Guide to Hiking the Cocora Valley, Colombia

Guide to Hiking the Cocora Valley, Colombia

The Cocora Valley, or Valle del Cocora in Spanish, is one of the top things to do in Salento, Colombia. Cocora Valley hike (or Valle de Cocora hike) allows travelers to see the tallest wax palm trees in the entire world, an experience only available in the Cocora Valley and the surrounding Quindio Department.

These stunning palm trees are the national trees of Colombia, and they are actually on the verge of extinction. 

Travelers often think that the public transportation (Jeeps) will take them directly to the viewpoints to see these beautiful giants, but they cannot be more wrong.

In this guide to hiking the Cocora Valley, we will tell you the different hiking loops in Cocora valley, how to get the best view of the wax palm trees, and how to get to Cocora Valley from Salento!

Where Is Cocora Valley (Valle De Cocora) In Colombia?

Valle De Cocora Hiking Salento

Before you put on your hiking boots and grab your trekking poles, lets talk about where is the Cocora Valley.

Cocora Valley is a valley in the department of Quindio in the Central Cordillera of the Andean Mountain. For that reason, Cocora Valley is situated somewhere between 1,800 meters to 2,400 in altitude, making the weather very temperate (and even chilly at times).

The easiest way to visit the Cocora Valley is via Salento, a small town located 11 kilometers from Cocora Valley.

However, because of Salento’s geographical location, it might be difficult to get to. Salento does not have its own airport so visitors must take a flight and switch to a bus.

The quickest way to get to Salento is to take a flight to Pereira, a city 36.4 km away from Salento, and then switch to a bus. Alternatives including flying to Medellin and then taking a long bus ride to Salento. Visitors can also fly to Bogota, the capital of Colombia, and take a bus from there but it is very long.

Guide to the Cocora Valley Hike (Valle De Cocora Hike)

How to Get to the Cocora Valley from Salento?

The best way to get to Cocora Valley from Salento is to take one of the public Jeeps at Plaza de Bolivar. Jeeps leave once they are full and when I visited Cocora Valley, it was full every 10 minutes or so. Other blogs might say that the Jeeps to Cocora Valley only depart at specific times but that is NOT true! 

The Jeeps to Cocora Valley cost 4k Colombian Pesos per way and the journey lasts about 20 minutes! If you have the option to stand in the back of the Jeep, I would highly recommend doing so. The view on the way there is incredible.

There is a ticketing counter at Plaza de Bolivar where you must purchase your tickets. Here you can opt to purchase both the return ticket as well. Otherwise, there is the option to purchase the return ticket from Cocora Valley as well.

The Different Routes for Hiking Cocora Valley

The most asked question about hiking the Cocora Valley is which route or loop should you take. Should I do the loop counter-clockwise or clockwise? Or should I do the “short” loop?

There are a total of 3 ways to hike the Cocora Valley.

1. The 5 to 6 hours long loop, done counterclockwise.

2. The same 5 to 6 hours long loop, done clockwise.

3. The “short” loop, which really isn’t a loop because you go straight to the viewpoint of the palm trees and come back the same way. 

If you are short on time, don’t like to hike for 5 hours, or just want to see the palm trees, take the “short” loop. It takes you directly to the best viewpoints for the palm trees. Follow the main dirt road that is on a slight incline; that is the beginning of the short loop.

The short loop is also cheaper as you only pay once. If you hike the long route in Cocora Valley, you will trespass private fincas (farms) twice. Each time you pass through one of the fincas you have to pay a small fee (few thousands Colombian pesos). 

If you like hiking or want to visit the Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary, you can take the long loop. The only difference between the counter-clockwise loop and the clockwise loop is when you will see the palm trees.

In the clockwise loop, you will see the palm trees at the beginning of the hike. Whereas in the counter-clockwise loop, you will see the palm trees at the end.

My recommendation? The counter-clockwise trail because seeing the magnificent giants at the end of an arduous hike is as rewarding as it can get. 

If you decide to go counter-clockwise, you will go up the main dirt road and see a sign like this.

Follow the trail to the right and you will be on your way! This trail follows along a small stream before making its way up the mountain.

If you take the clockwise loop, just keep following the main dirt road!

Should You Visit the Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary on Your Valle de Cocora Hike?

If you decide to hike the long trail in Cocora Valley, you will have the option to take a 45-minute detour (one way) to the Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary. It is a nice addition to your experience in Cocora Valley but it does add an additional 2 hours to your already long trek. 

You can watch hummingbirds fly “freely” as you sip on some of the local coffee and relax. The entrance is 6000 Colombian Pesos. 

Things to Bring To Your Cocora Valley Hike

Hiking the Cocora Valley is no joke and you should always be prepared. Because of its long duration, here are some items you should bring with you on your long trek!

1. Sunscreen – If you decided to do the long loop, you will be in the shaded forest for about half the hike. However, once you rise above the canopy, you are at the mercy of the blazing sun. These tall wax palm trees do not provide any shade!

2. Rain poncho – The Quindio region of Colombia where Salento is located is known to receive lots of yearly rain. If you will be hiking for a long time, I highly recommend bringing a rain jacket or rain poncho!

