To make your life easier, you have to give up the idea of visiting-a-maximum-of-Places within 7 days in Colombia. You don’t want to spend half your holiday with your butt stuck on an uncomfortable aircraft or bus seat.
If you decide to fly to the Walled City, it means you want to explore it and find out its best-kept secrets. However, you should know three things about Cartagena:
Beaches within the city aren’t pleasant
It’s the most expensive place in Colombia (with Providencia)
2 Days in Cartagena (+)
If you’re traveling on a shoestring budget during this one week in Colombia, you won’t be able to do many extra activities in Cartagena.
I’m not a fan of the City’s museums – except maybe the Castle San Felipe if it’s the first time you visit one.
Within two days in Cartagena, you should focus on enjoying the romantic atmosphere of the walled city.
First, plan a city tour in the old center. There are some good free walking tours or private tours – if you prefer a more in-depth explanation. You can also book a bus tour if you’re feeling lazy. Don’t forget to contemplate the sunset from the walls.
The next day, wake up early and wander among the colorful alleys in Getsemani and Cartagena. It’s the best moment to take fantastic pictures.
Day trips from Cartagena to the Rosario Islands are legions. However, the experience will be better if you spend at least 2 nights on Isla Grande. It’s the best way to avoid the crowds. Public boats leave the dock every morning.
However, there are also many hidden gems in Antioquia. You will have to decide if you want to spend more time in the city or in the countryside.
Less than 24 h in Medellin (+)
If you don’t want to visit Medellin and focus on the highlights around, then you don’t have to stay more than 1 night. Pick your accommodation in El Poblado if you want to head South the next day or Laureles if you prefer exploring the East Side. The bus terminals are different according to the final destinations.
2-3 days in Medellin (+)
Main cities are important to understand Colombia’s history and cultural heritage.
There is an excellent and entertaining walking tour offered by Real City Tour. We recommend! Otherwise, you can book a private tour if you’re looking for something more personalized. Try to include the Museo de la Memoria. It’s worth it!
Stopping in Medellin is also the opportunity to learn about social transformation. Visit a notorious district like Comuna 13, Moravia, or La Sierra with a local guide.
Before leaving, delight your palate with a coffee tour or a food tour!
Finally, add some Salsa and a football game at the Stadium, and you will live an excellent cultural experience.
Which destinations to add to your 1 week Medellin itinerary
Depending on how long you decide to stay in Medellin, there are 3 loops we love to organize.
From Medellin to San Carlos (+)
This one week Colombia itinerary is for travelers who love aquatic activities. San Rafael and San Carlos are two small towns surrounded by crystal-clear rivers and they’re not touristy at all. Both places are ideal for tubing, canyoning, and chasing waterfalls.
This one week Colombia itinerary is for travelers who want to visit cute colonial towns. Everyone falls in love with Jerico and Jardin. It’s the perfect occasion to visit a coffee farm and hike through the incredible landscapes of Antioquia.
Take a bus to Jerico (3h), then a Chiva – local bus- to Jardin (3h).
From Medellin to the Pacific Coast (+)
All flights to the Pacific coast leave from Medellin. Therefore, don’t hesitate to plan a trip there if you dream of wild beaches and coconuts. It’s also the whale season from July to September.
Which destinations to add to your 1 week Cali itinerary
Cali is a city near many exciting Colombian highlights. You will have to choose between Zona Cafetera, Pacific coast, and Andean mountains for this one week in Colombia.
Weekend trip to Pance or San Cipriano (+)
Both are easy weekend trips you can organize.
Pance is a small town situated in the Western Andean mountains, at 1.5 hours from Cali. It’s ideal for hiking, birdwatching, and breath some fresh air. I recommend the hostel Casa Batara.
San Cipriano is a town surrounded by lush vegetation. It’s an adventure to get there. It’s 2.5 hours away from Cali. The main activity is tubing on the river.
From Cali to the Zona Cafetera (+)
You need 5 hours to reach Filandia, Buenavista or Salento. All of them are pleasant colonial towns, even if I have a preference for Buenavista.
An interesting 1 week Colombia itinerary would be Cali – Buenavista – Filandia – Cali. By doing so, you can book a fantastic coffee tour and visit the Valle de Cocora.
From Cali to the Pacific Coast (+)
It’s the easiest and cheapest way to reach the Pacific coast. You just have to take a 3-hour bus to Buenaventura then a 1-hour speedboat to Juanchaco. However, don’t stay in Juanchaco. It’s dirty. I recommend sleeping in La Barra or in front of the National Park Bahia Malaga. Don’t miss the Humpback whales!
From Cali to Popayan (+)
Popayan, also known as the “White Colonial City”, is situated 4 hours down South. There are interesting historical sights, and it’s the departure point for a breath-taking 2-day adventure to the Volcano Purace. Moreover, you can attend the indigenous market on Tuesday in Silvia.
Bogota is in the Cundinamarca department. The airport is international with direct flights from Munich, Paris, Madrid, London, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Mexico City, Lima, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Washington, Toronto, Montreal, Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago. Yes, it’s a lot.
Taxis leave from the airport – 30 min. Don’t pay more than 30 000 COP! Taxis are not friendly in Bogota, don’t hesitate to book a private transfer from the airport.
Caño Cristales is a natural park that opens from June to November. The site is famous for the aquatic plantMacarenia Clavigera that gives different shades of red to the river. You must take a 1-h flight to get here.
We are Adrien and Thomas, two Frenchies who fell in love with Colombia and its inhabitants 4 years ago.
Traveling on his own is the best way to interact with the locals. With Colombia Insider, we offer you the possibility to travel independently while following an itinerary off the beaten path that suits your desires
Thanks to the internet, any travelers can try to create a Colombia itinerary. After all, it’s not complicated to write “Best places to visit in Colombia”, “2 weeks in Colombia”, or “Colombia points of interest” in the Google research bar.
Then, you read the top 5 results, pick some Colombian places – because the pic is pretty cool -, try to measure the distance on Google Map and you start building your itinerary.
Is it what you’re doing right now? (Yes, I’m a magician – Harry’s cousin – and I can read your mind.)
While it’s a good way to begin your roadmap, it’s far from being sufficient. Sorry.
The country changes fast, and most of Colombia’s travel blogs aren’t updated enough. Besides, too many travelers write about Colombia even if they just have spent 2 months in the country – Did you know it’s twice the size of France?
We created this Colombia Travel Blog to help travelers to create unique Colombia itineraries. And this is what we’re doing to do right now.
Table of Contents: Build your Colombia Vacation Itinerary
If it’s because you want to spend joyful moments in a foreign country, try new experiences and learn about a different culture, then you should seriously consider reducing the number of stops in your Colombia itinerary.
#2 Don’t base your decision on a Cool Instagram pic
Instagram pictures are fake (+)
Instagram is a great tool to find some inspiration, but you should be aware that many pictures are “fake” – Except our account :p. Influencers spent hours to get the perfect shot then they edit the pic with a software.
Don’t try to be like this guy with his tiny Italian bathing suit, who is kissing a hot babe and watching hundreds of doves from their infinity pool. It doesn’t exist.
It will be silly to make a detour in your itinerary for a picture.
#3 Don’t think that roads are in good conditions
You need time to move from one place to another (+)
To estimate the transportation time, many travelers use Google Map.
– “Oh, there is only 100 km, I’m sure we can do it in 1 hour.”
In many cases, it will be 5 hours.
#4 Don’t miss half of the activities
Ask around to know how long you should stay (+)
Tourism is growing and many activities aren’t on the internet. Send emails to the hotels in the area, ask in Facebook groups or check our Colombia website (the easiest way).
Then, you will know how long you can stay in a place.
#5 Don’t follow the other travelers
Be different (+)
People don’t have time, so 95 % of them decide to follow classic Colombia itineraries. I’m sure you’re different. Hence, create something different. Work hard on it. Or use our services :).
