Some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you click through one of these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy located under the “about” link on our homepage for more detail.
2 Weeks in Colombia Itinerary: Cartagena

2 Weeks in Colombia: The Ultimate 14 Day Itinerary

Colombia

Incredible beaches, breathtaking valleys, invigorating cities, tasty food, and color around every corner: all of this and more is waiting for you during 2 weeks in Colombia.

Busy shaking off a negative stigma leftover from drug violence of the 80’s and 90’s, Colombia is working hard to bring tourists into the country–and with what they have to offer, it’s not hard to imagine why.

Planning your first trip to Colombia? Here’s what to add to your Colombia itinerary!

You’ll notice that we have only budgeted for 11 days in this itinerary, shaving off three days. There’s a good reason for that: visiting Colombia for 2 weeks with the intention of covering a lot of the highlights is going to mean some long travel days that won’t include a lot of sightseeing.

Rather than calculate a 14-day Colombia itinerary, then, we left a few days off to count as “travel days”: these will most likely apply between Santa Marta and Medellin (we highly recommend a flight here), between Medellin and Salento, and between Salento and flying home (likely from Medellin).

Now for the fun part: follow this Colombia itinerary and watch yourself fall in love with Colombia in 2 weeks!

What to Do in Salento: Horseback Riding

The First Timer’s 2 Weeks in Colombia Itinerary

Cartagena: 2 Days

Highlights of Cartagena

We absolutely adored Cartagena: its colorful buildings and enchanting Old Town, remarkable nearby beaches, and Caribbean culture make it an absolute dream to visit (and photograph!).

While you’re there, be sure to head over to Isla Baru to experience the beauty of Playa Blanca, to wander the streets of the Old Town with a camera in hand, to munch on plenty of street food, and to watch the sunset over the city from the town walls.

READ NEXT
Playa Blanca: Is Cartagena's Famous Beach Worth Visiting?

Things to Consider in Cartagena

Though Cartagena itself is stunning, the beaches that are within walking distance of town are generally not the Caribbean paradise you probably have in mind while planning your 2 weeks in Colombia itinerary.

Most of Cartagena’s best beaches are located a boat ride and/or day trip away, whether that’s to the famous Playa Blanca or to a lesser-known beach among the Rosario Islands.

Keep in mind that while you can reach Playa Blanca without a tour, many of the Rosario Islands are privately owned, meaning a day trip or tour is required to access many of them.

If you want a self-led beach experience closer to town than Playa Blanca, we heard decent things about Tierra Bomba, though we didn’t make it out there ourselves.

Also–though obvious, it’s worth mentioning that Colombia (and especially the Caribbean coastline) is hot. Many tourists are shocked by how hot and humid it is here, so be prepared (and bring a hat and sunscreen to protect your skin).

Playa Blanca, Isla Baru, Cartagena, Colombia

Where We Stayed in Cartagena

Casa La Espanola — This was a great place to stay on a budget in Cartagena! Cartagena can get pricey toward the center, but with a little distance, we found a bargain here: the room was clean, the family running the place very nice, the hotel is set in a gated community, and if we didn’t feel like walking the 20 minutes to Old Town, a taxi was easy to grab and only $2-3 USD each way.

We definitely wouldn’t mind staying here again

Check rates & book your stay at Casa La Espanola!

Casa Primaveral — After visiting Minca and Tayrona National Park, we doubled back to Cartagena to catch our flight to Medellin and stayed here for one night.

For that purpose, this place was absolutely perfect: it is literally a 5-minute walk to the airport–easiest airport commute we’ve ever done!

The property was clean, cozy, and felt perfectly safe–though it was a bit too far out of the way for us to consider staying there while visiting Cartagena, as a night-before-the-airport spot, we couldn’t have asked for more.

Check rates & book your stay at Casa Primaveral!

Packing List for Colombia: Cartagena Old Town

Playa Blanca, Cartagena: Girl on Beach

Tayrona National Park (Santa Marta): 2 Days

Highlights of Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park is, hands down, one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited.

The famous Cabo San Juan Beach may be a bit crowded during the day, but it has earned every bit of its fame–it is an incredible place.

