the country – with prices ranging between 60,000 COP and 100,000 COP – and tend to last in the region of 6 hours (including travel to and from the zone).