Colombia Travel Tips
How To Get The Best Experience In Colombia
Colombia is a South American destination that captivates most travelers. It has been my case since 2015. This online guide will help you to avoid classic mistakes, choose the ideal destinations and discover the activities you shouldn’t miss. Here is my list of the best Colombia Travel Tips. Good reading!
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Table of Contents
Colombian people| Is famous for | Is it safe? | Natural regions | Biodiversity | Food & Drinks | Budget | Accommodation | Transportation | First things to do | How to create your itinerary | When to visit | Where to Travel | Best things to do | Packing list
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How To Understand Colombia
This section will allow you to better understand Colombia in South America. There are plenty of reasons to fall in love between an incredible Latin America culture, incredible biodiversity, and breathtaking landscapes!
1# Colombians are friendly
That’s why everyone falls in love with Colombia. They are smiling people who enjoy life to the fullest and do not know how to say no for fear of offending the person in front of them.
- Don’t hesitate to ask them for information but double-check the answers.
- Don’t be afraid if they come to help you. Most of them won’t try to sell you stuff. They only want to help you.
- Don’t get angry if things don’t go as planned. You’ll create discomfort with the person you’re talking to, which won’t solve anything. On the contrary!
- They’re very polite.
- They would rather not answer the phone than tell you they are not coming.
- They are not always reliable (if they find something better to do, they will)
2# Time doesn’t matter
In Colombia, people don’t pay much attention to time.
- “Ahora” and “Ahorita” can mean: now, in a few minutes, later, in a few hours, never.
- You won’t get a clear answer to the question, “how long does it take.”
- Work out your patience.
- Allow time for delays in your itinerary (especially when taking a plane).
3# Not many Colombians speak English
Except for a few people in the big cities (especially young people), it will be challenging to discuss in English. Same issue with the local agencies.
- Learn numbers, basic verbs, and practical phrases. A small dictionary will be helpful.
- Colombian Spanish is one of the easiest languages to understand. It may be an opportunity to learn a new language. The students I know are fans of Angela (she is a friend who teaches Spanish online).
Colombia is famous for …
1# Colombian coffee
Colombia exports some of the best coffee beans in the world. Only the Arabica variety (sweeter than the Robusta) is grown in the country, at an altitude between 1500 and 2200m. And the picking is done by hand to select the best beans.
- More than 550,000 families live from coffee farming. You can visit these fincas in many departments (not only in the coffee region).
- The good coffee is exported, and only the bad beans remain for the country. That’s why it is challenging to drink good coffee in Colombia. Things are progressively changing, and many specialized cafés are in big cities.
2# Dance and music
Colombians love to dance, party and sing. Each part of the country has its favorite style of music.
- Salsa is played all over the country, but in Cali, it is a religion. There are many dance schools and parties every night of the week. I love it.
- Champeta is native to the Caribbean coast, sung by enslaved Africans to express their thoughts. Over the years, this style of music has evolved, incorporating different rhythms and electronic sounds. You better be dynamic to be able to dance to it.
- Percussion instruments such as the marimba and the drum predominate on the Pacific coast.
- The Joropo is a beautiful dance performed in Los Llanos. The main instrument is the harp.
- The Vallenato music, originating from the north of Colombia, tells the love stories of its inhabitants. The main instrument is the accordion.
👉 Find out all the interesting Colombia facts.
👉 Colombia is famous more many other reasons.
👉 The complete list of the most famous Colombia landmarks.
Is Colombia safe?
1# Colombia is safer than you think
TV, Netflix, and newspapers, the few times they mention Colombia are because of its drug cartels and illegal armed groups. So it doesn’t surprise me that most people have a terrible image of the country. However, the situation in the country has improved from the dark years of 1990 – 2003.
- Nobody will try to kidnap you.
- Militaries are everywhere. Don’t be scared.
- Colombia signed a peace agreement with FARC in 2016.
- The new Colombian government (Petro) is in peace talk with the ELN.
- It is better to visit tourist places (and not leave alone for an adventure in unknown areas).
Still, keep in mind that Colombia is a South American country. Use common sense and be alert in large cities.
2# Practical safety tips
There is a saying in Colombia; No dar Papaya. Don’t give the stick to be beaten. Here are a couple of rules I follow when I’m in big cities:
- Use uber or a taxi to move around when it’s dark, especially when you know the streets are empty.
