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Colombia Backpacking Guide [Must-See Places, Costs, Hostels] • Indie Traveller


Everybody nonetheless thinks Colombia is harmful. They consider Pablo Escobar, they’ve heard about drug cartels, they’ve seen Narcos on Netflix and suppose they know what Colombia is like at this time.

I get it. The cliche photographs from the previous can take a very long time to scrub away. However belief me on this: touring in Colombia is so a lot enjoyable and it’s a lot safer at this time. In actual fact, having performed nearly the complete Latin American “Gringo Path”, I take into account Colombia one in all my prime favourite backpacking nations.

Plan your Colombia backpacking journey

Why go backpacking Colombia?

Extremely diverse

Colombia simply has all of it: there are each the Caribbean and Pacific coasts (that are very totally different), the beginning of the Andes mountain vary, and 40% of the nation is roofed by the Amazon Rainforest. Colombia’s cities have varied climates and characters that make them extremely price exploring.

Selection is basically Colombia’s robust level. Inside its borders you’ll discover something from lush jungles to dusty deserts. Coastal areas typically have an Afro-Caribbean vibe, whereas larger elevation areas might remind you of indigenous mountainous areas in Peru or Bolivia. Due to its geography and variety you’ll be able to nearly consider Colombia as a South America taster menu.

One factor Colombia arguably doesn’t have: some form of singular iconic bucket record sight, like Machu Picchu in Peru or Iguazu Falls in Brazil. Some vacationers might discover this disappointing however I feel it’s a bonus: not having all the eye on one overtouristed hotspot makes the Colombia backpacking path extra unfold out and extra relaxed.

Superb biodiversity

Do you know Colombia has the world’s second highest biodiversity? (Second solely to Brazil, a rustic 7 occasions bigger!)

The wildlife and nature expertise are actually on one other stage. Think about treks just like the Misplaced Metropolis Trek, whale watching on the Pacific Coast, or birdwatching in Minca. Lots of people affiliate Costa Rica with nature actions however Colombia is secretly wonderful for ecotourism as effectively.

It’s commonplace to see a bunch of monkeys within the jungle or a toucan flying previous. One time I used to be taking an extended nap on the bus and simply as I awoke, a hummingbird hovered beside my window and checked out me as if to say, “hey buddy, bear in mind you’re nonetheless in stunning Colombia?”. It actually can really feel a bit like paradise at occasions.

Bursting with tradition

The cities of Medellín and Bogota are among the many most booming and cosmopolitan on the continent, stuffed with avenue artwork, salsa dance, and colourful tradition.

After all, it’s not shocking that many backpackers need to study Colombia’s typically darkish historical past — and Pablo Escobar excursions are undoubtedly a factor. However you’ll be equally intrigued by life in Colombia at this time.

Tradition and occasional are two ‘c’s that I affiliate intently with Colombia. The opposite ‘c’, cocaine, a lot much less so. Many Colombians despise the drug due to what it has performed to their nation. So, it’s not likely a factor except you have been to particularly search it out. There may be sufficient healthful cultural curiosity to fulfill anybody, so coming for medicine (and fairly a crappy drug, let’s be sincere) is unquestionably not what touring Colombia is about.

Straightforward to journey on a funds

Colombia shouldn’t be the most cost effective in South America but in addition not the costliest. It’s really a greater deal than it was once: the trade fee with the US Greenback or Euro lately has made it about 30% cheaper than it was 7 or 8 years in the past.

You will get some nice worth for cash in Colombia. Hostels and guesthouses are fairly inexpensive and meals is affordable, particularly should you discover the really native locations.

A set meal for lunch together with soup, a fundamental dish with meat and lots of sides, and recent fruit juice will sometimes value about 10,000 COP, which is about $2.50. Not dangerous! Hostel dorm beds sometimes value about 50,000 COP, and it’s 100,000 COP and up for a fundamental personal room.

Sure experiences like the Misplaced Metropolis Trek (must you want to do it) may be pretty costly, however day-to-day you’ll be able to handle on a backpacker funds fairly simply.

Backpacking routes

Not like another nations, there may be much less of a set backpacker route in Colombia, with totally different vacationers going to totally different locations (or in a special order). Selecting your route also can typically be hair-pullingly troublesome.

