Last updated on January 5th, 2023 at 11:42 am
My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
Top things to see in Colombia
Colombia has an incredible amount to offer, but many travelers limit themselves to a few regions and miss out on absolute highlights.
In the following I would therefore like to present my absolute top sights. Hopefully these serve as inspiration.
At the end of this guide you will also find links to our detailed guides to many other regions in Colombia.
Bogota is not only the capital of Colombia, but the center for almost everything. This destination vibrates and is by far the most interesting city in Colombia. If you want to visit museums, experience gastronomy, shop or experience a cultural program, Bogota is the perfect destination. Some of the most popular attractions in Bogota are:
Monserrate is Bogota’s local mountain and a visit is actually a must. The valley station is in the immediate vicinity of the old town and can also be reached on foot from there. A gondola and 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, after arriving in Bogota, I recommend acclimatizing first 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. You will also find restaurants, shops, a church. You should plan at least 2 hours for the visit.
The Gold Museum
The Gold Museum of Bogota 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 on display at a time. The Eldorado Gold Floss is the highlight of the collection.
I do not recommend a visit to museum fans either. Museum enthusiasts should read my overview of museums in Colombia.
Bogota was founded in 1538 by the Spanish colonialists. However, the area was previously inhabited by the Muiscas.
La Candelaria is the colonial old town of Bogota and a visit is a must. You will also find various museums, the Congress and the President’s House.
You can easily explore the old town on foot and take a break in one of the numerous coffee shops. Unfortunately, the old town is not protected enough and you can see more and more architectural sins amidst the colonial structures.
Learn about the history of great street art in Bogota and the history behind it that goes deeper than meets the eye.
The tour changes depending on the guide and the graffiti is always painted over to make room for new artwork. This tour is a highlight when visiting the capital.
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
The Zipaquira Salt Cathedral was built in an active salt mine. Various works of art are displayed in the rooms around 200 meters below the surface.
The Salt Cathedral is around 90 minutes from Bogota and a visit is highly recommended.
Villa de Leyva
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 a 4-hour drive from Bogota, the historic city, with one of the largest central squares in Colombia, is also a popular destination for residents of the capital.
Cartagena is the pearl of the Caribbean. The fortifications used to protect against pirate raids. Cartagena has an emblematic historic center and also offers a variety of luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants. The destination offers plenty of luxury and is hard to beat when it comes to romance.
Baru and Rosario Islands
The Caribbean beaches are only 45 minutes away by boat. The Rosario Islands are also ideal for diving.
Rincon del Mar and Archipelago de San Bernardo
Rincon del Mar can be reached from Cartagena in around 2.5 hours by car. The San Bernardo Islands can be reached in about 2 hours by boat.
Rincon del Mar is a fishing village but has better beaches than any destination between Cartagena and Riohacha (Tayrona Park excluded).
Medellin is the city of eternal spring and the climate is ideal all year round. Although the city is extremely popular with many travellers, expats and digital nomads, I personally find it a bit boring.
The Comuna 13 neighborhood has gone from being one of the most dangerous places in Colombia to becoming a magnet for tourists. The street art reflects the history not only of the neighborhood but of the whole city.
Comuna 13 can be easily reached by metro. However, I recommend 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.
Guatape and El Penol
Guatape is about a 2-hour drive from Medellin. The colorful village on a reservoir is the perfect destination for a day trip.
The large rock El Penol right next door can be climbed via countless steps. The view over the lake and island landscape is beautiful.
Santa Marta is the oldest city in South America and has a pretty little old town. Santa Marta is also an ideal starting point for various activities.
Colombia’s main national park is located just over an hour’s drive from Santa Marta. You can either take a day trip or stay overnight in the park.
A visit to this park is a must when in Santa Marta.
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
The highest coastal mountain range in the world rises from sea level on the Caribbean coast to 5,700 meters above sea level.
This region is still inhabited by indigenous tribes. Nature fans get their money’s worth there. From visiting waterfalls to bird and animal watching to hiking, various activities can be practiced.
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 with an all-terrain vehicle from Santa Marta.
The coffee triangle consists of the departments of Caldas, Risaralda, Quindio and parts of the departments of Tolima, Antioquia and Valle del Cauca.
