2022 Colombia Travel Guide from the Experts

Colombian colourful town

Last updated on August 10th, 2021 at 07:25 pm

This Colombia Travel Guide will provide you with real world experience and information about activities, points of interest, accommodation, nightlife, restaurants, flights and connections and much more. You will find no better guide.

Dear Reader
My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!

Top things to do in Colombia

Below are what I think are the most interesting sights in Colombia. However, there is much more to discover. Therefore, in the course of this guide, there is much more information about all of Colombia.

Monserrate (Bogota)

Monserrate is Bogota’s local mountain and a visit is actually a must. The valley station is located in the immediate vicinity of the old town and can also be reached on foot from there. A gondola and a funicular take visitors to the summit.

You drive from 2,650 meters above sea level to over 3,150 meters above sea level (8,700-10,335 feet above sea level). There is also a footpath. However, I recommend acclimatizing yourself first after arriving in Bogota and not overestimating yourself.

I also advise against visiting on weekends and public holidays. At the summit you will be rewarded with a fantastic view over Bogota and the hinterland. There are also restaurants, shops and a church. You should plan at least 2 hours for the visit.

The Gold Museum (Bogota)

The Bogota Gold Museum is probably the most important museum in Colombia. It can be reached in 5 minutes on foot from the old town. The Gold Museum shows the history of Colombia in a unique way.

From the collection of over 55,000 pieces, around 6,000 pieces are exhibited. The Eldorado gold raft is the highlight of the collection. I also recommend a visit to non-museum fans. Museum enthusiasts should read my overview of the museums in Colombia.

Gold Museum in Bogota

La Candelaria (Bogota)

Bogota was founded in 1538 by the Spanish colonialists. The area was previously inhabited by the Muiscas. La Candelaria is the colonial old town of Bogota and a visit is an absolute must. You will also find various museums, the congress and the President’s house here.

You can explore the old town on foot and take a break in one of the numerous cafes. Unfortunately, the old town is not protected enough and you see more and more architectural sins in the middle of the colonial structures.

Graffiti Tour (Bogota)

Learn about the history of the great street art in Bogota and the history associated with it, which is more far-reaching than you think. The tour changes depending on the tour guide and the graffiti is also repeatedly painted over to make room for new works of art. This tour is a highlight when visiting the capital.

The Salt Cathedral Zipaquira (Bogota)

Zipaquira Salt Cathedral was built in an active salt mine. Various works of art are exhibited in the rooms around 200 meters below the surface. The Salt Cathedral is around 60 minutes from Bogota and a visit is highly recommended.

Villa de Leyva (Bogota)

Colombia has a network of 17 historic cities that have been classified as the country’s cultural heritage. Villa de Leyva was founded in 1572 and is an absolute gem of colonial architecture.

About 4 hours drive from Bogota, the historic city, with one of the largest central squares in Colombia, is also a popular destination for the residents of the capital.

Guatapé and El Peñol (Medellin)

Guatape is about a 2-hour drive from Medellin. The colorful village on a reservoir is the perfect destination for a day tour. The large rock El Penol right next door can be climbed via countless steps. The view over the lake and island landscape is wonderful.

Comuna 13 (Medellin)

The Comuna 13 neighborhood has gone from being one of the most dangerous places in Colombia to being a tourist magnet. The street art reflects the history of not just the neighborhood but the whole city.

Comuna 13 can be easily reached by metro. However, I recommend taking a guided tour on site because the information and history are super interesting. You can also support local businesses with consumption or the purchase of products.

Comuna13 Medellin Colombia

Cartagena (Cartagena)

An UNESCO heritage town you need to explore. Cartagena is the pearl of the Caribbean and the colonial district is second to none. The destination also offers plenty of luxury and is hard to beat when it comes to romance.

Parque Tayrona (Santa Marta)

The most important Colombian national park in Colombia is only around an hour’s drive from Santa Marta. You can either go on a day trip or spend the night in the park. A visit to this park is almost a must when visiting Santa Marta.

Tayrona Park Colombia

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

The highest coastal mountains in the world rise from sea level on the Caribbean coast to 5,700 meters (18,700 Feet) above sea level. This region is still inhabited by indigenous tribes.

Nature fans absolutely get their money’s worth there. A variety of activities can be practiced, from visiting waterfalls to bird and animal watching to hiking.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Lost City (Santa Marta)

The Lost City is located deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and was built around 700 BC. In 1973 an expedition discovered the ruins. The great 4-day hike has now become a tourist magnet. Tours are started in an 4×4 vehicle from Santa Marta.