- Don’t show your valuables.
- Be careful with hot girls on Tinder or in a fancy club.
- Do not leave your bag unwatched.
👉 Read all our best Colombia Safety tips.
3# Drugs and prostitution
Colombian girls and cocaine are famous in Colombia. I won’t say otherwise. But know that you do not favor Colombia by participating in this.
- Drug use is prohibited (although it is decriminalized in small quantities). The police like to search for foreigners to ask for a bribe.
- Most incidents happen to travelers who come to use drugs or prostitution services.
Nature and landscapes
6 natural regions
With 314 types of ecosystems, the diversity of landscapes in Colombia is incredible.
Amazonas (Amazonía) is the biggest Colombia region. It is also the least populated because of its dense vegetation and remote cities. In addition to a rich and varied culture (many indigenous communities), you will be able to live incredible experiences such as chasing waterfalls in Mocoa, flying over Chiribiquete, and visiting the surrounding of San José del Guaviare or staying in a fantastic ecolodge in the middle of the amazon.
The Andean region (Andes) is crossed by 3 branches of the Andean mountain range and is the most populated region. Along with many cultural tours and the exciting big city nightlife, you can go rafting on mighty rivers, trekking to discover the famous páramos, enjoy the hot springs or visit beautiful colonial towns.
The Pacific Coast (Pacífico) is a region cut off from civilization, where many small fishing towns are on huge black sand beaches. It is one of the rainiest areas in the world ( pick the right months). In addition to its idyllic beaches, travelers come to see humpback whales. Staying in all-inclusive ecolodges is the easiest way to enjoy these magical places (See ecolodge in Guachalito, See ecolodge in El Valle).
The Caribbean region (Caribe) is the most visited area of Colombia, and tourists are mainly spread between Cartagena and Palomino. Contrary to what one might think, finding beautiful beaches there is not so easy. Fortunately, some fabulous spots and a few paradisiacal islands are still near the coast. My favorite experiences are the multi-day trek to the Lost City and exploring the Guajira desert.
The Orinoco region (Orinoquía) is mainly known under another name: Los Llanos Orientales. It is the kingdom of the cattle-breeding cowboys, of which 75% of the territory is made up of savanna, which floods during the rainy season. Because of its fascinating joropo culture and wildlife viewing, this region is attracting more and more tourists. The best options are to plan a Colombian Safari or view Caño Cristales, the most beautiful river in the world.
The insular region is made up of 5 islands. Providencia, Santa Catalina, and San Andrés are Caribbean islands with turquoise water near the Nicaragua coast. On the Pacific side, there are the famous Isla Gorgona (former prison) and Isla Malpelo. These islands are difficult to access and are well known for their underwater life (sharks and whales).
Discover our clear explanation about the 6 natural regions of Colombia.
Colombia is one of the few countries to be considered a "megadirverse country" because it is home to nearly 10% of the planet's biodiversity.
With nearly 2000 bird species (20% of the planet), the country is a paradise for bird watchers. Some of these symbolic birds are the Andean Condor, the Harpy Eagle, the Andean cock-of-the-rock, Paradise Tanager, Tucans, Hummingbirds, Quetzal, and the Motmot.
There are more than 4000 species of orchids in the world, and half of them are present in Colombia. Besides, the orquídea Cattleya Trianae has been chosen as one of the country’s national emblems.
Colombia has about 22% of the butterfly species in the world (4000/18000). The best areas to observe them are the eastern cordillera, the department of Putumayo, and the forest in the El Choco department.
Colombia has just under 10% of the frog species. The poisonous Dart frogs are as beautiful as they are deadly, and their venom is used for indigenous ceremonies (including Kambo).
Humpback whales come to give birth along the Pacific coast from July to October!
Colombia’s beaches regularly welcome sea turtles that come to lay their eggs. They come between July and December on the Pacific coast, and the famous leatherback turtles arrive from March to June on the beaches of the Darien gap (near Capurganá).
Colombian food and drinks
1# Colombians like to eat a lot
Whether the desserts or the main courses, the portions on the plate are substantial. This came from when most of the inhabitants had exhausting days in the fields (which is still the case for many people in the rural areas). Moreover, Colombians don’t have this fondness for skinny bodies. A woman is beautiful when she has generous forms.
