Colombia Trip Itinerary–Looking for Tips and Recommendations!

Bogotá Cathedral

After many years of thinking about it, I’m finally traveling to Colombia–yay! I’m very excited about this trip because I’ve got many cool things planned. In this post, I’m sharing my rough itinerary and asking for tips and suggestions.

Trip length: 5 weeks

I’m allowing plenty of time for this trip since I don’t feel like rushing it; I’d rather move slowly. Also, 1 week of my trip, maybe more, will be devoted to volunteering and I’ve been to (and lived in) Ecuador and don’t feel like visiting Venezuela at the moment, so I don’t feel the need to include a second country. Just concentrating on one this time around.

CatedralPrimadaBogota2004-7.jpg

Flights: RT EWR to Bogotá

I’d hoped to fly open jaws–into Cali and out of a city in the north–but I had a $300 credit with United I had to use.

Rough Itinerary: Maybe a Loop

I tend to take some pretty loco routes–which only make sense to me. This time around, I think I’d like to try something that’s logical (subject to change, of course). I might head south first, then north and back down again–like what’s in this map from my travel guide.

small map

The Major Cities

Although I’m not a big city person, I do want to visit these cities. I think they have a lot to offer even if I don’t stick around too long.

Tourist Attractions + Couch Surfing in Bogotá

I hope to couch surf in Bogotá because such a large city; I think that spending time with locals would enhance my experience. I’d also like to go on a bike tour. From what I’ve read, it sounds like a great way to see some of the city.

Salsa Dancing in Cali

For me, this is a must-do. Colombians, including one from Cali, taught me how to dance many years ago. I have some very happy memories of those late nights in clubs, the awesome music, the great dancers and the fun I had. Hoping to have a stronger dose of that in Cali–and I have no doubt I will!

Volunteering in Medellín

I found a great cause, Angeles de Medellín, which I’d like to be part of. An American, Mark Kaseman, started this foundation in 2006 to helped displaced, impoverished families in the mountains around the city. It’s a center for children to learn, explore and play. Since I’m a teacher, I’m sure I’ll have a lot to contribute. I very much look forward to helping out.

Wandering Around Cartagena’s Old Town

Check out those colors! I love colonial towns; they’re fun to explore and photograph. I’m sure this will be a real treat.

Cartagena, Colombia

Smaller Towns, Villages, Parks, etc.

These are in random order (since I’m still learning about what and where they are).

  • Villa de Leyva
  • Barichara
  • Coffee zone
  • Taganga
  • Tayrona
  • Playa Blanca
  • Rodadero

My Dream

I wish I could visit Cano Cristale–this river that turns red between June and November due to the moss and algae blooming. It looks beyond surreal.

Mario Carvajal

But I’m not sure I can.

I’ve read that a Yellow Fever shot is required and unfortunately, a doctor I saw said I shouldn’t get it because I had Bell’s Palsy a few years ago and that it (Bell’s Palsy) is a possible side effect. I’d hate to get a relapse. I’m not sure I can reach this doctor to see if it’s safe now since he left the office.

It’s also a pricey trip (for me): around $600 for a few days. Not sure I can afford it given the length of my trip, etc.

Experiences/Ideas/Suggestions?

Destinations/Transportation: Have you been to Colombia? If so, what are some of your recommendations? Any places you highly recommend? Any tips re: traveling by bus?

Accommodations: Do  you have any recommendations for places to stay? I’m looking for low budget–no dorms in a hostel, but private rooms are great. Are there any Couch Surfing hosts you loved and recommend?

If you haven’t been to Colombia, is it on your list? If so, what would you like to do there?

Additional photo credits

Bogotá Cathedral: “CatedralPrimadaBogota2004-7“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Cartagena: Pedro Szeke

Cano Cristales: By Mario Carvajal (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

11 Responses to Colombia Trip Itinerary–Looking for Tips and Recommendations!
  1. Nick @ theboywander
    June 19, 2014 | 11:34 am

    I loved Colombia, the people are beautiful and some of the friendliest I’ve met. I only got to Cartagena and Santa Marta/Taganga/Tayrona. I stayed at Dreamers Hostel in Santa Marta for 5 weeks, they’ve got private rooms , a pool, pool table, bar and kitchen. The staff there were fantastic and really helpful and you have to try the Lasagne from the restaurant. It’s only a short taxi ride to Taganga from there too. As for Tayrona National Park, try and allow a night for two to stay in the jungle in hammocks (bring some food as it can be a little pricey). This is my experience in Tayrona http://theboywander.net/walking-jaguars/
    Nick @ theboywander recently posted..How I Became a Sculptor in MamallapuramMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 19, 2014 | 11:44 am

      Thanks, Nick–I really appreciate the info. Good to know about that hostel. Sounds like my cup of tea. Lasagne? OK. I’m in. :) Tayrona looks cool. Just checked out your post. So repellant, huh? :) And bring some food? Good to know. I hate when I end up somewhere and realize, too late, that the food is overpriced.

