Colombia Itinerary: Best Time to Visit ColombiaThe major cities of Colombia all sit on vastly different altitudes so the weather varies massively. Cartagena is almost always warm due to its Caribbean location. Bogota is much higher at 2600m above sea level and as a result of the temperature rarely strays outside a range of 12-20 degrees Celsius. Medellin has the wonderful title of the city of Eternal Spring. Indeed, like Bogota, there is not a great range in its temperature throughout the year with lows of 15 degrees Celsius and highs of 30 degrees. As a result, you can comfortably visit Colombia all year round. Having said that August is the month of Feria de las Flores and also perhaps the best time to visit Cano Cristales so it is my recommendation for a Colombia vacation.
Colombia Itinerary 2 Weeks: How to Get There and get aroundThe majority of international flights land in Bogota. Medellin also has an international airport but flights are far less frequent. Cartagena is often accessed by boat – many cruise ships have this stunning Caribbean town on their itinerary.
⇒ I flew to Colombia with Iberia Airlines – read my Iberia Airlines review.Air France and American Airline’s also fly to Colombia – click on their airline names to read my reviews! Colombia has a lot of mountains and not the most modern of roads – which means driving around it can take a long time. Luckily they have frequent and quite cheap domestic flights. Avianca is the local carrier and there are also budget options – although Avianca offers excellent fares. Flights between Medellin and Bogota only take 40 minutes and take off virtually every 30 minutes. Internal flights to Cartagena are also very reasonably priced.
Where to go in Colombia – Day One – BogotaBogota is the main international airport in Colombia and the first point of entry for most travelling to the country by plane (Medellin also has an international airport but flights are less frequent). Bogota airport is fantastic – very modern and it has everything you could possibly need from an airport. Free City Walking Tour is one of the best. And while you’re doing it make sure you try an Obleas! These waffle/cream/cheese (cheese is in everything in Colombia) type treats are on most street corners.
⇒ Read my complete post on 24 hours in BogotaAfter the Walking Tour go shopping for Emeralds! Colombia is famous for its Emeralds. There is even a mall of Emeralds with multiple shops! A must-visit for any Colombia travel itinerary! Next head to the Museo Botero. Francesco Botero is possibly the most famous artist in Colombia. He contributed all of the pieces to this stunning museum on the condition that they would never charge entry and that the collection would never leave the country eg people would have to visit Bogota to see his works.
Where to Eat and Where to Sleep in BogotaI loved The Orchids Hotel! Such a gorgeous boutique hotel! And it was helped by the fact it was a lovely purple colour! It is a bit of an oasis in Bogota, tucked away with only 8 rooms. Coming inside it is like staying in someone’s beautiful home. And it has a fantastic location in the heart of the old town. The Orchids Bogota is also known for its fantastic restaurant. However, it books out quickly so make sure you reserve your place when you reserve your room. If you can’t get in there is a limited menu from the restaurant available from room service which was excellent.
Two Weeks in Colombia – Day Two – BogotaAfter a lovely breakfast at The Orchids, spend the morning at Zipaquira, a salt mine that is home to a salt cathedral. After hitting the salt mines head to the white church at the top of a mountain. This is Cerro de Monserrate. Hike up the trail or take the mountain railway or cable car.
Where to Eat and SleepGrab dinner at the lovely Capital Cocina which is in La Candelaria – about a 5-minute walk from the Orchids hotel. You will want to eat close by as it is an early start in the morning.
2 Week Itinerary Colombia – Day Three – Cano CristalesCano Cristales is the name of a river located in a national park in the Meta province of Colombia. The area was off-limits to tourists for many years as it was controlled by Guerillas. The army has managed to take back control of much of this region and it is now safe for Colombia travel in this region. What makes Cano Cristales special is its unique flora in the river. It appears to turn a rainbow colour during the months of July to November. This phenomenon is at its height in August and September and is absolutely stunning – and unlike anything else I have ever seen. However, Cano Cristales Colombia is not the easiest place to get to and at the moment there is no independent travel. You must go with a tour guide/company to see the river. Of course, as an independent traveller, you can get yourself to La Macarena. The issue is gaining access to the actual park, which is not possible unless you are on a tour. Important Tip: A Yellow Fever Vaccination is mandatory to visit Cano Cristales
Getting to Cano Cristales and things to KnowSeveral days a week there is a very early (Eg 6 am) flight out of Bogota airport to La Macarena. There is a meeting area at Bogota airport – at this point, visitors are collected and taken to another part of the airport to wait and eat random snacks/drink bad coffee. Finally, we got on a small plane and headed to La Macarena. La Macarena is a rather small town. There was a horse with a cart to collect our luggage. And the airport sits on a street like it’s a shop. But La Macarena Colombia is quite cute – and of course walkable! Upon arrival at La Macarena, we were taken to a briefing area. Unfortunately, most of the briefing was in Spanish but we managed to understand the key points. As the ecology of the area that produces these amazing rainbow colours is quite fragile, the park takes considerable care. Visitors have to choose between sunscreen and swimming. Sunscreens coming off could damage the water and the algae of Cano Cristales. It was extremely hot. So it was a tough choice but I have freckles so no sunscreen was not an option for me. And I could put my feet in the water! Many people choose to cover up with light clothing to protect themselves from the intense sun – a good idea. The tour company didn’t really provide much information on what to expect. The literature suggested some light walking. The reality was very different! The walking was intense. Steep paths both up and down and quite rough terrain. Add in the intense heat and the total lack of shade and it was really hard work. However, the stunning waters of Cano Cristales compensated! Essentially the tours are about walking to different parts of the river that are best known for their vibrancy. It is necessary to take a boat both to and from the national park. There can be some activity on the river on the way but the highlight is the river itself.
