Travel Colombia  A Comprehensive Guide To The Best Destinations

Travel Colombia: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Destinations

It’s not a surprise that Colombia has become one of our favorite countries for many reasons. We spent four glorious months living and traveling here, which was ample time for us to travel Colombia slowly and enjoy numerous places.  There were some destinations that we didn’t like, while there were others, we loved and returned a second time. Thus, we share our views of Colombia with a detailed guide with three different itineraries and information about where to go, what to do, and our top choices of where to stay and eat.Guatape We recognize that most vacations are only two weeks. We assure you, this is not enough time to enjoy even the top locations to travel Colombia.  If you are fortunate, you can stretch it to up to three weeks.  This guide will allow you to plan a two week holiday,to get a taste of its diversity AND we feel confident you will need to come back (or hopefully stay longer ) and see more.Comuna 13

What You Need to Know About Colombia before you arrive

There are many misconceptions and surprises about Colombia, here are 15 things you need to know before traveling to Colombia.

Travel Colombia: How to get around 

Thanks to easy to plan, comfortable and well-priced bus services, it’s easier than ever to travel independently around Colombia, if you have the time. Be prepared for some long windy Colombian roads to navigate around the mountains however, you will see some of the most spectacular views from the road.

Flights:

Colombia Viva Colombia AirplaneViva Colombia – Is the low-cost airline – We’ve spent $40-$50US for flights to avoid some of our travels that  requires 15 hours of bus time. Warning: This discount airline charges for EVERYTHING(even carry on bags) so be sure to add up all the extra charges to determine whether this is your best option.

Avianca – the national carrier often has sales and competitively priced or better priced domestic flights with Via Colombia, so check all your options.

Bus services:

Colombia BusesWhere to find information:

Numerous bus lines operate nationally or regionally across Colombia.  All cities and towns have a bus terminal where several different companies have service desks that offer varying bus service options and schedules. In the main cities, you can Google the terminal to find the bus companies, schedules, and pricing as it varies in each terminal varies. It is not required to book seats in advance, unless for major Colombian holidays. Often, weekends are very busy as Colombian families travel during this time of the week.

Bus pricing and features:

Bus services are reasonably priced and quite comfortable all over Colombia. They vary from larger coach-lines with A/C, reclining chairs and bathrooms to minivans that carry 12-14 passengers. The bus type varies depending on the schedule and the destination. Be prepared with a sweater for heavily air-conditioned buses and a set of earphones for loud Colombian music.

Travel Colombia: What kind of experience are you looking for?

Every traveler is different: some travelers want more of the outdoors and hike to the Lost City; some travelers want to experience more of the city life and others would be happy to get a cross section of regions.  Here are three sample itineraries, customized according to your preferences.

Travel Colombia: Three Sample Itineraries

Day 1: Bogotá

  • Travel Colombia to see Bogotá is a must. It’s recommended to do local tours in Bogotá as it’s difficult to get around this gigantic city of 10 million population. We discovered the best places in this city from local recommendations. We recommend DestinoBogota as they offer several city tours as well as outdoors and local culture trips to suit any travel style.

What to do:

  • Wander around the Historic La Candelaria district – Bogota’s old town and home to the city’s most impressive Spanish colonial architecture.Bogota   
  • Visit the Gold Museum – see thousands of captivating, ornate gold pieces made by the extinct pre-Colombian Teyruna people.Bogota Gold Museum
  • Visit the Botero Museum – Colombia’s renowned contemporary artist. This museum features his many paintings (and in Medellín, you can view his sculptures.)
  • Enjoy experiences like beer tours, street art tours, and pub crawls with Destino Bogota
  • If you are in Bogotá on Sunday, you must take in Cicloviá – from 7am-2pm the road is closed for cars – and open for runners, bikers, walkers and dogs. It gives you a new perspective of the city and 2 Million get outdoors to enjoy the roads every Sunday!Bogota Cyclavia 

What to eat:  

The dish called Ajiaco – most popular in Bogota. A creamy chicken chowder with corn, potatoes, capers, served with rice, and avocado. It’s incredibly hearty and perfect for cool Bogotá nights.Ajiaco Bogota

Where to stay:

There are a number of good areas to stay in Bogotá. We stayed in Chapinero which has good restaurants and bars. We also stayed at 82Hostel.  This is a good, friendly hostel with private rooms, free breakfast, and nice atmosphere.Bogota 82 Hostal

Day 2: Bogotá and area  – afternoon in Zipaquierá

What to do:  

  • Enjoy awe-inspiring views of Bogotá by visiting the Guadalupe Hill (3300 meters) or Montserrat (3100meters) to get the best focal point of the city.
    Looking down at Montserrat from Guadalupe Hill

    Looking down at Montserrat from Guadalupe Hill

  • Bogotá has the best foodie scene in all of Colombia. Take in a local food tour, from great tour operators like Bogota5.
  • Leave the city for a half-day to visit the delightful Colonial town of Zipaquirá. Visit the Salt Cathedral in this city, a cathedral 200m underground made of interlocking tunnels with 14 chapels and three shrines. Depending on traffic it’s a 1hour drive from Bogotá.

Day 3: Cartagena

How to get there:

Take a night bus from the main terminal (plenty of different options) or to save time, fly to Cartagena.

What to do:  

  • Take a historical walking tour around the Old walled City and Getsemani.Old walled City Cartagena
  • Wander inside the many cathedrals and museums inside the wall.Cartagena Cathedral
  • Walk on the beach and people watch in the Boca Grande district.
  • Saunter the streets of Getsemani and admire the architecture and street graffiti.Cartagena Graffiti
  • Take a break at the Plaza Bolívar or Plaza in front of Iglesia de la Trinidad in Getsemani. Enjoy an arepa and a beer and watch a soccer match on the plaza, kids play or in the evening an outdoor movie – all in front of the church.Plaza Bolivar
  • Watch the sunset looking over the Caribbean sea from the wall of the old city, take a beer and sit on the edge. Many local kids and families will join you.
  • Watch nighttime entertainment including dancing, music and stop for a drink at the Plaza Santa Domingo.

