The ultimate Colombia itinerary for 3 weeks

Colombia is the most diverse place we have ever visited. It has everything in one country: tropical beaches, impressive mountains, coffee plantations, colonial villages, colorful cities and beautiful jungle! The perfect Colombia travel itinerary should introduce you to all these sides of Colombia and show you all around vast country. We created the ultimate Colombia itinerary for 3 weeks doing exactly that.

De perfecte reisroute voor Colombia | The perfect itinerary for Colombia | The Orange Backpack

How much travel time for Colombia do you need?

Colombia is immensely big. The country covers 1.142.000 km². To compare: that is almost 30 times our homecountry the Netherlands. You will therefore spend a lot of time on the road and often have plan in full travel days between two destinations. To avoid spending half of your trip on a bus, we advise you to spend at least 3 weeks in Colombia. You will of course still not be able to see all the beautiful places of this beautiful country. But in this blog we will help you putting together your perfect travel
itinerary to make the most out of your trip.

How to get around Colombia

Colombia is not difficult to travel at all. You can rent a car, if you like to explore the country on your own. But given the great distances and good public transport, we would not recommend that. Take the local bus instead. For long distances, the buses are often even equipped with air conditioning, wifi and comfortable seats, so it is not that bad to spend a lot of time in them.

Even better? Use domestic flights! They are not expensive at all and are perfect for covering large distances. Or shorter distance as well, if you’d like to travel faster between destinations. We took a domestic flight three times during our three weeks in Colombia. It appeared to be even cheaper for us to catch a flight from Bogotá to Salento than a bus.

The best time to visit Colombia

Colombia is so close to the equator that the country has no seasons. Winter or summer, spring or autumn, it is always pretty much the same temperature and the days are equally long. That does not mean that the whole country has the same temperatures. We already mentioned Colombia as the most diverse country we have ever visited and that certainly applies to the climate. Capital Bogotá is high in the mountains and is relatively cool, Medellin is also called the city of ‘eternal spring’ and the tropical north has matching tropical temperatures. The country is therefore easy to visit throughout the year, although it will rain more often during the months of April-June and October-November. The rain seasons vary per part of the country.

The driest period – and therefore the high season – is in December, January and February. From December to mid-January it will be the most busy, as Colombians themselves go on holidays then. We traveled through Colombia in February and can recommend that to you as well.

It is also very important what you want to do. Do you want to visit Tayrona National Park? Then check when the park is closed. In order for the local tribes to perform their ceremonies without tourists and for the ecosystem of the park to restore, it is closed one month a year. The same applies to the well-known Ciudad Perdida hike. If the ancient city is used by the local Indians for their annual rituals, there are temporarily no hikes.

The perfect Colombia itinerary for 3 weeks

You’ll need 3 weeks for this Colombia itinerary. We have not included the famous Ciudad Perdida trail in this itinerary, as not everyone has the time for this four-day hike or wants to put in the much-needed effort for it. Also, destinations such as Cali, San Agustín, the Las Lajas Basilica in Ipiales and the east coast are not included in this route, because they are quite off the route and we think that they are not worth the extra travel time. But do you have more than three weeks? Then these are exactly the destinations that you can add to your itinerary!

De perfecte reisroute voor Colombia | The perfect itinerary for Colombia | The Orange Backpack

Day 1: Bogotá. Your journey will probably begin in the high mountain city of Bogotá. Get to know with the Colombian cuisine, visit museums and admire the graffiti.

Day 2, 3 and 4: Salento and Valle de Cocora. Travel on day 2 by bus or domestic flight to Salento, in the heart of the coffee region. Visit a coffee plantation, take a horseback ride through this beautiful area and go on the famous hike to the meters-high palm trees of Valle de Cocora.

reisroute in Colombia | Guatapé | The Orange Backpack
reisroute in Colombia | Guatapé | The Orange Backpack
Medellin | reisroute in Colombia | The Orange Backpack

Day 5 and 6: Medellin. Catch a bus or domestic flight to Medellin, the city of the eternal spring. Tip: do you have more time? Then visit the beautiful colonial village Jardin between Salento and Medellin. In Medellin, take the cable car for a view from the top and a view over the slums, join the free walking tour and visit the city center.