The Valle de Cocora is one of the most popular excursion destinations for nationals and foreigners. The valley can be reached via the town of Salento in the department of Quindio. There are various hiking trails and you will find there the wax palm, the tallest palm tree in the world.
Colombia is coffee and coffee is Colombia. A trip to Colombia should therefore definitely be combined with a visit to a coffee farm in a coffee-growing region.
There are also many places where you can stay overnight on a coffee farm.
Punta Gallinas (La Guajira)
I can absolutely recommend the journey through the desert to one of the most magical points in the world. This tour travels through Wayuu territory in an all-terrain vehicle.
Colombian Safari (Casanare)
Everyone thinks of Africa when they think of safari, but there is also a safari in Colombia. The Llanos are a vast area and stretch all the way into Venezuela.
Cattle herders 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 for you. As an alternative to horses, there are also vehicles.
The best offers are in the department of Casanare. You can fly directly to the capital Yopal from Bogota.
Anyone who has ever dreamed of the perfect Caribbean island will not be disappointed at Providencia. The beautiful sea of 7 colors is a special kind of natural spectacle. Away from the crowds of tourists, lonely beaches and brilliant diving spots are just 2 of the many points worth mentioning.
The journey takes place via the island of San Andres.
Since July 2022 the island is open to tourism again, after it was devastated by a hurricane. I am not sure how ready the island is though.
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. Definitely worth a visit. Better yet, coordinate a trip with the whale watching season, which runs from June to November.
Also called the white city, Popayan is an absolute architectural gem. Definitely worth a visit.
San Agustin Archaeological Park
If you are interested in archaeological excavations, you should definitely visit San Agustin. The various parks with the stone statues are absolutely worth seeing.
Santander offers some interesting destinations. The Chicamocha Gorge alone is worth the journey. There are also some very interesting hikes throughout the department.
Barichara is probably the most beautiful village in Colombia.
San Gil is the premier resort for any extreme sport in Colombia and is only 30 minutes from Barichara.
Las Lajas (Narino)
Las Lajas is probably one of the most impressive cathedrals I have ever visited.
Anyone who has the opportunity to visit the Amazon once in their life should do so. The Amazon region covers around a third of Colombia’s surface. The main destination is Leticia. You can head to various destinations from there and also visit Iquitos in Peru or Manaure in Brazil by boat.
Introduction to Colombia
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
- Amsterdam (KLM)
- Barcelona (Avianca)
- Frankfurt (Lufthansa, Avianca)
- Istanbul (Turkish Airlines)
- London (Avianca)
- Madrid (AirEurope, Iberia, Avianca)
- Munich (Avianca)
- Paris (AirFrance)
Direct flights from North America to Bogotá
- Atlanta (Delta)
- Dallas (American Airlines)
- Fort Lauderdale (JetBlue, Spirit, Avianca, United Airlines)
- Houston (United Airlines)
- Los Angeles (Avianca, United Airlines)
- Miami (Avianca, American Airlines, United Airlines)
- New York (Avianca, United Airlines)
- Newark (United Airlines)
- Orlando (Spirit, Avianca, United Airlines)
- Toronto (Air Canada)
- Washington (Avianca, United Airlines)
Direct flights from Latin America to Bogotá
- Aruba (Avianca)
- Buenos Aires (Aerolineas Argentinas, Avianca)
- Cancun (Wingo, Interjet, Latam, Avianca)
- Caracas (Wingo, Avior Airlines)
- Lima (Latam, Viva Air, Avianca)
- Mexico City (Avianca, Interjet, Wingo, Latam, AeroMexico)
- Panama (Copa Airlines, Avianca)
- Punta Cana (Avianca)
- Quito (Avianca)
- San Salvador (Avianca)
- Santiago de Chile (Avianca, Latam)
- Sao Paolo (Latam, Avianca)
- Rio de Janeiro (Avianca)
International direct flights to Medellín
- Madrid (Avianca, AirEurope, Iberia)
- Caracas (Avior Airlines)
- Lima (Viva Air, Latam, Avianca)
- Ciudad de Panamá (Copa Airlines)
- Balboa (Panamá) (Wingo)
- México D.F. (Interjet, AeroMexico)
- Cancún (Interjet)
- Miami (American Airlines, Avianca, Viva Air)
- Fort Lauderdale (Spirit, JetBlue)
- Orlando (Spirit)
- New York (Avianca)
International direct flights to Cali
- Fort Lauderdale (Spirit)
- Miami (American Airlines, Avianca)
- Panama (Copa Airlines)
- Lima (Avianca, Latam)
International direct flights to Cartagena
- Miami (American Airlines, Avianca)
- Atlanta (Delta)
- New York (JetBlue)
- Orlando (Spirit)
- Fort Lauderdale (Spirit, JetBlue)
- Toronto (Air Canada) *Only seasonal
- Montreal (Air Transat) *Only seasonal
- Lima (Latam)
- Panama (Copa Airlines)
- Mexico (Interjet)
- Amsterdam (KLM) *Only direct to Amsterdam
International direct flights to Barranquilla
- Miami (Avianca)
- Panama (Copa Airlines)
Arrival at the airport in Bogota
Upon arrival at the airport in Bogota, after receiving the luggage, you will pass through various exchange offices. I recommend getting Colombian pesos from one of the ATMs at the airport. As a rule, COP 700,000 per transaction can be withdrawn from the machine. You can make multiple payouts.