What to eat:  

  • Cool off with a limonada de coco drink – refreshing, tart and sweet!
  • The Café del Mural in Getsemani: sample their coffee flights and unique infused coffees. Passionfruit is incredible!
  • Eat on the rooftop of Malagana rooftop restaurant in Getsemani.
  • For some variety, eat at Saint Roque Restaurant and Cafe for Indonesian with a vintage European feel.

Where to stay:

  • One option is trying to find a reasonable priced Airbnb in the old town (there are just a few options.)
  • We prefer staying in Getsemani – more of a local experience without breaking your wallet.

We stayed at Hotel Marlin in Getsemani – excellent location, clean, reasonably priced, with a New Orleans feel (small rooms, traffic on weekends on this main street make it noisy, but we were right in the middle of the action.)

Day 4: Cartagena and Day Trips to Playa Blanca or Isla Rosario

How to get there:

  • Walk to the pier at El Muelle de la Bodeguita, go to any of the office windows and book a day trip. We went to the Rosario Islands.

(This is a one-hour boat ride – to enjoy your option swimming, snorkeling, diving, hiking, lunch, then return.) Unlike in Cartagena, the waters here are pristine, clear and blue – it’s the best place to swim in the area.Rosario Islands

Day 5 – Travel to Tayrona National Park

How to get there:  

Hotels can arrange a tour for you or you can head to the bus terminal to choose a carrier. The bus trip is around 4-5 hours (depending on stops).

What to do:

Wander in the park, run, swim, hike and relax. Stay overnight in one of many Ecohabs or camping spots.Tayrona National Park

Day 6 – Tayrona National Park – and departure

  • Spend the day visiting many of the beach areas within the park.
  • Walk the trails and witness some of the most amazing diverse views! Check out our video on our day trip to Tayrona.

 

  • Reach the main gates in the afternoon to catch a cab or bus to Santa Marta (approx. 2 hours) then take a cab to Minca (45 minutes up above the Sierra Nevada Mountains.)

Day 7:  Minca: Spend the day relaxing here

We loved Minca! It’s an eclectic, energetic town with lots to do. Find out how to get there, what do to, where to stay, and where to eat, in this post about Minca. Minca Colombia

Day 8: Travel day down to Santa Marta then onto Medellín

Travel Colombia requires a stop in Medellín. It’s not only a beautiful city, going through massive transformation, the Paisa culture (people of Antioquia are different than the rest of the country.

How to get there:

After you arrive in Santa Marta, Take a bus to Medellín (16hrs) or take a flight to Medellín (less than 2 hrs)

Take a cab into the city (roughly 45-50 minutes into town).  To determine how much you should pay for cab fare, try this app. for any city you travel. Medellín is very easy to travel around with its efficient metro system, Metro de Medellin.

Where to stay:  

  • Most visitors typically remain in El Poblado during their first visit to Medellín. It is a tourist-friendly area with plenty of locations. We recommend for cost, convenience, and service: The Grand Hostel in El Poblado. This is a place with friendly and attentive staff (operated by a lovely Lady Lucy and her dog Lucas), with both private and dorm rooms, and proximity to the El Poblado Metro station.Medellin Grand Hostel
  • Another low budget option is InMedellín,  a small hostel with an excellent location in Poblado. It has comfortable private rooms and dorms.  For more pampering, our friends have enjoyed staying at the Charlee Hotel, which has western service. The location is right in the heart of Parque Lleras with restaurants and bars right at your doorstep.
  • We preferred to stay outside of the main areas, such as in Envigado. It offers a more local neighborhood living experience. We enjoyed a long term stay at 20 Mission, Co-living apartments.  This is close to the Colombia Immersion Spanish school, a school that has a more community and local approach to learning.  and set in a local neighborhood, which is a perfect place to appreciate a local community and practice your Spanish.

Day 9: Medellín

What to do:

    • Get your bearings with a Walking Tour around the city. This will give you the perspective of what to see and do for your visit, and learn some history and travel tips.
    • A must see is the Comuna 13 district. Get inspired by witnessing how the city is transforming into a very livable and innovative place. Learn about  the struggles of the past and the growing optimism for the future.
    • Hike up to the mountains and find waterfalls and chill in one of the most beautiful natural spots so close to the city
      Comuna 13 Escalator

      Escalator #6 in Comuna 13

       

    • Visit the Plaza Botero in order to see the sculptures of Medellín’s living legend and shop along the plaza.Botero Dog Medellin
    • Take the cable car up to Parque Arvi and walk through the parks and forests.Medellin Metro Cable Park Arvi
    • Visit the Minorista market downtown to savor the best variety of exotic fruits you have ever seen!Medellin Minorista market
    • Watch a Colombian football (soccer) game and witness some of the most passionate fans ever! Check out the video from our first Colombian Football game.

  • Take in one of many museums like the Museum of Antioquia or our favorite the Casa de Memoria.
  • On Sundays get some exercise at Cicloviá – from 7 am to 1 pm. Avenue Poblado is closed to vehicles and open for cycling, running, and dog walking or just plain walking. This event is perfect for a great day of exercise, followed with a refreshing drink at one of many juice stands along the way.
  • Coffee! Enjoy the many café options around the city especially in El Poblado.

