Below are a couple of suggested itineraries we've draw up for a short-trip to Colombia that are specifically designed to give you a small taste of each of the varied climates, activities and tourist sites that the country has to offer. You should be able to comfortably complete the route within a period of two weeks, but if you have longer then so much the better. There's easily enough to see and do on either of these routes here to keep you entertained for a month, or even longer.
Colombia in Two Weeks: Itinerary One
Most likely, you will first arrive into Colombia via the international airport at Bogota. It's worth spending a day or two here to explore the colonial buildings of La Candelaria district, particularly the government buildings around the Plaza de Bolivar and the expansive Gold Museum.
If you're more interested in getting active, then you'd do better to dedicate half a day to exploring Cerro de Monserrate, a large hill accessed from downtown which gives great views over the whole city. You can get up to the summit either by a steep climb on foot, or by hitching a ride on the cable car which runs up the Cerro. At night, your destination of choice should be the area around Parque del 93, where you will find a diverse range of places to eat and drink into the early hours.
Unless you have a strong interest in exploring the city’s other museums and cultural offerings, a trip of two weeks isn’t long enough to justify spending much more time in the capital. Especially given that there are so many other attractions to enjoy outside the city. So your next move should be to catch an overnight bus (or fly) to the coffee region to experience the fresh mountain climate and take a tour of any of the numerous coffee plantations. The small town of Salento is a pleasant place to relax, soak up some of rural Colombian culture, and to use as a base to explore the wider region.
Next stop is Medellin, the city of the eternal spring, known equally for the warmth of its climate and of its inhabitants. Try and time your visit to coincide with a weekend so you can enjoy the ample restaurants and lively Latin nightlife on offer round the Poblado district. In the daytime, take a ride on the ski-lift style transport hooked into the city’s metro system to explore the mountainous areas and less affluent districts on the edge of the metropolis.
The following day, take the 3 hour bus trip to the beautiful town of Guatape just outside Medellin. Staying the night here will allow you to scale to the lookout point atop the large rock formation on the edge of the town, and to engage in some of the aquatic activities available.
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To relax during the last part of your trip, head up to Cartagena (again, a short internal flight or longer overnight bus journey away) on the Caribbean coast. Here you can spend the time exploring the old colonial center, relaxing on the beach, and enjoying the luxury dining, accommodation and shopping opportunities.
A highly worthwhile trip from the city is the boat ride to Playa Blanca a short distance away. Most people come just for the day, but if you want to fully appreciate the beach at its finest it's worth staying for at least a night or two. Between Cartagena and Playa Blanca you will easily find enough to keep you entertained for the remaining few nights before heading back to Bogota to catch your flight home.
Itinerary Two: For Beach Lovers
This second itinerary is aimed at anyone keen to make the most of the beaches of Colombia's Caribbean coast. A sensible move, given that the vacation spots along this stretch are some of the country's finest.
Before heading up to the coast, you'll want to take in a bit of the urban environment first. Try flying straight into Medellin for the weekend, and follow the plan suggested above. After enjoying some of the numerous opportunities for drinking, dancing and being merry, on Monday morning you'll catch a quick internal flight (of about 45 minutes) up to the distinctly less pleasant city of Turbo at the very north of the Antioquia region.
Don't fear, you won't be here long. You're just here to catch the boat across the Gulf of Uraba to the laid back fishing villages of Capurgana and Sapzurro. Enjoy some of the local cuisine here and spend a few days relaxing on the amazing beaches. You should definitely also spend one day in La Miel, an incredible little beach located just over hill from Sapzurro, which technically falls in Panamanian territory.
After this, it's a bit of a long day travelling back on the boat to Turbo and then straight on the bus to Cartagena, Colombia's colonial jewel. The beaches in town here aren't the best on the coast, but are certainly good enough to relax for a day or two to recover from the journey. There's also plenty of the historical stuff in the city center to keep you entertained.
Next stop, just a few hours up the coast, is Santa Marta, another old city located right by the beach. You can spend a couple of days here if you wish, but you're probably best to push straight on to the more impressive beaches just up the road. Your options are either to go to Tayrona - a national park of jungles and beaches - or to Palomino - a long stretch of sandy beach from which you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
Both of these are excellent places to spend some time, but you'll probably have to choose to go to one or the other. You won't have time to do both. Once you've topped up your tan for the final few days, you'll have to start to make your way back by bus to Cartagena, and then an internal flight back to Medellin.