In this post, I will help you plan and create your best Colombia itinerary. Below you will find an extensive Colombia itinerary that can be adjusted according to your travel duration and the type of traveller you are. I will include some bonus off the beaten track destinations, and of course, important tips and advice on how to create the best Colombia travel plan.
Colombia is a fascinating country. It is also one of my favourite countries in the world. I spent 4 months travelling through Colombia and I could easily spend another year there. It is a spectacular country and home to some of the kindest people.
I loved everything about Colombia. Its nature, its coast, its lush mountains, its villages and its cities. How incredible the hostel scene is in Colombia and the kindness of the people. The music, how much people enjoy life and how simple things gained a new value for me. Colombia has a rich and dramatic history and a very diverse culture.
If you want to know the Pacific Ocean… Go to Chile.
If you want to know the Atlantic Ocean… Go to Jamaica.
If you want to know the American Andes… Go to Bolivia.
If you want to know the plains of the Orinoco… Go to Venezuela.
If you want to know the jungles of the Amazon… Go to Brazil.
If you want to get to know the pre-Columbian cultures… Go to Mexico.
But if you want to experience all this together… Come to Colombia.
And it’s very much true. Whatever type of traveller you are, whatever you are looking for – adventure, jungle trekking, beach chilling, hiking, exploring the desert and indigenous cultures, visiting ancient ruins, or partying and having a good time – it is all there for you in Colombia!
I guess if you are here – you have already decided to go. Great decision!
But now you are wondering – how am I even going to see it all?!
I’m going to give it to you straight – you will not.
I will not be fooling you and saying that you can see all of Colombia in a month. Not even in two or three months. Even if you would have spent just one day in every place – it wouldn’t be possible! But why would you do that anyway?
Let me tell you, you will want to rest for a few days on the beach, take a hike you didn’t know existed or visit the village that all travellers you met are raving about, chill by the infinity pool overlooking the mountains in Minca, sleep in a hammock in Cabo da la Vela, and forget the world in Rincon. You will want to walk the streets of Jardin and Salento, and marvel at the Guatape and raft in San Gil.
But give yourself some time. When it comes to travelling in a country like Colombia – less is more.
Still, how do you make a decision about what to put on your list? Colombia is a big country, so planning your trip while trying to tick all “must-see destinations” can be easily overwhelming.
But I’m here for the rescue! I have created the most extensive Colombia itinerary for you!
Table of Contents
What will you find in this Colombia itinerary / Colombia travel planning guide?
I have created a comprehensive Colombia itinerary which can be adjusted to your travel duration. I have provided advice on how many days you should spend in one place and added travel days as very often it will take nearly a whole day to get from one place to another. I’ve linked the destinations for the smoothest possible transition. I have also provided short lists of things to do and places to stay.
This Colombia Itinerary spreads across 2 months, but if you have more time you can add more locations from the off-the-beaten-track list or extend your stay in a few locations.
If you only have one month, for example, you can cut out few parts. For example: Skip Cali, and return to Medellin after Salento. You can also skip the Jardin and head to Salento straight. The other option is to skip San Gil and Villa de Leyva and head straight to Cartagena. As you can see, this route is very flexible: )
This Colombia itinerary is designed so that you can see all the options and choose the destinations you can and want to see.
And why is this a Colombia itinerary for every type of traveller? Because you can choose and pick the locations but also the duration of your travel. The number of days I suggested for each location, is the minimal advised time you should spend there. You can extend it, skip it or change it – this is your trip and I am here to make it easier for you to plan your Colombia trip!
For a more detailed guide on specific Colombia destinations, I will include links to relevant posts.
You could divide Colombia into a few different tourist interest areas. I think dividing it this way will help you plan your Colombia itinerary better. The areas that end up on most of the itineraries are: Caribbean Coast, Medellin and Antioquia department (Jardin, Guatape), Bogota and surrounding areas (Villa de Leyva or Chingaza National Park) and Coffee Triangle (Eje Cafetero – Salento, Filandia, Armenia).
Some travellers that stay for longer would also add Cali and Pacific Coast, Amazonas with Leticia, Santander with San Gil and other southern departments like Meta or areas around Popayan.
Epic Colombia itinerariy for every type of traveller
Day 1 – Arrive in Bogota
Day 2 – Heal the jet lag and climb Monserrate or take a bike city tour (highly recommended!)