Furthermore, most of the “perfect week in Colombia” articles are far from being perfect ;).
#6 Don’t spend too much time in big Colombia cities
The country side of Colombia is mind-blowing (+)
I love big cities in Colombia. They are excellent places for partying, organizing Colombia tours and learn about the history, dance Salsa, etc. However, it can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to go.
Colombia is a gorgeous country with all kinds of beautiful landscapes. Don’t hesitate to spend most of your time in the countryside.
#7 Don’t be scared of night buses
Everyone use night buses (+)
Night buses are safe, numerous, and every Colombian uses them. We love Copetran, Expreso Brasilia Rapido Ochoa, and Bolivariano. Most of the bus company’s website are terrible, with half of the departures missing. Call or ask the bus company to be sure.
It will help you to save 1 or 2 days in your Colombia itinerary.
#8 Let you some extra time
Public transportation arrive often late (+)
Colombian time is a real thing. With public transportation, you know when you leave, but you never know when you arrive.
The same problems can happen with small airline companies like Viva Air and Satena.
Arrive the day before your flight return. Trust me.
The secret for building a mind-blowing Colombia itinerary
It’s easy. Every person who travels a lot will tell you the same thing.
Colombians and Americans love the Eastern Caribbean Coast. Be ready to be surrounded by tourists during national public holidays and from Mid-December to Mid-January. Also, don’t plan your 7 days in Colombia during the Holy Week.
#2 The Weather
There are rainy and dry months in Colombia. Although you shouldn’t worry too much about the rain – only intermittent strong but short rainfalls -, it should be something you should think of if you want to multi-day hike or practice many extreme sports.
Rainiest months: May and November
Driest months: January – March, July – August
Because of the high level of humidity, it’s extremely hard to predict the weather in Colombia. Don’t trust the meteorological websites.
Day 2&3: Plan some tours to understand Colombia’s history and how Medellin has changed over the years. And don’t forget to organize a paragliding session around 9 am to observe the city from the sky.
Day 4: Fly to Bahia Solano and take a tuk-tuk in the direction of El Valle.
Day 5 – 7: Explore the Pacific coast and chill at the beach. There is the waterfall El Tigre, whale-watching (from July to Mid-December), Playa Blanca, a tour through the mangroves, free some baby turtles on the beach.
Day 8: Fly back to Medellin then take a bus to Jerico
Day 9 – 10: Visit Jerico. There is a fantastic tour that goes to La Cascada Arco Iris and an easy hike to Parque de Los Nubes.
Day 11: Take the Chiva bus to Andes, then a bus to Jardin.
Day 12 – 13: Plan a day trip to Salto del Angel and Cueva de las Guacharos, a canyoning activity for beginners and a coffee tour in a traditional Finca.
Day 14: Drive back to Medellin | 4 hours
Colombia Itinerary 3 weeks
3 weeks in Colombia is an excellent amount of time for exploring the country. This time, we will include Bogota and Cali in our Colombia itinerary for 3 weeks.
Today, I’ve got a list of the mind-blowing places to discover in Colombia! Thanks to Tristan Quevilly, admire astonishing pictures of Colombia without moving from your seat.
Photos can be more powerful than thousands of words. There is no need to describe “The man jumping the puddle,” “The iconic V-J day in Times Square” or “Tankman.”
It’s time to travel with your eyes, without breathing or thinking. Allow me 5 min of your precious time to convince you to plan your next vacation to Colombia.
1. Bahia Solano, an underrated place to discover in Colombia
Except for a few travelers, the Pacific Coast is an unexplored territory. After hundreds of years of slavery, many Afro-Colombians have run away from cities to live a peaceful life on the Pacific Coast. Nowadays, the inhabitants of this secret part of the world enjoy every day with dance, percussion music, coconut rice, and fresh fish.
Learn more about Bahia Solano (+)
As Buddha says, simple life = happy life.
The boat and the tuk-tuk are the only mode of transports to travel between the little towns nestled on the coast. Once there, grab one and explore El Valle and its surroundings.
But no worries, you don’t have to cross the rainforest on foot to arrive in this paradise. There are flights between the small airport in Bahia Solano and Medellin (Olaya Herrera Airport).
And for the most adventurous who want to visit this place in Colombia, boats are leaving from Buenaventura (Near Cali).
2. Cabo de la Vela, perfect for Kitesurfers and desert lovers
Cabo de la Vela stands on the Western Caribbean Coast of Colombia, between a flat crystal-blue ocean and a mysterious yellowish desert. Along the main road, houses made of wood welcome the travelers keen to discover the biggest desert of Colombia.
Learn more about Cabo de la Vela (+)
I’m sure Cabo de la Vela will be one of the favorite places to visit in Colombia for wind lovers. Every day, a steady breeze helps kitesurfers to do great tricks above the water. And there are kitesurfing schools if you wanna give it a try 😉
Then, take a quick dip in Playa Pilòn de Azucar and observe a mesmerizing sunset from the lighthouse before getting to bed your hammock, under a shiny Milky Way. Still lulled by the wind.
Nowadays, both places are ready to welcome tourists and show them the latest secret gems discovered in Colombia.
Caño Cristales offers amazing sceneries from June to the end of November. During this period of the year, the rains give life to colorful aquatic plants everywhere in the river. Blue, red, yellow, green … The result is astonishing!
It’s definitively one of the best places in Colombia.
4. Cartagena de Indias, discover a romantic city
Everything is chaotic; everything is nosy.
But when you pass the clock tower gate, the magic happens like in a book by Gabriel García Márquez. From there, a maze of colorful alleys and flourished balconies lead the travelers to the different colonial monuments.
Learn more about Cartagena (+)
Explore, wander, and lose yourself in the old city of Cartagena. However, there are so many exciting places to visit in Colombia that 2 nights are enough to appreciate the charm of it – Or maybe a little more if you’re a food addict who loves looking for delicious restaurants.
Take the time to explore the Rosario islands before going back to the city for a last outstanding sunset from the walled city.
5. La Ciudad Perdida, enjoy a 4-day trek in the Sierra Nevada
You don’t decide to hike 4 days in the jungle to observe the ruins of the lost city.
No, it’s not worth it.
You do it for the experiences and the challenges. You want to know how it feels to cross rivers and monkey bridges while it’s raining on your face. Would you be the next Indiana Jones?
Learn more about the lost city (+)
5 certified companies are authorized to bring visitors to the lost city. During the adventure, the staff cooks tasty meals that give you enough energy to survive in this green maze. Plus, you will get the occasion to learn from the local guides the history and the culture of the indigenous living there.
For these inhabitants, the Sierra Nevada is a sacred place that deserves to be protected and respected. Praise Pachamama before sleeping in your hammock like a baby. You will need some good rest for this great adventure.
6. The Tatacoa Desert, observe a starry night
Like Paulo Coelho, you want to look for your soulmate in the desert. But, unfortunately, you can’t add the La Guajira desert in your Colombia itinerary.
No worries, there is another solution to wander between cactuses and mesmerizing shapes of rock.
Learn more about Tatacoa (+)
Take a bus from Bogota till Neiva then jump in a shared jeep in the direction of Tatacoa. The small town of Villavieja is a perfect starting point to visit the two deserts in Tatacoa – Grey and Red – before cooling off in a pool.
But stay awake! Because the Tatacoa desert is also the best place in Colombia to observe the stars and the Milky Way. Book a tour with the Astronomical Observatory and look for Martians or shooting stars.
8. Tayrona Park, discover a national park next to the beach
I consider myself like an experienced traveler. However, I have to be honest with you guys. My sense of direction is bad. So bad that I think my mum forgot to add the function “compass” in my brain when I’ve been conceived.
In Medellin, take the bus at the North Terminal to reach the colonial town of Guatape and El Peñol.
This giant granitic rock of 285 m high is one of the favorite touristic destinations in the department of Antioquia.