The best way to experience Tayrona National Park is to camp for a night on Cabo San Juan Beach, and use the afternoon before and morning after to explore other parts of the park, including beaches such as La Piscina (perfect for swimming) and Arrecifes (definitely don’t swim–people commonly drown here, but the view from the sand is gorgeous).

There are also ruins that you can hike to during the day, and snorkeling equipment can be rented in the park as well.

To reach Cabo San Juan Beach to camp, you’ll need to hike about 2 hours into the park, or, if that’s not your thing, you can opt for a horseback ride to the beach instead.

Things to Consider in Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park is known to close on occasion, which we sadly experienced ourselves–a couple of weeks before arriving, we learned that the park was closing for a month the day after we were supposed to arrive!

Unfortunately, that meant we had to downgrade our hopes of camping at Cabo San Juan to a simple day trip to the park–still absolutely worth visiting for, but we hope to stay longer next time!

Be sure to pack plenty of bug spray for your visit to Tayrona National Park–you’ll need it–and of course, bring cash as well.

Cabo San Juan Beach does have a small restaurant available if you’d like to eat there while camping.

What to Pack for Colombia: Tayrona National Park Beach

Where We Stayed in Santa Marta

Hotel Paisamar — Colorful, affordable, clean, great air conditioner, big rooms, close to the beach, and a delicious included breakfast–Hotel Paisamar was a winner on all levels, and we would not hesitate to stay here again.

Check rates & book your stay at Hotel Paisamar!

Hotel Sierra Nevada — A bit more of an upscale property than Hotel Paisamar, Hotel Sierra Nevada is very clean and modern inside, though the rooms are small and the location is not as excellent as Hotel Paisamar. We would have no qualms about recommending this place to someone looking for modern features in a hotel, but personally, we’d probably take Hotel Paisamar over this place again.

Check rates & book your stay at Hotel Sierra Nevada!

2 Weeks in Colombia Itinerary: Cabo San Juan Beach

Medellin/Guatape: 3 Days

Highlights of Medellin

Medellin is a fascinating city: ruled the most dangerous city in the world less than 25 years ago, Medellin today is considered one of the most innovative cities in the world!

The Paisa people of Medellin are working hard to improve their city and its reputation abroad, and that’s obvious everywhere you look, from rehabilitated public spaces to the incredible cable car system that has been installed to give the communities in the mountains surrounding Medellin better access to the city and its resources.

A ride in the cable cars is a must while in Medellin–it’s an incredible way to experience the city, and also to get amazing views of it! Do keep in mind, though, that the cable cars are public transportation, not a tourist attraction, and exercise due caution.

Definitely plan on taking the Real City Free Medellin Walking Tour (and tip your guide!)–the tour has a great reputation among travelers to Medellin, and it definitely lives up to it. We also loved the Exotic Fruits Tour by Real City, and highly recommend it.

Guatape, the colorful gem of a lake town set 2 hours outside of Medellin, is a must on any Colombia itinerary that passes through the area–stick to a day trip if you must, but personally, we recommend spending one night in Guatape instead of Medellin during this portion of your Colombia trip.

READ NEXT
The Best Things to Do in Guatape (For More Than a Day Trip)

Things to Consider in Medellin

Medellin is a fascinating place to visit, but we found that we had to dig a little deeper to find the highlights of Medellin than in many popular cities around the globe. In part, I think this is because Medellin’s history, more than its monuments or traditional sightseeing options, are its highlight.

For that reason, we recommend taking the Real City Walking Tour on the first morning you arrive in the city (you need to book in advance, so sign up online a few days ahead of time)–it will help orient you, give you context for the rest of your visit, and help you plan what to do next.

Regarding safety, though we felt very safe overall in Medellin (as do the bulk of the other thousands of tourists each year), it is still a large city in the process of coming away from a violent reputation. Be cautious about venturing into areas you’re unfamiliar with without researching them first, and generally be aware of your surroundings.

14 Days in Colombia Itinerary: Paisa Monument, Medellin

Where We Stayed in Medellin

16th Floor Studio Apartment (Airbnb) — We loved this apartment! The back wall is almost entirely windows… and the windows look out all over the city skyline. In addition, the apartment is clean, modern, comfortable to stay in, and made for a cozy retreat for a week.