 

What and Where to eat:

Learn all about typical Paisa food, and discover what kind of foods you enjoy.  The Street food tour Medellín is an excellent way to start your stay. Check out the video of our food tour of Medellín.

Our favorite places to eat and drink 

 Our choices are based on two factors: good value or fair priced; and decent food.

Restaurants in Medellín:

  • 3 Tipicos – Probably the best of local food.
  • Sapore de Pasta – Simple, fair-priced, Italian owned, pasta joint with a very casual atmosphere where you get to choose your sauce and pasta. Pizza is also available.  
  • For more restaurant reviews by neighborhood you can find it here.

Restaurants in Envigado:  

  • Just a short cab from Medellin, Envigado tends to offer more economically-priced restaurants. Since we lived in this area, we frequented more locations such as:
  • La Burger Bar – handcrafted, city themed burgers and fries. Lots of interesting topping options.
    La Burger Bar

    La Burger Bar

  • Actipan 3 – small corner bakery that makes the best Arepas con huevos (corn arepa with egg inside).
    Arepas con huevos

    Arepas con huevos

     

  • Hugo’s Wings and Pizza – behind the church San Rafael del Dorada on Carrera 39a
  • Tepitos – Tacos y Tequila – High-energy spot with ample choices of Tequila and delicious and spicy Mexican (or mild if you prefer)
    Having diner at Tepitos – Tacos y Tequila

    Having diner at Tepitos – Tacos y Tequila

  • Mahalo Action & Sports Bar – Amazing view is the highlight. It is set high above the city up the mountains. Good if you are looking for familiar Western food and sunset ambiance.
    Mahalo Action & Sports Bar

    Mahalo Action & Sports Bar

  • El Café de Otraparte – Unique and delicious coffees and desserts in a casual garden setting.

Day 10- Day trip to Guatapé

  • This is one of our favorite day trips (or  overnight if you can spare the time). For details how to get there, and what to do you can find out all about the coolest colorful town of Guatapé here. Guatapé street

Day 11  Day trip to Cocoa farm – Stay in Medellín overnight.

What to do:

  • Stay in Medellín and book a day tour to see and participate in a chocolate workshop at a cocoa farm.
  • The Palenque tours offer an incredible tour of a Cocao farm where you find out how farmers have gotten past the dark days of the war and now have a thriving chocolate business.
  • We captured the story of this Cocao farm and how it’s changed from the dark past of the Colombian war. 
  • Palenque also offers excellent coffee tours in this area (you don’t need to be in the coffee zone to see and taste good coffee).

Day 12:  Travel to Cali

  • With this trip to Cali, you will cover off all major cities in Colombia.  There is a lot to see in Medellín and you may opt to stay and explore more.
  • Cali, however, will give you a different perspective on Colombia. It is also a city in massive transformation after the dark days of the Cali cartel were over.  The city is renewing and renovating with parks, restaurants and social projects.  Not to mention it’s the home and birthplace of SALSA!

How to get there:  

  • Your best option is flying. Otherwise, it’s an 8-10 hour drive. If you are on a limited vacation period, taking the plane is your best bet.
  • Travel within Cali: Taxis are everywhere and economical as there are metered taxis. However, we didn’t take a bus, which is called the Mio – similar to the Transmilenio in Bogotá. It’s reasonably priced and efficient (although it can get very crowded during rush hour). Uber runs a low cost and efficient service in Cali as well as in Bogotá and Medellín.  

Where to stay

We recommend Casa Miraflores, which is one of the coolest/most comfortable hostels we have ever stayed in. It’s a massive Spanish-style home that offers breakfast, with two full kitchens to use, funky lounging areas and comfortable private and dorm rooms.

Day 13: Enjoy Cali

What to do:  

  • We recommend a city tour to allow you to get a first comprehensive impression of Cali. It’s a great overview of popular neighborhoods, as well as the downtown area.Cali
  • Cristo Rey is a Christ statue located high above the city, with numerous parks and urban projects underway. Valley Adventours offers a driving city tour with an English guide, regularly offered at 4 pm.  Duration: 3 hours Cost: 45,000COP or $15USD. This tour company offers several other more outdoors and adventurous tours like waterfall hikes, tubing, paragliding, and kite surfing. We just had a grand time for the city tour, and we plan to come back to see more of the area. Cali Cristo ReyCali Park-03891
  • Of course, Salsa Dancing is a good reason to come to Cali and included here is a good directory of where to find the best clubs, schools and events.

Day 14:  Travel back to Bogotá

  • Fly back home via Medellín or Bogotá depending on your airline.
  • Sadly, your trip may be over at this point, but if you still have time, we have two other itineraries below that offer a few different options for destinations if you can spare the time.

Day 1: Bogotá

  • Travel Colombia to see Bogotá is a must. It’s recommended to do local tours in Bogotá as it’s difficult to get around this gigantic city of 10 million population. We discovered the best places in this city from local recommendations. We recommend DestinoBogota as they offer several city tours as well as outdoors and local culture trips to suit any travel style.

