With around 5 visits to the country, Colombia has quickly climbed the ranks of my top 5 favorite countries in the world. I love Latin culture myself and the authenticity of the Colombian culture is always amazing to me, it is very easy for me to feel at home there. I have favorite destinations, mostly in the mountainous area around Medellin, but I also love Colombia’s beach area around Santa Martha and the beautiful Cartagena is always a joy to visit! Since I always get many questions on Colombia, I have prepared my top 3 itineraries for you to better prepare your next trip!
1: The Layover: Bogota and Around
For a quick stay or for people on short transits, it is common to arrive in Bogota and stay only in the capital for a couple days. It is actually a nice city, I’ve stayed here on a 4 days layover to catch my Brazilian visa back in 2005. The city is quite high in altitude at 2800 meters, and few people understand that, even if it’s very close to the equator, being that high will create very cold temperatures so dress up in consequence. There are many big malls in Bogota so shopping is an option, but the highlight is probably going hiking on the Mount Serrate just on the feet of the city! It is a pretty easy hike and will provide very rewarding views! The colonial center is also very beautiful and many museums are a must visit, such as the “Museo del Oro”.
2: The Coffee Route: Medellin, Cali and around
This route is my favorite, forming a sort of triangle between Botoga, Medellin, and Cali, also called the “zone cafetera” named after its many coffee plantations mostly between Medellin and Cali! From Botoga, It is a couple hours bus ride to Medellin directly, and Medellin alone deserves many days to visit! A Ride on the funicular is very nice to have some of the most breath taking views of the city. Medellin also has many interesting neighborhoods, but most visitors will stick to El Poblado, Parque lleras and the center with its old colonial district. ParqueLlerass will be on everybody’s list as it is packed with fancy restaurants, bars, activites, Salsa, etc… I recommend day tours from Medellin to visit Guatape and the old colonial towns around there. From Medellin, on the way to Cali, Manizales is a nice place to spend a day or two. Cali is nice, but not at the level of Medellin and security is always a concern over there. The highlight, for me, is the presence of salsa, so I highly recommend anyone to enjoy a bit of the salsa scene! Other cities of interest close to Cali is Popayan, Armenia, Pereira and San Agustin. From there, a cheap flight to Bogota is a good solution.
A bonus way to arrive in the south of Colombia that I highly recommend is to arrive from Brazil on the amazon river and cross the border at Leticia! It is a great way to include a multi-country itinerary including Brazil and Colombia!
Bogota, from Monserrate
3: The Caribbean Coast: Cartagena Santa Marta and Barranquilla
Cartagena is one of the most Colonial cities of the Americas, and it is very beautifull and pitoresque! That has caused prices to rise very quickly and accommodation can be a problem with prices at about double of what is paid in Medellin or triple that of Cali. Being down the mountains and back at sea level, temperatures are also going to suffer the humid and suffocating climate of the equator which is to take into consideration. A few days in Cartagena is interesting, and afterwards it is a few hours to Baranquilla, another great coastal city! There is not as much to do in Baranquilla, if it is not in the peak season of the famous carnival of Baranquilla, so the more interesting place to stay is a little further on the coast to Santa Martha, where beaches are much better. The highlight next to Santa Martha is the famous Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona and should not be Missed! Other than that, the other highlight of Colombian beach destinations is without a doubt San Andres, the Caribbean island just off the coast of Nicaragua, where pristine blue waters are everywhere! Flights to San Andres are cheaper from Bogota and Medellin.