Last updated on August 25th, 2023 at 02:12 pm
My name is Frank and I run a travel agency in Bogota, Colombia. Have fun while reading!
At the end of this guide you will find a list of many other helpful Colombia travel guides.
Top things to see in Colombia
Imagine a land where every corner holds a piece of magic, where vibrant culture and breathtaking beauty collide. Colombia, a country of boundless wonders, invites you to step off the beaten path and embrace a world of unforgettable experiences. While some travelers stick to the obvious, there are some true gems that deserve your attention. In this guide, we are letting you in on the best-kept secrets – the places that will make your Colombian journey truly remarkable.
Bogota: Where Every Moment is a New Discovery
When you touch down in Bogota, you’re not just arriving in a city; you’re stepping into a world of endless exploration. Colombia’s beating heart, this vibrant capital, is an open book of adventures waiting for you to flip through. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, a shopaholic, or a culture seeker, Bogota has your name written all over it. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the experiences that will make your Bogota visit unforgettable:
Monserrate: Rise Above for Panoramic Bliss
You simply can’t visit Bogota without paying homage to Monserrate, the majestic mountain that watches over the city. Picture this: you’re gliding up the mountainside, either by foot or on a scenic gondola ride, breathing in the crisp Andean air as you ascend from 8,700 to over 10,000 feet above sea level. And what’s your reward? A breathtaking view that stretches as far as the eye can see. Pro tip: take it easy if you’ve just arrived to acclimatize and avoid the crowds on weekends.
The Gold Museum: A Glimpse into Colombia’s Golden Past
Prepare to be dazzled at the Gold Museum, a treasure trove of Colombia’s history that’s just a short stroll from the old town. Here, you’ll be face-to-face with around 6,000 pieces of an incredible collection that boasts over 55,000 artifacts. Among them, the Eldorado Gold Floss takes center stage, revealing the opulence of Colombia’s past. If museums are your jam, there’s a universe of them to explore across Colombia – don’t miss our guide for the full scoop.
Botero Museum: Artistry that Defies Conventions
Get ready to be charmed by the Botero Museum, where Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s distinctive style takes center stage. Think plump figures and intricate details – each piece is like a story waiting to be told. This museum is a gateway to the soul of Colombian creativity, a place where art speaks volumes.
La Candelaria: Walk in the Footsteps of History
Step back in time as you wander through La Candelaria, the heart and soul of Bogota’s colonial past. Cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and an inviting ambiance that whispers tales of days gone by – it’s like stepping into a time machine. While you’re here, make sure to explore the museums, catch a glimpse of the Congress and the President’s House, and take breaks at the cozy coffee shops that dot the neighborhood.
Graffiti tour: Where Art Comes to Life
Bogota’s streets are alive with stories, and the Graffiti Tour is your key to unlocking them. Led by enthusiastic guides, this tour unveils the hidden narratives and historical layers woven into the city’s vibrant street art. And the best part? The canvas keeps changing, so every tour is a unique experience that paints a different picture of Bogota’s urban soul.
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira: Delve into the Depths
Descend into the mesmerizing Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, a breathtaking underground masterpiece nestled within an active salt mine. Imagine wandering through tunnels adorned with intricate sculptures and artworks, all carved into the salt-rich walls. Just 90 minutes from Bogota, this subterranean marvel is an adventure you won’t want to miss.
Villa de Leyva: A Colonial Tale Come to Life
Travel back in time to the charming streets of Villa de Leyva, a colonial gem that exudes old-world charm. Stroll through the historic city center, where one of Colombia’s largest central squares awaits, surrounded by stunning architecture and a laid-back atmosphere. It’s a slice of Colombian heritage that’s sure to steal your heart.
As you wrap up your exploration, don’t forget to check out our links to detailed guides on Colombia’s diverse regions. Your Colombian journey is about to become a symphony of unforgettable moments, each note played in harmony with the spirit of this captivating nation.
Explore the Marvels of Cartagena in the Caribbean
Cartagena, a true gem in the heart of the Caribbean, boasts a rich history of fortifications that once shielded it from daring pirate raids. Steeped in tradition, the city’s historic center is a true emblem of its past. Beyond its heritage, Cartagena offers an array of lavish hotels and delectable gourmet restaurants, setting the stage for a luxurious getaway. For those seeking romance, Cartagena is a destination that surpasses all others.
