From Coast to Coast: See the best of Colombia in this 2 Week Colombia Itinerary!

From Coast to Coast: See the best of Colombia in this 2 Week Colombia Itinerary!

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Two weeks in Colombia is plenty of time to get a good idea of this wonderful country! You can see two coasts, diverse animals, rural villages, and get some great food and shopping in this 2 week Colombia itinerary!

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Colombia, once considered one of the most corrupt and dangerous countries in the world, is now rising in popularity as a travel hot spot. While we’d love for it to stay undiscovered, who can blame the tourists returning from their Colombian vacations and telling everyone withing earshot how great their 2 weeks in Colombia was?

Because Colombia has it all! 

The only South American country to cover both Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Colombia also includes the Caribbean sea, offering beautiful beaches and adventurous Andes mountains, touches the Amazon River and boasts sections of desert, is home to Humpback whales, sloths, monkeys, and other rare animals, has rural, indigenous tribes and big, modern cities, is one of the world’s largest exporters of emeralds, gold, flowers, and coffee, and is currently undergoing infrastructure changes to incorporate eco-friendly transportation and living nationwide.

Yes, there are tons of adventures in Colombia to keep someone busy for any amount of time. If your Colombia itinerary only has time for a couple of weeks, though, here is what we (American expats living in Colombia) suggest for the ultimate way to see Colombia in 2 weeks!

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How to see Colombia in 2 Weeks

Two weeks in Colombia is plenty of time to head from coast to coast, taking in the incredible landscape and biodiversity Colombia has to offer.

This 2 week Colombia itinerary is different from others you’ll find. It’s not just a recap of what we did during a 2 week vacation to Colombia, after living here and exploring every inch over several month this travel itinerary is made of the very best things we and other locals recommend.

You’ll not only find the best, most bang-for-your-buck suggestions on how to spend two weeks in Colombia, you’ll also find recommendations to alter this trip to fit a Colombia 10 day itinerary and how to expand it into a 3 week Colombia itinerary.

For whatever amount of time you can dedicate to this incredible country, I’m sure you’ll love it. We consider Colombia home and still haven’t run out of things to do!

 

Colombia 2 Week Itinerary

Days 1-3: Cartagena

downtown cartagena 2 weeks in Colombia itinerary Colombia travel itinerary

 

Cartagena, one of Colombia’s oldest and most famous cities, is a great way to start your Colombia vacation. It’s big enough to have incoming flights from most other international destinations, and will immediately introduce you to the colorful, vibrant cultures you’ll find in Colombia.

Cartagena was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to it’s architectural distinction and history. It was one of the biggest and most important import ports for the valuable exports of Central and South America, and, as such, was often the target of pirates, military attacks, and takeover attempts.

The walled city of Cartagena still features many historic remains from it’s adventurous history. It’s protected from the coast by a historic rock wall, once used to watch for invading navies during the Spanish Armada, and is also home to San Felipe Castillo, the fortress on a hill which protected Cartagena for centuries.

Nowadays Cartagena is just as famous for incredibly colorful cobble streets, emerald jewelers, horse-drawn carriage rides, and upscale hotels and dining. What we don’t necessarily recommend is planing on beach time while you’re in Cartagena. It is possible to take short boat trips to the lovely Rosario Islands nearby, but with such limited time in the city your time is better spent elsewhere. Besides, you’ll have more beach opportunities on Days 4 and 9-11!

Get your camera ready to snap away as you explore one of the best tourist destinations in South America!

