The Ultimate Colombia Travel Guide: My Lovely Country

La Guajira, Colombia


Planning your first trip to Colombia? Let me guide you through everything you need to know. Colombia, situated in South America, is known for its beautiful landscapes, rich culture, and friendly locals. It’s an affordable destination with diverse attractions like mountains, beaches, two oceans, and forests. This guide will focus on three essential places for your first visit: Bogotá, the Caribbean region (Cartagena and Santa Marta), and Salento with Valle del Cocora. Get ready for an easy and enjoyable introduction to this amazing country.

Prepare for your Colombian adventure with these essential insights:

The official currency is the Colombian Peso (COP), widely used for local transactions, and Spanish is the official language. Colombia boasts a rich cultural tapestry, merging indigenous heritage with the lively beats of salsa and Afro-Colombian rhythms. Be aware of the diverse climates across regions; coastal areas like Cartagena offer tropical warmth, while the Andean city of Bogotá may bring cooler temperatures. Stay updated on local weather conditions for personalized packing, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable journey throughout your expedition.

Colombia Best Places to Visit

Colombia stands as a diverse treasure trove, offering a plethora of attractions and activities to suit every traveler’s interests. Most likely, your journey will commence in the captivating cities of Bogotá or Medellin, both boasting an array of beautiful attractions. When it comes to managing your finances, it’s advisable to exchange some currency at the airports to cover necessities, as credit cards are widely accepted; however, as you venture into more rural zones, having cash on hand becomes essential for seamless transactions. Discover the richness of Colombia with ease, starting from the vibrant urban hubs to the tranquil rural landscapes.

Bogota: The Capital City of Colombia

If you’re kicking off your journey in Bogotá, indulge in 1 or 2 days exploring the city’s cultural gems. Immerse yourself in the historic charm of La Candelaria, where cobblestone streets and colonial architecture tell tales of the past. Delve into the rich heritage at the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro) and admire the unique artistry at the Botero Museum. For breathtaking panoramic views of the city, ascend Monserrate via cable car or funicular. Stroll through Plaza Bolívar, the heart of Bogotá, and absorb the historical ambiance that permeates the surrounding sites. In just a short time, you’ll capture the essence of Bogotá’s vibrant past and present.

La Candelaria
Botero Museum

If you enjoy guided tours, consider taking the following tours (Commissions Earned): La Candelaria Graffiti & Urban Art Shared Tour, and Guatavita and Salt Cathedral Daily Group Tour


Medellín, a beloved destination for tourists, is renowned for its pleasant climate, earning it the moniker “the city of eternal spring.” While basking in this delightful weather, a must-visit excursion is to Guatapé and the iconic Piedra del Peñol, offering awe-inspiring vistas of the surrounding landscape. Dive deeper into the city’s allure with a plethora of activities – explore the vibrant Botero Plaza and the adjoining Antioquia Museum to admire Fernando Botero’s distinctive sculptures and artworks.

Take a cable car ride to Arvi Park, immersing yourself in lush landscapes and local culture. Additionally, don’t miss the transformative Comuna 13 neighborhood, where vibrant street art reflects the community’s resilience. With its perfect weather and a tapestry of experiences, Medellín promises a memorable and diverse adventure for every traveler.

Embalse Peñol-Guatapé
Piedra del Peñol
Arvi Park

If you enjoy guided tours, consider taking the following tour (Commissions Earned): Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour con Paseo en Teleférico


Savor the charm of Cartagena over three delightful days, immersing yourself in its vibrant history and coastal beauty. Begin by wandering through the vibrant streets of the Old Town (Ciudad Amurallada), where colonial architecture and lively colors create a captivating atmosphere. Dive into history at Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, an impressive fortress that offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s past. Find moments of relaxation in the inviting Plaza Santo Domingo and Plaza de la Aduana, each with its unique charm.

Capture the city’s panoramic beauty by taking a stroll along the city walls, culminating in a breathtaking sunset experience at Café del Mar. Extend your exploration beyond the city limits with a visit to the Rosario Islands and the serene Baru Beach, where pristine shores and azure waters await. For an added adventure, embark on an excursion to the Totumo Volcano, an unusual yet therapeutic mud volcano that promises a unique and rejuvenating experience. Cartagena’s blend of history, coastal allure, and exciting excursions ensures a truly memorable stay.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
Totumo Volcano

If you enjoy guided tours, consider exploring the following tours in Cartagena (Commissions Earned): Totumo Mud Volcano Experience, and Rosario Islands Catamaran with Lunch and Snorkel

Santa Marta, Tayrona Park, and La Guajira

After Cartagena, your next destination should undoubtedly be Santa Marta, a captivating coastal city. Take the time to explore its historic center, where the Cathedral of Santa Marta stands as a testament to its rich heritage. The sun-soaked beaches of El Rodadero offer the perfect spot for relaxation, likely becoming a highlight of your journey. While Santa Marta can be explored in just one day, the real gem lies in Tayrona National Park, encompassing some of Colombia’s most beautiful beaches and providing an authentic connection with nature.

Consider extending your stay for three days or more to fully immerse yourself. For avid hikers, the opportunity to visit Ciudad Perdida should not be missed. Additionally, venture to La Guajira, an amazing destination. If time allows, experience the enchanting night at Riohacha and embark on a day tour to explore the wonders this region has to offer.