Unveil Paradise: Baru and Rosario Islands
Just a short 45-minute boat ride away lie the pristine Caribbean beaches, a hidden haven waiting to be explored. The Rosario Islands, a haven for diving enthusiasts, also beckon with their underwater wonders.
Rincon del Mar and Archipelago de San Bernardo: Hidden Coastal Treasures
Embrace the tranquility of Rincon del Mar, a charming fishing village, boasting beaches that rival even the most renowned destinations along the coast, excluding Tayrona Park. A mere 2.5-hour drive from Cartagena, Rincon del Mar awaits your discovery. The San Bernardo Islands, a two-hour boat journey away, promise a breathtaking escape.
Medelli: Where Eternal Spring Awaits
Discover Medellin, the city that enjoys a perpetual spring-like climate, ideal for year-round exploration. While this city captivates a myriad of travelers, expats, and digital nomads, it holds an individualized touch of boredom for me.
Journey through Transformation: Comuna 13
Once infamous as a perilous zone, Comuna 13 has undergone a remarkable transformation, becoming a magnetic attraction for tourists. Its vibrant street art narrates not only the neighborhood’s history but also that of the entire city.
Accessible by metro, I recommend an immersive guided tour to truly absorb its riveting stories and local charm, supporting the community with your patronage.
Guatape and El Penol: A Kaleidoscope of Colors and Views
Embark on a scenic two-hour drive to Guatape, a colorful village nestled beside a tranquil reservoir, perfect for a captivating day trip. Conquer the mighty El Penol rock, ascending countless steps to bask in a panoramic view of the surrounding lake and islands.
Santa Marta: Where History Meets Adventure
As the oldest city in South America, Santa Marta enchants with its charming old town and serves as a gateway to boundless adventures.
Tayrona Park: Nature’s Sanctuary
A little over an hour’s drive from Santa Marta lies Colombia’s premier national park, Tayrona Park. Whether a day visit or an overnight stay, the allure of this park is simply irresistible.
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: A Natural Wonder
Ascending from the Caribbean coast to a staggering 5,700 meters above sea level, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta stands as the world’s highest coastal mountain range. Inhabited by Indigenous tribes, this region offers an array of activities, from enchanting waterfall visits to captivating bird and animal watching, all set amidst breathtaking scenery.
Lost City: Tracing Ancient Footsteps
Deep within the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the Lost City, built around 700 BC, was unveiled in 1973 by a daring expedition. Today, this four-day trek has become a magnetic adventure, launching from Santa Marta via all-terrain vehicles.
Coffee Triangle: A Journey through Aromatic Delights
Embrace the allure of Colombia’s Coffee Triangle, encompassing Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío, and sections of Tolima, Antioquia, and Valle del Cauca.
Cocora Valley: Nature’s Canvas
Embark on a captivating journey to the Valle de Cocora, accessible through Quindío’s Salento town. Hike along diverse trails and encounter the towering wax palm, an emblem of this stunning valley.
Immerse in Coffee Culture
Colombia and coffee are synonymous. No visit is complete without a sojourn to a coffee farm in the lush, coffee-draped landscapes. Consider an overnight stay on one of these farms to fully immerse in the world of coffee cultivation.
Punta Gallinas: Embark on an Enchanting Desert Journey
Embark on a captivating expedition through the mesmerizing desert landscapes of Punta Gallinas in La Guajira. Witness the enchanting allure of this magical destination as you traverse Wayuu territory aboard a rugged all-terrain vehicle. Discover a world of wonder and beauty that will leave you awe-inspired.
Colombian Safari: Unveil the Wildlife Wonders of Casanare
Experience a wildlife adventure reminiscent of Africa’s famed safaris, right here in Colombia’s Casanare region. The expansive Llanos region, stretching into Venezuela, offers a captivating blend of cattle herders and a diverse array of animals. Immerse yourself in the thrill of spotting capybaras, crocodiles, anteaters, and even majestic anacondas. Whether you prefer horseback riding or modern vehicles, Casanare is your gateway to an unforgettable safari experience. Fly directly to the heart of the action in Yopal from Bogota.
