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Colombia Itinerary: An Epic Free Guide For Adventure And Discovery

Driving ATVs in the mountains around Villa De Leyva

How to experience Cartagena, Boquilla, Medellin, Guatape, Nuqui Choco, Valle De Leyva, and Bogota

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Our two week Colombia itinerary was extraordinary. However, I won’t lie. Just before we left, I was nervous. I had researched extensively about where we should go and stay, and was comfortable that Colombia was a safe place to visit. However, after everything was booked, it seemed like every news article I read warned of violence or safety issues. Canadian and American travel advisories provided a long list of “do not even think of going there”, and I thought to myself, “what in the world have I done”?

And yet, my fears and misgivings were completely mislaid. Colombia was an extraordinary country and my family of five (three teenagers aged 12, 14, and 16 years old) loved everyday of our two week Colombia itinerary.

 

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Impressions From Our Two Week Colombia Itinerary

Colombia has it all.

 

Colombia was beautiful

First of all, it is a country of extreme beauty. It is surrounded by the blues of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, with beautiful beaches, marine life and jungle nearby. In addition, it seems like most of the country is packed with lush green mountains barely inhabited by civilization. We took several flights while we were in Colombia – from Cartagena to Medellin; from Medellin to Nuqui Choco (on the Pacific Ocean); and from Medellin to Bogota. I was astounded by how mountainous Colombia’s terrain was.

 

Colombia was friendly and felt safe

Contrary to reports of random violence, every person we met was friendly and proud of their country. In Medellin, strangers stopped us on the street and welcomed us to their city. We never felt in danger and walked happily and freely in the places we visited. The food went from dirt cheap and delicious street food to sophisticated international quality cuisine, sometimes at ridiculously low prices.

 

Colombia was authentic

Most importantly, I felt that our experiences were truly authentic. Wonderfully, foreign tourism is just beginning to flourish in Colombia. In several places, we were one of only a handful of tourists.  It was amazing.

 

two week Colombia Itinerary
The natural beauty of Colombia

 

Important Travel Tips For Any Colombia Itinerary

I have travelled to over 6o countries. Regardless, I was surprised by a few things in Colombia. Accordingly, in another blog Colombia Holidays: 10 “Must Know” Travel Tips!, I decided to highlight those travel tips that I wish I had known. These travel tips will help you arrive prepared and ready to enjoy your Colombia holiday, hopefully without surprises.

 

Day 1 of our 14 Day Colombia Itinerary

Cartagena

We arrived in Cartagena in the afternoon. We were picked up and driven to our hotel, Allure Chocolate Hotel. All of our transfers across Colombia were organized by The Colombian Way and their services were excellent each time.

Cartagena was the most touristy destination in which we stayed during our whole two weeks in Colombia. It has a cruise port and welcomes thousands of cruise passengers each year.

 

Walled City of Old Cartagena

I liked our hotel and its location. It was a modern boutique hotel with a small rooftop pool and bar a couple blocks from the beach and the walled city of Old Cartagena. Originally, I was tempted to stay in Old Cartagena, however I am glad that we did not. I found Old Cartagena to be very beautiful but it was super busy and packed with tourists.

For accommodation at the Allure Chocolate Hotel or elsewhere in Cartagena, I would recommend searching below in booking.com and using the amazing interactive map to find your ideal location at the best prices.

 



Booking.com

 

For dinner, we went to La Marea by Rausch, a 5 minute walk from our hotel. We enjoyed a sophisticated meal on the water, with a stunning view of Old Cartagena. It was a wonderful night.

 

Day 2 of our Two Week Colombia Itinerary

Cartagena

We booked a 2 hour private bike tour with Hi Cartagena. The tour took us all over Cartagena, including on top of the walls that bordered Old Cartagena. We also biked around Getsemani, an edgy part of Cartagena next to our hotel and just outside the walled city of Old Cartagena. In this part of Cartagena, the streets were filled with astonishing graffiti art. The bikes were very basic in quality, but the tour was a great way to quickly get a feel for the main parts of Cartagena.

 

Cartagena
A quick break on top of the walls of old Cartagena

 

Cartagena
The entrance to the walled city of old Cartagena.

 

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Enjoying the main plaza of Getsemani. We shared our space with some cool sculptures and graffiti art.

 

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One example of the amazing graffiti found on many walls in Getsemani.

 

Lunch in Old Cartagena

For lunch, we went to Espiritu Santo in the walled city of Old Cartagena.  This restaurant was recommended to us by a local and it was filled with Colombians. Enormous plates of traditional Caribbean food were served at very reasonable prices.  I barely made a dent in my meal.

