Colombia 3 Week Itinerary: Complete Travel Guide

Colombia, a country that’s gotten a lot of popularity in the last few years. Famous for the warm welcoming locals, the highest palm trees in the world, colorful colonial towns, strong culture, and home to the Amazon. Even though Colombia faced some difficult times in the past, it has now bloomed into a backpacking hotspot in Latin America! This Colombia 3 week itinerary route covers all the best places to visit in this South American country at a slower pace! 

Colombia 3-week Travel Route

For a country as big as Colombia, 3 weeks in this beautiful country is never going to be enough. Choices must be made and therefore I added the best things you can do in Colombia in this route, and still have enough time in each place to truly immerse yourself in this extraordinary country. Which is of course the most important!

Unlike hopping to a new place every 2 nights to try to see it all, you’re trying to get a know a place, learn about their culture, taste their cuisine, and dance with locals. 

colombia 3 week itinerary map

3 nights: Bogotá

For most, Bogotá is going to be the starting point of their Colombia 3 week itinerary. This metropolitan is the third biggest city in South America and the perfect spot to learn about Colombia’s history. Joining a walking or bike tour through the city is the perfect way to do so. Most of the tours are free but do highly appreciate a tip of around 25.000/50.000 COP (€5/€10), so they can keep doing what they’re doing.

In the afternoon, take the cable car up to the Monserrate and admire the views over the massive spread-out city of Bogotá.

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graffiti tour colombia
monserrate bogota

Throughout Bogotá, you’ll notice lots of street art everywhere. Join the free walking tour with BeyondColombia to learn more about the turbulent history between the artists and the police.

streetart colombia

Bogotá is located at the highest altitude in Colombia and is therefore known to be pretty cold and rainy often. Perfect weather to dive into some museums. The best thing, most of them are even free to visit!

Museo d’Oro is free on Sunday and only has a 5,000 COP (€1) entrance the rest of the week, however, Museo de Botero is completely free to visit all the time. This last museum is known for the voluminous characters made by Fernando Botero, like this version of the Mona Lisa.

Travel tip: Get yourself an essential FREE Travel Card from Wise to avoid ATM fees abroad!

museum bogota
things to do in bogota

🚌 Bogotá to Salento

As there are only a few direct busses between Bogotá and Salento, most travelers hop on the 6/7 hour bus from Bogotá, Terminal de Salitre to Armenia. These buses cost around €13 depending on which time/company you choose. From Armenia, you can hop on another 1-hour bus to Salento, costing you 10.000 COP (€2). I’ve written a complete blog post about this journey with all you need to know + tips in this comprehensive transport guide!

I did exactly the same, however, I took the night bus the other way around. Book tickets in advance as especially the popular bus companies often fill up quickly at the station last minute. And yes, I speak from experience. 😉 I was supposed to travel on the night bus with a friend, but she wanted to buy the ticket at the station. She ended up on a random bus because mine from Bolivariano was fully booked.

bus transport colombia

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3 nights: Salento

Spend at least 2 full days in the coffee region of Salento. This colonial town is visited by many travelers and one of the main reasons people add Salento to their Colombian 3 week itinerary is because of the Cocora Valley. Hike through the world’s highest palm trees on the 5-hour trail. I walked only to the viewpoints to admire the views over the palms.

salento cocora valley

Salento is located in a coffee region so this one is a no-brainer. Going on a coffee tour! Even if you’re not a huge coffee lover, it’s interesting to see the whole process, from drying the beans to tasting different flavors of Colombian coffee. 

Coffee tours start from 40.000 COP (€8).

coffee tasting salento
salento colombia coffee
wildlife colombia

🚌 Salento to Jardín

The way from Salento to Jardín is a bit more complicated than any other bus route on this 3-week itinerary. You have to transfer to Riosucio and it sure is going to be an adventure. Take the daily 9:40 AM bus from Salento from this location to Riosucio which will take you around 4 hours normally. In Riosucio you’ll transfer to another bus from Cootransrio at 3 PM to Jardín, which takes another 3/4 hours. Don’t look surprised if this bus is a colorful Chiva (old school bus) instead of the normal bus you’re used to in Colombia as many friends of mine had this.

Total cost: 65.000 COP (€13)

I didn’t do this route myself, because I traveled to Jardín at the end of my trip as a weekend from Medellín. Many people I’ve come across did this route though.

transport medellin to jardin

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2 nights: Jardín (optional)

Jardín is another mountain village in the coffee region of Colombia. You can see it as Salento’s lesser-known little sister. If you prefer to take it slow on your Colombia 3-week travel itinerary, skip Jardín and move straight onto Medellín. Use the 2 nights to spend more time in another place.