Where to stay and where to eatI visited Cano Cristales on an organised tour so they had found the hotel where I stayed. It wasn’t my usual boutique hotel but it was clean and fine. Most importantly, it had air conditioning! I can’t tell you how good that was after a day in the park! The shower didn’t really have a lot of hot water – which would normally be a problem for me. But again, it was so hot that I was quite happy to have cold water. The first night in La Macarena we had dinner at the hotel. This was sort of cafeteria-style at a set time and very classic Colombian eg some grilled meats with lots of beans etc. It tasted pretty good and they had wine so I was happy!
Itinerary Colombia – Day Four – Cano CristalesThe second day in Cano Cristales Colombia was essentially more of the same. A boat to the national park and then trekking through the park to visit different stunning sections of the river. Oh, and if you’re wondering it is customary to take a packed lunch with you – no cafes in the park! There are 4 and 5-day tours of Cano Cristales. To be honest, unless this is really really your thing I don’t think there is any need to do anything more than the 2 night/3 day trip. But of course, do check it out for yourself.
Eating and SleepingFor dinner, we headed to a local hall of sorts. A pork bbq had been prepared and it was absolutely delicious! We were then treated to locals singing and dancing – which was really good fun! The kids, in particular, were fantastic in their gorgeous dresses and their amazing dancing skills!
Colombia Travel Guide – Day Five – Cano Cristales to MedellinThe final day in Cano Cristales involved a morning trek. I decided not to go. I had an ankle injury that had been severely irritated by the unexpected difficulty of the previous two days. And I was so over the sun. I relaxed at the hotel and drank coffee and had a lovely morning! The others on the tour said that I didn’t miss much. Perhaps they were being nice but I was already very happy with my photos so I decided that was sufficient! The afternoon then involves flying to Bogota and then transferring on to another flight to Medellin.
Where to Eat and Sleep in MedellinI loved the Art Hotel Medellin! This super cute boutique hotel has a fantastic location in the El Poblado region. It is stylish and simple. The top of the Art Hotel is a fantastic outdoor area where breakfast is served and there is a great bar. Hotel Charlee. This boutique hotel has a rooftop pool bar and a great gym. Hotel Charlee Medellin also has a fantastic location. Mondongos! This is the quintessential classic Medellin restaurant. Mondongos is located on the “main street” of El Poblado and serves locals and tourists alike. It is known for its classic Colombian cuisine.
Day Six – MedellinPersonally, Medellin was the highlight of my time in Colombia. I loved this city. I actually spent 2 ½ weeks in Medellin so I will try to condense its many highlights into a few days!
⇒ Read my complete post on What to do in MedellinStart with brunch at the lovely Al Alma. Set on a side street, this lovely café has its own bakery and does brilliant coffee and a mean brunch! The best way to get a feel for Medellin is to take the Free Walking Tour. I was lucky enough to do this my first day in Medellin and it was the perfect introduction to this complex and exciting city. In the afternoon pay a visit to Pueblita Paiso. This slightly strange installation is meant to show tourists the quintessential Colombian village. It is a bit cheesy but has amazing views of the city.
Where to EatYou must go to Oci at some point during your stay in Medellin. This was my favourite restaurant in Medellin and I went three times. The food at Oci Medellin is a mix of Colombian and European but my gosh is it delicious. The prices are high end for Medellin but unbelievably good value for anywhere else in the world. Don’t miss Oci!
⇒ If you’re planning a trip to Medellin consider making it the first week of August. This is the biggest week of the year in Medellin as it is the Feria de las Flores. Read all about this beautiful festival of flowers in my post.