 

Dinner in Old Cartagena

We had dinner at Cande Restaurant in the old city. This restaurant took traditional Caribbean dishes and added sophistication and flair to them. The food was absolutely delicious. As an added treat, dancers entertained us with traditional latin and indigenous dancing.  It was an amazing night.

 

Day 3 of our 14 Day Colombia Itinerary

Cartagena

Today, we spent most of the day in a local village called Boquilla where we spent the day learning how to fish, catch crabs and cook, all with local fishermen and their families. Boquilla was very poor. It was a startling contrast to the wealth of Cartagena, a mere 20 minute drive away.

We spent most of the day amongst the mangroves, knee deep in muddy water learning how to throw nets to scoop up fish, set crab traps and collect the live crabs. After, we went back to one of their homes, and in a muddy backyard steps from the river, we watched them cook the fish and boil the crabs on a makeshift campfire. Ultimately, we ate lunch next to the fire on simple plastic tables and chairs. Incredibly, I ate some of the best fish that I have ever eaten.

We booked this tour through Ecotours Boquilla.  It was a very cool experience.

 

two week Colombia Itinerary
Heading out to the mangroves and to learn how to trap crabs and catch fish.

 

14 day Colombia Itinerary
Preparing the bait and the crab traps for our day of fishing.

 

2 week Colombia Itinerary
Learning how to set traps to catch crabs

 

14 day Colombia Itinerary
Cooking our fish and boiling the crabs for lunch at the fisherman’s house.

 

Dinner in Old Cartagena

Dinner was at 1621, a restaurant at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena Hotel in old Cartagena. The food was exquisite. We sat at a table in their inside courtyard surrounded by plants, trees and a fountain. The setting was beautiful and the service was excellent. The contrast between the poverty and simpleness of our lunch with the the elegance and luxury of our dinner was remarkable. I couldn’t believe that these two experiences existed so close to one another.

 

Activities in Cartagena

For these and other amazing activities in Cartagena, I would recommend searching below in Get Your Guide.

 

 

Day 4 of our Two Week Colombia Itinerary

Cartagena to Medellin

This morning, we flew to Medellin and stayed at NH Collection Medellin Royal Hotel.  This is a nice hotel in the wealthy part of Medellin across from the Santa Fe Shopping Mall.  In the afternoon, we had a private tour of La Communa 13 booked through Toucan Cafe and Tours.

For accommodation at NH Collection Medellin Royal or elsewhere in Medellin, I would recommend searching below in booking.com and using the amazing interactive map to find your ideal location at the best prices.



Booking.com

 

La Communa 13 in Medellin

A few years ago, Communa 13 was the most dangerous neighbourhood in one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Today, it has transformed into a dynamic community with a vibrant street art and hip hop culture.

This was one of my favourite places that we visited during our two week Colombia itinerary. Houses were built one on top of another up a side of a mountain, a maze of concrete and wires. As we approached, I felt like we were about to enter a poor and dangerous slum. But that was far from the case. I saw spectacular graffiti art, seemingly on every wall and it was breathtaking. The streets were clean, brimming with adults going about their day and children playing. I watched street performers and tried delicious street food.  It was a thriving happy neighbourhood, such a contrast to its recent hellish past.

 

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The concrete jungle that is La Communa 13 in Medellin

 

Medellin
Street art along the road in La Commun 13 in Medellin

 

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One example of Graffiti art found on the streets of La Communa 13 in Medellin.

 

Medellin
Children playing at the playground surrounded by graffiti and art.

 

Our Tour in La Communa 13 in Medellin

Our guide lived in Communa 13. He was also a member of Casa Kolacho, a youth inspired art club. All money earned from the tour went to Casa Kolacho, which provided free dance, art and music classes to the community. As a tourist, I felt that I was not only witnessing a phenomenal transformation of a once troubled neighbourhood, but that our presence was helping them succeed. It was a memorable and fun experience. My kids loved our time here.

 

Download my personally crafted 14 day Colombia travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.

Days 5 – 8 of our 14 Day Colombia Itinerary

Medellin to Nuqui Choco

We flew one hour by twin turbo prop plane from Medellin to Nuqui on the Pacific Ocean. Then, we boarded a 20 person speedboat and for one hour, we crossed the Pacific Ocean to our lodge. During that hour, we barely saw a house or a person on the shore. We were surrounded by jungle and ocean.

