How To Plan YOUR Best Travel Route

Oops… I used to be going to share just some fast ideas for making a journey route in Colombia. Then issues bought somewhat out of hand!

You’re now studying my final (and way-too-detailed) Colombia itinerary information, based mostly on my 3 months on this fantastic nation. Whereas many blogs solely discuss one particular a part of Colombia, I’ll be going extra in-depth.

My aim is to clarify a number of the challenges with planning a Colombia journey. I’ll additionally present how one can customise a number of the widespread itineraries to make them your individual. I hope it would aid you plan your Colombia journey and take into account completely different routes and places.

Bookmark this web page for later reference!

Essential Tip: it’s spelled Colombia, not Columbia. That is completely different from British Columbia or Columbia College! Make sure you get it proper when asking for recommendations on teams or boards — or face an indignant mob giving zero solutions. Individuals do get delicate about it so it helps to spell it accurately.

The best way to create an itinerary

The issues with Colombia

Earlier than we get into itinerary planning, there are some things to debate.

No, I’m not speaking about security! (Colombia is generally effective.)

The actual drawback with Colombia that it’s just too good of a journey vacation spot. Truthfully, it’s one thing you actually must be ready for.

What do I imply?

Nicely, it simply has so many issues to do and locations to go to that it’s very simple to really feel fully overwhelmed. Making an attempt to ‘do all of it’ in Colombia is like making an attempt to drink from a firehose. Even with 3 months in Colombia I nonetheless felt like I wasn’t carried out.

That is fairly completely different from another nations. You’ll be able to spend 2 weeks in, say, modestly-sized Guatemala or Ecuador and nonetheless preserve your FOMO at bay. In Colombia, you’ll absolutely typically agonize over what to incorporate in your itinerary or what to go away out.

The opposite concern is solely the distances.

Perhaps you get the spontaneous thought to simply catch a fast bus from Cartagena within the north to the capital within the middle. Oops, it takes 21 hours.

Colombia is just not solely a giant nation, however its geography is outlined by three mountain ranges that run vertically throughout it. And mountains means “gradual”!

For instance, journeys within the mountainous espresso area typically take longer than anticipated — a minimum of, in the event you’re simply connecting the dots on a map with out checking the precise journey occasions.

For reference, listed here are the distances from Bogota by bus:

Cartagena 22 hours (in a single day)
Medellín 9 hours
Santa Marta (for Minca or Tayrona) 18 hours (in a single day)
Armenia (for Salento) 7 hours
San Gil 7 ½ hours
Cali 10 hours
Manizales 8 hours
Popayán 12 hours

What all this implies is that you just simply should be good about your Colombia journey route and plan it nicely.

However don’t fear! I’ll aid you get essentially the most out of your journey to Colombia. And we’ll take a look at some ready-made itineraries that can work for a shorter journey or that you could piece collectively for an extended journey.

Preserving your route practical

So, Colombia is large and there’s an excessive amount of to see. How are you going to preserve your journey route manageable?

Nicely, there are two methods: taking flights, or specializing in a area.

If in case you have solely one or two weeks, I recommend selecting a particular area and largely staying in it. That approach, you received’t waste an excessive amount of time in transit and also you’ll have far more time throughout your journey for actions and sightseeing.

As an alternative of making an attempt to go to each level on the compass, you’ll be able to have a improbable journey by, say, specializing in the Caribbean coast plus just a few days in Bogota. That approach you’ll get a extra full expertise inside part of Colombia as an alternative of an excessively hurried or fragmented one.

(I do know everybody’s journey type is completely different although. That is simply my advice for getting essentially the most enjoyment inside a restricted time.)

Espresso cities in central Colombia

If in case you have three or 4 weeks in Colombia, then I feel it’s good to sort out two or three areas. You’ll have a great minimal time for a ‘full Colombia journey’ of types. After all, that doesn’t imply you’ll see all the pieces it has to supply, however you’ll be able to positively see lots and have an itinerary with lots of selection.

Should you can journey longer than 4 weeks, then congratulations! You’ll have the ability to expertise Colombia in a approach not everybody can. With a minimum of about 6-8 weeks you’ll be able to actually cowl many of the highlights in Colombia. This is a perfect timeframe in the event you’re, say, backpacking in Colombia and actually aren’t in a rush.