Generally, breakfast and lunch are important, and dinner will consist of snacks or street food.
2# Main dishes
In Colombia, everything is good, but nothing is delicious. Quantity is as important as the quality, so the regional dishes are an assortment of many ingredients. Local food = rice + beans + potatoes or yuca + plantain + chicken.
- El Ajiaco (from Bogotá): a thick, tasty soup made with two kinds of potatoes, corn, herbs, and chicken. It is commonly eaten with rice and avocado as a side dish.
- El Sancocho: Another soup made with chicken, or a mix of pork, chicken, and cow rib, plus potato, arracacha (a kind of tuber), manioc, corn, and green plantain.
- La bandeja paisa (Antioquia): red kidney beans, ground beef, rice, a fried egg, a sausage, black pudding, avocado, fried ripe plantain, and fried pork.
3# Street food
You will find them everywhere in Colombia (especially after 5 pm), and these stands sell mostly fried snacks. Some are delicious, so don’t hesitate to try them — watch where the locals stop.
- Arepas: corn patties with cheese in the dough or on top that melts during cooking. It’s like the baguette for the French; it’s everywhere. You’ll get them with your eggs for breakfast or with some meat on top (or inside).
- Empanadas: small pies whose pastry is made of corn or wheat flour. They are usually fried and filled with a mix of meat or chicken, rice, peas, and even potato.
- Salchipapa: Sausage + French fries + Lots of sauces.
- Patacones: slices of fried mashed plantain that can be served on their own, with just a pinch of salt, or served with ‘queso costeño’ (ground, salted cheese) on top.
4# Menú del dia
Most restaurants in Colombia offer a daily lunch menu (except the fancier ones). There will be a delicious soup, a main course, and fresh juice.
- This is an economical and quick option. If you decide to take a dish a-la-carte, it will take muuuuch longer.
- You can decide to take only the main course. In this case, you should say “el plato seco porfa.”
Vegetarians will have a hard time finding good options in the towns. You will have to cook. However, more and more restaurants are opening in the tourist areas – and they are very delicious! You can use HappyCow to find them.
6# Fruits and juices
This is what I miss the most when I’m out of Colombia. The country offers more than 400 varieties of native fruits, plus the ones everyone knows, such as mangoes, oranges, and coconuts.
Fruit juices are a delight to try. For instance, lulo is a very aromatic fruit consumed in juices, but there are other, more exotic fruits, such as arazá, gulupa, maracuyá (passion fruit), granadilla, and guanabana.
Don’t hesitate to go to a large public market to taste as much as possible.
The most famous alcohol in Colombia is made from sugar cane. You can warm your throat in the evening with a shot of aguardiente or rum. Aguardiente is not a tasty liqueur. However, several rum brands have won incredible prizes (Dictador, la Hechicera, Parce).
You will also find many microbreweries of artisanal beers in Bogotá—especially in the Teusaquillo district.
Money travel tips
1# Colombian Pesos (COP) is the country’s currency
The exchange rate between the dollar and the COP has fluctuated tremendously since 2014 (more than double). Simply put, it’s getting cheaper to travel to Colombia (for now). In 2022, the average rate is 1 USD = 4,000 COP.
- The bills are: 100,000 COP (you shouldn’t see them much) | 50,000 COP | 20,000 COP | 10,000 COP | 5,000 COP | 2,000 COP
- Coins are: 1,000 COP | 500 COP | 200 COP | 100 COP | 50 COP
- The colors of the bills are sometimes similar. Be careful when you pay 😉
- Sometimes people will remove the “1,000” and say it costs 30 (instead of 30,000).
2# Withdrawing money
ATMs are my favorite solution to get Colombian Pesos at the best exchange rate. Visa and Mastercard work well, and you’ll find many ATMs in Colombia. However, the dispensers may be out of order in some remote areas (or inexistent).
I know 3 banks that don’t charge bank fees (although your bank might):
- BBVA | Maximum withdrawal of 300,000, but you can do it 7 times within 24 hours.
- Davivienda | Maximum withdrawal 2,100,000 COP. Be careful. The ATM will offer you to use the bank’s exchange rate. You have to say NO.
- Colpatria | Same as Davivienda.
👉 Read our article on bank fees abroad.