Start the day with a hike up to Cerro de la Cruz for views over the city and explore the colorful houses around town in the afternoon. Definitely make sure to make your way to the square during sunset, where all the locals gather to enjoy their evenings. For dinner, head to my favorite Italian restaurant in town: Bon Appetit!

Davivienda is the best bank in Colombia with no ATM fees

jardin street colombia
viewpoint colombian town

🚌 Jardín to Medellín

The easiest and most common way to go from Jardín to Medellín is by bus. Take a bus from Rapido Ochoa that drives 5 times per day, which costs €8. The busses leave from this location, only a few blocks away from the square of Jardín.

colorful town

5 nights: Medellín

A city that faced a lot of bad times during the past, but has gone through an insane transformation in the last decade and is now a backpacker’s favorite in South America. This is Medellín. This bustling, green city is a place where people often stick around longer than expected. In total, I spent 3 weeks in Medellín, and felt like a home away from home.

Comuna 13

To learn more about the city’s past, book a free walking tour with ZippyTours to Comuna 13 and let a local guide show you around. This tour was one of my favorites during my time in Colombia and definitely a must on your 3 week Colombia itinerary.

houses comuna 13
zippytours comuna 13

Paragliding

Some areas like Laureles and El Poblado are amazing to explore from the ground. But what about looking at Medellín from a bird’s perspective? Paragliding was high on my list when visiting Medellín and wasn’t leaving before I did this.

paragliding over city

Nightlife

Medellín nightlife is one of the best, so spend at least one night going out at La Provenza. Many bars here offer lots of different music, mostly reggaeton (happy me!) If you’re staying at a hostel in El Poblado, it’s most likely they’re also offering barhopping events and some even party busses (in an actual chiva).

Medellín is a city with so much to offer, from learning the bachata and Spanish to understanding its dark history in Comuna 13. More things you can do during your days in Medellín, you can read in the blog linked down below!

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✈️ Medellín to Minca

We’re heading to the north coast and taking the flight is the best way to do so. However, you would need to fly to Santa Marta as this is the closest airport. From the airport take the taxi to Mercado Público where you also take the minivan to Minca. Buy tickets directly at the office which should cost you 9000 COP (€2) and take around 1 hour.

minca colombia 3 week itinerary

2 nights: Minca

This tiny village high up in the mountains in the north of Colombia offers incredible views over the jungle, magical sunrises and is the perfect spot for birding! To start off your day, go for a healthy breakfast at DUNI café and hop on a mototaxi to the Mariska Waterfalls. Spend your late afternoon watching the sunset at Casa Loma Hostel or Sierra Minca.

Mototaxi’s are the way of transport in many villages along the Caribbean Coast in Colombia.

Birding

With over 1900 bird species, Colombia is the number one in bird diversity. Even 190 species of these are possible to spot in the trees of Minca! Among them are, for example, macaws, tucans & humming birds!

Every morning tours start around 06:00 as the birds often are seen early in the mornings.

birding colombia
bird minca

🚌 Minca to Tayrona

To get from Minca to Tayrona, you’ll first need to go back to Santa Marta with the local minivans. There’s a tiny transportation office right outside the center, where you can buy your ticket and hop on the next van back to Santa Marta.

minca street

2 nights: Tayrona

Waking up to the sounds of the jungle, camping among wildlife, and watching the sunrise above the ocean. Spending a night in Tayrona National Park can’t miss on your Colombia 3-week itinerary!

Spend the first-night close to the entrance of the national park so you’re able to head off as early as possible the next morning. The park opens at 8 AM and you can expect to be waiting in line to enter during high season. 

hiking trail tayrona
beach colombia

After hiking through the park for the whole day, you’ll be camping at one of the campsites. I’ve written everything you need to know about visiting Tayrona National Park and how to plan it in the blog linked below!

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🚌 Tayrona to Cartagena de Indias

Take the local bus back to Santa Marta early in the morning and hop on a bus from Berlinastur that takes you to Cartagena in about 5 hours for around €12. For safety reasons, I don’t recommend this route after dark after multiple incidents in the last years.

3 nights: Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena is among one of the most popular places in Colombia and has a stunning old center with colorful houses. As I love to do first in every city, you’re starting your time doing a free walking tour. BeyondColombia offers multiple tours throughout the city.

