Planning a trip to Colombia? Check out this Colombia travel guide to find out which cities to add to your itinerary. Beaches, mountains, cities, and rainforests. Colombia really has it all!
Spend some time in Colombia to get a taste of the fast-paced salsa dancing, the freshest seafood, the beautiful street art, and of course, the wonderful locals.
Not sure where to start? Check out our travel guide to Colombia to start planning your trip to this diverse South American country that has quickly become a hot tourist destination.
How Safe is Colombia?
Colombia has an enormous history of crime, and many people continue to avoid travelling to this amazing country because of the stigma that is associated with drug cartels and Colombia. However, those days are over.
The situation in Colombia has drastically changed as the government is trying really hard to improve the country and help its people. The government’s efforts are noticeable around the country.
If you are in a major city, you will likely not encounter any issues beyond the regular tourist stuff like pickpocketing. In fact, you’ll most likely feel incredibly safe throughout your entire stay.
The Colombians who lived through the horrible drug cartel years are thrilled tourists are enjoying their country. They want you to have a great time so you go home and tell all your friends you had a great time. The younger generation that didn’t live through the drug cartel horrors doesn’t really give tourists a second thought.
However, it is still not advised to go outside of the main areas, particularly near borders. There are on-going negotiations with certain illegal armed groups and they are located mostly in rural areas, close to borders.
Like many destinations, check the travel advisories and follow basic tenants of being a safe tourist. Colombia has become a destination for expats and digital nomads
How to Get to Colombia
The majority of flights to Colombia arrive in Medellín or Bogotá or Cali. Other possible airports include Barranquilla, Cartagena, or Pereira.
Flights to Colombia from Canada are priced incredibly low, which makes it a great destination for backpackers and families.
Transport Within Colombia
The best way to get around Colombia is to take a plane between cities. Intra-country flights are cheap, popular, and guarantees you avoid any unsafe regions. There are several airlines that provide flights within Colombia.
There are buses that go between major cities, but not every route and road is recommended. The Medellín-Bogotá route has recently undergone repairs and is now much safer than noted in many online resources.
Canadian-Specific Information for Colombia
Canadian citizens using a Canadian passport do not require a visa to enter Colombia for tourism purposes. The permitted length of stay is determined by the immigration officer upon entry to Colombia. A Canadian tourist stay can range from 30 to 90 days.
All Canadians are required to pay a “Reciprocity Fee” of approximately $85 CAD upon entry at either airports or seaports. Children under the age of 14 and adults older than 79 years are exempted from the fee.
When you land in Colombia, you will enter a separate immigration line for Canadians in order to pay the fee by cash, credit card, or debit card.
Where to Go in Colombia
Bogotá is both the capital city and the largest city in Colombia. It is filled with empanada shops, historical buildings, and a messy, colourful vibe.
You definitely want to head to La Candelaria district to explore the architecture and restaurants – it is where many of the hostels are located. It is recommended to stick to a daytime exploration of La Candelaria as it is easy to get lost – great during the day, not so great at night. Chapinero is a higher-end area that has more of the hotels and nicer restaurants. The party district is called Parque de la 93 or Zona Rosa, and you will want to party.
In Bogotá, you can check out many museums including the Botero Museum that is filled with famous artworks from artists like Fernando Botero, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and way more. The admission is even free!
Monserrate is worth the gondola ride up the hill to see the view of the city. If you are looking for a day trip, head to the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral to see the underground salt mines and cathedral.
Bogotá can get a bit overwhelming if you are walking around the most popular streets so make sure to take a break in one of the many parks in the city like Parque de los Periodistas or the Botanical Garden.
Cartagena is on the Caribbean coast of Colombia and the weather is just as expected: hot, humid, and necessitates siestas. Cartagena is the go-to vacation destination for Colombians so you know that it is a great place to visit!
Boca Grande is the main hotel area right next to the main beach but it also is surrounded by restaurants like Irish pubs and fast food chains. The old city centre is filled with bright colonial houses that make the city feel incredibly romantic. Make sure to watch the sunset from the top of the old city wall at least once.
For the most authentic experience of Cartagena, stay in the Getsemani area. It’s also where all the gorgeous wall-mural graffiti is located, as well as the tourist dance spot Café Havana.
Cartagena is the destination for beaches and seafood. It has the freshest ceviche (try La Cevichería) and some fantastic local specialty seafood soups. To cool down, grab an ice-cold Aguapanela drink (sugar cane juice) or a popular Limonada de Coco (coconut limeade).
Medellín has gone under a complete transformation since your family has last heard about it in the news. Medellín has actually become a huge hub for expats and digital nomads because of how great it is for long-term living. Huge credits go to the weather, which provides perfect temperatures all year round (with some spurts of rain).
The Poblado district is the trendy place to be and typically where most of the hostels and foreign-inspired restaurants are located.
Downtown Medellín is crowded, loud, and absolutely worth a visit. Check out the outdoor Botero statues in Plaza de las Esculturas, the bright lights in Luces Park, and the monuments in Plaza San Antonio.
One of the best activities to do in Medellín is to take the metro system and the metrocable cars to all of the major destinations. The metro system is spotless and runs super smoothly, while the cable cars are an extension to access farther comunas (often poorer communities). You do not have to get off the cable cars, just go around in a circle.
Comuna 13 used to be one of the poorest areas in the city but it has been totally revamped with the addition of their outdoor escalators and giant wall murals.
Don’t miss out on the nightlife in Medellín that is filled with hot, sweaty, incredibly salsa bars!
A short drive away from Medellin is the town of Guatapé, also known as Colombia’s most colourful town.
Enjoy some street food, check out the view from the top of the Rock of Guatapé (740 stairs), explore the lake by kayak or just spend the day enjoying the bright colours of the homes and main squares.
If you are an avid dancer (or want to learn) then you should head to Cali. No trip to Cali would be complete without experiencing this city’s claim to fame. Even if you don’t like dancing, you can watch live performances – although be prepared for them to inspire you to dance the night away at clubs like La Terraza and La Purga.
Beyond salsa dancing, other attractions include San Antonio Park (beautiful views), Cristo Rey (a giant statue of Jesus), and Parque El Gato (a park filled with local art of cats).
If you are looking for a true beach getaway in Colombia, then head to Santa Marta where there are white sandy beaches paired with turquoise water.
Many people head to this part of the country to hike through the Tayrona National Park. You can stay for a day or you can hike for four or five days to the Ciudad Perdida. Expect lush jungle scenery at the border of the beaches. Also, expect to sweat like you have never sweated before.
A short distance away from Santa Marta is Taganga, a tiny fishing village with amazing scuba diving opportunities.
More into mountains than beaches? Head to Minca, a short 30-minutes drive from Santa Marta to get to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains (the highest coastal mountain range in the world). Excellent for hiking, cooling off in waterfalls, and checking out the gorgeous panoramas of the area.
For other ideas, check out what to do on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
There are so many cities to explore in Colombia and each one brings a unique experience. From the Caribbean coast to the Andean mountains to the Amazon and to the major cities, Colombia is a perfect destination for your next trip.
Get the Best Deals with Skyscanner
Searching for cheap flights? Check out Skyscanner’s flight search to get the best deals. Make sure to bookmark our Weekly Deals to South America deals page, updated every week with the latest flight deals from Canadian cities to Colombia and other destinations throughout South America.