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Ultimate Travel Guide for Colombia

Ultimate Travel Guide for Colombia

Although South America is full of amazing countries and people, Colombia might actually come fairly close to my personal number one. I spent 6 weeks traveling this amazing country and I still feel like I have barely seen enough of it. Given the fact that there are so many places to see and things to do, I put a list of my personal highlights together to give you guys a short overview of what to do.

Bogota (1 full day)

Bogota is Colombia’s capital and the city where many travelers start their colombian adventure. Since it’s a rather big city and impossible to get a proper overview of all the different areas, check out one of the many biking tours that are being offered. They usually last around 4 hours and include visiting a local market, playing local games (that are actually really fun!), beers, so many different areas of the city that you would otherwise probably never see and SUPER interesting facts about the city and the people that live in it. At night, make sure to check out La Candelaria which is the heart of Bogota’s nightlife where you will most definitely have an absolute blast. 

Salento (Valle de Cocora) (2 days)

Salento is a small town in the heart of the Colombian coffee triangle that has made countless people fall in love with its tiny streets, amazing colonial architecture, coffee plantations and most importantly the truly amazing looking Valle de Cocora with the highest palm trees you will probably see in your life. Make sure to have at least two days here because you do not what to miss out on this little piece of paradise.

Cali (2 days)

If you’re into Salsa, Cali is the place for you and one of the highlights you really shouldn’t miss when in Colombia. From taking beginner classes (that are as cheap and good as it gets) to enjoying the big city life, there is something to do and see for everybody.

Medellin (3 days)

Medellin is just one of those cities that magically draws people in and won’t let them go anymore. There are countless different areas to be explored and you can either join one of the free walking tours or check out their walking route online and go explore it yourself (which was surprisingly easy and I personally loved it). Definitely make sure to go on a walking tour through Comuna 13 which used to be one of the hotspots for the drug cartel just 20 years ago. There are different tour operators but they all work with people that actually lived/live there now and they can tell you amazing things about this now safe and truly amazing neighborhood.

The nightlife in Medellin is also incredible, so make sure to check it out or even join one of the pub crawls which is honestly so worth it (I’m talking bars with a pool filled with balls so you get to act like a 5 year old without being judged and have the time of your life :D)

Guatape ( perfect for a day trip from Medellin or 2 days to enjoy the lakes, views and silence here 🙂 )

Guatape is only a short 2-hour bus ride away from Medellin and is one of those small town/villages that makes it super easy to fall in love with. Every single street you walk in looks gorgeous with its colorful houses and flowers everywhere. You could probably walk around here all day and constantly find a new amazing coffee place or people playing instruments and dancing. Another highlight here is the gigantic rock that you can climb up (and by that I mean walking up stairs lol) to enjoy an absolutely amazing 360° view of all the lakes.

Cartagena (4 days)

Cartagena is probably one of my favorite cities in South America. Although it can get crowded and somewhat touristy, you can have the absolute best time wandering the amazing looking cobble stone streets and get lost in what feels like a different time and world. This place is also surrounded by some absolutely amazing beaches that will provide you with the proper Caribbean feeling that we’re all craving.

DON’T MISS: go check out a place called Casa en el Agua! It’s a hostel that’s build on and surrounded by ridiculously blue water that will make you feel like you’ll never want to leave because you found paradise. Just make sure to book ahead of time because it usually gets booked out weeks ahead.

Santa Marta (1 or 2 days)

Santa Marta is perfect for when you want to get a bit of a break from just nature or the big city life because it is the perfect mix of both. It combines a super chilled small town atmosphere while at the same time giving you enough things to do and explore. If you feel like taking a short 20-minute trip, hop on a cab and make your way to Taganga. It’s a small fishing village with amazing ceviche and fish restaurants by the water and is simply the perfect afternoon trip if you have 2 days in Santa Marta anyway.

Minca (1 or 2 days)

Minca is an hour away from Santa Marta and the complete opposite of the hot city life. You will find yourself in a small mountain town that’s surrounded by nothing but jungle, mountains, and wildlife. It is here where you will find amazing hostels with breath-taking gigantic hammocks overlooking the valley and jungle as well as awesome mountain roads, coffee plantation, waterfalls and hikes. Definitely worth checking out and staying.

Tayrona National Park (2 days)

Tayrona National Park is one of the most known and popular national parks in Colombia and rightly so. You can either get there by boat from Taganga (although I had one of my two near-death experiences on that boat ride because water conditions can be very rough here – ergo, DON’T DO IT :D) or take a bus from Santa Marta and enjoy a 1,5 hour hike along the coast until you get to the main area of the park. Also, make sure to check out the camping options that they have there because you really don’t want to have to rush through all the amazing beaches and lookouts in one day. Accommodations range from hammocks (which I personally love) to tents and are pretty affordable.

Palomino (1 or 2 days)

Palomino is a pretty quiet village that offers a couple of bars, restaurants and most importantly a pretty nice beach. People oftentimes come here to have a couple of quiet days and chill by the beach after they’ve done the Lost City Treck. Make sure to try the ceviche here because some of the restaurants are reeeeally good at making it. Although this place isn’t super exciting, it’s definitely worth checking out if you have a couple of days to spare.

Costeño Beach (2 days)

Costeño beach is the even more laid back version of Palomino. Although this beach is not really part of a village, it’s an awesome stretch of a super nice beach with a handful of small restaurants, bars, and accommodations. I found the beach here to be A LOT nicer than up north in Palomino, so if you have to choose between the two, definitely come stay here for a bit, you’ll love it.

You can also take a super relaxing 30-minute walk on the beach to a tiny fisher village that is impossible not to absolutely love.

Punta Gallinas (3-4 days)

This can be your sleeping spot in Cabo de la Vela

Punta Gallinas is the most northern point of the South American continent and really worth checking out. It is here where you will find a very, very rural side of Colombia with amazing landscapes from deserts to some of the nicest beaches and sand dunes you can imagine. Most tours leave from Palomino and include transportation as well as accommodation to and from Punta Gallinas. If you feel very adventurous, however, you can take a taxi to Rio Negro and from there get a local bus/car (they leave whenever they’re full) to Cabo de la Vela. Cabo de la Vela is a super small and simple village that’s probably well known for windsurfers and will offer absolutely mind-blowing sunsets and beaches, cheap food and a feeling of having found and made it to one of the coolest places on this planet. It is super easy to get a hostel here because everything is in walking distance and since not many people do it, chances are you’ll almost be the only one spending the night in a hammock overlooking the beach. From Cabo de la Vela, the hostel owners can usually help you organizing your ride to Puntas Galinas as well as your overnight stay there. Pricewise, you will obviously save a bit of money if you do the trip yourself but it does usually take at least a day longer (which you can and should use to explore and enjoy Cabo de la Vela).

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