Taking inner flights generally is a good resolution for some itineraries. My journey type is often to go overland, however the comfort and low value of home flights in Colombia make them very tempting. To offer you an thought, on my final journey I hopped between Santa Marta to Medellin by air (that’s crossing about half the nation) for about $40. This fortunately prevented a 15-hour bus trip.

Some locations within the Amazon or on the Pacific Coast are additionally unreachable by highway, necessitating flights.

Colombia’s Pacific coast

A flight or two can positively make an even bigger journey route in Colombia simpler to plan. After all, it’s also possible to get carried away with including flights.

I generally see itineraries posted on-line the place the particular person is solely flying round (e.g. Bogota > Medellin > Santa Marta > Armenia for Salento > and so on. all by air). This appears extreme and can imply spending an excessive amount of time at airports versus time immersing within the journey expertise.

Whereas a number of the distances might be vital, the bus/coach transport in Colombia is happily excellent usually.

One other pitfall is simply visiting cities. The smaller cities in Colombia have a lot attraction! They’re additionally typically safer than the cities, in order that they have fairly a special vibe. The smaller locations are positively to not be missed and I all the time suppose it’s good to have a mixture of each cities and cities.

The map under reveals you the primary journey locations in Colombia and the way they are often linked.

Flying in- and out of Colombia

Earlier than we are able to journey in Colombia, we’ve got to get there first!

Most vacationers will arrive in Bogota just because it has the most important worldwide airport. The capital is just not a nasty place to start out your journey, but it surely’s good to know what to anticipate from Bogota. It’s not a superficially lovely metropolis, however it’s a very attention-grabbing one.

Apart from Bogota, many different cities even have worldwide airports, together with Cartagena, Cali, and Medellín. There are even just a few direct flights all the way in which from Europe to Cartagena. Make sure you test all of your choices utilizing Google Flights or Skyscanner as this may occasionally offer you completely different concepts for the best way to plan your route.

An attention-grabbing choice is to fly through Miami. Because it’s tremendous well-connected to the remainder of the US, Colombia, in addition to Europe, it may be an ideal stepping stone.

On my most up-to-date Colombia journey, I flew from Portugal (the place I reside) to Miami after which on to Cartagena. On the way in which again I flew from Cali to Miami to Portugal. This meant I may begin and finish my journey elsewhere in Colombia. It let me journey overland in a neat north-to-south course, with none have to backtrack to Bogota.

Overrated or underrated?

Some locations in Colombia are tremendous fashionable, others appear to be barely recognized. Should you prefer to go somewhat off the overwhelmed path, you’ll have a lot of alternatives.

I assumed it’d be attention-grabbing to take a survey of Colombia itineraries. I regarded on the prime 20 itineraries on different websites and tallied how typically locations are talked about:

Place Mentions  Place Mentions
Bogota 20 Tatacoa desert 4
Cartagena 19 Manizales / Los Nevados 4
Medellin 18 San Andres island 3
Salento 17 Islands Close to Cartagena 4
Tayrona Park 15 Zona Cafetera 2
Guatape 13 Las Lajas Sanctuary 2
Santa Marta 12 Punta Gallinas 1
Minca 8 Barranquilla 1
Palomino 7 San Cipriano 1
San Gil 7 La Guajira 1
Taganga 6 Leticia (Amazon) 1
Villa de Leyva 6 Jardin 1
Misplaced Metropolis Trek 5 Rincon del Mar 1
Cali 5 Bahia Solano (Pacific Coast) 1
Popayan 5 Filandia 1
San Agustin 5

As you’ll be able to see, most websites suggest the identical locations. Cartagena will get nearly 20X extra mentions than, say, the unimaginable Pacific Coast.

That is most likely as a result of many vacationers do the identical 2-week itinerary, which then will get shared once more as if it’s the one choice. Whereas locations are sometimes fashionable for a cause, it can be fairly self-reinforcing.

Reputation doesn’t all the time imply ‘finest’. It simply is determined by what you’re on the lookout for. Personally, I like fashionable locations like Cartagena, however actually love a number of the hidden gems additional down the record.