3# Always keep some cash with you
Many small businesses (or large ones, for that matter) do not take credit cards. There are also places where people only use cash (and you won’t find an ATM)
- Capurgana/ Sapzurro
- Cabo de la Vela
- Isla Mucura
- Isla Fuerte
- Rincon del Mar
- El Valle
- Nuqui & Guachalito
- La Barra & Ladrilleros
- Puerto Nariño
4# Tipping in Colombia
Tipping in Colombia is not mandatory, but more and more restaurants are adding it to their bill (10%). They will usually ask you to confirm if you want to pay it “Desean incluir el servicio?“. It’s mostly the case in tourist and/or expensive restaurants/bars.
It is also customary to give a few COPs to people who help you park your car, take a cab or put your groceries in bags at the cash register.
5# You can sometimes bargain the prices
Most of the time, Colombians will give you the correct local price. So don’t pressure them to get a sale, especially if the item costs only a few thousand pesos. It will make no difference for you, but it might be a big difference for them.
Still, there are various situations where it is customary to negotiate as activities, transportation, or when you buy a souvenir. The easiest way to do it is to say, “¿En cuánto queda?” -> How much for me?
In any case, keep the bargaining process fun and with a big smile 😉
6# Ask for the price first
Most of the time, you won’t see the prices. Before buying, ask for the price! “Cuánto vale?”. If not, the seller might increase the price.
7# Example of prices in Colombia
The Caribbean coast around Cartagena and Santa Marta and the islands are more expensive than the rest of the country. Here are some average prices in the country:
- Coffee (Tinto): 1 000 COP
- National Beer: 4 000 COP
- Avocado: 3000 COP
- Fresh fruit juice: 4 000 COP
- Breakfast: 12 000 COP
- Good cocktail: 20 000 COP
- Menu del dia: 15 000 COP
- The main dish at a good restaurant: 40 000 COP
- Private room in a basic hotel: 80 – 120 000 COP
- Private room in a boutique hotel: 200-250 000 COP
Define your budget
You should count 40$/day/pers.
- Accommodation: Night in dorms for 40 000 COP
- Transportation: Public Transports | long-distance buses | Taxis in big cities | 40 000 COP
- Meals: Menu of the day for lunch and a mix of street food and cheap dinners | 40 000 COP
- Activity: A mix of free and cheap activities | 40 000 COP
You should count 95$/day/pers.
- Accommodation: Private bedroom in a modern hostel or Finca or hotel | 90 000 COP/pers/if 2 pers
- Transportation: Public Transports | Planes for long distances | Taxis | 60 000 COP
- Meals: Menu of the day + good dinner at the restaurant + drinks, coffees, and parties | 100 000 COP
- Activity: Daily activities + trips to non-touristic areas | 150 000 COP
You should count 145$/day/pers.
- Accommodation: Private bedroom in Boutique Hotel or Luxury hotel | 150 000 COP/pers/if 2 pers)
- Transportation: Public and private transportation | Planes for long distances | Taxis | 100 000 COP
- Meals: Lunch and dinners in good restaurants + drinks, coffees, and parties | 150 000 COP
- Activity: Daily activities + private tours + trip to non-touristic areas | 250 000 COP
You should count 220$/day/pers.
- Accommodation: Private bedroom in luxury hotels, boutique hotels, and Eco-lodge | 250 000 COP/pers/if 2 pers
- Transportation: Planes for long distances | Privatvehicleon for almost every trip | 200 000 COP/pers/if 2 pers
- Meals: Lunch and dinners in top-notch restaurants + drinks, coffees, and parties | 150 000 COP.
- Activity: Private daily activities + trip to non-touristic areas | 300 000 COP
1# Types of accommodation
Choosing your accommodation will depend on many factors such as budget, location, and experience:
→ Hostels are the cheapest way to find a good bed and meet people. Some are mainly for partying (pool, rooftop bar). You can decide to stay in a dorm or a private room. On the downside, the travelers are quite young and sometimes noisy.
→ Hotels are everywhere in Colombia. If you ask the locals directly, you can find cheap rooms that are not on the internet. My favorite options are boutique hotels. There are few rooms, and the staff can provide personalized service to each guest.
👉 How to find your favorite hotel for each destination
👉 Our list of the best luxury hotels in Colombia.
→ Finca and Hacienda are farms with large properties composed of flowers, fruit trees, and agricultural fields (especially coffee). In general, you will cohabit with the birds. These houses have an incredible charm, and the soothing atmosphere is just what you need to recharge your batteries. Besides, it’s a great way to observe the daily life habits of the inhabitants.
