Colombia Travel Guide: Everything You Need To Know

colombia travel guide

Ready to embark on a journey to Colombia, a land of lush greenery, rich history, and aromatic coffee? Well, pack your bags (and don't forget that sense of adventure), because we've prepared a go-to guide with all you need to know about traveling to this South American gem. From the best times to visit to those bucket list experiences that make a trip truly unforgettable, we've got you covered.

In this guide:

Colombian flag above a buildingUnsplash

Best Time to Visit Colombia

Colombia boasts a range of climates due to its topography, with coasts, jungles, and mountains, but the temperature remains fairly consistent year-round in each region. However, the drier periods of December to February and July to August are generally accepted as the best times to visit. Be prepared for varying conditions, though, and remember — rain in Colombia can mean more vibrant landscapes!

Top Attractions in Colombia

Colombia's top attractions are rich in history, culture, and breathtaking nature. Explore these five must-see sights for an unforgettable Colombian experience.

Buildings in Cartagena's Old CityUnsplash


Cartagena is an enchanting blend of colonial charm and Caribbean flair. From the picturesque plazas of its UNESCO-listed Old Town to the serene beaches of Islas del Rosario, Cartagena has plenty to offer.

The best things to do in Cartagena:

  • Explore the Old Town: Dive into the history of Cartagena by wandering through the Old Town. This area, also known as the Historic Center, is renowned for its colonial architecture, colorful buildings, and vibrant street life. It's a must-see for any visitor.
  • Visit the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas: This historic fortress offers a glimpse into Cartagena's colonial past and strategic importance. The castle stands as a landmark of the city and provides panoramic views of the surrounding area.
  • Relax on the beaches of Islas del Rosario: Just a short boat trip from Cartagena, these beautiful Caribbean islands offer white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, perfect for snorkeling, diving, or simply soaking up the sun.
  • Walk the city walls: The walls that once defended Cartagena from pirates and invaders now offer a scenic walk with coastal views. Strolling along these fortifications at sunset is a fantastic way to experience the city's charm and history.
  • Discover the Mercado de Bazurto: For those looking to experience authentic Cartagena, the bustling Mercado de Bazurto is a cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. This local market offers a range of produce, seafood, and local specialties like arepas and empanadas.


Once notorious for being one of the most dangerous cities globally, Medellín has transformed into a hotspot of innovation, culture, and tourism. Visit the Comuna 13 neighborhood, explore the abundant public spaces and parks, and ride the city’s impressive metro and cable cars.

The best things to do in Medellín:

  • Explore Museo de Antioquia: Dive into Colombia's rich art history at the Museo de Antioquia, home to an extensive collection of works by Fernando Botero, one of Colombia's most famous artists. The museum, located in a former city hall, showcases not only Botero's iconic chubby figures but also offers a broad spectrum of other artworks capturing Colombia's vibrant culture.
  • Ride the Metrocable: Gain a new perspective on Medellín by taking a ride on the Metrocable. This unique mode of transportation offers stunning aerial views of the city’s comunas (districts) and the Medellín River. It's not only a way to navigate the city but also an attraction in its own right, highlighting the city's commitment to innovative urban solutions.
  • Visit Plaza Botero: Another nod to the celebrated artist Fernando Botero, Plaza Botero is an outdoor park filled with numerous bronze sculptures donated by Botero himself. It's a vibrant space where art and public life intersect, offering a unique chance to experience the scale and texture of Botero's work first-hand.
  • Enjoy the Greenery at Parque Arví: A haven for nature lovers, Parque Arví is a vast park that invites visitors to enjoy a range of outdoor activities amidst lush surroundings. Hike along its trails, engage in bird watching, or browse through the small market of food and crafts. The journey to and from the park over the hills of Medellín is itself an experience, thanks to the spectacular views it offers.
  • Visit the Comuna 13 Neighborhood: Nestled in the heart of Medellin, Colombia, Comuna 13 is a colorful testament to the resilience and artistry of its community. Once an area challenged by urban strife, it has incredibly transformed into a hub of creativity, culture, and connection.