Most touristy locations in Colombia

Cartagena is by far essentially the most touristy place in Colombia, however I do nonetheless suppose it’s touristy in a really good approach. Should you like lovely colonial structure, colourful road artwork, boutique inns, and stylish eating places, then it’s the proper place to go. It’s nice for a Caribbean vacation feeling and also you’ll consistently see beautiful snap-worthy buildings or road scenes.

Guatape, a day journey from Medellin, additionally will get very busy and will get combined evaluations. Some like it, some don’t. The views are wonderful however simply realize it’s fairly a commercialized weekend resort.

Salento is a mountain city close to Valle del Cocora, house to the world’s tallest wax palm bushes. It will get fairly crowded today, although there are a number of alternate options to Salento.


In my view, Colombia doesn’t but undergo from true overtourism the way in which another nations do, however in the event you like locations that aren’t but a lot on the journey map, then make sure to look in direction of the underside of the desk earlier, or a few of my particular recommendations to comply with.

Alright, time for some itineraries!

Itinerary 1: the Caribbean coast

The Caribbean coast is 100% the place you must go for a tropical vacation feeling. It’s good for a first-time go to to Colombia.

The beautiful colonial metropolis of Cartagena is nearly all the time sunny and (very) sizzling. It’s grow to be a mainstream trip vacation spot with high-quality lodging, excessive security ranges, and a plethora of tourist-friendly outlets and cafes. Should you’re on the lookout for a secure household or {couples} vacation spot in Colombia, that is it. (Simply count on it to be a little bit of a ‘vacationer wonderland’ and never like the remainder of Colombia.)

Cartagena is a superb start line, however I feel one of the best components within the north are round Santa Marta. Minca is the spot for eco jungle retreats and birdwatching journeys, whereas Tayrona Nationwide Park has a few of Colombia’s most photogenic wild seashores.

Recommended minimal time: 2 weeks

Cartagena (2 days)

I’ve been to colonial previous cities throughout Latin America and Cartagena is definitely essentially the most lovely. You’ll be surprised by how properly it’s saved as nicely, with roses hanging from brightly coloured balconies and dazzling road artwork enlivening the partitions within the fashionable neighborhood of Getsemani.

You’ll be able to keep in Cartagena on any finances, however you’ll get essentially the most out of it in the event you benefit from the finer issues. Inside its previous metropolis partitions, nearly all the pieces is ‘artisanal’, ‘gastro’, or ‘craft’. A number of the most lovely boutique inns in Colombia can be present in Cartagena. The town is a little more costly than elsewhere, however there are nonetheless loads of finances choices too.

Within the colonial days, big fleets would take gold and different items from Cartagena to Spain. Immediately, the previous metropolis is prosperous and fairly secure, because the peninsula of Bocagrande with its many high-rise flats that appear to be a mini-Miami. Outer neighborhoods are lots rougher across the edges (although you’re unlikely to go to them).

You’ll be able to wander the previous metropolis and the fortifications, take a road meals tour, buy groceries, or swim inside a mud volcano (a tacky however enjoyable tour).

Cartagena can also be the proper launching pad for journeys to varied close by islands and seashores.

Seashores & islands close to Cartagena (2 days)

Honest warning: the seashores instantly in- and round Cartagena are terrible (e.g. Playas de Crespo close to the airport is simply… no). However the seashores get excellent additional out from town. Count on turquoise waters and tropical fishes swimming by.

Should you’re not too choosy or in a rush, hit up Isla de Tierra Bomba, the island simply half-hour from the previous metropolis. It’s fairly industrial however will tick the field. For considerably quieter seashores, go to the Rosario islands (1 hr by boat) or the peninsula of Baru. For but extra seclusion, go to the San Bernardo islands (2 hours by boat from Cartagena).

The island expertise is finest on weekdays as on the weekends many Colombians will arrive on weekend journeys, making it extra crowded.

You’ll be able to go to the islands and seashores with boat excursions and day journeys, but it surely’s price staying in a single day so that you just get to hang around previous the afternoon rush and may watch the gorgeous sunsets.