3. Filtration Water Bottle – On your trek in Valle de Cocora, you will encounter streams and rivers. A filtration water bottle will allow you to drink directly from the water source so you don’t have to carry so much weight. It is both an environmentally friendly life-saver that has transformed my hiking experiences. I highly recommend bringing one!

4. Insect Repellent with Picaridin – As you hike through the lush trails of Cocora Valley, you will inevitably encounter many insects. Some of which bite you and some of which will leave you alone. That is why it is important to pack some insect repellent. I particularly like the ones with Picaridin instead of DEET because it is as effective and better for your skin!

5. Comfortable Daypack (Him/Her) – Though I am putting this as the fifth item on the list, a comfortable and reliable daypack is one of the most important items to bring with you to Cocora Valley. If you are hiking for 6 hours or more, you will need something with a nice hip belt and a frame. That is why I highly recommend the Talon 22 and Tempest 20!

6. Snacks – There are few places for snacks at the start of the hike, but you should pack some for the hike itself!

Where to Stay in Salento

Best Hostel in Salento – Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel

Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel is definitely the best budget hostel in Salento. Don’t let the price fool you. Coffee Tree Boutique hostel has some of the most amazing facilities such as a balcony with the best views of Salento. An amazing free breakfast is included in their low prices, how is that even possible? Highly recommended.

Click here for more details!

Best Airbnb in Salento – Real Traditional Salento House

Valle Del Cocora Salento Quindio Colombia
Hiking Cocora Valley Salento Colombia

(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)

Staying in an Airbnb in Salento allows you to stay at one of the charming traditional houses! With its white tiles and colorful wooden roof, guests can immerse themselves in the typical Colombian lifestyle.

This Salento Airbnb features 3 bedrooms and can comfortably allow 9 guests to enjoy the best of its amenities such as a lush backyard with your own personal coffee plants, a smart TV with Netflix, laundry machines and more!

Its ideal location near the center of town means you can stroll along the quaint Calle Real anytime you want or visit Salento’s best eateries!

Click here for more info!

Best Hotel in Salento – Casa De Las Dos Palmas

Casa De Las Dos Palmas is a small and lovely hotel with some of the cutest decors in Salento. Amazing and helpful staff. Free delicious breakfast. Spacious and clean rooms. The property also has a jacuzzi to help you relax after the Cocora Valley hike!

Click here for more details!

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Have you hiked Cocora Valley in Salento, Colombia? Which route did you take? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. That means if you book or make a purchase through the links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! The money will help run this site! Thank you 🙂

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Zipaquira Salt Cathedral: The Perfect DIY Day Trip From Bogota

Zipaquira Salt Cathedral: The Perfect DIY Day Trip From Bogota

Bogota, the capital of Colombia, is filled with many amazing wonders. From the beautiful waterfalls to the comprehensive museums, Bogota is a city that will make many travelers fall in love. Many of the best things to do in Bogota are located in the city, but some of the best ones require a day trip from Bogota.

My favorite day trip from Bogota is definitely the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral. Known as the First Wonder of Colombia, Zipaquira Salt Cathedral is an architectural accomplishment as well as a religious landmark.

The Zipaquira Salt Cathedral is located about 200m below ground and contains the biggest underground cross in the entire world. It is a place that must be included in any Colombia itinerary.

Not only is Zipaquira Salt Cathedral a marvelous wonder, but it is also extremely easy to get to.

In this guide, you will find all the information on visiting the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral as a day trip from Bogota.

Enjoy!

How to Get to Zipaquira Salt Cathedral From Bogota?

Getting to Zipaquira Salt Cathedral is probably the hardest part of this day trip.

The Salt Cathedral is located about an hour north of Bogota in a town called Zipaquira and is one of the must-see places when you visit Bogota!

The easiest way to do visit the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral is probably with a tour company, but that can be quite expensive.

The harder way, and more adventurous, is to take public transportation. There are two terminals where you can catch the bus from Bogota to Zipaquira. They are Portal Norte and Terminal del Norte.

Either terminal you will find buses that go directly to Zipaquira. The buses from Bogota to Zipaquira run quite frequently and are operated by multiple companies.

The two terminals can be reached by a convenient yet confusing system of TransMilenio. If you are a traveler, it will be close to impossible to understand the different routes and their stops.

My suggestion is to ask your accommodation which TransMilenio you have to take and where to take it. There is always the option to take an Uber or taxi!

Once you arrive in the town of Zipaquira, you will have to walk about 20 minutes to reach the ticket booth of the Salt Cathedral!

If you prefer doing it with a tour, check out our recommendations down below: 

Cost to Enter Zipaquira Salt Cathedral

The price for the most basic entrance was $57,000 Colombian Pesos (~16 USD) as of July 2019. That includes access to a tour guide, a short 3D film, a light show, and the water mirror.

For updated information, visit their official site here. (Spanish only)

Depending on what kind of package you want, the prices differ. In our opinion, the basic package was enough for us to under this incredible attraction in Colombia because it came with a tour guide!