Providencia: Caribbean Paradise Rediscovered
Unveil your dream Caribbean Island escape on Providencia. Bask in the stunning spectacle of the Sea of 7 Colors, a natural wonder that will transport you to a realm of tranquility. Amidst secluded beaches and pristine diving spots, you’ll find the perfect hideaway. Embark on a journey through the island of San Andres and let the magic of Providencia captivate your senses once more, following its revival after the hurricane of July 2022.
The End of the World in Putumayo: Nature’s Hidden Gem
Discover the untouched beauty of Putumayo, a natural haven off the beaten path. Amidst its varied activities, make sure to include a visit to the “End of the World.” Immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes and serene vistas that make Putumayo an absolute must-see for nature enthusiasts.
Whale Watching in Bahia Solano, Choco: Pacific Ocean Marvels
Delve into the splendors of Colombia’s Pacific coast, a thriving haven of biodiversity. Immerse yourself in the marvels of nature, and plan your visit during the whale watching season, from June to November. Witness the awe-inspiring majesty of these magnificent creatures as they grace the ocean’s surface, creating unforgettable memories.
Popayan: Unveiling the Architectural Elegance
Step into a world of architectural splendor in Popayan, often referred to as the “White City.” Explore a rich tapestry of historic and cultural landmarks, highlighting timeless elegance that stands as a testament to Colombia’s heritage. A journey to Popayan promises an enriching experience that will leave you enchanted.
San Agustin Archaeological Park: A Window into the Past
For enthusiasts of archaeological wonders, San Agustin is a must-visit destination. Explore captivating stone statues and immersive parks that unveil the mysteries of ancient civilizations. This remarkable journey through time will leave you in awe of the intricate craftsmanship and historical significance.
Santander: Nature’s Playground and Beyond
Unlock the treasures of Santander, a region teeming with captivating destinations. Be captivated by the breathtaking Chicamocha Gorge and embark on invigorating hikes that lead to remarkable vistas. Dive into a world of adventure and exploration, where nature’s wonders take center stage.
Barichara: A Quaint Colombian Jewel
Discover the unparalleled charm of Barichara, a picturesque village that exudes timeless beauty. Immerse yourself in the cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and enchanting atmosphere that make Barichara a true gem waiting to be explored.
San Gil: Thrills and Tranquility in Harmony
Just a stone’s throw away from Barichara lies San Gil, the ultimate playground for extreme sports in Colombia. Feel your heart race as you engage in exhilarating activities, all within a 30-minute journey from the captivating beauty of Barichara.
Las Lajas Cathedral: A Masterpiece of Devotion
Stand in awe before the grandeur of Las Lajas Cathedral, an architectural masterpiece that blends faith and beauty seamlessly. Your visit to this awe-inspiring sanctuary in Nariño will be a spiritual and visual journey you won’t soon forget.
Amazon Adventure: Embrace Nature’s Majesty
Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime expedition to the Amazon, a vast and untamed wilderness covering a third of Colombia’s landscape. Set your sights on Leticia, the gateway to this ecological wonderland. From there, you can venture to diverse destinations, even reaching Iquitos in Peru or Manaure in Brazil by boat. Immerse yourself in the wonders of the Amazon, a realm of unparalleled biodiversity and natural beauty that will leave an indelible mark on your soul.
Discovering Colombia: A Land of Biodiversity and Rich Culture
Nestled within the heart of South America, Colombia beckons with its astonishing diversity. With a staggering count of over 55,000 distinct species, including an impressive 9,000 that are found nowhere else on Earth, Colombia stands as a true testament to the wonders of our planet. Spread across 440 square miles (1,142 square kilometers), this vibrant nation holds a size slightly surpassing that of both France and Germany combined. Alternatively, it matches the expanse of the two largest American states, Texas, and California.
Colombia’s history is woven with fascinating threads. The year 1499 saw the commencement of Spanish conquest, a chapter that continued until 1819 when the visionary Simón Bolívar led the country to its hard-fought liberation. Today, Colombia is home to approximately 50 million people, forming a dynamic tapestry of diverse ethnicities and cultures.
Within its borders, Colombia cradles three magnificent Andean Mountain Ranges, while embracing both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans with open arms. The country’s geographical proximity to the equator is a marvel that imparts distinct climate variations. Elevations ranging from sea level to a breathtaking 18,700 feet (5,700 meters), culminating at the summit of Pico Cristobal Colón, offer a spectrum of temperatures. The climate dances between rainy and dry seasons, painting the landscapes with nature’s brushstrokes.