Valle de Cocora (Coffee Triangle)

The Valle de Cocora is one of the most popular destinations for residents and foreigners. The valley can be reached via the town of Salento in the department of Quindio. There are various hiking trails and you can see the wax palm, the tallest palm in the world.

Coffee Experience (Coffee Triangle)

Colombia is coffee and coffee is Colombia. A trip to Colombia should therefore be combined with a visit to a coffee farm in a coffee-growing area. There are also many places where you can stay overnight on a coffee farm.

Carnivals (Festivals of Colombia)

Colombia is the land of celebration and hardly any other country can you find such diversity. The carnivals in Barranquilla and Pasto are the best known. You can find more information about festivals in Colombia here.

Colombian Safari (Casanare)

When it comes to safari, everyone thinks of Africa, but there is also safari in Colombia. The Llanos are a huge area and extend into Venezuela. Cattle breeders share the area with a spectacular number of animals.

So if you want to look for capybaras, crocodiles, anteaters or anacondas like a cowboy on horseback, this is exactly the right destination. As an alternative to the horse, there are also vehicles. The best offers are in the Casanare department. You can fly to the capital Yopal directly from Bogota.

Chiguiro Capibara Colombia

Punta Gallinas (La Guajira)

I can absolutely recommend the trip through the desert to one of the most magical points in the world. This tour takes you through the Wayuu territory with an 4×4 vehicle.

On the trip you see incredible landscapes and visit a dune that ends directly in the sea.

Punta Gallinas Colombia

Providencia (Islands)

Anyone who has ever dreamed of the perfect Caribbean island will not be disappointed on Providencia. The beautiful sea of 7 colors is a natural spectacle of a special kind. Lonely beaches and ingenious diving grounds are only 2 of the many points worth mentioning. You also will be far from the tourist crowds.

The journey takes place via the island of San Andres.

Providencia Beach Colombia

The End of the World (Putumayo)

Putumayo is an absolute natural paradise and is still unknown to tourists. In addition to various activities, you should definitely put the end of the world on your list.

Whale Watching (Bahia Solano, Choco)

The Pacific coast in Colombia is an absolute natural paradise and is considered one of the most bio diverse zones on the planet. A visit is definitely worth it. Better yet, coordinate a trip with the whale watching season, which runs from June to November.

There are direct flights from Medellin or Bogota via Quidbo.

Introduction

Colombia is a mega diverse country with over 55,000 different species whereas over 9’000 are endemics. It has a size of 1.142 km2 and is slightly bigger than France & Germany combined or the same size as the 2 biggest States in the USA, Texas and California. The Spaniards started to conquer Colombia in 1499 and it was liberated in 1819 by Simón Bolívar. It has a population of approximately 50 million inhabitants, which are a mix of different ethnicities.

Colombia contains three Andean Mountain Ranges and has shores to the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. Due to its proximity to the equator, the temperature is depending on the altitude which ranges from 0 to 5,700 meters (18,700 feet) with the Pico Cristobal Colón as the highest peak. There is a rainy and a dry season.

The main language is Spanish but there are also over 80 recognized indigenous languages. The currency is the Colombian Peso.

Direct flights to Colombia

Direct flights from Europe to Bogotá

Direct flights from North America to Bogotá

Direct flights from Latin America to Bogotá

International direct flights to Medellín

International direct flights to Cali

International direct flights to Cartagena

International direct flights to Barranquilla

Arrival at the airport in Bogota

Upon arrival at the airport in Bogota, you will walk out and on the way, you will see a service to exchange money. I recommend getting Colombian Pesos at one of the ATMs in the airport instead. The maximum will be COP 700,000.—to withdraw at once. You will be able to make several withdrawals.
Walking out of the secure zone there will be many people offering taxi service. If you do not have a service picking you up, don’t let them bother you and walk outside to the official taxi stand, it is visible. A ride will cost you between 20’ and 30’ thousand pesos to La Candelaria.
If you would like to take the bus, take the M86 until “Concejo de Bogota”. If you go to La Candelaria switch to Bus number 1 that brings you to “Universidades”, the final station and 5 minutes walk to La Candelaria. Saying that, you will need a bus card. Sometimes you can buy it at the airport, sometimes not. You also can take the green bus to Portal El Dorado, which is a very big bus station, where you can buy a bus card and continue travelling by bus.