Refer to the above image for the prices of the various types of packages. They were the prices in July 2019.

Short History on the  Zipaquira Salt Cathedral

If you don’t like spoilers, then skip this part. On your visit to the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, you will learn about all of this with the tour guide.

The Zipaquira Salt Cathedral is an underground Roman Catholic church built inside the tunnels of a salt mine near the city of Zipaquira.

Even before the underground church was built, miners built a little altar where they would pray daily and ask for protection before starting their dangerous work. Eventually, the altar became an actual cathedral.

However, the first construction of the cathedral proved to be too unstable and was closed. In 1991, the construction of the new cathedral began. It was officially inaugurated in 1995 and that is the cathedral you can visit today.

Our Experience at the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral

It was 10 AM and I was standing in front of Terminal Del Norte waiting for a Swiss friend I had met the day before. 

He is a little late, that’s fine, considering how confusing the TransMilenio system is in Bogota. 

Then I received a message from him saying “Where are you”?

I told him, “At the terminal.”

Turns out, I was at the terminal, but there is another stop that has buses to Zipaquira from Bogota. That stop was Portal Norte, and my friend was there.

We decided to just meet up in front of the Salt Cathedral. The bus journey took me about 1.5 hours to arrive in Zipaquira, picking up and dropping passengers along the way. The Zipaquira Salt Cathedral is located on a hill about 20 minutes walk from the center of town. 

After some time, my friend and I were finally reunited. Already somewhat tired from the journey, we bought our basic tickets to the Salt Cathedral. They cost us $57,000 Colombian Pesos each.

Luckily for us, the English tour that comes with the ticket started in the next 10 minutes. If we weren’t lucky, the next English tour could’ve been more than 2 hours later.

 

The salt cathedral itself was amazing. We were completely speechless. The moment we walked into the tunnels, we could feel a difference in the air. The smell of the sulfur from the minerals was attacking our senses. It was quite a surreal place. 

The Zipaquira Salt Cathedral was much bigger than I thought it was going to be. We spent 3 hours in there, checking out every little crevice, the 3D movie, the light show, and the emerald shops. 

The whole thing was like a maze with surprises every corner. There were many things we didn’t know but our tour guide was very good at explaining. 

Where to Stay in Bogota Colombia

For a complete guide on where to stay in Bogota, click here.

Best Hostel in Bogota – Aurora Hostel

Aurora Hostel is a cozy hostel with a beautiful interior located in a safe neighborhood. It has comfortable beds and a social common area to meet other travelers. The bar on-site that sells affordable drinks, which is rare for a hostel. Very good value-for-money.

Click here for more details! 

Best Airbnb in Bogota – Loft w/Terrace & Outdoor Hot Tub

Where To Stay In Bogota Salt Cathedral
Salt Cathedral Bogota Places To Stay

Looking for an affordable and cozy accommodation in Bogota? Consider this 1-bedroom loft Airbnb in Bogota!

This 1-bedroom loft apartment allows a maximum of 4 guests to enjoy some of its most excellent amenities such as two outdoor terraces (one of which as a hot tub), a fully-equipped kitchen (for homemade meals) and gorgeous views of the mountains surrounding Bogota.

This Bogota Airbnb is located within walking distance to various forms of public transportation and some of the best restaurants in the city!

Click here for more information!

Best Luxury Hotel in Bogota – Casa Dann Carlton Hotel & Spa

Casa Dann Carlton Hotel & Spa has extremely high standards for quite an affordable price. The gym, breakfast and the spa in the hotel are luxurious amenities. This 5-star hotel is not to miss if you have the money!

Click here for more details!

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Have you been to Zipaquira Salt Cathedral? It is definitely one of the best DIY day trips from Bogota. History, architecture, and religion, it just has everything that makes Zipaquira Salt Cathedral something you must include visit in Bogota!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us! 

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. That means if you book or make a purchase through the links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! The money will help run this site! Thank you 🙂

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The Truth About Cabo San Juan: The “Best” Place in Tayrona National Park

The Truth About Cabo San Juan: The “Best” Place in Tayrona National Park

Cabo San Juan is arguably one of the top places in Tayrona National Park. Turquoise water, white fine sand, beautiful palm trees rising above you, Cabo San Juan is probably the best beach in Tayrona.

But with such a heavy title, Cabo San Juan is becoming a victim of over-tourism. Often overcrowded and overrun with visitors, is Cabo San Juan still worth visiting?

As one of the campsites in Tayrona National Park, is it worth it to stay a night at Cabo San Juan?

Whether you are planning on staying in a tent or a hammock in Cabo San Juan, or just visiting for the day, this guide will answer all your questions and help you decide whether it is worth visiting or not!

What/Where Is Cabo San Juan Tayrona?

Cabo San Juan is located 2 hours away (if you take the shuttle at the entrance) by hiking from El Zaino entrance, the most popular entrance to Tayrona National Park.

The other way to arrive at Cabo San Juan is through the Calabazo entrance, which is a very quiet entrance that takes 3.5 hours to get to Cabo San Juan. If you want to see more wildlife and hike in solitude, I would recommend you take the Calabazo entrance.

