If you’re heading to Colombia and are looking for REAL travel advice from a community of backpackers, you’re in the right place. Forget about the remarks you’ve inevitably heard from family and friends back home… “Colombia is so dangerous!”, “You’ll get stabbed there!” And instead take it from like-minded folks who know first-hand. We’ll share the top places to visit, required vaccinations and that all important advice from travellers on how to stay safe! Read on to start planning your Colombian adventure…
- 0.1 See Our Colombia Travel Guides (Listed A-Z) – Each guide will open in a new window
- 0.2 You’ll love Colombia if…
- 0.3 December to March in Colombia
- 0.4 May to June in Colombia
- 0.5 July to November in Colombia
- 0.6 90 Days Visa-Free
- 0.7 Visa Extensions
- 0.8 Border Runs
- 0.9 Penalty for overstaying your visa in Colombia
- 0.10 Do I need vaccines to travel to Colombia?
- 0.11 Do I need malaria tablets for Colombia?
- 0.12 Dengue Fever
- 0.13 Crime in Colombia
- 0.14 Food and water hygiene in Colombia
- 0.15 Tap Water in Colombia
- 0.16 Alcohol in Colombia
- 0.17 Drugs in Colombia
- 0.18 Clothes for Colombia
- 0.19 Footwear for Colombia
- 0.20 Blending in Colombia
- 0.21 Practical items
- 0.22 Flying to Colombia
- 0.23 Flying within Colombia
- 0.24 Some Colombian Slang Words!
- 0.25 Cost of Accommodation in Colombia
- 0.26 Cost of Food in Colombia
- 0.27 Cost of Beer in Colombia
- 0.28 National Park Entry Prices in Colombia
- 0.29 Cost of Activities in Colombia
- 0.30 10 Money-Saving Tips for Colombia!
- 0.31 Taxis in Colombia
- 0.32 Buses in Colombia
- 0.33 Flights in Colombia
- 0.34 For Energetic Cities…
- 0.35 For Beautiful Mountain Towns…
- 0.36 For National Parks and Wildlife…
- 0.37 For Outdoor Adventure…
- 0.38 For Beach Bums…
- 0.39 1. La Ciudad Perdida Trek
- 0.40 2. Visit the Northernmost Point of South America
- 0.41 3. See the Tallest Palm Trees in the World
- 0.42 4. Get High on Adrenaline in San Gil
- 0.43 5. Stay in a Hostel Surrounded by Water
- 0.44 6. Take a Free City Walking Tour
- 0.45 7. Go to Carnivale in Barranquilla
- 0.46 8. Visit the Amazon
- 0.47 9. Dive in a Mud Volcano in Cartagena
- 0.48 10. See an Amazing Multi-Coloured River
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See Our Colombia Travel Guides (Listed A-Z) – Each guide will open in a new window
Aracataca | Barichara| Bogotá | Caño Cristales | Cartagena de Indias | Guatapé | Medellín | Minca | Pasto | Salento | San Andrés | San Gil | Santa Marta | Tanganga | Villa de Leyva
INTRODUCTION | Backpacking Colombia
- Currency: Colombian peso
- Capital city: Bogotá
- Population: 51 million
- Main religion: Roman Catholic
- Main language: Spanish
- Telephone code: +57
- Time: GMT -5 hours
- Emergency numbers: Ambulance, fire & police: 123
You’ll love Colombia if…
- You’re a traveller who prefers to see places first-hand and make up your own mind. Colombia has revolutionised its image over recent years and needs backpackers like YOU to spread the word!
- You are on a shoestring budget. Colombia is one of the cheapest countries in South America and you can get a lot of bang for your buck.
- You like your trips to teach you something. The people of Colombia know their country is still stigmatised across the world. They want to show you what life is really like in Colombia, today.
- You enjoy a variety of different landscapes: whether you’re a sun-worshipper who wants to laze on Caribbean beaches, a nature enthusiast who wants to see the wonders of the Amazon or an adventurer who has longed to hike through the Andes… Colombia has got you covered!
- You are looking to experience a vibrant culture with a young, like-minded backpacking community. Colombia is a popular country along the Gringo Trail and its ‘no worries’ mantra makes this a wonderful place to explore.