Learn more about El Peñol (+)
After climbing the 740 steps – gosh I hate stairs -, visitors can enjoy a beautiful view from the top. Try to get there at sunset if you decide to spend the night in Guatape. This colorful colonial town is located only 2 km away from El Peñol.
All around, green hills, artificial lakes and cozy hostels with hammocks provide a peaceful environment to rest from the city’s noises.
The Caribbean coast of Colombia is not only about beaches. Take a shared jeep fromSanta Marta to Minca and explore the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta. These mountains are isolated from the Andes chain. The peak Cristobal Colon is the highest summit of Colombia with 5700 m.
Learn more about the Sierra Nevada (+)
Most of the Sierra Nevada is not open to the public because the national park is considered as sacred for the indigenous community living there.
The most famous way to visit it is to book a 4-day tour to the lost city.
But it’s not the only way.
You can travel to Minca to get a pleasant foretaste in the area. There, excellent accommodations like Casa Loma welcome travelers from all around the world. The place is a wonderful playground for bird lovers, waterfall addicts, and fans of organic coffees.
It’s one of the best places in Colombia to observe birds!
All the pictures in this article have been taken by Tristan Quevilly. The quality of the photos has been reduced to improve the loading of this article. However, you can find them in better quality on his photography website. He took a lot of gorgeous pictures of Colombia.
1. Bogota, Should I stay or Should I go | 2 nights | Classic Colombia Itinerary
Mistakes people do in Bogota (+)
Travelers land in Bogota because there is an important international airport. Moreover, we all have an attraction to capitals in general. Otherwise, we can’t uncheck the country from our bucket list.
Usually, people don’t want to stay in Bogota. They decide to wast 2 days to explore la Candelaria, the Gold Museum and the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. And, because they came with a bad a priori, they leave the capital with a bad memory.
2. A quick stop in Villa de Leyva | 1 night | Classic Colombia Itinerary
Mistakes people do in Villa de Leyva (+)
After the cold weather of Bogota, travelers dream about one thing: The Caribbean Coast. While a few people book a national flight to Cartagena, others decide to travel through the countryside of Colombia to reach the coast.
On the way, they stop at Villa de Leyva, a peaceful colonial town surrounded by hills. At the top, a white Jesus watches out for the inhabitants. Don’t mess up. In town, uneven cobblestone streets lead the visitors to cloisters, churches, flourish squares and cozy cafes.
3. Barichara, the Legendary Colonial Town | 2 nights | Classic Colombia Itinerary
Why travelers go to Barichara (+)
The marketing department did a fantastic job with Barichara. Everyone knows it in Colombia. The place is gorgeous, ultra-romantic, and it faces a deep canyon – Chicamocha. Moreover, some agencies offer extreme sports activities like Paragliding or Rafting.
Then, travelers have the option to take a flight from Bucaramanga or experience a long night bus adventure to Santa Marta.
4. Santa Marta, first steps on the “beach” | 2 nights | Classic Colombia Itinerary
Santa Marta is a medium-size city nestled on the Caribbean Coast. Some people consider it like a small Cartagena. I have no idea why. Maybe are they blind? The common point is an unpleasant beach only.
Why I don't like Santa Marta (+)
Tourists meet in the same area, near the square Los Novios. There, restaurants serve every kind of meals and waiters don’t even know how to speak Spanish anymore. Moreover, the outskirts of Santa Marta aren’t safe at night as thugs wait for wealthy on coke tourist to jump into their arms.
It doesn’t sound like a great city. So you’re probably wondering why people stop there?
Tayrona National Park is the main reason why Santa Marta is so well-known. The size of the park makes day trips not worth it – Except if you take a speedboat from Taganga. But if you do the boat thing, you will miss the most exciting part: the expedition within the park.
Mistakes people do in Tayrona (+)
Experiences are making memories. Not tasteless selfies on a beach.
Tayrona is fantastic because you can stay as long as you want. There are two entrances – depends on if you like “hiking” or not. Once inside, visitors dip into a green universe made of creepers and monkeys. The paths are clean and well enough indicated – So you don’t have to buy a machete or hire a guide.
And, after all the sweat and tears, gorgeous beaches protected by boulders welcome the muscle sours with sands, coconuts and cold water.
5. Cartagena, the Jewel of the Caribbean Coast | 3 nights | Classic Colombia Itinerary
Like Santa Marta, Cartagena attracts hundreds of North Americans who look for a place to rest for the week. The city can be divided into 4 parts.
Districts and things to do in Cartagena (+)
The old city center made of colonial buildings, flourish balconies and colorful doors. It’s gorgeous, but I don’t think many Colombians live there. There are mainly luxury hotels, restaurants, and gift shops.
Boca Grande is a little Miami with skyscrapers, resorts, and fast foods.
Getsemani is a backpacker empire. There are many hostels and affordable bars.
There, trendy cafes offer social co-working spaces for the digital nomad community. At night, bars and nightclubs open their door to wealthy Colombians and foreigners.
They miss the opportunity to stay in Laureles and experience a more authentic Colombia daily life.
Why do travelers like the nightlife in Medellin?
The weather is great
It’s practical. Hostels, restaurants, and clubs are located in the same district
The inhabitants are welcoming. It’s easy to interact with them
The women are gorgeous
Then, between two hangovers, they organizea day trip to Guatapeand try to attend a football game at the stadium.
What a pity!
Antioquia is one of the most beautiful departments in Colombia. There are many lovely colonial towns – like Jerico, Jardin, Salamina – and outdoor activities near San Rafael, San Carlos, San Francisco, and Tamesis.
7. The giant wax palm trees near Salento | 2 nights | Classic Colombia Itinerary
Mistakes people do in Salento (+)
Salento is the final stop of our Gringo Colombia Itinerary. This colonial town is a pleasant place with many cozy hotels. In town, there is a viewpoint where travelers can admire the many coffee plantations and the massive Los Nevados National Park.
From the main square, jeeps leave every morning to bring the visitors to Valle de Cocora, an impressive valley where giant wax palm trees stand like thin magic mushrooms.
Finally, after one last coffee tour on a local farm, travelers get back to Bogota to catch their flight.
They miss the occasion to push their boundaries with a multi-day hike in the National Park Los Nevados.
Salento is so touristy now that locals run away from the village – and also because they can’t pay the expensive rents anymore.
From Salamina, it’s possible to explore another valley with even more wax palm trees.
I know that some of you don’t have the time, the knowledge or the energy to plan a customized trip. Hence, there is no harm in taking a shortcut.
With the gringo trail, the itinerary is optimized to get an overview of different parts of Colombia. It leads you to the mostwell-known spots of Colombia, and you won’t travel in circles. And, if you smartly use the night buses and cheap national flights, you shouldn’t waste too much time in the transportation.
Moreover, there are many buses connections between the different stops. It increases your flexibility, and it will be easier to deal with your logistical travel issues.
So, is the Gringo trail a wrong Colombia itinerary? I don’t think so.
But, there are such many Colombia Itinerary possibilities nowadays, that it would silly not to think about them. I want you to opt for the Gringo trail if you want it and not because it’s your default choice.
The inconveniences of a Classic Colombia Itinerary
1. It's outdated (+)
It wasn’t recommended to travel to Colombia 20 years ago. But, as you know, the political situation has improved a lot, and more and more new destinations become accessible every year.
Before, the Gringo trail was almost the only safe option for the travelers. But those days are now behind us. There are such many different sceneries to explore that you should think about it twice before taking your decision.
2. The Gringo Trail is a passe-partout (+)
The Gringo Trail is for every traveler. You won’t make a mistake by choosing it. But maybe you’re not like everyone else. Perhaps you’re attracted by something specific.
Colombia is a vast playground for many different kinds of travelers. Vacations are supposed to be a joyful moment that you wait with excitation every year.