But otherwise, it is much better to take the El Zaino entrance.

The easiest way to get to Tayrona National Park is by bus from Santa Marta. There are buses from the main terminal or you can go to the Santa Marta market located at Carrera 11, Calle 11 and take one of the vans. Just let the driver know you are going to Tayrona National Park before getting on.  

The Truth About Cabo San Juan

Is Cabo San Juan worth visiting? The answer is YES. However, is Cabo San Juan worth camping at? Maybe not.

Cabo San Juan is by far the most beautiful place in Tayrona National Park. The only downside to it is the number of visitors it gets daily. If you want to visit Cabo San Juan, I suggest you do it on a weekday and avoid any Colombian public holiday.

The facilities in Cabo San Juan simply cannot handle the number of visitors. The only restaurant on site is usually packed and requires a waiting time of around 30 minutes.

The food is mediocre at best and the price is much higher than usual, though expected for a protected area like Tayrona National Park. Some travelers have gotten sick from eating at the restaurant there.

The bathrooms and showers are often dirty and not maintained because there are just too many people. There is usually a line for both the bathrooms and showers, making it very inconvenient if you have an emergency.

On the other hand, the watchtower that juts into the ocean is an absolute paradise. The view there is certainly something you do not want to miss when visiting Tayrona National Park. Both beaches of Cabo San Juan are swimmable, which is amazing considering how many of the beaches are unswimmable inside Tayrona.

Snorkeling is also available for visitors that are interested.

If you prefer to suntan, relax, or swim on a less crowded beach, I recommend heading over to La Piscina, a short 20-minute walk from Cabo San Juan.  

Camping in Cabo San Juan, Tayrona

There are four options if you decide to camp in Cabo San Juan. 

1. Hammock in the camping area: $40,000 COP per person/night.

2. Hammock in the watchtower: $50,000 COP per person/night.

3. Bringing your own tent. You would still have to pay $20,000 COP per person/night and you would have to carry it the whole time. I would not recommend it. 

4. Tent in the camping area. $40,000 COP per person/night. A 2-person tent would cost $80,000 COP per night. 

These are prices as of August 2019.

Don’t forget the price of the entrance (63.5k COP) and the insurance (3k COP per day) you have to buy!

I highly advise against renting one of the tents in Cabo San Juan because they tend to be in terrible condition. Smelly, wet, not sufficient ventilation, moldy, the list goes on. If you do find one that is in decent shape, go ahead. 

The hammocks in the camping area are not bad choices. However, they are not equipped with mosquito nets so you are an all-you-can-eat buffet for mosquitos at night. The winds from staying close to the sea do help alleviate some of the mosquito problems, but not all of them.  

The hammocks in the watchtower are my personal recommendations if you plan on camping in Cabo San Juan.

They are a bit more costly than the regular hammocks but they are worth the additional price. Situated right above the water, you go to sleep with the sounds of the crashing waves. In the morning, you are woken by the radiance of the best sunrise you will ever see in your entire life. 

To reserve your tents and hammocks in Cabo San Juan, you have two options: doing it at Cabo San Juan or reserving it in advance at El Zaino entrance.

As I said, Cabo San Juan tends to get crowded so it is advised to rent your tents and hammocks beforehand at El Zaino entrance. Though I have not tried this, there is now a website where you can book things for Cabo San Juan.

Hammocks on the watchtower tend to run out quickly. Arrive early in the morning and reserve your hammocks at the El Zaino entrance.

Cabo San Juan Packing List

If you are planning on camping in Cabo San Juan, there are a few essential things you would want to bring. Ideally, you would only carry a small day pack for your duration inside Tayrona National Park and leave the rest of your luggage in your accommodation in Santa Marta or your previous location.

1. Sunscreen. For protecting yourself against the harsh Colombian sun.

2. Rain poncho. You will be hiking a lot in Tayrona National Park and you don’t want to be caught in the rain without a rain poncho.

3. Filtration Water Bottle. This item will save you tons of money because you won’t need to buy their overpriced water inside the park

4. Insect Repellent. My favorite insect repellent with Picaridin! Much more effective than DEET!

5. Combination Locks – Cabo San Juan will have lockers for you but you will need to provide your own lock.

6. Flashlight – There are no lights in the park except for the campsites. If you are going to the toilets or traveling inside the park after sunset, you need to have a reliable flashlight. 

7. Cash – Make sure you have enough cash for food, entrance, insurance, and any other activities you plan on doing. 

8. Passport – Without a passport, you cannot enter Tayrona National Park.

9. Proof of Yellow Fever Vaccine – Though it is a mandatory regulation, it is rare that they check for it. 

10. Bathing suits and Towel – For swimming, tanning, and various purposes. 

11. Food, water, and snacks – If you are traveling on a budget and want to save money, consider packing your own food and bringing your own water. I did not see a kitchen in Cabo San Juan, but there is one in Don Pedro, a nearby camping site.

