No longer the dangerous destination it once was, Colombia has undergone a true renaissance in recent decades. The narco-guerrilla state that used to make headlines has been transformed into a safe and welcoming country eager to share its culture and landscape with any willing visitor. Colombia should be on the top of anyone's list who is looking for a culturally vibrant destination sporting superb landscapes and endless possibilities for adventure.
On a tour of Colombia, you can find yourself dancing salsa in the clubs of Cali, soaring like an eagle as you paraglide over Andean coffee plantations, or spotting rare birds in the Amazon, just to name a few examples. Use this guide to see just what you can do on a tour in this impressive country.
What type of trek do you want to experience? Would you like to hike through the cloud forests of Cocora Valley among the world’s tallest palm trees? Maybe you’d rather spend a week trekking with your indigenous guide through jungles, hills, and rivers to the mysterious lost city of Teyuna. Or perhaps hiking through coastal forests full of monkeys and parrots to find your own hidden beach in Tayrona National Park is more your style. All these and more can be done on a trekking tour in Colombia.
With such a diverse landscape, Colombia has an adventure for anyone looking to get their adrenaline pumping! The towering cliffs at the small town of Suesca, just outside of Bogotá, draw rock climbers of all abilities. Get ready to soar like a bird over the hills around Medellín as you paraglide on the predictable winds in this mountain valley.
The diversity of adventure activities in Colombia makes it a fantastic destination. There are whitewater rapids to raft, waterfalls to repel, and towering mountains to climb.
History & Culture Tours
Colombia’s history goes back centuries, but some of the most interesting changes in this country happened just recently. Ride a cable car to one of the comunas of Medellín to see first hand how one of the world’s most dangerous cities was transformed into a safe and thriving destination.
If you are in Colombia during Carnival, then be sure to head to the Caribbean city of Barranquilla to experience one of the biggest folkloric expressions on the continent, or go on a tour of the walled city of Cartagena to see one the best preserved colonial cities in South America.
Best Time to Visit Colombia
Colombia’s diverse landscape means that weather varies greatly around the country. The Andes region has two rainy seasons: from May to July and October to December. Rains can be heavy, but brief, so don’t rule out traveling during the wet season as prices tend to be lower.
On the Caribbean coast it tends to only rain from September to October. While the rains can vary, temperatures remain relatively constant year-round. The Amazon region stays about the same throughout the year, with hot daytime temperatures and frequent rains.
What to Look for in a Tour to Colombia
With so many different experiences on offer, a trip to Colombia might seem a bit overwhelming. Be sure to choose a tour that offers the experience you want. You can go on a tour that will combine a number of different activities to get a overview of what Colombia has to offer, or you can choose to focus on on particular type of experience and go on a tour that specializes in just that.
Typical Tour Cost
Luckily for you, Colombia is a very inexpensive place to travel. A week-long inclusive tour can cost less than $1,000. Adventure tours that include gear rental, like scuba and paragliding, will often be a bit more expensive. Be sure to check if rental costs are included in the tour price. Guided day trips are very affordable, seldom costing more than $100, and usually much less.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
What you should pack depends on where you go. The mountains are much cooler than the coast. Be prepared for occasional (but heavy) downpours. Bring a poncho or travel umbrella. Colombians typically dress up. While flip flops and shorts may be fine for the beach, you’ll want to dress a bit more stylishly in the major cities.
If you’ll be near the coast or in the Amazon region, you’ll want to bring strong insect repellent for the swarms of mosquitoes you’re sure to encounter. It will have to be a natural repellent though, as many parks do not allow ones containing DEET. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are another good way to prevent bug bites.
Other Tips for Travel in Colombia
Greetings are important. Conversations don’t truly begin until everyone has exchanged a “buenos días” or “cómo estás.” This is true for text messaging as well as in-person conversations.
Spanish is the language of Colombia, so it’s helpful to know at least a few basic phrases. Some Colombians speak English, but you shouldn’t count on it. Having a stronger grasp of Spanish will only enhance your experience.
Travel by land around Colombia can be time-consuming and uncomfortable due to the many winding mountain roads and impenetrable jungles. Fortunately, the country is dotted with regional airports and domestic flights are surprisingly inexpensive.
In most major cities, the tap water is perfectly safe to drink. However, you’ll want to stick to bottled or purified water in rural areas.
There are a number of recommended vaccines for travel to Colombia. Depending on where you are going these include typhoid, Hepatitis A and B, malaria, and yellow fever. If you are heading to the jungle you may be required to get a yellow fever vaccine. As always, purchase travel health insurance before leaving home.
Colombia is not the war-torn, guerrilla-overrun, narco state it once was. The country has done a lot in recent years to improve safety. Kidnappings and violent crime are now rare. However, it's still a good idea to keep your wits about you. Ask a local or your tour guide if it's safe to be in certain areas, particularly after dark.