1. Cartagène - Pixabay

Colombia: Travel guide | Itineraries and Highlights

To the point Here are our must-sees tips for planning your trip to Colombia, a sunny destination that deserves to be known and visited for its many natural and cultural attractions.

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Are you interested in Colombia? Here are a few essentials to know for your trip.

Located in the extreme north of the South American continent, Colombia mainly consists of tropical forests, the Andes Mountains and several coffee plantations. Its territory and islands have a lot to offer in terms of outdoor and cultural activities

14. Carthagène - Unsplash
14. Carthagène - Unsplash

Why visit Colombia?

First, Colombia is the world’s most prosperous country in biodiversity per square meter. It settles the “first place” in terms of many natural wonders. For example, the country is home to the most amazing diversity of birds on the planet, with more than 1,900 different bird species.

Colombia also has the most significant number of butterflies worldwide, with more than 3,600 species recorded. This means that 20% of all butterfly species on Earth live there!

2. Papillon dans un jardin en Colombie - Pixabay
2. Papillon dans un jardin en Colombie - Pixabay

Colombia is divided into six tourist regions with different ecosystems and cultures. Colonial cities, archaeological parks, snow-capped volcanoes and plains, Caribbean sandy beaches… Colombia offers a diversity of landscapes that will delight nature lovers.

In just a few hours, you can hike to the world’s highest coastal mountain and then visit the city of Bogotá to learn about legendary gold stories, indigenous cultures and national heroes; or visit the lush green mountains of the Cordillera Occidental and learn all about coffee and flowers.

Environmentally conscious travellers will also be pleased to learn that the destination is one of only 12 countries with a sustainable tourism policy.

Some must-sees

Its beaches

One of the main attractions of Colombia is its beautiful beaches. The country has two coasts, the Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast. With beaches grouped mainly around the cities of Cartagena and Santa Marta, the Caribbean coast is known for its turquoise and transparent waters, perfect for diving. The Pacific coast has large and more secret beaches where whale watching is possible.

6. Une plage dans le parc national Tayrona  - Unsplash
6. Une plage dans le parc national Tayrona - Unsplash

Its islands

In Colombia, there is also a wide range of islands to visit, the most popular of which are San Andres and Providencia, Gorgona and Baru, ideal places to practice diving or relax in the sun. More specifically, the country has about 74 islands, including oceanic, river and lake islands, cays and islets. The majority of them are found on the Caribbean coast.

7. Île de San Andres - Unsplash
7. Île de San Andres - Unsplash

Its National Parks

The impressive biodiversity of Colombia is listed in its System of National Natural Parks of Colombia (SPNN). With a total of 59 natural areas, the National Parks cover just over 11% of the country.

Among the must-sees is the Archaeological Park of San Agustin, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with more than 500 sculptures around a forest walkway.

9. Parc archéologique de San Augustin - Sacred Sites
9. Parc archéologique de San Augustin - Sacred Sites

Mountaineers and high mountain hikers will enjoy the Los Nevados National Park, located in the heart of the coffee region and the central mountain range. Famous for its lunar landscapes, this park is home to no less than eight volcanoes.

10. Los Nevados - Unsplash
10. Los Nevados - Unsplash

The Macarena National Natural Park is also a spectacular place. Recognized as a “Biological Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO, it combines three ecosystems: Andean, Amazonian, and Onoquian. The park is also known for its endemic seaweed, Macarenia clavigera, which creates an extraordinary spectacle in the river called Cano Cristales – or “river of five colours”.

11. Rivière Cano Cristales - ProColombia
11. Rivière Cano Cristales - ProColombia

Another must-see natural site in Colombia is the Tayrona Park and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, protecting over 100 mammal and 300 bird species spread over 12,000 hectares of land and 3,000 hectares of sea. In the heights of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, you can organize an adventure hike to discover the mysterious Lost City (Ciudad Perdida trek).

