Step 1: Bogota
Bogota is the capital of Colombia. However, as often, the capital doesn’t represent the entire country and, as often, the big cities aren’t my favorite places. However, there are many interesting places to see in Bogota. The first one is the church of Cerro Monserrate. This church is on the top of a mountain and from there, you will have a view of the city. You can climb there on foot and take the car cable.
Bogota has also several museums and there are two museums I particularly loved: the Botero museum and the gold museum. The first one concerns mostly the famous Colombian artist Botero and it’s free. The second museum is about the objects made of gold, from their fabrications to their utilization. However, the entrance costs 4 000COP.
The main square in Bogota is called la Plaza Simon de Bolivar. On this square, you will find all the main buildings of the city: the Mayor, the cathedral, etc. This place is also very impressive with its huge size.
The most touristic district of Bogota is la Candelaria. This is where you will find most of the attractions. Yet, it’s also nice to walk around to discover the district itself.
Most of the hostels are located in the Candelaria and in some streets, there are only hostels. Thus, it’s very easy to find cheap accommodation in this district. Personally, I chose the hostel Sue Candelaria. This hostel is well located with good quality for the price. The only inconvenient is the internet connection which is very slow. Except this, this hostel is perfect!
Step 2: Medellin
Because of the drug history and more recently the series “Narcos”, Medellin is now famous. Even if nowadays, the city is safe (there are still thief but no more drug dealers) a “narco-tourism” has been developed this last year. Indeed, some travel agencies offer tours to discover the life of Pablo Escobar, his building and his tomb.
If you’re interested, there is a district you have to see the comuna 13. This district was the center of the drug and weapons traffic. The shooting was unfortunately every day for the inhabitants. In 2002, the army came and ended the traffics in bloodshed. Since the district is reborn and the city developed it. Today, comuna 13 is a touristic place. Because of its history of course, but also thanks to its street art. If you want to do something unusual, I advise you to take the escalator in the comuna 13 during your visit!
If you prefer more conventional places, there is also a lot in Medellin. You can start with the Plaza Botero. On this place, you will find statues from the famous Colombian artist, Botero.
If you need greenery, let’s go to the botanic garden. The entrance is free and you will see many flowers and even animals if you’re lucky. The most touristic place in the garden, if the place where you will find the orchids, don’t miss it, it’s beautiful!
There is a park in Medellin where you can have a view of the city and see a reproduction of a typical village: the Cerro Nutibara. From up there, you have a 360° view on Medellin and you can visit a Colombian house with some explanations.
Step 3: Cartagena
The main attraction in Cartagena is the historical center. The houses are painted with all the colors you can imagine and thus the city center is colorful. From the doors to the balconies, everything is painted and some houses add even flowers to their windows. Thus, when you walk in Cartagena, you don’t know where to look because everything is beautiful! And the nice bonus is to drink fresh fruit juice during a hot afternoon in the city. There are lots of vendors everywhere and they sell fruit juice of fruit salads.
In the vicinity of Cartagena, there is a funny (and touristic) activity I wanted to do: take a mud bath in the Totumo Volcano. To do this, I had no choice: I needed a travel agency to organize the tour. There are dozens of travel agencies in the city center, it is perfect to compare and bargain the price. This activity lasts half a day and even if it’s very touristic, I loved it. What is funnier than taking a mud bath in a volcano ??
The touristic district of Cartagena is its city center, thus the hostels are very expensive there. If you look for a cheap hostel, you have to avoid the city center and this is what I’ve done. I chose the Wonderland hostel. This hostel is a bit far from the city center, but there is a bus line which goes directly to the city center.
Step 4: Tayrona park
The natural and national park is famous for its white sand beaches. It is also possible to spend several days and to hike there. Personally, I chose to stay 2 days in this park and I tell you everything about my itinerary here.
Step 5: Barichara
Barichara is a colonial village. And it’s almost everything I can say about this place… There is not much to do except visit the village. However, it is a beautiful village and perfect if you want to relax and stay some quiet. If you’re a gastronomic adventurer, there is a local specialty you should try in Barichara: Hormiga Coluna, literally (and really) “the big ass ant”. You eat it fried and the size is very impressive for an ant. For the taste, I let you discover it!