Here are just a few of our top things to do in Cartagena:

  • Take a sunset walk along the historic wall: It’s easy to find the walking entrance to the historic wall, which is now a popular walking route. Catch a beautiful sunset over the Atlantic coast if you stroll at dusk, plus great views of the interior of the historic center of Cartagena from the height of the wall.
  • San Felipe Castillo: You must take a tour of the historic fortress. It features a unique conical shape and cutting-edge military design (for the time), and is home to a lot of the important history of the area. Join this highly-rated small group tour to see the historic sights and San Felipe fort with a bilingual guide.
  • Emerald shopping: Honestly, shopping for emerald jewelry is a really fun thing to do in historic Cartagena! Some of the world’s best emeralds come from 3 mines near Bogota, and Cartagena has the second largest supply of emerald jewelry in Colombia. There are plenty of highly reputable stores willing to tell you all about the mining process and give you rock-bottom deals on emeralds. They’re even able to help you design custom jewelry which will be finished within 24 hours!
  • Walk around Getsemani: Getsemani is the lower-class neighborhood across the main road and large park from the official walled city of Cartagena. It still features the colorful buildings, cute streets, and food vendors, but you’ll also find the people to be more laid back and “real”. What really makes Getsemani stand out is the plethora of thought-provoking cultural and political wall art. Most walls are covered in world-class graffiti art which everyone will love!

Where to stay in Cartagena:

Our #1 recommended hotel in all of Colombia is Casa San Agustin in the historic walled city of Cartagena. It’s a 5-star hotel recently named the second best hotel in all of South America! Seriously, you won’t be disappointed.

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Day 3: Santa Marta

downtown santa marta colombia 2 weeks in Colombia itinerary Colombia travel itinerary

 

Santa Marta is around four hours away from Cartagena. there is currently no flight from Cartagena to Santa Marta’s Simon Bolivar Airport, so the best option to get to Santa Marta from Cartagena is by bus.

Don’t feel overwhelmed by finding the public bus terminal, though! Semi-private transport companies are available which will pick you up from your hotel (as long as you’re staying in historic Cartagena and Getsemani area) and take you to your hotel in Santa Marta in an air conditioned, comfortable transport van. We arranged our bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta 24 hours early through our Getsemani hotel for 52,000 COP (around $15).

Leave Cartagena the morning of Day 3 to make it to Santa Marta with an afternoon to explore.

Santa Marta is not a big city and there isn’t much tourists will enjoy here. Nevertheless, here are some of the top things to do in Santa Marta on your free afternoon and evening:

  • Tour La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is a finca (country home and extended grounds outside of town) outside of Santa Marta. It’s a beautiful colonial home and garden made famous as being the site of Simon Bolivar’s death. Simon Bolivar was a great South American liberator, and the grounds of his final days are now a museum to his honor. A visit here will help you understand the history of this important man, his contribution to South America, and give you an appreciation for South American artwork.
  • Visit the Santa Marta city center beach. Warning: Even though Santa Marta is on the Caribbean coast the city does not offer the pristine, swimmable beaches you may be expecting. The city center beach is the easiest to access, though, and a walk down the shore is a fun thing to do in Santa Marta. You can relax on the beach and buy street food and drinks from vendors, but don’t try swimming. You’ll see a view of a freight port which should clue you in on the fact that the water in Santa Marta isn’t all that clean.
  • Shop the Santa Marta Market: Located near the bus station which will later take you to Tayrona National Park, the Santa Marta Market is a great way to experience Colombia culture! Take the opportunity to shop for exotic fruits and vegetables and locally made souvenirs from over 500 vendors camped out on a daily basis.
  • Downtown Santa Marta: Pictured above, Santa Marta is home to a surprisingly cute downtown. A few streets intertwine with lots of delicious restaurants, travel agencies, bars, and shops pained with bright colors, interesting wall murals, and patterns. It stands out as a bright spot in an otherwise dull town, and is a great place for dinner on your first night in town.

Where to stay in Santa Marta:

We stayed at Hotel Catedral Plaza in Santa Marta, and it was amazing. The rooms were modern, clean, and comfortable, there is a rooftop pool with a beautiful view of the Santa Marta cathedral, and the included breakfast was amazing! Best part: Hotel Catedral Plaza won’t break the bank!