Read Next (Opens in New Tab):
WHEN TO GO | What is the best time of year to visit Colombia?
With Medellín, Colombia’s second-biggest city, nicknamed ‘the city of eternal spring’, it’s clear that Colombia can be visited by travellers all year round. There is no month to ‘avoid’ travel to Colombia completely as each season breathes a different kind of life to each region…
Being so close to the equator, Colombia enjoys a tropical climate. However, this is interrupted by the spiky peaks of the enormous Andes which split the country in two and actually create five different climates in one country. The five climates are – tropical rainforest, savanna, steppes (or unforested grassland), desert and mountain.
Each of the five regions maintains its own stable temperature all year round, and as you travel Colombia, you’ll quickly realise that the weather varies much more according to the region (and of course, altitude), rather than the time of year. (For example, in January, the lowest temperature in Bogotá, at 2,650 metres, is 7 Degrees Celsius, while in Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, the lowest it gets is 24 degrees Celsius.)
Therefore, if you’re planning a trip to Colombia, the key is knowing when to visit each place to enjoy the best weather. It’s impossible to pick a time of year that works for the entire country, so the best thing to do is base your itinerary around the weather conditions at the time of travel.
December to March in Colombia
This is known as the ‘dry season’ in Colombia, which essentially refers to the Andes and the Caribbean coast. (It’s actually the wettest time in the Amazon!) In terms of tourism, this is also the ‘high season’ as travellers enjoy dry, sunny days and the Colombians explore the country during their biggest holidays. It’s the best time for snorkelling, diving and chilling on the beach.
In the plains of the east, the dry season can be harsh and extremely hot. This is the best time for spotting animals as they tend to gather around a reduced number of water holes.
If you’re planning to visit Colombia during December and January, especially over Christmas and New Year, it’s wise to book accommodation ahead as this is the busiest time of year in Colombia. It’s also the time when prices for flights, hotels and tours are at their highest, so if you’re travelling on a budget, it may be better to travel outside of these months.
May to June in Colombia
From May to June (and again from October to the end of November) a short rainy season comes to the Andes affecting the coastal regions. Heavy spurts of rains fall every day, normally followed by bright sunshine. There is increased rain on the Caribbean coast, but not so much that would deter a visit.
Easter is a busy time to visit Colombia as many locals have holidays and choose to travel during this time. Prices for travel and accommodation can skyrocket (which is the same for all Colombian public holidays).
July to November in Colombia
This is the best time to visit the Pacific Coast of Colombia, as it’s the time when the humpback whales migrate to the area. From July to October, the Amazon is at its driest (the region around Leticia) and it’s the best time to spot the wildlife that comes to riverbanks to take a drink.
From September to October, the Caribbean coast experiences its own rainy season, but again, this shouldn’t be enough to deter travellers as it doesn’t rain all day. Plus, you can enjoy the cheaper prices and fewer crowds that so-called ‘low seasons’ have to offer!
Read more about the best time to visit South America.
VISAS | Do I need a visa for Colombia?
90 Days Visa-Free
Citizens of most nationalities can enter Colombia visa-free for a period of up to 90 days. These include all European citizens, travellers from the US, Australia, Canada and most other South American countries. You can see the full list of nationalities here.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months when you enter the country and you may be asked by the airline staff before you board the aeroplane to provide proof of onward travel. (This happened to me and as I had completely forgotten about it, was forced to buy an expensive flight at the airport before boarding!) You can read more here about proof of onward travel.
You can extend your initial stay by up to 120 days by either visiting a Migracion Colombia Office or online.
You can leave Colombia and return on a new day 90-day entry stamp. The maximum amount of time you spend in Colombia in one calendar year is 180 days.
Penalty for overstaying your visa in Colombia
If you overstay your visa in Colombia you will be issued with a fine. These begin at 380,000 pesos (around $118USD) but they increase dependent on the amount of time that you have overstayed.
Read more about Colombia visa requirements and other visa requirements for South America here.
HEALTH | Vaccines and Malaria Tablets
Do I need vaccines to travel to Colombia?