Spanish stands as Colombia’s primary language, acting as the cultural thread that binds its inhabitants together. Yet, this nation embraces its rich heritage with open arms, boasting recognition for over 80 Indigenous languages that harmonize with the diverse tapestry of voices. Transactions unfold in the Colombian Peso, a testament to the nation’s unique economic identity.
Colombia beckons you to explore its biodiversity and heritage, to walk in the footsteps of history’s giants, and to immerse yourself in a country that is as multifaceted as it is captivating.
Direct flights to Colombia
Here you can find all you need to know about direct and connections flights to Colombia.
Your Bogota Airport Arrival: Navigating Exchange and Transportation
Stepping foot onto Bogota’s bustling airport, your journey into this vibrant city begins. After retrieving your luggage, a world of choices awaits you, and I’m here to guide you through the essentials.
To start, consider exchanging your currency for Colombian pesos. Conveniently, you’ll find a range of exchange offices right at the airport. Yet, my suggestion is to opt for one of the ATMs available. These handy machines allow you to withdraw up to COP 700,000 per transaction. Need more? Not a problem – you can make multiple withdrawals to suit your needs.
As you step beyond the secure confines of the airport, a throng of eager individuals might approach you with transportation offers. Stay wise and remember: if you haven’t arranged for a pick-up service, your best bet is to head straight to the official taxi rank outside. Can’t miss it – it’s clearly marked. A smooth ride to the historic heart of La Candelaria will typically cost you around 20,000 to 30,000 pesos, ensuring a hassle-free start to your exploration.
For those who seek instant connectivity, say hello to staying connected with a local mobile SIM card. You’ll find this option conveniently located on the upper floor of the airport. Now, your adventures in Bogota are just a SIM card away.
Explore Colombia’s Vibrant Cities
Welcome to Bogotá, Colombia’s vibrant capital city! With a population of over 10 million and nestled at an altitude of 2,600 meters (8,600 ft), Bogotá is a captivating blend of culture and urban energy. As one of South America’s largest cities, it boasts a diverse climate ranging from 7° to 20° Celsius (44.6° – 68°F), offering a mix of sunny days, refreshing rain, and unexpected weather twists.
Don’t miss the charming districts of La Candelaria and Usaquen, which are popular among tourists. Experience the lively atmosphere in areas like Zona T, Chapinero, and Chapinero Alto. Bogotá thrives with cultural events, ensuring there’s always something exciting to do. Opt for public transport or taxis outside of peak hours to navigate this bustling city comfortably.
Nestled at an altitude of 1,500 meters (5,000 ft), Medellín invites you to discover its enchanting ambiance. Boasting a population of over 4 million, it’s the capital of Antioquia and renowned as the “City of Eternal Spring.” Medellín is a hub of innovation and dynamism, ranking among Latin America’s most forward-thinking cities. With temperatures ranging from 10° to 35° Celsius (50° – 95°F), Medellín treats visitors to an array of weather surprises in a single day.
Explore popular areas like El Poblado and Laureles, which capture the city’s essence. Navigate the city comfortably by utilizing public transportation during off-peak hours or opting for taxis.
Discover Cartagena, a coastal paradise that captures the essence of Colombia’s rich history. With a population of over 900,000, Cartagena beckons you with its UNESCO World Heritage walled city. This charming destination enjoys a tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 22° to 32° Celsius (71° – 90°F), offering a hot and humid embrace.
Immerse yourself in the enchanting areas of La Matuna, Castillogrande, Bocagrande, and more. Whether strolling through the historic center or soaking in the sea breeze, taxis are the preferred mode of transportation to explore this captivating coastal haven.
Welcome to Santa Marta, a coastal gem situated at sea level. As the capital of Magdalena, this city of over 400,000 inhabitants invites you to explore its historic city center. Enjoy a tropical climate with temperatures ranging from 22° to 32° Celsius (71° – 90°F), offering a perfect backdrop for your coastal adventures. Taxis are the ideal way to navigate this picturesque destination.