→ Ecolodges are mainly present in remote areas such as the Pacific coast and the Amazon. Because of their difficult access, the facilities are somewhat rustic. It also allows them not to clash with the environment. Most offer a stay with 3 meals included (per day) and provide guides to organize the tours.
→ Glamping is the latest type of accommodation in fashion. It’s a comfortable way to stay in the middle of nature. You can sleep in large tents, cabins, or transparent bubbles, often with a Jacuzzi and an incredible view (and Colombia has no shortage of them!). Beware, some aren’t worth it.
👉 Find our favorite glamping in Colombia.
2# Things to know
It will allow you to avoid bad surprises and lower your expectations:
- Many accommodations don’t have curtains.
- It’s pretty rare to get a shower with hot water.
- Soundproofing isn’t excellent, especially if you stay in old colonial houses or fincas.
- There are incredible offers for very acceptable prices, especially in places less visited by foreigners. Do your research 😉
Buses are the easiest and cheapest way to get around Colombia. There may be several bus terminals in one city, and each company has its counter.
- Night buses are great for saving time and money. The A/C is freezing. Take a sweater, pants, and a jacket.
- A 10-hour trip is about 100,000 COP.
- You know when you leave but never when you arrive.
- Bus drivers drive fast (better not to look out the window)
- There are many bus departures between the main cities of Colombia. You can go to the terminal and buy your ticket. I like to use this site to know the bus companies and the number of departures per day.
- Most well-known bus companies are: Rapido Ochoa, Expreso Bolivariano, Expreso Brasilia, Copetran, Empresa Arauca, Flota Magdalena.
It’s a tiny shuttle that usually leaves when it’s full, and it’s the easiest way to travel to small towns. You’ll pay the driver when you can down and get out of the bus whenever you want.
- Using them with your big luggage won’t be easy, but it’s doable. Colombians always find a way.
- Only keep in mind the last departure (often around 5 pm)
- You can use them to get around big cities, but it’s complicated as it’s hard to understand where you’ll arrive.
Chivas are large colorful buses that drive on stretchy roads to reach different towns in Antioquia and the coffee region. You should try it once when traveling to Colombia. It is a whole experience. Not recommended if you have severe back problems.
Taxis are the easiest and fastest way of transportation in the cities in Colombia. They are everywhere and will honk to seduce you.
- Some cities don’t use a taximeter (Cartagena, Santa Marta, or any small town). If so, agree on a price first.
- Beware, in Bogotá, most are sneaky (look carefully at the price list to pay the right price).
- I recommend using the apps Cabify or Easytaxi in big cities.
- There are also moto-taxis and tuk-tuks.
5# Uber and In-Driver
These applications are technically illegal, but everyone uses them in big cities. In-driver allows you to haggle over the price of your ride. You can first look at the fare on Uber and then propose a lower fare on In-driver.
- One person will have to sit on the passenger seat to avoid appearing as an uber service.
- Prices are usually cheaper than a taxi (except during rush hours or if it’s raining).
6# Public transportation in big cities
Colombia has a sophisticated bus system in the largest cities: Bogota (Transmilenio), Barranquilla (Mio), and Cali (Mio). In Medellin, the metro works perfectly, and it’s cheap!
- You’ll need to buy a bus card (1$) and add some credit.
- Avoid using them after 9 pm for safety reasons.
- Avoid rush hour (7 am-9 am; 5 pm-7 pm) if you don’t want to be crushed against the glass like a piece of old chewing gum.
7# Speed boats
The speed boat is regularly used along the Colombian coast or rivers (Amazonia, Cauca).
- Remember to protect your luggage with a plastic bag if you travel by sea.
- Sea is rough from December to April on the Caribbean Coast.
8# Car rental
There are areas with many small villages to visit, and it becomes very convenient to rent a car.
- The prices aren’t cheap.
- Take a car with a high body Because of the bad road conditions (dirt, potholes).
- Localiza is a good rental company.
- Don’t drive at night.
- Areas like the coffee region, Bogotá surroundings, and Boyacá are perfect for a road trip.
9# Domestic flights
National flights are cheap and plenty in Colombia.
- Avianca & Latam are the most well-known companies.