What to do:

  • Wander around the Historic La Candelaria district – Bogota’s old town and home to the city’s most impressive Spanish colonial architecture.Bogota   
  • Visit the Gold Museum – see thousands of captivating, ornate gold pieces made by the extinct pre-Colombian Teyruna people.Bogota Gold Museum
  • Visit the Botero Museum – Colombia’s renowned contemporary artist. This museum features his many paintings (and in Medellín, you can view his sculptures.)
  • Enjoy experiences like beer tours, street art tours, and pub crawls with Destino Bogota
  • If you are in Bogotá on Sunday, you must take in Cicloviá – from 7am-2pm the road is closed for cars – and open for runners, bikers, walkers and dogs. It gives you a new perspective of the city and 2 Million get outdoors to enjoy the roads every Sunday!Bogota Cyclavia 

What to eat:  

The dish called Ajiaco – most popular in Bogota. A creamy chicken chowder with corn, potatoes, capers, served with rice, and avocado. It’s incredibly hearty and perfect for cool Bogotá nights.Ajiaco Bogota

Where to stay:

There are a number of good areas to stay in Bogotá. We stayed in Chapinero which has good restaurants and bars. We also stayed at 82Hostel.  This is a good, friendly hostel with private rooms, free breakfast, and nice atmosphere.Bogota 82 Hostal

Day 2: Bogotá and area  – afternoon in Zipaquierá

What to do:  

  • Enjoy awe-inspiring views of Bogotá by visiting the Guadalupe Hill (3300 meters) or Montserrat (3100meters) to get the best focal point of the city.
    Looking down at Montserrat from Guadalupe Hill

    Looking down at Montserrat from Guadalupe Hill

  • Bogotá has the best foodie scene in all of Colombia. Take in a local food tour, from great tour operators like Bogota5.
  • Leave the city for a half-day to visit the delightful Colonial town of Zipaquirá. Visit the Salt Cathedral in this city, a cathedral 200m underground made of interlocking tunnels with 14 chapels and three shrines. Depending on traffic it’s a 1hour drive from Bogotá.

Day 3: Cartagena

How to get there:

Take a night bus from the main terminal (plenty of different options) or to save time, fly to Cartagena.

What to do:  

  • Take a historical walking tour around the Old walled City and Getsemani.Old walled City Cartagena
  • Wander inside the many cathedrals and museums inside the wall.Cartagena Cathedral
  • Walk on the beach and people watch in the Boca Grande district.
  • Saunter the streets of Getsemani and admire the architecture and street graffiti.Cartagena Graffiti
  • Take a break at the Plaza Bolívar or Plaza in front of Iglesia de la Trinidad in Getsemani. Enjoy an arepa and a beer and watch a soccer match on the plaza, kids play or in the evening an outdoor movie – all in front of the church.Plaza Bolivar
  • Watch the sunset looking over the Caribbean sea from the wall of the old city, take a beer and sit on the edge. Many local kids and families will join you.
  • Watch nighttime entertainment including dancing, music and stop for a drink at the Plaza Santa Domingo.

What to eat:  

  • Cool off with a limonada de coco drink – refreshing, tart and sweet!
  • The Café del Mural in Getsemani: sample their coffee flights and unique infused coffees. Passionfruit is incredible!
  • Eat on the rooftop of Malagana rooftop restaurant in Getsemani.
  • For some variety, eat at Saint Roque Restaurant and Cafe for Indonesian with a vintage European feel.

Where to stay:

  • One option is trying to find a reasonable priced Airbnb in the old town (there are just a few options.)
  • We prefer staying in Getsemani – more of a local experience without breaking your wallet.

We stayed at Hotel Marlin in Getsemani – excellent location, clean, reasonably priced, with a New Orleans feel (small rooms, traffic on weekends on this main street make it noisy, but we were right in the middle of the action.)

Day 4: Cartagena and Day Trips to Playa Blanca or Isla Rosario

How to get there:

  • Walk to the pier at El Muelle de la Bodeguita, go to any of the office windows and book a day trip. We went to the Rosario Islands.

(This is a one-hour boat ride – to enjoy your option swimming, snorkeling, diving, hiking, lunch, then return.) Unlike in Cartagena, the waters here are pristine, clear and blue – it’s the best place to swim in the area.Rosario Islands

Day 5 – Travel to Tayrona National Park

How to get there:  

Hotels can arrange a tour for you or you can head to the bus terminal to choose a carrier. The bus trip is around 4-5 hours (depending on stops).

What to do:

Wander in the park, run, swim, hike and relax. Stay overnight in one of many Ecohabs or camping spots.Tayrona National Park

Day 6 – Tayrona National Park – and departure

  • Spend the day visiting many of the beach areas within the park.
  • Walk the trails and witness some of the most amazing diverse views! Check out our video on our day trip to Tayrona.

 

  • Reach the main gates in the afternoon to catch a cab or bus to Santa Marta (approx. 2 hours) then take a cab to Minca (45 minutes up above the Sierra Nevada Mountains.)

Day 7: Start the Lost City Trek – The Ciudad Perdida

  • The Lost City Trek is one of our favorite hikes of all time. What makes it unique about it is the diversity of landscapes, the local camping experiences and the interesting life of the indigenous tribes in the area. The Lost City area itself is a fascinating site. In fact, the journey itself is exceptional. If you visit the Gold Museum in Bogotá before or after this hike, you will understand and appreciate the ingenuity of the Pre-Colombian Teyruna people after you finish the activity.Lost City Colombia Lost city TrekLost City Kids

 

How to book this tour:  

ViaColombia can book a full trip throughout Colombia and all your other excursions. Or if you are looking for just the Lost Trek, check out the details at Magic Tours in Santa Marta to operate your trek.

Important details about this hike:

  • The hike is a challenging hike in many sections. It’s dusty, muddy but the views are sensational. It’s best for any hiker in good fitness. We recommend the 4-day tour.
  • You will be required to carry everything you take on the trip on your back and at least 2 liters of water.  Take as little as possible (limit your clothes to just one change of dry clothes. All your remaining gear can be left at the tour company office fully locked up.)

Day 10 – Final day of the Trek and Departure

When your hike is complete around mid-afternoon, you will join your group in the Machete village for a final lunch. You will be incredibly tired from the trek.  It’s best to spend the next day relaxing. We recommend spending your evening and next day resting in Minca.

