Colombia Travel Guide
In Colombia, verdant jungles dominate the landscape, adrenaline-fuelled adventures can be found at every corner, wildlife is abundant and the brightly coloured architecture will leave you starry-eyed. While it’s no secret that Colombia was home to a troubled past, today it had triumphed as a must-see destination that attracts backpackers, seasoned travellers and everyone else in between.
Colourful Cartagena city is worth ticking off your list to learn about the history and culture of Colombia, and where better to do so than in one of the most iconic cities? Start your exploration in the walled Old Town – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and get lost in the tangled maze of cobbled alleyways while admiring the bougainvillaea covered buildings and churches.
The Andes Mountains
There are three separate ranges in Colombia’s Andes – the Western, Eastern, and Central Andes, and each offers more than enough hiking trails to satisfy various fitness levels for all travellers. One of the most popular hikes is through the Cocora Valley, near Salento in the Coffee Region or Nevado del Tolima was known as the toughest trek (and should be reserved for those who like a challenge).
Undeniably one of the most popular destinations for travellers in Colombia, there are handfuls of reasons why you need to make time for Medellín. You’ll definitely want to explore the Poblado neighbourhood and La Comuna 13, watch a football game, ride the teleférico and make sure you dive into a plate of Bandeja Paisa (a platter typical to the region).
San Gil is one for the adventurers, and the city is known as the adrenaline capital of Colombia. The town itself, it might be small, however, you won’t be short of things to see or do. There’s paragliding. Whitewater rafting. Kayaking. Bungee jumping. Caving. The list goes on, and you will quickly realise you need more time in San Gil than you planned due to the endless number of experiences.
This tiny little village tucked in in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains is the go-to spot for travellers to go hiking in the surrounding jungles and waterfalls. While you’re there, you can also visit a cacao or coffee plantation, visit the El Dorado birding lodge and reserve or simply relax in the world’s biggest hammock at the backpacker hostel, Casa Elemento.
The brightly coloured walls are enough of a major drawcard and reason for visiting Guatape, but it’s the famous Rock of Guatape – also known as Piedra El Peñol located just a short drive away that visitors from around the world have their sights on. The panoramic views from the top are nothing short of spectacular, and you’ll soon forget that you trekked up 740 steps to reach the top.
Colombia is located on the northwestern corner of South America and shares borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela. From New York, a non-stop flight is 5h 45m to Bogata, and from London, it is roughly 11 hours.
Bogata is the vibrant and historic capital of Colombia, and it is the most populous city in the country.
Colombia's biggest international airport is Bogotá Aeropuerto Internacional El Dorado and is located 13 kilometres away from the city centre.
- Closest City
The official language of Colombia is Spanish. Most of the younger generation speak fluent English, however, this is not always the case for older residents. Try to pick up a few phrases in Spanish while you are there.
Colombia uses the Colombian Peso. The currency code is COP. ATMs are everywhere in Colombia, so you should have no major issues accessing money while you travel.
There are a large number of nationalities that do not need a visa, including travellers from Australia, Canada, the UK and the US yet others might be required to pay a small fee. Check your country's travel advisories in advance of booking a trip.
Electricity in Colombia is 110V, with a frequency of 60hz. To avoid frying your electronic devices, you may need a surge adaptor.
Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B and Rabies vaccinations are advised. Depending on where in Colombia you’re visiting, you may also need a Yellow Fever vaccination. Consult your doctor for 6 to 8 weeks before you depart.
The phone numbers to call in case of emergency is 123 for the police, ambulance or a fire.
When to Visit
Visit ResponsiblyTravelling responsibly means respecting the communities, culture and environment of the places you visit. Keep these tips in mind when travelling to Colombia:
Go green. Be environmentally conscious on the road by taking short showers; turning off the lights in your hotel room when you leave; and resisting the urge to collect any plants, seashells, or other natural flora.
Respect cultural differences. Before travelling, read about the local culture and customs – even just knowing the dress code and a few basic phrases in the local language will go a long way.
Support local businesses. Enjoy a more authentic experience and directly support the local economy by travelling with a local guide, eating in local restaurants, buying from local artisans, and staying in locally-owned and operated accommodations.
Wherever possible, avoid single-use plastics. Pack reusable items such as your own shopping bags, utensils, a water bottle, and a straw. These items are typically lightweight and compact, and will greatly reduce your consumption of plastics.
Be conscious of overtourism. Opt to visit the lesser-known regions of Colombia or travel outside the peak season – you'll likely even get a better deal and won't have all the crowds!
Sustainable Tourism in ColombiaSustainable Tourism in the Law
Since 2020, sustainable tourism has evolved beyond being a practice in Colombia, and has become something written within the country's laws. Law 2068 was enacted by the Congress of Colombia to regulate key aspects of tourism in efforts to ensure that tourism is conducted in an ethical and sustainable manner.
Future of Tourism Coalition
The Future of Tourism Coalition consists of global tourism organizations that commit to using tourism to shape a more sustainable, equitable, and responsible future through the Coalition's 13 guiding principles.
Sustainable Tourism Destinations & Experiences
There are over 25 certified sustainable tourist destinations within Colombia that have developed environmentally sustainable tourism infrastructure, while also creating opportunity and wealth for the local people. In addition, Colombia has developed a Meaningful Travel Map filled with over 15 community-based tourism experiences across the country. Some of these sustainable destinations and community projects you can visit on tour include Cartagena's Walled City, La Candelaria in Bogota, and the Rosario Islands.