I suggest you spend a day in Bogota to sleep off or walk off the jet lag. If you want to spend this day exploring this enormous and fascinating city, I strongly recommend that you take a bicycle city tour. I took one myself and it was the best way to get to know the city, its dramatic history, visit the fruit market and eat some weirdest fruit out there and get myself accustomed to Colombia. Highly recommended!
You can also climb the mountain of Monserrate for the most spectacular views of Bogota. Don’t worry, you can also take a cable car! After visiting Monserrate, I recommend that you visit the historic district of La Candelaria. You will find a few great museums here like Museo Botero or Museo de Bogota.
A visit to Museo del Oro is also a great thing to do in Bogota!
Bogota has some bad name to it and you do need to know where to go and when not to. But if you follow basic safety rules and visit during the day, you might end up really liking the city. In fact, I like Bogota more than Medellin!
If you are wary of wandering around on your own, join a group tour! It’s an excellent way to meet other travellers and ask all burning questions.
There are many epic hostels in Bogota and various areas you could stay in. The most popular hostels in Bogota include Cranky Croc Hostel, Viajero, Hobu Hostel and Republica Hostel. For a private room in a hostel with access to coworking space, I recommend Selina and if you are looking for a private room in a great location check out Suites 109 GH Usaquén.
Days 3 and 4 – Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is one of the most beautiful and popular colonial towns in Colombia. It is such a charming town that I recommend spending at least one night to fully immerse yourself in its charm. Enjoy the walk down the stone-made streets among colonial buildings, go hiking or enjoy a great dinner without feeling rushed.
Although the town retains its original architecture and magic, be aware that being just an hour’s drive from Bogota, it is also a popular tourist spot.
The Plaza Mayor is one of South America’s largest plazas and one of Colombia’s most photographed squares. Surrounding the plaza are a number of cafes, restaurants and hotels where you can relax and watch life go by. There are a number of archaeological sites and museums that can be found in the area, as well as Pozoz Azules (Blue Ponds) located just 2 km away from Villa de Leyva.
Day 5 – Travel to San Gil
Days 6, 7 and 8 – San Gil
San Gil is known to be Colombia’s adventure capital and many travelers head here to try rafting, paragliding, mountain biking, hiking and much more. So if you are looking for some adventure and want to spike your adrenaline levels make your way to San Gil.
San Gil is located in the Santander Department and to be honest, no one visits San Gil for the town itself. The town is, however, famously surrounded by mountains, deep canyons, fast waters and waterfalls.
San Gil is said to be an exceptional place for rafting with Rio Suarez offering one of the very few in the world raft class 5 rapids. But even if extreme sports like bungy jumping or canyoning are not your thing, San Gil is also an awesome hiking destination with an incredible Chicamocha National Park and numerous waterfalls that can be visited on foot.
Oh, and with Colombia’s prettiest village of Barichara just around the corner, you might notice that even 3 days won’t be enough to really enjoy the town and its surroundings.
Tips for travelling to and from San Gil
San Gil logistically can be a little bit tricky to put on your itinerary. You can either return from Villa de Leyva to Bogota and take a bus to San Gil which takes around 8 hours. In this case, I recommend spending a night in Bogota. Or you can skip Villa de Leyva and travel to San Gil straight away from Bogota.
Alternatively, you can also travel from Villa de Leyva to San Gil by first taking a bus to Tunja and then changing there for the bus to San Gil which takes around 5 to 6 hours.
After you spent your time in San Gil you can take a bus to Bucamaranga and then take a flight or bus from there to either Cartagena or Santa Marta. Consider spending a night in Bucamaranga.
If visiting San Gil isn’t your thing or feels like too much hassle then skip to the next location on this list – Cartegena.
Day 9 – Travel to Cartagena
Days 10, 11 and 12 – Cartagena
I recommend that you stay in Cartagena for a minimum of 3 days. There are plenty of things to do in Cartagena and few great day trips you can take from here as well.
Explore the incredibly picturesque and colourful Centro Historico and head to the Getsemani district to discover its incredible murals. Getsemani is my favourite part of Cartagena, especially in the afternoon.
I highly recommend Cartagena free walking tour. It was one of the best walking tours I have taken in Colombia. I have only stayed in Cartagena for a total of 5 days (which is short by my standards) so the walking tour allowed me to learn more about the city and discover places I wouldn’t know about otherwise.
