Colombia was honestly a place that was never on my radar, but it ended up being my second country in South America. A friend of mine showed me photos of her recent trip, and I was so impressed, almost jealous. After that, I decided that 3 weeks in Colombia for my quarterly trip sounded about right.
Most part of Colombia sits on the Andes Mountain range. This makes travelling by land time-consuming. On the other hand, there are airports in major cities, which makes getting around a bit easier. It costs more, but a lot faster.
In this article, I will walk you through my favourite places I’ve explored in Colombia. From mountains, cities, beaches, lots of historical sites, and of course, a coffee-tasting tour. At the end of this article, you will have some ideas on how to spend your next vacation in Colombia.
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 the 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 itineraries
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. I was in Colombia in September, and it was perfect for me. Not too many people, and the weather was simply great.
- Peak Season: December to March is considered the peak tourist season, characterized by dry weather and clear skies. This period is ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the beaches, but expect higher prices and crowded tourist spots.
- Shoulder Season: April to June and September to November are considered shoulder seasons. During these months, the weather is generally mild, and you’ll find fewer crowds and moderate prices.
- Rainy Season: May to August and October to November are the wet months. While the rain may hamper some outdoor activities, the landscapes are at their lushest, and it’s an excellent time for budget travellers as prices are lower.
Travel visa for 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. Foreign 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.
Are 3 weeks enough for Colombia
Yes, 20 days in Colombia will allow you to see 3-4 cities depending on your chosen transportation. If it’s your first time here, make sure to visit Bogota, Medellin/Guatape, Cartagena/Barranquilla, and Cali.
It will make your trip more comfortable if you take domestic flights than the bus if it’s within your budget. Cramming too many cities or sites in your itinerary could result in you spending too much time in airports and transportation terminals.
During my trip to Colombia, I planned around $60 per day, which covers accommodation, transportation, domestic flights, tours, and food. I ended up spending around $50 with a mixture of staying in private room hotels and also dorm rooms.
A $1,000 budget for 3 weeks in Colombia is a great price range. You can enjoy a private room and some decent meals. But if you’re a backpacker, it’s definitely possible to do it at $800. While for luxury travellers, $2,500 is a comfortable budget.
- Affordable/Backpacker: Expect to spend around $50-$60 per day on accommodations, food, and local transportation. Total cost for 3 weeks could be around 1,000 to $1,200.
- Mid-Range: A more comfortable experience could cost between $80-$120 per day, covering better hotels, dining, and activities. Total for 3 weeks would be around $1,600 to $2,400.
- Luxury: For a lavish vacation with top-notch accommodations, fine dining, and private tours, plan on spending upwards of $300 per day. The total for 3 weeks could exceed $6,000.
These numbers don’t cover your flight getting to Colombia and out. The same goes for travel insurance that I highly recommend you get.
Getting around Colombia
Moving around Colombia is fairly easy. Although most of the country sits 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, flight tickets can be affordable and save you more time.
While moving within the city, you will have traditional taxis operating. Besides that, Bogota has a tram and buses. Medellin has a metro train, tram, and cable car, and 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).
- Most Affordable Option: Buses are the cheapest way to travel between cities and within urban areas. They are widely available but can be slow due to frequent stops and varying road conditions.
- Fastest Option: Domestic flights are the quickest way to cover long distances, especially between major cities like Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena. While faster, they are also more expensive than other options.
Booking a package tour removes so much stress. You don’t need to think about how to get from city to city, which hotel to book, what activities to do, and so much more. A travel company will do everything for you. Just make sure to land in Colombia in time!
Let’s say you have 20 days in Colombia. You can go with a 14-day tour, then use the remaining 6 days to explore on your own or book an entire 20-day tour. Here are some package tours you can book for Colombia:
Language and currency
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.
The currency in Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP). While some tourist-focused businesses may accept USD, it’s generally better to use Pesos for local transactions.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in cities and tourist areas, but it’s advisable to carry some cash for smaller vendors, rural areas, and public transportation. Overall, a mix of card and cash is recommended for convenience and flexibility.
Safety in Colombia
Today, Colombia might still carry its dark past that questions tourists about their safety. Personally, I wouldn’t say that Colombia is super safe, but I also wouldn’t say that it’s 100% unsafe. It’s a destination that requires you to always be vigilant while in public places.
I don’t recommend you stay out too late with a plan of getting too drunk or using drugs. If going out, go in groups and visit only places your hotel recommends. If it’s your first time travelling or travelling alone, take a look at these travel tips on staying safe.
Other travel tips
When you’re ready to arrange your bookings, check out these travel sites. I personally love using them because I can cancel hotels, tours, or transportation for free or for a small fee:
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 sample of how to spend 20 days in Colombia and how many days you should spend in each of them:
- Day 1: Arrive in Bogota, arrange an airport to hotel transfer, and get a local sim card or cash.