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Day 4: Tayrona National Park

Tayrona Park Santa Marta Colombia 2 weeks in Colombia itinerary Colombia travel itinerary

 

It would be a shame to have two weeks in Colombia and not see the incredible Caribbean coast! A trip to Tayrona National Park in Santa Marta is your best option, as the protected beaches and nature in the park are widely considered the most beautiful on mainland Colombia (If you’re interested in an even better Caribbean experience on your 2 week Colombia itinerary consider spending a few days in San Andres Island instead of Santa Marta!)

Tayrona National Park is the main thing to do in Santa Marta. Wake up early on your 4th day of your 2 weeks in Colombia itinerary to catch the public bus from Santa Marta to Tayrona, around 1 hour away.

Ask your Santa Marta hotel for directions to the bus station, which is easy to find in the center of town. Buses to Tayrona leave frequently and can be identified by their destination painted on the back of the bus and employees yelling out the name. The bus will be crowded and cost 7,000 COP (around $2), but is a fun way to experience Colombian culture!

You’ll need your passport, an additional ID, and 55,000 COP (around $16.50) IN CASH to enter the park. After passing the entrance you can now choose to ride a horse or hike to any of the most popular Tayrona Park beaches. We recommend stops at La Piscina and Cabo de San Juan, at least, where you can swim in the gorgeous turquoise water, hang out on soft sand, and eat from local vendors.

It will take a full day to hike in Tayrona National Park from Santa Marta, so I suggest you don’t plan to move on in your Colombia travel itinerary until you’ve had a good night’s rest back in Santa Marta!

Where to stay in Taryona Park:

I suggest staying at Hotel Catedral Plaza in Santa Marta for another night, but you may want the extra adventure of a jungle lodge inside the park. Check out these Tayrona National Park hotels. There’s a big variety of locations, prices, and amenities to fit your needs!

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Days 5-7: Medellin

Medellin 2 weeks in Colombia itinerary Colombia travel itinerary

 

Fly from Simon Bolivar Airport in Santa Marta to Medellin. The quick flight doesn’t take long, so if you plan to fly early in the morning you’ll be able to spend most of day 5 in Medellin!

Medellin, once one of the most dangerous places in the world, has undergone an incredible transformation in the last 2 decades. Pablo Escobar famously terrorized his home city in the 80’s and 90’s during the Colombian drug war, planting numerous car bombs which killed thousands of residents and destroyed prominent city architecture. After his assassination, the relieved Medellin residents took back their town, rebuilding it into a beautiful city they are proud to protect.

Today Medellin is considered a gem of South America. It’s known as the city of eternal spring, is in a valley surrounded by fun and beautiful Andes mountains, has incredibly delicious food, residents who are proud to be polite, welcoming, and kind, lots of museums and public parks, a growing eco-friendly infrastructure, and safe. It’s quickly becoming one of the most popular cities for expats, families, and backpackers to Colombia!

We moved to Medellin from the United States for four months and never regretted it. We immediately fell in love with Medellin Colombia, and never ran out of things to do in Medellin with kids. There’s a lot to see during your 2 weeks in Colombia itinerary, and a trip to Medellin must be on it. Even if it’s only for 48 hours.

Here are some things to do in Medellin on your Colombia 2 weeks itinerary:

  • Take a Comuna 13 Tour: A walking tour through Comuna 13 is one of the most popular activities in Colombia. This is the neighborhood was once one of the most dangerous in Medellin during the tirade of Escobar’s drug cartel, but has since been revitalized into an area known for incredible graffitti and street art showcasing the strength and pride of Medellin. Take this Comuna 13 walking tour to meet locals and take public transportation as you learn about this important neighborhood. The tour costs around $20 and takes 4 hours to complete.
  • Plaza Botero Walking Tour: Follow this Medellin Centro self-guided walking tour to see all the main sites in the center of downtown Medellin. Begin at Plaza Cisneros, a small plaza full of 300 light poles, through downtown Medellin to Plaza Botero, a plaza featuring 23 statues from famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero and the famous multi-colored building, to historic Catholic basilicas and museums. This Medellin self-guided walking tour will take around 4 hours and can be done with kids.
  • Parque Arvi: You know how Venice’s main mode of transportation is the gondola to access the water tributaries through the city? Well, Medellin is a city built up the mountain side so one of it’s main forms of transportation are cable cars! Take the cable cars for only around $.70/ person to have a unique view of the city from one of the most interesting forms of transportation. Continue on the second cable car system (a bit more expensive) to get to Parque Arvi, a nature park full of fun things to do. At the top you’ll find a fruit market, museum, and hikes, and a free transport bus will take you to a butterfly sanctuary, lake with canoes, huge playground, and more.
  • Museums: Medellin has some incredible museums! Some of our favorites are the
    1. Water Museum (yes, it’s actually super interesting, creative, and beautiful), 
    2. Explora Park (part aquarium featuring animals of the Amazon, part creative culture museum)
    3. El Castillo (a private castle turned museum and garden in honor of it’s late residents) 

Where to stay in Medellin:

There’s a huge variety of hotels in Medellin, but Hotel Greenview is one of the top rated and most recommended. It’s in the heart of Poblado, a fun, safe part of town. Uber and taxis are cheap in Medellin, so getting across town is no big deal!

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Day 8: Guatape

la piedra del penol guatape 2 weeks in Colombia itinerary Colombia travel itinerary ngs to do

 

A day trip from Medellin to Guatape fits into a 2 week or 10 day Colombia itinerary now that it’s been reduced from a 4-hour trip to only two!

What was once a 4-hour drive from Medellin has now been reduced to 2 thanks to the recent completion of one of the longest tunnels in South America. Now that accessing Guatape is so much easier, faster, and cheaper, a day trip to this colorful town is a must from Medellin while still being able to fit in all the top things to do in Guatape.

You can arrange your own trip to Guatape by hiring a driver to take you to Piedra del Penol and catching a tuk-tuk from there to the main town of Guatape, but it’s far easier to buy an organized day trip to Guatape from Medellin. This Guatape day trip was voted one of the top Get Your Guide tours in 2019 and includes transportation back and forth from Medellin, a guided hike up Piedro del Penol, transportation into Guatape, and tour of the colorful city including many historical stops, breakfast, and lunch.

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Days 9-11: Whale Watching on the Pacific Coast

 

Colombia is the only country in South America to touch both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Aside from visiting both coast just for the bragging rights, Colombia’s Pacific coast is home to one of the most special events in the animal kingdom: mating and birth of Humpback whales.

From June to October every year hoards of Humpback whales travel north from Antarctica to the warmer waters of Colombia to mate and give birth. A trip to Colombia’s Pacific coast is not only an opportunity to see these majestic creatures, it’s also a full-blown adventure.

Medellin to Buenaventura:

The Pacific coast is much less developed than the interior or Atlantic coast of Colombia. The closest coastal city to the whale action, Buenaventura, is still pretty underdeveloped and, occassionally, home to guerrillas and drug traffickers. A trip here should be taken cautiously, but don’t be discouraged- it’s still worthwhile for tourists to get the most complete picture of Colombia’s incredible biodiversity.

Fly from Medellin to Cali (less than $100 and only takes 1 hour), the region’s main city, and bus from Cali to Buenaventura ($8 and 2.5 hours). After arriving in Buenaventura spend the rest of your afternoon exploring the largely undeveloped coastline. You’ll be rewarded with bare beaches, a welcome treat after so much time in the busy city of Medellin.

Here are a few things to do in Buenaventura:

  • Whale watching: Either look for whales off the coast on your own or ask your hotel to arrange a boat tour for you
  • Visit and Scuba Dive Gorgona Island: Gorgona is a nearby island known for diverse wildlife. Find sloths, monkeys, snakes, and tortoises above ground and sharks, tropical fish, and sea turtles underwater.
  • Bahia Malaga: On the west of Buenaventura, Bahia Malaga is best known for a calm bay where Humpback whales are known to come to give birth. Cross your fingers that a visit here will give you this sought-after sight!