When you leave the secured zone, many people will offer you a driving service. If you are not picked up by a service, do not be fooled and go straight outside to the official taxi rank. This is clearly visible. A trip to La Candelaria (old town) costs between 20,000 and 30,000 pesos.
If you want to buy a national mobile phone SIM card immediately, you can do it on the upper floor of the airport.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below you will find destinations where usually backpackers go. Find my opinion and what to do there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The island of Gorgona is located in the Pacific and has become increasingly popular in recent years. It was once a prison until 1984 when the island was turned into a national park. It is ideal for bird watching, scuba diving, whale watching and nature tourism in general.
You can arrive by boat from Buenaventura (about 4 hours) or you can fly from Cali to Guapi and take the boat from there (about 1.5 hours).
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can get there from Cartagena or Tolu by boat. Life is simple on the island and accommodation very basic.
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.
7 Wonders of Colombia
The Colombians chose the 7 Wonders of Colombia in 2007. Each of those is worth a visit after my opinion.
Where to stay?
Accommodation options in Colombia are very extensive, so below are the links to various recommendations:
- 29 Luxury & Boutique Hotels in Cartagena
- The Best Hotels in Bogota
- 19 Coolest Beach Hotels in Colombia
- My 10 Best Hotels in Colombia
- 32 Glampings in Colombia
- 20 Colombian Ecolodges
- The Paradisiacal Hotel Las Islas on Baru
- The Best Hotels in Medellin
- The Best Spa Hotels in Bogota
- Spa Hotels and Hot Springs in Colombia
- The 12 Best Hotels in Salento
- The 8 Best Hostels in Medellin
- The 14 Best Hostels in Salento
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.
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.
- Avianca: Biggest Colombian Airline
- Latam: Quality Airline
- Satena: National Airline
- Viva Air: Cheap Carrier
- Easy Fly: Cheap Carrier
- Wingo: Cheap Carrier
- Copa Airlines: Never used it
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.
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.
- Travel Advice US Government:
- Travel Advice UK Government:
- Travel Advice Swiss Government:
- Crime Rate Statistics 2019:
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.
- Colombia Travel Guide
- Bogota Travel Guide
- Medellin Travel Guide
- Santa Marta Travel Guide
- Cartagena Travel Guide
- La Guajira Travel Guide
- Llanos Travel Guide
- Providencia Travel Guide
- Coffee Triangle Travel Guide
- Amazonas Travel Guide
- Choco Travel Guide
- Santander Travel Guide
- Boyaca Travel Guide
- Villa de Leyva Travel Guide
- San Andres Island Travel Guide
- Tayrona Park Travel Guide
- Palomino Travel Guide
- Heritage Towns Colombia Travel Guide
- 7 Wonders of Colombia
- Chicamocha Canyon Travel Guide
- Colombia Golf Travel Guide
- Colombia Museums Guide
- Cali Travel Guide
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.
Tips and tricks
There is a separate blog on this at the following link:
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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