- Day 2 to 4: Explore Bogota.
- Day 5: Travel from Bogota to Cartagena/Barranquilla.
- Day 5 to 7: Enjoy Cartagena (or Barranquilla if that’s your next destination).
- Day 7: Get to Cartagena from Barranquilla (or vice versa).
- Day 7 to 10: Discover Cartagena (or Barranquilla).
- Day 11: Transfer from Cartagena (or Barranquilla) to Medellin.
- Day 12 to 16: Travel around Medellin.
- Day 17: Get to Cali from Medellin.
- Day 18 to 20: Enjoy Cali.
- Day 21: Take a flight from Cali to Bogota to catch a flight home.
Bogota for 4 days
Bogota is the capital of Colombia. It is on the Andes Mountain, which gives visitors and locals chilly yet comfortable weather. At the elevation of 2,640 m (8666 ft), some people might need to spend a day or two acclimatizing.
This is a perfect place to start your trip. There are walking tours you can book and lots of activities within and outside the cities to check out.
You should also use your time here preparing the final touches of your trip. This includes booking domestic flights and hotels, getting local currency, and buying a local simcard with a data.
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.
Bogota to Barranquilla:
- By Air: The quickest option is to fly. Barranquilla has an international airport (Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport) and the flight from Bogotá usually takes around 1 hour 30 minutes. Airlines like Avianca and Viva Air operate this route.
- By Bus: Taking a bus is more economical but will take around 18-22 hours. Various bus companies offer services to Barranquilla from Bogota.
- By Car: If you’re driving, the distance is about 700 miles (around 1130 km), and the trip could take approximately 16-20 hours depending on road conditions.
Bogota to Cartagena:
- By Air: Flying is the fastest method, with several daily flights that take about 1 hour 30 minutes. Cartagena’s Rafael Nunez International Airport serves flights from Bogotá operated by airlines like Avianca, Viva Air, and LATAM.
- By Bus: A bus journey can take approximately 20-24 hours. Several bus companies provide service between the two cities.
- By Car: The distance between Bogota and Cartagena is approximately 660 miles (1060 km). The trip can take around 15-19 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.
There’s no direct train service to Barranquilla or Cartagena from Bogotá. Choose the option that best fits your budget and timing requirements.
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. Now, Medellin city and its locals have 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 within walking distance.
Barranquilla to Medellin:
- By Air: This is the quickest option, taking around 1 hour. The Jose Maria Ccrdova International Airport in Medellin has flights from Barranquilla’s Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport. Airlines like Avianca and Viva Air operate on this route.
- By Bus: A more economical but lengthy option, taking around 14-16 hours. Several bus companies run this route.
- By Car: If driving, the journey is approximately 600 miles (about 970 km) and could take around 14-16 hours, depending on road conditions.
Cartagena to Medellin:
- By Air: A flight from Cartagena’s Rafael Nunez International Airport to Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova International Airport takes around 1 hour. Airlines like Avianca and Viva Air serve this route.
- By Bus: Buses also operate between Cartagena and Medellin, with a journey time of approximately 12-14 hours.
- By Car: The distance is roughly 400 miles (about 650 km), and it usually takes around 12-14 hours to drive.
These options provide a range of price points and travel times so you can select what best fits your needs. There’s no direct train service for these routes.
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 with 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.
It is renowned as the “Salsa Capital of the World,” celebrated for its vibrant dance culture, lively festivals, and rich Afro-Colombian heritage. Don’t forget to sign up for a class during your visit.
This is also a great place to simply just relax and maybe do some souvenir shopping before you head home. This is an awesome place to end your 3 weeks in Colombia trip.
Medellin to Cali:
- By Air: The quickest way is to fly. Alfonso Bonilla Aragon International Airport in Cali has regular flights from Medellín’s José María Córdova International Airport or Olaya Herrera Airport. The flight takes about 1 hour, and airlines like Avianca and Viva Air often operate this route.
- By Bus: Another option is taking a long-distance bus, which usually takes around 8-10 hours. Several bus companies, such as Expreso Palmira and Bolivariano, run services between the two cities.
- By Car: If you prefer to drive, the journey covers a distance of approximately 260 miles (around 420 km) and can take roughly 8-10 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.
- Private Transfer or Taxi: More expensive but convenient, especially if you’re traveling with family or lots of luggage.
Choose the method that best suits your schedule and budget. There is no direct train service between Medellín and Cali.
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 is then 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 maybe learn to dance Salsa.
One last thing you should remember is to write your itinerary in advance. It doesn’t have to be too detailed, just enough information to make sure you are not booking 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.