When is the Best Time to Visit Colombia?

by | May 14, 2018

What do you remember most about your worst vacation? Was it the bad accommodation, terrible weather or the endless queues at those places of interest that everyone had turned up to see on the same days as you? We feel your pain! There’s nothing worse than waiting all year for a vacation that turns out to be a bit of a flop. However, there is a simple solution to avoiding these pain points. Always do your research.

The good news is if you’re going to Colombia we’ve already created a fact-packed best time to visit Colombia guide covering everything from the weather, costs, peak tourism times and festivals so that you can base your decision on the things that matter to you most. Plus, if you’re looking for a definitive guide to Colombia then go ahead and download our free guide

When to Go to Colombia?

If you want the simple answer – go now! Colombia a country with a huge amount to offer with so many things to do and see. It has natural beauty, incredible food, amazing sights, a vibrant culture and fantastic people. And the best part? Colombia isn’t yet gripped by mass tourism and still offers its visitors a genuinely authentic experience for tourists thirsty for that REAL taste of Latino Colombia. So go now before it’s too late.

If you’d prefer to base your visit on something a little more specific, then dive in and take a look through the things that matter to you most.

The best time to visit Colombia is now

The Colombian Climate

If the best time to visit Colombia heavily depends on getting the most amount of sun then generally speaking you won’t be disappointed. However, Colombia is a HUGE country stretching across 1.142 million square kilometres. For this reason Colombia has a uniquely diverse geography and climate so it’s best to check out individual destinations for a more accurate note of the weather.

Having said that there are two significant geographic factors which largely impact Colombia’s weather

1. Colombia is located near to the equator meaning it doesn’t have distinctive seasons. The climate in each area remains fairly constant year round.

2. The Andes Mountains run directly through the country so the altitude and climate vary accordingly. Lower altitudes will be warmer and at higher altitudes you’ll definitely need a coat.

Although there are no seasons, there are drier periods which Colombians refer to as “Summer” and the wetter seasons as “Winter”. Generally speaking the best (driest) weather is from December to March and June to August with the highest rainfall occurring in May and October. It is however very much a year round destination and even during the wetter seasons the rainfall tends to be in short, heavy bursts (aguaceros) which quickly clear up.

Best time to visit Colombia for climate

Weather by Region

Colombia is split into five natural geographic regions each with their own distinct physical and climatic characteristics. The Caribbean Coast, The Pacific Coast, The Andes Mountain Range, The Grassland Plains and The Amazon Rainforest. Even within each of these regions there can be a large diversity and so we’ve picked out some of our favourite places and given you a heads up of what to expect – weather wise – in each location.

The Andes Mountain Range

The Andes mountain range enters Colombia’s south west coast from Ecuador and later splits into 3 parts. Known as the three cordilleras it is these mountains which largely dictate the climate, plants and animals of this region. Altitudes vary wildly (the whole area is split into 5 altitude levels) meaning that the region contains both low lying tropical rainforests and high altitude snow capped volcanoes. It is the most heavily populated of all of Colombia’s regions containing both Bogota and Medellin as well as being home to Colombia’s coffee triangle which includes Pereira, Armenia & Manizales.

MEDELLIN

Medellin is pleasant and sunny all year round, hence its nickname The City of Eternal Spring.

Temperatures consistently range between 62F – 78F (17 – 26C) and its driest months are December – March and is wettest during May and October. Again due to its location the sun rises at around 6am and sets and 6pm (give or take 30 minutes).

It’s important to remember that Medellin is nestled in the Andes Mountains at around 4,905 feet and by traveling just a short distance the temperature can change dramatically. For example, Santa Fe de Antioquia is only 1 hour north of Medellin. But because it’s much lower than Medellin it’s subsequently significantly hotter while Rio Negro (where the airport is located) is an hour south and higher making it feel a lot cooler.

PRO TIP: Medellin is warm and when you’re on vacation it can be tempting to get out your favourite summer attire. But if you want to avoid Giving Papaya and fit in more with the locals then jeans, tops, and t-shirts are the best way to go in Medellin. If you’re planning to venture out to the mountains (and you really should) then don’t forget to pack a light jacket because it does get cooler in the evenings.

Check out our blog on Things to do in Medellin so you can really plan you trip.

Best time to visit Medellin

BOGOTA

Bogota is an amazing cosmopolitan city and well worth a visit. But probably the weather isn’t its main selling point. Located at 8,661 feet temperatures range from 44F – 66F (7 – 19C) making it cooler than the majority of Colombia and often overcast. However, the weather is fairly consistent with the driest months being December – February and wettest months being April, May and October.