      How was Cartagena, btw? Do you remember where you stayed?

      Thanks again!

  2. Nick @ theboywander
    June 19, 2014 | 11:57 am

    Food and repellant and you’ll have a great time!

    Cartagena is really beautiful, I spent days walking around the Old City, there’s a really cool art museum there too. I actually stayed in 3 places in Cartagena and they were all great. The first was called The Chill House (there’s two, we stayed in the one in the old city), it’s a cute little place that’s a bit quieter then we moved to a really nice luxury hotel for a few nights which was beautiful but I will never remember the name of it. After that little escape we moved to Media Luna Hostel which was much bigger and had a bar attached to it. Great place for meeting people.

    I may be biased because I’m Australian, but The Australian Fusion Cafe in Cartagena was pretty great too!
    Nick @ theboywander recently posted..How I Became a Sculptor in MamallapuramMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 19, 2014 | 12:27 pm

      Ha ha…OK, will pack both if I head over there.

      Great to hear about Cartagena. Chill House? Cool name. I’ll keep that cafe in mind. Thank you! :)

  3. Anuj
    June 19, 2014 | 1:35 pm

    a) Bogota
    Don’t miss cyclovia on sundays – great fun and very local experience.
    Place to stay – try the cranky croc hostel – they had decent private rooms for not too much

    b) Villa de Levya
    Outside town is this couple that runs their own biodynamic farm http://www.elarcaverde.com/
    You can even choose to stay there and work for them in exchange for food/accommodations.
    This place was the highlight of Colombia for me – not only are they great people, the location is awesome and they make great food. The husband also can take you canyoning and for hikes in the surrounding area.
    Getting there is something to be worked out though.

    If you have issues getting in touch with them (I did), the people who own this place http://www.mawasifinca.com/ – a very nice couple – know them very well (also an awesome place to stay if it fits your budget) and can get in touch with them for you

    c) Lago de Tota (about 3 hours from Villa de Laevya)
    Colombia’s biggest lake gets no love. Stay anywhere around here – it’s nowhere Colombia but its awesome – very genuine people and a super local experience. Going on the lake, maybe even hanging out on any of the small islands in the middle and hanging out on Playa Blanca is awesome.

    Hope that helps – let me know if you have questions on any of this.

    • CB Driver
      June 19, 2014 | 1:52 pm

      Wow, Anuj–thank you! Cyclovia sounds like fun! And I had not heard about that lake. Sounds great.

      I was thinking about heading over to Cali from Bogota (maybe stopping off somewhere on the way), then moving north from there to Medellín and then up to the coast and back down.

      Do you think that if I follow this, it would makes sense to save Villa de Levya and Lago de Tota for the end of the trip? I’ll be flying out of Bogotá. I could stop at those spots on my way back to Bogotá. Or I could do them first while I’m in Bogotá early on. What do you think would make more sense?

      Thanks again. Great advice!

    • CB Driver
      June 29, 2014 | 12:45 am

      Hi, Anuj. I made it to Villa de Leyva. Was great! I also got to see Barichara–loved it! Wish I had more time there. Didn’t make it to the Lago, however…

      • Anuj Adhiya
        July 18, 2014 | 8:11 am

        Hey – just saw this response!
        So glad you enjoyed VDL and made it to Barichara (I havent been but a friend just went and said the same thing about it).
        There’s so much to see in Colombia, I don’t think anyone would feel like they had enough time in any place :)
        Keep the bus rolling – I’m catching up on your adventures now.
        Salud!

        • CB Driver
          July 18, 2014 | 8:40 am

          Hi, Anuj. Yeah VDL was nice!
          True about feeling like there wasn’t enough time in one place.

          Right now I’m in Cartagena. Struggling with the weather. Ugh. Took a city tour yesterday and am no trying to decide if I want to go to Playa Blanca later and spend one night there before moving on to Santa Marta and the beaches there (I’m going to to try to get to Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallina!). Some say that Playa Blanca is a ‘must-see’. I don’t know, though. I’m feeling pretty tired and also if I go later, it will be on a Friday night. I wonder if it will be crowded since this is Colombia and it’s the beginning of a weekend.

          Did you go and was it that amazing?

          Did you go to La Guajira?

          Thanks!

  4. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    June 24, 2014 | 7:06 am

    What an incredible adventure you’re embarking upon!I can see why you would want to visit Cano Cristale – I had never heard of it and I haven’t been to Colombia but it looks absolutely stunning but even if you don’t make it there, it looks like there will plenty of other amazing sights!
    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) recently posted..The Ljubljananjam Food Tour, SloveniaMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 29, 2014 | 12:44 am

      Hi, Shikha. Thanks! Cano Cristale looks amazing…I’m still fantasizing about it. Not sure if I’ll go. So far, having fun. Thanks for stopping by!

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