Colombia

Gifted with tropical rainforests, romantic towns, magical beaches and colourful cities brimming with culture, Colombia could just be South America’s best-kept secret! Whether you’re seeking adventure sports, flamboyant fiestas, architectural wonders or wildlife encounters - charismatic Colombia is calling.

Colombia Tours & Travel

All our Colombia trips

ecuador otavalo knitting

Quito to Cartagena

19 days from
USD $1,790.00*
CAD $1,851.51*
AUD $1,761.70*
EUR €1,366.84*
GBP £1,134.63*
NZD $2,247.15*
ZAR R17,265.38*
CHF FR1,624.54*

Take an exciting overland trip through Colombia. Travel from Quito to Cartagena, visiting Los Nevados NP, Cali,...

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colombia tayrona natural park beach ocean palm trees waves

Cafe Colombia

8 days from
USD $1,560.00
CAD $1,585.00
AUD $1,645.00
EUR €1,145.00
GBP £985.00
NZD $1,950.00
ZAR R14,965.00
CHF FR1,395.00

Get to know Colombia on a coffee-scented adventure that will take you through the country's picturesque highlands.

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Colourful buildings, Cartagena

Complete Colombia

15 days from
USD $2,495.00
CAD $2,550.00
AUD $2,650.00
EUR €1,840.00
GBP £1,585.00
NZD $3,140.00
ZAR R24,100.00
CHF FR2,270.00

Visit South America and travel to Colombia. Explore Bogota and Medellin, tour Santa Marta and the Tayrona National Park...

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colombia tayrona natural park beach ocean palm trees waves

Colonial Colombia

9 days from
USD $1,395.00
CAD $1,395.00
AUD $1,470.00
EUR €995.00
GBP £880.00
NZD $1,740.00
ZAR R13,375.00
CHF FR1,260.00

Travel to Colombia and visit Bogota, touring the delights of Santa Marta, Tayrona National Park and Cartagena.

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Couple busking, Ecuador

Cartagena to Quito

19 days from
USD $1,790.00*
CAD $1,851.51*
AUD $1,761.70*
EUR €1,366.84*
GBP £1,134.63*
NZD $2,247.15*
ZAR R17,265.38*
CHF FR1,624.54*

Take an exciting overland trip through Colombia. Travel from Cartagena to Quito visiting Tayrona NP, Tolu, Medellin,...

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Bright Salt Flats of Laguna Verde, Bolivia

Cartagena to Lima

38 days from
USD $3,525.00*
CAD $3,645.73*
AUD $3,491.05*
EUR €2,690.98*
GBP £2,238.75*
NZD $4,436.55*
ZAR R34,038.20*
CHF FR3,207.84*

Embark on the ultimate holiday in South America. Travel Overland from Cartagena in Colombia to La Paz in Bolivia, and...

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Bird in Patagonia, Argentina

Cartagena to Ushuaia

101 days from
USD $9,990.00*
CAD $10,413.46*
AUD $9,943.70*
EUR €7,505.43*
GBP £6,362.50*
NZD $12,167.63*
ZAR R98,669.92*
CHF FR8,898.76*

Travel the length of the Americas, from the North through Central to the very tip of the South. From Anchorage to...

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Beach, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Anchorage to Ushuaia

207 days from
USD $14,465.00
CAD $14,770.00
AUD $13,570.00
EUR €11,015.00
GBP £9,020.00
NZD $17,870.00
ZAR R137,205.00
CHF FR12,925.00

Travel the length of the Americas from North through Central and to the very tip of the South. From Anchorage to...

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colombia tayrona natural park beach ocean palm trees waves

Bella Colombia

9 days from
USD $2,845.00
CAD $2,885.00
AUD $2,995.00
EUR €2,085.00
GBP £1,790.00
NZD $3,550.00
ZAR R27,260.00
CHF FR2,570.00

Visit South America and travel to Colombia. Visit Bogota and Medellin, tour Santa Marta and the Tayrona National Park,...

View trip details

Colombia trip reviews

Our Colombia trips score an average of 4.58 out of 5 based on 24 reviews in the last year.

Cafe Colombia, May 2014

Colonial Colombia, May 2014

Articles on Colombia

5 of Colombia’s most beautiful places

5 of Colombia’s most beautiful places

Posted on Thu, 17 Apr 2014 by Jacqueline Donaldson

Travel to Colombia and you’re sure to come back talking of the country’s stupendous beauty. It’s the only South American nation with access to both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, contains [...]