You can easily stay in Cartagena for a few extra days as there are a few incredible day tips you can take from there.
You can take a day trip to Playa Blanca, although I do recommend staying for one night to enjoy this paradise tourist-free.
Another great thing you can do in Cartagena is visiting Rosario Islands. There are many ways you can see this Caribbean paradise and many travellers opt for a day trip, but you can easily spend days island hopping and relaxing.
Day 13 – Travel to Rincon del Mar
Days 14, 15 and 16 – Rincon del Mar and San Bernardo Islands trip
If you have already read some of my Colombia posts or follow me on Instagram, you probably know how much I love Rincon del Mar!
Visiting places like Rincon del Mar is a quintessence of what backpacking is for me. Until the last moment, I wasn’t sure if I would make it to Rincon, and I am so glad I did! This is a true tranquil Colombian paradise. If you are looking to relax on the beach, swim surrounded by bioluminescent plankton and if you are considering visiting the San Bernando islands – you have to visit Rincon.
Ten years ago, Rincon del Mar wasn’t even on a map, so the population of this small fishing village is only getting used to the new touristy reality. You won’t find hoards of vendors on the beach. The streets of Rincon del Mar are full of locals going about their life and the weekend street party is very much how it used to be years ago.
But don’t be fooled. There are many fantastic beach hostels and accommodations available in Rincón del Mar. And there are tones of activities. That is if you want to do something apart from lazing in the hammock and eating fish all day long.
From Rincon, you can either take a day trip to the San Bernando Islands or continue from here and stay on any of them for a night or two. Some travellers choose to travel back to Cartagena by boat.
You can also spend a night in a hotel on the water!
There are some incredible beachfront hostels and eco-lodges in Rincon del Mar. I stayed in Hostel Beach House and loved it! Mamallena also has fantastic reviews and of course, there is Dos Aguas! Famous eco-lodge which I highly recommend (on the side of the pricier and need to booked well in advenced)!
Day 17 – Return to Cartagena and spend one night and travel to Santa Marta first thing in the morning
Days 18 and 19 – Arrive in Santa Marta
On day 17 take an early bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta and spend the afternoon exploring and enjoying dinner in one of the great restaurants in Parque de Los Novios.
Although many claim that there isn’t much to do in Santa Marta, I strongly disagree. It is actually one of my favourite cities in Colombia and I spent a total of 3 weeks there! I could easily imagine myself living in Santa Marta actually.
But for our short trip, I recommend you spend a whole day exploring the town, visiting Simon Bolivar Museum and admiring the sunset at the marina. If you are around during the weekend, head to La Brisa Loca for the best party in town.
Or you can just hop on a boat to Playa Blanca and chill on the beach all day.
There are tons of great hostels and private accommodation options in Santa Marta. My favourites are Flamingo co-living and Co-working and Distrito Hostel. I stayed in both and wholeheartedly recommend both!
Day 20 and 21 – Tayrona National Park
Take off as early as you can to beat the crowds. The gate is open from 8 am. I suggest you store your luggage in the hostel/hotel in Santa Marta. The majority of hotels will have no problems storing your luggage as long as you spend a couple of nights with them.
The best way to visit Tayrona National Park is on a two-day trip. I wrote a full article about this which includes all the accommodation options. You can read it here.
You will spend the first day trekking in the jungle to some of Colombia’s most beautiful beaches. After spending the night in the hammock I suggest leaving Tayrona around midday and heading back to Santa Marta to pick up your luggage. You will have enough time to get on a bus to your next beach destination.
You will want to leave Santa Marta at the latest at 3pm by taking the Palomino bus from in front of the market.
Day 22, 23 and 24 – Beach time (Mendihuaca, Costeno or Palomino)
It’s time to relax a bit. I suggest you spend the full 2 days in one of those beach towns. The choice will depend on what are you looking for.
All 3 towns are great for surfing and not so much for swimming, but the beaches are great and sunsets to die for.
Mendihuaca is a remote surfer’s beach, of which not many tourists know about. Along the beach, you will find eco-lodges facing the beach and you will fall asleep to the sound of the sea. But don’t expect too many facilities. Electricity is available for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening and the showers are cold. But the beach is magical. There is a small café on the beach run by Isabela who bakes the best cakes and makes great cocktails.