Aerial view of Tayrona National Park, ColombiaUnsplash

Tayrona National Park

This stunning slice of paradise lies on the Caribbean coast, where the jungle meets the ocean. Offering golden sandy beaches and lush rainforest, the Tayrona National Park is perfect for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts alike.

The best things to do in Tayrona National Park:

  • Hike the Pueblito Chairama Trail: This challenging yet rewarding hike takes you to the ancient ruins of Pueblito, a pre-Hispanic village that was home to the Tayrona tribe. This trail not only offers you a peek into the region's fascinating history, but also serves up some of the most incredible views of the park.
  • Relax at Arrecifes Beach: Known for its striking beauty, Arrecifes Beach is the perfect spot to unwind after a day of hiking. Though the currents here are too strong for swimming, the serene atmosphere and picturesque surroundings are sure to captivate you.
  • Swim at La Piscina: Just a short hike from Arrecifes, La Piscina offers a safe haven for swimmers. This natural pool, enclosed by a coral reef, provides calm waters perfect for a relaxing dip.
  • Spot diverse wildlife: Tayrona National Park is a paradise for nature enthusiasts. Keep your eyes peeled as you explore, and you might spot monkeys, iguanas, and more than 300 species of birds. Remember, always respect their space and admire from a distance.
  • Watch the sunsest at Cabo San Juan: End the day at Cabo San Juan by witnessing a mesmerizing sunset over the Caribbean Sea. This spectacular sight, coupled with the location's striking natural beauty, makes it a must-add to your travel itinerary.

Palm trees in Cocora Valley, ColombiaUnsplash

The Coffee Region (Eje Cafetero)

Experience Colombia's coffee culture in its heartland. Visit charming towns like Salento, hike through the Cocora Valley with its towering wax palms, and tour coffee plantations to learn how your morning brew is produced.

The best things to do in Eje Cafetero:

  • Go on a coffee farm tour: No trip to the Coffee Region is complete without visiting a coffee farm, where you can see the journey from bean to cup. You'll get to roll up your sleeves, learn the picking process, and, of course, taste some of the freshest coffee on the planet.
  • Wander through the Cocora Valley: Stretch those legs in the stunning Cocora Valley, home to the towering wax palm (Colombia's national tree). If you're in for a hike, this place is a jackpot of panoramic views.
  • Relax in Santa Rosa Thermal Baths: After all the hiking and coffee excitement, it's time to unwind in the soothing Santa Rosa Thermal Baths. The hot springs are the spa treatment that Mother Nature intended for you. Trust us, the backdrop of waterfalls and lush forest is the cherry on top!
  • Ride the Coffee Train (or La "brujita" as the locals call it): Hop aboard La “brujita,” a quirky rail vehicle that takes you on a scenic adventure through the coffee countryside. It’s far from your average commute, with open-sided cars allowing the cool breeze to complement the view.
  • Discover the Quindio Botanical Garden and Butterfly House: Prepare to be dazzled by the colors and diversity at the Quindio Botanical Garden. With a butterfly house featuring over 1,500 butterflies, it's an enchanting experience.

San Agustín

This archaeological site is home to the largest collection of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America — a mysterious and haunting landscape that will captivate history buffs.

The best things to do in San Agustín:

  • Explore the San Agustin Archaeological Park:
  • Step back in time at the San Agustin Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts the largest collection of pre-Columbian megalithic sculptures in South America. These mysterious statues, some standing over 7 meters tall, are scattered around the park and offer a glimpse into the region's ancient cultures.
  • Take a walk or horse ride to El Tablon, La Chaquira, La Pelota, and El Purutal: For an adventure that combines natural beauty with archaeological wonders, a hike or horse ride to these sites is a must. The journey not only provides breathtaking views but also leads you to fascinating statues and relics outside the main park. La Chaquira, in particular, offers beautiful vistas, and the ride there isn't too strenuous, making it accessible for most travelers.
  • Visit the Magdalena Strait: This natural wonder, where the Magdalena River narrows to a mere 2 meters wide, is truly a sight to behold. The powerful currents carving through the rock showcase the raw power of nature. It's a perfect spot for photography or simply to contemplate the natural beauty of San Agustin's landscape.