One potential downside to consider: this is not in the popular Poblado neighborhood that the bulk of tourists stay in. We didn’t mind, but if you’re looking for the feel of a backpacker hangout, this isn’t it (though there’s a nice supermarket a five-minute walk away!).

Never used Airbnb before? Sign up with our link for a discount on your first stay!

Prefer more traditional lodging? Check out Booking.com for great hotel & hostel options in Medellin!

Where We Stayed in Guatape

Lake View Hostel — Lake View Hostel hosted us for two nights in Guatape, and we loved our time there! The rooms were clean, the location great, the Thai restaurant on the top floor was a great option for dinner, and we’re still dreaming about their breakfast burritos that are served in the morning.

The only downside? Slow wifi–don’t plan on getting a lot of work done while here (which shouldn’t be a big problem–there’s plenty of playing to do in Guatape).

Check rates & book your stay at Lake View Hostel!

14 Days in Colombia Itinerary: Medellin

The Best Things to Do in Guatape: Town Square

Salento: 4 Days

Highlights of Salento

In our totally biased opinion, we saved the best for last on this 2 week Colombia itinerary: though it’s a very close call, Salento is our favorite place in Colombia.

Set in the Andes Mountains, the town of Salento is bright, colorful, and beautiful. Nearby valleys, waterfalls, and rushing rivers make the perfect backdrop, and panoramic views might occasionally leave you asking if you’ve been suddenly transported into Middle Earth.

The crown jewel of the Salento area is, of course, the famous Cocora Valley–and it absolutely deserves all the praise it gets.

That being said, the Cocora Valley is far from the only reason to visit Salento during your 2 weeks in Colombia: we also recommend making sure to add horseback riding, a visit to the Santa Rita waterfall, a tour of a coffee plantation, and a few rounds of the addicting game tejo to your list.

READ NEXT
The Best Things to Do in Salento, Colombia

Things to Consider in Salento

The ride from Medellin to Salento, and visa versa, is said to only take about 6 hours each way–but it took us 11 hours one way and 10 the other.

Why? Well, the best we could tell (the bus drivers weren’t too expansive), the main road used to travel between Salento and Medellin is closed, so buses are having to make do with other routes. The projected completion date for the road work is roughly sometime between next week and never.

So, we’d recommend planning a solid day of travel when heading to and from Salento, and get started as early as you can.

Where We Stayed in Salento

Posada Martha Tolima — This guesthouse made for a perfect quiet retreat in Salento, with low prices, unassuming but decent rooms, and a very tasty included breakfast (eggs, arepa, fruit, coffee, and bread, with the eggs made to order!). The hotel is just a  5-minute walk from the main square, and the price was right. We would not hesitate to stay here again!

Check rates & book your stay at Posada Martha Tolima!

Valle de Cocora, Colombia

Colombia 2 Week Itinerary: Valle de Cocora

More Time in Colombia?

Two weeks in Colombia is definitely not enough to see the entire country, but it is enough to give a fantastic overview!

If you’re lucky enough to have more than 14 days in Colombia, consider adding on visits to Bogota and San Gil (Colombia’s adventure capital, set about 5-6 hours away from Bogota), spending extra time in your favorite destinations (we’d recommend at least a couple more days in Cartagena and Salento), bumming around the Caribbean coast for longer (we’ve heard good things about towns like Palomino) or making your way down to towns and cities like Cali, Popayan, and Ipiales–all very logical destinations if you’re planning on making your way to Ecuador overland.

If you’re looking for something a bit more offbeat, consider making the journey out to the Tatacoa Desert (the photos remind us of the Southwestern USA), or heading to Punta Gallinas for some golden sand dunes, kitesurfing, and to say you’ve been to the northernmost point in South America.

What to Do in Salento: Colorful Streets

Getting Around Colombia

Colombia has an expansive and affordable bus system to use for getting between destinations, but bear in mind that it might not always be the best option.

Colombia is enormous (roughly twice the size of France and Texas), and home to part of the Andes Mountain Range–distances are not always what they seem, buses sometimes never run on time, and motion sickness can be a problem.

If all of that sounds rather negative, don’t worry–the buses can also be fun! Like most places in Latin America, various entertainers hoping for tips might hop onboard at any moment, and hawkers selling homemade snacks are common. The seats were generally comfortable, and the a/c tends to work a little too well.