There are simply too many nice locations to go to. For those who’re feeling overwhelmed… I’ve been there!

Some nations simply make it simpler to see the highlights in a few weeks. For those who’re backpacking Belize you actually need only a week; backpacking Nicaragua takes 3 weeks on the most. However Colombia may be very large and has such a wealth of locations that it both takes extra time or simply extra deliberate selections for the place to go.

I backpacked by means of Colombia for 3 months and nonetheless felt like I wasn’t performed. I can simply see at the least one other 3 months of experiences that I’d love to return again for.

However that’s additionally what makes this such an important vacation spot. You get to select from plenty of totally different potentialities. It implies that totally different backpackers can find yourself having considerably totally different journeys in Colombia.

As a result of there are such a lot of routes you would take, I wrote this waaaay-too-comprehensive information to creating your personal Colombia itinerary, which additionally has a number of pattern itineraries you’ll be able to observe.

It’s a good suggestion to have a tough thought of the journey you’d love to do, however go away some room to improvise throughout your journey. You might need to keep longer or shorter in locations relying on how a lot you want them.

The place to journey in Colombia

When a map of Colombia, you’ll rapidly discover that almost all journey locations are within the west and north.

Why? Properly, it’s easy: the jap half of Colombia is generally coated by the Amazon rainforest. These elements will not be as simply accessible. A lot of the journey locations are within the extra populated areas.

Within the north of Colombia, you’ll discover the outdated colonial metropolis of Cartagena. It has lengthy been the nation’s fundamental vacationer draw (even throughout the dangerous years, as cruise ships might nonetheless dock there). It’s a wonderful place with an outdated heart, albeit touristy and dearer than elsewhere in Colombia.

The town of Santa Marta shouldn’t be so notable in itself, however it makes for a wonderful launching level for exploring the attractive Tayrona Nationwide Park or for doing the Misplaced Metropolis trek. The close by city of Taganga is Colombia’s main vacation spot for scuba diving and a little bit of a backpacker hub. The small city of Minca, additionally close to Santa Marta, is a laidback backpacker vacation spot among the many jungles and waterfalls.

Within the heart is San Gil, Colombia’s journey sports activities capital. Go right here for paragliding, wild water rafting, caving, and extra. The middle of Colombia can be residence to its second-largest metropolis of Medellín, a fascinating place that you just undoubtedly shouldn’t skip.

Within the south are the capital Bogota, Colombia’s espresso area, the town of Cali (well-known for its obsession with salsa), and Tatacoa, a desert the place years of abrasion have created some uncommon landscapes.

The Amazon on the coronary heart of Colombia is tremendous distant and even residence to some uncontacted indigenous tribes. If you wish to go into the Amazon, flying to Leticia is probably the most dependable possibility. This city additionally has border connections with Peru and Brazil.

How a lot time do you want?

Truthfully as a lot time as you will have. However when you have at least 2 or 3 weeks, you are able to do a enjoyable route that features plenty of locations.

In case you are touring long-term, then know that the usual visa-on-arrival will provide you with 90 days in Colombia, so you actually can go sluggish if you wish to.

I first received to know Colombia whereas I used to be within the midst of a 2-year round-the-world backpacking journey. I beloved Medellin a lot that I stayed for 4 weeks simply on this metropolis, residing a mini-life there for some time. I met some backpackers who did the identical however in Cali, taking salsa courses each single day for weeks on finish whereas diving into the native dancing scene. That is simply to warn you that you would be able to simply get caught!

Typically Colombia is a vacation spot you’ll be able to take your time in because it has a great deal of selection and an important ambiance.

Lodging in Colombia

What’s the hostel scene like?

The hostel scene in Colombia is extraordinarily good. The standard of the hostels may be very excessive throughout the board and it looks like they’re making an attempt to outdo one another with distinctive ideas or simply having an important vibe.

In case you are into youthful/social gathering hostels yow will discover a lot of them within the cities, significantly Medellin. Some social gathering hostels additionally exist in Palomino on the coast and in different areas.

Casa Loma Minca

Most hostels are chill/social traveler hostels although with friends’ ages spanning a reasonably big selection. Some hostels (for instance in Minca) are extra like ecolodges, providing particular person jungle huts as an alternative of dorms. Yow will discover some particular recommendation on the greatest hostels in Medellin and the greatest hostels in Bogota.