Day 7: Gautapé and the El Peñón. This great day trip from Medellin is only a bus ride away! This day you go to the colourful village of Gautapé and the huge El Peñón. Climb the big rock for a magnificent view over the lake area. Do you have some the timeleft? Stay here a bit longer and spend the night in Guatapé before returning to Medellin.

Day 8, 9 and 10: Cartagena. You had the choice between bus or domestic flight before, but for this is a distance you’ll prefer to travel with a flight. is that not within your budget? Then take a night bus to spend as little time als possible awake on the bus during this long journey as possible. But beware that the bus will probably around the same price as a domestic flight! Our next stop is beautiful Cartagena. Our itinerary gives you two days to wander around Cartagena. You might think that there is not much to do in this colourful colonial city, but it is just amazing to simply be here. It is the most beautiful city of the country, so stroll through the streets, enjoy the tropical temperatures and have a taste of the Colombian food.

reisroute in Colombia | Guatapé | The Orange Backpack
reisroute in Colombia | Guatapé | The Orange Backpack
Palomino | reisroute in Colombia | Guatapé | The Orange Backpack

Tip: Ciudad Perdida hike. Would you love to include the multi-day Ciudad Perdida hike in your trip? Then this is the time to do so! Head to Santa Marta, where you will find the companies offering this unique hike. You will need some time to recover afterwards, so spend these days in Palomino / Tayrona and Minca to relax. If you have three weeks time for your trip, you may not have enough time to add a multi-day hike to this itinerary. We then advise you to skip San Gil, Barichara and Villa de Leyva. To visit a colonial village, you can add Jardin between Salento and Medellin to your route instead!

Day 11 and 12: Palomino or Tayrona Nationaal Park. Here we give you a choice: visit the beautiful Tayrona National Park or – if that is closed – the hippie beach village Palomino. Both are not far from Cartagena by bus, so you will already be able to spend some time in the park or on the Palomino beaches on day 11.

Day 13, 14 and 15: Minca. Catch a bus to Minca, a mountain village not far from your previous destination. Head into the mountains, visit a coffee plantation, have a shower under a waterfall and swim in blue lakes. If you stay at the popular Casa Loma, you’ll enjoy the most beautiful sunsets and sleep in cute wooden cabins or huts!

reisroute in Colombia | Guatapé | The Orange Backpack
Minca | reisroute in Colombia | The Orange Backpack
reisroute in Colombia | Guatapé | The Orange Backpack

Day 16 and 17: San Gil. Take a bus to Santa Marta and from there take a domestic flight – possibly with a transfer in Bogotá – to the aiport of Bucaramanga, where you’ll take another bus to San Gil. You are now in the adventure activitie city of Colombia! Are you going paragliding, abseiling, mountain biking, white water rafting or bungee jumping? A must is at least a game of Colombian tejo at the Comité Municipal de Tejo. Macondo Guesthouse has a tejo night every Tuesday over there as well.

Day 18 and 19: Barichara and Gauné. A short bus ride from San Gil you’ll arrive at the colonial town of Barichara. The white houses are very photogenic! A must is walking the Camino Real from Barichara to the even more adorable village of Gauné. Spend one night in Barichara – Tinto Hostel is highly recommended – and take the bus back to San Gil the next evening to spend another night there.

Day 19 and 20: Villa de Leyva. On day 19 you’ll take the bus to this other colonial village with its huge square and white houses. Spend a full day here and then take the bus to Bogotá.

Day 21 and 22: Bogotá. It is the end of your trip. Spend a last day in Bogotá and eat one last empanada and plate of bandeja paisa before heading home.