10 Days in Colombia: Exploring Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota

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Colombia is such a beautiful country blessed with breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cities, and a rich cultural heritage that will leave you mesmerized! In this blog post, I’ll give you an itinerary for an unforgettable 10 days in Colombia. This Colombia itinerary takes you through three of Colombia’s most captivating destinations – Cartagena, Bogota, and Medellin.

Every moment in Colombia felt like an enchanting dance of colors and cultures. Nestled on the northernmost tip of South America, Colombia is a country that has gracefully emerged from its tumultuous past to embrace a future filled with warmth, diversity, and charm.

With its stunning landscapes, rich history, and infectious passion of its people, it’s no wonder that Colombia has captured the hearts of travelers from around the globe!

Cartagena city skyline

Is Colombia safe?

This was the most common question I received during my Colombia trip. While the country’s turbulent past might evoke safety concerns for some, rest assured, the country has made significant strides in improving security and welcoming visitors with open arms.

During my 10-day Colombian adventure, I found myself embracing the warm hospitality of the locals while feeling safe throughout the trip. One common phrase you’ll likely encounter when discussing safety in Colombia is “no dar papaya,” which translates to “don’t give papaya.” It’s a friendly reminder to be cautious and avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself or your belongings.

In bustling cities like Cartagena, Bogota, and Medellin, it’s essential to stay alert and mindful of your surroundings. While I did carry my phone and camera to capture the beauty around me, I made sure to keep them secure in a bag and only took them out when needed.

By following this simple practice and sticking to well-traveled areas, I didn’t encounter any moments that made me feel unsafe or in danger. Instead, I was met with smiles, warm greetings, and helpful advice from the locals, contributing to the overall sense of security during my explorations.

Remi and I opted not to venture out too late into the night. Instead, we embraced the lively atmosphere of busy areas during the daytime and early evening, ensuring we soaked up the culture and flavors of the country without compromising safety. As with any destination, staying vigilant is essential, but it was heartening to experience the genuine efforts made by Colombians to make visitors feel welcome and secure!

Preparing for 10 days in Colombia

When is the Best Time to Visit Colombia?

Colombia’s diverse geography and location near the equator mean that its climate varies significantly from region to region. If you plan your trips based on weather, generally, the best time to visit Colombia is during the dry seasons. These typically fall between December and March and July and August.

These months offer milder weather with less rainfall, making it an ideal time to explore the cities and enjoy outdoor activities. However, keep in mind that Colombia’s tropical climate means that even during the wetter months, rain showers are often brief and followed by sunny spells.

If you plan your trips based on crowds, travel in the off-season which is late August to November, and in May. This coincides with Colombia’s rainy season, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be rainy all day, every day.

Related read: Guide to Colombia in July

Currency and Money Matters

One of the most delightful surprises about Colombia is its affordability. Despite its undeniable allure and an abundance of unique experiences, Colombia remains refreshingly budget-friendly!

From delicious street food to comfortable accommodations, this country offers a perfect blend of unforgettable adventures and a friendly price tag. This makes it an enticing destination for travelers seeking both excitement and affordability!

The official currency of Colombia is the Colombian Peso (COP). While major credit cards are widely accepted in urban areas, it’s advisable to carry some cash for smaller establishments and local markets. ATMs are readily available, but it’s always a good idea to inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid any card-related issues.

When withdrawing money from an ATM choose the option to have your bank do the conversion because they will give you a better rate. When paying with a credit or debit card you may be asked “Cuantas quotas?” Meaning how many quotas. This means they can break your payment into multiple payments. Always answer 1, so it’s a one-time payment and you don’t get charged additional fees.

Weather in Colombia

Due to its equatorial location and diverse terrain, Colombia experiences a range of climates. Cartagena and the Caribbean coast enjoy a tropical climate, while Bogota has a cooler, spring-like climate due to its higher altitude. Medellin’s “eternal spring” weather is pleasantly mild. Pack accordingly, and be prepared for varying temperatures as you move between regions.

If you are following this Colombia itinerary or visiting multiple regions you’re going to want to be sure to pack layers and options for all types of weather.

Bogota city skyline with cloudy weather

Visas and entry requirements for Colombia

For most travelers, entering Colombia is a straightforward process. Citizens from many countries, including the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia, and several others, are granted a 90-day visa-free stay for tourism purposes. We also had to fill out this Check-mig before going. It was pretty straightforward and we ended up filling it out at the airport because we were unaware of it.

You need to fill it out before entering the country as well as when you are leaving. Fill it out here! Some websites try to charge you, but it should not cost anything.