2 Weeks in Colombia – Day Seven – GuatapeGuatape is the number one day trip from Medellin. This is most likely driven by its streets of brightly coloured houses and cute market by the side of the lake. It is also very close to Piedra Penon – a rather large rock that provides amazing views of the area. Guatape is about 2 hours from Medellin.
⇒ Read all you need to know about Guatape in my post. Or if you’re in a hurry
DinnerAfter the rickety bus ride from Guatape, you’ll need somewhere relaxing and comfortable for dinner. Check out La Causa in El Poblado. This cute little restaurant was the home to the best ceviche I had in Medellin. La Causa Medellin also has fantastic sushi.
2 Week Colombia Itinerary – Day Eight – MedellinHead to what was Medellin’s most notorious neighbourhood – Communa 13 – and take a street art tour. Learn the fascinating story of how this area has turned itself into a major Colombia tourism destination and see the amazing talent of its local artists. Museo Antioquia and see the brilliant work of one of Medellin’s most well-known sons Francesco Botero. The museum is located on the lovely Plaza Botero which is filled with Botero sculptures.
DinnerCarmen is one of the most well-known restaurants in Medellin. It is best known for its amazing tasting menus which I highly recommend you try. The tasting menus at Carmen Medellin also come with a wine matching version which is an excellent idea!
Itinerary for Colombia – Day Nine – MedellinIt is time to learn more about Medellin’s most notorious son – Pablo Escobar. He remains a contentious subject in this city that has been so deeply affected by him – in ways both good and bad.
⇒ Read my guide on how to choose a Pablo Escobar Tour for You– complete with all the different tour options.
DinnerMercado del Rio is a large area filled with different food vendors as well as a couple of bars (there is a great wine bar on the ground floor) and a couple of restaurants upstairs. Mercado del Rio has every type of food you could ever want – from Mexican to beef to arepas to some more amazing popsicles. Seating is throughout.
Day Ten – Medellin
Take a Street Food TourMedellin is a city of neighbourhoods and is best explored with a local guide. Street food tours of the city will take you to different neighbourhoods via the myriad of different transport options available.
Go on a Coffee/Shopping Crawl on Calles 37 & 39These two little streets are filled with great cafes and cute boutiques. Relax on your last afternoon in Medellin by consuming loads of caffeine (??). Don’t miss Pergamino and Velvet. And my favourite local brand Entreaguas has a branch on Calle 37.
DinnerFinish off your crawl of Calles 37 and 39 by having dinner at 37 Park. It’s a bar, it’s a café, it’s a restaurant, it’s inside, it’s outside. It is a whole mix of things and has a very cute little location tucked away from the main party square area of El Poblado. 37 Park is the perfect place to sit outside and enjoy your final night in Medellin. Heading to Medellin in August? If so try to make it early in the month for the biggest week of the year in Medellin.
Day Eleven – Cartagena Colombia Itinerary
Fly from Medellin to CartagenaCartagena was the first town in Colombia to emerge back into the tourism scene after the problems of the 1990s and early 2000s. This stunning town was heavily promoted based on its gorgeous coloured houses. The government of Cartagena actually determines which colour your house will be based on your neighbors! The idea is to have contrast or consistency in shades to make the streets as picturesque as possible – a great idea! Cartagena is on the Caribbean coast so it is inundated with cruise ships. The streets can get very packed when the ships are in town. The nice bit about staying in this lovely town is that once the passengers have headed back to their ships Cartagena is quieter at night.
Getting to CartagenaThe flight from Medellin to Cartagena is quite a quick one. It is then easy to get a taxi from the airport to the old town – it takes about 15 minutes.
What to do in the AfternoonSpend the first afternoon in Cartagena just wandering the old town. The most colourful streets are in the neighborhood of San Diego. There are larger gorgeous buildings, including a stunning salmon pink church, on the edges of the walled old town. Use Calle de los Puntales and the Bohemia Hotel as your starting point. This is the area to wander. Don’t miss Calle de los Sietes Infantes and Calle de Tumba Muertos. Finish your afternoon off with a popsicle. Popsicles are almost an art form in Colombia – so many lovely flavours and so beautifully merchandised. Head to La Paletteria in the Cartagena old town.
Where to EatLa Cevicheria was made famous by the late tv chef Anthony Bourdain. It is still a tiny restaurant although it also has seating on the street. It is not possible to make reservations at La Cevicheria Colombia so you will need to wait. There was a lovely albeit expensive bar across the road where I waited and enjoyed a lovely glass of wine. Once seated there is quite an extensive seafood menu at La Cevicheria. However, there was only one option for me – the ceviche! They also have a nice little wine list and lots of cooked fish options for those who don’t like their seafood raw. It was delicious and I highly recommend it!