Cartagena

The most visited city in Colombia, Cartagena de Indias, is on the Caribbean coast. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, its old walled city, dating from the 16th century, is characterized by its squares, cobblestone streets and colourful colonial-style buildings.

Cartagena enjoys a tropical climate, ideal for beach activities. By boat, you can go to the Baru Peninsula, with its white sandy beaches, or to the Rosary Islands, with their famous coral reefs.

15. Carthagène - Unsplash
15. Carthagène - Unsplash

Medellin

At 1,538 meters above sea level in the heart of a valley, Medellin is nicknamed “The City of Eternal Spring”. Its many hills offer beautiful views of the city. Today, the city is sophisticated and prosperous, despite a heavy past characterized by the drug cartels of Pablo Escobar. The pedestrian streets of the upscale, residential El Poblado neighbourhood are lined with fine stores and restaurants.

16. Medellin - Unsplash
16. Medellin - Unsplash

Bogota

The capital of the country, Bogota, is a city perched at an altitude of more than 2,600 meters. Its cobblestone street center, La Candelaria, exhibits colonial sites, including the neoclassical Teatro Colón theatre and the 17th-century Church of San Francisco, and a museum on the art of Fernando Botero and the Gold Museum. The Zona Rosa neighborhood is also popular for its many restaurants and stores.

Near Bogota, the charming village of Raquira is known as the capital of pottery and handicrafts.

17. Bogota - Unsplash
17. Bogota - Unsplash

Frequent questions

What is the best time to visit Colombia?

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The best time to discover Colombia is the dry season, between December and March, with mild temperatures in the Andes and dry weather almost everywhere. On the other hand, for a hike in the Colombian Amazon, it is better to go between July and October.

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18. Raquira, capitale de la poterie en Colombie - Unsplash
18. Raquira, capitale de la poterie en Colombie - Unsplash

How to get around in Colombia?

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Buses: This is the most commonly used means of transportation. Each city has a well-organized terminal with food courts. For trips longer than four hours, long-distance buses are pretty comfortable. You can compare different companies on the internet.

Air: As with the bus network, air connections between central and medium-sized cities are numerous and frequent. Almost every major city has its airport and, if you book in advance, the prices can be attractive.

Vehicle rental: It is possible to rent a vehicle to visit a specific area but not to explore the whole country. This is still a new service in Colombia.

Cab: Affordable and practical in the big cities, for a cab service, we suggest always booking by phone to avoid the risk of scams.

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21. Carthagène - Pixabay
21. Carthagène - Pixabay

What is the local currency in Colombia?

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The Colombian peso’s currency used in Colombia, whose symbol is $ (and its currency is COP). It is good to know that the exchange rate applied when withdrawing money from ATMs is often better than what you will get in banks and exchange offices.

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Money
Money

What are the flights between Montreal and Bogota?

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Air Canada offers direct round-trip flights at prices around $800 – $1,000 this summer and $600 – $700 in the fall, or around 50,000 Aeroplan points + taxes. Several other airlines offer flights to Colombia from Montreal, including Copa Airlines, American Airlines, United, Delta and Aeromexico.

Check out our article Use Your Points to Travel to Colombia for our tips on how to save money.

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Here are some activities suggested by our partner Viator:

 

Bottom Line

Colombia is a sunny destination that deserves to be known and visited for its many natural attractions, islands, beaches, national parks, and colourful cultural life. In addition, the country is easily accessible thanks to direct flights with Air Canada.

Check out our other articles on Colombia to learn more about its history and how to get there with your points:

To visit, take along the Ulysses Guide Fabulous Colombia:

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Marjorie
Marjorie has three passions in life: writing, travel and the world of wellness. The last decade has been full of exploration for her! Her travels have taken her all over the world, from Central America to Asia, Europe and Africa. This former travel consultant loves to inspire us and share her best discoveries. She is also the author of several novels and guides.

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