Introduction to Colombia
Colombia is South America’s phoenix from the flames and is a country of startling contrasts. Although the nation’s past issues and the ugly Escobar era gained a lot of the previous media about Colombia, today’s Colombia has swept aside these premonitions and stereotypes. Turning over this new leaf has led to Colombia being one of the hottest destinations in the world this year. From dense Amazonian jungle, stunning tropical Caribbean beaches and islands to snow-capped Andean mountains, beautiful coffee landscapes and reincarnated cities of Medellin and Bogota; Colombia has so much to offer. Sitting at the top of South America, Colombia is the only country in the region with both a Pacific and Caribbean coastline to enjoy and straddling the equator it’s one of the world’s most verdant and diverse countries in the world. Those who throw away their misconceptions about Colombia will find that it contains all of South America’s allure, charm and more.
As spectacular as the landscapes and diversity of Colombia, it is the change of the country’s fate that is truly impressive. Out to prove that there is more to Colombia than its stereotype image that is held around the world; Colombians are understandably optimistic and proud of their country. The flair, resilience and enthusiasm shown for Colombia today, adds to the flavor and experience that you will encounter in this spectacular country. The Colombian hospitality is one that is difficult to find anywhere else in the region and the world, ensuring that you leave with a different perception of the country than the one you arrived with. As varied as its landscapes the bright culture of Colombia is contagious. From the ancient civilizations of the Tayrona to the legend of El Dorado, Colombia’s history is shrouded in mystique and wonder which will entice you to explore deeper into the country’s past.
From fresh Caribbean seafood, simmering Andean stews and soups to delicious and exotic fruit juices and some of the world’s best quality; Colombia will satisfy all your senses. With spectacular landscapes, diverse culture seeking to change the world’s perception, Colombia is a true gem in South America. Traveling to Colombia will leave you wanting to go back for more, to further seek out the immaculate beauty of the country and its people.
Highlights of Colombia
Colombia’s capital is built on a huge mountain platform, surrounded by beautiful green mountains and is home to a charming historical center. With people coming from all corners of the country, this capital city is as diverse as the entire country. Find out more…
Cartagena de Indias
The magic of Cartagena de Indias on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast lies at the foundation of its fortifications, the warmth of its people, wealth of its architecture and, annual cultural events. The city overflows with romanticism and is shrouded in history. Read more…
Santa Marta & Tayrona
Santa Marta holds an unrivaled architectural heritage, and offers the perfect starting point for your trip to the tremendously beautiful Tayrona National Park. The sea breeze makes it pleasant to just sip from a fresh fruit juice or cocktail in one of many cafes. Read on…
The Coffee Triangle
Known worldwide for its rich, full-bodied coffee, the Zona Cafetera is centered on the towns of Pereira and Armenia. The departments of Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda make up what is known as the Coffee Triangle and is home to the world’s best coffee! Continue reading…
Villa de Leyva
The perfectly preserved colonial town of Villa de Leyva, north of Bogotá, with its beautiful cobblestone streets, Spanish-style villas, and small-town pace give it a charming, frozen-in-time feel…so what are you waiting for…Find out more…
Medellin has perhaps witnessed the biggest turnaround of all Colombia’s cities. Once the home of Pablo Escobar, Medellin also known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ has become the jewel in the crown of Colombia that absolutely cannot be missed! Discover more…
San Agustin & Neiva
San Agustín preserves relics of a pre-Columbian culture that thrived in the area for more than 7 centuries. From Neiva, travel back in time marveling at San Agustin’s life-sized statues symbolizing fertility, maternity, the alter ego & sacred animals. Read on…
When to travel in Colombia
Best times to go
Due to Colombia’s proximity to the Equator, the temperature varies according to altitude rather than the season. In the high altitudes of the Andes, days are cool and the nights can dip to the near freezing mark with the dry season falling between December and March and July and August. In the lowlands of Colombia, the climate is tropical and humid with very little difference between the daytime and nighttime temperatures. Rainfall in Colombia is heaviest on the west coast and in the Andean region with the rainy and dry seasons alternating in three-month cycles. Bogota’s heaviest precipitation takes place between April and June as well as October and December. The northern areas have one long rainy season running from May through to October. The country can be divided into three distinctive climatic regions:
The Tierra Caliente is the tropical zone and covers roughly about 82.5% of Colombia with the land from sea level to about 3,500ft (1,067m) falling into this category. The annual average temperature is 75-81°F (23-27°C) will the sea level destinations having a mean maximum of 100°F (37°C).
Between 3,500ft. (1,067m) and 6,500ft. (1,981m) marks the temperate zone of Colombia with average temperatures reaching about 64°F (17°F).
The Tierra Fria or cold country can be found between 6,500ft. (1,981m) and 10,000ft. (3,048m) with yearly temperatures averaging a little over 55°F (12°C). Bogota, lies at 8,525ft (2,598m) with an annual mean temperature of 57°F (13°C).