Why don’t you pick one or two specific themes for your journey?
Instead of saying “Ok, this summer I visit Colombia,” try to tell “Ok, this summer I dive in Colombia” or ” I hike within the best National Parks,” etc…
3. If you want to visit everything, you will end by doing nothing (+)
I think you will enjoy a lot more if you decide to stay a bit longer in each place. Thus, you should be able to organize unforgettable trips that tourists in a hurry can’t experience.
4. You will spend more money, time and energy (+)
I love numbers.
Let me convince you with exponential functions and logarithms.
Don’t stop reading. I’m joking.
By traveling fast, all your expenses increase quite a lot:
You multiply the numbers of long bus drives and national flights
You take more taxis to move everywhere in one day
You eat in restaurants only
And all these “expensive” travel moments are dedicated to transportation time. Although a flight is only 1 hour long, it will take at least 6 hours in total from door to door.
Moreover, traveling fast is exhausting. I heard many times travelers saying they are much more tired after than before their backpacking trip in Colombia. It doesn’t have to be that way. Travel at your own pace.
The concept is to minimize the number of buses and flights and spend all the extra time on new experiences.
How to create a Colombia itinerary that suits you?
Nowadays, thanks to the internet, travelers have fewer difficulties in planning a trip to a country they’ve never been before. But it often seems like a mammoth task if you don’t know where to start. It’s why many tourists end to travel on the gringo trail only.
Step 1:First, you should focus on your travel personality and expectations.
What do you want? What do you expect?
Step 2:Do you have a crush on some places?
Don’t pick too many destinations. You should try to stay at least 1 week within the same region.
Step 3: Add secondary destinations
Once you’ve chosen your highlights in Step 2, you should “fill the blank” with places located in the same regions.
You want to visit Tayrona Park. Why don’t you add an adventure to Punta Gallinas?
When planning a trip to Colombia, you will probably compare Bogota VS Medellin VS Cali VS Cartagena. It’s a smart reaction and I invite you not to hurry up in your decision. It makes no sense to land in a city that you don’t want to visit.
Thanks to this post, you will be able to decide which city you will like the most, and you’ll get some kick-ass travel tips for each of them.
Bogota VS Medellin VS Cali VS Cartagena: What you must know
Bogota: Bogota is a whirlwind hard to appreciate at the beginning. But the capital has a lot to offer throughout its events, world-famous restaurants, tours, and techno parties.
Medellin:Medellin is the city of the eternal spring. The trendy Cafes host a growing community of digital nomads and students keen to improve their Spanish before their next adventure into the fantastic department of Antioquia.
Cali:In Cali, everything relates to Salsa. Schools and professional teachers transform shy foreigners into amazing performers. They dance all night long, using their new Salsa moves with friendly locals.
Cartagena: The old city center ofCartagena de Indias is made of cobblestone streets, brightly colored houses and flourish balconies. At night, carriages drive lovers to expensive restaurants while youth backpackers enjoy the nightlife in Getsemani.
Culture: If you like to learn about history and culture, then you must head to Bogota.
Nightlife: Don’t hesitate to stay in Cali if you’re attracted by the world of Salsa. Otherwise, you will fall in love with Bogota – if you know where to go. Choose Poblado in Medellin if you don’t speak a word of Spanish.
While it’s fun to wander among the graffiti streets, La Candelaria is not the best option for going out at night.
There are new clubs every week in La Zona Rosa (Around Parque 93). It’s one of the safest districts in Bogota where wealthy Colombians like to party, especially on Pay Day. But don’t expect to find great parties on Sundays and Mondays.
Where to party in Bogota (+)
Most of the clubs have a dress code (No flip-Flop and shorts), and you will have to pay a cover to get in (Around 20 000 COP).
Another and cheaper option is to discover the nightlife in Chapinero. Nightclubs are more scattered in the district so I would advise you to get an Uber or a taxi.
Giants buildings popped up in Boca Grande to welcome wealthy tourists and Colombians who rush every summer holidays into the city to wander among the cobblestone streets. The old city center and its colonial houses are astonishing, and lovers will spend some great romantic days there.
Because of mass tourism, there are less and less authentic experiences in Cartagena de Indias. For me, it’s my least favorite major city to visit in Colombia and visitors shouldn’t spend much of their time there. Except if they want to chill and do nothing.
#3 Best things to do and see in Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena de Indias is a city where you are bored after a few days. There is no museum or fun things to do during the day – Except wandering in Old city and Getsemani. However, there are some fantastic islands to discover.
You will love that photo tour if you’re on a honeymoon trip.
#4 Where to go out in Cartagena de Indias
Usually, wealthy tourists go out in the old city center. There are many bars and a few nightclubs with a strict dress code. Grab this opportunity to learn Salsa.
Bars in the old city center (+)
Salsa Donde Fidel | Tiny Salsa Bar
La Jugada Clubhouse | Trendy/hype 3-floors nightclub
Beer lovers | Large choice of Craft beers
Alquimico Bar| Excellent cocktails
I prefer the nightlife in Getsemani. Travelers meet on Trinidad square to watch bands performing music and other shows. Plus, there is a little shop around the corner where people buy cheap cold beer in a bottle. I love frozen Aguila.
Then the party goes on in the different clubs around.
Bars and clubs in Getsemani (+)
Bazurto Social Club | Champeta music
Demente | Cocktail bar
Havana Cafe | Salsa music
Mister Babilla | Crossover Music
Ethical Bar| Cheap & Fun, perfect for backpackers
Black Parrot | Rock
#5 Map of Cartagena
Check out the Map of Cartagena, Colombia to get a better visualization of the districts.
Because of the drug wars in ’80s-’90s, Medellin wasn’t one of the best major cities to visit in Colombia. Murders, bombs, and kidnapping are not ideal ingredients for a successful party.
But today, everything is different. Indeed, Medellin attracts the majority of the ex-pats and the digital nomads coming to Colombia.
The answer is simple.
There is perfect weather, a fantastic department (Antioquia), a fun nightlife, friendly inhabitants and the subway serves all the different districts, even the poor communities, to fight against the partitioning.
For many travelers, Medellin is the best main city to visit in Colombia.
#1 Medellin VS Cali VS Bogota VS Cartagena
You will prefer Medellin over Cali, Bogota, and Cartagena if you:
Want to easily find parties on the weekend.
Appreciate nice weather – albeit raining some months.
Medellin attracts more and more tourists so you’ll have to get off the beaten path to find the best authentic experiences. Let’s find out the different tips I learned from my various stays in the city.
At night, travelers love partying in Poblado, the wealthiest district of Medellin. They meet at Lleras park, drinking cheap aguardiente directly from the tetra pack on the stairs before heading to the different clubs/bars around.
I lived in Cali for more than 1 month, and let me tell you this: Don’t expect to be elected King and Queen of the Prom if you don’t want to dance Salsa in Cali.
Kids learn the basic steps with their Mum, and it becomes as natural as breathing.
Cali will be a great stop if you want to enjoy a nightlife different from home. Every night, Salsa lovers meet in a different club to express their feelings through hypnotic movements. The Subdued lights give a romantic atmosphere while other people sit and drink around the dance floor. When the music stops, a few stand up, and without a word, they stretch out a hand to ask for the next dance.
You don’t dance Salsa because you want to seduce your partner. You do it because you like it. There is no underlying message.
Travelers think there is nothing to do in Cali, except dancing Salsa. They are wrong. Mitch proves it in his excellent article about the best things to do in Cali.
#1 Cali VS Bogota VS Medellin VS Cartagena
You will prefer Cali over Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena if you:
San Antonio district is near the center. It’s usually the home base for many backpackers with many hostels and Salsa Schools. Unfortunately, the neighborhood can be unsafe after 10 pm. Then, it’s better to take a cab or go out with a group.
Check out :
San Antonio park to drink a pack of beer and try the street foods. There are tons of different sauces. It’s insane. I love it.
