Life is full of memories, and the ones that are made in Colombia have a suffused light to them. Wherever you wander in the country, the bright smiles of its people, and the bright facades of its towns, and the bright light of its nature, will cast a spell on you that you won’t be able to shake off anytime soon. If you’re a first timer in Colombia, you can use this itinerary for 2 or 3 weeks of discoveries and fascination; two or three weeks to catch the 1st notes of a lifelong melody; 14 or 21 days to fall in love with Colombia.
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Is 2 weeks in Colombia enough?
The answer is: Certainly not.
No, but it will give you the beginning of the dawn of a vague idea already. Just some tasty antipasto to get you hooked to the buffet and book your next flight before you’ve even left.
The most annoying in a trip of only 14 days in Colombia will be the travel times. The country is wide, you see; add to this the less-than-optimal state of the roads and be ready to spend hours sitting on a bus. It’s especially long to reach the Caribbean coast – you’ll have to travel by night.
The following 2 week Colombia itinerary has been cunningly crafted with these travel times in mind.
Colombia itinerary 2 weeks
We humbly propose this route for you to discover the highlights and make the best of your holiday, as a couple or solo backpacking Colombia on a shoestring.
Of course, other routes are possible, maybe some that involve less travel distances. But we reckon that these places will give you a good image of what Colombia is, and tickle your interest to come back for more.
|Days 4-5||Coffee region:|
|Day 12||Santa Marta:|
|Days 13-14||Tayrona Park:|
Choose your favourite beach with our guide to the best beaches in Colombia
How to spend two weeks in Colombia?
Certainly enjoying the liveliness of the Colombians, and their wish to give you a good image of their country. They’ve suffered so much in the past, through a civil war between the guerrillas, the corrupt government and the drug lords; now that the conflict is officially over, they want the world to feel welcome here.
They will be two weeks spent enjoying also the variety of the landscapes and settings; from vibrant metropolises to charming colonial towns and mountain villages; from high forests to sandy Colombian beaches and back to the thick jungle.
There’s something for everyone in our Colombia travel itinerary: street art, museums, salsa, beach, adventure, history, hikes, and even coffee. We’re throwing everything together here, feel free to sort out what’s best for you.
One thing we want to tell you though: Stay alert at all times. Safety precautions are extra important when visiting Colombia. Uber important, even. Or whatever is above ‘uber‘, nowadays. So keep your wits about you, don’t wander off to deserted places and don’t flash your valuables.
2 weeks in Colombia itinerary
We take for granted that you fly to Colombia and land in Bogotá’s international airport. If that’s not the case, it’s possible to adapt this itinerary of 2 weeks in Colombia; maybe even lengthen it for 2.5 weeks in Colombia.
3 days in Bogotá
Bogotá is a big, dirty and chaotic megalopolis, and we honestly didn’t like it much. Yet, there’s a few must-see attractions in and around the capital that are worth a couple of days backpacking Bogotá.
The fame of the graffiti tour in the Candelaria district is well deserved. The guides are passionate about their city and know their stuff well; you’ll learn loads about the street artworks, the urban artists and the motives behind each piece. The neighbourhood itself has a trendy vibe and will have you coming back for a coffee or a craft beer.
There are a few mightily interesting museums in Bogotá, a great escape from the urban tumult:
- the Botero museum is probably our favourite; firstly because Fernando Botero’s paintings are really super cool, and secondly because the museum is super free.
- the gold museum, with an extensive collection of gold artefacts from pre-Columbian times (the famous pre-Columbian Colombia). The exhibition is perfectly structured but very long; be warned.
- the national museum gathers paintings and sculptures of all eras, but also many objects showcasing the history of Colombia and the variety of its landscapes, fauna and flora.
Don’t miss a night out in one of the salsa bars in the centre. Actually, all the places to visit in Bogotá are in the centre and in nearby Candelaria.
If you have time left, we heartily recommend a day-trip to the underground salt cathedral in Zipaquirá. That’s a cosy town 2h away by bus. So what’s an underground salt cathedral, you’re asking. It’s very simply a cathedral that’s been carved inside an underground salt mine, some 200 metres (220 yd) under the earth. Pretty unique, if you ask me. More info on the official website, also available in terrible English.
2 days in the Coffee Triangle
The Coffee Axis –one of Colombia’s regions where coffee is heavily produced– lies 270 km (168 mi) west of Bogotá. It’s an 8-hour ride by bus so you might as well travel by night. The major towns are Armenia and Pereira; but you’d have a cosier and more central stay in the small town of Salento.