  • It’s a 45-minute drive up the mountains from Santa Marta.

Day 11:  Minca: Spend the day relaxing here

We loved Minca! It’s an eclectic, energetic town with lots to do. Find out how to get there, what do to, where to stay, and where to eat, in this post about Minca. Minca Colombia

Day 12: Travel day down to Santa Marta then onto Medellín.

Travel Colombia requires a stop in Medellín. It’s not only a beautiful city, going through massive transformation, the Paisa culture (people of Antioquia are different than the rest of the country.

How to get there:

After you arrive in Santa Marta, Take a bus to Medellín (16hrs) or take a flight to Medellín (less than 2 hrs)

Take a cab into the city (roughly 45-50 minutes into town).  To determine how much you should pay for cab fare, try this app. for any city you travel. Medellín is very easy to travel around with its efficient metro system, Metro de Medellin.

Where to stay:  

  • Most visitors typically remain in El Poblado during their first visit to Medellín. It is a tourist-friendly area with plenty of locations. We recommend for cost, convenience, and service: The Grand Hostel in El Poblado. This is a place with friendly and attentive staff (operated by a lovely Lady Lucy and her dog Lucas), with both private and dorm rooms, and proximity to the El Poblado Metro station.Medellin Grand Hostel
  • Another low budget option is InMedellín,  a small hostel with an excellent location in Poblado. It has comfortable private rooms and dorms.  For more pampering, our friends have enjoyed staying at the Charlee Hotel, which has western service. The location is right in the heart of Parque Lleras with restaurants and bars right at your doorstep.
  • We preferred to stay outside of the main areas, such as in Envigado. It offers a more local neighborhood living experience. We enjoyed a long term stay at 20 Mission, Co-living apartments.  This is close to the Colombia Immersion Spanish school, a school that has a more community and local approach to learning.  and set in a local neighborhood, which is a perfect place to appreciate a local community and practice your Spanish.

Day 13- Day trip to Guatapé

  • This is one of our favorite day trips (or  overnight if you can spare the time). For details how to get there, and what to do you can find out all about the coolest colorful town of Guatapé here. Guatapé street

Day 14: Medellín

What to do:

    • Get your bearings with a Walking Tour around the city. This will give you the perspective of what to see and do for your visit, and learn some history and travel tips.
    • A must see is the Comuna 13 district. Get inspired by witnessing how the city is transforming into a very livable and innovative place. Learn about the struggles of the past and the growing optimism for the future.
    • Hike up to the mountains and find waterfalls and chill in one of the most beautiful natural spots so close to the city
      Comuna 13 Escalator

      Escalator #6 in Comuna 13

       

    • Visit the Plaza Botero in order to see the sculptures of Medellín’s living legend and shop along the plaza.Botero Dog Medellin
    • Take the cable car up to Parque Arvi and walk through the parks and forests.Medellin Metro Cable Park Arvi
    • Visit the Minorista market downtown to savor the best variety of exotic fruits you have ever seen!Medellin Minorista market
    • Watch a Colombian football (soccer) game and witness some of the most passionate fans ever! Check out the video from our first Colombian Football game.

  • Take in one of many museums like the Museum of Antioquia or our favorite the Casa de Memoria.
  • On Sundays get some exercise at Cicloviá – from 7 am to 1 pm. Avenue Poblado is closed to vehicles and open for cycling, running, and dog walking or just plain walking. This event is perfect for a great day of exercise, followed with a refreshing drink at one of many juice stands along the way.
  • Coffee! Enjoy the many café options around the city especially in El Poblado.

What and Where to eat:

Learn all about typical Paisa food, and discover what kind of foods you enjoy.  The Street food tour Medellín is an excellent way to start your stay. Check out the video of our food tour of Medellín.

Our favorite places to eat and drink 

 Our choices are based on two factors: good value or fair priced; and decent food.

Restaurants in Medellín:

  • 3 Tipicos – Probably the best of local food.
  • Sapore de Pasta – Simple, fair-priced, Italian owned, pasta joint with a very casual atmosphere where you get to choose your sauce and pasta. Pizza is also available.  
  • For more restaurant reviews by neighborhood you can find it here.

Restaurants in Envigado:  

  • Just a short cab from Medellin, Envigado tends to offer more economically-priced restaurants. Since we lived in this area, we frequented more locations such as:
  • La Burger Bar – handcrafted, city themed burgers and fries. Lots of interesting topping options.
    La Burger Bar

    La Burger Bar

  • Actipan 3 – small corner bakery that makes the best Arepas con huevo (corn arepa with egg inside).
    Arepas con huevos

    Arepas con huevo

     

  • Hugo’s Wings and Pizza – behind the church San Rafael del Dorada on Carrera 39a
  • Tepitos – Tacos y Tequila – High-energy spot with ample choices of Tequila and delicious and spicy Mexican (or mild if you prefer)
    Having diner at Tepitos – Tacos y Tequila

    Having dinner at Tepitos – Tacos y Tequila

  • Mahalo Action & Sports Bar – Amazing view is the highlight. It is set high above the city up the mountains. Good if you are looking for familiar Western food and sunset ambiance.
    Mahalo Action & Sports Bar

    Mahalo Action & Sports Bar

  • El Café de Otraparte – Unique and delicious coffees and desserts in a casual garden setting.

Day 14:  Travel back to Bogotá

  • Fly back home via Medellín or Bogotá depending on your airline.
  • Sadly, your trip may be over at this point, but if you still have time, we have two other itineraries below that offer a few different options for destinations if you can spare the time.

Day 1: Bogotá

  • Travel Colombia to see Bogotá is a must. It’s recommended to do local tours in Bogotá as it’s difficult to get around this gigantic city of 10 million population. We discovered the best places in this city from local recommendations. We recommend DestinoBogota as they offer several city tours as well as outdoors and local culture trips to suit any travel style.