Still, it’s essential to check the specific entry requirements for your nationality and ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of entry. If you plan to stay longer than the visa-free period or have other purposes, such as work or study, it’s advisable to obtain the necessary visa before your trip.

Colombia 10-day itinerary

Day 1-3 Cartagena: Where History Meets Caribbean Charm

Nestled along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Cartagena is a captivating city that effortlessly weaves together its rich historical heritage and the vibrant allure of a coastal paradise. With its colonial architecture, cobbled streets, and lively Caribbean ambiance, Cartagena exudes a charm that is truly enchanting.

The city’s infectious energy, warm hospitality, and delightful blend of cultures make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a diverse and immersive experience in Colombia.

Cartagena’s cultural tapestry is a mosaic of influences, shaped by Spanish colonialism, African heritage, and indigenous traditions. This unique blend is evident in the city’s architecture, cuisine, and lively festivals. Wander through the enchanting Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and marvel at the well-preserved colonial buildings adorned with bougainvillea-covered balconies.

At night, the city comes alive with music, dance, and the aroma of delicious street food! Cartagena was probably my favorite of the Colombia cities we visited. I loved the vibrant colors and the culture, plus the food was truly amazing!

Best Things to Do in Cartagena

  • Explore the historic Old Town— Lose yourself in the maze-like streets of the Old Town, known as the Walled City, where every turn reveals a fascinating piece of history. There is an awesome free walking tour that I highly recommend checking out
  • Stroll along the city walls— Take a leisurely walk along the city walls, dating back to the 16th century, and enjoy panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea and the city’s rooftops.
  • Indulge in local cuisine— Sample the delectable flavors of Colombian cuisine, from fresh seafood dishes to traditional arepas and empanadas. The city’s street food scene is a delightful adventure for food enthusiasts. We enjoyed ceviche several times, each a different experience!
  • Relax on the beaches— To be honest, Cartagena’s coast doesn’t have the most beautiful beaches, but head to the nearby Rosario Islands for sun-soaked days on sandy beaches and refreshing dips in crystal-clear waters!
  • Enjoy the sunset at Cafe del Mar— Witness breathtaking sunsets over the Caribbean Sea from the historic Cafe del Mar, an iconic spot perched atop the city walls. You may even see some locals salsaing, join in!

Check out my complete guide to 3 days in Cartagena!

Where to Stay in Cartagena

For a perfectly located and affordable stay, consider Casa India Catalina. Situated in the heart of the Old Town, this charming boutique hotel offers easy access to the city’s best activities, restaurants, and cultural sites. The hotel’s inviting atmosphere and comfortable rooms provide a relaxing retreat after a day of exploration. Additionally, the inclusive breakfast ensures you start each day with a delicious and satisfying meal, fueling your adventures in this enchanting city!

Book Casa India Catalina here, or view other hotel options here! Hostels are also a popular and budget-friendly option in Colombia, so check out Hostelword as well.

Day 3-6 Medellin: City of Eternal Spring

Nestled in the scenic Aburra Valley, Medellin is a city that defies expectations. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring,” Medellin enjoys a pleasant climate year-round, making it an enticing destination for travelers seeking a perfect balance between urban exploration and natural beauty.

Once infamous for its troubled past, Medellin has undergone a remarkable transformation and emerged as a vibrant and innovative metropolis. The people of Medellin, known as Paisas, are proud of their cultural heritage and are incredibly welcoming to visitors. The city’s cultural scene is rich and diverse, with a strong focus on the arts, music, and dance.

Medellin’s commitment to progress and inclusivity is evident in its modern infrastructure, efficient public transportation, and social initiatives that have earned it recognition as one of the world’s most innovative cities!

Best Things to Do in Medellin

  • Ride the metro cable— Take the city’s iconic cable car system to get a bird’s-eye view of Medellin as it stretches across the valley and up the surrounding mountains. This journey offers glimpses into the everyday lives of locals living in the hillside communities.
  • Comuna 13— Explore the once-troubled neighborhood of Comuna 13, now a symbol of urban transformation through street art, community projects, and cultural expression. Join a free guided tour to learn about the neighborhood’s inspiring journey to peace and progress! This was my favorite thing we did in Medellin!
  • Pueblito Paisa— Visit Pueblito Paisa, a replica of a traditional Antioquian town perched atop Cerro Nutibara. Enjoy stunning views of the city and immerse yourself in the charm of Colombia’s countryside.
  • Botanical Garden— Stroll through the lush Botanical Garden, home to a diverse array of native plants, flowers, and butterflies. This tranquil oasis is perfect for a relaxing afternoon amid nature. This is one of the best free things to do in Medellin!
  • Plaza Botero— Admire the iconic sculptures of Colombian artist Fernando Botero at Plaza Botero. The oversized figures are a beloved symbol of Medellin’s vibrant art scene.