Cali, known for its vibrant salsa culture, invites you to dance to its rhythm. With a population of over 2.5 million and an altitude of 1,500 meters (4,900 ft), Cali welcomes you with warm temperatures ranging from 18° to 30° Celsius (64° – 86°F). Enjoy the city’s energy as you explore its dynamic streets, and don’t miss the opportunity to hit the dance floor. Taxis are your trusted companions to explore Cali’s lively atmosphere.
Discover Bucaramanga, a city nestled at an altitude of 950 meters (3,100 ft) with a warm and inviting atmosphere. As the capital of Santander, Bucaramanga invites you to experience its pleasant temperatures, ranging from 18° to 30° Celsius (65° – 86°F). Navigate this charming city with ease by relying on taxis to take you to its hidden gems.
Explore Valledupar, the heart of Cesar department, where music and culture flourish. With a population of over 500,000 and an altitude of 170 meters (560 ft), Valledupar offers a hot climate with temperatures ranging from 17° to 39° Celsius (63° – 102°F). Discover the city’s rhythms and melodies while traveling conveniently by taxi.
Pereira, nestled at an altitude of 1,400 meters (4,590 ft) and with a population of over 450,000, welcomes you with open arms. Enjoy warm temperatures ranging from 17° to 35° Celsius (63° – 95°F) as you explore the city’s offerings. Let taxis guide you through Pereira’s inviting streets and vibrant atmosphere.
Visit Pasto, a city perched at an altitude of 2,500 meters (8,200 ft) that offers a refreshing escape from the ordinary. With temperatures ranging from 1° to 25° Celsius (34° – 77°F), Pasto’s chilly weather adds to its unique charm. Allow taxis to be your companions as you navigate the city’s picturesque surroundings.
Welcome to Manizales, the charming capital of Caldas department. With a population of over 350,000 and an altitude of 2,200 meters (7,200 ft), Manizales offers a warm and inviting atmosphere. Embrace temperatures ranging from 6° to 28° Celsius (43° – 82°F) as you explore its captivating streets. Taxis are your trusted partners to uncover the city’s hidden treasures.
Armenia, nestled at an altitude of 1,550 meters (5,085 ft), invites you to explore its natural and cultural wonders. As the capital of Quindio, this city of over 300,000 boasts temperatures ranging from 16° to 28° Celsius (60° – 82°F). Navigate Armenia’s beauty comfortably with taxis as your preferred mode of transport.
Experience Riohacha, a coastal haven with a population of over 150,000, situated just 5 meters (16 ft) above sea level. As the capital of La Guajira, Riohacha welcomes you with temperatures ranging from 17° to 39° Celsius (63° – 102°F), offering a hot and dry climate. Explore this coastal paradise using taxis to effortlessly soak in its beauty.
Step into Popayán, a historic marvel nestled at an altitude of 1,750 meters (5,740 ft). With a population of over 400,000, this city in the Cauca department offers temperatures from 8° to 28° Celsius (46° – 82°F). Wander through its streets and discover its rich history, relying on taxis to explore comfortably.
Yopal, the capital of Casanare department, beckons you with its warm and inviting atmosphere. With a population of over 150,000 and an altitude of 350 meters (1,150 ft), Yopal offers temperatures ranging from 20° to 33° Celsius (68° – 92°F). Discover the city’s charm and convenience with taxis as your chosen mode of transport.
Explore Tumaco, a tropical paradise situated just 2 meters (6 ft) above sea level. With a population of over 200,000, Tumaco invites you to bask in its warmth, with temperatures ranging from 16° to 36° Celsius (60° – 97°F). Uncover the city’s beauty using taxis as your trusted companions.
Exploring Backpacker-Friendly Destinations in Colombia
Below you will find destinations where usually backpackers go. Find my opinion and what to do there.
Tucked within the coffee triangle and Quindio department, Salento offers a gateway to the stunning Cocora Valley. Once a quaint and authentic town, it has evolved into a backpacker’s haven. While gentrification has altered its local charm, Salento thrives as a bustling hub of restaurants, bars, and hostels. Perfect for party enthusiasts, it’s a place to meet fellow travelers and revel in vibrant nights. However, if you’re seeking an authentic Colombian experience, you might want to venture elsewhere.