La Colina. It’s the oldest bar in Cali. I love the vibe there.
Safety and Events In The Largest Cities In Colombia
Bogota VS Medellin VS Cali VS Cartagena
Safety in Colombia improves every day. But don’t forget you will travel to South America. Your iPhone 8 represents 2 or 3 times a monthly average wage. Petty thefts are not unusual in the largest cities of Colombia. Follow the basic rules of safety and common sense to keep your valuables safe 😉
It’s not a tourist trap article. Don’t assume it’s (only) a list of easy Gringo Trail’s Highlights you could read everywhere else. After 2 years backpacking through the country, I give you 14 best places to visit in Colombia
It’s a vast country with many things to do. Hence, I find it hard to decide on everyone which ones you must see, especially if you travel for 2 or 3 weeks only. After all, each traveler expects something different from his adventure.
So I selected 14 themes with one “winner” for each.
Grab your notebook and a pen. There is a damn hard mission waiting for you:
Which best places to visit in Colombia should you include on your itinerary?
What are the unusual places to visit in Colombia?
Map – What to do in Colombia
Create easily a stunning Colombia itinerary
#1 Get top qualitycontent to plan your Colombia adventure
Most of the time, buses are cheaper, but it’s a long way to arrive at Cartagena de Indias. Take this opportunity to stop in the department of Santander! Thus, you could visit Barichara, a lovely colonial town, and you will get your adrenaline fix.
Indeed, San Gil is a perfect Colombia place to visit for people looking for fun activities. Try the rafting level 5 on the Magdalena river, fly above the fantastic Chicamocha Canyon or jump off a bridge – But, don’t forget the elastic rope.
If you want the perfect selfie with your coconut and a paradisical background -to make your friends jealous and sad -, you should travel to the islands around.
The cutest island is Providencia, but it’s quite an adventure to get there – It’s near Nicaragua. However, there are two islands, not so far from the coast, which will be perfect for your I want my butt tanned‘s stop.
From Cartagena, Tolu or Rincon del Mar, you can take a boat to discover the Archipelago of San Bernardoand sleep on Isla Mucura or Isla Tintipan. White sands, few tourists, palm trees, coconuts, and rum. What do you need more?
3. Medellin, one of the best places to visit in Colombia for city lovers
Don’t want to find sand inside your ears for days? Skip the beaches and enjoy the ideal weather of Medellin.
Its nickname is “Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera.” It means the “City of Eternal Spring.” Many of my long-term travel friends have been stuck in Medellin for more than a few days.
It’s such a welcoming place! The inhabitants are extremely polite and kind. They almost must help you. Also, there are two awesome districts (Laureles and Poblado), great restaurants, lovely cafe to take the sun on the terrasse and fun parties. It’s hard to resist guys. I guess this is why many digital nomads decide to live in Medellin. Or Spanish students ;)
Medellin is the capital of the department of Antioquia.
4. El Peñol de Guatape, one of the best places to visit in Colombia for the view
El Peñol is the most famous Colombia sightseeing near Medellin. You can easily get there by yourself with a bus – a couple of hours.
Then, you will have to climb the 750 stairs to arrive at the top of this giant monolith. You will see, It’s a perfect ratio Pain/ reward. A viewpoint from a tower is cool, but you don’t deserve it so much. You’re just taking the lift. Here, your legs will hurt, and you will probably make one break or two – if your only sport is beer pong.
From the “peak,” grab a delicious fruit juice and enjoy an incredible 360-degree view of the department of Antioquia.
And don’t forget to visit the cute village ofGuatape before going back to Medellin. It’s a perfect colonial town surrounded by lakes and mountains. Don’t hesitate to sleep there 1 or 2 nights if you’re not in a rush.
5. Jardin, one of the best places to visit in Colombia to travel out of the Gringo Trail
There are plenty of beautiful colonial towns in the department of Antioquia and the coffee region. At first sight, they seem pretty similar: cobblestone streets, white wall and colorful windows, a HUGE church and a lovely main square with trees and benches.
However, some of them have more character.
Personally, I love Jardin. It’s one of the best Colombia travel destinations.
The town is surrounded by coffee plantations, waterfalls, old cable cars and Colombians wearing cowboy’s hat while drinking their coffees.
It’s a perfect stop if you plan to travel from Medellin to Salento.
6. Valle de Cocora, one of the best places to visit in Colombia for contemplating giant wax palm trees
Do you think this title is weird?
I agree. But there is a reason behind it. Do you know the joke:
How do the dwarfs wash their testicles? By running naked in the grass during the morning dew… Haha.
I love stupid jokes. Anyway, it matches perfectly with Cocora Valley. Tall wax palm trees – up to 60 m- stand up like giants, and there is no other tree around. Only green grass.
It’s a perfect option if you like to hike 4-5 hours without a guide. You cross monkey bridges, take slow-motion videos of hummingbirds, and at the end, you wander in this unreal valley – But you maybe should keep your clothes on.
With its astonishing landscape, Valle de Cocora is one of the best things to do in Colombia.
But Filandia is another lovely town under the radar of the gringo community. If you look at a place somewhat away from the main Colombia tourist attractions, it’s a place you should definitively think to add to your Colombia itinerary.
8. Tierradentro, one of the best places to visit in Colombia for learning about underground tombs
Colombia doesn’t have important archaeologic sites like Peru or Mexico. However, you can still learn a lot about the indigenous living here before the invasion by the Spaniards.
The most famous Colombian ruins are in San Agustin – An important site where more than 500 statues have been discovered.
But did you hear about Tierradentro?
If you are a history lover and you plan to travel to the south of Colombia, it would be a great stop to add to your itinerary.
These underground tombs – some measuring up to 12 m wide and 7 m deep – are located in 4 areas in the park of Tierradentro and describe the daily life and the rituals of the indigenous in the years 700 AD.
Don’t you believe me? Check out the pictures below 😉
It was under FARC control for a while. Thus it was impossible to get access to it. But not anymore! During the raining season, weird colorful algae grow up in the river’s bed. And when the sun goes out, the result is astonishing.
It’s a protected area with several rules to follow (No sunscreen, guides, etc.)
How to travel to Caño Cristales (+)
Flights from Bogota: From 220 000 COP
2 buses: Bogota- San Vincente & San Vincente – La Macarena: Around 120 000 COP / 24 hours
11. Punta Gallinas, one of the best places to visit in Colombia for being lost in a desert
Don’t you like spiders and ugly pink dolphins?
It’s alright. Instead of traveling to the south of Colombia, go to the northernmost point of South America. Enjoy the silence of the desert and the shining stars in the sky. And maybe, like Santiago – The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho – you will meet the love of your life in the desert.
I found my behalf in Punta Gallinas. She is large, and I can sleep inside it. Yes, it’s a hammock. In La Guajira, the indigenous Wayúus use to sleep in these large hammocks called Chinchorro.
From Cabo de la Vela, you can easily book a 2 days tour to Punta Gallinas. The landscape is outstanding, and the contrast between the colors makes that place magical.
Moreover, you will enjoy the best Colombia sunsets.
12. Capurgana, one of the best places to visit on the Caribbean Coast
Amazon in Colombia is fun, but there is no beach. La Guajira is magical, but there is no river or forest. If you like to get jungle, rivers, and sand at the same time, I have the ideal place for you guys.
Capurgana is only accessible by boat or flight (once a week), and the inhabitants are living in their own tiny universe. I stayed there when I was working as a guide on San Blas.
In my opinion, it’s a perfect balance between activities and chill. In 2 days, you quickly know where the best juices, restaurants and snorkeling spots are. Then you walk barefoot down the streets and order every evening for sunset, a Coco Loco at the bar on the beach.
I stayed more than one year in Capurgana and it’s a perfect vacation spot in Colombia.