Disclaimer: We always recommend that you seek professional medical advice before travelling.
It is recommended that you get the following vaccines if you are travelling to Colombia:
- Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio – Combined
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow Fever – can be an entry requirement for travellers from/or who have transited for more than 12 hours through Angola, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Read in more detail about vaccinations for South America here.
Do I need malaria tablets for Colombia?
Malaria is present in some parts of Colombia, particularly in the Amazon. You can see a map of malaria presence in Colombia on the Fit For Travel website here.
In the Andean regions, including Bogotá and Bucaramanga, there is no risk of malaria as mosquitos cannot survive above 1,600 metres. In Cartagena, Medellín, Santa Marta, Cali, Pasto and the vast central regions of the country, there is a very low risk of malaria and anti-malarial tablets are not usually advised.
In the Amazonian and Pacific coastal regions, however, the risk increases. Anti-malarial tablets such as doxycycline or mefloquine are sometimes advised, depending on exactly where you are travelling and how long you will be spending in a high-risk area. We advise that you speak to a travel clinic about your specific travel plans before you set off.
Regardless of whether you choose to take malaria tablets, it’s wise to take precautions against being bitten by mosquitos. Dengue Fever is another mosquito-borne disease present in Colombia, for which there is no vaccination.
Always use a strong insect repellant, sleep under a mosquito net, and cover up your legs and arms, especially during the hour of dawn and dusk.
Disclaimer: We advise that you visit a travel medical clinic prior to travelling to Colombia for the latest health information.
SAFETY | Is Colombia safe?
Crime in Colombia
Whilst Colombia was previously one of the most dangerous countries in the world, it is working hard to overturn its negative image. Crime in Colombia is still a problem but compared to a few decades ago, when the country was still under cartel control, it has come a long way.
Although drug trafficking is still a problem, the violence is largely kept off the streets, in part due to a monumental peace bill between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
The homicide rate in Colombia has levelled off and remained stable since 2014. The average numbers vary between 24 and 26.1 per 100,000 residents. Colombia also used to have the highest rate of kidnappings in the world but this has dropped by 92% since 2000. Interestingly, gun crime rates in the US are 15 times more than in Colombia!
Read about South America’s most common scams and how to avoid them here.
Food and water hygiene in Colombia
Generally, the food in Colombia is safe to eat, however, you should take the usual precautions when travelling. Peel any fruit or vegetables if possible, refuse ice in your drink and make sure your food is piping hot.
A good rule is to look for eating establishments that have a high turnover of customers. This is likely to mean that the food is fresher.
Tap Water in Colombia
The tap water quality in Colombia varies from region to region. Whilst improvements to water treatment are being made, to be safe, you are far better avoiding tap water. Whilst it is safer to buy water, the amount of single-use plastic makes this hugely damaging to the environment. Instead, consider investing in a filtered water bottle like the Grayl Geopress. This will ensure you have access to clean drinking water no matter where you are.
Alcohol in Colombia
Always keep an eye on your drink if you are out and about. Although it is not common, Burundanga has been used in spiking cases before. Its main effect is loss of will and increased compliance, making victims vulnerable to theft and other attacks.
Drugs in Colombia
You can’t talk about safety in Colombia without addressing the drug problem. Despite what you may have heard about cheap and easy access to drugs, buying and selling drugs is illegal and the penalties can be harsh.
The locals hold drugs and particularly cocaine, directly accountable for Colombia’s many years of violent and bloody conflict. As such, drug tourism is highly offensive.
If you are offered drugs on the street or in clubs or bars, do not accept. This could be a police set up or a way for someone to extort money out of you.
There have been occasions where drugs have been planted on travellers. Always stay vigilant and keep a close eye on your luggage while you’re in airports.
There are no specific laws regarding the use of ayahuasca in Colombia, however, this is an extremely potent drug that can be dangerous.
Read this post for more information on staying safe in Colombia.
TRAVEL INSURANCE | What’s the best travel insurance for Colombia?
If you’re travelling to Colombia, you must invest in travel insurance. Medical costs can rack up quickly in case of an accident and it doesn’t take long before your bill is spiralling into thousands of dollars.