If you are a hiking lover, there is a nice walk (and easy) to do: leave from Barichara to reach Guane. In the way, all the path goes down with a nice view of the valleys. Once you are in Guane you can either walk back to Barichara or take a collectivo.
Step 6: Villa de Leyva
Like Barichara, Villa de Leyva is a colonial village. However, this village is more famous and especially the main square. The main attraction is the village itself and to walk in the streets. Yet, there are other things to see in the vicinity like the Casa Terracotta, a house entirely built with mud, or lakes and cascades.
Despite the fact that Villa de Leyva is a small village, it is easy to find accommodation. This time, I chose Family host world. A French/Colombian family owns this hostel. You find everything you need and the breakfast is an option if you want.
Step 7: Salento and the Cocora Valley
After a few days in villages, what could be better than hiking in the mountains? Salento is the entrance for the Cocora Valley. But, it is famous because this is where you can see the biggest palm trees in the world (until 60m high!).
To admire them, it is easy. From the main square of Salento, colorful 4×4 drive you all day until the valley. They drop you down the valley, then you have to walk until the palm trees! You have two options:
The first is to walk until the palm trees and come back. This hike is very easy and accessible to everyone. You will see what you came for and you can come back in the same way.
The second option is to continue and walk all the loop. Thus, you can have hot chocolate with cheese at the hummingbird’s house. Once you rested, you can go down through the forest. If you decide to walk this way, the loop lasts around 3h30. I advise you to start by the palm trees valley and to end by the forest. It is much easier. If you go the other way, you will have more difficulties and won’t enjoy because of the path in the forest if full of mud, narrow and steep. If you start by the forest, the loop takes around 5h30.
The second attraction of Salento is its coffee production. This region is famous for its coffee. The next morning after the hike, to rest, you can visit a finca, a coffee production. The visitors are guided every hour (in English and Spanish) and last around 1h30.
The hostel in Salento is maybe one of the best hostels I’ve ever made: Estrella sin Frontera. It is very well located, the internet connection is fast and the breakfast is just perfect! Moreover, the hammocks are perfect to relax after the hike.
Step 8: Tatacoa desert
After the green mountain of Salento, it is time to visit the extreme opposite; the Tatacoa desert. In this desert, there are two regions to see: the red desert (Cusco) and the gray desert (Los Hojos). The red desert is easily accessible once you are in the desert. You can go there by foot. However, the gray desert is further and you have to walk 2h or rent a bike, a motorbike or a guide to go there.
A very popular activity in the desert is the stargazing. The light pollution is almost nonexistent, so you can admire the stars either by yourself or you can go to the observatory.
The easiest solution to go to the desert is to take a bus to Neiva (the big city of the region) then a collectivo until Villavieja. In this village, there are tuk-tuks and motorbikes which are waiting for you at the main square to take you in the desert.
Note that you can also spend a night in the desert, in a hammock, a tent or a room. If you do so, don’t forget to take cash with you because there is no ATM and you have to pay for everything in cash (accommodation, food, water, etc.).
Step 9: San Augustin
How could I leave Colombia without discovering its history? San Augustin is the perfect place to learn about pre-Colombian culture. There are several archaeological sites where you can admire the famous statues. I advise you to stay for two days to visit the sites. Why two days? Because when you pay the entrance, you have a pass for several sites and this pass is valid for two days (and costs 50 000COP).
San Augustin is a touristic place. Thus, it is easy to find cheap accommodation here. For this village, I choose Hostal Bambu. This hostel is located in the city center and has all the facilities. The staff is very friendly and always ready to give you information about everything. Moreover, breakfast is an option if you want.
Colombia is a popular and cheap country (compare to Europe). It is easy to find cheap accommodation and to eat in a restaurant for 2-3$/pers. In my case, the most important part of my budget was for transportation. However, I spare money compared to my initial budget.
Aim budget: 113 000 COP/day (~32€/day in April 2019)
Real budget: 58 000 COP/day (~ 16,5€/day in April 2019)
I hope you liked my article and that you want to visit Colombia too! My itinerary is for 1 month in Colombia but this country is huge. Don’t forget to take into account the size because I totally didn’t realize how big were the distances between cities. And if you like challenges, I offer you a bucket list of Colombia.