For very long distances, though, consider a flight–especially if you only have 2 weeks in Colombia. While flying between countries in South America costs about as much as a kidney, flying within a single country can be very affordable, Colombia included.

Viva Colombia, LATAM, and Copa Airlines are all popular for flying within Colombia, and personally, we took a Viva Colombia flight between Cartagena and Medellin (they also fly to Medellin out of Santa Marta).

Things to Do in Salento Colombia: Horseback Riding

The Best Time to Visit Colombia

Colombia, like many countries, has essentially two seasons: wet and dry.

In the Andean mountains (think Salento and Medellin on this itinerary), the driest months will be between December and March, and July and August.

The coast, such as Cartagena, is always hot and always has a chance of rain, though showers don’t tend to last as long there.

If you happen to make your way out to the Amazon… well, expect rain whenever you go–but you knew that, right?

When it comes to temperature, Colombia’s climate is fairly even–the coast is always hot, and temperatures are always cooler-but-not-cold inland.

If you’re looking for low prices, you’ll find the highest prices in Colombia between December and March, as it’s their peak travel season, and especially during Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Easter weekend.

2 Weeks in Colombia Itinerary: Streets of Guatape

Safety in Colombia

As a country that is working hard to emerge from a prior reputation for severe cartel violence, safety in Colombia was on the tip of most people’s tongues when we told them we were going.

Broadly, the safety situation in Colombia has improved dramatically since the 1980’s and 1990’s. While the country does still have some issues, of course (mostly far outside of areas that tourists would choose to go), we felt perfectly safe there as tourists and would not recommend anyone to hesitate over planning a trip to Colombia due to concerns about cartel violence.

Petty crime, particularly in large cities, is a factor (as it is everywhere), but with normal precautions, you should feel perfectly safe while on the tourist trail. Be aware of your surroundings, try not to stick out, stay in reputable neighborhoods, don’t wear flashy jewelry, and generally behave in a friendly and normal way, and you should not have any issues.

Though I cannot speak personally to this (traveling with Jeremy has the lucky bonus of tending to render me invisible to these folks), solo female travelers report that the catcalling and street harassment situation in Colombia is similar to the rest of Latin America: generally obnoxious, but not typically dangerous.

Overall, we felt that traveling in Colombia felt similar to traveling in Costa Rica, Mexico, or Cambodia in terms of safety, and we certainly felt more secure there than in destinations like mainland Honduras.

When planning your route, feel free to check the US Travel Advisory for updated news on travel warnings in Colombia (be sure to check for particular states/departments, rather than the country as a whole)… but also keep in mind that more than 3.2 million foreign tourists visited Colombia in 2017 alone, the vast majority of which were perfectly safe.

Don’t forget to buy travel insurance before heading to Colombia!

We use & recommend World Nomads for their affordability, ease of purchasing & the clarity of their contract!

View this post on Instagram

Hello, Cartagena (... and Colombia... and South America)! It's so nice to finally meet you. 😍 * We are having so much fun getting our first glimpse of continent number five: after months of traveling in fall and winter weather, we are all about sundresses and shorts and bathing suits here on the Caribbean coast. * Cartagena is incredibly vibrant: it's covered in brightly colored buildings and flowers spilling out of balconies and fruit piling up on stands and the smell of Colombian coffee wafting down the street from the dozen or so coffee shops that are always nearby. * Have you ever been to Colombia? If so, let us know your tips! We're planning to spend about a month exploring the country (assuming we can tear ourselves away from this city and the nearby beaches, of course)! * * * * #cartagena #colombia #ig_cartagena #ig_colombia #southamerica #igerscolombia #caribbean #abmlifeiscolorful #abmtravelbug #theprettycities #gltlove #wearetravelgirls #femmetravel #dametraveler #darlingescapes #flashesofdelight #instapassport #unlimitedparadise #planetdiscovery #globelletravels #sidewalkerdaily #travelstoke #openmyworld #thetravelwomen #thatsdarling #thatauthenticfeeling #forahappymoment #finditliveit #pursuepretty #mytinyatlas

A post shared by Kate & Jeremy 🌍 Travel Couple (@ourescapeclause) on

Speaking Spanish in Colombia: Is it Necessary?