We stayed at El Cantil Ecolodge, a very small lodge on the shores of the Pacific, and shared one hut with two rooms. The accommodation was very basic – there wasn’t any electricity, hot water, windows, screens, or wifi. The food was simple but plentiful – fish freshly caught each day right from the shores of the lodge.

Our time in Nuqui Choco was extraordinary. Over our three days, we spent hours on the ocean watching hump back whales. We hiked in the jungle and dove into hidden waterfalls. Further, we swam in the ocean and chased thousands of crabs on shore.

 

14 day Colombia Itinerary
One of our views from Une Cantil Ecolodge.

 

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Humpback whale watching in the Pacific Ocean at Nuqui Choco.

 

Thermales

A highlight of our stay was a 3 hour return walk along deserted beaches to the tiny village of Thermales where we spent time in its natural thermal springs. On our walk, we were surrounded by pristine jungle and untouched beaches, which were virtually uninhabited. The village was made up of around twenty huts and maybe a population of 100 people. It was a remarkable walk, followed by an incredible time exploring the village and its natural thermal springs.

 

14 day Colombia Itinerary
Walking along deserted beaches to Thermales.

 

two week Colombia Itinerary
Soaking in the natural thermal springs in Thermales

 

Day 9 of our Two Week Colombia Itinerary

Nuqui Choco to Medellin

In the morning, we flew back to Medellin and to our hotel, the NH Collection Medellin Royal.  In the afternoon, we went on a private street food tour offered by Toucan Cafe and Tours.

 

Street food tour in Medellin

This was a really cool tour. We explored Medellin and learnt about its history and the significance of important buildings and sculptures. I saw more incredible graffiti and street art. We rode trains (Transvia) and gondolas across town and ultimately to Communa 8, another neighbourhood in Medellin transforming itself into a vibrant and safe community with innovative social programs and improved infrastructure. All the while, we nibbled on traditional street food that we stumbled upon along the way.

My kids loved this tour. We met lots of very friendly people who loved sharing their traditional food with us.

 

Day 10 of our 14 Day Colombia Itinerary

Medellin 

We did a private day tour to Guatape offered through Tours Guatape. Guatape is a municipality and town around 2 hours from Medellin.

 

Guatape

The whole area is beautiful. We stopped at El Penol, a massive rock conspicuously jutting out of the landscape, and climbed the 784 steps to the top. The views were stunning. We continued onto the town of Guatape and toured its cobblestone streets. The houses and stores were all colourfully painted with carvings along their front walls. They either depicted the history of the building, or its current use or occupant.

14 day Colombia Itinerary
784 stairs to the top of El Penol. We did it!

 

2 week Colombia Itinerary
The top of El Penol and the Municipality of Guatape below us.

 

14 day Colombia Itinerary
The town of Guatape and the pretty painted buildings.

 

Activities In Medellin

For these and other amazing activities in and around Medellin, I would recommend exploring Get Your Guide below.

 

 

Day 11 and 12 of our Two Week Colombia Itinerary

Bogota to Villa De Leyva

This morning we flew from Medellin to Bogota. There, we were picked up and driven 3 1/2 hours to Villa De Leyva.

 

Villa De Leyva

Villa De Leyva is a gorgeous little town nestled between mountains and surrounded by farm land. The buildings were white water washed and the streets were mostly cobblestoned. We stayed at Hotel Casa Terra, a small newly renovated multi-room house with a beautiful garden in the centre of town. This was my favourite hotel on our whole trip.  The hotel was small, luxurious and welcoming.

 

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Our suite at Casa Terra in Villa De Leyva.

 

Villa De Leyva
The whitewashed church in the main square at Villa De Leyva

 

For accommodation at Hotel Casa Terra or elsewhere in Villa De Leyva, I would recommend exploring the map and booking.com below.

 



Booking.com

 

Activities in Villa De Leyva

We explored the village and had many memorable meals there. We drove ATVs in the countryside and mountains surrounding Villa De Leyva on a private tour. The views were incredible.

 

Villa de Leyva
Enjoying the view from the top of a mountain overlooking Villa De Leyva

 

Day 13 of our 14 Day Colombia Itinerary

Villa De Leyva to Bogota

We drove back to Bogota.  Along the way, we stopped and explored the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira.

The Salt Cathedral is both bizarre and amazing. You descend one km below the surface of an active salt mine, stopping at the different Stations of the Cross where enormous crosses have been carved from salt. There, you are welcome to stop and pray. Ultimately, you reach a church far below the surface. You can watch a light show or a movie about the history of Colombia, shop, eat or go to a spa, never leaving the depths of the mine. The whole town is focused on supporting this tourist attraction.