Among these is a tour through Getsemani. This unique & bustling neighborhood is one of the oldest barrios in town and full of art. If you find yourself in Getsemani at night, make sure to stop at Cafe ‘Havana’ for some music and salsa dancing.

cartagena colombia

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traditional woman in cartagena

Spend your morning exploring Cartagena’s colorful Old Town and enjoy yourself some lunch at Parque del Centenario. Bring your camera because this park even inhabits monkeys, sloths, and iguanas! Later in the afternoon, stack up some snacks and beers and head out to the city walls for a beautiful sunset over the city’s skyline.

The reason I liked Cartagena’s vibe was the abundant nightlife. Every night you’ll find a party somewhere in the rooftop bars, with Alquímico being my favorite. 

viator recommendation

Check out all things to do in Cartagena here!

cartagena colombia 3 week itinerary

🚤 Cartagena to the Rosario Islands

For the perfect day trip to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena, take one of the boats that leave every morning around 9 AM. This boat trip will take you to the islands in about 1 hour.

Boat price: €28 per person.

1 night: Rosario Islands

In need of some exotic vibes? Ditch the city for a night or more and explore the crystal-clear water of the Rosario Islands. Only 1 hour away from the mainland of Colombia you can find this little archipelago consisting of 27 islands, with Isla Grande being the biggest. 

Spend your days relaxing on the white sanded beaches, with a nice piña colada in your hands, or do one of the many activities on the island. Most accommodations offer these to their guests, from snorkeling at an old plane wreck or going on a sunset kayak tour! 

rosario islands

4-weeks in Colombia

Multi-day tour in the Amazon

If you have more time than 3 weeks, consider heading to the Colombian part of the Amazon for a truly unique experience. After your time in Bogotá, hop on a plane to Leticia. Also known as the gateway to the Colombian Amazon. Spend at least 4 nights exploring the never-ending rainforests of the Amazon, getting to know the local communities, and spotting unique wildlife.

local fishermen
amazonas colombia

✈️ Bogotá to Leticia

Getting to the Colombian Amazon is only done by flying into Leticia. There are daily direct flights from Bogotá to Leticia taking about 1.5 hours. 

Book these flights in advance as prices can go up to €200 for last-minute returns in high season! 

amazon colombia

The Lost City Trek

If you’re more into hiking, consider swapping the Amazon for the Lost City Trek on your Colombia itinerary. After arriving at the airport of Santa Marta, you’re going on a 4-day adventure through the Sierra Nevada, looking for the Lost City aka Ciudad Perdida. This 4-day trek is going to be a highlight on your travels, learning about the indigenous tribes and exploring an ancient site while making lifelong friends and sleeping in the jungle.

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Lost City Colombia

The Lost City trek will keep you busy for at least 5/6 days as you’re going to need to spend the night in Santa Marta the night before and you’re probably wanting to stay another night after finishing the trek, to charge your batteries 😉

The reason I didn’t add them in the itinerary already, is because they both take up almost a week with all the traveling before and after the trips. Even though they take up a lot of time, they were among my favorite travel memories to date.

How to visit Colombia for your 3-week itinerary

By plane

The most common and easiest way to enter Colombia is by flight. Bogotá, Medellín & Cartagena are the most popular international airports to start your trip with many direct flights from all over the world. Avianca and KLM are 2 popular airlines to fly from Europe to Colombia.

plane colombia
rooftop view

By boat from Panama

Backpackers are often making their way from Central America to Colombia by taking a 5-day sailing boat from Panama to the San Blas islands, ending in Cartagena. This is a very popular way to cross the borders between these 2 countries, as over land is not possible. As for people with seasickness (like myself) this might not be the best option for you but a more sustainable and unique way than flying.

Other unique way to cross the border to Colombia, if you’re coming from Perú is to take the boat from Iquitos (Peruvian Amazon) to Leticia (Colombian Amazon).

Crossing the border over land

The only (safe) way to enter Colombia by land is from Ecuador by bus. However, the borders aren’t the safest areas to travel around in Colombia, but many travelers do it every day without problems. I haven’t traveled to Ecuador myself, but talked to many people who did this journey themselves.

colombia itinerary

How to get around in Colombia

Public transport

The public transport in Colombia is really good and large comfortable busses have routes between almost every city. I used Busbud or Redbus to book bus tickets in advance.

local bus transport
transportation colombia

Expreso Brasilia, Bolivariano and Berlinas are known to be safe and reliable and have comfortable big busses, with toilets.

Traveling by bus takes up a lot more travel hours compared to catching a flight, however, it’s a sustainable way to get around and perfect to see more of the landscape along the way.