- Smaller airports may close if the weather is too bad.
- Try to book your ticket at least 1 week in advance (better prices).
- Viva Air & Wingo are super cheap, but you must follow the conditions to avoid paying extra fees.
- Lesser-known destinations are served by charter flights. San German and Easyfly will be your best options.
- Count around 150,000 COP to fly between big cities and around 300,000 for a charter flight.
Tips To Plan a Great Colombia Trip
This section will teach you how to avoid the main travel mistakes and help you decide what to do and where to go in Colombia.
Before visiting Colombia
1# Scan, store, and print your essential docs
It’s simple, and it will always be helpful to you. I use Google Drive for this :
- Passport. Use it when walking in the street and keep the original in your room.
- Driving license.
- Your yellow fever certificate.
- Travel insurance.
2# Do you need a visa?
Most travelers can enter Colombia without a visa and get 90 days (renewable once a year). Read this article to find out if you need a visa. Please note: All travelers must fill out an online form (which often glitches). It is called Check Mig, and you must do it between 48h and 24h before your flight. At the end of the process, you will receive an email that you will have to print.
3# Travel insurance
You should know that the insurance you have in your country does not cover you abroad. If an accident occurs and you end up in the hospital, you will have to pay for everything out of pocket. Even if Colombia is an affordable country, the medical costs can be high, especially if you want to be treated in a good hospital. Usually, there’s a 3-month travel insurance policy on your credit card. Check with your banker to find out the terms and conditions. Please read the conditions carefully —You know, those little texts in hieroglyphics that nobody likes to read. 👉 Pick the right Colombia travel insurance.
4# Speak with your bank
Remind your banker of the dates of your trip to Colombia to prevent your account from being blocked due to several suspicious withdrawals abroad. Take this opportunity to find out how much you can withdraw per week, your bank fees abroad, and your travel insurance conditions.
5# A proof of exit
You have to prove that you will leave Colombia within the next 3 months. They rarely ask for it at the land border, but it is always done before boarding a plane to Colombia. The airline will not let you leave without this proof. Most travelers buy a round-trip ticket, so this won’t be a problem. But if you only buy a one-way ticket, I recommend Best Onward Ticket (that’s what I use).
6# COVID & Vaccines
Passengers and airline crew must have a COVID-19 vaccination certificate showing they were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before departure. Otherwise, you can:
- Show a negative COVID-19 PCR test result issued at most 72 hours before departure
- Or show a negative COVID-19 antigen test result 48 hours before departure.
Other vaccines are not mandatory. However, doctors often recommend the yellow fever vaccine, especially if you plan to stay in areas with dense vegetation (Amazon, Sierra Nevada, Pacific coast). I recommend using this website to double-check what you need to enter Colombia.
7# Buy a local sim card
I know you can buy an international SIM card, but a local sim card will be cheaper and easy to get.
- Colombia has 3 main phone operators: Claro, Movistar, and Tigo. Usually, Claro offers better coverage.
- Verify if your phone is unblocked. Can you use another sim card?
- Look at small shops with a small red sign, “Claro.”
- A sim card should cost 3-5000 COP.
- You’ll need to add some credit by giving the phone number of your SIM card. There are various packages. One week should cost around 10,000 COP.
How to create a good itinerary
1# Define your desires and wishes
Do you know that Colombia is twice the size of Texas?
You couldn’t visit everything even if you had one year’s vacation. Believe me, I tried 😉
This means that you should select areas that catch your interest. To do so, you must first ask the following questions:
- What type of trip would you like to experience? For what purpose?
- Are there any places you really want to visit during your stay?
- Are there activities you would love to book?
- How fast do you want to travel?
We wrote two excellent articles to help you answer these essential questions:
👉 A list of the best places to visit in Colombia.
👉 A list of the best things to do in Colombia.
2# Try to pick 1 area per week
Transportation can be long in Colombia (even for short distances). It will take you time, energy, and money.
To avoid this:
- Choose a favorite place every 5 to 7 days. Ex: For 15 days, pick 3 favorite places max.
- For each of the chosen places, look for other possible destinations/experiences in the area. Ex: You pick Cartagena? Then add the Rosario Islands, Rincon del Mar, or the San Bernardo islands to your itinerary.