Read more
dare to discover colombia

dare to discover colombia

Posted on Wed, 13 Jul 2011 by Sue Elliot

Cassie Harrex took the road less travelled to through Colombia and discovered one of South America's best-kept secrets...

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many facets to bogota fun

many facets to bogota fun

Posted on Fri, 31 Dec 2010 by Sue Elliot

Marc Voordeckers was in Colombia to see in the New Year and it turned out to be a jewel of a night...

Read more

Transport

Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there. Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun!

Depending on which trip you're on while in Colombia, you may find yourself travelling by:

Accommodation

Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.

When travelling with us in Colombia you may find yourself staying in a:

About Colombia

At a glance

Trips Available: 9
Capital city: Bogota (population 7.2 million)
Population: 44.7 million
Language: Spanish
Currency: COP
Time zone: (GMT-05:00) Bogota, Lima, Quito, Rio Branco
Electricity: Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) Type B (American 3-pin)
Dialing code: +57

Best time to visit Colombia

There is always a good time to visit Colombia, as the seasons vary throughout the country. While the climate generally remains constant throughout the year, the temperature can change depending on where you are. In the far north, the climate is usually tropical, warm and humid; while central Colombia can get quite cool - Bogota is known for its mild temperatures, particularly at night.

The wet season is roughly from March to May and September to November, although this varies around the country. December to March is the peak travel period due to the dry conditions and holidays and festivals that proliferate across the country. During this time, expect more sunshine, but also more people competing for space in the cities and tourist regions.

Colombia weather chart

Culture and customs

Local artisan selling Jewellery in Cartagena, Colombia
Colombian culture tends to revolve around the Four F’s: Festivals, Food, Fun and Family. While this bold and beautiful nation loves to party, it’s also a very traditional, family-centred society, with many Colombians choosing to live near their families and remain at home until marriage. With most Colombians being Catholic, religion plays an important part in daily life, and visitors will be able to see this themselves while travelling through Colombia. Hundreds of churches and cathedrals populate the large cities, while smaller chapels are dotted throughout the villages and rural areas. Religious festivals like Easter and Christmas are celebrated with gusto – after quiet times of reverence come the massive street parties, parades and feasts. A variety of cultural influences collide at these events - Spanish, African and Caribbean customs and traditions have been brought to Colombia over the centuries and shaped its vibrant culture.

The hallmarks and customs of daily life vary from region to region, with Bogota’s upwardly mobile citizens enjoying bars, driving cars and having access to a wide range of technology, cuisine and media. Colombia’s rural-dwellers (subsistence farmers, plantation workers and tribal groups) live a more simple existence in rustic housing and without traffic or the stresses of modern life. What unifies most Colombians though, regardless of living conditions or class, is a fierce love of Colombia, respect for God and loyalty to the family unit.

Eating and drinking

Bananas

Intrepid believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.

Colombia has rich culinary traditions, quality fresh produce and loads of cosmopolitan bars, cafes, food stands and restaurants to visit.

Things to try in Colombia

1. Arepas

These popular thick corn tortillas can be found almost everywhere in Colombia. Baked or fried, with beef, cheese, pork, chicken or beans, they make the perfect breakfast or afternoon snack.

2. Bandeja Paisa

Originating from the Andean region of Colombia, this dish is a staple of most Colombian diets. Consisting of a plate of rice, beans, avocado, fried egg, chorizo and other meats, it’s a filling feast fit for a king!

3. Ajiaco Bogotano

This hearty chicken stew is a Bogota specialty. Packed with succulent chicken meat, corn, potatoes and herbs, it’s a tasty and satisfying budget meal.

4. Tropical Fruit

Colombia is known for having some of the best fresh produce in the world. Bananas and plantains are among the best, and you’ll be able to find street vendors selling them fresh, fried and grilled. Fruit shakes are also widely available and offer travellers a chance to sample some exotic fruits that they may not have tried before.

Geography and environment

Local walking his donkey in Ethiopia
Located in the northwest of South America, Colombia shares borders with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Panama, and is the only South American country to have a coastline on both the Pacific and the Caribbean. Home to a wide variety of natural environments and varying terrain, travellers can expect to see mountains give way to low lying plains and tropical rainforests meet balmy beaches. Add sprawling metropolises, small farming communities, far-reaching plantations, fishing villages and colonial-era towns, and you’ve got an ever-changing landscape at your fingertips.