Check out my full guide on how to spend 3 days in Medellin!

Where to Stay in Medellin

During our time in Medellin, we had the pleasure of staying at the trendy and charming Nomada Hotel Origen. From the moment we stepped inside, we were captivated by its unique aesthetics, lush greenery, and inviting ambiance. The hotel’s thoughtful design created a calming oasis in the heart of the bustling city, making it one of our favorite places to stay during our 10 days in Colombia!

Located in the vibrant neighborhood of Poblado, Nomada Hotel Origen proved to be an excellent choice as it is not only one of the safest areas in Medellin but also one of the most popular. With its strategic location, we were surrounded by a plethora of restaurants, bars, rooftop lounges (including their own), and charming cafes, providing us with endless options for dining and entertainment.

One of the highlights of our stay was the delightful complimentary breakfasts that came with our room rate. Each morning, we looked forward to starting our day with a delicious meal, setting the tone for a day of exploration and adventure in Medellin. The warm and friendly staff added to the overall experience, making us feel right at home.

The value for money at Nomada Hotel Origen was exceptional, with room rates around $100 per night, and the added benefit of breakfast included for all four of us. It was a pleasant surprise to find such a comfortable and stylish hotel at such an affordable price, allowing us to make the most of our Medellin stay without breaking the bank!

Book your stay at Nomada Hotel Origen here, or check out other Medellin accommodations here! Again, hostels are very popular in Colombia so it may also be worthwhile to check out Hostelworld.

Day 6-10 Bogota: A Dynamic Urban Experience in Colombia’s Capital

Nestled in the heart of the Andes mountains, Bogota is a dynamic and cosmopolitan city that serves as the bustling capital of Colombia. Situated at an elevation of over 8,500 feet (2,600 meters) above sea level, Bogota’s location amidst the picturesque Andean landscape offers a unique and invigorating setting for visitors.

The city’s energy is contagious, fueled by its rich cultural heritage, vibrant arts scene, and forward-thinking approach to modernity. These reasons make it a MUST for your cities to visit during your 10 days in Colombia.

The city’s historical roots are evident in its well-preserved colonial architecture, particularly in the charming La Candelaria neighborhood, which showcases centuries-old buildings and cobbled streets. But if you head to the El Retiro neighborhood, you’ll see a modern and upscale area known for its contemporary architecture, luxurious shopping centers, and vibrant nightlife.

Best Things to Do in Bogota

  • Cerro de Monserrate— Take a cable car or hike up to the iconic Monserrate hill, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of Bogota’s sprawling landscape. At the top, you’ll find the Santuario del Señor Caído, a pilgrimage site with a charming chapel.
  • Paloqueamo Fruit Market— Book a fruit tour to experience the vibrant Paloquemao Fruit Market like a local. You’ll love this bustling and colorful market where you can immerse yourself in the local Colombian culture and find an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and more. The lively atmosphere and diverse offerings make it an unforgettable experience, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to sample some of Colombia’s unique and delicious fruits!
  • Dine at The Atlantis Plaza Shopping Mall— Indulge in a dining experience like no other at the Atlantis Plaza Shopping Mall. Head to Omnia restaurant for their exquisite Omakase experience, where skilled chefs artfully prepare a multi-course meal using the freshest ingredients, leaving you with a culinary journey to remember. Not only was this the best foodie experience from our 10 days in Colombia, but this was genuinely the best foodie experience I’ve ever had in my life!
  • Explore La Candelaria District— Wander through the historic La Candelaria District, Bogota’s charming old town. Marvel at the well-preserved colonial architecture, and visit iconic landmarks like the Bolivar Square and the Bogota Cathedral. Don’t miss the Botero Museum and Plaza Botero to see the iconic oversized sculptures by renowned artist Fernando Botero!

Check out my complete guide to 3 epic days in Bogota!

Where to Stay in Bogota

For an exceptional stay in Bogota, we recommend Bo Living 81, a stylish boutique hotel that perfectly encapsulates the city’s contemporary charm. Bo Living 81’s modern design, comfortable amenities, and attentive service create a welcoming atmosphere for travelers. You have an entire suite equipped with a kitchen, living room, and two bathrooms! And the rates are extremely affordable for such comfortable living.