13. How to explore the Tayrona National Park of Colombia
I think you’ve already heard about this one. It’s the most visited Colombia tourist attractions on the Caribbean Coast.
And there is a reason why. It’s an awesome National Park! Depending on your time, you can easily spend 2 to 4 days in Tayrona. Follow the different paths, spot the monkeys in the lush vegetation and chose your favorite beach to stay for the night. There are few campingsand restaurants inside.
14. Cocuy, one of the best places to visit in Colombia for hiking mountains
In love with mountains and fresh air?
Let the beaches for lazy tourists and explore something BIG! La Sierra Nevada del Cocuy belongs to the Cordillera Orientals mountains of the Andes. Within the set of highlands, you will wander between Fraijones -plants -, glacier and unforgettable landscapes. But you have to deserve it, the hikes are not short!
Once in Guican or Cocuy, you have to find a guide and register at the Park Office. Nowadays, only three 1-day trips are authorized: Laguna Grande, El Pulpito, and Ritabuca.
You will hike above 4000m high, so don’t forget about acclimatization 😉
How to travel to the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy
How to travel to the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy (+)
Bus from Bogota to Cocuy: Around 9 hours / 45 000 COP
So, which Colombia tourist attraction would you pick up for your itinerary?
Would you like to discover more places and activities in Colombia? Read the Colombia post written by Travelgal Nicole!
Create easily a stunning Colombia itinerary
#1 Get top qualitycontent to plan your Colombia adventure
Would you like to explore the Colombia Carribean Coast?
Every time I’m thinking about the Colombia Caribbean coast, I’m under a palm tree, watching my imaginary girlfriend – she is a mermaid – swimming in the crystalline blue water, my feet half-buried in the white sand and a half-finished cocktail in my right hand. A few meters away, there is my other love waiting for me below the roof made of bamboo, my hammock.
Most of us are making a mistake to associate the word “Caribbean” with “Luxury; Expensive; Resort, SPA, private yacht.”
But fellow travelers, I’ve got great news. We can have a significant slice of this paradise! You can also spend cheap Caribbean holidays with a mix of adventures, jungle, islands, white-sand Colombia beaches, desert.
Why Should You Travel On The Colombia Caribbean Coast
To receive a life lesson (+)
Have you been to Brazil? Could you visualize smiley eyes and dark shapes of people dancing sensually together? Do you feel the pulsation of the music on your skin?
Now imagine the Neverland described by J.M. Barrie – Peter and Windy. People are laughing and happy to spend the day together. They will think about tomorrow later, probably the next day.
Add some lush vegetation, coconuts, and hammocks in front of the sea. Perfect, now you have an accurate representation of the Colombia Caribbean coast – at least to me.
I’m not saying that Colombians are little kids chasing Pokemon naked in the forest. But they have this ability to keep intact in a part of their brain the little child of their childhood. The child who is excited to get fun times with his friends, curious, playful and who loves his mum and dad. The one who has helped us to become the adult we are now. Most of us – Western people – are killing this little dude and our dreams because everyone tells us to grow up.
Colombians are proud of their country, and after many years of conflicts, they believe it’s time that the world finds out the real Colombia – Not the one from Netflix and newspapers. Their way to deal with life is fantastic. Come and observe.
Beaches are boring (+)
The best way to get cheap Caribbean holidays is to lay down on the beach and be cooked by the sun. But here are the hitches:
You can cook in your garden for cheaper
Sunscreen can be expensive if you’re as white as Casper
Your boyfriend gonna be bored and will start throwing sand on you – Am I the only one doing that?
Nothing will be exciting to tell your friends about your Caribbean holidays
Fortunately, in Colombia, you can alternate your cooking sessions with other activities. Near the border with Panama, there is the Darien Gap. There are waterfalls and lovely towns to explore. Then you can play the pirates on unknown Colombian islands.
Need to get back to civilization and enjoy a romantic evening in an old city center? Easy, have a break in Cartagena. Then you can decide to become an adventurer for a few days in the Sierra Nevada and look for monkeys and birds. Or you could kitesurf in the desert. And because you’re doing different activities, you have the feeling that your Colombian Caribbean holidays last forever!
Be ready to show hundreds of pictures to your family!
Colombia Caribbean Coast is not too famous yet (+)
Because of its bloody past, most of the people are scared to travel to Colombia. They think they will be kidnaped by the FARC or killed by narcotraficantes. However, public opinion is evolving thanks to the social network, blogs, and other travelers. And, in the end, the only danger is that you might stay in Colombia.
For now, you won’t find many tourists during your holidays on the Colombia Caribbean Coast, especially if you’re going to a place off the beaten track – We will talk about it later
Another advantage is that Colombians are not annoyed about tourism – yet?-. They are proud to show the best sides of their country!
I agree it can be a little complicated to travel to Colombia, as you need time to find the information you wish. But once you know how to do it, it’s a lot easier! Plus, the experience will be more authentic, and there is always a Colombian around ready to help you.
Where are the places to visit on the Colombia Caribbean Coast
Where should you travel on the Colombia Caribbean Coast?
Every year, new places are popping up, and the public transport between them are improving – sometimes.
I’ve made a list of the places I’m sure you will enjoy discovering. They are all different from each other. I’ve written a short description and a provisional budget. So, it will be easier for you to decide where you want to go.
Ideas of prices for a couple who stays in private rooms in hostels, drink a few beers or cocktails every day and wants to do many activities.
A] Capurgana And Sapuzurro, 2 secret towns on the Colombia Caribbean Coast
It’s a little green paradise near the border with Panama. There is no road to get access to Capurgana and Sapzurro. It’s only by flight or boat. Thereby, they are living in their little bubble world. Every morning, inhabitants are waiting on the dock, to discharge the tiny boats which bring all the foods and furniture from the more important towns around. And mountains of beers too -Like an ephemeral Great Wall made of beers boxes.
Nothing is perfect there. Streets are flooded when it’s raining, and electricity stops working because of storms. Then, generators are taking the relay, because the music has to stay on. It brings the heartbeats that make life simple and festive inCapurgana.
The town is tiny. In 10 mins, you know all the streets. Where can you buy a delicious doughnut, where is the best juice or cocktail in front of the ocean?
I love it when the jungle is meeting the sea. You walk under the shades of the palm trees to the next waterfall or beaches. The blue of the water is playing with the reflection of the sun, and your steps scare the little yellow frogs on the path.
Budget for Capurgana and Sapzurro - For one Couple (+)
There are different places where you can sleep for 1 or 2 nights (Capurgana, Sapzurro, Aguacate). I would suggest you stay for 5 nights.
B] Isla Fuerte, a secret island near the Colombia Caribbean Coast
Isla Fuerteis a Colombia island closed to Monteria. The place is not famous – even for most of the Colombians – and I love it. Once there, nothing matters. Every morning, you wake up in an excellent hostel named La Playita. You eat your breakfast in front of the ocean, surrounded by palm trees and lulled by the noise of the waves crashing on the private beach.
Then, It’s time to find out the different exciting places offered by Isla Fuerte. Look for the sloths, organize a boat trip around the island – Don’t forget your snorkel -, chill at the beach or take selfies with fantastic/weird trees. Or maybe would you like to surf?
There is also a famous reef – Bushnell – where you can dive.
At dusk, book the party boat. Music, cocktail, and sunset are ideal for creating a fantastic memory. Isla Fuerte would be an excellent option for your future Colombian Caribbean Holidays.
Budget for Isla Fuerte - For one Couple (+)
In 2 days, you can do most of the activities. However, the main pleasure on a Colombia island is to chill. So I advise you to stay 3 nights.
Accommodation: 3 nights in a private room: 3 * 100 000 = 300 000 COP
It’s quieter than Isla Fuerte as most of the inhabitants are living all together on a tiny island – It’s the most densely populated island on earth with 0.12 km square and more than 1200 inhabitants. I guess it’s like restaurants; the crowd attracts people.
