The Definitive Guide To Colombia Travel
Whether you’re planning a trip to Colombia or still making your mind up about visiting, we’ve put together an unbeatable guide to Colombia travel to help you to decide when to go, where to stay and what to do when you get there.
We’ve used our insider knowledge and local experience to cover everything from the best cities, the best towns, included some handcrafted itineraries for short and longer stays, details about the best Colombian festivals, best times to travel and how to stay safe when getting around. Read on or simply download the guide in full now!
Located in the North West of South America, Colombia is one of the most diverse countries on the planet.
With a rich and lustrous landscape – from snow-capped mountains to pristine exotic beaches – Colombia is brimming with awe inspiring natural wonders, breathtaking views and is absolutely packed with authentic Latino culture.
We think there is no place on earth quite like it.
Until recently though Colombia has unfortunately been a bit of a ‘no go’ destination for travelers, thanks mainly to its long and chequered history of drug cartels, crime and civil war.
However, after the signing of the peace agreement between the Colombia Government and guerrilla group FARC in 2016, Colombia has begun a long awaited transformation (socially, politically and economically) and is now emerging as a ‘must-see’ destination.
Although Colombia does still struggle at times to shake off its shady reputation, it is the resilience of the Colombian people; their warmth, passion and friendliness towards foreigners – not to mention their obsession with salsa and partying – that ultimately makes Colombia THE place to visit.
When you arrive you can expect a warm welcome from the locals who are eager to share their food, culture and coffee.
You’re in for one unforgettable experience.
Colombia vs Columbia?
Where is Colombia?
The Best Cities in Colombia
Bogota is Colombia’s capital city and cultural heartbeat. The vibe here is bustling, cosmopolitan, cool and hip, and typical of a big and sprawling city. It’s location in the Andes region of the country means it is set in the valley of large imposing mountains. However, this provides a spectacular and humbling view of the contrast between traditional colonial architecture and modern city skyscrapers and due to its high altitude (8,661 feet) the climate is generally cooler than in most other parts of Colombia. Bogota is quickly gaining a reputation internationally for its thriving art scene, buzzing nightlife, and awesome food (although it’s not such a secret to the locals).
Medellin is a city on the up! Known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ Medellin is a city well worth a visit.
Medellin is probably more famous for being home of drug lord, Pablo Escobar, and its portrayal on the Netflix series Narcos, but there is definitely a lot more to explore in this vibrant city. Most people are surprised and impressed by the clean and modern infrastructure of Medellin. They have highly functional transport systems and a highly innovative metro cable gondola system which connects the city with the poorer neighborhoods up in the mountains. In fact, in 2013, Medellin was named ‘world city of innovation’ due in large part to such projects. The views in Medellin are something to experience.
Nestled deep within the Andes mountains, the mountain ranges appear to tower over most of the city. This also means there are plenty of vantage points to climb for spectacular views of the city below. In spite of Medellin’s undoubted renaissance, it remains a city of contrasts. Impressive modern architecture, leafy residential streets, and trendy restaurants all sit within eyesight of mountains brimming with overpopulated slums. The remnants of Medellin’s darker history.
Find out everything you need to know about Medellin in our ultimate guide with over 58 things to do in Medellin.
If you’re looking for a slice of tropical paradise, Cartagena is it! Cartagena is a hot, sassy, and an utterly seductive port city set on the golden shores of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Expect high temperatures humidity and an altogether slower pace of life compared with the urban sprawls of Bogota and Medellin. The jewel in Cartagena’s crown is the walled Old Town—an UNESCO world heritage site, full of cobbled streets, quaint plazas and strikingly colorful architecture. Cartagena is the perfect place to go in Colombia for sunshine, cocktails, rest and relaxation—and, of course, to experience the infamous warm and friendly Colombian/Caribbean culture.