Where to SleepHotel Alfiz is a lovely boutique hotel in the heart of the old town. It is easy to miss as it is like an oasis behind a wooden door. Once inside there is a lovely slim hotel with an internal courtyard. The rooms at Hotel Alfiz Cartagena are lovely. Very simple in their design but oh so stylish. Breakfast is served in the lovely courtyard in the middle of the hotel and consists of fresh fruits, pastries and all you could want!
Day Twelve – Cartagena
Take a Street Food TourMy Cartagena street food tour started with patacones. These are essentially fried plantain with cheese. Next up was my favourite Colombian street food – slices of mango with fresh lime and salt – amazing! Every Colombian street food tour must include some Arepa! Whilst there is a multitude of variations of Arepas at its core is cornflour mixed with cheese and then fried. Colombia does amazing things with pigs! The pork on this Cartagena street food tour was the highlight. It was served in a very average looking place which I wouldn’t really call a restaurant or a café. Once I had one mouthful I no longer cared! The tour then moved into Getsamani. This neighborhood was traditionally the home of the “workers” of Cartagena. Foreign investment has increased prices and brought problems. This area of Cartagena is now home to some of the most compelling street art of this area. I highly recommend taking a tour of this area. It is very difficult to gain an understanding of the current real issues faced in Getsamani Cartagena without a guide to help explain.
Late LunchHead to Pezetarian. This cute little restaurant is in the Cartagena old town. Order at the counter and then wait to receive your amazing ceviche or sushi or some of their other delights. Pezetarian is amazing value for money and filled with locals more than tourists. If you’re after something sweet head to nearby Velvet for a brownie.
Go ShoppingCartagena has some of the best boutique shopping in Colombia. Start with St Dom. The store showcases local designers and there were some stunning options – particularly in resort wear. St Dom Cartagena was certainly one of the most expensive stores that I visited in Colombia but it had many stunning and memorable pieces. It is also one of the only places that sell the Colombian perfume brand Jean Patou. Entreaguas is a Medellin based brand. Their base offer is swimwear but they also have stunning cover-ups as well as a small range of tops and double purpose dresses. Entreaguas’ designs are unusual and stunning. A key feature of the range is the use of a macramé style material which is wonderfully unique. I have worn my Entreaguas purchases again and again! My final stop was Guana Banana. It is much more reasonably priced than St Dom and features some local designers. I particularly liked the lovely woman who ran the shop. Guana Banana has clothing and swimwear – although I ended up buying some very cute shoes that I have worn loads!
Where to EatContinue on the seafood path with the lovely Restaurante Juan Del Mar. This restaurant features all types of fish – cooked and ceviche and salad and anything you can think of – all extremely delicious!
Day Thirteen – Cartagena
Take the Free City Walking TourA common theme of this itinerary is the Colombian free tour and Cartagena is no exception! After hearing about modern Cartagena in yesterday’s street food tour step back in time and hear about Cartagena’s fascinating history with a tour through the old town. I most enjoyed hearing about how the street names came about – and the number of ghosts who frequent this small town!
LunchFor lunch head to the Epoca Café and enjoy some of the best coffee in Cartagena. In the afternoon, fly to Bogota and have one last night at The Orchids Hotel.
Day Fourteen – BogotaFly home! Or start planning your next trip to South America! Check out my post on Chile Itinerary 2 Weeks.
If you’d like to vary this Itinerary…If you’re after a shorter Colombia Itinerary 7 days I would suggest missing Cano Cristales and Cartagena. A Colombia 1 week itinerary could focus on just Medellin and Bogota. If you’re looking for a Colombia 10 day itinerary then I would suggest taking out Cano Cristales but going to Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota. If you’re looking for a longer trip to Colombia, try adding in Santa Marta and/or Tayrona National Park to create a Colombia itinerary 3 weeks or even a Colombia itinerary 1 month.
⇒ Looking for some travel inspiration? Itineraries not only help you plan a trip they can also help you to figure out where you want to go next. Check out my itineraries for Austria, Nova Scotia in Canada, Jordan, Chile, Nepal, Namibia, Sydney, Sicily, Turkey, Cappadocia, Scotland and Korea.
Tours for Solo TravellersIf you are travelling solo and looking for tours of Colombia try these options:
⇒ Other Way Roundis a Colombia expert with tours designed to get you out of the usual tourist zones!
Who Paid for What in this PostI paid for everything associated with my Colombia trip. This post does contain affiliate links. That means if you click on them and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I just wanted to make sure you knew this.
READ NEXT: 18 FANTASTIC THINGS TO DO IN MEDELLINLike this post? Why Not Pin It?