Like Medellin the Sun rises around 6AM and sets at 6PM consistently throughout the year, give or take 30 minutes. And also like Medellin, elevations vary greatly within short distances outside of the city. The locals often spend the weekend in neighbouring towns further down the mountain to take advantage of the warmer weather.

PRO TIP: Bogota is the perfect place to make use of your finest spring and maybe even autumn outfits. Be prepared for slightly cooler temperatures, especially in the evenings, so remember to pack wisely.

Note: For more in-depth tips on Bogota check out our blog post: 9 Things to Do in Bogota

Best time to visit Bogota

PEREIRA

Pereira is the largest city in Colombia’s Coffee region (Eje Cafetero), or Coffee Triangle (Triángulo del Café). With an altitude of 4,629 feet Pereira is blessed with a pleasant year round climate very similar to Medellin’s. Temperatures typically vary between 63F – 79F (17 – 26C) and remains fairly consistent all year round. It’s driest months are December – March and wettest May, October and November.

PRO TIP: The warmer climate in Pereira is the ideal place to don your favourite summer wardrobe but again, if don’t want to draw attention to yourself then blend in more with the locals and stick to jeans, tops and t-shirts.

Streets of Comuna 13 Medellin

The Caribbean Coast

This mostly low lying region is a large coastal plain along the Caribbean seaboard, but in keeping with Colombia’s extreme diversity it also contains vast open deserts as well as the highest coastal mountain range in the world – the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (5775m). The region is home to Cartagena, Santa Marta, Parque Tayrona, La Guajira and San Andres. Expect sun, sea, humidity, breathtaking beaches and tropical jungles.

CARTAGENA

If you’re looking for tropical weather Cartagena is the place to be. Located on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena is HOT and humid for most of the year with average temperatures ranging between 76F – 88F (24 – 31C). Thankfully, Cartagena’s climate is ideal for sunbathing, catching the refreshing sea breeze and swimming in the nearby ocean.

The driest months are December – April and when we say ‘dry’ we mean DRY because Cartagena gets virtually no rain during these months. Even during the ‘wet’ season it remains pretty dry. Needless to say Cartagena’s rainfall is significantly less than in Bogota and Medellin.

PRO TIP: The pace in Cartagena is slow and the vibe extremely relaxed so bring your best Caribbean attire and get ready to beach it big time. If you’re planning a trip to Parque Nacional Tayrona (Tayrona National Park) you can also guarantee similar hot, dry weather. You’ll need your beach gear here but remember to pack a pair of trousers and long sleeves to avoid those pesky mosquito bites.

Best time to visit Cartagena

The Pacific Coast

Stretching the full length of western Colombia, from Ecuador in the south to Panama in the north, this region of Colombia sits tightly between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific ocean. It’s characterised by its lush rainforests, swathes of mangroves, and (in some parts) heavy rainfall. Well, they don’t call it ‘rainforest’ for no reason. It is home to Cali, Popayan and Pasto and is particularly worth a visit between July and September when groups of humpback whales pass by whilst migrating from the Antarctic.

CALI

Cali is a hot & humid city although not quite to the same degree as Cartagena.  With an altitude of 3,340 feet the temperature sits between 66F – 85F (19 – 29C) and has relatively low rainfall compared with the Pacific region in general. It will feel pretty humid but you can always cool down by taking a short trip to the nearby Pacific where the water tends to remain warm all year round.

Traffic in Medellin, Colombia
wandering the streets of zipaquira, cundinamarca, colombia

Public Holidays and High Season

With a whopping 18 national holidays (20 if you’re in Barranquilla); Colombia has one of the highest public holiday counts in the world. Whilst this is great for tourists who want to get involved it does mean that things can get busy, and flights, hotels and tourists attractions can be more expensive during these times.

Most Colombians take their annual vacation from mid-December through to mid-January and also around Easter and these periods are considered high season where flights and accommodation may be more expensive.

Many of the public holidays are on Mondays meaning there are LOTS of long weekends, or “puentes” (bridges) during which many locals get out of the cities and head to the coast, nearby pueblos or to their fincas (farms) in the countryside.

Colombia’s National Holidays

Out of Colombia’s 18 national holidays 12 of them are Catholic holidays.

Holidays in Colombia

Colombian Festivals and Events

If you’re looking for a good party then you’re definitely going to the right place. Colombians LOVE a chance to celebrate, get together and live life to full. Luckily for you the Colombian calendar is jam packed with cool festivals and events. They’re so serious about partying that December and January are almost entirely dedicated to it and they even have genre of music called ‘December Music’.