What to do:

  • Wander around the Historic La Candelaria district – Bogota’s old town and home to the city’s most impressive Spanish colonial architecture.Bogota   
  • Visit the Gold Museum – see thousands of captivating, ornate gold pieces made by the extinct pre-Colombian Teyruna people.Bogota Gold Museum
  • Visit the Botero Museum – Colombia’s renowned contemporary artist. This museum features his many paintings (and in Medellín, you can view his sculptures.)
  • Enjoy experiences like beer tours, street art tours, and pub crawls with Destino Bogota
  • If you are in Bogotá on Sunday, you must take in Cicloviá – from 7am-2pm the road is closed for cars – and open for runners, bikers, walkers and dogs. It gives you a new perspective of the city and 2 Million get outdoors to enjoy the roads every Sunday!Bogota Cyclavia 

What to eat:  

The dish called Ajiaco – most popular in Bogota. A creamy chicken chowder with corn, potatoes, capers, served with rice, and avocado. It’s incredibly hearty and perfect for cool Bogotá nights.Ajiaco Bogota

Where to stay:

There are a number of good areas to stay in Bogotá. We stayed in Chapinero which has good restaurants and bars. We also stayed at 82Hostel.  This is a good, friendly hostel with private rooms, free breakfast, and nice atmosphere.Bogota 82 Hostal

Day 2: Bogotá and area  – afternoon in Zipaquierá

What to do:  

  • Enjoy awe-inspiring views of Bogotá by visiting the Guadalupe Hill (3300 meters) or Montserrat (3100meters) to get the best focal point of the city.
    Looking down at Montserrat from Guadalupe Hill

    Looking down at Montserrat from Guadalupe Hill

  • Bogotá has the best foodie scene in all of Colombia. Take in a local food tour, from great tour operators like Bogota5.
  • Leave the city for a half-day to visit the delightful Colonial town of Zipaquirá. Visit the Salt Cathedral in this city, a cathedral 200m underground made of interlocking tunnels with 14 chapels and three shrines. Depending on traffic it’s a 1hour drive from Bogotá.

Day 3: Travel day to Medellín

Travel Colombia requires a stop in Medellín. It’s not only a beautiful city, going through massive transformation, the Paisa culture (people of Antioquia are different than the rest of the country.

How to get there:

Take a flight from Bogotá (1 hour) or take a bus to Medellín (approx. 6-7 hours). There are lots of bus companies and schedule options. 

Take a cab into the city (roughly 45-50 minutes into town).  To determine how much you should pay for cab fare, try this app. for any city you travel. Medellín is very easy to travel around with its efficient metro system, Metro de Medellin.

Where to stay:  

  • Most visitors typically remain in El Poblado during their first visit to Medellín. It is a tourist-friendly area with plenty of locations. We recommend for cost, convenience, and service: The Grand Hostel in El Poblado. This is a place with friendly and attentive staff (operated by a lovely Lady Lucy and her dog Lucas), with both private and dorm rooms, and proximity to the El Poblado Metro station.Medellin Grand Hostel
  • Another low budget option is InMedellín,  a small hostel with an excellent location in Poblado. It has comfortable private rooms and dorms.  For more pampering, our friends have enjoyed staying at the Charlee Hotel, which has western service. The location is right in the heart of Parque Lleras with restaurants and bars right at your doorstep.
  • We preferred to stay outside of the main areas, such as in Envigado. It offers a more local neighborhood living experience. We enjoyed a long term stay at 20 Mission, Co-living apartments.  This is close to the Colombia Immersion Spanish school, a school that has a more community and local approach to learning.  and set in a local neighborhood, which is a perfect place to appreciate a local community and practice your Spanish.

Day 4: Medellín

What to do:

    • Get your bearings with a Walking Tour around the city. This will give you the perspective of what to see and do for your visit, and learn some history and travel tips.
    • A must see is the Comuna 13 district. Get inspired by witnessing how the city is transforming into a very livable and innovative place. Learn about the the struggles of the past and the growing optimism for the future.
    • Hike up to the mountains and find waterfalls and chill in one of the most beautiful natural spots so close to the city
      Comuna 13 Escalator

      Escalator #6 in Comuna 13

       

    • Visit the Plaza Botero in order to see the sculptures of Medellín’s living legend and shop along the plaza.Botero Dog Medellin
    • Take the cable car up to Parque Arvi and walk through the parks and forests.Medellin Metro Cable Park Arvi
    • Visit the Minorista market downtown to savor the best variety of exotic fruits you have ever seen!Medellin Minorista market
    • Watch a Colombian football (soccer) game and witness some of the most passionate fans ever! Check out the video from our first Colombian Football game.

  • Take in one of many museums like the Museum of Antioquia or our favorite the Casa de Memoria.
  • On Sundays get some exercise at Cicloviá – from 7 am to 1 pm. Avenue Poblado is closed to vehicles and open for cycling, running, and dog walking or just plain walking. This event is perfect for a great day of exercise, followed with a refreshing drink at one of many juice stands along the way.
  • Coffee! Enjoy the many café options around the city especially in El Poblado.

What and Where to eat:

Learn all about typical Paisa food, and discover what kind of foods you enjoy.  The Street food tour Medellín is an excellent way to start your stay. Check out the video of our food tour of Medellín.

Our favorite places to eat and drink 

 Our choices are based on two factors: good value or fair priced; and decent food.

Restaurants in Medellín:

  • 3 Tipicos – Probably the best of local food.
  • Sapore de Pasta – Simple, fair-priced, Italian owned, pasta joint with a very casual atmosphere where you get to choose your sauce and pasta. Pizza is also available.  
  • For more restaurant reviews by neighborhood you can find it here.