Costeno Beach is home to 3 of the famous beach hostels. With nothing else around you will spend your time in a great hostel or private room and enjoy great facilities such as a pool, a restaurant, surf lessons and a party at night. The destination hostel in this part of Colombia is definitely Costeno Beach Hostel. Many travellers stop here not only to chill on the remote beach but to also enjoy what this hostel has on offer like great food, a vibe, a young crowd of cool travellers and an awesome pool.
Palomino is an actual town with many accommodation options and plenty of bars and restaurants. It’s famous for being a hippy town in Colombia, but in recent years it has gained mixed reviews. The beach in Palomino is receding yet surfing is still great. I really liked Palomino, but if you are looking for a relaxing time in the middle of nowhere with some facilities and Internet access – Costeno is your choice.
If you are planning a Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas trip – Palomino would be the best choice for a base.
She's Birdie is The Original Personal Safety Alarm for Women made by Women! Easy to use and activate, it adds an additional layer of safety and will give this extra peace of mind. I love this product! A personal safety alarm once activated, produces a sound and flashing strobe that should scare the majority of attackers!
Days 25, 26 and 27 – Cabo de la vela and Punta Gallinas Trip
This trip is optional but highly recommended. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had in Colombia, although it didn’t come without challenges. I do, however, believe that travelling isn’t always easy, but it’s always rewarding. And this particular one is eye-opening and breathtaking.
Cabo de la Vela is a small fishing town only accessible by jeep or motorbike, located in the La Guajira desert, on the Eastern Caribbean Coast of Colombia. The La Guajira region is a beautiful part of Colombia, yet one of the most impoverished and neglected regions of the country. It is home to the Wayuu indigenous people living in tough desert conditions.
Further up is Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point of mainland Colombia and South America. It’s stunning, wild and breathtaking. But it’s here where you will ride through the desert and witness the poverty, families living in sheds in the desert and creating artificial checkpoints/tolls made of ropes and colourful clothes which are meant to stop you on your way and give food, water or candy to children.
I travelled with this bag for a year in Europe, and South and Central America while carrying with me everything I owned at the time. Read my honest review of the Osprey Fairview 55l backpack!
This whole trip is an adventure of contrasts. The trip takes 3 days and 2 nights and you have to take an organized tour. Although you could travel to Cabo independently, it is not recommended you go any further due to roadblocks and no clearly marked roads.
You will travel for 3 days, travel in the jeep through the La Guajira desert, visit in my opinion, one of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia, see incredible sunsets but also see poverty, and the problem of waste and learn how communities here lack necessities like clean drinking water or access to medical health.
It can be a heartbreaking journey. But at the same time, you will see what in my opinion is one of the most beautiful regions of the country.
You will spend the night sleeping in the Wayuu hammock and be able to wash or take a shower just for a couple of hours in the evening and in the morning. There are no luxuries on this trip, and it will be tiring at times. But on the last day, you will slide from the dunes right into the blue ocean.
Everything about this trip is worth it.
There are a number of agencies organizing this trip, many of which offer it only in Spanish. Please do your research and choose wisely. The cheaper in this case often means broken cars, delays and lack of guidance.
The best point to start this trip is the city of Riohacha, but you can also start from Palomino. If you are taking your tour from Riohacha you will have to stay there overnight and travel back by bus or plane. I travelled back to Santa Marta by bus.
I know people who took the tour from Santa Marta, too. I do not recommend it. It takes about 7 hours to get to Cabo from Santa Marta. You will spend more hours in the jeep than exploring the La Guajira.
Are you Digital Nomad or Long Term Traveller looking for the best Travel Insurance? Or are you just someone that is looking for flexible and reliable insurance that can be purchased and cancelled at any time?
As a slow-travelling nomad, I use and recommend SafetyWing Insurance.
I love the nomad-friendly features they offer. There is no need to specify the destination or the duration of travel. I personally love this feature as I never know how long I’m going to stay in a given country.
From your chosen start date, your insurance automatically extends every 28 days until you pick an end date. Just like a subscription. And you can cancel at any time.
Day 28 – Travel from Riohacha to Santa Marta
Days 29, 30 and 31 – Minca
Travellers often wonder if they should make a detour and visit Minca. If you are wondering as well, I will tell you, don’t!