I’m sure you will be subjugated by the beauty of this place. Each island is different, but they have one main characteristic point, there is crystalline blue water all around.
Find a calm accommodation on Isla Mucura, snorkel around Isla Palma, relax on the beautiful Colombia beach on Isla Tintipan, have fun in Casa en El Agua and visit the village of Santa Cruz Del Islote.
Take the speedboats to realize your Colombian islands hopping experience.
Budget for San Bernardo - For one Couple (+)
All the islands are close to each other. It’s a fantastic place, but there are not many things to do. You can be bored after a few days – Except if you love to do beach/beach/Cocktail and beach. In my opinion, 3 nights are enough.
Accommodations: 3 nights in a private room: 3 * 200 000 = 600 000 COP
D] Cartagena de Indias, the jewel of the Colombia Caribbean Coast
The Heroic cityis one of the most famous places in Colombia. Even when the country was unstable with the FARC, Paramilitaries, and Narcotranficantes, many tourists came to visit and party in the old city center. And, the government put many resources to keep the place “clean” – Rich Americans = Lots of money.
By visiting Cartagena de Indias, you realize there are 3 wealthy districts – Boca Grande, Walled city, and Getsemani – surrounded by chaos and poverty.
It was one of the first colony established by the Spanish in South America. And they had to defend themselves from many other countries – the rest of Europe – and pirates. Hence, they built many fortifications.
In the old city center, there are flowery balconies, fancy restaurants, and fantastic architecture. It’s delightful to walk and be lost among the colorful streets.
Then, during the evening, Getsemani rises with the laugh of the backpackers, the different shows on Trinidad square and the nightclubs.
Budget for Cartagena - For one Couple (+)
Cartagena de Indias is a very touristic place. There are not enough lovely Colombians to compensate for the number of annoying and noisy tourists. And the beaches around are unpleasant.Fortunately,The gorgeous Rosario islandsare only 1 h away from the city.
In my opinion, the old city center is worth it, but there are other places to spend your holidays on the Colombian Caribbean Coast.1 full day is enough.
Accommodations: 2 nights in a private room: 2 * 220 000 = 440 000 COP
E] Minca, a “jungle town” on the Colombia Caribbean Coast
On the Colombia Caribbean Coast, there is an isolated mountain range separated from the Andes. The highest summits are above 5700 m high! And all around, lush vegetation is home to indigenous people and many animals, especially birds.
Minca is 30 min away from the coast. The town itself has nothing extraordinary, but accommodations are marvelous. Many hostels are outside Minca, sometimes far in the jungle. They are well established, respect the environment, cook tasty vegetarian meals and have astonishing views of the sunset.
Wander through coffee plantations and trees, look for unusual birds andswim in cold waterfalls. And stop at the bakery to eat their bread!
For me, Minca is a smart mix of hippie-yoga vibes and nature.
Budget for Minca - For one Couple (+)
It’s a pleasant place to stay, and you will cry when you will have to leave to continue your cheap Caribbean holidays. To minimize the pain, I recommend you to stay 2 full days minimum.
Accommodations: 3 nights in a private room: 3 * 90 000 = 270 000 COP
F] Tayrona, a natural park on the Colombia Caribbean Coast
The Sierra Nevada is a sacred green ocean for the Tairona – Indigenous people. For this reason, the National Tayrona park has been one of the first to be protected by the government.
There are many endemics species and a few ruins in the vicinity – Tairona people were living in basic huts, surrounded by many stone paths and terraces for their ceremonies. To discover the surroundings, you can book a tour of the lost city or hang out in Tayrona.
The national park is a mix of trails in the jungle and idyllic Colombia beaches. There are many basic accommodations – mostly hammocks – and a few restaurants. Moreover, you can hike with a day bag as you don’t have to carry bottles of water and food – only your wallet.
Cabo San Juan is one of the most famous beaches in Colombia. But as a victim of its success, it can be crowded.
Fortunately, there are different paths to enjoy a solitary adventure. But you will have to walk more. As you know, no pain no gain.
Budget for Tayrona Park - For one Couple (+)
One day is not enough, and you will miss 2/3 of the experience. If you don’t have enough time or if you want to chill, you should go somewhere else. 1 night is great but 2 nights are perfect ;).
G] Palomino, a trendy beach town on the Colombia Caribbean Coast
The backpacker community has decided that Palomino would be the new chill place on the Colombian Caribbean coast.Don’t expect to get an exciting nightlife. There is a more significant chance for you to finish your dinner by candlelight – Such a romantic moment!
Let your flip-flop at your hostel and walk in the direction of the beach with a cold beer in your hand. Alternate with sunbaths and quick dips – Or longer if you like to have fun with the waves – then take a nap under the shade of a palm tree. But don’t forget to check if you’re not sleeping below a heavy coconut => #RiskOfDying
If you decide to walk a little, you will discover on both sides, a river that ends its route in the Caribbean sea. Freshwater is pleasant to clean the salt and sand on your skin.
In Palomino, the traditional activity is the tubing. Get an inner tube and ask a moto-taxi to drive you to the starting point. Be ready for 2 hours of pure happiness as you will go down the river, surrounded by majestic trees, without much effort.
I had loads of fun there but take waterproof things only. Let your phone at your hostel and be generous with the sunscreen.
Budget for Palomino - For one Couple (+)
If you want to avoid spending tons of money during your holidays on the Colombia Caribbean Coast, Palomino is a good option. It’s perfect to end a trip and do nothing in particular – Except hammock, book, beach, and beers. 2 nights is a good option.
Accommodations: 2 nights in a private room: 120 000* 2pers = 240 000 COP
The contrast between the blue of the ocean and the yellow/orange of the desert is astonishing, and it’s one of the best spots to admire fantastic sunsets. In this unfriendly environment – it’s not easy to live in the desert -, the indigenous named Wayuu subsist with their sheep, the sells of their handicrafts -mostly bags – and tourism.
In Cabo De La Vela, a flat sea and a permanent wind provide the best conditions for Kitesurfing. Ready to fly above the water? Once there, it’s easy to find a tour to travel to Punta Gallinas and sleep one night in a rancheria. Take the chance to try the best hammock on earth, the chinchorros. It’s better than a bed.
And they serve delicious lobsters for lunch and dinner.
It’s a unique experience that allows you to realize that water and electricity are a luxury we should not waste.
Budget for Cabo de la Vela & Punta Gallinas - For one Couple (+)
There are many tours you can book from Santa Marta or Rioacha. But it’s easy and cheaper to do it by yourself. If you start from Palomino, 3 nights is the right amount of time.
I] San Andres and Providencia, the most beautiful islands in Colombia
San Andres and Providencia are two Colombia islands near Nicaragua. Back in time, both had a bad reputation. The legend says it was the home base for the famous Captain Morgan, so it could efficiently attack the Spanish colonies.
Funny fact, these Colombian islands were England’s proprieties, so English is the official language. As you may know, the inhabitants considered themselves more as Caribbean than Colombian.
San Andres became a Luxury touristy place for Colombians. Resorts, buildings swimming pools are popping everywhere. You can still find some lovely isolated spots, but it’s getting harder and harder. Read the travel guide of San Andres written by Natalia to learn more about it.
Fortunately, Providencia has been spared – For now – as it’s more complicated to get there. Once you put your feet on the dock, you can feel the Rastafari vibe with the Reggae music resonating through your flesh and bones.
Swim in the ocean, made of 5 different blue colors, and look for the many turtles, sharks, and other sea life around. Also, I like to get up high to admire the view. It helps me to realize where I am. Go at the top of Crab Bay to get the best picture of the island.
Both islands can be a little over budget for your Cheap Caribbean holidays. And you also pay another round flight ticket to travel to San Andres: Around 120 $ per pers.