Destinations

Cities

Bogotá

Bogota has a population of over 10 million and sits at an altitude of over 2,600 meters (8,600 ft). It is the capital of Colombia and is also one of the biggest cities in South America. The temperature ranges between 7° and 20° Celsius (44.6° – 68°F). The weather is usually unpredictable and in one day one can experience sun, rain, hail, hot and cold.

The tourist areas are usually limited to La Candelaria to the south and to Usaquen to the North. Popular tourist districts are the Zona T, Chapinero and Chapinero Alto. Bogota has a very vivid cultural agenda and there is always something to do. The best way to get around is by public transport outside of peak hours or taxi.

Find more detailed information in our Bogotá Travel Guide.

La Candelaria Houses in Bogotá

Medellín

Medellin has a population of over 4 million and is situated at an altitude of over 1,500 meters (5,000 ft). It is the capital of the department of Antioquia and is also known as the city of eternal spring. Also, it is rated as one of the most dynamic and innovative cities in Latin America. The temperature ranges between 10° and 35° Celsius (50° – 95°F). The weather is usually unpredictable and in one day one can experience sun, rain, hail, hot and cold.

The tourist areas are usually limited to El Poblado and Laureles. The best way to get around is by public transport outside of peak hours or taxi.

Find more detailed information in our Medellin Travel Guide.

Medellin Botero Square

Cartagena

Cartagena has a population of over 900,000 and is situated on sea level. It is the capital of the department of Bolivar and probably the most touristic city of Colombia. It became a UNESCO world heritage in 1984. The temperature ranges between 22° and 32° Celsius (71° – 90°F). The weather is usually hot and humid.

The tourist areas are usually limited to the walled city, La Matuna, Castillogrande, Bocagrande, Getsemani, San Diego and La Boquilla. The best way to get around is by taxi.

Find more detailed information in our Cartagena Travel Guide.

Cartagena view Bocagrande

Santa Marta

Santa Marta has a population of over 400,000 and is situated on sea level. It is the capital of the department of Magdalena. The temperature ranges between 22° and 32° Celsius (71° – 90°F). The weather is usually hot and humid.

The tourist area is usually limited to the historic city center. The best way to get around is by taxi.

Find more detailed information in our Santa Marta Travel Guide.

Santa Marta Streets

Cali

Cali has a population of over 2.5 million and is situated at an altitude of over 1,500 meters (4,900 ft). It is the capital of the department of Valle del Cauca and famous for its Salsa dancing. The temperature ranges between 18° and 30° Celsius (64° – 86°F). The weather is usually warm. The best way to get around is by taxi.

La Ermita Church Cali

Bucaramanga

Bucaramanga has a population of over 500,000 and is situated at an altitude of over 950 meters (3,100 ft). It is the capital of the department of Santander. The temperature ranges between 18° and 30° Celsius (65° – 86°F). The weather is usually warm. The best way to get around is by taxi.

Valledupar

Valledupar has a population of over 500,000 and is situated at an altitude of over 170 meters (560 ft). It is the capital of the department of Cesar. The temperature ranges between 17° and 39° Celsius (63° – 102°F). The weather is usually hot. The best way to get around is by taxi.

Pereira

Pereira has a population of over 450,000 and is situated at an altitude of over 1,400 meters (4,590 ft). It is the capital of the department of Risaralda. The temperature ranges between 17° and 35° Celsius (63° – 95°F). The weather is usually warm. The best way to get around is by taxi.

Find more detailed information in our Coffee Region Travel Guide.

Pasto

Pasto has a population of over 450,000 and is situated at an altitude of over 2,500 meters (8,200 ft). It is the capital of the department of Narino. The temperature ranges between 1° and 25° Celsius (34° – 77°F). The weather is usually cold. The best way to get around is by taxi.

For more information, see our Narino Tourist Information.

Manizales

Manizales has a population of over 350,000 and is situated at an altitude of over 2,200 meters (7,200 ft). It is the capital of the department of Caldas. The temperature ranges between 6° and 28° Celsius (43° – 82°F). The weather is usually warm. The best way to get around is by taxi.

Find more detailed information in our Coffee Region Travel Guide.

Catedral Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario Manizales

Armenia

Armenia has a population of over 300,000 and is situated at an altitude of over 1,550 meters (5,085 ft). It is the capital of the department of Quindio. The temperature ranges between 16° and 28° Celsius (60° – 82°F). The weather is usually warm. The best way to get around is by taxi.

Find more detailed information in our Coffee Region Travel Guide.