Tatacoa Desert, ColombiaUnsplash

Hidden Gems

Beyond Colombia’s famous landmarks lie hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. These five lesser-known spots offer unique adventures off the typical tourist paths.

The Tatacoa Desert

Even many Colombians miss this fascinating desert that offers a unique landscape of towering red and grey formations. It's also Colombia's second-largest arid zone and one of the best places for stargazing.


Often overlooked by international tourists, Barichara is one of Colombia’s prettiest villages. Its cobblestone streets, white-washed buildings, and terracotta roofs play perfect hosts to a lazy afternoon stroll.

Las Lajas Sanctuary

This stunning Gothic church built into the side of a cliff is a sight to behold. It's off the beaten track, but worth the trip for the architectural beauty and the surrounding canyon views.

Pacific Coast

The predominantly Afro-Colombian Pacific Coast is as rich culturally as it is in biodiversity — home to rugged beaches, dense jungle, and some of the best whale watching in the world.

La Candelaria, Bogotá

Roam around the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria, with its charming streets, colorful buildings, and lesser-known museums like Botero’s Museum, packed full of famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s distinctive artwork.

Aerial view of Bogota, ColombiaUnsplash

Bucket List Experiences

With so much on offer, it can be hard to narrow down the must-do experiences. Here are our top ten, in no particular order:

  • Rough it up on a multi-day trek to the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida).
  • Enjoy the nightlife and learn to dance salsa in Cali, the world's salsa capital.
  • Walk through Bogotá's La Candelaria district with a cup of world-famous Colombian coffee.
  • Explore Cartagena’s historic Old Town and San Felipe Castle.
  • Go colonial in Villa de Leyva, a town where time seems to stand still.
  • Experience Afro-Colombian culture and music in the Pacific port city of Buenaventura.
  • Marvel at the River of Five Colors (Caño Cristales).
  • Hike to the top of El Penol Rock near Medellín for breathtaking views.
  • Visit the Caribbean Island of San Andrés for its crystal-clear waters.
  • Feast on bandeja paisa, a typical mouthwatering Colombian dish.

Traveler walking down a street in ColombiaUnsplash

Colombia Travel Tips

Finally, let’s go over some critical travel tips:

  • Entry and exit requirements: Passport validity for six months is essential for travelers. Most visitors do not need a visa for stays up to 90 days, but double-check before you fly.
  • Language: Spanish is spoken across Colombia. "Hola," "por favor," and "gracias" will go a long way!
  • Currency: The Colombian Peso (COP) is the currency. Cards are widely accepted, but always keep a small amount of cash.
  • Getting around: Major cities have bus and taxi services, and smaller towns are often walkable. Domestic flights can save significant travel time.
  • Plugs and adapters: Colombia uses types A and B sockets. The standard voltage is 110V, and frequency is 60Hz.

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Colombia eSIM: Stay Connected With Airalo

Stay connected during your trip to Colombia with an eSIM from Airalo. An eSIM is a tiny SIM that's embedded in your device and works 100% digitally. You can download an eSIM plan for your destination and instantly connect to a mobile network. There's no need to find a SIM card vendor, manage multiple SIMs, or worry about roaming fees. 

Here are just some of the benefits of using an Airalo eSIM:

  • Connect to a mobile network within minutes.
  • Choose from flexible local, regional, and global data plans.
  • Say goodbye to expensive roaming charges.
  • Store multiple eSIM data plans on your device.
  • Need more data? Top up in the Airalo app.

You're all set to plan a trip to Colombia! Head to the Airalo store to browse eSIMs for Colombia and 200+ countries and regions worldwide.

Ready to try eSIMs and change the way you stay connected?

Download the Airalo app to purchase, manage, and top up your eSIMs anytime, anywhere!

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