It’s also the only way to get around in the north as there are no flights between the smaller villages and not even between Santa Marta and Cartagena.

Nightbusses are a safe & easy way to travel around and you’re saving money on accommodation.

By plane

With people on a time limit, getting around by plane saves you a lot of travel time. With only 3 weeks in Colombia, you may not want to spend days of them in busses.

If booking in advance, you’re able to find flights for even €30 one way. However, while booking last minute they get up to €60 or higher during the high season.

Also around Medellín and Salento are frequent roadblocks which causes the bus times even double their duration.

houses colombia

Best time to visit Colombia for this 3-week Itinerary

With a country as big as Colombia, the climates differ a lot due to different landscapes. To experience the best weather all around, traveling through Colombia is best done between December and March. These months are known to be dry season, but also high season. Prices go up and accommodation may be filling up faster, make sure to book in advance during this time!

Outside of these months, you can experience some serious rainfall, however, prices are much lower. Visiting during shoulder season would be the way to go to escape the crowds and still enjoy lower prices. Try avoiding visiting Colombia during the holidays as not only tourists are all over the country, but also lots of locals are traveling.

cocora valley salento
girl in jungle national park

Where to stay in Colombia

Colombia is a relative cheap country to travel around and therefore you’re able to find amazing accommodations for a small price. Personally, I’ve only stayed in hostels during my time in Colombia, however most offer private rooms as well. For all accommodation in Colombia search here!

Here are my favorites:

Click on links to see more!

hostels colombia
accommodation colombia

Costs for a Colombia 3 week itinerary

Traveling through Colombia is among one of the cheapest backpacking countries in South America.

As a budget backpacker you can easily travel around with a €30/€35 day-budget. But even if you’re staying in hotels, traveling through Colombia is still considered cheap!

Hostel: €8 – €20 per night

Hotel: €20 – €100 per night

Food: €4 – €15 per meal

Busses: €10 – €40

Flights: €30 – €100 domestic

Simcard: €20 for 12 GB (30 days)

Things to take care of at home

Visa’s

Most people don’t need a visa to enter Colombia, including the EU and the United States. These can enter Colombia without a visa for up to 90 days. Always check with your government or ivisa.com for more information if you might need a visa.

Onward Ticket

To enter Colombia, you must show proof of onward travel. Most of the time, bus tickets aren’t enough so you should have a flight out of the country prepared. Some might have a return ticket booked already, however, if you’re not sure of your exit date, I have a solution for you!

Many airlines, like Copa Airlines (the one I used always), allow you to make a flight reservation without paying for 24 hours. This is an actual ticket and is valid as an onward ticket. If you don’t pay they automatically cancel your flight after 24 hours or you can cancel the flight yourself once you’re through customs.  

Travel Credit Card

Using a travel credit card allows you to withdraw money from the ATM without any fees. Not only is this a must during your Colombia 3-week itinerary but for all your travels around the world! I’ve been using my WISE card in every country during my 3-month backpacking trip and it saved me a lot of fees!

wise icon

get your FREE Wise card here!

colombia 3 week itinerary salento

Vaccinations

Staying healthy is important, not only during your Colombia 3 week itinerary but during all your travels, so make sure to get your necessary vaccinations. Yellow Fever, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio (in often countries you can get a DTP shot, that includes these last three), and Hepatitis A are highly recommended. I suggest getting all of them including Rabies, to avoid any uncomfortable situations.

Malaria

Colombia has a few malaria regions, one of them is the Amazon. Bring malaria pills or an emergency set with you just in case you decide to visit the Amazon last minute.

I’m not a doctor, so make sure to ask your doctor at home or see a travel doctor for more information about the recommended medications, vaccinations, and malaria treatment for your destinations.

wildlife jungle

Required forms

To enter Colombia, you’re going to need to have the mandatory Check-MIG form! This is free and should only be filled out on the official government website here.

Filling out this form is required for either entering or exiting the country.

Safety

Colombia has gone through an insane transformation and is now safe to travel to without some usual safety precautions. In this blog post, I added everything you need to know about safety in Colombia, including 12 safety tips for solo travelers to stay safe when doing this Colombia 3 week itinerary travel route!

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man salento

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Simone Vromans

Simone is the owner and writer of Travel With Simone! By sharing these travel guides, she hopes to help you plan your epic adventures and inspire you to go on that long-overdue trip! 💛

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About Simone

Hi there, I’m Simone and the writer behind this travel blog. By reading my guides, I’m hoping to inspire you to travel more mindfully and have epic adventures all over the globe!

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