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
Articles on Colombia
5 of Colombia’s most beautiful places
Posted on Thu, 17 Apr 2014 by Taz Liffman
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
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:
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:
At a glance
- Trips Available:
- Capital city:
- Bogota (population 7.2 million)
- 44.7 million
- Time zone:
- (GMT-05:00) Bogota, Lima, Quito, Rio Branco
- Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) Type B (American 3-pin)
- Dialing code:
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.
Culture and customs
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
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
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
History and government
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.
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 10 Must-See Cities of Colombia
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Beer = 2,000 COP
Simple meal in a local restaurant = 6,000 COP
Meal in an international restaurant = 15,000-20,000 COP
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
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
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 New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
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.
|One Hundred Years of Solitude||Gabriel Garcia Marquez|
|Beyond Bogota: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia||Garry Leech|
|The Armies||Evelio Rosero|
|The Dispossessed: Chronicles of the Desterrados of Colombia||Alfredo Molano and Aviva Chomsky|
|Twice Colombia: Adventure, Friendship and Adoption in the Andes Mountains||Patricia L Woodard|