The “zona cafetera” really is a gorgeous landscape of taaaall palm trees and coffee trees all around, at low altitudes. The prettiest part is the Cocora Valley, which is very close to Salento. It offers a loop hike in a protected area, with wooden suspension bridges that made me feel like Indiana Jones.
Not only is it possible to visit one of the many coffee farms in the area, it’s also warmly recommended. A coffee guided tour will teach you the ropes behind your cup of brew. It also shows the daily reality of Colombian coffee producers. We swear you won’t drink your morning coffee in the same way after that!
Read more: our visit of a Colombian coffee farm
Another highlight of the region is the colourful villages, some of them listed as the prettiest in Colombia. Salento is one of them, but also Filandia and Circasia.
3 days in Medellín
Medellín ranks in our top 3 of the best cities to visit in Colombia. The bus ride from Pereira to Medellín takes between 5 and 6 hours. There are 2 bus stations in the city, and they’re very far from each other; so check where your accommodation is beforehand.
The most famous Medellín attraction is a guided tour of the Comuna 13. The former realm of drug lord Pablo Escobar is now covered with street art and attracts many tourists each day. We recommend you don’t take a simple graffiti tour, but rather a social tour; you’ll understand better what the locals have gone through, how they turned things around and how they live nowadays. Veci Tours offer great explanations for a mere donation.
To learn about Colombia and how Medellín went from the world’s most violent city to the most progressive in the country, you should really spend time in the (free!) House of Memory Museum. It’s really the best place to understand both the past and the future of Colombia.
Read our guide for more things to see in Medellín
If you have time, hop on a morning bus leaving from the Northern bus station for a day trip to Guatapé. This village is among the most colourful in the country and has a charming slow-paced life. Nearby is the “Peñol de Guatapé“, a huuuge rock that grants views on the surrounding artificial lake.
2 days in Cartagena
A bus ride from Medellín to Cartagena takes at least 12 hours – that’s a bit rough, we know. If you’re not keen on sleeping on a bus seat with the air-con (probably) at full blast, we understand. You may consider taking the plane, which lasts only 1 hour. But please think twice whether your comfort for one night justifies the environmental impact…
The main attraction of Cartagena is its historic centre; cobblestone streets, leafy old town squares, colourful colonial facades and flowery balconies are a perfectly romantic setting. You’ll love wandering aimlessly and stopping every few metres (or feet) to admire the architecture. Street sellers can be a bit of a pain but they’re friendly and talkative.
Have a walk along the old city walls overlooking the sea, and maybe a look at the old Spanish castle. Please don’t wander too far from the town centre, some neighbourhoods are really risky.
The district of Getsemani is the hype area of the walled city, full of hostels, bars and restaurants. Across Parque Centenario, Plaza de los Coches is full of touristic dancing bars but we preferred grabbing a cold beer and mixing with the outdoors crowd.
Read more on Wayfaring Views to plan your Cartagena itinerary
Cartagena counts a few city beaches; but for nicer and quieter spots, head out of town to Barú and Playa Blanca.
If you’re craving a bit of beach time without the adventure, skip the rest of this 2 week itinerary for Colombia and take a boat to the Rosario Islands. This cluster of small islands are part of a National Park. It’s a perfect place to do scuba diving or snorkelling and admire the corals, enjoying the Caribbean sun. Unfortunately, visitors complain nowadays of a growing amount of trash – so please take your rubbish away with you!
1 day in Santa Marta
Once you’re satisfied with backpacking Cartagena, the bus to Santa Marta takes only 4 to 5 hours and goes along a narrow stretch between the sea and the wetland. It already looks cool on the map, and only for that it’s worth the ride!
Santa Marta itself isn’t particularly attractive, although it has its own local charm. We kinda liked its unpretentious vibe and its rough seaside with crowded beaches and drug dealers. I realise I might not be selling it well here…
Anyway, whatever you think of it, it serves as a base for all those who go to the Lost City trek, to the jungle town of Minca, or to the Tayrona National Park. With all this, the region really offers among the best hikes in Colombia.
You’ll spend that one day travelling, buying food and planning your stay in the Park. In the evening, enjoy a stroll on the seaside (avoiding –or not– the dealers) and a beer in fancy downtown.
Start planning: How to take the bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta
2 days in Tayrona National Park
The Parque Nacional Tayrona is a fragment of Caribbean paradise on the coast of Colombia. Imagine a dozen sandy beaches tucked between the turquoise waves and the humid rain forest.
Sure, it attracts a substantial number of visitors; the entrance fee isn’t to laugh at either. But strangely enough, most people amass onto the same beaches, leaving stunning spots completely empty. As an insider’s tip: pass through Cabo San Juan and enjoy quieter spots only 10 minutes further. You’ll understand when you’re there *wink*wink*.