While we do feel it is possible to get by in Colombia without speaking Spanish, it will be significantly more difficult if you don’t speak any Spanish at all.

The language barrier is fairly significant in Colombia, more so than in other popular Latin American destinations like Mexico, and we personally found the Colombian accent (particularly on the Caribbean coast) much more difficult to understand than in places like Guatemala.

Speaking Spanish (neither of us is fluent, but we’re well beyond simple words and phrases at this point) was enormously beneficial during our trip to Colombia–it made it easier to connect with locals, to travel from point A to point B, and also helped us feel safer–it’s naturally isolating when you know it’s likely that no one nearby can understand you.

If you’re planning 2 weeks in Colombia, we recommend you start learning Spanish now–every little bit will help.

The Best Things to Do in Guatape: View from El Penol

What to Pack for Colombia

Colombia’s variety of climates, available attractions (salsa dancing! hiking! scuba diving!) makes packing for Colombia a little tricky–here are a few items to be sure to put on your packing list for your 2 week Colombia trip.

Bug Spray — Bug spray is a must on any Colombia packing list. The mosquitos will try to eat you alive–just look at the legs of all the other tourists when you get to town. The ones who didn’t bring bug spray are easy to pick out.

SteriPen — We love using our Steripen to cut down on the waste from plastic bottles around the world, and Colombia was no exception.

Sunscreen — The sun is very strong in Colombia. Avoid getting burned by wearing sunscreen daily.

Rain Poncho — Ponchos are a must, especially in Salento. You can buy disposable ponchos in the area, but we recommend purchasing a reusable one before going and using it over and over again–if you’re in Salento for any length of time, you’ll likely keep pulling it out.

10L Dry Bag — Easy to pack, and an easy way to stop worrying about your camera and other belongings getting soaked in an afternoon rain shower in the Cocora Valley.

Sea Bands & Dramamine Non-Drowsy Naturals — All those bus rides in Colombia are no joke–if you get motion sickness, you’ll want to have these on hand.

Pacsafe Travelsafe 12L GII Portable Safe — We love our Pacsafe! Whenever we leave our lodging for the day, we put our laptops and other valuables into this sturdy safe, attach it to the most secure thing in the room (like a pipe), and leave with peace of mind about the safety of some of our most valuable items.

READ NEXT
What to Pack for Colombia: The Ultimate Colombia Packing List

The Ultimate 2 Weeks in Colombia Itinerary: #colombia #southamerica #latinamerica #travel #backpacking

Many thanks to Lake View Hostel for hosting us for two nights in Guatape! All other expenses detailed in this 14-day Colombia itinerary we covered by us, and all opinions are, as always, our own.

23 Comments Write a comment

Kate has been traveling full-time with her husband Jeremy (the other half of Our Escape Clause) for more than 2 years. She tries to keep a balance between going on new adventures and exploring favorite destinations (like Italy!) in depth, and is always on the lookout for the next beautiful overlook and delicious meal.

23 Comments

  • Denny George April 9, 2018

    For someone like me living on the other side of the globe, Columbia had always been that place which crops up on the news with pieces about drug wars and armed conflict. I’ve been, on and off, following your trip across columbia for some time, and it seems to be so much more than all I’ve read. Thank you for highlighting another, much lesser known side to Columbia. I personally would love to be able to spend some time in Santa Maria.

    • Kate Storm April 11, 2018

      Glad to hear it, Denny! I grew up hearing about “dangerous” Colombia as well, but the country has truly come a long way.

  • Anne Slater-Brooks April 9, 2018

    I have been considering Colombia for some time and your photos definitely have me persuaded. It is hard to believe Medellin was deemed one of the most dangerous cities in the world not so long ago, especially as it seems to be huge with travellers now. I absolutely love the coloured buildings though. So pretty

    • Kate Storm April 11, 2018

      Right? It’s absolutely amazing how fast it has changed–being in the city was quite the experience.

  • Diana April 9, 2018

    Your photos are absolutely gorgeous! I’ve never been to Colombia before, but this sounds like the perfect 2 week itinerary. I am such a sucker for beautiful nature, and it looks like Colombia’s got it all – from beautiful beaches to mountains – you’re making me want to plan a trip there right now!