 

Medellin to Nuqui:

Nuqui is another great spot to see clusters of Humpback whales. Like Buenaventura, Nuqui is underdeveloped and off-the-beaten-path, but it is also generally regarded as being the safer option. If I were planning a Colombia travel itinerary for a 2 week Colombia vacation with kids, for example, I’d definitely choose Nuqui over Buenaventura.

Getting to Nuqui is a bit more straightforward than traveling from Medellin to Buenaventura. As of 2019 there is only one airline offering this option, but it’s fast, easy, and not outrageously expensive. You can get a direct flight to Nuqui from Medellin on a prop plane which makes two trips each day. You’ll have to buy your tickets to Nuqui direct from the airline for around $100 each way.

Here is a short list of things to do in Nuqui:

  • Whale Watching: Obviously! You can either try spotting whales from the beach, or go on an organized boat tour to look for Humpbacks. Your hotel should either include a boat tour with your stay or be able to organize one very easily.
  • Guachalito Beach: Hang out on the deserted beaches, even not in whale season, for a tranquilo afternoon alone. Guachalito Beach, to the south of Nuqui, is considered one of the best, most deserted beaches in the area.
  • Visit Utria National Park: Utria National Park is a 90-minute boat ride north from Nuqui. Come here to learn about the native wildlife, mangroves, and the possibility to see whale birthing!

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Day 12-14: Bogota

Bogota Colombia 2 weeks in Colombia itinerary Colombia travel itinerary

 

The capital of Colombia is definitely worth visiting during your adventures in Colombia, but don’t plan on spending too much time here. There are a few fun and unique things to do in Bogota, but the city is largely uninteresting (don’t throw stones- that’s just one person’s opinion. I truly hope you love it more than we did!) 

Before our own long weekend from Medellin to Bogota we asked several locals what their top Bogota things to do were. Only a handful of Bogota activities were repeatedly mentioned to us, all of which we tried. It’s enough to fill a couple of days of vacation in Colombia, but don’t expect to be overwhelmed.

Here are our (and others’) top recommended things to do in Bogota:

  • Salt Cathedral: The salt cathedral, an abandoned mine turned unrecognized cathedral, is around 1 hour outside of Bogota in the pueblo of Zipaquira. Either hire a driver to take you there, wait while you tour, and bring you back to town, or join an official tour group to salt cathedral from Bogota. A trip to the Salt Cathedral will take around 6 hours, but is well worth it. Considered one of the architectural wonders of Colombia, the salt cathedral is truly a magical place unlike any you’re likely to see again!
  • Montserrate: Another favorite thing to do on your 2 week Colombia itinerary is a hike to the cathedral (yes, another cathedral) atop Montserrate hill in the center of Bogota. The altitude is more intense than expected, though, so cable cars and a funicular are also available for those who aren’t interested in the roughly 90-minute hike (hiking down is also an option if you want to experience the nature with less effort.) Once at the top enjoy various buildings and views of downtown Bogota.
  • Walk around La Candelaria: La Candelaria is the historic portion of Bogota. It’s also the most beautiful, which makes it a must-do activity in Bogota. You’ll find the government buildings around Bolivar plaza, and museums and cathedrals as you walk from the plaza towards the mountains. We loved the colorful buildings pictured above!
  • Tour the Gold Museum, Museo de Oro: Colombia is home to lots of incredible natural resources, including gold. The fabled El Dorado, or City of Gold, is said to be in Colombia, in fact! In Bogota’s Museo de Oro you’ll find gorgeous examples of gold items found around the country after being lost for centuries. Entrance is only around $1.50, and it only takes 1-2 hours to tour the museum.