Minca (3 days)

Minca burst onto the journey scene round 2015 when a brand new highway made it extra accessible. The mountain city grew to become the go-to ecotourism vacation spot in Colombia and hasn’t misplaced its attraction.

It’s a haven for birdwatching, climbing, natural espresso farm visits, and extra. You attain Minca simply through town Santa Marta (it’s about half-hour).

It’s finest to remain a minimum of considerably exterior the city middle for one of the best views and essentially the most serenity. My information to the finest ecolodges and hostels in Minca will inform you extra.

Should you’re even remotely fascinated by seeing tropical birds, go on the highly-rated Jungle Joe birdwatching tour. I’m not a bird-watching fanatic but I nonetheless thought it was an unimaginable expertise. Recognizing my first toucan was positively very memorable.

There are lots of climbing trails and waterfalls within the space. The environment in Minca and its sweeping jungle cover views are additionally an expertise in itself. It appears many travellers find yourself staying an evening or two longer than deliberate.

Tayrona Nationwide Park (1-2 day)

Colombia’s most well-known nationwide park encompasses a number of extraordinarily scenic seashores — of which Playa Del Cabo is one of the best recognized. Tayrona is beautiful, although it’s grow to be a little bit of an iconic place in Colombia, so it may be fairly busy at occasions. This isn’t actually a difficulty, simply don’t count on it to be a completely quiet wilderness.

A preferred exercise amongst backpackers is to remain the night time at Playa Del Cabo in a hammock beneath only a corrugated metallic roof. I haven’t carried out this however heard combined evaluations (primarily to do with the chilly wind), so learn up on it to see if it’s one thing you’d like. Alternatively, you’ll be able to keep on the sting of the park in an eco-resort or hostel after which do a morning hike to the seaside.

Many seashores in Tayrona will not be suited to swimming because of the currents. Playa Concha is near Santa Marta and is extra of a swimming seaside.

Palomino or related (2-3 days)

For some simple seaside time merely look to your complete stretch of coast east of Tayrona Park. Palomina is a little bit of a sizzling spot right here; when it comes to vibe consider a “backpacker seaside place in Thailand” besides a good bit extra laidback. Put your ft within the sand and a beer in your hand.

For someplace a bit extra low-key, try the world across the jap fringe of Tayrona. Search the map for ‘Playa Los Angeles’ or “Trompito’. The entire space round right here is sprinkled with ecolodges, hostels, glamping, and farm stays.

Extra on the Caribbean Coast

There is sufficient to do within the north to replenish a complete month! Listed below are some methods you’ll be able to lengthen your itinerary.

Ciudad Perdida (or Misplaced Metropolis) is an historical damage contained in the Sierra Nevada Nationwide Park. If in case you have 4 or 5 days to spare and love the outside, then take into account the Misplaced Metropolis trek. It passes by indigenous lands and ends on the ruins of a pre-Columbian civilization. You’ll be able to solely do that as a part of an official group tour. It does take many days and prices 1400000 COP per particular person (roughly 300 Euros or {Dollars}), so take into account if the Misplaced Metropolis is price it for you. My Misplaced Metropolis trek information will provide you with all the main points.

Many use town of Santa Marta solely to transit to Tayrona Park or Minca. It’s a ‘regular’ fashionable metropolis and doesn’t have that a lot for vacationers, however it could nonetheless function a pleasant base. It has a marina, a great metropolis seaside (at Playa El Rodadero), a small historic space, and lots of nice lodging choices. I as soon as stayed for five nights in Santa Marta just because I wasin a enjoyable hostel and likewise met some locals who confirmed me round.

The valley of Paso Del Mango is a little-known various to Minca. It’s extra remoted within the jungle, although it has only some lodging choices. Finca Carpe Diem is the primary base in Paso Del Mango.

Taganga, a village by a bay simply north of Santa Marta, is the place to be taught to scuba dive. It has a number of the most cost-effective dive faculty packages in Colombia — or anyplace, for that matter. A 3-day fundamental certification course prices about 700000 COP, whereas a half-day introduction to diving prices about 200000 COP. The reefs won’t impress extra skilled divers, however they’re good in your coaching dives.

