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The Ultimate Colombia Backpacking Route

Right then, this is a biggie! In this post, I’m sharing with you my Colombia backpacking route. I’ve lived and traveled extensively in Colombia and although all of the information in this post is great for anyone backpacking Colombia, it does contain a lot of information specifically for Solo female travel Colombia.

So, if you are planning a trip to Colombia here on my blog you are going to find everything you need to backpack Colombia.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

The Ultimate Colombia Backpacking Route | Everything You Need to Know about backpacking Colombia

When is the best time to go to Colombia?

Ok first up, when is the best time to go to Colombia. Honesty, there isn’t a bad time to go… apart from maybe, Samana Santa, which as anyone who has lived in Latin America knows is the WORST time to try and travel anywhere. If you happen to find yourself in a Latin American country like Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, or Colombia, do yourself a favor and bunker down somewhere for a few weeks. Make sure you book your accommodation well in advance too as prices can skyrocket!

Other than Easter there is no bad time to visit Colombia. Although in my humble opinion, the best time to visit Colombia is around Christmas. If you are in Colombia backpacking during December you are in for a real treat. Colombians LOVE Christmas and Medellin is a particularly great place to visit in Colombia at Christmas because of all the lights.

I think everyone will have their own opinions on the best month to visit Colombia depending on what kinds of things they like. For example in August in Medellin, there is the Flower Festival. December in Cali is the salsa festival. February you have the carnival in Barranquilla. So if you are wondering when to go to Colombia then the best thing to do is do a little research into the different festivals and try and plan around that.

If you like to plan your Colombian trip around the weather I wouldn’t worry. Colombia doesn’t have seasons as such. Things don’t really change that drastically depending on the season. In Colombia you will always find somewhere hot and other places that are cooler, normally this variation is down to the altitude rather than the season.

For example Bogota is cold and wet most of the year. You get all the seasons in a day. The morning may be cool, then it will rain, then the sun will come out, then more rain. You just never know!

If however, you are wondering the best time to travel to Colombia for the best prices then avoid December and January. These months many Colombians take time off to travel. Things quieten down a little during February and by March it’s moving into low season. Summer is also the time when many Colombians take a vacation so prices will rise a little.

The Ultimate Colombia Backpacking Route | Everything You Need to Know about backpacking Colombia

Getting Around Colombia

Traveling around Colombia has vastly improved since I was first here a few years ago. For one they have done a lot of improvements on the roads that connect the main cities. They even finished the tunnel between Medellin and the airport which has halved the travel time.

Travel between the main cities to visit in Colombia is pretty easy. You have two options, take a bus or catch a plane. In general, I prefer to take a bus (normally a night but if the journey is long), because I find traveling by plane too much hassle, plus if you need to check a bag it can get expensive.

I have extensive travel guides detailing the best ways to travel between the main tourist cities in Colombia:

How to get from El Dorado airport Bogota to La Candelaria

How To Travel From Bogota To Cali by Bus Or Plane

How To Get From Cali To Medellin Or From Medellin To Cali Colombia

Salento Travel | How to get to Salento from Bogota Medellin or Cali

How to get from Bogotá to Medellín on the bus or plane

Medellin to Santa Marta (or Santa Marta to Medellin)

How to get from Medellin to Cartagena

There are of course other Colombia tourist places not included in this list but these are the main ones. Once you have taken the bus once or twice it gets much easier. The main thing to remember is to do a little research first and decide which company to book with first as once you get into the bus station you will need to go to the desk of the company you want to travel with. It’s not just one central place where you can buy tickets for all buses which confuses many people.

When you are in the main cities I’d advise getting to know the public transport if you can, it will save you a lot of money. I wrote this guide about transport in Medellin. For Bogota, it is pretty complicated when you first arrive. Stick to the transmilenio and to save yourself some time and stress consider asking Colombian Buddy to give you a hand figuring it out.

I personally use Uber or one of the other ride-sharing apps 9 times out of 10 because I’m so over taxis in Colombia haha. In my personal experience, they don’t really believe me when I direct them, they don’t know how to read the map when I show them and I can’t even tell you how many taxis I’ve had to get out of as the driver doesn’t know where they are going. So for ease, I just use Uber, that way you don’t get lost. Plus their cars are always nicer.

Do use Uber, Beat, or DiDi with care though. There is still a lot of animosity between the drivers. You will need to always get into the front seat of the car when using Uber.

Need Transportation in Colombia?

I highly recommend booking Colombia transportation with GottoGo. You can search for buses, shuttles, ferries, and flights on their website—I love their customer service. I know them personally from my time living in Guatemala, and they genuinely care for their customers. If a delay occurs and you miss your bus, call them for help.

If you book through GottoGo, you will pay more than at the bus station, but it’s worth it for the ease and security. Click here to search for transportation in Colombia.

The Best Backpack Route Colombia

Ok so here it is, what you have all been waiting for my Colombia travel route. As most people fly into Bogota I’m going to start there. But I will do a loop. So if you are crossing the land border from Ecuador then start in Cali, or if you come via San Blas then you will want to start in Cartagena or Santa Marta.