Travel insurance will also cover you in the event of theft or robbery. Whilst many visits to Colombia will be trouble-free, crime does happen and knowing your belongings are covered on your insurance is guaranteed to put your mind at rest.
Over the last 10 years, we have used World Nomads for many of our adventurous backpacking trips. Digital nomads or those travelling for longer periods should check out SafetyWing Nomad Insurance. This offers monthly payment plans which are much more flexibly than its competitors.
WHAT TO PACK | What should I pack for a trip to Colombia?
Assuming that you are intending to travel all over Colombia, you will need to plan for all seasons when you are packing.
Clothes for Colombia
The Andes can be very cold whereas the Caribbean region and Amazon jungle will be hot and humid. To make sure you’re prepared for wherever the wind takes you, the key is packing a few outfits which can be layered up in case of cold weather.
The staples that we recommend include cotton tops, shorts, t-shirts and jeans/trousers. Also, consider bringing a light packable waterproof jacket and a fleece or jumper.
If you are planning to shake your ass in a salsa club, bear in mind that you will need to dress up a little to get in.
In essence, take practical clothes that can be dressed up or down, depending on your location. A mix of lightweight warmer gear combined with cooler base layers is the best combo.
Footwear for Colombia
When it comes to choosing shoes for Colombia, it is best to keep it simple. If you’re happy in flip flops or walking sandals, these are a good option for warmer climates.
If you plan to take on some of South America’s best treks, you’ll want to arm yourself with a pair of walking boots or shoes.
Blending in Colombia
Colombia is not a conservative country so you won’t need to cover up like you may have had an experience of doing in Southeast Asia. In order to blend in with the locals, take note of how they dress and emulate them.
When it comes to practical items to consider, don’t forget the essentials. Insect repellent, sunscreen, a filtered water bottle and somewhere to secure your valuables such as a money belt or alternative are definite necessities. For more recommendations, check out this Colombia packing list.
FLIGHTS | Airports and airlines in Colombia
Flying to Colombia
The two most popular airports for international arrivals into Colombia are El Dorado International Airport in Bogota and Medellin Jose Maria Cordova in Medellin.
The national airline is Avianca which runs direct flights from New York and London. Air Europa, Iberia, American Airlines and Latam are also popular airlines with travellers. To find the cheapest flights to Colombia, we always use Skyscanner and use it to compare prices.
Flying within Colombia
Although overlanding is the cheapest way to travel through Colombia, flying is sometimes necessary to avoid dangerous areas. Internal flights are usually serviced by Colombian airlines which include Wingo, Viva Air Colombia Avianca, LATAM Colombia and SATENA. To book a domestic flight, head to the website of any individual airline or compare prices via Skyscanner.
LANGUAGE | Spanish Tips
Colombia is one of South America’s Spanish speaking countries and a basic command of the language will definitely be beneficial to you if you’re backpacking.
Colombia is said to be one of the best countries to learn Spanish in, partly because of the clarity of the dialect and also because courses are available for a reasonable cost.
Even if you are fluent in Spanish already, you should expect regional differences and preferential phrases which may not fit with the standard you are used to. For example, in Colombia ‘¿Qué más?’ will be used to ask ‘how are you?’. This is a little confusing when you consider the translation for this is ‘what else?’.
To sharpen up your Spanish language skills prior to your journey, check out this article about the best Spanish movies on Netflix!
Some Colombian Slang Words!
Having some knowledge of Spanish will help you to blend in during your travels in Colombia, and if you throw in some of the following Colombian slang words you might even pass for being a local!
- Buenas – Short for ‘Buenas Dias’, simply means ‘hello/good day!’
- Que chévere! – How cool!
- Que bacano / Tan bacano – How cool/awesome!
- Parce / Parcero – Mate / Man / Pal. (Like the Spanish say ‘hombre!’)
- Man / Manes – Man, as in ‘hey man!’ or ‘hey men!’ For example, ¿Que hay, manes? (How’s it going, guys?)
- Rumbear – To party. E.g. Vamos a rumbear. (Let’s go party!)
- ¿Que Más? Literally meaning ‘what else?’ this is a common way in Colombian Spanish to say ‘how’s it going?’.