3# Look for festivals, special dates, and national public holidays
There is a whole section on the subject below. Basically, see if the experiences are feasible during the dates of your trip and avoid visiting the most famous places on 3-day weekends (with Monday off).
4# Valid your itinerary and book the most important activities/hotels
Now that you have a pretty clear idea of your Colombia itinerary, you can start making some reservations. Boutique hotels, ecolodges, and multi-day experiences should be booked in advance (or they may be sold out).
👉 Four examples of one-week itineraries in Colombia.
👉 You’ll find all our tips and tricks in our Free travel Ebook.
5# We help you connect with reliable local agencies
Choosing between several agencies in a foreign country is never easy, especially when you book everything online.
At Tomplanmytrip, we pre-select the best local agencies, meet them, test their experiences, and write about our adventure.
It allows you to consider the pros and cons of each experience.
If an activity interests you, you can visit the agency’s partner page and use an online form to ask questions and find out about prices and availability.
Our partner will contact you within 24 hours (excluding weekends).
Our local partners:
👉 You can find our favorite experiences here.
6# You don’t want to worry about organizing your trip?
It takes time and experience to organize a good trip to Colombia.
If this is not something you want to do, you can hire a tailor-made travel specialist.
Many readers have used Bruce’s services, and all of them were satisfied. Besides, you’ll get a 5% discount because you’re a Tomplanmytrip reader.
👉 How do you decide if you should use the services of a Colombian travel agency?
In Colombia, the temperatures remain the same all year round. It only varies according to the altitude and the time of the day.
- 0 – 1400 m: It’s hot during the day and pleasant at night.
- 1400 – 1900 m: hot during the day and cool at night (a light jacket will be enough)
- 1900 – 2700 m: hot or cool during the day and cold at night (jumper + jacket).
- + 3000 m: Bring warm clothes.
There are many micro-climates in Colombia. Generally, the dry months are from mid-December to the end of March and mid-July to mid-September.
It is a tropical country. The rains are heavy and brief. The rainy months will not prevent you from enjoying the country (except for some activities).
It implies more people and higher prices. Some tourist places can be overrun with tourists:
- 18 public holidays. Most of them will be on a Monday. Here is the list.
- Christmas and NYE. For Colombians, family is very important. They all meet somewhere on this occasion.
- Holy Week: Most Colombians are religious. The two weeks during Easter attract a lot of travelers.
- Mid-December to February: Colombians and foreigners travel to Colombia. Many of them stay around Cartagena & Santa Marta.
- August: International foreigners.
In Colombia, there is always a reason to party. Each city organizes at least one festival per year. Some are free. Others are not. In any case, book your accommodation in advance.
👉 Here is the list of the most famous festivals in Colombia.
Here are a few dates to keep in mind:
- Rainbow river in Caño Cristales: Mid-June to November.
- Whale watching on the Pacific Coast: Mi-July to October.
- The Lost City Trek is closed in September.
- Tayrona National Park is usually closed in February, 01/06 to 15/06 & 19/10 to 02/11.
MAJOR CITIESMost cities in Colombia aren’t sexy. It can be loud, polluted, and dirty — like every city in the world. However, there are many reasons why you would like to include some of them in your Colombia itinerary.
- Some local guides speak French/English
- Local travel agencies offer kickass tours and activities
- It’s easier to get there (airport & bus terminal)
- Interesting museums & local attractions to learn about Colombia’s history and culture
- It’s your best chance to experience a fantastic nightlife
Colombia has two coastlines.
The Caribbean coast, with its white-sand beach, is the most popular (especially between Cartagena and Palomino). If you are looking for villages less frequented by tourists, you can go to Capurgana, Rincón del Mar, or Dibulla.
The Pacific coast is wild and cut off from the world. Each inhabitant has several jobs and lives from day to day. Organizing activities will be more tricky and expensive, but the experience will be unforgettable.
COLONIAL TOWNSThe colonial cities of Colombia are lovely to visit, but the genuine interest lies in the atmosphere. And you won’t get that by going through the place in 30 seconds like a hurry hummingbird. Here is what you should do:
- There are always some excellent activities to do around.
- Try all the restaurants and decide which one is your favorite
- Stay in a lovely guesthouse and lay back for an afternoon
- Grab a coffee on the main square and watch bystanders
Paso del Mango and Minca are located in the famous Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Caribbean coast). It’s the most accessible option to get a taste of the Colombian jungle.