City of Armenia Colombia

Riohacha

Riohacha has a population of over 150,000 and is situated at an altitude of over 5 meters (16 ft). It is the capital of the department of La Guajira. The temperature ranges between 17° and 39° Celsius (63° – 102°F). The weather is usually hot and dry. The best way to get around is by taxi.

Find more detailed information in our La Guajira Travel Guide.

Riohacha City Guajira

Popayán

Popayan has a population of over 400,000 and is situated at an altitude of over 1,750 meters (5,740 ft). It is the capital of the department of Cauca. The temperature ranges between 8° and 28° Celsius (46° – 82°F). The weather is usually warm. The best way to get around is by taxi.

Please see our Popayan Tourist Information for more information.

Popayan Streets

Yopal

Yopal has a population of over 150,000 and is situated at an altitude of over 350 meters (1,150 ft). It is the capital of the department of Casanare. The temperature ranges between 20° and 33° Celsius (68° – 92°F). The weather is usually hot. The best way to get around is by taxi.

Find more detailed information in our Casanare Travel Guide.

Statue in Yopal Casanare

Tumaco

Tumaco has a population of over 200,000 and is situated at an altitude of over 2 meters (6 ft). It is situated in the department of Cauca. The temperature ranges between 16° and 36° Celsius (60° – 97°F). The weather is usually warm. The best way to get around is by taxi.

For more information, see our Narino Tourist Information.

Tumaco Beach Boat

Backpackers

Below you will find destinations where usually backpackers go. Find my opinion and what to do there.

Salento

Salento is a town in the coffee triangle and the department of Quindio. It is the entrance door to get to the Cocora Valley. It used to be a beautiful town in the area and very original. Today it is a main destination for backpackers and many foreigners buy real estate to invest in tourism.

It partly lost its local charm as gentrification continues and locals have more and more troubles paying the high costs of living. It is packed with restaurants, bars and hostels. Travelers who want to meet other travelers and have party nights are advised to go there. Visitors who seek for a Colombian experience should better avoid it.

Salento is also an excellent starting point for mountain bike tours and hikes. Find more detailed information in our Coffee Region Travel Guide.

Willys Jeeps Salento

Palomino

Palomino is known as the hippie town of Colombia. You can get there easily from Santa Marta for no money. Arriving there can be quite shocking as the main road where the bus stops is not the most beautiful place in the world. You will find many shops, restaurants and hostels. The dirt roads can be flooded after rain.

If you are looking for Yoga, vegetarian food or spiritual enlightenment, this might be a good destination for you. The beach is ok but not great for swimming. The surrounding area is beautiful with the Sierra Nevada rising from the coastline. There are activities like Tubing on the Palomino River, visiting the Quebrada Valencia Waterfall, learning about the indigenous culture in the Taironaka or various tours with local providers.

Some people feel magic in Palomino which I personally never experienced. To me, it became an extension of Taganga close to Santa Marta, which is Colombia’s Sodom and Gomorrah.

Find more detailed information in our La Guajira Travel Guide.

Minca

Minca is a great destination to escape from the Caribbean heat. Just jump on one of the 4X4 colectivos in Santa Marta and within an hour you will arrive. The little town is situated around 650 meters above sea level and is the entrance door to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

In recent years, there was quite a boom and many hostels and other accommodations offer their services. After arrival, you can easily take a Mototaxi to get to other places. Destinations with beautiful nature like Minca also face some risks.

Today not only international travelers are attracted but also Colombians are arriving by busload. The natural pools close by turn into massive crowded Colombian family gatherings with some negative side effects as in Colombia most people still are used to bring a lot of stuff and leave tons of trash.

Whoever wants to experience some peaceful days is therefore advised to look for accommodation uphill. There are great plans for hiking, night tours finding the crystal frog, visiting La Victoria Coffee Farm, going up to San Lorenzo for Birdwatching and much more. I stayed about 90 minutes uphill on 1,600 meters in a Coffee Farm with a view over Santa Marta and the Caribbean. If you want to enjoy the greatest experience, I advise you to get up to the hill as far you can get.

Find more detailed information in our Santa Marta Travel Guide.

Taganga

I visited Taganga for the first time in 2009 as a backpacker. Already then it was a party destination. It is still a fisher village and a backpacker and party destination but to me a great example of what can go wrong when tourism arrives. It still has some nice places and having some food above the bay and enjoying sunrise or sunset is a great experience.

Today I call it Sodom and Gomorrah of Colombia. Taganga is famous for wild parties, drugs, prostitution and also child abuse. It is also not a secret that mostly Israeli males are in conflict with the local authorities and when talking to locals in Santa Marta they claim this nationality as the main source of the problems.