  1. Bogota
  2. Laticia (Amazon) – note, you will need to fly here from Bogota and then return to Bogota before traveling on to Cali. 
  3. Cali
  4. Salento
  5. Jardin
  6. Medellin
  7. Bucaramanga / San Gil
  8. Cartagena
  9. Barranquilla
  10. Santa Marta
  11. Taganga
  12. Tayrona
  13. Minca
  14. Palomino
  15. Cabo de la Vala
  16. Punta Gallinas
  17. Bogota  

Yes, there are areas I’ve skipped, but you can easily add them to your Colombia backpacking itinerary if you have more time. The same goes for removing things if you have less time. This Colombia backpacking route is suitable for solo female travelers, I’m not advising you to go anywhere unsafe. However, this is Colombia and there is a lot of petty crime. So you do need to be careful with your things. But more on that in the safety section.

This Colombia travel route starts and ends in Bogota and I have marked it on the map above. In this, I have included the best tourist places in Colombia as well as some Colombia points of interest that you should try and visit if you can. Of course, it goes without saying that there are many incredible places to visit that aren’t considered tourist destinations in Colombia. So if at all possible try and leave some time in your schedule to get off the beaten track a little and explore some new places.

The Ultimate Colombia Backpacking Route | Everything You Need to Know about backpacking Colombia
Punta Gallinas

Colombia Adventure Travel Musts

If you are looking for some adventure highlights Colombia there are a few things you should think about doing. The number one thing I would recommend doing is the Lost City Trek, it’s not for the faint-hearted, but it is one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Another must-do while backpacking Colombia is taking a trip into the desert. You can go it alone and hang out in Cabo de la Vela and learn to kitesurf or take an organized tour. You can read all about how to get there in this post.

Some other Colombia highlights include:

Colombia trip itinerary

It’s really hard to give you a one size fits all best places to visit in Colombia travel itinerary, but I’m going to try. Of course, the more time you have the more places you can explore. My advice would be if you have more time to stop off at some of the smaller pueblos in between the main ‘tourist’ cities and pueblos. Less is more in Colombia so don’t try and cram in too much. Instead, take your time to get to know a place by staying a little longer.

On this best places in Colombia trip itinerary, I’ve included the most popular places people visit and linked to more detailed helpful guides if I have them. This is not only a backpacking route for Colombia but will also suit other types of travelers too as it includes all of the main Colombian tourist attractions you will not want to miss while in Colombia.

One Month in Colombia

The Ultimate Colombia Backpacking Route | Everything You Need to Know about backpacking Colombia

If you have one month in Colombia, this is the route I would recommend you take time to see as much of Colombia as you can.

Colombia itinerary for 1 month:

Bogota2 nights – No one really wants to stay in Bogota for longer than they have to. But there is a lot of cool stuff to see and do there. I have a 24 hour and a 2-day itinerary for Bogota you can follow. If you do decide to stay for longer check out this accommodation guide to Bogota to pick a good base and then you can also think about doing some of these great Bogota day trips. I spent 2 months living in Bogota and it really isn’t that bad. But with so much to see and do in Colombia don’t spend more time here than needed.

Laticia (Amazon)3 nights  – This might be one of the things you need to skip, especially if you are on a tight budget as the flights here are over $100 return. If you do have the time and money though please go, and then tell me all about it! Sadly I still haven’t made it there yet, but I hope to get there soon. You can only fly here direct from Bogota.

Cali3 nights – Cali is the Salsa world capital and THE place to come to dance salsa in Colombia. You only need a few nights here and if you aren’t really into Salsa I’d probably skip Cali. However, if you fall in love with salsa it is easy to spend more than a week dancing your time away.

Salento2 nights – I went to Salento for 2 nights, I ended up staying for 7! It was just so chill and I really loved just chilling there. 2 nights is enough time to do all the cool stuff in Salento, any more time is a bonus.

Jardin1 night – If you have time stop at Jardin on the way to Medellin. But I’d say choose Jardin or Salento if you are short on time. Salento is much more touristy, Jardin is far quieter and less developed. Be careful of the buses though as there are only 2 buses a day from Salento.

Medellin4 nights – This is the minimum amount of time you should spend in Medellin. If you can I’d advise you to stay for at least a week and do a week of Spanish classes and learn to dance salsa. Medellin is a Digital Nomad hotspot, has great nightlife, and is just a cool city to hang out for a while.

Bucaramanga2 nights – This is another place you can skip if you don’t have the time. It’s not particularly a tourist hot spot, but it is a lovely town and popular with Colombians. This is also where you will need to stop on the was to San Gil which is the perfect place if you are an adrenaline seeker.

Cartagena1 night – I must admit, Cartagena is my least favorite place in Colombia, but some people love it. It’s beautiful, yes. But it’s super touristy and so expensive – however it is possible to find some hidden treasures. One night in Cartagena is enough to see all the hot spots before moving on, however it is also possible to spend more days here.

Barranquilla1 night – In between Cartagena and Santa Marta, although there isn’t much to see and do here, it’s worth a stop off if you have the time. And an absolute must-see if you are there during carnival.