Minca is one of my favourite places in Colombia. If you have only a couple of weeks in Colombia and want to add one smaller, off-the-beaten-path destination to your list – Minca should be your choice.
You can stay in Casas Viejas perched on top of a mountain, wake up to the tranquillity of the green rolling hills, take a swim in an infinity pool, take a great hike to the waterfall and just relax and forget the world for a few days! Why wouldn’t you! And you will be only an hour’s drive from Santa Marta!
Minca is often visited on a day trip, but I recommend spending 2 nights so that you get a full day of exploration and chilling! You will not regret it!
Day 32 – Travel to Medellin
Days 33, 34 and 35 Medellin
Medellin is a fascinating city with a very dramatic history and hundreds of great things to do! Once, one of the most dangerous cities in the world Medellin is now a top tourist and digital nomads destination in Colombia. It is also on every traveller’s Colombia itinerary.
Of course, 3 days is not enough to discover it all. Many travellers extend their stay and some even grow roots here.
But if you only have a couple or three days in Medellín, you can’t miss the Comuna 13 graffiti free walking tour where you will learn all about the past of the city, as well as taking the cable car ride from San Javier to La Aurora. You can also take a walk through the historic center of Medellín and visit the Parque de Bolívar, Plaza Botero or Museo de Antioquia.
While in Medellín I recommend taking a day trip to Guatape. This beautiful, colourful town is also famous for La Piedra del Penol rock. After climbing 172 steps you will be rewarded with the most spectacular views. Put it on your list, please!
This complete guide describes the best areas to stay in Medellin with some excellent hostel recommendations.
Day 36 – Travel to Jardin
Days 37 and 38 – Jardin
Jardin came to me as a surprise. The moment I arrived in Jardin I just couldn’t stop whispering ‘wow’ to myself. This colourful colonial town has really retained its original atmosphere and charm. It’s like going back in time where life was just so much… slower.
The town itself is beautiful with its colors and surrounding mountains. There are also quite a few things you can do there as hiking, hiking and hiking too! Ok, you can also visit a botanical bird watching garden, have a very good coffee in the main square, indulge in salchipapas, go horse riding and take tons of photos! It’s a magical stunning place!
Day 39 – Travel to Salento
Day 40, 41, 42, 43 – Salento
A word of warning! If you are planning on travelling from Jardin to Salento, prepare for a long and tiring all-day journey. If you don’t want to spend all day travelling and changing buses, you will have to skip Jardin and travel directly from Medellin to Salento.
Because you simply cannot miss Salento!
Salento is probably one of the best towns to base yourself for exploring the Colombian coffee region, the so-called Eje Cafetero. Not only because it is a very charming, colourful town with tons of things to do, but also because there are many tours and trips you can do from Salento.
Although Salento is more touristy than Jardin or Filandia, the array of activities and access to great trips, including the spectacular Cocora Valley, makes it one of the best towns to visit in the Coffee Triangle region of Colombia.
My recommendation is to stay at least 3 days in Salento and take a day trip to Cocora Valley as a day trip to Filandia (in a Willy Jeep!). But trust me, you could easily extend your stay and just wander around town, go zip-lining, hike or take a trip to the waterfalls.
Salento is also a perfect place to take a coffee farm tour and taste the best Colombian coffee!
In this article, I have listed all the great things you can do in Salento! Consider spending more than just 3 days and thank me later!
Day 44 Travel to Cali
Days 45, 46, 47 – Cali
If you arrive in Colombia and want to learn how to dance salsa, go to Cali! Cali is the salsa capital and everyone here knows how to dance, everyone dances and even many hostels include salsa lessons in their rates.
But there is so much more to this city. Travelers say Cali has a remarkable atmosphere and a wonderful community. People say that you come to Cali to experience and feel it not to visit the sites and landmarks. Unfortunately, I personally had to skip the Cali part of my journey as I had some sudden change of plans. I very much regret it but I guess I have a good reason to come back. Not like I need one anyway!
But apart from learning how to salsa, you can also enjoy its lively nightlife, go hiking, learn to play tejo or climb up to see the Christ the Redeemer statue and the magnificent view over the city. Or you can of course take a guided tour of Cali.