Find more detailed information in our Santa Marta Travel Guide.

San Gil

In the department of Santander, one of the best outdoor sites of Colombia you find the little town of San Gil. You can fly to Bucaramanga and take the bus for 2 and a half hours to San Gil, or take a bus (also overnight bus) from Bogota, which will take you around 6 hours.

San Gil is actually a very ugly town but the outdoor activities are great. From river rafting to paragliding and hiking, no wishes will stay unsatisfied.

Destinations away from tourist crowds

La Guajira

La Guajira is one of the most interesting departments of Colombia but it is also one of the poorest. Have you heard of Palomino? This is already in La Guajira. Then it stretches all the way up until it hits the Caribbean Sea and therefore also is the northernmost point of the continent. It also borders Venezuela. It is mostly desert and the landscapes are spectacular.

To get to Riohacha you can either take a bus, a private transport or fly there from Bogota. The capital is nothing special, but I think in the future it will develop and more hostels will open. To me, the interesting sites are more north. Getting to Cabo de la Vela is very easy. You can either organize your trip with a local travel agency or look for a “colectivo” taking you to Uribia and then taking another “collective” 4×4 (they usually transport goods and locals).

Also, you can take the regular bus to Cuatro Vias, from there you have cars that bring you to Uribia and then you also can take the “colectivo”. All in all from Riohacha to Cabo de la Vela it takes approx. 4 hours.

Cabo de la Vela is a Kitesurf paradise, has a nice beach that has shallow water for a long time and is the perfect spot to chill. The landscape is spectacular. From there you also can travel up to Punta Gallinas.

Find more detailed information in our La Guajira Travel Guide.

Beach Guajira Colombia

Casanare

Llanos of Casanare is one of my favorite destinations in Colombia and like my second home. It is the Cowboy Land of Colombia where you will see the true cattle business and also can be part of it. It is part of a greater area that stretches into Venezuela.

It is a tropical grassland plain, hot and with a strong rainy season. It is the perfect destination to do a Llanos Safari where you can spot animals like Puma, Jaguar, Anaconda, Chiguiros, Orinoco Crocodiles, Babillas, Nutrias and much more. It is also a great destination for birdwatching.

Find more detailed information in our Casanare Travel Guide.

Cattle in Casanare Colombia

Meta

Llanos of Meta is very similar to the Llanos of Casanare but a bit different. Part of it is the Chingaza Natural Park. That means it contains altitudes between 450- 4,000 meters (1,450 – 13,000 feet). There is more influence from the Amazon region and also you will find Canon Cristales in this department. It is also a great destination for birdwatching.

Hills in Meta Colombia

Chocó

The Choco is situated on the pacific coast and is mostly nature. There are actually only 2 towns you can visit as the area partly is occupied by Narcos or armed groups. Bahia Solano and Nuqui are safe though, as there are also battalions of the Marines.

It is a great destination for whale watching during the season, which starts in June until November. Also, nature is great. You can get there either with direct flights from Medellin or from Bogota with a stop over in Quibdo.

Palm Trees and Beach in Chocó

Amazonas

There are actually different departments in Colombia that are part of the Amazon. The most popular destination is Leticia, which borders Peru and Brazil. You only can get there by flying. There are lots of cool activities you can do there. If you are afraid of spiders or insects, this might be not the ideal destination for you.

Please see our Amazon Tourist Information for more information.

Amazon Jungle

Nariño

The department of Nariño is one of the undiscovered treasures of Colombia. The department borders Ecuador to the south and has coastline and Volcanoes. International and even national tourism is on a very low scale. The temperature is mostly cold but the landscape and natural treasures to discover are great.

For more information, see our Narino Tourist Information.

La Coha Lake Nariño

Cesar

The department of Cesar is a real surprise. It is situated at the backside of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The climate is great and nature just spectacular. You can swim in virgin crystal clear rivers with NOBODY around. The Capital Valledupar is also famous for its Vallenato.

River in Cesar Colombia

Islands of Colombia

Colombia has 2 cost lines, one to the Pacific, one to the Atlantic. Therefore many Islands are part of Colombia. Below you will find a brief overview of the most important and touristic islands.

Isla Gorgona

Gorgona Island became more famous in recent years. It was once a prison until 1984 the island was converted into a National Natural Park. It is great for birdwatching, diving, whale watching and nature tourism in general.

You can get there by boat from Buenaventura (approx. 4 hours) or you fly to Guapi from Cali and then take the boat (approx. 1.5 hours).

