Colombia is a country at the northern tip of South America and famous for it’s rainforests, Andes mountains and many coffee plantations. In the high-altitude capital, Bogotá, the Zona Rosa district is known for its restaurants, shops and buzzing nightlife.
Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast, has a walled colonial Old Town, a 16th-century castle and nearby coral reefs. Colombia’s rich biodiversity makes it a great place for for bird watchers with over 70 bird species found only in Colombia.
Colombia Travel Info
Language: The official language spoken in Colombia is Spanish and is used by 99 percent of the population. There are some minority languages also used, and English is one of them.
Currency: Colombian Peso.
Visa: A tourist visa is needed to enter Colombia. The required documents include a valid passport, recent photo, completed application form, proof of financial stability and a round-trip ticket. However, travelers from some specific countries do not require a tourist visa so check before you travel.
Electricity: Colombia operates on 110 volts with a frequency of 60 Hz. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Colombia Festivals & Celebrations
Semana Santa: Popayan is known for one of the largest celebrations of Semana Santa. Famous because of its historical architecture Popayan is also called the Holy asset of Columbia. The fest is the 2nd biggest Easter party in the entire world. Tourists from all corners of the world throng Columbia to be a part of this grand celebration.
Medellin Flower Festival: Medellin is also called “City of Eternal Spring,” and therefore this is the only Columbian country that hosts the week-long Flower festival. The week-long celebration unfolds into an array of captivating events that includes the most popular procession of Silleteros. The festival is bliss for travelers who want to experience the true Columbian culture.
Barranquilla Carnival: All travelers coming to Columbia must attend this festival and get amused by Columbian customs and traditions. The second biggest carnival, after Rio, this festival draws over 2 million people from around the world. The festival kicks off in February, followed by a pre-carnival celebration in January.
Safety In Colombia
Just like most countries in South America, Colombia is a relatively safe place to travel to. Thefts, bag snatching and scams are prevalent in all big cities so be mindful of this. Based on my own travel experiences in South America, I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Colombia.
Top Things To Do In Colombia
Stroll across the streets of Old Town Cartagena
The second oldest town in Colombia is Cartagena; it used to be a vital Spanish trading center. Cartagena served as a town where Spanish accumulated their loot before transporting it to Spain. The heart of the town is a maze of streets with lots of old colonial buildings, plazas, and churches. Just forget your map for some time and lose yourself in Cartagena. I recommend dropping by Getsemani locality outside the old tower and check out some fantastic street art.
Admire the urban transformation of Medellin
Medellin is the second largest city of Columbia after Bogota, the city’s capital. It was once infamous for cocaine, murder, and drugs. However, Medellin has witnessed a tremendous change in the last decade and has emerged as the fastest growing region. The city also gets referred to as “city of the eternal springs” and hosts the Medellin Flower Festival. The city uses a unique way of transportation through cable cars to connect poor hilly areas from the main town.
Appreciate the street art in Bogotá
The capital city of Colombia, Bogota is not only famous for its lively nightlife and vibrant culture but also for its impressive street art which most often carries an economic, social and political message. Also, spend some time strolling around Candelaria near Plaza Chorro de Quevedo to explore the most extensive street art ingrained in the culture of the city.
Explore Museo del Oro
Museo del Oro or the Gold Museum is the most famous museum in Bogota and among the most captivating in South America. It has over 55,000 well preserved gold pieces and other essential materials dating back to Pre-Hispanic culture. It has three floors, and every room has a unique theme with metaphors both in English and Spanish. The museum has some exotic artifacts made of gold like Jaguar, Eagle, Frog, and Human.
Hike and swim at Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park in Columbia has its location towards the north of the Caribbean coast. The major attractions of this national park are swimming and hiking. While hiking through the dense forest, you might come across Red Howlers, Monkeys, Titis and Capuchins and if you are having a lucky day, you can also encounter an Agouti to, a big fruit loving rodent too. The trail eventually leads to Cabo San Juan Beach where you can relax and get refreshed.
Trek in the Cocora Valley
Just near the Quindio Coffee Farms lie the Cocora Valley which is home to a unique species of palm trees known as wax palm; the trees can be as tall as sixty-eight meters in height. The Cocora Valley is very popular for trekking and therefore draws thousands of adventure loving tourists from around the world. The valley is full of mesmerizing, breathtaking and majestic views; especially the mist wrapped wax palm trees.
