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A colourful country for nature and culture lovers
Are you looking for a travel destination with beautiful nature, mountains, deserts and white sandy beaches? With colourful, bustling cities, archaeological treasures and plenty of outdoor activities? It may seem impossible to find all this in a single destination, but Colombia has it all. Design your own Colombia travel adventure for a journey full of the best highlights.
A Colombia travel adventure
Visit lively cities
You will start your Colombia travel adventure in the capital city, Bogota. A busy city with a beautiful historic centre and lively neighbourhoods. During your trip to Colombia you should also visit the colourful coastal city of Cartagena, a walled city with colonial houses, old churches and cosy squares full of terraces. The city of Medellin is has a completely different character to it and was voted the most innovative city of the world in 2013. The city was built on and in between the mountains, and from it you can visit the beautiful nature of the Arvi park by cable car.
The coffee region
Colombia is known for its delicious home-grown coffee. Would you love to learn how coffee beans are grown? During your Colombia travel experience, you can visit a fair trade coffee plantation for several days. You get a tour of the plantation from the owner and learn everything about the production process of coffee. You will be accommodated in a beautiful finca, or country estate. You will of course visit the Valle de Cocora, known for its high wax palm trees.You can also plan some time to spend in the traditional coffee village of Salento. This atmospheric village is known for its coloured houses, artists and, of course, the great coffee.
Beautiful beaches in Colombia
If you want to relax on the beach in Colombia, there are many beach destinations to choose from. The Caribbean coast is bursting with white dream beaches and swaying palm trees, as well as bright blue seas. Tayrona National Park is one of the highlights of your Colombia travel experience. Here the jungle meets the Caribbean coast, and you can even sleep right on the beach. Are you ready for something more active after the beach? Then you should travel to San Gil, also known as the outdoor capital of Colombia. Here you can go rafting, paragliding, cave exploring, abseiling, cycling and trekking.
The rough Tatacoa desert
Colombia’s nature is very diverse. Next to the white sand beaches, mountains and jungles, you also have the desert. The arid dry Tatacoa desert is similar to the US national parks with its rock formations of red stone and erratic mountains. At night you can indulge in some amazing stargazing. Colombia has a lot to offer if you love archaeology. In the UNESCO World Heritage site of San Agustin Archaeological Park, you will find more than 500 statues and monuments. Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) is on the Caribbean coast and is a very special destination. Its ruins are hidden deeply in the jungle and the trek through it takes five days. At night you sleep in hammocks in the open air. An incredible Colombia travel adventure!
Colombia with children
Do you wish to go on a Colombia travel adventure with your kids? Not a problem at all. Our local travel expert Karol has a lot of experience in organizing family trips to Colombia and would love to help you design your ideal tailor-made itinerary. Have a look at our family travel suggestion for in Colombia.
Share your travel wishes with Karol and she will send you a tailor-made proposal
Know Before you Go
General Information and Insider Tips
Visitors from the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa to visit Colombia and may remain in the country as a tourist for up to 90 days. For other countries, check visa requirements here. Your passport needs to be valid at least three months after your return date from Colombia.
Insider Tip: Keep a photocopy of your passport on you at all times so you can show it if stopped by authorities. Be sure to include a copy of your entry stamp page as well as your cover page.
There are no particular requirements for Colombia, but make sure all routine vaccinations are up to date (MMR, polio, tetanus, etc.). Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended, and Zika is currently a risk in Colombia. Check the latest information about Zika warnings. We recommend all vaccines be completed at least six weeks prior to travel.
The safety of our clients is of the utmost importance to us, and our local experts are always well-informed about the current situation in Colombia. For up-to-date information about safety, security and travel warnings, please refer to the US State Department, UK Foreign Travel Advice, or your local government resource.
Insider Tip: If you need police assistance, look for Policía de Turismo (tourism police) in larger cities. They often speak English and are more trustworthy than some local cops (federal and military police are safe). Plainclothes “officers” are not to be trusted.
Most sockets use the US-style two-pronged (Type A) or three-pronged (Type B) plugs. Power outages are not uncommon in Colombia, especially outside of the bigger cities, so a torch or flashlight is recommended.
At Better Places Travel, you book your own international flights. Your travel expert will gladly advise you on the best option. Read here for more information and tips.
When to go
While much of Colombia is close to the equator, elevation affects climate and temperature. Cartagena and the coastal region is tropical, with a rainy season from May-November. Bogotá, at 2,600 meters/8,600 feet, is much cooler overall with crisp days and chilly nights, whereas the Amazon region is warm and wet year round. Medellin has the most temperate “ideal” weather. December-March and July-August are peak tourist seasons due to drier weather.
Insider Tip: Car hire is more expensive in Colombia than most other South American countries. If you do choose to rent a car, make sure you have an international driver’s license.
The official national language is Spanish. Here are some helpful phrases to learn:
Hello = Hola
Goodbye = Adios (formal)
Please = Por favor
Thank you = Gracias
Excuse Me = Qué pena
Insider Tip: Colombian Spanish is very polite, so always use usted unless you know the informal tú is acceptable.
Table manners are important in Colombia, so don’t sit down and start eating until invited to do so. Please (por favor) and thank you (gracias) are also used quite often and eye contact is valued. Homosexuality is not widely understood or accepted so it may be best to keep a low profile and/or avoid homosexual comments. Showing up 30 minutes late is not uncommon or considered rude, although an explanation is always appreciated. Colombia has an impressive variety of tropical fruit, which is widely consumed as fresh-squeezed juice at stands on many city streets.
Insider Tip: While most Colombian coffee is exported, Juan Valdéz is a popular chain where you can find the usual coffee drinks made with quality beans.
The local currency is Colombian Peso (COP).
Credit cards are accepted in higher-end hotels, restaurants and shopping centres. Cash can be obtained from ATMs with a Cirrus or Maestro logo. It’s usually only possible to take out 300,000 pesos at one time, and while it may be higher in some areas, it shouldn’t be relied upon. It’s advisable to carry US dollars in cash, which you can exchange at a Casa de Cambio, or exchange office.
- Restaurants – a 10% propina voluntaria is included on most bills. While it is technically voluntary, it is customary to pay it. Nicer restaurants may include a 15% service charge. If no service charge is added to the bill, 10% is standard. For exceptional service, leaving a little extra in cash is appreciated (and will go directly to your server), though not expected.
- Cabs – No tipping, but you can round up the change if you want.
- Hotels – Tip bellmen the equivalent of 1 USD per bag and housekeeping 1-2 USD per day.
Because climates vary from cool to tropical, layering is a good practice if you’re traveling to more than one location. Colombians aren’t afraid of bright colors, tight clothes or showing a little skin, particularly in the big cities where locals like to dress up when they go out. Shorts and flip flops aren’t common outside of coastal areas, whereas hiking pants and boots are recommended for treks in the Amazon or mountains. Jeans are very common, so pack a pair (along with comfortable shoes) for walking around the cities. Because of Colombia’s proximity to the equator, sunscreen is a must, even in cooler areas. Sunglasses and hats are also recommended.
Must-pack items by area:
Bogotá – Light coat or jacket, sweater and scarf
Cartagena – Shorts, dresses, flip flops, loose trousers and swimwear
Medellin – Jeans, casual tops and dress-up clothes for evening
Amazon – Umbrella, quick-dry clothing, waterproof jacket and water-resistant shoes