Barranquilla is sort of an industrial metropolis with a poor fame for security. I wouldn’t trouble with it usually, although the carnival in February makes a giant exception. It’s truly the second-biggest carnival parade after Rio de Janeiro. Do watch your belongings rigorously because it’s actually a carnival of pickpocketing as nicely. Be particularly alert if you end up quickly blinded by cleaning soap bubbles sprayed from aerosol cans through the celebrations. However in the event you take some care then it’s an unforgettable occasion.

Rincon Del Mar is a laidback place by the seaside about 3 hours south of Cartagena. It’ll most likely keep fairly laidback because it’s considerably out of the way in which and lacks these postcard-friendly turquoise waters, however the in-the-know travellers make it there and like it for its pleasant environment. From Rincon, you’ll be able to go to the San Bernardo islands on a ship journey and see bioluminescent plankton sparkle within the waters in a close-by lagoon. If a low-key vibe is your form of factor, you received’t remorse going to Rincon (shhhhh, it’s secretly additionally my favourite seaside in north Colombia!).

Lastly, Punta Gallinas is the furthest northern level of Colombia. It reveals a really completely different facet of Colombia. There are sand-dune deserts and (very poor) indigenous villages. It’s troublesome to go to by yourself so it’s finest carried out on a 2 or 3-day organized tour.

Itinerary 2: from North to Bogota

The areas of Colombia are separated by appreciable distances. If you wish to journey overland from Cartegena to Bogota, it would take a dispiriting 21 hours. Many will determine to fly throughout, however when you’ve got time, it’s also possible to break up the overland journey with some wonderful stops alongside the way in which.

This itinerary is finest in the event you get pleasure from outside actions, as San Gil is likely one of the finest locations for journey sports activities like paragliding and rafting. Two of the cutest villages, Barichara and Villa de Leyva, are additionally on this route.

You should utilize this itinerary to connect collectively completely different sections of a Colombia journey or take into account it in its personal proper.

Recommended minimal time: 10 days with Bogota or 1 week with out

Mompox (2 days)

I missed out on Santa Cruz de Mompox on my journey, however I later realized it will have been completely on the way in which. It’s about 8 hours from Santa Marta or 6 hours from Cartagena. This quiet colonial city and UNESCO World Heritage website will get really helpful by lots of vacationers. I’ll refer you to this nice weblog about Mompox for more information.

San Gil (2-3 days)

It’s about 10 hours from Mompox to San Gil. As I skipped Mompox I arrived from Santa Marta, which took about 13 hours (I did it as an in a single day journey.)

San Gil is the journey sports activities capital of Colombia. The small metropolis earned this fame primarily due to the various river rapids which are wonderful for rafting, however it’s also possible to go paragliding, bungee leaping, canyoning, zip-lining, and mountain biking within the mountains round this small metropolis.

Don’t miss the native delicacy: the giant-ass ants. They fry ‘em up with a little bit of salt after which you’ll be able to eat them like popcorn.

El Cocuy (1-2 days)

On the sting of central Colombia, this nationwide park contains a mountain vary with snow-covered peaks and glaciers, past which lies the beginning of the Amazon rainforest.

It’s a spectacular space for day hikes and multi-day treks, providing you with the possibility to identify mighty condors and traverse otherworldly landscapes crammed with fraijones — palmlike shrubs that vaguely appear to be large succulents.

Actions are simply organized from the city of El Cocuy (6 hours by bus from San Gil).

Barichara (1 day)

Being one of many prettiest little villages in Colombia, Barichara actually has a approach of stealing travellers’ hearts. Only a 40-minute drive from San Gil, these two locations make for an ideal pair.

Thoughts you, it doesn’t essentially have an infinite index of issues to do; primarily some small hikes, a viewing level, a church, and a few native handicraft outlets. However the white-washed colonial structure makes strolling round Barichara an actual pleasure. It’s price an in a single day keep to soak within the environment.

Villa de Leyva (2 days)

This charming city is likely one of the few in Colombia that conserved all its colonial structure. It’s a pleasure to walk round its many cobbled streets with whitewashed buildings with tiled roofs. There are extra actions in- and round Villa de Leyva than in Barichara, which is why I recommend staying right here a minimum of a day additional.