 

 Colombia itinerary
Descending into the salt mine for our tour.

 

Day 12 of our Colombia Itinerary
One of the Stations of the Cross in the salt mine.

 

Accommodation in Bogota

In Bogota, we stayed at the Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia Hotel, a beautiful hotel in the centre of amazing restaurants and shopping. We ate dinner at La Brasserie, a superb french restaurant mere steps from our hotel.

 

 



Booking.com

Day 14 of our Two Week Colombia Itinerary

Bogota

We spent the day on a private tour of Bogota offered by Hansa Tours.

I really liked Bogota. We went to the top of Montserrate, a mountain towering over Bogota, to see the views and visit the garden and the church. We spent a lot of time visiting La Candelaria area which has funky streets covered in cool graffiti, local artisans and their wares, and amazing museums. My favourites were the Botero Museum and the Museu Del Oro (the Gold Museum). Later we visited private art galleries looking at current Colombia artists.

Bogota
The top of Montserrate in Bogota.

 

Bogota
Our walking tour of Bogota.

 

Bogota
Graffiti in Bogota

 

Bogota
An exhibit at the Gold Museum in Bogota.

 

 

Activities in Bogota

For these and other amazing activities in Bogota, I would recommend exploring Get Your Guide below.

 

 

 

Conclusion

I loved our Colombia itinerary.  Over two weeks, we saw many diverse regions of Colombia and experienced city and rural life. We visited remote and virtually untouched beaches, jungles and communities off of the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. I tried delicious food from all over the country, some of it traditional street food, while others at sophisticated and luxurious restaurants. We met incredibly friendly people from all sorts of backgrounds. Our Colombia itinerary was filled with authentic experiences in a very exciting country that has yet to be discovered by the world.

 

Download my personally crafted 14 day Colombia travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.

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Colombia is a beautiful untouched country filled with culture, incredible food, beautiful nature and gorgeous beaches. Where will you go first? #travel #familytravel #travelwtihteens #ATV #Boquilla, #teen #child #kids #Botero #Caribbean #Cartagena, El Cantil Ecolodge, El Penol #fishing #Getsemani #graffiti #Guatape #humpback #whales, La Communa #Medellin #Montserrate, Museu Del Oro, #Nuqui Choco, #Pacific #Bogota, thermal springs, #Thermales, Villa De Leyva, #Zipaquira #southamerica

10 Comments

    • Thanks Jocelyn. Colombia is a wonderful, friendly exciting place to visit so I hope that you get the opportunity to get there soon!

  • This is so awesome! A few years back when I used to hear how dangerous it was, (and it was) I was scared to ever visit. However, my inspiration to travel there has grown so much especially now that it’s getting safer. Your guide and pictures are so perfect! I know that I would truly love all the colorful streets and the vibe in Colombia. Glad you had fun with your family and that you didn’t let fear stop you from going. 🙂

    • Thanks Edith. It is such a great time to go. People are still scared to travel there so it is still largely untouched by tourists. It won’t stay that way for long. Prices are so good too.

  • This has to be one of the most adventurous itineraries I have seen about Colombia. First time I hear about Nuqui. The place looks so beautiful. I have wanted to visit the country for a really long time. At least, I want to visit Cartagena, Medellin and Bogota. So bad we do not have budget flights here from Los Angeles. I am glad you decided to go despite what he media says. Glad you enjoyed to the max! #WeekendWandelust
    Ruth | Tanama Tales recently posted…Vienna in 2, 3 or 4 Days: Highlights and Day TripsMy Profile

    • Hi Ruth, We flew Jet Blue and it was really inexpensive. We flew from Chicago – not our normal hometown but we had to visit family so took advantage of the low fare from there. I think it will be only a short time before more discount airlines fly there, especially from LA. You will be in Colombia soon!

    • Thank you! I think that you could go for a shorter time, but I wouldn’t try to see the same number of cities/areas of Colombia. My rule of thumb is to try and have three nights in each place so that I can have two full days of touring. That doesn’t always work out, or I’m not that keen to spend that much time in a particular place (for example, a flight arrives or depart from a city that I’m only slightly interested in), but if I am keen to explore that city or area, that is my goal.

  • I have heard a lot about Colombia but never thought it would be that beautiful. I would especially enjoy the Cartagena, it looks like a great adventure

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