The rough beauty of the place will fascinate you. Many people visit Parque Tayrona on a single day but that’s a mistake. You should spend at least 1 night there, if only to enjoy the sunset and a night in the jungle.
Plan your stay like a pro with our Guide to Tayrona Park
Then finish off your Colombia loop with a snug 14-hour night bus to Bogotá or a 1,5 hour by plane.
Colombia itinerary 3 weeks
This itinerary follows mainly the 2-week one we just detailed. We’re adding a few places to visit in some locations, plus a couple of new destinations.
We know that it’s an ambitious journey for only three weeks in Colombia, and it might be too many destinations. But if you travel by night and make the most of your days, you’ll be able to see it all. Feel free to adapt it to your own pace though; no need to rush, that would ruin your trip.
|Days 7-8||Coffee region:|
|Days 13-14||San Bernardo Islands:|
|Days 17-18||Santa Marta/Minca:|
|Days 19-21||Tayrona Park:|
3 weeks in Colombia itinerary
4 days in Bogotá
Besides what we said earlier, you might want to spend more time soaking in the chaotic mess of Colombia’s capital. Check online for events, possibly free, for example on this DIY-looking website.
A beautiful surprise to us was the waterfall of Tequendama. We were heading to Zipaquirá and got on the wrong bus, to Soacha, at the exact opposite. Once there, we didn’t despair: a short bus ride along the river brought us to that beautiful waterfall.
2 days in Cali
Cali is a strange city that looks like a patchwork. The centre is raw, very popular and perfect to get the market feel. The north is a chic shopping and eating out area. Some parts of the south and east are downright risky and should be avoided. The whole western part is trendy and full of bars and restaurants.
We dare say you’ll spend most of your time in the latter, where many hostels are gathered anyway. The San Antonio district, with a large park atop a hill, is a very attractive barrio to stroll in and stop for a fancy coffee mojito. Don’t miss also the Loma de la Cruz, with its outdoor craft market and small amphitheatre for informal events.
Cali is the sports city par excellence. The residents’ favourite activity is to run (or walk, or pant) up the “3 Cruces” hill several times a week. Another great viewpoint is from the Cristo Rey hill, a 2-hour walk from the city centre.
Finally, the city is known throughout Colombia for …salsa! Learn about its most cherished salsa child in the (free) Salsa museum on Jairo Varela square. If you’re rather a doer, shake your hips at one of the joints along Calle 5 (risky area at night).
2 days in the Coffee Triangle
See the 2-week itinerary.
1 day in Jardín and Jericó
These 2 very typical villages of the Antioquia region are sure to bring you back in time. The colourful old-time squares and facades could be the setting for some Colombian Western movie; with the mountains encasing it like a jewel box.
Don’t ask what things there are to do in Jardín and Jericó; it’s rather a life in sepia, the smell of old days passing by at slow pace. Dive into the life of the Paisá people, the hardworking cowboys who inhabited these lands and started growing coffee.
Nowadays, both Jardín and Jericó have come into the travellers’ spotlights and attract a disproportionate number of them. They’re rather similar to Salento, so you may want to skip them if you’ve already eaten your fill. But they stand on you way to Medellín, so check them out if you have time!
3 days in Medellín
See the 2-week itinerary.
2 days on the Islas de San Bernardo
Anybody said ‘beach’? This, ladies and gentlemen, is a little Caribbean paradise. We started dreaming just by looking at photos online!
It’s an archipelago with 2 main islands which sound like the characters of a cartoon: Tintinpán and Múcura. You can get there by boat from Tolú (the cheapest and shortest journey) or Rincón del Mar; either one-way or as a day trip.
For a night ashore, the fanciest location is the Casa en el Agua hotel but there’s also a hostel on Múcura. Now is time to relax …for a bit.
Explore more natural wonders with our selection of National Parks in Colombia.
2 days in Cartagena
See the 2-week itinerary.
2 days in Santa Marta
We’re adding one more day here to offer a beautiful day trip from Santa Marta: the jungle town of Minca. It’s actually a tiny village in the middle of dense forest with natural swimming pools, waterfalls and jungle hike. You’ll find cosy accommodation in case you decide to stay, craft beer bars and even a falafel place.
The road from Santa Marta to Minca takes only 40 minutes and is a curvy mototaxi or minivan ride.
3 days in Tayrona National Park
See the 2-week itinerary.
Alternative: 4 days on the Lost City Trek
This trek through the jungle is one of the most amazing in South America. Mind you, it’s a demanding hike that lasts 4 to 6 days. But the feeling of walking within the rich forest, surrounded by some of the most unique fauna and flora, is worth every effort. At the end of the trail, the moss-covered ruins of an ancient civilisation await. That’s right, just like in the movies!