The Best Towns in Colombia
Santa Fe de Antioquia
3 hours south of Medellin, and giving Gautape a good run for its money as most colorful, and certainly a candidate for the most beautiful town in Colombia, is Jardin. It’s a little bit further from Medellin but absolutely worth the effort. It’s a great little town for just wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere but also great for hikes and visiting coffee plantations.
Vialla de Leyva
This charming Colombian town, located at the epicentre of Colombia’s coffee region, is the perfect base for exploring the nearby Cocora Valley and Los Nevados National Park. The local pace of life is extremely relaxed, the restaurants are famous for their locally sourced freshwater trout and there is a thriving community of craftsmen and artisans as well as remaining one of the region‘s most prolific coffee producers. If you’re heading to this part of Colombia to enjoy the nearby nature then Salento is the perfect place to stay.
10 Things You MUST Do in Colombia
1. SALSA like a local – Colombians are famed for being some of the hottest salsa dancers in the world and much of the best salsa music originates from the country. Don’t just observe from the sidelines, go take a lesson and then head to a bar and get those hips moving!
2. HIKE the magnificent mountains – Colombian is blessed with an abundance of hiking trails which (somehow) don’t get the same attention as some of its neighbours. Andean peaks, snow-capped glaciers, dense jungles, hidden civilisations – the variety is mind-blowing. Make sure you do at least one hike while in Colombia!
3. DEVOUR bandeja Paisa – rice, beans, chicharrón, minced beef, chorizo, fried egg, plantain, avocado and arepa all one one plate – it’s a beast! Think full English breakfast but better. This is Colombia’s most popular dish and if you really want the full Colombian experience it’s a must.
4. TRY learning some Spanish – you don’t need to be fluent but a little will go a long way and the locals love it when they see foreigners make the effort. Try to learn the basics before you arrive and why not do some lessons while you’re here?
5. DRINK ‘tragos’ of Aguardiente – literally meaning ‘Fire Water’. It’s the Colombian alcoholic drink of choice and whenever you go to a bar you’ll see that most groups will have a bottle at their table. When in Colombia…!
6. DISCOVER the sounds of Colombia – you’ve probably already heard of Salsa but what about Vallenato, Cumbia, Reggaeton, Merengue, Porro, Champeta or Bachata? Colombia is literally brimming with music so make sure you take the time to experience it all.
7. LEARN about the rich culture and painful history – don’t just see Colombia, go speak to its people, learn about their culture and listen to their stories (hint – not everything is about drugs and Pablo Escobar).
8. VENTURE outside of the cities – Colombia has some of the most amazingly vibrant cities but the real magic lives in the pueblos (towns). Seek them out, slowly wander through, admire the preservation of the ancient customs and interact with the locals. Do this and you will truly start to understand Colombia.
9. SAVOUR the exotic fruits – Colombia is spoiled with an array of exotic fruits that you probably can’t pronounce and have most likely never heard of. Make it your mission to get through each and every one of them (hint: granadilla is worth trying at least twice).
10. GIVE BACK – Colombia is still a developing country and tourism has the potential to be a real positive force within the country. Make your visit count! Spend your money with the local companies, seek out good causes, and spread the word back home about all of the amazing things you experience during your visit.
Here we’ve provided quite a lot of information to help get you started on planning your trip…but it doesn’t end there. We’ve put together an incredibly detailed guide that you can download now and read when you’ve got a bit more time.
This 96 page guide to Colombia Travel is packed with information about getting around, staying safe, Colombian Festivals, public holidays, cultural considerations and 4 incredible hand-picked itineraries for 1, 2 and 2 plus weeks in Colombia that will take you to the best places and most beautiful destinations Colombia has to offer.
If that wasn’t enough, we’ve also included detailed information about Colombian cuisine, the best places in Colombia for natural beauty, the weather by region and even more information about what Colombia has to offer.
Why Download OUR Guide?
We are self-professed obsessives when it comes to Colombia. As a 30-something British / Colombian married couple and founders of Other Way Round, we’re passionate about our mission to share the REAL Colombia. Want to experience Colombia like a local? Download our guide now! Did we mention it’s free?