I travelled with this bag for a year in Europe, and South and Central America while carrying with me everything I owned at the time. Read my honest review of the Osprey Fairview 55l backpack!
Day 48 – Travel to Popayan
Days 49 and 50 – Popayan
Popayan, the “White City”, is known for its whitewashed colonial buildings and Easter week parades. Popayan is one of the oldest and best-preserved cities in South America and a wonderful town to explore. If you have some more time to explore Colombia and plan to venture to this part of the country you should put Popayan on your Colombia itinerary.
Because some of the best things to do in Popayan are out of town, I recommend staying for at least a couple of days. Some of the recommended things to do are hiking Volcan Puracé and exploring Puracé National Park.
You should also do the highly rated Free Walking Tour in Popayan!
Day 51 – Travel to San Agustin
Days 52, 53 – San Agustin
San Agustin is the best place that you have probably never heard about. It is a very unique and special location in Colombia, especially if you are fascinated by prehistory and want to visit the pre-Incan monuments.
Day 54 – return to Bogota or Medellin
Days 55, 56 – Rest
Day 57 – Return home
Additional off the beaten path destinations worth adding to you Colombia itinerary
Palomino marks the start of the La Guajira department of Colombia – very much underrated as a travel destination among international travellers. Many travellers stop their coastal journey at this point.
Yet, I am confident it will change soon because La Guajira boasts some of the country’s most beautiful beaches and beach destinations. Mayapo beach is just one of them.
Mayapo beach is a quintessence of a paradise beach. Crystal blue sea, white sand, tranquillity and the best winds for practising kitesurfing. What else do you need?
It is, however, a popular vacation destination for Colombians travelling in Guajira and Riohacha, so make sure you visit on weekdays to be able to enjoy its beauty and tranquillity.
On the beach of Mayapo, you will find few hostels and rustic restaurants offering chairs and hammocks to relax in, but you will also meet indigenous Wahoo people selling their crafts and traditional bags. If you decide to travel further into Cabo de la Vera and Punta Gallinas, Mayapo is the best introduction to this magnificent region of Colombia. Or you can stop here on your way back to recharge and get some rest.
Capurgana and Sapzurro
Capurganá and Sapzurro are two beach towns located to the far west of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. So much so that you can actually take a boat trip or hike to neighbouring La Miel beach in Panama.
You can get to both Capurganá and Sapzurro by taking a boat from Acandi, Turbo or Necoli.
Both towns are pretty isolated and provide paradisical beaches, lush jungle and an authentic village atmosphere. You can take a hike in the jungle between the two towns, take a hike across the Panama border to the village of La Miel, spend a day on the beach, hike to El Cielo waterfall, or during Easter time, watch turtles arrive at Acando beach to lay their eggs.
Not many travellers make their way to the Pacific coast of Colombia. Mostly as it is not always the easiest to get there (much of it can only be reached by plane), and in the past, the area wasn’t the safest either. But it is gradually changing.
This is where you can visit beautiful wild beaches surrounded by lush jungle and take a trip to see the humpback whales summer and early autumn months. An incredible experience! You can also help release small baby turtles to the ocean!
This coast is also home to some of the best surfing and if you are not planning a trip to Amazon, then you will find some of the most incredible jungle and waterfall trekking here as well!
The most famous spot on the pacific coast is Pacifico Hostel located in Juanchaco, which is mainly catering for young backpackers. It offers basic accommodation and good food as well as trips and activities. Other popular destinations on Colombia’s Pacific coast are La Barra, Guachalito, El Valle and Arusí.
Do your research before you go. In addition, the departments of Nariño and Cauca have bad safety reputations. Never take overnight buses in the area. It’s not an easy place to get to and is far from luxury. So much more worth discovering!
The Tatacoa desert is a very unusual and unique part of Colombia well off the gringo trail. It offers an interesting eroded landscape and red labyrinths made of uniquely shaped formations.
It is actually a semi-desert, but don’t be fooled, it is hot!
There are loads of surprising thighs you can do there, including hiking, visiting the astronomical observatory or taking a desert biking tour!
Make sure you spare the day for lounging by the pool in your hostel. Surrounded by the desert!
Jerico is another of those beautiful traditional towns that somehow have been left out of tourist itineraries. Yet, maybe that’s a good thing, and sometimes I feel guilty for even mentioning those places as I might be contributing to changing it.