    • Kate Storm April 11, 2018

      Thanks, Diana! Hope you end up going–it’s an amazing place!

  • Mithila April 10, 2018

    Hey guys,
    We can’t seem to find the best way to get from Medellin to Salento. What do you advice?

    • Kate Storm April 11, 2018

      Hi Mithila! There are a couple of bus companies running multiple routes per day from Medellin to Salento (and back again). Both leave from the south bus station in Medellin, and we went with Flota Occidental. You don’t need to buy tickets far in advance, simply show up an hour or so before departure (you should be able to find schedules online). Hope you guys have a great time!

  • Nathan April 10, 2018

    Colombia looks like a fantastic place to visit – I always believe that travellers should go to the country and experience it for themselves instead of letting news affect their perception. Great to see that you had so much fun in this beautiful country. I’d love to check out Cartagena and Medellin as I’ve heard so much about these two places!

    • Kate Storm April 11, 2018

      They are both wonderful!! We are so glad we decided to visit Colombia, it’s certainly an experience worth having.

  • Rhiannon April 10, 2018

    This is such a fab comprehensive guide! I’ve been to Colombia a few times now but am yet to visit Tayrona, which I’m so sad about! On my first visit we got as far as Santa Marta and then experienced 2 days of the craziest rain I’d ever experiences until that point, so skipped the National Park and headed straight on to Medellín or Cartagena (I can’t remember in which order!) instead. You’re absolutely right about trying to learn Spanish before going. I’m fluent and can 100% say that the ability to speak even the simplest of phrases hugely enriched my whole trip!

    • Kate Storm April 11, 2018

      Ooooh, I hope you get to go to Tayrona next time! We only got one day there and want to go back and do it “right”, but even that one day was enough to make it one of our favorite places in Colombia (outranked, only slightly, by Salento). 🙂

  • Yukti April 11, 2018

    I never heard much of Medellin, but it really looks worth visiting. Colombia in always on my list and I am adding Medellin in the list too. It is interesting to know that it was dangerous city before 25 years but now an innovative town. I would love to go Guatape as it is colorful, which is only 2 hours from Medellin.

    • Kate Storm April 11, 2018

      Both cities are definitely worth the visit!

  • Abhinav Singh April 11, 2018

    Colombia sits in the top bracket of my bucket list. The comprehensive itinerary that you shared covers a variety and is easy to follow. Tayrona National Park appeals the most to me. I am sorry to hear that it was closed when you visited it. The packing tips are handy. I always carry bug spray. Steri Pen is a good idea.

    • Kate Storm April 11, 2018

      Thanks, Abhinav! Hope you get to visit Colombia soon.

  • Soraya April 11, 2018

    Ohhh how I would love to visit Columbia one day! The Rosario Islands sounds great – love that it’s nkt so popular with tourists and good to know that I will need to book it as a tour as many are privately owned. I am absolutely loving the very bright coloured buildings – a photographers dream! Good to know the bus system can be fun and not a bad option. But I think I might still opt to fly around to save a bit more time.

    • Kate Storm April 19, 2018

      Cartagena is SO photogenic–it’s the perfect city for wandering around with a camera. 🙂

  • Archana Singh April 12, 2018

    WOW! Columbia has been on my travel list forever. I loved your pictures. So colourful so bright. Your itinerary seems to have everything I love – national park, beach, colourful houses. It’s wonderful you could stay at Casa La Espanola that didn’t break your bank.

  • Krishna Amin May 24, 2018

    Love your photos!!! Planning my trip to Colombia this July and this has helped so much!! I can’t wait to be in Salento! 🙂 Thank you guys!

    • Kate Storm May 24, 2018

      Thanks so much, Krishna!! Love that we can help. Hope you have as much fun in Salento as we did! 😀

  • Claire August 29, 2018

    Awesome post! We missed out on Parque Tayrona to fit in the Lost City trek but your pictures are making me a little bummed about that choice…

    • Kate Storm September 1, 2018

      Thanks, Claire! We made a similar choice but went with Parque Tayrona instead–we’d love to see the Lost City one day!

Leave a Reply

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website. Privacy Policy