Visit Colombia, What to See and When to Go

North in the South American continent lies the country of Colombia. A great shake of hot Caribbean sands, white mountain peaks, the aromatic coffee plantations, and the green amazonian lands. Colombia is a country which will make sure you fall in love with its joy, kindness of people and music.

Colombia is divided into: coast (the north), coffee zone (middle west), the west, jungle (south), mountains (east and north).

The coast(north):

  • Well-known for its white sand beaches and water, beautiful reef and colourful fishes
  • Colombia is the only country in South America which has access to both Pacific and Atlantic Oceans; however the Atlantic coast is bigger and nicer, and usually preferred
  • Recommended places to go: Santa Marta with Tayrona’s Lost City, Cartagena, Barranquilla, San Andres and Providencia
  • San Andres has a different status in Colombia
  • How to get there: from Bogota to any city on the coast you can either fly with Viva Colombia (2 hours) or take a bus (17-24 hours)
  • When to go: any time, but if you want to hike in the Lost City of Tayrona, avoid the months of October and November because the trail may be challenging or closed due to heavy rains

Coffee zone or Coffee Axis (eje cafetero):

  • Without any second thought this is definetely my favourite place in Colombia: kind people, cool weather, green, amazing coffee, coffee real estates taken from the movies. I can’t ask more from life.
  • Recommended places to go: Armenia, Manizales, Pereira, Medellin and all the tiny little coffee villages around these cities
  • How to get there: bus from main cities, is just about 5-8 hours; between Bogota and Medellin you can fly.
  • When to go: any time except October and November when is the rainy season

The West:

  • on the west you have the city of Cali – world’s capital of salsa, and San Agustin – an ancient city with many ruins and statues from the civilisation who habituated these lands before the Europeans came.
  • Even you are not the biggest salsa fan, if you are around, a visit in the city of Cali for some great salsa nights are recommended.
  • Recommended places to go: Cali, San Agustin and around them
  • How to get there: Bus from main cities, to Cali you can fly from Bogota and Medellin.
  • When to go: any time of the year, except October and November if you want to go deep in the nature

The Jungle (south):

  • This is a tricky place: even the guerrillas don’t rule Colombia any more, there are still some remaining hidden in the Amazonian jungle. The Colombians advice you to keep yourself in the touristic path, in organised groups and you’ll be safe.
  • Is very remote and few tourists get there due to the dense Amazonian Jungle
  • Recommended places to go: Leticia – the end of the Colombian road
  • How to get there: by boat from Peru(Iquitos) or Brazil(Manaus)
  • When to go: July to August – during the dry season. February to April is the wettest period, but May to June is the time when Amazon River waters can rise up to 15 m (49 ft).

Mountains (east and north):

  • The most famous mountains are the Tayrona
  • Less known, but very spectacular and definetely worth the visit is the Cocuy National Park and its spectacular mountains
  • Recommended places to go: Tayrona and Cocuy Mountains – which offer you a variety of hikes and escalations
  • How to get there: bus from big cities. For Tayrona, the tours are organised in Santa Martha, and for Cocuy in San Gill, Cocuy or Guican
  • When to go: June to September, December – January

Recommended routes:

The beaches of the north:

  • Bogota/Medellin -> Santa Marta -> Barranquilla -> Cartagena -> San Andres -> Bogota/Medellin
  • What you can do?
    • visit all the cities above, they have a very nice colonial architecture, especially Cartagena
    • hike in Tayrona National Park
    • hike the Lost City of Tayrona
    • dive all around the coast
    • visit the coffee plantations near Medellin
  • how much time you need: at least 2 weeks

The Coffee Zone and the beaches:

  • Bogota > Manizales -> Armenia -> Medellin -> Cartagena -> San Andres -> Bogota
  • What you can do:
    • depending on how much time you have, visit all the coffee villages you can, meet as many people as you can, they have wonderful stories to share with you
    • visit Salento and hike Valle de Cocoa
    • Visit the cities themselves, Cartagena for example has a very nice colonial architecture
    • Dive or snorkel
  • How much time you need? 2-3 weeks

Colombia, the full tour:

  • Start from the West and go East, or from the North and go South, or however you want, but take your time, Colombia is a big country
  • Cali -> San Agustin -> Armenia -> Manizales -> Medellin -> Bogota -> Cocuy -> Bogota -> Santa Marta -> Barranquilla -> Cartagena -> San Andres -> Medellin
  • What you can do:
    • enjoy the salsa nights in Cali
    • visit the archaeological park of San Agustin
    • visit or even volunteer in the coffee real estates, learn some Spanish to can get closer to the people
    • live in a finca (real estate)
    • visit Salento and hike Valle de Cocora
    • city tours
    • hike to the Lost City of Tyrona (la Ciudad Perdida de Tayrona)
    • hike in El Cocuy National Park – you have many options from day hikes to several days hikes, mountaineering (Colombia has about 22 snowy peeks) (e.g. El Pulpito, Pan de Azucar, Ritacuba Blanco)
    • Dive or snorkel
  • How much time you need: nothing less than a full month, depending on what you want to do

Interesting things about Colombia:

  • if the ones who were born in the northern hemisphere with the north in the upper side of the map say I’m going up to the north, the Colombians say: I’m going down to the north.
  • the coca plant is now strictly regulated in Colombia, only the indigenous can have such plantations, but on a certain surface. The old coca plantations have been replaced with grass and maybe this is why you’ll grass in unusual places – like very steep values surrounded by forests.
  • in February there is the carnaval of Barranquilla, and in case you plan to go for it, you may want to make your reservation well ahead.

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