Nevertheless, if you like to discover the secret and beautiful colonial towns in Colombia, Jerico should be on your list.
Just a 3-hour drive from Medellin, Jerico can be easily added to your route between Medellin and Salento, for example. Once in Jerico, you can take a coffee and Arcoiris waterfall tour, hike to the Cerro Las Nubes, discover the colour-splashed town and watch everyday life while sipping some great coffee or hike along the Canyon del Río Cauca.
Jerico is also a great place to try paragliding!
If you enjoyed your visit to San Agustin Archaeological Park, you should consider visiting the mysterious Terradentro!
Located in the heart of the Andes, 6 hours from Popayán, these pre-Columbian underground burial chambers hide painted figures, ceramics and walls painted with red and black geometric motifs which are unlike anything else found in the Americas.
This UNESCO site is hidden away among the almost vertical hills and valleys of the southern Colombian Andes. The indigenous culture that built those tombs disappeared over a thousand years ago, leaving little record as to who they were. Stepping down into these tombs is a truly incredible experience as some of them are more than 7m deep! Incredible adventure!
If you are visiting Popayan you can easily make a detour and visit Terradentro from there!
Leticia and the Amazonas
The town of Leticia lies along the Amazon River, near the borders of Brazil and Peru. It’s a great place to base yourself for exploring the indigenous communities and discovering the jungle and wildlife of the Colombian Amazon.
Once you arrive in Leticia, which is easily accessible by plane from many cystitis areas in Colombia, you can undertake an entire day of Amazon River tour or multi-day jungle treks. You can stay in Leticia for a few days and enjoy ziplining, go kayaking or take a day tour to Peru and Brazil.
It’s a perfect journey to nourish the adventurous soul within you. Please remember to plan your trip well and venture into Amazon with a guide or with an organized tour. There is no saving money when it comes to saving.
Cano Cristales is the only place I was dying to visit, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able due to failed logistics. But if you have the chance and time to do it, please go!
Cano Cristales has been called the most beautiful river in the world. Also called a river of colours, Cano Cristales water is painted red, pink, yellow and purple caused by plants that live on the rocks under the stream of the river. The best time to visit is between June and November, as this is when the colours are most visible.
It is very complicated to plan this visit independently; but not impossible. It is located near the town of La Macarena, in the department of Meta, where you can fly from Bogota. You can also take a 3-day organized tour and all the people that I have met and went to see the river did just that. I should have taken the hint, but I was determined to do it alone. Unfortunately, I found it too risky at the time and I had to give up the idea. If you went there, please share your experience in the comments!
Things to keep in mind when planning a trip to Colombia
Create a must-do list and then add a few other destinations, but plan around places you don’t want to miss. There is no way you will be able to do the whole Colombian tourist route in a month. If you only have a couple of weeks, choose 2 main cities and plan day trips around them. For example – stay for a few days in Medellin and travel to Guatape and Jerico. Then fly to Cartagena and take trips to Rosario Islands or Rincon.
Colombia is a big country and travelling from one place to another can take a whole day. You will have to account for that.
Keep in mind that some trips like Cabo de la Vela or The Lost City trek will require a bit of a rest on return, allow it!
In Colombia and many other Latin American countries, it is cheaper to travel by bus, and travellers widely use busses. Apart from busses, colectivos (shared private minivans) which are very popular and often the only way to get somewhere. For example, to get to Minca you will have to take a colectivo. Before travelling, ensure that the department you are travelling to has safe roads and opt for a plane if bus travel isn’t recommended. You can also fly to the most popular places like Medellin, Bogota, Cali, Santa Marta, Bucamaranga or Leticia. There are some places in Colombia that can only be accessed by plane like some destinations on the Pacific coast.
Reserve some time to learn more about the place. Spend time with locals, ask questions and learn more about history and culture. It is more valuable than ticking places from your list. Colombia is a fascinating country.
Know your budget – this will determine places you will travel to, way of transport and type of accommodation.
Be flexible. I booked my ticket to Guatemala a week before departure. I was afraid to book everything up front in case I would hear about this great destination and didn’t have enough time to visit it. For example, I was not planning to visit Jardin at all, and I’m so glad I did! Besides, at the last minute, I had to skip Cali. Had I booked the ticket upfront, I would have lost the money. I understand it’s hard to be flexible when you work with time constraints. But I would say the moment you arrive in Colombia, wherever you go and whatever you do, you will have a blast. Allow yourself a bit of spontaneity and flexibility.