Few countries in Latin America or elsewhere have done more to turn around their own image than Colombia which today is far safer and more accessible than it has been in decades. Colombia is now safer on average than all the country’s immediate neighbors although that is not to say that there are no problems. Street crime still exists, particularly in poor neighborhoods of the big cities as it does anywhere else in the world so vigilance and common sense are required when you’re in the urban centers of Colombia. Remember you’re foreign and so will stick out already. Keep a close eye on your belongings and don’t wear lots of eye catching jewelry or flash expensive cameras, laptops or iPhones around. When out and about exploring Colombia, take only as much cash as you need for the outing, and leave the rest (as well as your passport) in a safe in your hotel. Always carry a photocopy of your passport with you – the main page and the page with your entry stamp.
No vaccinations are required to visit Colombia. We do recommend visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as check the vaccines and medicines list and visit your doctor (ideally, 4-6 weeks) before your trip to make sure everything is up to date.
Nationals of the USA and the EU do not require a visa to enter Colombia and are granted a 90 day travel visa upon arrival. Citizens of other countries may require a visa to enter Colombia and it is generally advised that they contact the Colombian embassy in their home country for information. The Wikipedia Visa Policy of Colombia is a great starting point to begin exploring whether or not any particular nationality might need to obtain a tourist visa to visit Peru.
Money / Currency – ATM, Credit Cards
The official currency of Colombia is the Colombian Peso and the exchange rate is approximately ~ COP$ 2,970 to US$1.00. Unlike in other Latin-American countries, the US Dollar is not widely accepted in Colombia, except in a few high-end establishments but you can convert your currency at hotels, casas de cambio (money-exchange houses), most banks, and at the airport. It is worth noting that changing large notes can be problematic outside of large cities. Using moneychangers on the street is not recommended. There are plenty of ATMs in Colombia, with at least one even in small towns. Traveler’s checks aren’t recommended as although they can be exchanged at some banks, few businesses accept them. We recommend visiting the website XE Currency Converter to get current exchange rates.
The official language of Colombia is Spanish except for within a tiny percentage of rural indigenous communities. English is the language that dominates the tourist sector and most tour guides, tour operators, and hotels are proficient in English. One can generally get by with English alone although life is made much easier if one learns a few simple Spanish sentences before arriving.
Electricity in Colombia runs at 110 Volts, so transformers are not necessary for tourists from the USA. If you are planning to use anything with a three-prong plug, bring an adapter, as some establishments only have two-prong outlets. If you’d like to learn more about the types of plugs in Argentina, check out the website What Plug Info – Colombia.
Family Travel in Colombia
Traveling to Colombia with children is relatively easy and is a great place for family travel. Colombians are in general very open-minded and welcoming when it comes to kids. Although everyone in the family will love the paradise beaches of Colombia’s Caribbean coastline, the country offers so much more. Its bustling cities accommodate for a range of all tastes and ages with the Gold Museum in Bogota will light up the inner-explorer as you seek out the mysteries of El Dorado. In less urbanized areas you and the whole family can enjoy a number of activities from horseback riding through the Coffee Triangle and the outskirts of Villa de Leyva to, spotting wildlife in the Tayrona National Park and exploring the ancient wonders of the San Agustin Archaeological Park. Colombia’s natural diversity, culture and friendly locals will ensure that you and your family have an unforgettable experience.
Getting Around Colombia
Colombia is South America’s fourth-largest country. While buses are both reliable and numerous for intercity travel, the increase in domestic airlines (about half a dozen domestic airlines) means that air travel is only slightly more expensive than traveling by bus and is much faster and more comfortable. People therefore prefer to take an internal flight or two in order to save time, avoid lengthy journeys by road and to enjoy seeing Colombia’s diverse landscapes from above. In the Coffee Triangle, the most common mode of transport is the Willy Jeep, with two rows of seats in the covered interior. These tend to be inexpensive, but the ride can be bumpy.
Sample Itinerary of Colombia
Days 1-2 Bogota
Explore the heart of Colombia’s capital, from the historic center of La Candelaria, the impressive Gold Museum and the Botero Museum to the stunning Monserrate Mountain that offers magnificent views over the sprawling city below.
Days 2-4 Coffee Region
From traditional fincas to delicious Arabica roasts, the Coffee Region is also visually spectacular with the Cocora Valley and charming town of Salento providing magnificent landscapes, stunning panoramas and a plethora of adventures to enjoy.
Days 4-7 Medellin
Medellin is unrecognizable from its infamous past and has developed into a bustling city with a lively cultural scene and thriving nightlife. Housing a mix of museums and modern architecture you should also make sure not to miss visiting the charming, nearby colonial town of Santa Fe de Antioquia.
Days 7-10 Tayrona
Stay in the romantic Ecohabs Resort overlooking the azure waters of the Caribbean. Spend your days in paradise at Cabo San Juan: one of Tayrona’s and the world’s best beaches! There are plenty of other activities to fill the day like a hike to El Pueblito, visiting a local Kogi village and, more.
Days 10-12 Cartagena
Cartagena is the romantic fairytale city of Colombia. After exploring the city’s highlights of Plaza Santo Domingo, Torre del Reloj and, the Cathedral; enjoy it’s charm by wandering through its magical, narrow streets or sipping a cocktail at the Café del Mar at sunset.