Santa Marta1 night – I’ve actually spent a lot of time in Santa Marta and I really like it there. It’s a great jumping-off spot to explore other places on the coast, accommodation is very cheap and there is a great market to stock up on things you might need. But there isn’t really much to do there so 1 day in Santa Marta is enough.

Taganga1 night – Taganga is a small fishing village next to Santa Marta. You could just take a day trip there, or you could skip staying in Santa Marta and just spend a few nights in Taganga instead. Many people are there for scuba diving or the party!

Parque Tayrona2 nights – Don’t skip Parque Tayrona! You can just go there on a day trip, but I’d spend at least 2 or 3 nights camping there.

Minca2 nights – I really really liked Minca, I could have easily spent a week there. But there isn’t that much to do so 2 nights is plenty if you don’t have much time.

Palamino2 nightsPalomino is a super chill beach town that is perfect to hang out and soak up some sun and do some yoga.

Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas3 nights – It’s not the easiest place to get to, but wow is it worth it! You can attempt to go it alone, or you can book on a tour as I did. There actually isn’t all that much difference in price and the tour is a lot less stressful!

Santa Marta or Cartagena1 night – Head back to either Santa Marta or Cartagena to take a bus or a flight back to Bogota.

Bogota1 night – Spend the night here before flying off to your next destination!

Having 1 month in Colombia is a nice amount of time, of course in my opinion you need 3 months to really enjoy Colombia. If you do have the option to take more time then you can easily spread out this Itinerary over a longer time then do. It is a lot to cram into a month. If you want to skip some places then I’d advise skipping Laticia, Cali if you aren’t interested in salsa dancing, choose to visit either Salento or Jardin (Salento is amazing but Jardin is less touristy), Bucaramanga, and Barranquilla. If you want to do the Lost City trek then you will need 5 nights at least so you might want to skip going to Punta Gallinas and Coba de la Vela

Three Weeks in Colombia

The cable cars in Medellin Colombia

Only have three weeks in Colombia? No problem. You won’t be able to see the whole of Colombia during this time, but with this itinerary, you can make the most of your 3 weeks in Colombia.

Colombia itinerary for 3 weeks:

Two Weeks in Colombia

Then it’s time to hike down the river for the best lunch I’ve eaten in Colombia. I’ve got a real thing about plastic so getting my lunch given to me wrapped in a banana leaf was a big win!

Got two weeks in Colombia? Then use this itinerary to help you make the most of your short vacation in Colombia. I’m not going to lie, 2 weeks in Colombia is nowhere near enough time, but you can see a few of the most popular places and get a feel of the Country.

Colombia two-week itinerary:

A week in Colombia

Colombian Adventures | Visiting a Coffee Farm outside Medellin

1 week in Colombia is really not enough time. But if it’s all the time you have, then it’s all the time you have. You can make the most of your time by flying from place to place. If you decide to do this then I’d strongly recommend only packing hand luggage as the budget Colombian airlines like to charge for baggage!

Colombia itinerary for 1 week:

The Best Hostels in Colombia

I’ve listed all of the best hostels in Colombia here on this page. Although I do also have more detailed accommodation guides for Bogota and Medellin.

Other Important Things to Consider When Backpacking Colombia

There are some other common questions people ask about when traveling to Colombia so I’ve tried to answer them as best I can here.

Colombia Travel Vaccines

If you are traveling to Colombia vaccinations may be a concern. Yellow fever is a good idea, especially if you are planning to hike to the Lost City, visit Taganga, and/ or visit the Amazon. They won’t check this as you are entering the country, but it’s advised to get it.

What do I need to travel to Colombia?

If you are wondering what to pack I have some great packing guides you can read:

Complete Packing List for The Caribbean Coast of Colombia

My Ultimate Backpacking Packing List

Other than that there isn’t much you really need. Most countries can enter Colombia on a tourist ‘visa’ which is good for 90 days. After 90 days, you can renew at immigration or online. The rule is you can only stay in Colombia for 6 months in any year. You can, of course, get around this by entering 90 days before the end of the year. You then renew online for another 90 days. Once that is up, leave the country for a few days and re-enter and you will get another 90 days. After that 90 days is up you will need to leave.

Word of warning, do not mess with Colombian Immigration. If you overstay you will get 2 weeks to leave and have to pay a fine. Trust me, I learned the hard way!

Solo Female Travel Colombia

Looking for solo travel Colombia information? I personally traveled Colombian solo and had no issues at all. I did have some things robbed in Bogota and I’m not denying that there are some safety issues you need to take seriously, however, if you are planning on traveling to Colombia alone I have a few guides you can read that will help you get prepared. Is it safe to travel to Colombia alone? Absolutely! Do you need to be prepared? YES

Safety In Bogota Colombia

Is Medellin Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

What I Learned Traveling Solo in Colombia as a Woman

The Ultimate Colombia Backpacking Route

Final Thoughts

And that’s it! My Ultimate Colombia backpacking route! I hope it has been of use to you as you prepare for backpacking Colombia. Feel free to reach out if you have any specific questions that I don’t answer on this Colombia blog!