The beautiful country of Colombia sits on the northern tip of South America and is known for its great coffee, emeralds, tropical landscapes, Andean peaks and well, let’s not forget the notorious Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. In the high-altitude capital, Bogotá, the Zona Rosa district is great for nightlife and shopping. Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast, has a walled colonial old town, a 16th-century castle and nearby coral reefs all well worth exploring.
COLOMBIA TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Old Town Cartagena
The charming Old Town of Cartagena is possibly the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of Colombia. Get lost wandering around the maze of colorful streets, admire the old colonial buildings and churches. Keep an eye out for some impressive street art too. In Getsemaní, Cartagena’s answer to the bohemian underground scene, you’ll encounter the most colorful street art amongst a mix of upscale establishments.
Medellín is known as the City of Flowers, thanks to its eternal spring-like climate. Visit the second largest city in Colombia for its music, museums, nightlife and friendly people. Modern metro-cables link the city to surrounding barrios and offer incredible views of the Aburrá Valley. Don’t miss the sculptures by Fernando Botero that decorate downtown’s Botero Plaza, and the Museo de Antioquia which displays even more of Botero’s work.
Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park, in northern Colombia and is known for its coastal lagoons, rainforest and rich biodiversity. Visit Colombia’s answer to Jurassic Park to hike through jungles filled with monkeys, exotic birds, (and bugs) only to then reach the white-sand beaches of the Caribbean. At its heart, the Pueblito ruins are an archaeological site accessed via forest trails, with structures built by the Tayrona civilization. Tip: The cashier requires your passport at the entrance to the park when you buy your ticket so don’t forget to bring it with you.
El Totumo Mud Volcano (or in Spanish; Volcán de Lodo El Totumo) is an active, 50 feet tall, mud volcano located 45 minutes outside of Cartagena in the coastal Bolivar region at the edge of an enormous lagoon off the coast of the Caribbean. Visit this popular tourist destination to jump into its healing and skin-softening mud bath (locals believe the mud is rich in fifty-five different essential minerals) and for the crazy photo-op.
Hiking Colombia’s Cocora Valley, just outside the pretty little town of Salento, is top of most Colombian travelers Bucket lists these days. High in the Colombian Andes in Los Nevados National Natural Park, you’ll find the or Cocora Valley or Valle de Cocora. The spectacular trails take in cloud forest, jungle, farmland and the tallest palm trees in the world; the Quindío wax palm.
Read more: Top 10 amazing things to do in Colombia
Adventurous Traveler? Browse our
Bucket Bunny List of the top 25 travel adventures in South America.
Camp on the Bolivian Salt Flats, go Cotopaxi Horse Trekking in Ecuador or hike to Peru’s Machu Picchu. Enjoy browsing our top 25 South America Travel Adventures and be inspired to tick off a few yourself.
COLOMBIA TOP 3 FESTIVALS
Medellin Flower Festival
The Medellin flower festival (in Spanish: Feria de Las Flores) is one of the most important and largest annual festival in Medellin and goes on for 10 days. It’s a celebration of Medellín’s identity, as well as a way to show off the stunning flowers that are grown all around the city. This festival has been taking place for about 60 years and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Carnival of Barranquilla
Even the lonely planet admits that Barranquilla is worth a visit during carnival. The Carnival of Barranquilla is one of Colombia’s most important folkloric celebrations, and one of the biggest carnivals in the world. The carnival originates from a combination of pagan ceremonies, catholic beliefs and ethnic diversity and is a mixture of the European, African and Indian traditions, dances and music.
For Colombian people, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is one of the most important celebrations.
Language: Spanish is the main language spoken in Colombia. Two Creole languages and the Romani language are also spoken in the country by a very small percentage of the population. English has official status in the Providencia, San Andrés and Santa Catalina Islands.
Currency: Colombian Peso.
Visa: Most travelers do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist or business visit because a Tourist Card will be issued for a stay of up to 90 days upon arrival. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Colombia is required (which depends on the country you are from) and how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
Electricity: In Colombia the power plugs and sockets are of type A and B. The standard voltage is 110 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. Buy a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Colombia: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN COLOMBIA
Some traditional dishes that you must try while in Colombia are listed below.
Bandeja Paisa: Paisa refers to the Paisa region of Colombia, and bandeja means “platter,” as this dish is intended to be served on a platter due to its size. Tradionally, Bandeja paisa includes beans, white rice, chicharrón, carne en polvo, chorizo, fried egg, ripe plantain, avocado and arepa. This is a very popular meal in Colombia, especially in the Antioquia department and the Paisa Region.
Empanadas: Colombian Empanadas are a popular snack in Colombia. Traditionally, these tasty fritters are made with savory yellow corn dough stuffed with seasoned pork and beef mixed with cooked potatoes.
Sancocho: One of the most well known Colombian soups, Sancocho is more like a stew and is a traditional dish in the region of Antioquia, Colombia. It combines potatoes, yuca, corn, plantains and meat.
Chocolate con queso: Chocolate with cheese is a good drink for cold weather and very popular for breakfast or tea time in the Andes region of Colombia, the sweet and salty flavors blend perfectly together. Colombian hot chocolate is made with bitter chocolate bars and milk using a special pot called Chocolatera. The hot beverage is poured over the cubes of fresh cheese and served immediately with a spoon to enjoy the melted cheese.
Cazuela de mariscos: Cazuela de mariscos is an excellent Colombian fish soup usually prepared for special occasions. This soup is so popular that it can be found both at the seaside and in the heart of the land.
WHERE TO STAY IN COLOMBIA
Colombia is a generally very affordable destination to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Colombia is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Colombia affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget. Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Colombia will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Colombia can cost less than $30.
If you’re looking for accommodation that includes luxury amenities and comforts then there will be endless options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena. Whatever month you choose to visit Colombia, it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have been snapped up already. Colombia is a very popular destination with backpackers, vacationers and business travelers alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Colombia. However, if you are backpacking in Colombia or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Colombia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new Colombia travel buddies where ever you go.
PLAN YOUR COLOMBIA TRIP
BEST TIME TO VISIT COLOMBIA
December to March is the dry season with warm weather and the least amount of rain, particularly in the Andean regions. This is the best time to visit Colombia for exploring the cities and beaches but be aware that this is Colombia’s peak tourist season and prices are therefore much higher during this time.
COLOMBIA TRAVEL BUDGET
Colombia is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Colombia really depends on the level of comfort you want. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between $50 to $80 per day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $80 to $150 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and top restaurants then budget at least $250 plus per day.
IS COLOMBIA SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Like anywhere, Colombia has safe and unsafe areas—but overall the country is safe for travelers. Be aware of your surroundings at all times like you would in any large city especially on public transport, public beaches and around festive periods. Take extra care to ensure that food and drink is never left unattended and don’t flash your valuable items. Based on my own travel experiences in South America I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance and I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your trip to Colombia.
COLOMBIA VISA CHECKER
COLOMBIA FLIGHT DEALS
COLOMBIA TOURS & ACTIVITIES
COLOMBIA PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Colombia, like most other places in South America, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Colombia.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our awesome finds with you.
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.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Colombia include, most importantly, 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. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.