It takes about 3 ½ hours from Villa de Leyva to Bogota by bus. Maybe your journey already began in Bogota, however right here’s your likelihood to present it a better re-evaluation.

I discover that Bogota generally will get unfavorable feedback from travellers who could have anticipated to see a extra superficially lovely metropolis. Regardless that Bogota has a gritty look, there’s a lot to like about it.

I make the case for Bogota right here whereas sharing some recommendations on the best way to make one of the best of your time. Don’t miss the excellent museums, taking a bicycle tour, or the daytrips from Bogota.

Itinerary 3: the Espresso area

The Zona Cafetera is a largely mountainous area situated between the cities of Medellin, Cali, and Armenia. Because of having the proper coffee-growing situations, it produces nearly all of Colombian arabica espresso.

The area has a light local weather very best for touring year-round. Apart from the genuine espresso cities with colonial-era structure, there are some wonderful nature areas as nicely. I like this area because it consists of a number of the traditional photos of Colombia.

Recommended minimal time: about 9 days (with Medellin), longer if together with extra espresso cities

(Additionally proven on the map is the Pacific Coast, which generally is a nice add-on with flights leaving from Medellin. Think about this wonderful vacation spot throughout whale watching season, which is roughly from July till November.)

Medellin (2 days or extra)

Within the Nineteen Nineties it was one of many world’s most violent locations; right this moment it’s a reinvented metropolis extremely price exploring. To really recognize Medellin’s historical past and its outstanding transformation, ensure you take the Actual Metropolis Tour Medellin. It’s nonetheless top-of-the-line strolling excursions I’ve ever carried out. Make it the very first thing you do! You’ll thank me later.

You’ll be able to learn extra about what to anticipate from Medellin right here.

It’s additionally price taking the cable automobile as much as Parque Arvi or visiting Communa 13, which was as soon as a nasty neighborhood however is now a vacationer vacation spot and gives clear proof of Medellin’s transformation.

I recommend spending 2 days in Medellin to get a great style of it, however you possibly can keep longer to benefit from the nightlife or for day journeys within the space. Whereas missing considerably in museums or different main sights, Medellin is a really habitable metropolis that draws many expats and digital nomads. The upscale space of El Poblado (the place many hostels and inns are situated) is nice and hosts many high quality eating places and cafes.

Jardin (2 days)

This beautiful little city will provide you with an ideal introduction to the espresso area. It’s a vigorous and tourist-friendly place, but genuine all the identical (and never but so found by overseas vacationers). You’ll absolutely see some ranchers and low farmers sporting cowboy hats and ponchos, generally on horseback.

There’s a lot to do in Jardin so you possibly can actually keep for 3 days to take it gradual. There are hikes, waterfalls, espresso farm visits, birdwatching excursions, horseback driving, and lots of extra actions to select from. Close to the river are additionally many trout farms the place you’ll be able to get pleasure from freshly grilled fish.

The bus from Medellin to Jardin takes about 4 hours.

Manizales & Los Nevados (2 days)

Add some selection to your Zona Cafetera journey by leaving the plush espresso valleys for Manizales, a metropolis at round 2,000m (6500ft) elevation. It’s not essentially essentially the most lovely metropolis but it surely’s comparatively secure, has pretty mountain views, and is called a vibrant college city.

It takes 6 hours to get there from Jardin; spend the afternoon in Manizales for an opportunity to see an actual Colombian metropolis with none of the same old gringo trappings. You received’t discover colourful colonial structure right here, but it surely’s an attention-grabbing metropolis in its personal approach.

Manizales is the proper base from which to take a full-day tour of the Los Nevados nationwide park. You’ll see a number of volcanoes in addition to a novel Andean ecosystem known as the paramo. It may be fairly chilly within the mountains, however you’ll be able to warmth up afterwards by taking a shower in a sizzling thermal spring.

Salento (2 days)

Salento is the place from the place you’ll be able to see the wax palm tree, Colombia’s nationwide image. The valley close to Salento has quite a few of those bizarrely tall palm bushes, making for a powerful sight. You’ll be able to hike by the valley or take a tour with a jeep.

There’s much more to do in Salento so it’s good to remain for some time. Don’t miss your likelihood to play tejo at Los Amigos. This can be a Colombian ball-throwing sport the place the targets are rigged with gunpowder and it’s a ton of enjoyable.