The hike to the Ciudad Perdida can only be done with an official guide through a tour agency. Check online for planning and for the prices, but prepare a strong budget.
Other things to do in Colombia
Oh, all the things you’re missing! Two or three weeks, like 10 days in Colombia, are certainly not good enough. If you allow more time to this beautiful country, here’s a list of the best places to visit in Colombia. So you can build yet another Colombia itinerary of 1 week or 3 weeks.
- Virgen de Las Lajas church, near Ipiales
- Lake la Cocha, near Pasto
- San Agustín archaeological site
- Tatacoa desert
- Leticia, on the Amazon
- Caño Cristales, the rainbow river
- Villa de Leyva
- San Gil, outdoors paradise
- Capurganá’s jungle beach
- Punta Gallinas
- San Andres & Providencia islands
- National Park El Cocuy
- Carnival of Blacks & Whites, in Pasto
- Flowers Festival in Medellín
- Carnival of Barranquilla
- Carnival of Riosucio
2 or 3 weeks in Colombia budget
You’ll quickly notice that it’s pretty cheap to travel in Colombia. And if you’re minding your budget, it can be even cheaper. With street food everywhere or market meals, food won’t cost much. A night in a hostel dorm costs from $15000 COP (3.96€ – $4.36 USD). Bus tickets are inexpensive, although slightly pricier than in neighbouring countries.
Note: different regions have different levels of life, for example Medellín is more expensive than the rest of the country. Sellers in Cartagena are known for inflating their prices, so make sure you negotiate.
For these 2 weeks backpacking in Colombia, including cheap accommodation (hostel, hotel or camping), bus transportation, an average coffee tour in a farm, and the entrance tickets to the Valle del Cocora and to Tayrona National Park in high season, count with a budget of:
700 000 COP (190 € / $ 210 USD)
For the 3 week Colombia itinerary, including all of the above plus the boat to the San Bernardo Islands from Tolú, count with an estimate budget of:
900 000 COP (250 € / $ 280 USD)
These amounts don’t include food, drinks, city transportation or any souvenir that might tickle your fancy. If you decide to go for the Lost City trek, add between 250 and 350 USD (225-315 €).
What to pack for 2 or 3 weeks in Colombia?
The regions you’ll be visiting in this backpacking Colombia 2 weeks itinerary or the 3 weeks one aren’t very cold, but rather hot; you’ll go from the mild climate of the coffee region to the hot tropical sun of the Caribbean. Cartagena in particular can be suffocating.
Therefore no need to pack too much – rather keep some space to bring back souvenirs to your friends.
- hiking clothes (technical t-shirt, trousers, boots, fleece)
- normal clothes for the city
- rain jacket for the coffee region
- flip flops/sandals, for the beach or indoors
- swimming suit
- a hat or something to protect your head; sunglasses
- your usual responsible traveller’s kit: foldaway bag, reuse cup, water bottle, water filter, lunch box, cutlery
- useful phrases and words in Spanish
- a tent for the Tayrona NP (you can also rent one on the spot)
- a sleeping bag – also handy if you want to Couchsurf
Get culturally ready: learn a few Colombian words and phrases.
A note about the safety in Colombia
We don’t want to send you out there to conquer the world without reminding you to stay safe. If it’s true that you should be careful anywhere you roam in the world, that’s even truer in Colombia.
Fair enough, shit can happen everywhere. But shit is more likely to happen in Colombia than anywhere else on the continent; travel bloggers who write about Colombia for backpackers tend to downplay it. It doesn’t mean you should cancel your trip altogether; just that you should stick very closely to the usual rules of common sense.
Don’t show off your valuables and keep an eye on your belongings. Or “Don’t give papaya”, as the Colombians say. Don’t be ridiculously adventurous and do not wander off the busy parts of towns. When you arrive in a new town, always ask right away what areas are safe and which ones you should avoid. You’ll be alright.
When the sun sets down on the Caribbean sea, the air around you is empty but for the occasional mosquito. After these 2 or 3 weeks in Colombia, your mind is going astray, full of memories in the making. What should you take with you on the plane back home tomorrow? The warm breeze that’s currently resting on your shoulders? The smile of the coco loco sellers with their brown skin? A bit of their nonchalant singsong? A glance at that colourful bird that has probably no name back home? Life is full of memories, and the ones that are made in Colombia have a suffused light to them.
Are you planning a trip to Colombia? Are you looking for other types of destinations?
Contact us for a personalised Colombian itinerary!
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