The hotel’s strategic location near the Andino Mall places you amidst the city’s bustling entertainment, dining, and shopping scenes. We attempted to stay at a hostel in La Candelaria District and it was pretty unpleasant, so I recommend staying in the El Retiro neighborhood but spend a day exploring La Candelaria.

Book your stay at Bo Living 81 here, or check out other Bogota accommodations here! Again, hostels are very popular in Colombia so it may also be worthwhile to check out Hostelworld.

How to get around in Colombia

  1. Buses— Traveling by bus is a popular and economical option for getting around Colombia. The country boasts an extensive bus network that connects cities and towns. While longer bus journeys may take time, they provide an excellent opportunity to witness the country’s stunning landscapes. Some buses even offer Wi-fi.
  2. Domestic flights— Colombia has a well-connected network of domestic flights that make traveling between major cities, such as Cartagena, Bogota, and Medellin, convenient and efficient. Especially if you only have 10 days in Colombia you may not want to waste time traveling by bus. Domestic flights are affordable, and several airlines operate frequent routes!
  3. Uber and taxis— Ride-hailing apps like Uber are available in major cities, providing a safe and reliable option for transportation within urban areas. Traditional taxis are also widely available, but it’s best to use reputable companies or request them from your accommodation.

Getting around Colombia is relatively easy, and each mode of transportation offers its own unique charm. The best mode of transportation will vary by city! For example, in Cartagena, we rarely needed a cab aside from getting to and from the airport. When utilizing cabs in Cartagena you agree upon the price before getting into the cab. They won’t ask you, but you need to make sure you ask them!

In cities like Bogota and Medellin, they have metered cabs. We mostly used Ubers here because we heard the cab drivers could take you on a joy ride to rack up the meter. We did take a cab a couple of times in each of these cities though and it wasn’t an issue, but you just never know!

Avianca Colombia flight

Colombia travel tips

  • Pack for multiple weather conditions— Colombia’s climate varies by city, so pack clothing suitable for different weather conditions, including light and breathable clothes for warmer areas and layers for cooler regions.
  • Fill out Check-mig forms— Remember to complete Check-mig forms before entering and leaving the country, as they are required for immigration purposes.
  • Pack light— Traveling between cities by air is common, so packing light will save you from paying for checked bags each time you fly. Check out my favorite luggage!
  • Tipping— Standard tipping is typically 10%, but always check your bill as it may be included.
  • Safety precautions— Stay alert and keep your belongings secure, especially in crowded areas and public transportation.
  • Currency conversions— Have your bank handle currency conversions when you withdraw money from ATMs to get better exchange rates.
  • “Cuantas Quotas?”— If asked this when making a payment, respond with 1 to ensure a one-time payment and avoid additional fees.
  • eSIM— Consider getting an eSIM for data usage and staying connected even without access to Wi-Fi.
  • Embrace local culture and cuisine— Immerse yourself in the local culture, traditions, and delicious Colombian cuisine for an authentic experience.
  • Negotiate prices— When shopping at local markets or with street vendors, don’t hesitate to negotiate prices to get the best deals.
  • Transportation— Use known cab companies or Uber for safe and reliable transportation.
  • Learn basic Spanish— Knowing some basic Spanish phrases will be helpful and appreciated by locals.
  • Stay hydrated— Carry a refillable water bottle and stay hydrated, especially in warmer areas.
  • Emergency numbers— Save emergency numbers for local police, ambulance, and your embassy in your phone.
  • Travel insurance— Consider getting travel insurance to cover unexpected events during your trip. Safety Wing is one of the most popular travel insurance options (it’s less than $50 for 1 month of travel!).
Views from Piedra del Penol

Are you ready for an epic 10 days in Colombia?!

Our 10 days in Colombia truly left a mark on our hearts. With its rich history, breathtaking scenery, and warm-hearted people, it’s a trip I will forever cherish. From the colorful streets of Cartagena to the innovative spirit of Medellin and the cultural charm of Bogota, each destination offered a unique and unforgettable experience!

We were amazed by Colombia’s diverse landscapes but even more so by the resilience and spirit of its people, who have turned the pages of history to create a nation that embraces progress while cherishing its traditions. The richness of experiences and the warmth of Colombian hospitality are accessible to travelers of all budgets, making it an ideal destination for adventurers, and culture enthusiasts.

I hope this 10-day Colombia itinerary has ignited your wanderlust and encouraged you to embark on your own Colombian adventure!

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