We spent more than 1 month in Colombia, exploring various cities and regions of the country. Colombia is a huge country that offers modern cities, paradise beaches, tropical rainforests, deserts, and snowy mountains. Besides amazing wildlife and nightlife, the country has a beautiful cultural blend of the Native Indigenous, Spanish, and African. This is a guide on how to experience the vast richness of Colombia in one month.
Bogotá: 2-3 days
Bogotá is the capital of Colombia and the starting point for many people traveling to Colombia. The city is located at an altitude of 1.600 meters, which means it is quite cold. Bogotá is a metropolitan city that offers many interesting things to see, such as the mountain top of Montserrate, the historical area of La Candelaria, the Botero Museum, the Gold Museum, and Plaza Bolívar.
Bogotá is the perfect place to experience traditional Colombian cuisine such as Bandeja Paisa (beans, rice and meat), arepas, patacones (fried bananas), Sancocho (soup with fish/beef/chicken), empanadas (deep fried pastries filled with meat or vegetables), Mondongo (soup with vegetables and meat). I recommend restaurants that offer menu del día (menu of the day), which only costs around 16.000 COP.
Get ready for some of the best coffee in your life (organic coffee is the best).
Some parts of Bogotá are dangerous and sketchy so be careful where you go. Book your hostel/hotel from La Candelaria, Usaquén, or Chapinero. We stayed in Fatima hostel in La Candelaria and it was a perfect choice.
Remember to bring a warm jacket!
Villa de Leyva: 1-3 days
Villa de Leyva is a small city located 4-hours away from Bogotá. It is a popular day trip destination, but you should stay there for a few days. Monica loved the place due to its relaxing atmosphere and safeness and stayed there for 4 weeks.
Neiva or Villavieja: 2 days
Neiva is a relatively big city located in the south of Colombia and it is famous for the Tatacoa desert, which is located 1-2 hours away depending on your transportation. You may also stay in Villavieja, which is 30 minutes away from the Tatacoa desert. However, if you stay in Villavieja, you have to travel there via Neiva because the town is so small.
Neiva itself doesn’t have much to offer (except for cheap and nice local food) and the modern mall of San Juan Plaza. The city is safe, but avoid going out at night. You will have to use the local yellow tai since Indrive and Uber don’t work there.
Take a tour of Tatacoa because it is the most safe and comfortable way to explore the desert.
Salento: 3-5 days
Salento is a touristy town in Colombia, famous for having the longest palm trees in the world (in Cocora Valley). We ended up staying 1 week in Salento, and it is a perfect place to relax. It is one of the safest and unique places in Colombia and you won’t encounter any homeless people or drug addicts here.
If you are traveling to Salento, you must first travel to the city of Armenia (except if you are in Medellín, which offers direct buses to Salento). It takes only 30 minutes to reach Salento from Armenia by the local minibus.
While you are in Salento, visit Cocora Valley, which is 30 minutes away from Salento. There are also hiking routes with guided tours. You can also skip the hike and take the shortcut as we did, and it costs 20.000 COP.
Apart from Cocora Valley, check out the viewpoint of Salento (Mirador de Salento), stroll around the Plaza de Bolívar, and visit the church of Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Carmen. The plaza is surrounded by multiple cafes where you can enjoy local organic coffee.
Apart from Cocora Valley, there is not much to do in Salento. However, it is a perfect place to rest.
Medellín: 3 days
Medellín is a city preferred by many digital nomads in Colombia due to its comfortable weather and vibrant culture. Unfortunately, we stayed in the bad area of Medellín (El Centro) and did not enjoy the city. Therefore, stay in nicer areas like El Poblado, Laureles, and Envigado to have a comfortable stay in Medellín.
Guatapé: 1-2 days
Guatape is probably the most overrated place in Colombia, but some people enjoy it. We did a day trip to Guatape and it felt like a joke. You can travel to Guatape from Medellín and it takes around 2 hours on a local bus. Guatape is known for its huge stone, but when we visited, the rock was closed. Additionally, the town is crowded and full of tourists taking selfies.
Santa Marta: 3-4 days
Santa Marta is the oldest city in Colombia and the closest city to the national park of Tayrona (must-visit). Santa Marta itself does not have much to offer, except for for Playa Grande. The beaches of Santa Marta and Taganga are horrible and dirty though.
The historical center of Santa Marta (centro histórico) is a nice area and has many good cafes and restaurants, such as Lulo Café and Ikaro Cafe. There are also many tourists in the area. The cathedral of Santa Marta (Catedral Basílica de Santa Marta) is also worth checking out.
Our hostel was La Casa del Sombrero, which was a good and affordable choice in a good location.
Tayrona National Park: 1-2 days
Tayrona is often recognized as the most beautiful national park in Colombia (Colombia has three national parks). Tayrona is located between Santa Marta and Palomina and is only 1 hour away with a minibus from Santa Marta.
You should stay at least one night at Tayrona (either inside or outside the park). The entrance tickets cost 68.000 COP and the mandatory insurance cost 6.000 COP.
Cartagena de Indias: 4-5 days
Cartagena de Indias is the second oldest city in Colombia after Santa Marta, and probably the most beautiful city in the whole country. The city is a beautiful combination of Spanish architecture and African culture (Cartagena has the fourth-largest African population in Colombia).
While in Cartagena, stroll around the historical streets of Getsemaní and check out its main attractions, including Plaza de la Proclamación (they perform traditional dances there!), Museo del Oro (Gold museum), Plaza de Santo Domingo,
Barú or Isla Grande: 2 days
Barú and Isla Grande are islands located near Cartagena and are popular tourist destinations for many Colombians and foreigners alike. Barú is the cheaper and closer option, while Isla Grande is more private. We spent 2 nights at Barú and it was a perfect destination to disconnect as there is no electricity during the day nor wifi.
Check out our post on how to travel to Barú from Cartagena on a boat and local minivan.
Other places to consider
We only visited the places listed above. However, based on our research, there are many other places to discover in Colombia, including:
Cali – the city of salsa
Popayan – is known for its colonial and white architecture. It’s also called the ”Ciudad Blanca” (white city)
Jardin or Jerico – small, beautiful colonial towns in the coffee region
Barichara – is known as the most beautiful town in Colombia
Minca – mountainous, green town near Santa Marta
Leticia – a city in the Amazon rainforest. Borders with Brazil and Perú.
Colombia is a huge country with hundreds of different destinations to visit from deserts to amazing towns in the Amazon rainforest, metropolitan cities, and beaches by the Caribbean Sea. To cover the many parts of the country, we recommend at least 3 weeks for visiting Colombia.
Hopefully, this post gave you ideas for your Colombian adventures!