- A La Orden – You’ll hear this said a lot in Colombia, mostly by serving staff at restaurants and shops. It literally means ‘at your service’ or ‘how can I help you’.
- Paisas – Slang term for people who come from Medellín and the surrounding valleys.
- Rolos – Slang term for people who come from Bogotá.
- Costeños – Slang term for people who come from the coast.
For more on Colombian slang, check out this video.
COMMUNICATION | Phone & internet in Colombia
Getting a SIM card in Colombia is generally pretty easy. These pay as you go cards can be bought in most mainstream phone shops. The main networks are Movistar, Claro and Tigo. All of these providers provide decent internet coverage and can be topped up in either phone shops or newsagents.
BUDGET | How much does it cost to backpack in Colombia?
With great value for money hostels, cheap food and low-cost transport, it’s pretty easy to keep your spending under $30USD per day in Colombia. This, of course, depends on the activities that you do, how much you travel around and how much alcohol you drink!
See below for an idea of how much accommodation, food, transport and activities cost in Colombia…
Exchange Rate: Colombian Pesos to US Dollar – 3,500 COP = $1 USD Approx.
Read more: Backpacking South America Budget.
Cost of Accommodation in Colombia
When it comes to accommodation, Colombia has it all – luxury hotels, Airbnb, long-term apartments for rent, and lucky for us, cheap backpacker hostels.
In terms of options for the budget traveller, Colombia has some of the best value for money hostels ‘hostales’ in South America! The quality of hostels is very high and backpackers have come to expect spacious rooms, dorm beds with privacy curtains, fast WIFI, free breakfast, sociable common areas with a pool table, ping pong and even a swimming pool as fairly standard!
Across the country, the price of hostels ranges from around $6USD – $15USD. The price rises depending on the facilities and if they like to call themselves a ’boutique hostel’, but in general, you can nab yourself a comfortable dorm bed in a clean room with free breakfast in a sociable hostel for around $8USD. Bargain!
Many of the hostels in Colombia are part of an association known as the Colombian Hostels Association. This is a team of hostels across the country who have joined together to support each other. So, if you stay at one hostel that’s part of the association in Medellín, the owner will encourage you to stay at another hostel that’s part of the association in Bogotá. They also get together to support social projects in the local communities where the hostels are located.
As already mentioned above, hostels are very reasonably priced in Colombia, from $9-15 USD for a night in a dorm room. Private rooms start at around $25-30 USD for two people in a double or twin room.
Cost of Food in Colombia
The most budget-friendly way to eat lunch in Colombia is to go for an ‘almuerzo’ (set-lunch) at a local restaurant, which can cost anywhere between $3-8USD for a basic three-course meal of soup to start, main meal (of fish/meat, yucca and beans), small dessert and drink.
If you’re on a budget, it is possible to eat breakfast for around $2USD, lunch for $3USD and dinner for around $8USD, so you’re looking at under $15USD per day. However, this depends on how much you eat and what you have cravings for! Something like a pizza will set you back more.
When it comes to street food, you can pick up an arepa or an empanada for around $1USD. A tinto (small coffee) will cost you $0.30USD and some fresh mango around $1USD.
Cost of Beer in Colombia
The average cost of a local beer in a bar is $3USD. In a store, you can get a can of beer for less than $1USD.
National Park Entry Prices in Colombia
Entry to national parks in Colombia is sometimes free, however, for some, like Tayrona National Park near Taganga, charges 54,500 COP per person (around $18USD). This fee is reduced to just 8,500 COP if you have an International Student Identity Card, so it’s a great idea to bring one with you if you’re a student who’s on their travels!
Cost of Activities in Colombia
When travelling in any country, activities and adventures will be the one thing that increases your budget. Trekking, diving, mountain biking, rafting and other activities will cost a lot more than your accommodation and food put together. However, you are in Colombia and you’re here to enjoy yourself, so you may as well try some of the activities on offer! Here are a few examples of different types of tour and the cost.
10 Money-Saving Tips for Colombia!
1. Bring your Student ID Card – That International Student Card will save you money if you’re travelling as a student in Colombia. You’ll get discounts on museums, monuments and historical sites, as well as National Parks across the country.