Malpelo

Situated in the Pacific Ocean, Malpelo is mostly named in connection with the more famous island Gorgona. It is also known for diving and ecotourism. It can be reached from Buenaventura by boat in approx. 30 hours.

San Andres and Providencia Islands

Those 2 islands are actually on the latitude of Nicaragua and quite far away from the mainland of Colombia. Having said that, it is actually easy to get there with direct flights from Cartagena and Bogota. To Providencia, you have small airplanes to San Andres which take you there in about 15 minutes.

San Andres would be a great island but is targeting mass tourism with all its negative impact. Providencia still is a Caribbean paradise.

Providencia Beach Colombia

Rosario Islands

The Rosario Islands are actually a natural park and you can reach them by boat from Cartagena in about 45 minutes. They are great for snorkeling, visiting different beaches or also having some party in Cholon. From Cartagena, most operators have some plans but I really suggest renting a private boat to spend a quality day.

There are also various hotels on different islands, whereas I cannot recommend any of them as the quality can be good one day and terrible the next.

Isla Fuerte

This island is a hidden gem and you can get there from Paso Nuevo in the department of Cordoba. It is part of the Islas Rosario and has beaches and a reef for snorkeling and diving and also accommodation.

Santa Cruz del Islote

The island can be accessed by ferry from Tolu. The Island is very small and densely populated. It is probably the most crowded place in Colombia.

Isla Mucura

You can get there from Cartagena or Tolu by boat. Life is simple on the island and accommodation very basic.

Isla Baru

Not a real island but a semi-island close to Cartagena. You can get there by car or boat. You will find different hotels there. Also, Playa Blanca is situated on Isla Baru.

Colombian Luxury Destinations

Colombia is still very new in tourism. Therefore infrastructure and service quality still have potential for improvement. Although in some cities you have some great hotels, throughout the country the luxury offer is mostly still missing.

But on my travels, I encountered more and more people with a vision investing heavily to improve the overall quality. So far I would say, the luxury in traveling Colombia lays especially in the rich nature and the unique places one can experience.

If you are looking for top-notch luxury, Bogota and Cartagena will be your main destinations. There are also a few other luxury offers throughout the country but those are quite special. If you require, helicopters, airplanes or jets, they also can be chartered.

For more information, see our luxury travel guide to Colombia.

Playing Golf in Colombia

Playing golf in Colombia will be a unique experience. There are over 50 golf courses around the country. You can play from sea level up to 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) in different climate zones year around. Having said that, most of the Golf courses are private and you will not have access as an individual traveler.

Find more detailed information in our Colombia Golf Travel Guide.

Cultural and History Travel

Culture and History in Colombia

Evidence of the first inhabitants of the territory that we know today as Colombia dates back to approximately 16,000 years ago. These nomadic groups traveled from the north through the Bering Strait and then down the Isthmus of Panama. They were following animals and finding fertile lands to domesticate plants for cultivation.

These men colonized the different geographical regions of the territory, developing different cultures and economies that responded to particular conditions and subsequently to their relationship with other human groups.

It was at the beginning of the 16th century when the Spaniards began conquering the territory looking for El Dorado, which led to the disappearance of several of the indigenous communities in its path.

Together with the arrival of the African population due to the slave trade, a process of miscegenation resulted in a great diversity of cultures throughout the territory.

Colombia became independent at the beginning of the 19th century, and since experienced different wars and problems within the country. Even today we have some security problems in remote regions. However, we must emphasize that today, since the signing of the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, violence decreased tremendously.

17 Heritage Towns

There are 17 heritage towns in Colombia of which you should visit at least some. All of them are colonial architecture towns and beautiful. Some are bigger, some smaller. Some are more touristic, others are very original and seem to be stuck in the last century.  Not all of them are easy to get to or worth the effort. Watch the video or check the list below.

1. Aguadas

Aguadas is a very pretty town, not yet very developed in terms of tourism. The choice of hotels is limited.

2. Barichara

To me, this is the most beautiful town in Colombia. It also provides a perfect climate and beautiful nature. Situated in the department of Santander, you can either take the bus or overnight bus from Bogota (approx. 10hrs) or fly to Bucaramanga and drive (approx. 3.5 hrs.) and also combine the trip with a visit of the canon de Chicamocha.

3. Buga

I haven’t been there

4. Ciénaga

I haven’t been there

5. El Socorro

I haven’t been there

6. Honda

Honda can be visited from Bogota by car within 4 hours. It is a small town and was once very important as it is situated right next to the river Magdalena. The historic part is on a hill with a good view of the surrounding landscape. A visit should be combined with Guaduas.