The bus from Manizales to Armenia takes about 2 hours. It’s one other 40 minutes or so from Armenia’s bus station to Salento.

Extra within the Espresso Zone

The above locations will provide you with the highlights, however there’s a lot extra within the Zona Cafetera. I had a good time simply hopping from city to city for 2 weeks.

As a result of Salento will get fairly busy today, chances are you’ll benefit from the alternate options to Salento. My favourite is Filandia, a city that’s much more laidback, however which nonetheless has a lot of attention-grabbing issues to do.

On the Barbas Bremen Nature Reserve you’ll be able to take a guided jungle hike and have a great likelihood of recognizing teams of red-haired howler monkeys.

Should you get pleasure from very quiet however untouristy cities then I extremely suggest Jerico, Salamina, or Pijao. Needless to say you received’t be greeted by big menus of organized excursions and actions upon check-in at your lodge, as you would possibly in additional touristy locations. But when you could find your individual climbing trails, get pleasure from watching the road life, or you are able to do your individual analysis to seek out the actions obtainable, then these cities are actually a number of the hidden gems within the Zona Cafetera.

Itinerary 4: southern Colombia

The southern components of Colombia are much less explored, not for a scarcity of sights however largely as a result of it’s additional faraway from the place most vacationers begin their journeys. It’s somewhat extra off the overwhelmed path and a rewarding a part of Colombia to discover. Some sights are price it particularly in the event you’re on an extended journey and in your approach to Ecuador.

Recommended minimal time: 10 days


It needs to be mentioned that Cali has a worse fame for security than different cities. The ‘Cali cartel’ not exists, but it surely’s nonetheless a hub for narcotrafficking. Nonetheless, the dangerous bits of Cali are within the northern and jap suburbs and are largely nicely away from the middle. Having constructed up a caricature of Cali in my thoughts, I used to be shocked to seek out central Cali is definitely very inviting and habitable. (Take a look at El Penon or the world round Parque del Perro.)

Cali is legendary for being the salsa dancing capital of Colombia. Should you ever wished to take lessons, do it right here! The salsa bar scene is very social and alluring. Do take taxis again to your lodging at night time for security.

San Agustin

This colourful village is legendary for its many enigmatic pre-Colombian statues which are scattered all through the panorama. Seeing these archeological finds will contain fairly a little bit of strolling as they’re fairly unfold out. The traditional civilization that left all these works stays shrouded in thriller.

The statues are removed from the one attraction. There are lots of hikes, viewpoints, and waterfalls to go to and jeep excursions can present you a number of the extra distant sights. There are a minimum of half a dozen very well-rated hostels in San Agustin, together with the Masaya San Agustin, which is nearer to an ecolodge with a spread of comfy bamboo homes constructed within the native type.


Because of its many well-preserved white colonial buildings, beautiful Popayan is called the “white metropolis”. With a inhabitants of round 220,000, it’s an excellent mid-size metropolis to discover, having a great fame for security as nicely. You’ll be able to stroll the streets, store for handicrafts, and revel in its many church buildings, plazas, and parks. Should you’ve simply had some action-packed journey days, then the close by thermal swimming pools will allow you to calm down and recuperate.

There isn’t essentially an infinite record of issues to do, however Popayan is a pleasant light metropolis to spend a while and to make use of as a base for day journeys. One such journey is to Silvia (described under), one other Parque Pure De Puracé the place you’ll be able to witness an lively volcano.


The small city of Silvia close to Popayan is notable for its giant inhabitants of indigenous individuals, principally Guambiano Indians. The genuine market in Silvia is the place you’ll be able to see many sellers put on conventional black bowler hats and colourful ponchos. It’s a method of gown extra generally seen in Peru or Bolivia, so in the event you’re on the lookout for an Andean environment in Colombia, that is the place to seek out it.

You could need to go to the market on a visit from Popayan with a great information to achieve extra of an understanding of the native tradition and traditions.