2. Go to Museums on Sunday – They are free!
3. Go on the Free Walking Tours – There are free walking tours in many cities across South America and we wholeheartedly recommend them. When we say free, the idea is that you give a tip at the end of the tour, and while it’s not compulsory, it is expected. And after your experience – it’s pretty certain that you will want to give to the hardworking guide!
One of the best experiences we had in Colombia was on the free walking tour in Medellín with our amazing guide, Pablo. The tour was completely free to attend, although we ended up giving him a tip 35,000 COP (about $12 US) each as the tour was just so good! You can read more about the Real City Walking Tour in Medellin here.
4. Haggle – Colombia is a country where haggling is a part of life and so be sure to try your skills at the local market, before getting in a ‘collectivo’ (local bus) or when buying street food, which is usually extremely cheap anyway!
5. Take advantage of ‘almuerzos’ – These local lunch deals are the best way to get fed in Colombia. A soup, hearty meal of meat, vegetables and beans, as well as a small dessert and a drink for around $5 US. How can you complain! We had these lunches at local restaurants almost every day in Colombia.
6. Stay in hostel dorm rooms – Hostels in Colombia are of excellent quality and great value for money. A dorm bed in a clean, modern hostel can cost as low as $8USD and can rise to $15USD for the swankier hostels that have swimming pools and other facilities.
7. Eat street food – Try any street food that you find – from empanadas to choclo (corn) to ceviche – it’ll be less than $1USD and it’ll no doubt be delicious!
8. Travel on local transport – Local buses and collectivos are the cheapest forms of transport in Colombia.
9. Book flights in advance – Like with most budget airlines, if you book flights months in advance you can get really cheap deals, whereas you’ll pay a fortune if you leave it until the day before you want to fly to book your flight! Use Skyscanner to compare prices across the whole month (our favourite Skyscanner feature!) and book as far in advance as you can.
10. Take advantage of hostel freebies! – Take advantage of the free events taking place at your hostel from free salsa classes, to live music and stock up on the free breakfasts in the morning to get enough fuel to start your day!
TRANSPORT | Getting Around Colombia
Taxis in Colombia
Taxis in Colombia are cheap, a journey is usually less than $5USD unless your journey is more than an hour. Alternatively, Uber is also a good option which can be a little cheaper.
Buses in Colombia
For bus journeys of a few hours, the cost will be under $10USD. For longer bus journeys, for example, the 12 hours from Medellín to Cartagena will be more like $45USD.
Bolivariano, Trejos and Espresso Palmira are all reputable bus companies. There is no efficient train system in the country at the moment.
Flights in Colombia
Cheap flights can be found in Colombia through the budget airlines Viva Air Colombia, Easyfly, Avianca and LATAM Airlines. The average price for a flight from Cartagena to Bogotá, for example, would be $30-40USD, that’s if you book in advance. If you book last minute, it’s more likely to be more like $90USD. Compare prices on Skyscanner.
WHERE TO GO | Places to Visit in Colombia
For Energetic Cities…
The colossal cities of Bogota, Medellin, and the salsa capital of Cali are ready to overwhelm you with grand museums, intoxicating nightlife, and sumptuous local flavours. Did you know that Bogotá is the third-highest capital city in the world?
For Beautiful Mountain Towns…
Charming Andean towns, such as Barichara, dot the countryside providing the opportunity to experience a traditional way of life as you sip cafe con leche in the plaza central.
For National Parks and Wildlife…
Beautiful national parks filled with a variety of flora and fauna abound from coast to coast, taking you from tropical jungle one minute to rugged mountain scenery the next. In Salento wander through the tallest wax palm trees in the world. In Tayrona National Park near Taganga, spend the night cuddled up in a hammock in the coastal jungle. And don’t miss the multi-coloured river, Caño Cristales.
For Outdoor Adventure…
From diving to rafting to trekking and rock climbing, Colombia is an adventure lover’s paradise! For adrenaline junkies, San Gil is your go-to adventure capital. If it’s diving you’re into, head to the islands of San Andrés and Providencia.