Although Colombia doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to safety, I have felt safe more often than not. I was travelling solo for over 4 months and I was careful and mindful. But Colombians are wonderful and caring people and I often felt well taken care of. Of course, in this case, good research is the key. In Colombia, you really need to know where to go and where not to. If you want to read everything I have to say about safety while travelling in Colombia, read this post.
The hostels in Colombia are great! If you want to save money and meet other travellers hostels should be your choice. I have to admit that all the hostels I stayed in were clean, well looked after, comfortable and often beautiful! Many hostels also accept volunteers, so if you want to stay longer, consider working as a volunteer in the hostel too!
When packing for Colombia, consider the temperature and climate in Colombia change according to the region rather than the time of the year. Back a rain jacket and full shoes for Bogotá, as well as for the coffee region. A sweater will come in handy, too! The Caribbean coast, on the contrary, is hot and humid all year round.
People often ask what is the best time to visit Colombia. I am a perfect example of the fact that there is no such thing as the perfect time. I travelled between May and September, so during the rainy season. Hmmm, it wasn’t very rainy on the Caribbean coast (unless I went for a swim) I will tell you that. In Salento, I had very mixed weather. But keep in mind that the weather isn’t predictable in the mountains anyway. As I said earlier, the weather you experience in Colombia will depend mainly on where you travel not when.
Whether you are a hardcore backpacker or not, sometimes you will have to take an organized tour. Some areas of Colombia are not recommended and or even impossible to explore individually. Things like Lost City or Amazonas will have to be booked in advance.
That’s it my friends! I hope this Colombia itinerary and planning tips will help you in creating your perfect Colombia trip.
If there is anything you think I have missed and you’d like to ask any additional questions please put them in the comments below or hit me on Instagram. I will always answer your questions and I will be very happy to help.
Colombia is a wonderful country and I am already planning my return trip! I hope you will have an incredible time!
See you on the road and happy travelling!
My favourite Travel Resources
- For most of my accommodation management, I use Bookings.com and Hostel World. With both booking platforms, you will often get free cancellations and access to tons of reviews. Read them! You will also get the most extensive selection of all types of accommodation. I hardly ever look elsewhere. If you are travelling in Asia – Agoda is definitely worth checking out!
- Make sure you download Google Maps and, on the first day, download an offline map of your location. This way, even without the internet or Wi-Fi, you will be able to get to your destination.
Moovit is also an excellent and very underrated travel and journey-planning app. It works great in many countries and will show you all possible routes by public transport, including the timetables.
123Go — Great for tickets for trains, buses, ferries and charters in Southeast Asia! The best way to buy your ticket for the overnight Bangkok train! Rome2rio – Another great journey-planning app. If your way of travel is mainly public transport – you will use this app for sure!
The travel insurance I use is Heymondo, and their plan suits me perfectly. They have clear policies with no deductibles, the price is excellent for what they offer and the price doesn’t go up when you are over 30 years old. They have a dedicated, easy-to-use app and free assistance calls.
I can get a cover for a month or three months and I know I can travel with peace of mind and get the best product for my money. And it also covers COVID-19.
- I carry two debit cards with me. Given I don’t have a permanent country of residence, Revolut and Wise work fantastically. In case one gets frozen, stolen or simply lost, I have a backup. The great thing about both cards is that you can freeze them straight from your phone and transfer money between them in case you need to. You will also get a great exchange rate and create separate foreign currency accounts.
- I booked most of my tours via either Get Your Guide or Viator. You can also book locally, but I advise you to ask around and follow the local recommendations.
For more travel tips and recourses, visit Pati’s Travel Tips page!
This post may contain affiliate links which means that if you purchase the product or make a booking via one of my links, I will receive a small commission. Please know that I will never recommend or promote a product I don’t believe in or haven’t used. This way, you are supporting this blog at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
If you are still drafting your Colombia itinerary read my Colombia planning post!
Planning to see all the gorgeous beaches of the Colombian Caribbean coast? Here is the guide to all beach towns in Colombia!
And if you are planning your first solo trip, visit this post where I provide all the tips and hacks for solo travellers and backpackers.