Restaurants in Envigado:  

  • Just a short cab from Medellin, Envigado tends to offer more economically-priced restaurants. Since we lived in this area, we frequented more locations such as:
  • La Burger Bar – handcrafted, city themed burgers and fries. Lots of interesting topping options.
    La Burger Bar

    La Burger Bar

  • Actipan 3 – small corner bakery that makes the best Arepas con huevos (corn arepa with egg inside).
    Arepas con huevos

    Arepas con huevo

     

  • Hugo’s Wings and Pizza – behind the church San Rafael del Dorada on Carrera 39a
  • Tepitos – Tacos y Tequila – High-energy spot with ample choices of Tequila and delicious and spicy Mexican (or mild if you prefer)
    Having diner at Tepitos – Tacos y Tequila

    Having dinner at Tepitos – Tacos y Tequila

  • Mahalo Action & Sports Bar – Amazing view is the highlight. It is set high above the city up the mountains. Good if you are looking for familiar western food and sunset ambiance.
    Mahalo Action & Sports Bar

    Mahalo Action & Sports Bar

  • El Café de Otraparte – Unique and delicious coffees and desserts in a casual garden setting.

Day 13- Day trip to Guatapé

  • This is one of our favorite day trips (or  overnight if you can spare the time). For details how to get there, and what to do you can find out all about the coolest colorful town of Guatapé here. Guatapé street

Day 6 – Travel to Jardín

  • Jardín, or Garden in English, is a quiet colonial town, in the southwest region of Antioquia. It’s very local with limited tourists. It’s an idyllic location to slow down, hike or horseback to waterfalls or visit a coffee farm.Jardin Church

Travel Details to Jardín:

Travel to the South bus terminal in Medellín and take a bus to Jardín. Various small vans travel to Jardín, wherein the trip is three hours away approx. 20,000 COP or $6.50USD.

Where to stay:

We really enjoyed our stay for three nights at the Hotel Kantarrana Urban Garden. It’s close to the main square and bus terminal, with a unique design and décor, comfortable rooms and breakfast.Hotel Kantarrana Urban Garden Jardin

Day 7: Enjoy Jardín

What to do:

We recommend a hike (or horseback) to the Cueva del Esplendor (the Cave of Splendour).Jardin Waterfall  It starts with a jeep ride up the mountain to start on a scenic trek in farmer’s fields located high above the town, then down into the caves. It’s an excellent and relatively easy hike.Jardin

Jardin Ecotours offer a hiking tour with a knowledgeable and English speaking guide named Andrés.  He also offers coffee tours in the area.

Where to eat:

We found it difficult to find good restaurants that were open (it was during low season), and a number were closed the week we were there.  Best to ask for recommendations when you arrive.

Day 8: Travel to Salento (in the Coffee Zone)

Salento will offer you a more vibrant setting than Jardín. It’s a town that knows all about tourism and has ample options for restaurants and cafés and shopping.   Salento is a short distance to take in a coffee tour or to see the Valle de Cocora.Salento Town

How to get to Salento from Jardín:

Unfortunately, there is no direct bus route to the Coffee region, particularly Salento. Due to the terrain, with zigzag roads, it’s a bit challenging to traverse through the route, yet possible.

– Take bus from Jardín to Rio Sucio – Duration: 3 hours cost: 19,000 COP $6.15 USD

– Then transfer onto bus to Pereira (or Armenia) Duration: 1.5 hours cost: 6500COP $2.10USD

– Then catch bus from Pereira to Salento duration: 45minutes Cost: 5000COP $1.62USD

There are multiple buses, and we managed to make each bus in sufficient time without waiting very long for the next.

Day 9:  Enjoy Salento

Where to stay:  

We loved our stay at the Posada Casa Salento, which is a family run home, with comfortable themed rooms, excellent breakfast served on the balcony, and an impeccable customer service to create your perfect plan in Salento. You will see why it’s rated exceptional.Posada Casa Salento

What to do:

  • Visit the Valle de Cocora– A walk to see the stunning cloud forest of mountains and towering wax palm trees. All that is required here is heading to the town plaza, and getting on a jeep Willie for the short ride out of town. This is a short walk along the mountains. Unfortunately, the rain was so bad we stopped for only a short period. Then grab a jeep Willie to take you back into town. The vehicles leave at set times during the day; you can inquire with your guesthouse or any of your drivers.Salento Valle de Cocora

Visit a coffee farm:

There are numerous options to visit a farm, and learn the coffee process. Your guesthouse can help, or various tour guides tout their services on the street.

Shop:

 We don’t shop very often anymore, but Salento seemed to have more unique artisanal jeweler and goods that we haven’t seen in other parts of Colombia. Make sure you bargain!

Where to eat:  

Salento has great restaurants, but prices are jacked up in this touristy town. Our favorite spot was the food trucks in the central plaza serving trout or chicken grilled or cooked in various sauces, each served with rice, salad and patacone and salsa for 6100- 9200 COP, $2-3 USD a plate. These were some of our best meals on the trip.Salento Food Trucks

Bernabé café – Cocina Fusion – Although a little pricier than our food trucks, we loved their coffees and interesting dishes and it satisfied my craving for pasta.Bernabé café – Cocina Fusion

Makao  – International food, western pricing and decor. Food and drinks are great if you want to treat yourself.

There is no shortage of good coffee in this town.

