Colombia vacation guide

Our travel experts will show you …

  • Where to eat and what to do
  • Packing tips and travel reminders
  • How to use your phone in Colombia

 

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colombia vacation guide

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colombia landscape

Why choose Colombia?

Colombia’s geography is one of the most diverse in the world. From the beaches of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts to the Andean mountains, the Amazon rainforest, and the plains of Los Llanos, each region offers unique views and outdoor adventures.

 

As one of the world’s leading coffee producers, Colombia offers coffee lovers a unique experience. The Coffee Triangle region, a UNESCO World Heritage site, not only produces some of the best coffee in the world but also offers tours of coffee plantations.

 

Colombia is the birthplace of Cumbia and Vallenato, and the country has a great music and dance scene that includes genres like salsa, reggaeton, and bachata. Cities like Cali, known as the salsa capital of the world, offer lively nightlife and dance festivals.

 

Colombia’s varied terrain makes it an ideal destination for adventure sports. Enjoy paragliding over the Chicamocha Canyon, surfing in the Pacific, trekking to the Lost City, or diving in the Caribbean.

 

Colombia’s got it all — stunning views, great coffee and music, and loads of adventure. Whether you’re here to chill on its gorgeous beaches, get your caffeine fix, dance the night away, or get your adrenaline pumping, you’re in for an epic time.

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Planning your Colombia vacation

• Visa: Many nationalities can enter Colombia without a visa for short stays (up to 90 days for tourism purposes), but it’s important to verify this information with the Colombian embassy or consulate in your country.

• Vaccinations: The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccinations for most travelers to Colombia: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever (especially if visiting certain areas below 2,300 meters).

• Flight Booking: Check out our flight booking tips to make sure you get the best value for your money.

• Currency: The currency in Colombia is the Colombian peso. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in cities and tourist areas, but it’s wise to carry some cash for smaller towns and rural areas.

colombia coffee

The best coffee in Colombia

• Café de Olla: Traditionally prepared in a clay pot with panela (unrefined cane sugar) and sometimes spices like clove or cinnamon, café de olla offers a sweet and comforting flavor profile unique to the region.

• Coffee with Panela: Coffee sweetened with panela instead of regular sugar has a distinctive taste and is another popular way to enjoy coffee in Colombia.

• Geisha Coffee: Although originally from Ethiopia, the Geisha variety has found a successful home in Colombia, particularly in the high altitudes. Known for its floral, citrus, and sweet tea-like flavors, it’s often more expensive but considered a must-try for coffee connoisseurs.

• Tinto: The quintessential Colombian coffee experience, tinto is a small, strong cup of black coffee often sold on the streets and consumed throughout the day. It’s a cultural staple and a must-try for visitors.

• Maragogype Coffee: Often referred to as “elephant beans” due to their unusually large size, Maragogype is a mutation of Arabica coffee that originated in Brazil but thrives in Colombia’s climate. It’s known for its mild flavor and low acidity, offering a smooth coffee experience that’s quite distinct from other varieties.

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Can't-miss Colombia attractions

• Cartagena’s Historic Walled City: A UNESCO World Heritage site, the beautifully preserved old town is surrounded by walls that once protected it from pirates. Its colorful colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and busy plazas make it a must-visit.

• Tayrona National Park: Offering some of Colombia’s most beautiful beaches, Tayrona is perfect for hiking, swimming, and wildlife spotting.

• Medellín and the Metrocable: Once infamous, Medellín has transformed into one of Latin America’s most innovative cities. The Metrocable system offers not only a unique way to see the city but also access to previously isolated neighborhoods, contributing to social integration.

• The Coffee Triangle (Eje Cafetero): This region is the heart of Colombia’s coffee-growing area, recognized by UNESCO for its cultural landscape. Visitors can enjoy coffee tours, stunning scenery, and unique accommodations in traditional haciendas.

• The Amazon Rainforest: Covering the southern part of the country, the Colombian Amazon offers incredible biodiversity and the chance to visit indigenous communities, explore the jungle, and cruise along the Amazon River.

colombia food

Our favorite food in Colombia

• Bandeja Paisa: This hearty dish is a staple of Colombian cuisine, especially in the Paisa region. It typically includes beans, rice, ground beef, chicharrón (fried pork belly), chorizo, arepa (corn cake), avocado, fried egg, and sometimes morcilla (blood sausage).

• Ajiaco: A comforting chicken and potato soup from the Andean region, particularly popular in Bogotá. It’s made with different types of potatoes, corn, and the herb guasca, and served with capers, cream, and avocado on the side.

• Arepa: A versatile cornmeal cake that can be grilled, baked, or fried. Arepas are a staple in Colombian breakfasts and can be filled or topped with cheese, meats, or avocado.