Nestled near Santa Marta, Palomino beckons as Colombia’s hippie haven. As you arrive, the initial impression might be a bit rugged, but don’t be discouraged. Palomino is brimming with shops, restaurants, and hostels, offering a unique blend of bohemian vibes. If you’re into yoga, vegetarian delights, or spiritual exploration, this is your spot. While the beach might not be ideal for swimming, the Sierra Nevada mountains rising against the coastline create a breathtaking backdrop. Activities like tubing on the Palomino River, visiting waterfalls, and immersing in indigenous culture await your adventurous spirit.
Craving relief from the Caribbean heat? Hop on a 4X4 colectivo from Santa Marta to Minca, a charming town perched at 650 meters above sea level. Your gateway to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Minca boasts a burgeoning hostel scene and beckons nature enthusiasts. A Mototaxi can whisk you away to various attractions. While the natural pools attract Colombian families, those seeking serenity should seek accommodations uphill. With hiking, night tours, coffee farm visits, and birdwatching, Minca has something for every nature lover. For an unforgettable experience, venture as high up the hill as you can.
Once a fisherman’s paradise, Taganga’s allure has evolved into a contrasting blend of beauty and caution. While still retaining pockets of charm, Taganga has also become a party hotspot, drawing revelers and backpackers. However, it’s important to acknowledge the darker side – wild parties, drug influence, and concerning issues like prostitution and child exploitation. Despite its stunning bay and mesmerizing sunsets, Taganga has faced challenges with its reputation, particularly involving Israeli visitors.
Venture to the Santander department and discover San Gil, a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts. While the town itself might not win any beauty contests, its real charm lies in the wealth of outdoor activities it offers. Whether you’re into heart-pounding river rafting, exhilarating paragliding, or captivating hiking trails, San Gil has you covered. Easily accessible from Bucaramanga or Bogota, this town proves that beauty isn’t just skin deep.
Destinations away from tourist crowds
La Guajira, a captivating department in Colombia, beckons with its contrasting allure. From the vibrant town of Palomino to the enchanting stretches that touch the Caribbean Sea, La Guajira showcases a desert landscape that’s nothing short of spectacular. Bordering Venezuela, this northernmost point of the continent offers an escape like no other.
Venture to the emerging hub of Riohacha, where future prospects shine bright. As the capital develops, a host of new hostels and experiences are bound to bloom. Yet, it’s the treasures further north that truly captivate. Embark on the journey to Cabo de la Vela, easily navigated through local travel agencies or shared 4×4 collectives. Witness the kitesurf paradise, bask in the shallow waters of serene beaches, and let the stunning vistas weave their magic. From here, explore onwards to the breathtaking Punta Gallinas.
Casanare, the heart of Colombia’s Cowboy Land, opens its arms to a unique experience. As you immerse yourself in the rhythm of true cattle business, you become a part of a vibrant heritage. Set against the backdrop of tropical grasslands, Casanare’s dynamic seasons create a canvas for incredible Llanos Safaris. Witness elusive creatures like Pumas, Jaguars, and Anacondas, or marvel at the splendor of diverse avian species. This is a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife aficionados alike.
Meta, a kindred spirit to Casanare, invites you to discover its own version of nature’s symphony. Embracing altitudes from 450 to 4,000 meters, this department is a sanctuary of diversity. The Chingaza Natural Park weaves together elements of the Amazon and unique landscapes like the Canon Cristales. Birdwatching flourishes here, inviting you to observe the aerial ballet of native species.
Nestled along the Pacific coast, Chocó unveils a realm of untouched nature. Bahia Solano and Nuqui stand as beacons of safety, providing a glimpse into this unspoiled paradise. Here, whale watching becomes a captivating spectacle, with the season stretching from June to November. Nature’s wonders abound, making it an idyllic retreat for the intrepid traveler. Accessible through direct flights or scenic stopovers, Chocó’s allure is ready to be discovered.
Colombia’s Amazon beckons from different corners, with Leticia reigning as a crown jewel. Nestled at the crossroads of Peru and Brazil, Leticia is a haven of exotic experiences. A gateway to the Amazon, it offers a plethora of activities that dare you to step outside your comfort zone. Encounter diverse ecosystems and captivating wildlife, all while immersing yourself in the rich tapestry of this legendary rainforest.