7. Jericó

This beautiful historic town can be reached quickly from Medellin. You can also find good hotels. There is also a lot to discover outside the town.

8. Guaduas

Guaduas is close to Honda and the historic part is small and nice. A visit should be combined with Honda.

9. Jardín

Jardin is one of my favorite historic towns in Colombia. Not only the town is very cozy and beautiful, also it is surrounded by great nature.

10. La Playa de Belén

I haven’t been there

11. Lorica

I haven’t been there

12. Mompox

Some say Mompox is the most beautiful colonial town in Colombia. I am not sure about that. To be honest, getting there is quite a hazel unless you take the boat. The town is small and pretty but with that infernal hot and humid climate, I left already after one night.

13. Monguí

Located about 4 hours by car from Bogota in the department of Boyaca, this town is a great destination for 1 or 2 days. The best hotel is basic and the nights are cold. If you go, you also should visit the “Paramo de Ocetá

14. San Juan de Girón

I haven’t been there

15. Salamina

One of my favorites, Salamina is in the department of Caldas. From Manizales, it is about 2 hours by car on curvy roads. It is a great town and feels like time stood still. Combine your trip there with a visit to the wax palm forest.

16. Santa Fé de Antioquia

Santa Fe is about 90 minutes from Medellin. The climate is great and the town very beautiful. If you go to Medellin, this is a great and close option.

17. Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva is probably the most famous colonial and touristic town of Colombia. People from Bogota love to visit it, although it takes almost 4 hours to get there. It is quite big and offers great activities in and outside town.

7 Wonders of Colombia

The Colombians chose the 7 Wonders of Colombia in 2007. Each of those is worth a visit after my opinion.

1. Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira

This impressive cathedral embedded in an active salt mine is almost a must-visit when coming to Bogota. You can get there in about 1 hour from the capital.

2. Las Lajas Sanctuary

This Cathedral is the most impressive I have seen so far. It is not around the corner but you can get there in 2 hours by car from Pasto.

3. San Agustin Archaeological Park

There are actually different Archaeological Parks around San Agustin and it is worth having a guide and a car to visit all of them.

4. Military Architecture of Cartagena

If you go to Cartagena, you can walk around and check it all out by yourself. There are also different tour operators but I am not sure if you need a guided tour if you just would like to see it and are not interested in much background information.

5. Ciudad Perdida

Starting from Santa Marta it will take you 90 minutes to the start point and 4, 5, or 6 days to do the hike. This trip only can be done with a local operator.

6. Tierradentro

Tierradentro is a holdover from pre-Colombian culture. It is an archaeological park and is about 2 hours drive from San Agustin. It’s the last Colombian miracle that I’m missing from my list.

7. Teatro de Cristobal Colon

In the center of La Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota, you can see it from outside or also make a tour, which you will need to organize in advance.

Where to stay?

Since this section would be very extensive, we have embedded our recommendations in the travel guides for each region. However, here is a reference to some interesting recommendations.

Transportation in Colombia

Colombia is as big as France and Germany or California and Texas combined. There are many mountains and therefore average ground speed is about 40 Km/h. Believe me, I traveled the country several times by car. Therefore I recommend flying if you have to travel for longer distances. For budget travelers, there are also overnight buses, which today are very comfortable.

Read everything about the topic in my blog about transportation in Colombia.

Flying

Following you will find the list of the different airlines that operate within the country. It is also possible to charter airplanes. Note that sometimes it is difficult to buy a ticket online.

Bus

Getting around Colombia by bus is very easy. On public holidays you should buy your tickets well in advance. You can either go to the local bus terminal or also buy your ticket online. Check the following App that will help you a lot (redBus app).

The following companies are quality bus providers in Colombia. There are also many crappy ones and the prices sometimes even do not differ too much.

Others

For getting around in the cities I recommend a taxi or Uber. You should not pick it up on the street but order it from an app ask Hotel/Restaurant etc. to order it.

Some apps you can use:

Best time to go to Colombia

It can be said, that the peak tourism months are from December to March. During Easter week in April, all Colombians are travelling. Also take into account that in Colombia are over 18 public holidays, usually on a Monday. On long weekends popular tourist destinations can get very busy and prices rise.

It is difficult to advise you on when to come to Colombia as dry and wet seasons differ from region to region and everything depends on where you would like to go and what activities you want to do.