• Cazuela de Mariscos: A creamy seafood stew made with coconut milk, a variety of seafood, and seasoned with herbs and spices. It’s a typical dish of Colombia’s coastal regions.

• Chocolate con Queso: A unique Colombian treat of hot chocolate served with chunks of cheese melted inside. It’s a comforting snack or breakfast option, often accompanied by bread or arepas for dipping.

colombia local people

Cultural experiences in Colombia

• Experience a Coffee Plantation Tour: Learn about coffee production and its importance to the Colombian economy and culture by visiting a coffee plantation in the Coffee Triangle region (Eje Cafetero). This area is recognized by UNESCO for its cultural landscape.

• Salsa Dancing in Cali: Known as the salsa capital of the world, Cali offers numerous salsa clubs where you can watch professionals or take lessons yourself.

• Indigenous Markets in Silvia, Cauca: Visit the traditional indigenous market in Silvia, where the Guambiano people come to trade goods in a scene that has remained unchanged for centuries.

• Paloquemao Market in Bogotá: Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting one of the largest markets in the country, where you can sample a variety of Colombian fruits, vegetables, meats, and flowers.

• Explore the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida): Take a multi-day trek through the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to reach this ancient archaeological site, which predates Machu Picchu. You’ll learn a lot about Colombia’s indigenous heritage.

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Colombia customs and etiquette

• Greetings: A handshake is common when meeting someone for the first time. Close friends and relatives often prefer a cheek kiss (one cheek, usually the right).

• Politeness: Colombians are generally formal in their social interactions. Using titles (Señor, Señora) and surnames until invited to use first names is common courtesy.

• Invitations and Visits: If invited to a Colombian home, bringing a small gift like flowers, chocolates, or wine is appreciated. Arriving a little late, about 15 to 30 minutes after the invited time, is often expected for social events.

• Tipping: Tipping is customary in Colombia, especially in restaurants where 10% is standard. However, this may already be included in the bill as “servicio,” so it’s good to check. For other services like taxis, tipping isn’t expected but appreciated for exceptional service.

• Understanding of Time: Time is treated more flexibly in Colombia than in some other cultures. Be patient and flexible with schedules.

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How do I avoid Colombia roaming charges?

Before international travel, you should always make a plan for how you’ll use your phone.

Colombia roaming charges can add up quickly, and you don’t want to get stuck with a huge phone bill after an amazing vacation.

Carrier travel data packages are often expensive, with limited data and a lot of restrictions.

A budget-friendly way to avoid Thailand roaming charges is to download a Colombia eSIM that comes with a prepaid Colombia data package.

Need data for your Colombia vacation?

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Travel tips for your Colombia vacation

colombia beaches

Best beaches in Colombia

• Playa Blanca, Barú: Near Cartagena, Playa Blanca is known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters and fine white sand. It’s one of the most popular beach destinations for both tourists and locals.

• Rosario Islands: A group of beautiful islands located off the coast of Cartagena, known for their clear blue waters, coral reefs, and excellent snorkeling and diving spots.

• Nuquí and Bahía Solano: The beaches here are more secluded and offer great opportunities for whale watching, especially between July and October.

• Rodadero: A more urban beach located in Santa Marta, popular among families and those looking for a beach experience with all the amenities and entertainment options.

• Cabo de la Vela: This beach is part of La Guajira desert and is known for its unique landscapes, combining desert, sea, and indigenous Wayuu culture. It’s a great spot for kitesurfing.

• San Andrés and Providencia: These Caribbean islands, located closer to Nicaragua but part of Colombia, are famous for their stunning beaches, such as San Luis and Manchineel Bay, and the Sea of Seven Colors.

colombia street

Famous Colombia festivals

• Carnaval de Blancos y Negros (January): Celebrated in Pasto, it’s one of Colombia’s oldest festivals, blending indigenous, African, and Spanish traditions. It features days dedicated to playing with black cosmetics and white talcum powder, followed by parades of floats and costumes.

• Carnaval de Barranquilla (February/March): One of the world’s largest carnivals, second only to Rio’s. Declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, it features parades, music, dancing, and elaborate costumes.

• Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata (April/May): Held in Valledupar, this festival celebrates Vallenato music, a traditional Colombian genre. It includes competitions, concerts, and dancing.

• Feria de las Flores (August): Held in Medellín, the Flower Festival is a week-long event that celebrates the region’s flower-growing tradition. Highlights include the Desfile de Silleteros (Flower Parade), where participants carry elaborate flower arrangements on their backs.

• Feria de Cali (December): Also known as the Cali Fair, it’s celebrated in the salsa capital of the world. The festival includes salsa dancing, concerts, beauty pageants, and bullfighting events.

colombia flag

Colombia interesting facts

• Emerald Capital: Colombia is the world’s largest producer of emeralds, accounting for 70-90% of the global emerald market. The quality of Colombian emeralds is considered among the highest globally.

