4.5709° N, 74.2973° W
THIS COMPREHENSIVE COLOMBIA TRAVEL GUIDE COVERS EVERYTHING TRAVELERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT EXPLORING COLOMBIA; INCLUDING, TOP COLOMBIA DESTINATIONS, OFF THE BEATEN PATH ADVENTURES AND TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS.
For years we had wanted to travel to Colombia. To us, the vibrant South American country seemed the check all of the necessary boxes: beautiful landscapes, exciting culture, affordable prices, and lots of off the beaten path areas to explore. But it took us having to bail on another exciting place (this time in Europe) to finally commit to spending a couple of months in Colombia.
In the end, we would live, work and play in Colombia for a total of 6 months. While this might seem like a lot of time to spend in one place, in truth, even after those 180 days we still felt like we had only scratched the surface. That is simply because Colombia is massive and incredibly diverse.
So, if you are like us and are looking to explore a country with almost every type of landscape, a place with a rich and vibrant history, and a destination with tons of adventure possibilities, then we truly cannot recommend Colombia enough. Luckily, we have compiled the ultimate travel guide on everything you need to know about visiting and exploring Colombia; including, information on the best places to go, when to travel and what kind of weather to expect, what you need to do before entering the country and even a quick travel budget to give you an idea of what things cost.
So if you are sold on exploring and adventuring in this amazing South American country, then read on for our in-depth Colombia travel guide.
COLOMBIA | THE TRAVEL BASICS
\\ Where is Colombia?
Colombia is located in the far top left corner of South America. In fact, due to it being the first point where the South American continent touches Central America, it is nicknamed the "Gateway to South America".
Colombia has five neighboring countries: Venezuela and Brazil to the east, Peru and Ecuador to the south, and Panama to the north. It also has two different coastlines: the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean to the north. Colombia is actually the only country in South America to border two different oceans.
Colombia only has one time zone: UTC−5 (COT). This is the same time zone as the East Coast of the USA, which includes cities like New York City, Atlanta and Miami.
Colombia is approximately 5 hours behind London, UK; 6 hours behind Munich, Germany; 10.5 hours behind New Delhi, India and 11 hours behind Beijing, China.
The capital of Colombia is Bogota, which has a population of 7.4 million people - making it the most populated city in Colombia.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: Bogota is actually the third highest capital city in the world after La Paz, Bolivia and Quito, Ecuador. The city sits at 2,640 meters or 8,660 feet.
HOW LARGE IS COLOMBIA?
Specifically, Colombia is 1.1 million square kilometers or roughly 441,000 square miles in size. This makes Colombia the 25th largest country in the world.
The Colombian peso (COP) is the country's legal tender.
$1 USD = 4,040 COP, easy to remember as roughly 4x1
€1 Euro = 4,592 COP, so roughly 4.5x1
£1 Pound = 4960 COP, so roughly 5x1
(As of early 2022. Obviously the exchange rate is always changing, but this should give you an idea).
In 2016 Colombia decided to issue totally new banknotes. These new bills continued to highlight various cultural elements and landscapes found in the country (including the famous Caño Cristales river and the páramo). Additionally, the revamped notes paid tribute to major personalities of culture, science and politics, and reinforced recognition of women's important role in Colombian society (both the 2000 COP and 10000 COP notes have women displayed).
\\ When to Travel to Colombia
The weather doesn’t change that much during the year since it sits right next to the equator. But, with that being said, we recommend visiting during the tourist “off-season” aka NOT during the holidays (December - January). Now if you are someone who wants to combine their travels with a bit of Colombian festivities then consider visiting either during February when the second-largest Carnival festival takes place in the Caribbean City of Barranquilla or during August when you can join the Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) in Medellin.
In our opinion, August and September are two of the best months to explore Colombia because it still has reasonably nice weather and lots of festivals going on - plus it is in the "shoulder season" so you can expect relatively good prices and fewer people.
WEATHER IN COLOMBIA
Colombian weather, unlike many other places, does not depend on the season. In fact, for the most part, Colombia doesn't really experience clear seasons (besides maybe the wet and dry seasons). Instead, weather - and most notably temperatures - depends almost solely on elevation (its height above sea level). Therefore geography and not time of year plays the strongest role in determining the climate in Colombia and the weather in specific regions. Below is a brief outline of the type of weather and climate you can expect in the various regions that make up Colombia.
THE RAINIEST MONTH: October (followed by November)
THE HIGH SEASON: December to early February; the best weather but also the highest prices
THE LOW SEASON: September to November; the rainiest weather but also the cheapest prices
Below are a few of the more popular areas to explore in Colombia as well as what kind of weather you can expect and the best time to visit.
CARTAGENA AND THE CARIBBEAN COAST
You can expect hot sunny days and high humidity in most cities along the Caribbean Coast - including Cartagena, the “Jewel of Colombia”, Barranquilla, Santa Marta and the outlying islands.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT: November to February (driest, best beach time), though April is also very temperate and nice; in February the Caribbean city of Barranquilla hosts Carnival, the second biggest celebration after Rio's world famous party. This 4-day event includes lots of dancing, drinking, parades and music.