Travelers who like to get off the beaten path can head to the Putumayo and enjoy the waterfalls around Mocoa.
And finally, nothing is more exciting than a stay in the Amazon. To do so, you must first fly to Leticia.
Many small paradise islands lie along the Caribbean coast. You can hide from the world on the discreet Isla Fuerte, enjoy the beautiful white sand beach of Isla Tintipan or rent a private island in the Rosario archipelago. All are less than an hour by boat from the coast.
On the other hand, Providencia, my favorite island, is only accessible by plane. It is the perfect spot to rest and dive.
Learn about Colombian islands.
Head to the photographic desert of Tatacoa to observe the stars or discover the fascinating Wayuu culture during a trip of several days in the desert of Guajira.
HISTORICAL SITESColombia isn’t like Peru, Guatemala, or Mexico. You won’t find great pyramids or other mysterious constructions. However, Colombians found many gold artifacts and proof of old civilizations, especially two crucial necropolis sites in the South of Colombia, both declared UNESCO world heritage sites. You will find them in Tierradentro and San Agustin.
If you decide to venture east of Bogotá (in the savannahs), you will discover a strong llanera culture, with vast cattle farms and where employees cherish their horses more than anyone else. It is also the ideal place to observe the animals. You can decide to go to Villavicencio or Yopal.
Discover our favorite llanos tours (from Yopal).
SECRET PLACESMany incredible destinations are not yet developed for tourism. Therefore, the most interesting solution is to arrange a stay over several days with a local agency. They’ll take care of all the logistics. My 3 favorite destinations are: San José del Guaviare, Caño Cristales & La Guajira.
Staying in an ecolodge is another option to enjoy a unique place without stressing about the organization.
These establishments are often in isolated places and provide the customer with all the necessary services to enjoy the place (transport, guide, meals).
My 3 favorite ecolodges are in El Valle, Guachalito, and Leticia.
MULTI DAY HIKES
The Andean mountains allow you to make incredible treks, cross many ecosystems, and enjoy a variety of landscapes.
Los Nevados Park is ideal for hikers who want to discover the páramos and venture on glaciers at 5,000 m altitude.
Travelers who prefer an easier multi-day trek can book the Ciudad Perdida trek to cross through the dense vegetation of the Sierra Nevada.
There are many ways to immerse yourself in Colombian culture. The easiest way is to stay a few days in a big city. Book a guided tour, visit the museums, watch a football game, play tejo and go out at least once to a salsa bar.
Then head to a colonial town to observe the lifestyle of the inhabitants in the countryside and book a coffee tour.
Adventure tourism is growing in Colombia thanks to its stunning rivers and canyons.
Canyoning, rafting, and paragliding activities are available in many areas, especially in San Gil, Bogotá, Medellín, Villavicencio, and Ibague.
Lovers of the underwater world should go to Providencia or Isla Gorgona.
There are 59 national parks in Colombia, representing 14% of the country’s surface. Some of these protected areas are open to the public.
Tayrona and the archipelago of Rosario and San Bernardo are the most famous parks.
List of the best Colombia National Parks
Fancy white sand beaches, palm trees, and cocktails? With over 3200 km of coastline, Colombia offers many sunbathing options to travelers.
My favorite beaches are Guachalito, El Almejal, Cinto, Sapzurro, Rincón del Mar and Manzanillo.
Find the best beaches in Colombia.
Nature lovers can observe many animals between the Amazon, the Pacific coast, and Los llanos.
I reviewed 2 excellent Colombian safaris.
Colombia Packing list
1# My favorite items
I won’t make a list of everything you should take. We’re all different. However, I can tell you what you should take to make your life easier in Colombia:
- A hiking outfit.
- A beach outfit.
- An underwater outfit — I’m kidding. But Colombia is a tropical country. It’s always good to have a raincoat with you.
- A sweater and a jacket if you plan to be away from the coast. The nights are cool from 1750 m of altitude. And there are many mountains in Colombia!
- Zipper bags (plastic) – to keep your essential papers dry.
- Packing cubes to organize things in the bag and save a little space. It is a life changer!
- A reusable water bottle to avoid buying plastic bottles.
- Everything you need to be protected from the sun
- Mosquito repellent. We usually buy Nopikex in Colombia.
- Some Imodium if you have a weak stomach. Some travelers need a few days to adjust.