Planning a journey to Colombia: useful info, cues and practical tips – based on my personal experience as usual – to schedule itineraries, moving and tours at their best. Everything you need to know before leaving and then enjoy the journey at its best.
Planning a journey to Colombia: what to expect and why choose this destination
“Colombia tierra querida. Colombia te quiero, te adoro, te siento.”
These are the lyrics of one among the most famous songs by the Colombian artist Lucho Bermúdez, a proper declaration for his wonderful and really precious land.
Words that I also feel a bit mine today, after having met and enjoyed live – in an intense two weeks’ journey – part of the welcome, magic, passion, culture, legends, art, history and the tradition of this amazing fragment of South America.
From the big cities like Bogotà, Medellin and Cartagena – whose historic cores were founded in mid-1500 by the Spanish Conquistadores searching for the mythical Eldorado – as far as the wonderful colonial towns, the literary trails, the archeological sites linked to the 12 Colombian native cultures that dwelled and thrived in this land starting from 500 B.C.
From the beauty of the deserts and forests of its National Natural Parks, the suggestive Andean trails, the Eje Cafetero – the coffee region – and the wild Caribbean islands, passing through the thousands colors of its calles, the multiple music rhythms of its districts and a variegated and important food and wine offer.
Colombia has been this and much more to me.
“The people, the culture…there’s so much magic in Colombia.
It was such an important part of my introduction as an artist
because it’s such a big part of my life as a human being.”
Planning a journey to Colombia: safety and welcome
One among the most frequent questions I have been asked during my live tale about the journey through the Instagram Stories – find them here in three highlighted files dedicated to the whole itinerary – was the one related to safety.
The reason is obvious. Over decades this country was hostage of violence, terror and pain caused by the drug-trafficking cartels – Pablo Escobar’s and Cali’s are certainly the most famous ones, also thanks to the further fame gained after the successful TV series “Narcos” broadcast by Netflix – of the AUC and FARC paramilitary groups.
After a difficult and painful process of renewal lasted almost 20 years – wanted first of all by the Colombians people themselves and then by their Government – today this land lives a proper social, cultural and tourist rebirth. A wonderful country, extremely sunny and welcoming, progressively more and more safe and open, where to adopt – as visitors – the usual precautions that a responsible and careful traveler should do.
Planning a journey to Colombia: intercontinental flights and domestic travels
Several European airlines companies fly nonstop to Bogotá – some of them also to Cartagena and Medellin – among them Lufthansa, Air France, Iberia, KLM and Avianca.
As regards the domestic travels, in order to optimize travel times, it is recommended to use the domestic flights for the travels among the main cities. Avianca – the flag carrier – covers over 35/40 daily flights among Bogotá, Medellin, Cali and Cartagena (30-50 minutes of comfortable flight with definitely affordable fairs), besides a remarkable number of routes for the smaller towns. You can also reckon the low cost airline company Viva Colombia.
Planning a journey to Colombia: useful info, cues and practical tips
The internal road links are excellently covered by several Bus companies – the best ones are Espresso Bolivariano and Cootranshuila – reaching practically every location. But in this case the travelling times get longer remarkably because the road conditions are not always the best venturing into the most rural areas. Useful tip: provide yourselves with sweatshirt, foulard or heavy jacket, because the air conditioning inside these buses can reach extremely rigid temperatures.
Since I didn’t rent a car I am not able to provide you with useful info about it, but judging by the very poor conditions of the secondary roads and the traffic during rush hours, I’d reckon well before opting for this solution, above all if you are not skilled drivers.
Planning a journey to Colombia: where to sleep
Colombia offers a good selection of tourist facilities where to stay overnight: chain hotels, charm hotels – historic dwellings included – B&B, guesthouses and hostels.
Prices vary according to the accommodation chosen, but however they are usually affordable compared to the European standards.
During my journey to Colombia I chose – where possible – to stay overnight mainly at historic dwellings.
Among them, I heartily recommend to reckon:
- Selina La Candelaria, Bogotà
- La Posada de San Antonio, Villa de Leyva
- Casa Cochera del Gobernador, Cartagena
Planning a journey to Colombia: what to eat
The Colombian gastronomic offer is extremely wide and variegated and known to be very good (almost always)!
Also in this case it is possible to choose among local markets and restaurants, simple and crowded mostly by locals (highly recommended for savors and authenticity), and the “level” ones.
As regards prices, they range from the equivalent of 5/8 Euros for a full meal – and definitely abundant – of a local restaurant, until 30/35 euros of the most popular ones.
Among the recommended dishes: Ajiaco – potatoes, corn and meat soup typical of Bogotá – Picada de Carne – an abundant mixed grill with potatoes and vegetables – Arepas or also Pan de Cheso – pastries filled with cheese, baked or fried – Cazuela de Mariscos – a succulent seafood soup typical of Cartagena – Ceviche de Pescado – a seafood dish and/or shellfish marinated in lemon with species – and the delicious Patacones – breaded and fried plantain slices served as a side dish.
Absolutely to taste among the drinks: Lemonada de cocco a thirst quenching drink made of lime, water, crushed ice and coconut (it exists also the version without coconut and sugar free with sparkling water), the Refajo – a mix of Colombian beer and Coca-Cola or lemon fizzy drink, and the famous Chicha – an alcoholic drink got from the fermented corn, according to the ancient tradition of the Indios Muisca.
Planning a journey to Colombia: my itinerary
Colombia is a boundless country. Think to be able to see it at once is practically impossible, so, after having read up deeply on everything it is possible to do and to see, select the stages according to your interests and create your very personal itinerary.
I preferred to dedicate more space to the big cities, the colonial cities, the archeological sites, to the history of the Medellin cartel and to the Rosario Islands, to enjoy a few days of relax at the seaside before coming back home.
Besides, I relied on local guides and/or chaperones in the locations where I wished having a deepener contact with the history and the local traditions. You can contact me here for any further info about it.
Find down here all the stages of my itinerary. Progressively I will put the several links to all the reports related to the single destinations.
- Laguna de Guatavita
- Zipaquirà and Catedral de Sal
- Provincia de Boyacà – Samanà – Villa de Leyva – Convento del Santo Ecce Homo – Parque Arqueológico El Infernito – El Fósil, area arqueológica – Paso del Angel
- Provincia de Antioquia – Lago de Guatapè – Guatapè – Piedra del Peñol – El Peñol
- Medellin – Tour Comuna 13, Favelas and Museo de la Memoria
- Cartagena – literary tour dedicated to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Santa Cruz de Mompox
- Rosario Islands – Coralina Island
Planning a journey to Colombia: other tips and practical info
Time difference between Italy and Colombia is -6hours standard time and -7 DST.
The local currency is Peso Colombiano. €1 is equivalent to $2300 (this is the currency’s symbol).
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. However, be careful to carry cash always with you for the purchases at the markets and the rural areas.
Power is 110volt, so the socket used are the flat plug with two entrances US-style.
The best climate period to visit Colombia is from December to February: poor rains, steady temperatures on the mountains and definitely more bearable on the coast.
Obligatory vaccination is not required, however who is going to explore the Amazon area have to be aware – and so protect oneself – of the malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever.
For any further information to plan a journey to Colombia, I invite you to look up the Colombian Tourism official website.