Two of our favorite café’s were:

El Tejadito de Salento – Café Arte – Excellent artisanal coffees  – on the main street in Salento.El Tejadito de Salento

Café Jesús Martin – Equally good coffee with special blends to take home.Café Jesús Martin

Day 10:  Travel and stay in Cali

  • Cali will give you a different perspective on Colombia. It is also a city in massive transformation after the dark days of the Cali cartel were over.  The city is renewing and renovating with parks, restaurants and social projects.  Not to mention it’s the home and birthplace of SALSA!

How to get there:  

  • At the small bus station in Salento, take the bus to get Cali, which requires a stop in Armenia first. Trip Duration: 45minutes Cost: 5000 COP $1.62USD, when you arrive at the terminal in Armenia, there are several buses to Cali. Duration: 3 hours 20,000COP $6.50USD
  • Travel within Cali: Taxis are everywhere and economical as there are metered taxis. However, we didn’t take a bus, which is called the Mio – similar to the Transmilenio in Bogotá. It’s reasonably priced and efficient (although it can get very crowded during rush hour). Uber runs a low cost and efficient service in Cali as well as in Bogotá and Medellín.  

Where to stay

We recommend Casa Miraflores, which is one of the coolest/most comfortable hostels we have ever stayed in. It’s a massive Spanish-style home that offers breakfast, with two full kitchens to use, funky lounging areas and comfortable private and dorm rooms.

What to do:  

  • We recommend a city tour to allow you to get a first comprehensive impression of Cali. It’s a great overview of popular neighborhoods, as well as the downtown area.Cali
  • Cristo Rey is a Christ statue located high above the city, with numerous parks and urban projects underway. Valley Adventours offers a driving city tour with an English guide, regularly offered at 4 pm.  Duration: 3 hours Cost: 45,000COP or $15USD. This tour company offers several other more outdoors and adventurous tours like waterfall hikes, tubing, paragliding, and kite surfing. We just had a grand time for the city tour, and we plan to come back to see more of the area. Cali Cristo ReyCali Park-03891
  • Of course, Salsa Dancing is a good reason to come to Cali and included here is a good directory of where to find the best clubs, schools and events.

Day 11 –Travel and stay in Popayán

Popayán – Or the White City, is an impressive, all white, Spanish Colonial town, with a picturesque landscape of mountains and volcanoes encircling the city. We stayed here for one night, then left to see San Agustín, and headed back to Popayán to see a little more.Popayan-03904

How to get there:

Popayán is a three-hour bus ride from Cali and costs 15,000COP $4.86USD.

Where to stay:

Hostel Caracol is a comfortable low-cost hostel, with private rooms (mostly with shared bathroom), shared kitchen for use, and good café in the front.

What to do:

  • Wander the streets and take lots of pictures – the all-white facades and Spanish architecture allow for plenty of walking. There are impressive buildings like Parque Caldas, Iglesia de San Francisco and an opportunity to step inside the many cathedrals in the city. If you like museums, there are five museums in the central historical area.Popayan-03901
  • Hiking and biking – There are plenty of tours here to bike to the natural hot springs and complete the Puracé volcano hike. We haven’t done these trips, and we hope to go back soon to enjoy them.

What to try/Where to eat:

  • Popayan’s regional dish: It’s a treat to find spicy food – and local food! This is a spicy peanut sauce called Pipian, and you can find it served with Empanadas at places that just a small hole in the wall for a mere 300 COP or 10cents USD each.Popayan-03897
  • We visited Popayán for a limited time, but our top choices were:
  • Tequilas – Mexican/Colombian couple – create delicious, spicy and well-priced Mexican dishes (it’s not easy to find spicy food in Colombia).

Day 12 – Travel and stay in San Agustín

  • San Agustín is a UNESCO Heritage Site of large Pre-Colombian tombs and statues, but it is also home to many award-winning coffees. Surprisingly, most of the best coffees are not found in the coffee zone. We could not believe our eyes with the breathtaking views of vast canyons, caverns, and waterfalls on our way into the town. The scenery alone is a reason to visit.San Agustin-03917  

How to get there:

  • From Popayán –The bus will only stop at the turn off to the town. However, the bus fare includes a taxi (that was waiting for us when we arrived) to take us up to the city of San Agustín.

The bus is a very bumpy, uncomfortable trip winding around an unpaved road for most of the journey. Duration: 5-6 hours. Cost: 20,000COP $6.50USD.
When we arrived our cab drove us into town, a slow journey up the winding roads looking over a massive canyon to waterfalls and rivers. It’s incredible!

Day 13 – Day trip to San Agustín Archeological sites

We learned our cab driver Anibal ran a tour company called Anacaona, and with our limited time to visit, we hired him for the day to visit the major archeological sites and points of interest in the area. Our day included the Archeological area sites of Obando, Alto de Los Idolos, Alto de las Piedras and San Agustín.San Agustin Archeological area sites And we discovered the waterfalls and rivers such as El Palmar, Rio Mazamorras, Salto de Bordones (waterfalls) and Salto del Mortiño.San Agustin waterfall

 

Where to stay:

There are many eco-lodge style accommodations. We stayed at the Eco-farm El Maco, in one of their rustic cottages. The rooms are very comfortable wood A-frame cabins.San Agustin Eco-farm El Maco  

Day 14 – Travel back to Popayán, then bus to Cali

Take a morning bus back to Popayán for 5-6 hours then upon reaching the Popayán bus terminal, take a bus back to Cali – 2hrs in the evening.

Stay in Cali for the evening.

Day 15 – Fly out of Cali  – fly back to Bogotá

  • Fly back home via Cali or Bogotá depending on your airline.
  • If you have a few more days to spare, take a look at the other two itineraries for places you may have missed.

Looking for more information to travel Colombia? We would love to help you discover more details about this incredible country we have grown to love!  Found a place you want to share with others? Let us know here!

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