Tatacoa Desert

In Tatacoa you’ll end up in amid an arid expanse, house of vultures and eagles, with the beginning of the Andes mountain vary seen off within the distance. A labyrinth of rocky canyons fashioned by years of abrasion is the primary attraction right here — it’s a surreal little place to wander, although it received’t take greater than an hour or so.

Because of the low mild air pollution, it’s additionally an ideal spot for stargazing. On the native observatories, some resident astronomers give nightly excursions of the universe. Regardless of lots of clouds I nonetheless noticed Jupiter by a telescope which was very fascinating. Descriptions of the growth of the universe and such have been a bit a lot for my restricted Spanish on the time, but it surely was an excellent expertise nonetheless.

Tatacoa was as soon as in Lonely Planet’s prime locations to go to listed initially of its information. Maybe this was as a consequence of fewer different locations but being secure prior to now. I’m wondering if this may occasionally have overhyped Tatacoa a bit, however I nonetheless suppose it’s price staying for a day or an evening.

Las Lajas Sanctuary

Lastly, you’ll be able to jump over to Ipiales, close to the border with Ecuador. It’s positively price visiting in the event you’re heading to Ecuador anyway, however whether or not it’s price a visit in its personal proper is debatable because it takes you a bit removed from the Colombia journey path. The massive attraction right here is the Santuario de las Lajas, a cathedral spectacularly constructed on a bridge over the Guaitara river.

Colombia itinerary extensions

The above routes embody locations which are properly clustered collectively. However there are additionally extra distant locations which are a bit disconnected from all over the place else. They are often regarded as nice “add-ons”.

Pacific Coast

Distant and unconnected by roads, the Pacific Coast is a really wild a part of Colombia. Should you go there between July and November, you’ll be there on the proper time to see quite a few humpback whales. Should you’re intrigued, learn my information to Colombia’s Pacific coast.

By the way in which, the Pacific Coast is among the many world’s rainiest locations, so do pack your rain coat and baggage rain cowl. If listening to this demotivates you in any respect to go, I must also say it’s palms down my favourite place in all of Colombia. The character is extremely wild and unspoiled and the small Afro-Colombian communities alongside the coast are a delight.

Lodging is a little more fundamental on the Pacific Coast. Villages are provided solely as soon as every week by cargo boat, so costs for meals or different good generally is a bit greater than within the inside. It sometimes takes a propellor airplane flight from Medellin to get there, however you’ll be rewarded for the hassle. Whereas fairly distant, recognized locations in Choco reminiscent of Bahia Solano and Nuqui are thought-about secure.

Into the Amazon

35% of Colombia’s territory is roofed by the Amazon Rainforest. Going into it was fairly a dangerous proposition, however for the reason that 2016 peace accord with the FARC rebels, the Amazon area has been opening up for all types of ecotourism.

The city of Leticia, on the border with Peru and Brazil, was the one sport on the town for Amazon excursions. It’s nonetheless a great guess as you could have many flights there from Bogota and it’s a well-established vacation spot.

Extra lately the city of San José del Guaviare has grow to be another choice. You’ll be able to fly there or attain it overland by bus through Villavicencio. It was a harmful place however not is, but it’s nonetheless not almost as well-known as Leticia. (Make sure you take journeys from San Jose with respected tour corporations, nevertheless.) The Cano Canoes waterfalls are very exhausting to get to however are one of many ‘secret’ locations in Colombia. Historic cave work are one other sort of sight discovered deep within the jungle.

Different locations within the Amazon are troublesome to get to independently. On the Cerros de Mavecure, you’ll be able to climb two hills product of darkish volcanic rock and revel in views of the rainforest so far as the attention can see. However you’ll should test with tour corporations reminiscent of Colombia Oculta for organized expeditions to such locations.

The Darien Hole

Nope, I’m not suggesting you must go hand around in the thickly jungled borderlands between Panama and Colombia, recognized for its drug-smuggling routes and its manifold risks. Nonetheless, there are some beachside villages close to the Darien Hole, reminiscent of Capurgana, which are recognized to be secure whereas nonetheless being off the same old journey routes in Colombia.

The seaside cities are too far faraway from different locations to simply justify simply going there on their very own, however they will make for an ideal cease if you’re coming from Panama.

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Posted OCT 12, 2022 (Up to date Nov 11, 2022)

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