Where to stay in Bogota:

We stayed at a variety of hotels in Bogota, but, honestly, a cute B & B was one of the best we’ve ever seen. Casa Legado is an absolutely gorgeous, creatively decorated B&B designed for travelers. It features multiple public spaces with comfy accents, desert every night, a stocked kitchen for guests, and free laundry service. Oh, and it’s gorgeous! 

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Adjusting for a 10 day Colombia itinerary:

Jardin Colombia 2 weeks in Colombia itinerary Colombia travel itinerary

 

If you only have time for a Colombia 10 day itinerary, I suggest skipping Jardin and Cali. Jardin is a fun, colorful town surrounded by incredible nature things to do, but it’s pretty similar to Guatape. If you only a Colombia 10 day itinerary and are planning to go to Guatape, you’ll get your fill of color and a cool outdoor experience by hiking La Piedra del Penol.

It’s cool to say you hit both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as the Caribbean Sea while visiting just one country, but if you only have time for a Colombia itinerary 10 days then the trip to Colombia’s Pacific coast may not be worth it. It’s a cool experience if you happen to be traveling during whale season, but, even then, it’s not like this is the only place in the world you can see whales. It’s almost definitely not worth it at other times of the year, as the surrounding area is known for light guerrila action and goes through phases of danger.

 

Adjusting for a 3 week Colombia itinerary:

mother and son in san andres island visting the colombia's caribbean coast cartagena san andres island and santa marta

 

If you are one of the lucky few who can dedicate time for a 3 week Colombia itinerary you can have a great time in Colombia!

Option 1: Add a trip to the Amazon River in Colombia

I would suggest to follow the itinerary above while adding a trip to the Colombian amazon to your travels. Just think: you can tell people you saw the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Caribbean Sea, Andes mountains, and the Amazon River! That’s one bonkers holiday in South America!

The Amazon River is found in the town of Leticia, in the lowest triangle of Colombia. The beauty of taking an Amazon trip to the Colombian section vs. the more popular Peru or Brazil sections is that the corner of Colombia actually borders both other countries! A trip to Leticia can end in a visit to three total countries, as you can go up and down the river to Peru and Brazil without having to make an official border crossing.

Though the Amazon in Colombia is smaller and less well-known that the others, you can still go fishing for piranhas, visit rural tribes, hike, see exotic animals, and take a boat trip to see the famous pink dolphins.

Find more information on Colombian Amazon River tours in Leticia, including prices, suggested itineraries, and activities here.

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Option 2: Add San Andres Island

Pictured above, San Andres Island is the Hawai’i of Colombia. It’s a small island off the coast of Nicaragua (yes, you read that right) which, for some complicated reasons, belongs to Colombia.

Colombians are proud of San Andres Island, and consider it a highly relaxing and beautiful place to visit. We spent 5 days at an all-inclusive family resort on San Andres Island (highly recommended, as there aren’t many restaurants outside of the main town and prices are higher than expected). To be honest, it’s nothing like Hawai’i. It’s not as beautiful, it’s more run-down, and the beaches aren’t as clean. But it’s still a nice place to go.

San Andres Island is known for having the characteristic warm, turquoise water, soft sand, bright sunshine, seafood, and tropical fruit as other Caribbean islands, which makes it an interesting addition to the diverse landscape of Colombia. People especially love snorkeling and scuba diving on San Andres Island, which makes it a great Colombia travel destination for those who who want some underwater adventure on their 3 week Colombia itinerary.

It’s easy to fly back and forth to San Andres Island from Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota for around $50. Follow this handy travel guide for the top 10 things to do on San Andres Island.

 


 

Colombia South America is one of our very favorite countries in the world. After living and traveling through 22 countries in the last 2 years, we’ve found more diversity, kind people, delicious food, adventurous things to do, and great weather in Colombia than in most others.

I hope this Colombia two week itinerary helps you have a great trip, too! Feel free to reach out for more detailed suggestions on amazing things to do in Colombia!

 

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