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That is our experience at Cabo San Juan in Tayrona National Park. How did you find your visit? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. That means if you book or make a purchase through the links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! The money will help run this site! Thank you 🙂

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13 Best Things to Do in San Gil, Colombia

13 Best Things to Do in San Gil, Colombia

San Gil, the “adventure capital” of Colombia, is filled with adrenaline-pumping activities to do. Ranging from bungee jumping to extreme caving to level 5 rafting, you will never run out of adventurous things to do in San Gil.

That is why San Gil is a place you should not miss on your Colombia trip.

Located in the Santander region of Colombia, San Gil has many other attractions besides adventure sports.

Our guide will cover what to do in San Gil, Colombia, including the non-risky activities that are suitable for kids and everyone in the family!

San Gil Activities Map

Above is a map of the best things to do in San Gil, Colombia. Notice that not all of them are located in the town of San Gil, so proper planning is required to enjoy all of its attractions.

We recommend staying at least 3 days in San Gil to enjoy the best it has to offer. Even in a 3-day period, chances are, you won’t get to participate in all of its adrenaline-pumping activities. However, it will give you a good glimpse into what the “adventure capital of Colombia” is all about!

If you want to learn more bout the activities, there is a toggle at the upper-left corner of the map that will give you more details!

What to Do in San Gil: 13 Best Things To Do In San Gil, Colombia

1. Level 5 White Water Rafting in Rio Suarez

Rafting in San Gil is the un questionably the town’s most popular activity. San Gil is one of the few places on earth that offers level 5 white-water rafting. Though extremely fun, there is a huge inherent risk with level 5 rafting. Raft through Rio Suarez and you will truly understand the force of nature.

Luckily, if you would like to go rafting ut without the risk, there are level 2 and 3 rafting in Rio Fonce. Rafting in Rio Fonce is an activity that everyone in the family can do. It is much safer so everyone can have some fun without having heart attacks!

2. Take a Day Trip to Barichara, Colombia’s Prettiest Village

Barichara is a beautiful sleepy town located 45 minutes away, making it a wonderful day trip from San Gil. It is one of the few colonial towns that is tourist-friendly, similar to Jardin in Antioquia.

Come to Barichara and walk along the historic cobblestone streets and admire the well-preserved white colonial houses along the way. Enjoy a traditional Colombian meal in the region and visit the main cathedral in the plaza.

When visiting Barichara, make sure you check out Salto del Mico for the best views of the lush scenery of Colombia. Then take a short hike on Camino Real and arrive in another historical colonial town called Guane.

3. Visit the Waterfall Cascada Juan Curi

The lush waterfall of Cascada Juan Curi is considered one of the best places to visit in San Gil. Located 30 minutes away from San Gil, Visitors can take the bus headed towards Charala and asked to be dropped off at the entrance for Juan Curi.

Cascada Juan Curi is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Colombia. Its double waterfall is surrounded by some of the lushest landscapes in Colombia. Similar to Chorro Blanco, it is located in the middle of the forest and visitors will have to take a short hike to it.

Though Juan Curi measures 180-m high, there is a pool at the bottom of it where you can swim safely. So come for a day, enjoy the short hike, then jump in the waterfall to relax! 

4. Relax in Natural Pools at Las Gachas

Las Gachas is one of the best hidden attractions in San Gil. That is because it is located quite far from any of the tourist destinations. However, Las Gachas is definitely one of the best places to see in Colombia.

The water in the river contains minerals that naturally created these pools on the riverbed. Any visitor that comes to Las Gachas gets to enjoy his or her own little jacuzzi. It is a perfect place to relax after some adrenaline-pumping activities.

To arrive at Las Gachas, you would either have to take a tour from the tour agencies. However, the owner of the family-owned Trip Monkey Hostel will personally drive you there for a low price if you can find a total of 3 people!

5. Go Paragliding!

Travelers interested in seeing the beauty of Santander should consider paragliding. Though not much of an adrenaline sport besides take-off and landing, paragliding is a great way to get a birds-eye view of the region.

Once you are in the air, many paragliders experience nausea because of the turbulence. I would recommend taking a motion-sickness medicine and packing a travel medicine kit.

6. Extreme Caving At Cueva Del Indio

San Gil is located in the Santander region of Colombia, a region that is filled with caves. Cueva del Indio is one of those caves in Santander. However, it is not just any cave, it is one of the most extreme caves near San Gil.

Explore the darkness of the cave with only your headlamps, see bats in their natural habitat, and finish your caving experience with a 5.4m jump into the water in complete darkness! If you are afraid, there will be a ladder on the side where you can use to descend.

Cueva del Indio is located in Paramo and you can easily find a bus at the main bus station of San Gil that goes there!

Make sure you have travel insurance when doing all these adventurous activities! 

7. Easy Caving At Cueva De La Vaca

If the thought of jumping into the abyss in Cueva del Indio terrifies you, visit Cueva de la Vaca instead. Cueva de la Vaca is the junior-league of caves, a cave that everyone in the family can enjoy.

Come to Cueva de la Vaca to enjoy a 90 minute guided tour where you will learn about the geological formations inside the caves through stalagmites and stalactites. Keep in mind that even though this is an easy cave, spaces are quite tight. If you are claustrophobic, I would not recommend you to go.  