Budget for Providencia - For one Couple (+)
You can’t compare San Andres and Providencia. If you have plenty of time to do both, great! Otherwise, you should focus your time on Providencia. You have to land in San Andres first. So I would recommend you 1 night in San Andres then 5 nights in Providencia.
For the following budget, I’ve used the fantastic article written by Chloé about Providencia
Accommodations: 6 nights in a private room : 120 000* 6 = 720 000 COP
Transportation: You have to take a boat or a plane from San Andres to get to Providencia. And it’s around 5000 COP for a moto-taxi – 280 000*2 + 5000*6*2 = 620 000 COP
Activities: There are many boat tours, snorkeling activities, caves and you also have to pay an entrance fee (130 000 COP). From what I’ve heard, you should expect to spend around 350 000 CPOP each if you want to do the cool activities of the islands – And more if you’re planning to dive there.
130 000* 2 + 350 000*2 = 960 000 COP
TOTAL= 3 380 COP for 2 people ( Around 1 100 $)
Where to stay in Providencia (+)
Miss Mary is an upscale hotel located on the most beautiful side of the Providencia
Posada Sunshineparadise is a perfect economical option on the Santa Catalina Island – just cross the bridge from Providencia
A] Capurgana/Sapzurro | Day 1 to 6 on the Colombia Caribbean Coast
Trying every hammock in your hostel was great. You even saw a monkey, and you named it “Ingrid” like your stepmother – Yep, you love her.
Sapzurrowas a lot quieter in comparison with Capurgana. You ate loads of homemade ice cream, but you don’t remember how many – Or you prefer to forget. But thanks to you, Chila (The icecream lady) bought a new speedboat. And the snorkeling near Playa Tiburon was fantastic. Lionfishes are dangerous but so cool!
For your last night, you said goodbye to Capurgana like a real Colombian. You drank beers and aguardiente near giant speakers – now you’re deaf – and you moved your butt in the Salsa Reggae club.
Now you’ve got a hangover, and it’s time to get your boat.
You didn’t find Morgan’s treasure, but it’s okay. Sloths, weird trees, and party boat are better than gold coins anyway – Ok maybe I’m lying, but it’s not bad either.
You met many friends. La playita has a bar, a volleyball court, a ping-pong table, and a private beach – Such a great time.
Oh, you’ve almost been killed by a coconut. It fell 10 cm from your head. Always check the palm tree.
I hope you had withdrawn loads of cash before going to Isla Fuerte. I know the plan is to have cheap Caribbean Holidays, but you can’t pay people with coconuts, and there is no ATM on the next Colombia islands.
And don’t expect to get soon to a big city. Now you’re a pirate, and you’re taking another speedboat to discover San Bernardo’s Archipelago.
How to get from Isla Fuerta to San Bernardo (+)
Day 10: Take the speedboat La Playita – Casa En El Agua. You should book it a few days in advance so they can group people. 70 000 COP – 2 hours
Speedboat Casa En El Agua – Isla Mucura: 15 000 COP – 10 min
Pretty simple, no?
Total Travel Cost Isla Fuerte – San Bernardo Islands: 170 000 COP for TWO people (56 $)
Casa En El Aguais always fully booked, and it could be a paradise if you were in a party mode. But for the next days, you had decided to live healthy – What a weird idea.
Isla Mucurawas an excellent choice. You walked around the island, pick up a new Colombia beach and a new Colombia island every day but your best activity was to contemplate the sunset from the beach – with a cocktail, healthy life is boring anyway.
The inhabitants are so packed in Santa Cruz Del Islote! You swear to stop complaining when your best mate is taking up too much space in your bed. Why is it so hard to respect the imaginary line? Sleep straight!
How to get from San Bernardo to Cartagena (+)
Day 13: Departure to Cartagena de Indias
Speedboat Isla Mucura to Casa En El Agua: 15 000 COP – 10 min
Speedboat from Casa En El Agua to Cartagena de Indias: 100 000 COP – 3 hours
Then you can easily walk to your hostel.
Total Travel Cost San Bernardo – Cartagena: 230 000 COP for TWO People (78 $)
Your three days in the walled city was a huge contrast in comparison with the two last weeks. Streets are flat and clean, luxury shops are everywhere, and there are horse-drawn carriages! – With an ingenious system at the back of the horses to collect their poop. Crazy!
Nevertheless, you had the pleasure to wander between the flourish balconies, colorful streets, and the many sculptures. The sunset from the wall was a great memory to share with your lover.
E] Minca | Day 15 to 18 on the Colombia Caribbean Coast
Surrounded by nature, you had a great time in Casa Loma. And you’ve learned that vegetarian meals can be delightful.
You ate loads of Humus, chocolate bread, cafe… Food had an important place in your daily life, especially when you’re traveling.
And a mixt of waterfalls, birdwatching, and coffee tours are perfect to feel less guilty. You need the energy to hike in the Sierra Nevada, don’t you?
For the sunset, everyone from the hostel was going uphill to get a better view of the sun dipping in the green ocean of the vegetation. And it was happy hour with the bar! – Ok, I have to admit I’m a big fan of sunsets and cocktails. But who isn’t?
After these special moments, let’s organize a 3-days trek in Tayrona Park.
In Santa Marta buy some snacks and water (2 L per person) for the trek.Read my guide to know what you have to think about.
Go to Calle 11 con Carrera 11 to get the bus in the direction of Tayrona. The plan is to stop at a hostel near the entrance of the park to have a good night sleep before the adventure! I recommend you Eco Hostal Yuluka or the Journey Hostel – See our guide about Tayrona.
Bus to the hostel: 7 000 COP – 1 hour
Private room for 2 people: 120 000 COP
Lunch and dinner for 2 people: 40 000*2 = 80 000 COP
Day 19:Calabazo entrance Early in the morning
Total Travel Cost Minca – Tayrona: 230 000 COP for TWO People (78 $)
You didn’t find a caiman near the Colombia beach, but I don’t think you want to see one when you’re taking a sunbath. It’s better to focus on monkeys; they’re harmless. Howling monkeys were hanging out near Pueblito. It’s insane how these small creatures can make such noises.
It was such a pleasure to jump in the ocean after the 4 hours walk. Tayrona is humid, and you sweated a lot. It was as if someone throws on you a bucket full of water, and then another one just in case.
But the effort was worth it. What a great experience to sleep in a hammock near the sea. You were lulled by the waves, murdered by mosquitos and awakened by the morning pinky sky.
But now you want some rest. Let’s go back to beach + sunset + cocktails.
Colombia Beaches, pool, sunset, cocktails and one night you had a candlelight dinner because there was no electricity. It was a hilarious moment because it was written “Simple life, happy life” on the wall in front of you.
Now, you’re ready for the last adventure of your Colombian Caribbean Coast adventure. Do you wonder how the northernmost point of Colombia looks like? Let’s find it out!
The desert scenery is moving. The uniformity of the landscapes and the colors bring to light details like the indigenous’s houses or the kitesurfers flying on the ocean.
You realize that we are lucky to be born with a silver spoon in our mouth. We don’t have to worry about basic needs like water or food. And the most important is that we can choose to live the life we want. It’s a rare privilege. Don’t let it go without you.
Did you ever imagine to spend more than 3 weeks on the Caribbean coast of Colombia with your lover for only 2875 $? Me neither, before I travel to Colombia.
Caribbean holidays don’t mean 5-stars resort and dull SPA. And you don’t have to be rich to sleep in private rooms, eat delightful dinners and have fun for 1 month. From the jungle in the Darien Gap to the desert of La Guajira, you can live a one life experience in Colombia.
Everyone knows Aruba, San Martin or Cayman. And I love to drink cocktails on the Colombia beaches too. Then I’m bored like when I’m playing Bingo with my Grand Ma, so I’m drinking more.
But if you switch between adventures and chill moments, you will always be excited, even when you’re burning like a snail on the grill – So Frenchy. Your camera and your brain will be full of memories.