A Guide To Your Holiday In Colombia
Back in the days of FARC and Pablo Escobar, Columbia was definitely the country not to visit in south America – today the opposite could not be truer.
While not having one stand out attraction such as the Iguassu Falls, Machu Pichu or the Copacabana Beach, Colombia has a great variety of cultural, historical and leisure attractions in a country that does not involve traveling vast distances like much of the continent.
The top attractions are not too crowded as many Americans still have a fear about the safety of country, (totally unfounded) and most things are very inexpensive due to an attractive currency rate exchange.
This destination guide features our 3 favorite cities but can easily be modified if you have any particular region that you want to visit.
Traveling to Colombia from the UK
You will be most likely to arrive in Bogota when flying from the UK. Avianca has a daily flight at the time of writing. Other options are to fly via Madrid to Bogota with Iberia or Air Europa. Bogota is a very modern airport with many shops, restaurants and bars.
Best time of year to visit Colombia – All Year Round Destination.
Due to its proximity to the Equator, Colombia does not have the seasons that we are used to in the UK, so is a true all year round destination.
However, the dry season runs from December to March and, as this is the worst weather time in the UK, this time of year will probably be the best time to visit.
This is true for all of south America but the south of the continent does have seasons so December to March is the best time to visit other countries as well.
Traveling Within Colombia
Although not a massive country, Colombia is very mountainous and it can take a very long time to travel a relatively small distance by road. Luckily, flying internally is inexpensive and operated by excellent airlines such as Avianca.
The airports are modern, but security can be tight due to the drug industry, so laeve plenty of time for your departure.
Bogota is the capital city of Colombia. The Bogota population of over 8 million people which is similar to London. The big difference is the Bogota altitude which at 8,660 feet makes some people suffer from altitude sickness when they first arrive. Also you can get short of breath when as the city is quite hilly.
Bogota safety is fine as long as you stay in the tourist areas.
Bogota temperatures range from 6 – 20 degrees and it can get a little chilly at night. The Bogota weather is similar to rest of the country but July and August are also dry months.
If you enjoy culture and top notch dining then Bogota is the place for you. La Candelaria, is a cobblestoned centre with colonial-era landmarks such as churches and theatres, as well as many museums such as Museo Botero and the Museo del Oro.
It is best to stay in the northern part of the city near the tourist attractions. Two of our favorite hotels are the Hilton and Parque 93, but there is a vast selection to choose from including a 4 Seasons.
Your next port of call should be Medellin which is less than 500 kms from Bogota but can take up to 10 hours to drive! We feel that the 1 hour flight is a much better option.
The drive to and from Medellin Airport takes about one hour and you should have your camera at the ready as the views are outstanding.
Medellin is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its temperate weather at an altitude of 1,500 metres, but is really famous for the drug cartel let by Pablo Escobar, but these days there is no need to worry about safety in Medellin or the rest of Colombia.
Famous museums include the Museum of Antioquia, which was the second museum founded in Colombia and is located at the heart of the old city hall next to Botero Plaza, and the Museum of Modern Art of Medellín.
The Medellin nightlife is focused in the El Poblado neighbourhood, particularly around Parque Lleras where you will find many excellent restaurants, bars and clubs.
It is best to stay in a hotel in walking distance of Parque Lleras. Our favourite is Park 10 hotel which is about a 10 minute walk.
If you really like the nightlife then Hotel Charlee directly on Parque Lleras is for you while there are plenty of good chain hotels such as Marriott and Sheraton nearby.
Back to Pablo Escobar. Many Colombians do not like to talk about him, but you can arrange unofficial taxi tours to see where he lived, died, built his prison, etc. as well as meet his head honcho Popeye and elder brother who have now been released from prison.
Cartagena is one of the leading tourist destinations in south America, and features two main attractions – the walled Old Town and excellent Caribbean beaches.
At the seafront is the fully restored walled Old Town, founded in the 16th century, with squares, cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings. Must see places for the best Cartagena history include the Ciudad Amurallada and Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas (allow at least two hours to see this castle properly).
The most difficult decision is where to stay in Cartagena. There are many excellent Cartagena hotels in the old town such as the Sofitel but you my want to stay at the beach and relax at the end of your holiday in Colombia. Depending on how long you have it might be a good decision to stay in both areas.
Note that Cartagena is also very popular as a cruise destination and some days can get very busy when a large cruise ship is visiting.
COLOMBIA, The Warmth Of A Smile [52:05]
How long should you take for your holiday in Colombia ?
We would suggest:
- 4 nights in Bogota
- 3 nights in Medellin
- 7 nights in Cartagena (split over two hotels)
Contact us to speak with people who have visited Colombia many times and will give you honest, practical advice.