Colombia was honestly a place that was never on my radar. Not because of the violent history but because its beauty was overshadowed by its violent history. A friend of mine showed me photos of her recent trip and I was so impressed, jealous almost! I decided then 3 weeks in Colombia for my quarterly trip sounds about right!
Half of Colombia (southeast is pretty much Reserva Nacional Natural Nukak Tunahi (National Park) and most of the cities and major roads in the northwest. However, domestic flights are epic here, making your trip convenient and less hassle.
In this article, I will walk you through the favourite places I’ve explored in Colombia. From mountains, cities, beaches, lots of historical sites, and of course, a coffee tasting tour.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO COLOMBIA
Before we start talking about the best places to see in Colombia, let me give you an idea of important things you should know before booking a flight. I don’t want you to spend money on flights just to find out that you missed something and have to cancel that flight.
ALSO CHECK: 3 weeks in South America
When is the best time to go to Colombia
The best time to visit Colombia is between December to March. During this time, the weather is great and there’s almost no rain to ruin your plans. However, if you head right in December, the schools are also on break for Christmas which means, locals will be travelling too. The prices of flights and accommodation can be higher too.
As long as you avoid coming from September to October, that’s alright. This is the wettest season making travelling inconvenient.
Travel visa in Colombia
Almost everyone can enter Colombia without obtaining a visa in advance except for nationalities from the majority of Africa, South Asia, some Southeast Asia, and Central Asia. Tourists are allowed to stay in Colombia for 90 days.
If you have a valid visa from the US or Schengen Area, you can use this and stay for 90 days. For the rest of the tourists who need a visa in advance, you might be able to apply for an eVisa or contact the nearest Colombian Embassy.
Getting around Colombia
Moving around Colombia is fairly easy. Although most part of the country is sitting on the Andes mountain, it’s still relatively convenient to travel. Almost all major cities like Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, and even Cali have international and/or domestic airports.
There are also buses you can take. However, the flight tickets can really be affordable and will save you more time.
While moving within the city, you will have the traditional taxis operating. Apart from that, Bogota has a tram and buses, Modelling has a metro train, tram, and cable car, Cali and Cartagena have local buses. Plus, you can use ride-hailing apps like inDriver and Cabify. There is an Uber here that allows you to rent a car with a driver (although there’s been a long-standing silent war between Uber and Taxi drivers).
Spanish is the main language in Colombia. Going around Bogota, you will notice that most young people speak English. The more you move into smaller or more rural areas, it can be hard to find an English speaking local. Make sure to download Spanish on your Google Translate, it’s not the best, but it does the job.
Safety in Colombia
Today, Colombia might still carry its dark past that questions tourists of their safety. Personally, I wouldn’t say that Colombia is super safe, I also wouldn’t say that it’s unsafe. It’s a destination that requires you to be vigilant at all times while in public places.
I don’t recommend you to stay out too late with a plan of getting too drunk or using drugs. If going out, go in groups and only visit places that your hotel recommends. If it’s your first time travelling or travelling alone, take a look at these travel tips on staying safe.
COVID in Colombia
Colombia has been open to tourists for a while now. Starting December 2021, all travellers to Colombia must be fully vaccinated, the last dose must have been injected in the last 14 days. you must also show PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival in Colombia.
Remember to bring your vaccination card, pack masks, and hand sanitiser. Check for more information from the government’s website.
MUST-SEE PLACES IN COLOMBIA (pinned map)
Please click the top right corner icon to enlarge the map. Credit: Map data: Google
3 WEEKS IN COLOMBIA ITINERARY
I think Colombia is definitely one of the places in the world that is perfect for a 3-week holiday. It offers many things but most importantly the size of the country is neither too big nor too small. In three weeks here, you won’t feel like you are in a hurry trying to see as many places as possible or finding yourself bored.
Here is a list of top places to visit in Colombia and how many days you should spend in each of them:
Bogota for 4 days
Bogota is the capital of Colombia. It is sitting on the Andes Mountain, which gives visitors and locals chilly yet comfortable weather, especially during winter. At the elevation of 2,640 m (8666 ft), some people might need to spend a day or two acclimatizing.
This city is popular for its historical locations and events. The city centre is paved with cobblestone giving you such a European vibe. Although many historical buildings have been destroyed, there are still many spots that will remind you that this was once a Spanish colony.
Must-see attractions in Bogota:
- Bolivar Square in Bogotá
- Botero Museum
- Museo del Oro
- Teatro Colón
- Iglesia de San Francisco
- Graffiti in Calle 20
- Comuna El Paraiso
- Museo Nacional de Colombia
- Parque Metropolitano Simón Bolívar
- Bogota food tour
- Jardín Botánico de Bogotá José Celestino Mutis
- Join Bogota bicycle tour
Day trips from Bogota:
- Hike to La Chorrera Waterfall
- Coffee tour and tasting
- Salt Cathedral
- Villa de Leyva & Raquira Town tour
Where to stay in Bogota:
- Affordable: La Casa De Huespedes or Republica Hostel Cabin Beds
- Mid-range: ibis Bogota Museo or Hotel San Francisco de Asis
- Luxury: Tequendama Suites or Hilton Garden Inn
Barranquilla and Cartagena for 6 days
3 weeks in Colombia is not complete without visiting the coast. For beach and water activities lovers, don’t leave Colombia without visiting Barranquilla and Cartagena. Luckily, these two areas are just 2-hours away from each other. You can choose to “base” yourself in either place since many day trips will be between these two cities.