Check out our favourite festivals. They are well worth planning a trip to Colombia around:

Carnival of Blacks and Whites – Pasto (January)

This delightful carnival takes place in the first week of January in the much less traveled south west of Colombia with the objective of ‘expression of desire for tolerance and respect’. It’s a spectacular event filled with colorful dancers, traditional music and gigantic circus like figures parading through the streets, culminating in the final 2 days where locals paint their face black 1 day and white the next (to symbolise equality and integration in this massively multicultural country). This carnival is so special that since 2009 it has been proclaimed by UNESCO as one of the ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.

Barranquilla Carnival – Barranquilla (February)

Think Rio Carnival but less commercialised, less touristy and with a Caribbean twist! For what is proclaimed as the 2nd largest carnival in the World the whole city of Barranquilla shuts down for 4 days of non-stop partying. They’re so serious about this festival that the people of Barranquilla have even managed to get two extra days of public holiday, which the rest of the country don’t get.

This is the powerhouse of all Colombian festivals and the streets become a river of parades, extravagant costumes and the sounds of every style of Colombian music imaginable. The festival’s slogan is ‘Quien lo vive, es quien lo goza’, which translates to ‘those who live it are those who enjoy it’ – and it has also been recognised by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Event since 2003.

Iberoamericano Theatre Festival – Bogota (March / April)

The largest performing arts festival in the world is held every 2 years over 17-days in Colombia’s bustling capital. The worlds most important theatre companies congregate to give the most exquisite performances and the city becomes awash with street theatre, concerts, dance and circus.

Flower Festival – Medellin (August)

Starting in 1957, the Flower Festival has become known as the most important social event for the people of Medellin. The 10 day event, famous for its parties, gatherings and cultural activities attracts people from all over Colombia and from around the world. For many visitors it’s a chance to experience a traditional Colombian event, which typically starts during the first two weeks in August and culminates in the Desfile de Silleteros, where the local flower makers from the nearby pueblo of Santa Elena parade through the city with a colorful array of flowers on their back – hence its name.

Cali Festival – Cali (December)

Cali is famed internationally for being the salsa capital of the world and every year between Christmas and New Year the city throws its biggest party. The festival celebrates the region’s cultural identity and is a wild combination of salsa marathons, horse rides, bull fights, dance parties, food festivals and more. The highlight events are held in the Cali Football Stadium – the Salsodromo on the 25th and SuperConcierto on the 26th – where the biggest and best parades are on show and some of Latin America’s biggest music stars (Marc Anthony, Carlos Vives, Willie Colón, J. Balvin, Pitbull etc…) perform.

Festival of Lights – Medellin (December)

If you’re a fan of Christmas then get ready for a Christmas experience that is out of this world. To officially kick off the festive period the people of Medellin adorn almost everything in bright neon lights. From important building, public squares, river walks, treetops to iconic hillsides and lookouts, almost no place is left untouched and it looks spectacular. Medellin does Christmas like nowhere else.

These are just a few of our favourite festivals that we’ve personally enjoyed in Colombia. But there’s lots of other great info out there about Colombia’s music festivals, cultural festivals and music.

Festivals in Colombia
wandering the streets of zipaquira, cundinamarca, colombia

When Are You Going to Visit Colombia?

As a holiday destination there aren’t many other places that can rival Colombia. Colombia is a huge place and the 2nd largest bio diverse country in the world. Because of its size and richly diverse terrain Colombia provides both tropical climates and fresher mountain weather so make sure you pack accordingly by following our pro tips for each region.

If weather is important to you, you won’t be disappointed. On the whole Colombia is warm and the wet seasons generally involve only short quick bursts of rain which dry up quickly. The absolute best times to visit are probably December to January. During these months Colombia’s weather is at its finest and its calendar is packed with numerous public holidays and festivals that you won’t want to miss out on.

However, June through to August are also great months to visit. With less public holidays but still plenty of events like the Flower Festival in Medellin, you’ll get the chance to really experience the beautiful weather, the diverse landscape and enjoy its Latino culture off peak when the prices are a little cheaper.

Ultimately, we say don’t worry and dive straight in because the best time to go to Colombia is now! If you’re after an adventure and an authentic understanding of this amazing country then there’s no time like the present. In recent years Colombia has become a ‘must-see’ destination for adventure tourists but thankfully still at the moment retains all of its original charm and stunning beauty which may change as demands of tourism grow. So, pack your bag and get ready to travel with us on our Colombia tours.

Want to see an OWR trip in action? Then check out this blog from a recent trip: An Immersive 2 Weeks in Colombia with Other Way Round.