Explore the incredible Coffee Country, Quindio region
A visit to Colombia’s coffee country is among the most exciting things that usually engage the tourists. Sipping coffee and understanding how the coffee industry works only brings out appreciation for these people. The in-depth knowledge being provided at the coffee country starting from planting a bush to harvesting, pulp removing, drying and roasting leave an incredible impact. Colombia is listed at number 3 in the production of coffee and especially grows Arabica beans. Don’t forget to visit the colorful town Salento just beside country coffee.
Go mud-bathing at Totumo Volcano
Ever wondered “mud bathing” can be a fun activity? Well here in Columbia, at Totumo mud volcano, tourists take pleasure in getting drenched in mud. The Totumo mud volcano situated near Cartagena is where tourists flock to get mud massage and remain afloat in it. Locals believe that this mud is rich in fifty-five different essential minerals. It is a phenomenal experience, and you must not skip it.
Trekking to the Lost City of Teyuna
While trying to reach the lost city of Teyuna, you need to undergo a 46-kilometer trek crossing jungles, rivers and hills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to come to fight of about 1200 rock steps that lead to the city. The ancient city dated back to 800 AD and was the capital of Tayrona civilization. A mystery engulfs this place with no available written records, and the tomb thieves have looted much of the site.
Head to Parque Arqueologico
Parque Arqueologico, the archaeological park is sprawled across seventy-eight hectares and is situated in San Agustin. The park is home to 130 magnificent statues. Just at the entry of the park is Museo Arqueologico that showcases pottery, jewelry, and utensils. Hiring a local guide to understand the background of San Agustin culture is always recommended. Alto de Lavapatas is San Agustin’s oldest archaeological place where you will notice some statutes guarding tombs.
Other than these top things to do in Colombia, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Colombia that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Colombia
The Colombian cuisine is meaty, flavorful and filling. Some of the best dishes to try when in Colombia are listed here.
Bandeja Paisa: Bandeja Paisa is the national dish of Colombia and is a high-calorie meal invented by peasants to keep them energetic all day long. The recipe includes rice, minced meat, arepa, plantain, avocado, fried pork rind, and black chorizo sausage and the topping of a fried egg.
Empanadas: Empanadas are just like pasty and are a perfect snack on the go. The deep-fried pastries get stuffed with chicken, meat or cheese. Although Empanadas are prevalent all across Latin America, only the Columbian version is deep fried.
Sancocho: Most Colombian dishes have essential fresh ingredients, and the Colombians make their meat more flavorful by slow cooking the stews and soups for a longer duration. Sancocho is a stew made of chicken, beef or pork but for the best and the most hearty dish, go for the tripe soup.
Chocolate con queso: The dish is made of chocolate and cheese and is mainly popular in Bogota. Colombians love their cheese dipped in chocolate. The recipe is eaten either for breakfast or as an afternoon snack.
Cazuela de mariscos: It is a seafood stew that is rich and creamy and is extremely popular. The locals make the stew from vegetables, coconut milk and spices, and prawns or any seafood of your choice. You can enjoy this hot soup at any time of the year.
Where To Stay In Colombia
Colombia is a very affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Colombia is easy even if you’re on a tight budget. Colombia hostels and dormitories make travel here very affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Colombia is a very popular year-round destination.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Colombia.
If you’re backpacking in Colombia or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in South America very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Colombia Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Colombia
The best time to visit Colombia is between December and March as it rains the least during these months, especially in the Andean regions. This is Colombia’s peak tourist season and so prices will be much higher.
Colombia Travel Budget
Colombia is generally an affordable destination for travelers on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to Colombia really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between $35 to $50 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $50 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget about $250 plus a day.
- Budget: $15 – $35
- Mid-range: $35 – $100
- Splurge: $100 +
Meal For One
- Budget: $8 – $25
- Mid-range: $25 – $60
- Splurge: $60 +
Colombia Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Colombia, like most places in South America is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for dry season and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during the rainy season.
Be prepared for the weather to get extremely hot during the summer so pack a high factor sunscreen and a sun hat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Colombia. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques (aimed at tourists) than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your South America trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Colombia include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Colombia check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate South America Packing List For Female Travelers.