In the Amazon and the Orinoquia, you will have to decide if you want the water level of the water bodies up or down. If the level of the Amazon river is low, you will not be able to access some of the sites per boat. In the Orinoquia some of the sites become inaccessible during the rainy season.

For 4 years I travelled the whole country throughout the year and the only thing I try to avoid is the Caribbean coast between September and October, as hurricanes (they don’t come to Colombia) can bring a lot of rain for many days to the region.

How to choose the best travel agency for coming to Colombia

Not all of us are backpackers and have plenty of time to spoil and a limited budget. Especially in Colombia traveling with a professional has its advantages. After years in the country, I am still surprised how things can go wrong, like cancelled flights, missing hotel reservations, closed roads, etc.

Choosing the right travel agency for your needs can be a quite difficult decision. We think you deserve a trusted partner that offers you great service and that is 100% professional. Also, we believe it is a big advantage to have a travel agency in Colombia, knowing the country, the culture and having direct access to a network of specialists, being capable of taking actions and finding solutions right away, in case something goes wrong.
In the video, I explain more in depth about the different types of agencies, advantages and disadvantages.

Do you already feel like traveling to Colombia? We at Pelecanus are happy to organize your trip. Contact us directly for an appointment. We are a travel agency in Bogota Colombia.

Safety in Colombia

Colombia is safe as any other Latin American country in my opinion. We are far away from how Colombia was 20 years ago. For tourists today it is safe to travel the country.

Please find additional information in our video or in the links below.

Preparation before traveling to Colombia

Before traveling to Colombia you should make sure your passport is still valid and from your country there are no Visa restrictions. Depending on the region you would like to travel to, you might get a vaccine in advance.
Check our Medical Advice Blog for that.

And since Colombia is huge and there are a large number of travel destinations within the country, we have also taken the trouble to write a separate travel guide for the most important destinations. You will therefore find below the collection of our experiences and insights that we have collected and written down for you on our numerous trips across Colombia.

What to bring and what not to bring to Colombia?

There is actually nothing specific that you need to bring as most stuff you also can buy here in Colombia. Just be aware that depending on your itinerary you will travel into different climate zones and therefore will need clothes for warm and cold weather. Sun protection you should have at any time.
In the video, you will learn more about my thoughts.

Emergencies in Colombia

For every emergency, you encounter you can dial 123. This is the national emergency number of Colombia. If you do not have a local phone ask for the next police station. A list of all the embassies in Colombia you will find under the following links:

If you have a medical emergency, the health system in Colombia is considered very good. You should be able to prove to insurance that you will receive treatment. Following you will find a link for the best hospitals in Colombia.

https://globalhealthintelligence.com/the-best-hospitals-in-latin-america-2018/best-equipped-hospitals-in-colombia-2018/

Tips and tricks

There are some basic things to know about Colombia

  • Check passport is valid > 6 months
  • Advise Bank that you can get cash with your card at local ATM’s
  • If you are oversized, it can be difficult to get clothes or shoes in Colombia
  • Check your vaccines
  • Don’t bring expensive stuff or jewelry
  • Make a copy of your documents and carry them around
  • Learn some Spanish in advance
  • Don’t talk about Pablo Escobar
  • Don’t bring foreign money, use ATM’s instead to get cash
  • Tips are usually 10%. Sometimes it is included, sometimes not
  • Most people speak Spanish, English is not common
  • Emergency Number is 123
  • There are over 18 public holidays, don’t travel on those dates
  • Same as Semana Santa, the Easter holiday
  • Bring patience
  • Watch your drinks when you go out
  • Don’t take taxis on the street
  • Protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases

Also, check our 99 travel tips to get even more information about the topic.

Food in Colombia

Colombia is a food paradise. The soil is very fertile and everything grows like crazy. Therefore wherever you will go, you will be served freshly prepared food. You will never encounter convenience food. Saying that I have to outline, most of the food lacks seasoning for most people’s taste.

The cuisine is very regional and when traveling the country you will experience the variety of the country not only due to its climate and landscape but also with its food. In the colder regions, you have many soups and dishes loaded with calories whereas on the coast you can enjoy a whole range of different seafood.

Arepa is for sure the national food and you will find it wherever you go, but in different variations. We will also include a food section in the local travel guides so that you will know where to eat what.

Colombia is great in one particular service and this is home delivery. Whatever you need, you can order it online and soon it will be delivered to your doorstep. In big cities, you can use the following app and no wish will remain open: Rappi

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On our Blog you will find information about our past experiences as well as useful tips for planning your trip to Colombia.