History and government

Typical colouful buildings in Cartagena, Colombia

Early History

The area now known as Colombia was inhabited by Caribbean and Andean groups who lived in small communities based on organised agriculture. Spanish explorers were drawn to the land and fascinated by the proliferation of gold. The myth of El Dorado soon abounded, and the search for this land of gold soon became an obsession. From the creation of Santa Marta in 1525, colonisation spread rapidly throughout the rest of the country, leading to interest from neighbouring countries that were also keen to exploit Colombia’s natural resources. Many Africans soon started to arrive as a part of the slave trade, and provided a much-needed labour force for the colonisers. Life was tough for the slaves; however, African song, dance and other afro-traditions helped to shape Colombian culture well into the future.

Recent History

Independence from Spain rose to the top of Colombia’s agenda after years of resentment. Simon Bolivar soon became a local hero, fighting for independence from the Spaniards. It took many years but in 1819, Colombia was granted its freedom – Bolivar had fought his way into the minds and hearts of Colombia, where he is still revered. However, this spirit of freedom was short lived as Colombia descended into confrontation and civil war in the following years. Colombia seemed to be at the mercy of political opponents and guerrilla groups, weaving between periods of peace and extreme violence. By the 1970s, Colombia had a new wave of criminal activity stemming from the lucrative cocaine trade. Pablo Escobar became one of the world’s most notorious (and wealthy) criminals by controlling most of the world’s drug trade. Colombia became a dangerous place to live (and travel in) during this period, yet has recently emerged victorious from these dark days. With vastly improved national security and a growing economy based on agriculture, textiles and mineral mining, Colombia is welcoming back tourists with open arms.

Top Picks

Streets of Cartagena, Colombia Fasilides Castle, Gondar

Top 10 Must-See Cities of Colombia

1. Medellin

What makes Medellin so magnificent? Once considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Medellin’s temperate weather, hospitable locals, gorgeous gardens and artistic enclaves have prevailed and this cultured city has emerged full of spirit, passion and optimism.

2. Popayan

This vibrant town may have been founded centuries ago, but nowadays Popayan has a youthful spirit due to the local university that attracts thousands of young Colombians to the region. Home to many of Colombia’s most celebrated poets, composers and painters, Popayan also has some of the most stirring Easter celebrations in the world.

3. Cali

Known locally at the ‘Capital of Heaven’, Cali’s museums and public art may dazzle you, but it’s the up and coming food and party scene that’s getting loads of attention. With modern restaurants serving international cuisine, local eateries offering traditional fare, lively salsa bars open until dawn and a fair worth travelling for in late December, Cali shouldn’t be missed!

4. Barichara

Less of a city and more of a colonial town, the faded charm of rustic Barichara has been endearing travellers for centuries. Coloured, whitewashed buildings with carved wooden doors and red roofs, quaint little churches and hilly streets make Barichara the perfect place to linger for a few days of quiet downtime.

5. Bogota

Colombia’s sprawling capital is a frenetic fusion of old and new, with skyscrapers towering over colonial buildings, wild traffic giving way to peaceful parks and cobblestone streets leading to bohemian night spots. With so much going on, you’ll be exhausted trying keep up with Bogota’s pace.

6. Tunja

Lofty Tunja’s historic architecture, spiritual sites and lively festivals make it an interesting destination for travellers from all walks of life. Whether you’re interested in magnificent art, colonial-era architecture or cultural enlightenment, Tunja delivers on all accounts.

7. Cartagena

Surrounded by walls built to guard against pirates, Cartagena captivates travellers with colonial mansions, cobbled streets, Spanish-style houses and brightly coloured buildings. History seems to drip from every street corner, especially when Cartagena takes on a golden glow by night.

8. Pamplona

Although one of Colombia’s less-visited spots, cultured Pamplona is well worth checking out. With a wealth of museums, galleries and churches nestled within its narrow streets and rousing Holy Week celebrations, Pamplona offers a peak into Colombian traditions and daily life.

9. Santa Marta

Seaside Santa Marta attracts flocks of tourists chasing sunshine, scuba diving and seafood. With beautiful beaches, atmospheric bars, chilled-out open-air cafes and heritage sites, Santa Marta should feature on every travellers list.

10. San Gil

This small city is emerging as one of Colombia’s hottest new destinations, mainly due to the plethora of adventure sports on offer in the surrounding areas. Test your limits with paragliding, caving, rafting and kayaking, and then relax in the pleasant botanical gardens and cafes of sunny San Gil.