8. Canyoning/Rappelling Off Cascada Juan Curi

If seeing Cascada Juan Curi was not enough for you, know that you can rappel down the waterfall. Canyoning and rappelling are popular activities in San Gil.

Feel the wrath of the cascading water as you try to make your way to the bottom. It is harder than it looks. The power of the water can be so strong that you feel like you don’t have control of your limbs anymore. Highly recommended for people that enjoy getting slapped constantly for 15 minutes straight.

9. Hike to the Viewpoint at Cerro La Cruz

Every city has a viewpoint that allows you to see the city in its entirety. In Bogota, it was Cerro de Monserrate. In Medellin, it was Communa 13. And in San Gil, it is Cerro de la Cruz. 

Cerro de la Cruz in San Gil is the only vantage point where you can see all of the city. Located on the other side of Rio Fonce, it is only a short hike to reach Cerro de la Cruz!

10. Take A Stroll In Parque Gallineral

Parque Gallineral, or Gallineral Park, is a huge park along Rio Fonce in San Gil. It is the best place to visit in San Gil if you want to go on a short stroll, watch the sunset, or even go for a swim in the pool.

The admission is 6,000 COP and having access to the swimming pool would cost an extra 4,000 COP. 

This tranquil park is home to much unique wildlife of the region, including squirrels, iguanas, and much more. The bearded trees inside the park are some of the coolest trees I have ever seen.

11. Relax in the Natural Baths at Balneario Pescaderito

Another top attraction in San Gil is the nearby pools at Balneario Pescaderito. Technically, Balneraio Pescaderito is a river but with the formation of the rocks, many natural pools are formed. The best thing about these pools is that they are totally free to enter and easily accessible.

Take the bus from the main bus station of San Gil to Curiti (30 minutes). Once you get off, you have the choice to walk for 45 minutes to Pescaderito or take a tuk-tuk.

12. Mountain Biking At Chicamocha Canyon

The Chicamocha Canyon located in San Gil is the perfect place for mountain biking. Passing through beautiful views and traditional villages, mountain biking is not just for adrenaline junkies. It is also for nature lovers that would love to learn about local culture.

Tours for mountain biking can be easily found throughout the town of San Gil. 

13. Bungee Jumping In Rio Fonce

Want more adventurous activities in San Gil? None of the activities is exciting enough? Try bungee jumping! 

Bunge jumping is the epitome of adventure sports. However, doing bungee jumping in a country like Colombia may raise concerns about safety. Don’t worry, the equipment and team are very knowledgeable and make sure you are safe and enjoying your time!

Where To Stay in San Gil

Best Hostel in San Gil – Hostel Trip Monkey

The best value-for-money family-owned hostel in San Gil. Featuring a bar, free breakfast, and hot showers, Trip Monkey is one of the best places to stay in San Gil. The owner will also take you to Las Gachas for a low price!

Click here for more details!

 

Best Airbnb in San Gil – 1-Bedroom Apartment Next To Main Square

Best Things To Do In San Gil Colombia
Where To Stay In San Gil

(Images Courtesy of Airbnb)

If you are looking for a cozy accommodation in San Gil, consider one of San Gil’s best Airbnbs.

This 1-bedroom apartment features a fully-equipped kitchen and a spacious living/dining area, allowing a maximum of 3 guests to stay comfortably.

This San Gil Airbnb is located one block away from the main square of San Gil, so visitors can within walking distance to some of the best things San Gil has to offer.

Click here for more information!

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Those are the 11 top things to do in San Gil, Colombia. Have you done any of them? Let us know in the comments!

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The ULTIMATE 3-Week Colombia Itinerary: Cartagena, Medellin, Bogota, and More!

The ULTIMATE 3-Week Colombia Itinerary: Cartagena, Medellin, Bogota, and More!

A welcoming country with a horrendous past, Colombia has transformed and is becoming a top travel destination in South America. As the 25th biggest country in the world, it might be difficult to improvise your Colombia trip on the spot. 

As a result, I highly recommend that you have a Colombia itinerary before you arrive. I have spent close to 2 months backpacking Colombia and exploring the hidden and best places to visit in Colombia: Lost City Trek, Cocora Valley, Cartagena, Bogota, Medellin, Salento. I have done it all. 

Below is my personal 3 week Colombia itineraryThough 3 weeks in Colombia might seem too long for most people, I can guarantee you will wish you had more time! 

This Colombia travel itinerary assumes you will start in Medellin, but you can come from any of the big cities such as Cartagena or Bogota. 

Colombia Itinerary Step-By-Step Map

This is the basic outline for the Colombia 3 weeks itinerary. I suggest that you fly to Colombia through one of the major cities and out through another. That way, you can maximize your time in your three weeks in Colombia. 

3 Weeks In Colombia: The PERFECT 3-Week Colombia Itinerary

Day 1-3 (3 Days): Medellin, Once the Most Dangerous City in the World

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Welcome to Colombia! Are you ready to see the best places in Colombia?? Luckily for you, you are in Medellin, the city of eternal spring.