For Beach Bums…
The sultry Caribbean coast from Cartagena de Indias to Santa Marta tantalises visitors with splendid Colombian beaches, UNESCO World Heritage sites and enough local energy to make sleep a mere option.
THINGS TO DO | Top 10 Things To Do in Colombia
1. La Ciudad Perdida Trek
The Lost City Trek is one of the best multi-day hikes in South America! Undiscovered by the West until the 1970s, this pre-Hispanic city situated deep in the heart of the Colombian jungle, predates Machu Picchu. The hike takes five days and you’ll trek through dense jungle, wade through rivers, wash in streams and sleep in basic huts.
2. Visit the Northernmost Point of South America
A magical and remote destination where you can slide down a sand dune in the desert straight into the Caribbean sea! Punta Gallinas on the Guajira peninsula is little-visited by independent travellers. Those who do make the trek will be rewarded by deserted beaches and untouched landscapes that the Wayuu ethnic group call home.
3. See the Tallest Palm Trees in the World
Take a hike into the incredible Valle de Cocora to see wax palm trees that reach an incredible 60 metres into the air. To get there, you’ll spend the night in Salento, a colourful town nestled in the foothills of the Los Nevados Mountain range. The area is also famous for producing some of South America’s best coffee, from Robusta to Arabica. You can take a coffee tour to find out more.
4. Get High on Adrenaline in San Gil
San Gil is Colombia’s adventure capital and adrenaline junkies can do almost any outdoor sport you can imagine at very good prices. From mountain biking to canyoning and white water rafting, there are tons of activities on offer, as well as hiking, horse riding or just chilling by rock pools and waterfalls. San Gil’s hostels (which cost from $6USD per night) can arrange many of the activities for you.
5. Stay in a Hostel Surrounded by Water
Casa en el Agua has to be one of the most unusual hostels in the world. Located in the San Bernado Islands off the Caribbean coast this is a place of white sandy beaches, tropical turquoise waters and total relaxation. Guests staying at the hostel can enjoy snorkelling, kayaking, fishing and island hopping on the ten tiny islands of the archipelago.
6. Take a Free City Walking Tour
Medellín’s Real City Walking Tour with passionate guide, Pablo, taught us more about the history of Colombia than reading a guidebook (or blog!) ever could! With tears in his eyes, Pablo told us about his childhood in the most notoriously dangerous city in the world. In Bogotá, there’s also a free city walking tour and free graffiti tour which shouldn’t be missed! Tips are expected.
7. Go to Carnivale in Barranquilla
If you happen to be in Colombia during the month of February, it would be rude not to attend Carnivale in the city that’s famous for doing it, and doing it large! Birthplace of Colombian superstar, Shakira, Barranquilla is a rather nondescript city at other times of the year, but during Carnivale, you’ll find colourful parades, elaborate costumes, dancing, street food and wild after-parties!
8. Visit the Amazon
Leticia is a sleepy Amazon basin town that is part of Las Tres Fronteras, the point where the three countries of Peru, Brazil and Colombia meet. Experience a completely different side to Colombia as you go fishing with locals to catch the Arapaima, the largest freshwater fish in the Amazon River. Read more about one traveller’s experience in Leticia here.
9. Dive in a Mud Volcano in Cartagena
A bizarre experience awaits travellers near the coastal city of Cartagena, and it’s known locally as ‘El Volcan de Lodo Totumo’. Lose all sense of gravity as you bob around in this naturally heated mud volcano that feels like you’re swimming in chocolate (just don’t try to eat it!). Locals claim numerous health benefits and although we’re not convinced, it’s definitely an interesting experience! Read about our experience at Colombia’s Mud Volcano here.
10. See an Amazing Multi-Coloured River
Caño Cristales, ‘El Río de Los 5 Colores’ or the ‘Liquid Rainbow’ is a stunning natural phenomenon located in a remote area of Colombia, well worth the trek to get there! Until recently, the river was off-limits due to the presence of FARC in the area, yet today more and more travellers (mostly locals) are starting to visit. The bright colours are thanks to a variety of aquatic plants that grow just below the surface of the water.
Do you have any more questions about Colombia? Contact us by email or ask away in the South America Backpacker Facebook Community!