• River of Five Colors: The Caño Cristales in the Serranía de la Macarena National Park is often referred to as the “Liquid Rainbow.” This river bursts into gorgeous colors between July and November due to the unique aquatic plant Macarenia clavigera.

• A Coastline Gem: Colombia is the only South American country with coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, offering a wide range of beaches.

• Biodiversity Paradise: Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, ranking first in bird species. Colombia is one of the few countries that have the Andean condor, a national symbol, and it is also home to the pink river dolphin in the Amazon.

• World’s Best Coffee: Recognized globally for producing some of the highest quality coffee, Colombia’s unique geography provides the perfect environment for coffee plants. The Coffee Triangle (Eje Cafetero) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit for coffee lovers.

colombia shopping

Go on a Colombia shopping spree!

• Explore Local Markets and Artisan Shops: Colombia is famous for its beautiful handicrafts, including mochilas (traditional bags) made by the indigenous Wayuu people, handmade jewelry, and pottery. Markets like Bogotá’s Usaquén Flea Market and Medellín’s Mercado del Rio are great places to find these items.

• Souvenirs: Look for cultural items like traditional hats (sombrero vueltiao), musical instruments, or local art as meaningful souvenirs that reflect Colombia’s culture.

• Buy Emeralds: As the world’s largest producer of emeralds, Colombia offers high-quality gems at better prices than you might find elsewhere. Consider asking for a certificate of authenticity.

• Look for Coffee: Colombia is renowned for its coffee, so don’t miss the chance to buy some freshly roasted beans to take home. Specialty coffee shops often sell high-quality beans and can grind them for you.

• Centro Comercial Santafé: Featuring over 380 stores, this is one of the largest malls in Bogotá, with a comprehensive mix of retail, entertainment, and dining options.

Plan the perfect Colombia vacation

January in Colombia brings cool weather in the Andean highlands and warm on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Expect 7-19°C (45-66°F) in Bogotá for city and mountain activities, and 24-30°C (75-86°F) in coastal areas like Cartagena for beach fun.

February continues to offer pleasant weather across Colombia. Bogotá and the highlands stay cool with temperatures around 7-19°C (45-66°F), while coastal cities like Cartagena enjoy warmer weather, averaging 24-30°C (75-86°F), perfect for outdoor activities.

March marks the beginning of warmer weather in the highlands, with Bogotá seeing slightly higher temperatures, around 9-21°C (48-70°F). Coastal regions remain warm and inviting, maintaining 24-30°C (75-86°F).

April brings the start of the rainy season to the highlands, with Bogotá experiencing more frequent showers and temperatures of 9-21°C (48-70°F). The coast stays relatively dry and warm, with temperatures steady at 24-30°C (75-86°F).

In May, the rainy season is in full swing in Bogotá and the Andean region, with cooler temperatures and regular rain. Coastal areas begin to see a bit more rain, especially in the afternoons, but temperatures remain warm.

June sees the continuation of the rainy season in the interior, while the coastal regions start to dry out, making it a great time for beach visits. Temperatures in Bogotá range from 9-21°C (48-70°F), and coastal areas warm up a bit.

July offers a break from the rain in the highlands, with Bogotá enjoying clearer skies and temperatures of 9-21°C (48-70°F). The Caribbean coast is especially ideal for travel, with sunny days and warm temperatures.

August is similar to July, with dry weather in the highlands and pleasant temperatures. Coastal areas remain hot and sunny, perfect for summer vacations.

The rainy season begins to pick up again in September, especially in Bogotá and the Andean region. Coastal weather stays relatively warm and dry, ideal for visiting the beaches.

October is one of the wettest months in the highlands, including Bogotá, where rain is frequent. The coast begins to see the return of occasional showers, though temperatures remain warm.

In November, the rainy season continues in the interior, while the coast starts to see less rain, making it a good time for coastal exploration before the high season starts.

December marks the start of the dry season in the highlands, with holiday lights brightening Bogotá’s cooler climate. The coastal areas enjoy some of their best weather, warm and dry, ideal for holiday travelers seeking sun and sand.

How do I use my phone in Colombia?

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Choose a data package

Start by deciding how much data you’ll need. Then choose a prepaid data package for your Colombia vacation. If you need more, it’s easy to buy more Colombia data.

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Install your eSIM

An eSIM is a downloadable SIM card, so you’ll install your eSIM on your phone or tablet. It takes less than two minutes, and then you will have a Colombia eSIM on your phone.

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Activate your package

When you’re ready to start using your Colombia eSIM you’ll activate your data package and make sure your device knows to use your Colombia eSIM for all mobile data.

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