In 1993, Medellin was announced as the most dangerous city in the entire world. It used to be a place where the name of the city would strike terror into anyone’s heart, a place where tragedy such as bombing, assassination, kidnapping, and many more terrible things happened on the daily.

Nowadays, Medellin has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia. Safety is no longer an issue in most parts of the city; trendy restaurants and places are popping up here and there, and the nightlife is one of the best in the world.

I recommend spending 3 days in Medellin so you will have enough time to cover all the essentials of the city.

Things to Do in Medellin

If there are things you must do in Medellin, they would be getting to know the history of Medellin by visiting Communa 13, and taking a day trip to Guatape and Piedra del Penol.

1. FREE Walking Tour to Learn About the History of Medellin

There is no better way to know the city of Medellin than a FREE tour with a local. Don’t worry, the walking tour is very professional and the tour guides make their money off of tips.

You can find more information on their website here.

2. Communa 13

Communa 13 was the most dangerous part of the most dangerous city in the world. However, nowadays, Communa 13 has become a completely different place. Long gone are the days of violence and crime.

The city itself is trying to forget the terrible past it had and trying to build something better for the future generation. When visiting Communa 13, you will see a lot of graffiti revolving around the theme of hope, transformation, and a brighter future.

Visit Communa 13 in the daytime, preferably with a tour guide. FREE Communa 13 Graffiti tours can be found here. You do not have to pay a dime for the tour but a tip at the end is appreciated.

If you prefer a private tour for more individualized attention, check out our recommendation here. 

3. Guatape and Piedra del Penol

Guatape and Piedra del Penol is the most popular day-trip from Medellin. Often at times, you will see Guatape and Piedra del Penol put together, making you think it is actually the same place. Piedra del Penol is a huge rock formation soaring into the sky about 15 minutes away by car from the colorful town of Guatape.

It can be done easily without a guide but you will have to take Colombia’s public transportation. It will also help tons if you speak Spanish.

Here are some tours we recommend for Guatape and Piedra Del Penol if you don’t feel comfortable:

4. Memory House Museum

Prepare to shed tears if you decide to come to the Memory Museum. It is full of heartfelt tales of the Colombia conflicts and all the wars and tragedies it has experienced. It will definitely give you a better understanding of how the Colombian conflict affected the lives of local people.

5. Spend a night out in El Poblado

El Poblado is the party district of Medellin. I don’t know exactly what it is with the Colombians, but they know how to party. Come to El Poblado for an unforgettable night.

6. Arvi Park

If you are allergic to the concrete in Medellin or aching to go into nature, then I would recommend Arvi Park. Accessible with the intricate cable car system of Medellin, Arvi Park can be done as a half-day trip.

It is definitely nothing impressive and you actually have to pay a tour guide to go into some of their designated trails. Without paying, there isn’t much to explore. For that reason, I would not recommend spending your time at Arvi Park considering your next destination on this Colombia itinerary is full of nature. 

Where to Stay in Medellin

Low-Budget Accommodation

Los Patios Boutique Hostel – One of the best value for money hotels/hostels in Medellin! Offering amazing amenities such as an outdoor gym, co-working spaces, rooftop bars, and many other beautiful luxuries. Spanish classes? Tours? Anything you will need, Los Patios has you covered.

High-Budget Accommodation

574 Hotel – One of my favorite hotels in El Poblado. When staying in El Poblado, you have the risk of staying up all night due to the crazy partying. 574 Hotel is located just far enough from all the craziness, but still close enough to the action. The included breakfast was beyond delicious.

Day 4-6 (3 Days): Jardin, The Hidden Gem in Colombia

On my Colombia travel itinerary, you will head to the town of Jardin after Medellin. Jardin is a hidden gem of Colombia and many other Colombia itineraries tend to skip it.

Don’t skip Jardin.

Jardin is a beautiful little town surrounded by lush scenery on all sides. Waterfalls, caves, hikes, everywhere you go, you are in the stunning nature that Colombia is known for.

My favorite part of Jardin was definitely just going on a hike and picking up whatever fruit we found on the way, plantains, coffee beans (there are so many in that region), oranges, guavas, and more!

I would not be surprised if Jardin becomes your favorite town after spending 3 weeks in Colombia!

Things to Do in Jardin, Colombia 

The most popular thing to do in Jardin is definitely Cueva del Splendor, which is a waterfall in the cave. It is impressive but we didn’t like it as much as some of the other activities. It was very unique though.

1. Chorro Blanco Waterfall

The Chorro Blanco waterfall is the hidden gem of Jardin. It is a waterfall that is not even located on Google Maps. But that means you will have this natural beauty in complete privacy. When was the last time you had a waterfall to yourself?

Going to Chorro Blanco is definitely a full-day activity. Before going, read this guide to make sure you don’t get lost going to Chorro Blanco.

2. Cueva Del Splendor 

Cueva del Splendor is the most popular tourist activity in Jardin and it is easy to see why.