Tayrona National Park
Ciudad Perdida

If you enjoy guided tours, consider exploring the following tour in Santa Marta (Commissions Earned): Ciudad Perdida 4-day Trek

Discover the Quaint Charms of Colombia Coffee Region

If you’re yearning for a change of scenery from the sun and beaches, it’s time to embrace the enchanting Colombian Coffee Region, Eje Cafetero. Brace yourself for a distinct 180-degree shift in weather – it’s a bit cooler, so when packing for your Colombian adventure, make sure to include layers for varying temperatures.

This region unfolds a plethora of activities, including immersing yourself in the agricultural wonders of Panaca, strolling through the quaint town of Salento, marveling at the majestic wax palms in Valle del Cocora, enjoying the thrills of Parque del Café, and unwinding in the soothing hot springs of Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal, one of the region’s most renowned thermal destinations.

The Colombian Coffee Region beckons with its unique charm and diverse attractions, offering a delightful and invigorating journey. Pack accordingly to relish the cool ambiance and embrace the rich experiences that await you.

Best Places to Stay

Colombia offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury resorts and boutique hotels to cozy guesthouses and budget-friendly hostels, there is something for everyone. In Cartagena, stay within the historic walled city for a truly immersive experience. In Medellín, explore the trendy neighborhoods of El Poblado or Laureles. For nature lovers, consider staying in a traditional coffee finca in the Coffee Triangle region.

Somme recommendations:


  • Hostel: Selina Chapinero Bogotá
  • Resort: JW Marriott Hotel Bogotá


  • Hostel: Republica Hostel Cartagena
  • Resort: Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa

Santa Marta:

  • Hostel: The Dreamer Hostel
  • Resort: Hilton Garden Inn Santa Marta

La Guajira (Riohacha):

  • Hostel: Casa Chapolin
  • Resort: Hotel Taroa

Coffee Region (Salento):

  • Hostel: La Serrana Hostel
  • Resort: Hotel Boutique Sazagua

Cuisine and Dining

Bandeja Paisa

Colombian cuisine is a delectable tapestry of flavors influenced by indigenous, African, and Spanish culinary traditions. Indulge in a culinary journey across the country, savoring iconic dishes that capture the essence of each region. In Medellin, treat your taste buds to the hearty delights of a bandeja paisa, a robust platter featuring beans, rice, plantains, avocado, and a medley of meats. As you venture to Bogotá, don’t pass up the chance to relish a steaming bowl of ajiaco, a local favorite.

Along the Caribbean coast, indulge in the freshness of the sea with cazuela de mariscos and the savory arepa de huevo. In the enchanting Coffee Region, immerse yourself in the rich aromas of Colombian coffee and explore unique treats like coffee-based candies and wines. Sample the distinctive chorizo santa rosano, and when in Salento, seize the opportunity to savor trucha (trout) paired with a generous serving of ripe plantain. Each culinary experience adds a layer to Colombia’s diverse and delicious gastronomic landscape.

Nightlife Activities

Colombia is renowned for its vibrant nightlife, and your journey promises unforgettable evenings in specific spots across Cartagena, Santa Marta, La Guajira, Medellín, Bogotá, and the Coffee Region. In Cartagena, the historic Walled City transforms into a lively hub, with popular spots like Café Havana offering lively salsa rhythms, and Alquímico, an inventive cocktail bar set in a beautifully restored colonial building. Santa Marta’s coastal strip invites you to explore lively venues like La Puerta and La Brisa Loca, offering beachside lounges and energetic nightclubs.

Medellín boasts the lively Parque Lleras, where bars like El Blue, Dulce Jesús Mío, and Babylon showcase the city’s diverse nightlife. In Bogotá, explore the vibrant Zona Rosa neighborhood, where Andres DC offers a lively atmosphere with Colombian music and dancing, while Theatron stands out as one of the largest gay clubs in Latin America.

In La Guajira, particularly in Riohacha, you can enjoy traditional music and dance under the starlit sky at places like The Beach Club. The Coffee Region, known for its tranquility, provides cozy cafes like Jesus Martin, and local bars such as Los Guaduales, perfect for a relaxed evening. Each destination and specific spot presents a unique and memorable nightlife experience, blending local culture with the joyous spirit that defines Colombian nights.

Best Time to Visit Colombia

The best time to visit Colombia largely depends on the region you plan to explore. Generally, the country experiences a tropical climate throughout the year, with two distinct seasons: dry and rainy. The dry season, from December to March and July to August, is considered the best time to visit as it offers pleasant weather and fewer chances of rain. However, even during the rainy season, the showers are usually short-lived, and the landscapes become even more vibrant and lush.

Tips and Hacks For Visiting

Here are some tips and hacks to make the most of your trip to Colombia:

  • Learn a few basic Spanish phrases. While many Colombians speak English, knowing some Spanish will greatly enhance your experience
  • In big cities like Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena, be cautious of your belongings, including your bags and phones. Exercise care and avoid walking alone on the streets at night.
  • Try local transportation options like the colorful chivas or the cable cars in Medellín for a unique experience.
  • For a streamlined and budget-friendly journey, use travel templates. These pre-designed tools help organize your itinerary, track expenses, and provide an overview of your trip. I highly recommend trying these templates, which have proven invaluable in ensuring smooth and cost-effective adventures. Find them here.

Colombia is a country that will captivate you with its natural beauty, cultural diversity, and warm-hearted people. Whether you’re exploring the vibrant cities, trekking through the stunning landscapes, or indulging in the flavors of Colombian cuisine, this South American gem promises an unforgettable travel experience.

Don’t forget to check my other travel tips here or travel guides. Happy journeys!

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