Cartagena and Barranquilla is the location of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Even locals come here either for a weekend getaway or during the summer season. If you are looking for a romantic dinner location or a quick bite to eat, there are plenty of choices for great restaurants in Cartagena. Make sure to check if you need a reservation or not, places can be crowded during peak season.
Must-see attractions in Barranquilla and Cartagena:
- Snorkel at Rosario Island Catamaran
- Torre del Reloj
- Playa Blanca
- Isla Grande
- Cartagena sunset cruise
- Zenu Gold Museum
- Convento De La Popa and Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
- Islas del Rosario
- Get yourself a hop-on hop-off bus tour
- The Palace of the Inquisition
- Join paratriking flight
- City Walls
- Enjoy a bioluminescent plankton tour
- Ride the Chiva Party Bus
- Getsemani highlights and graffiti tour
- Visit La Boquilla and the Mangroves
- Totumo mud volcano
Where to stay:
- Affordable (Barranquilla): Hotel Aquarius or Hostel Mamy Dorme
- Mid-range (Barranquilla): Hotel Windsor or GHL Hotel
- Luxury (Barranquilla): Hotel Dorado Plaza Alto Prado or Crowne Plaza
- Affordable (Cartagena): Casa Hostel Shalom Adonai or Posada Barrios Mar
- Mid-range (Cartagena): Baluarte Cartagena Hotel or Hotel Blue Concept
- Luxury (Cartagena): Sophia Hotel or La Passion by Masaya
Medellin for 5 days
Perhaps, Medellin became a famous city for being Pablo Escobar’s home. Fortunately, nowadays, the city and its locals changed the image of this city. Today, Medellin is a popular tourist destination for international travellers who want to learn about Colombian culture, explore its nature, and even meet locals who are happy to share how Medellin is now thriving.
Medellin is a well-sized city, but the main spot is in El Poblado where you can find many restaurants and attractions. It’s also the area you want to look for accommodation if you don’t know where to stay in Medellin. From there, many buses and meeting spots are just walking distance.
Must-see attractions in Medellin:
- Comuna 13
- Pueblito Paisa
- Hill of Three Crosses – hiking trail
- Colombian coffee farm and tasting tour
- Ride the cable car
- Bike city tour
- Parque Lleras – streets around here are filled is popular restaurants, bars, and more
- Join a pub crawl
Day trips from Medellin:
- Guatape and El Penol Rock
- Pablo Escobar Hacienda Tour
- Paragliding over Colombian Andes
- ATV quad tour
- Zipline and waterfall tour
Where to stay in Medellin:
- Affordable: Gaston Coliving or Key West Hostel
- Mid-range: Hotel Bolivariana Plaza or 61Prado Hotel
- Luxury: Landmark Hotel or Hotel Dann Carlton
Cali for 3 days
Cali is a great city to spend some time with nature like hiking and exploring coffee and sugarcane farms. This is also a great place to learn more about Latin culture, especially Salsa dance – which was born in this city. This is also a great place to simply just relax, maybe do some souvenir shopping before you head home.
Must-see attractions in Cali:
- Capilla La Ermita
- River tubing San Cipriano
- Learn Salsa Dance
- Join a Cali City tour
- El Cristo Rey statue
- Valle del Cauca Hacienda and Sugar Cane tour
- Parque Nacional Natural Farallones de Cali
- Explore the Jungle near Cali
- Plaza de Cayzedo
- Food and market tour
Where to stay in Cali:
- Affordable: Hostal La Mercedes or Hava Hostel
- Mid-range: Hotel Quinta Norte Chipichape or Park V
- Luxury: Alko Hotel Casa Nispero or Hotel Intercontinental
MUST-TRY FOOD AND DRINKS IN COLOMBIA
When you create your 3 weeks in Colombia itinerary, you have to make sure to list must-try local food and drinks.
Limonada de Coco (Coconut Limeade)
This is absolutely my favourite drink ever! Every time I go out for lunch or dinner, this is what I order. You can find it in almost any restaurant. It’s like Pina Colada without the alcohol and a twist of lime.
Bandeja Paisa (Antioquian Tray)
A very Colombian dish that you must try during your 3 weeks in Colombia. It’s kind of like English breakfast, the dish includes, egg, beans, sausage, rice, avocado, arepa, chicharron, plantain, and fried pork. Sometimes there are other means that are included as well like ground beef.
Arepa de Chocolo (Sweet Corn Arepa)
Arepas are like bread but it’s made of dried corn and pilon. It is heavy and dry in texture – it is a staple in Colombian meals. In this dish, the area is cooked like a pancake, on one side, it has a Colombian cheese called quesito. Then the area will be folded in half. It should be enjoyed with a warm drink and usually eaten for breakfast.
You are not leaving Colombia without trying out empanadas. The dough is made of flour, then any meat can be added inside. The dough then is folded and deep-fried. Today, you can even find vegan or vegetarian empanadas. This food is sold almost everywhere in Colombia.
SUMMARY OF 3-WEEKS IN COLOMBIA
Going on holiday for 3 weeks in Colombia will be a great trip. You can enjoy the Caribbean Sea, visit coffee farms, learn about its history, and who knows, maybe learn to dance Salsa.
One last thing you should remember, write your itinerary in advance. It doesn’t have to be too detailed, just enough information to make sure you are not bookings things too close to one another and ending up rushing through your trip instead of enjoying a relaxing vacation.
I really hope that you found this 3 weeks in Colombia itinerary helpful. If there are other places you visited that are “must-see” but we forgot to add them here, let us know in the comment section below.