Shopping

Coffee beans

Travellers might visit Colombia for the adrenalin sports, nature reserves and beaches, however retail therapy should also be included in that list, as Colombia’s shopping is surprisingly sensational.

It’s a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.

Things to buy in Colombia

1. Jewellery, Art & Handicrafts

Some of the best artisans in South America live in Colombia. Choose from handcrafted gold jewellery, bright textile bags and scarves, and vibrant contemporary art available in galleries, markets and boutiques all over the country.

2. Fashion & Accessories

Colombia’s more cosmopolitan cities have enough fashion-forward boutiques and malls to keep most clothes-hounds happy. Medellin in particular is well known for being Colombia’s fashion capital, and is a true hotspot in the Latin American fashion world.

3. Coffee Beans

As one of the world’s largest producers of coffee beans, Colombia is a great place to pick up top quality beans at lower prices than back at home. Buying straight from the coffee regions ensures quality and freshness.

Festivals and Events in Colombia

Carnival of Barranquilla

With a slogan like “Who lives it, is who enjoys it”, Barranquilla’s Carnival is not one for the shrinking violets! One of the biggest and boldest carnivals in the world, travellers should relish the chance to get involved in this rich cultural celebration full of absurd costumes, frenetic dance, masked entertainers, deafening music and intense partying.

Cali Fair

Colombia’s capital of salsa springs to life late in the year with this happy celebration. Although salsa dance and music are the hallmarks of this fair, there’s also horseback riding, parades, concerts and feasts of traditional food to be enjoyed during this joyful celebration.

Medellin Flower Fair

See magical Medellin in full bloom every August, when this enchanting city’s balconies, gardens, terraces and courtyards burst into a symphony of floral wonders. With live music, classic cars, beauty pageants, dog shows, afro-inspired dance and flower exhibitions all competing for attention during this traditional festival, this is Medellin at its very best.

FAQs on Colombia

While tipping isn’t mandatory, it's advisable to tip restaurant and hotel staff since many Colombians receive low wages. Any extra income will be welcomed.
Internet access is easily found in Colombia’s large cities and metropolitan areas, but less so in more remote areas.
Mobile phone coverage is good in Colombia, especially in large cities. Coverage may not be available in more remote areas, especially if travelling in mountainous regions. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your mobile carrier before you leave home if you wish to use your mobile while in Colombia.
Sit-down, flushable toilets are the standard in Colombia, although toilet paper and soap may not be provided, so be sure to carry your own. Public toilets are quite rare so don’t expect to find many, except at the airport or in museums or malls.
Soft drink = 1,500 COP
Beer = 2,000 COP
Simple meal in a local restaurant = 6,000 COP
Meal in an international restaurant = 15,000-20,000 COP
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Colombia. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water. It's also advisable to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
Major credit cards are widely accepted in tourist shopping areas and large hotels, but are less commonly accepted by smaller vendors, in remote towns and rural areas. Make sure you carry enough cash for purchases, since credit cards aren't always an option in Colombia.
ATMS are common in large cities like Bogota and Medellin, and are found in and near shopping centres, tourist areas and hotels. ATMs are less common in rural areas and smaller towns, so you're advised to prepare for this by having enough cash before travelling out of the city.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1 New Year’s Day
Jan 6 Epiphany
Mar 25 St Joseph’s Day
Mar 28 Maundy Thursday
Nar 29 Good Friday
May 1 Labour Day
May 9 Ascension
May 30 Corpus Christi
Jun 10 Sagrado Corazon
Jul 1 St Peter & St Paul
Jul 20 Independence Day
Aug 7 Battle of Boyaca
Aug 15 Assumption
Oct 12 Columbus Day
Nov 1 All Saints’ Day
Nov 11 Independence of Cartagena City
Dec 8 Immaculate Conception
Dec 25 Christmas Day

Please note these dates are for 2013. Some of these holidays are celebrated regionally only. Where a holiday falls on the weekend, the following Monday is granted as a public holiday.

For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/Colombia/public-holidays
COLOMBIA:
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Not required
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
United States: Not required

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Colombia Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Colombia

1. Be considerate of Colombia’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.

3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

4. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

5. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.

6. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.

7. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

8. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

9. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
One Hundred Years of SolitudeGabriel Garcia Marquez
Beyond Bogota: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia Garry Leech
The ArmiesEvelio Rosero
The Dispossessed: Chronicles of the Desterrados of ColombiaAlfredo Molano and Aviva Chomsky
Twice Colombia: Adventure, Friendship and Adoption in the Andes MountainsPatricia L Woodard