Nariño, an undiscovered treasure, invites you to uncover its hidden gems. Nestled along the Ecuadorian border, this department boasts a landscape adorned with coastlines and majestic volcanoes. Evading the tourist radar, Nariño’s untouched beauty and chilly climate create an enchanting backdrop for exploration. A land of natural wonders awaits your discovery.
The captivating department of Cesar offers a surprising retreat. Cradled against the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, its inviting climate and breathtaking nature come together harmoniously. Picture yourself swimming in pristine, crystal-clear rivers, where tranquility reigns supreme. Valledupar, the capital, is a hub of culture and renowned for its Vallenato rhythms, adding another layer of charm to this remarkable region.
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.
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 25 mph (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.
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
Blessed with fertile soil and an abundance of growth, every corner of this country boasts freshly prepared, mouthwatering dishes that will leave your taste buds dancing. Bid farewell to fast food and embrace a world where every meal is crafted with care and love.
However, it’s worth noting that while Colombian cuisine is a true delight, some may find it leans towards a milder flavor profile. Seasoning preferences can vary, and you might discover that dishes are prepared with a subtler touch, catering to different tastes.
What truly sets Colombia apart is its regional culinary tapestry. As you traverse this diverse nation, you’ll uncover not only its varied climates and landscapes but also a rich tapestry of flavors. In the cooler regions, hearty soups and calorie-laden delights will warm your soul, while the coastal areas beckon with an exquisite array of fresh seafood, capturing the essence of the ocean.
When you think of Colombian cuisine, the iconic Arepa immediately comes to mind. This national treasure is a staple you’ll encounter throughout your journey, each locale adding its unique twist to this beloved dish. For a complete guide to local flavors, keep an eye out for the dedicated food sections in our travel guides. We’ve curated a list of must-visit eateries so you can savor the best each destination has to offer.
But that’s not all – Colombia boasts an exceptional service that will make your stay even more convenient: home delivery. Whether you’re craving a taste of local ingredients or in need of essentials, the wonders of Colombian convenience are just a few clicks away. In bustling urban centers, the Rappi app stands ready to fulfill your every desire, ensuring that nothing stands between you and an unforgettable culinary adventure.
Colombia Travel Guides
Here you will find travel guides for the most popular regions in Colombia, which we have put together during our extensive travels around the country.
- 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
- Cali Travel Guide
- Heritage Towns Colombia Travel Guide
- 7 Wonders of Colombia
- Chicamocha Canyon Travel Guide
- Colombia Golf Travel Guide
- Colombia Museums Guide
Travel Guides to Colombia’s Small Towns
Here you will find travel guides for less popular destinations in Colombia. Some of these destinations are even real insider tips and not even known to the Colombians as travel destinations.
- Monteria Colombia Travel Guide
- Magangue Colombia Travel Guide
- Turbo Colombia Travel Guide
- Arauca Colombia Travel Guide
- San José del Guaviare Colombia Travel Guide
- Pasto Colombia Travel Guide
- Tunja Colombia Travel Guide
- Armenia Colombia Travel Guide
- Villavicencio Colombia Travel Guide
- Ibague Colombia Travel Guide
- Quibdo Colombia Travel Guide
- Manizales Colombia Travel Guide
- Yopal Colombia Travel Guide
- Popayan Colombia Travel Guide
- Barranquilla Colombia Travel Guide
- Barrancabermeja Colombia Travel Guide
- Valledupar Colombia Travel Guide
- Sincelejo Colombia Travel Guide
- Tulua Colombia Travel Guide
- Tumaco Colombia Travel Guide
- Palmira Colombia Travel Guide
- Neiva Colombia Travel Guide
- Buenaventura Colombia Travel Guide
- Ipiales Colombia Travel Guide
- Mitu Colombia Travel Guide
- Mocoa Colombia Travel Guide
- Puerto Carreno Colombia Travel Guide
- Puerto Asis Colombia Travel Guide
- Cucuta Colombia Travel Guide
- Pereira Colombia Travel Guide
- Bucaramanga Colombia Travel Guide
- Riohacha Colombia Travel Guide
- Florencia Colombia Travel Guide
- El Carmen de Bolivar Colombia Travel Guide
- Aguachica Colombia Travel Guide
- Sogamoso Colombia Travel Guide
- Inirida Colombia Travel Guide
- Caucasia Colombia Travel Guide