A lengthy hike into the spectacular nature and you are rewarded with a huge waterfall inside a cave. It is like nothing I have ever seen before.

There are tours in the city that take you close to the cave, but you will still need to hike for maybe another hour or so. If you DIY and take public transportation, the hike will be much longer.

3. Cafe Jardin

Cafe Jardin is located up in the hills of Jardin. Travelers can decide to take a mototaxi from the town or hike for 40 minutes.

Come to Cafe Jardin for a panoramic view of Jardin while enjoying some of the local Colombian coffee from the region.

Better yet, come at sunset and watch the lush scenery of Jardin imprint an image you will never forget. But make sure you bring some mosquito repellant!

At Cafe Jardin, you will also find the famous “I love Jardin” sign!

4. Garrucha

Garrucha is another viewpoint where you can see the entirety of Jardin. To arrive at Garrucha, you can either take a short hike or take their homemade wooden cable car!

Don’t worry, the cable car is quite secure and no accidents have happened as far as I know.

Garrucha is also a good place to watch the sunset and have a drink or two while doing it, though I prefer Cafe Jardin.

5. Cascada la Escalera

A double waterfall located very close to the town center of Jardin (45 minutes). Though not as impressive as the other waterfalls such as Chorro Blanco, it is still worth the short hike.

6. Cristo Rey

A good short hike (30 min) up to the Cristo Rey statue from the town center. Good if you are short on time and want to see Jardin from above.

Where to Stay in Jardin, Colombia

Low Budget Recommendation

Lulo’s Hostel – Amazing clean and modern place with a standard breakfast included. Tea and coffee available for free throughout the day. The terrace also has beautiful views of Jardin. Don’t forget to try their newly-opened restaurant!

High Budget Recommendation

Casa Passiflora Hotel Boutique – Though I did not stay there, I heard many great things about it! It even has a hot tub!

Day 7-9 (3 Days): Salento and Filandia, Colombia’s Coffee Region

No Colombia trip would be complete without a visit to the famous coffee region of Colombia. In our Colombia 3 week itinerary, you will head to Salento after Jardin.

Salento is a town you must visit in Colombia due to its location in the coffee region of Quindio.

I came to Colombia (especially Salento) expecting some of the best and cheapest coffee in the world. Well, everywhere you go in the world, people are crying over Colombia coffee and saying it is one of the best.

Well here’s the honest truth. I went on a coffee tour in Salento and I was disappointed. The coffee farm informed me that the coffee in Colombia is some of the worst, because all the good quality coffee is exported. So if you came to Colombia to look for good coffee, you lucked out.

Back to Salento.

Salento itself is quite a small town with not much to do. There are some cute coffee shops especially around the main square and Calle Real. Salento is also known for their trouts (trucha in Spanish) so definitely give that a try.

Here is a full guide on things to do in Salento. 

Things to Do in Salento, Colombia 

1. Hike Valle de Cocora

Valle de Cocora is the top thing to do in Salento and why many people decide to come to Salento in the first place. Wax palm trees, some towering over 60 meters, are found in only a few places in the world, and Valle de Cocora is one of them.

There are two loops you can do in Valle de Cocora to see the palm trees. One is the long loop that takes about 5 hours to complete and you have to pay twice to pass “private property”. The other is a 30-minute direct route that takes you directly to the best viewpoint for the wax palm trees.

The long route is a nice hike but nothing too special. The views aren’t too spectacular but you do cross several cool suspension bridges along the way. My recommendation would be to take the direct route and see the wax palm trees and get out. You don’t have to pay anything if you take the short route.

2. Coffee Tour

Salento is located in the coffee region of Colombia. It would be a shame to not do a coffee tour before you leave. Coffee tours can be easily found throughout the abundant travel agencies in Salento. Come and learn about every step of the process of producing a good cup of coffee.

You can also buy some good quality organic coffee at these coffee farm tours.

3. Day Trip to Filandia

Filandia is a cute colonial town 30 minutes away from Salento. The nature there is much more spectacular and is not as touristy as Salento. Make sure you eat at the famous restaurant Helena Adentro, visit the double waterfall, and check out some of the viewpoints (miradors) for sunset.

4. Santa Rita Waterfall  

If you are not tired of waterfalls after visiting Jardin, guess what? There is one in Salento too! Santa Rita waterfall is located about 90 minutes away from the city center. It is a beautiful waterfall located in the lush greenery of Colombia.

Where to Stay in Salento, Colombia

Low-Budget Recommendation

Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel– Beautiful place to stay with a porch overlooking some of the lushest scenery of Colombia. The breakfast included is one of the best in Colombia.

High-Budget Recommendation

Posada Casa Salento– One of the most beautiful hotels in the center of Salento. The space was clean and spacious, with balconies that overlook the city. Highly recommended if you want luxury in a place that is not common for luxury.

Day 10-12 (3 Days): Bogota, Colombia’s Capital

Welcome to Bogota! As the capital city of Colombia, Bogota is a place you must visit on your Colombia vacation. You will spend a total of 3 days in Bogota! Filled with history, art, and great food, Bogota has attracted travelers from all over the world.

Bogota has been through hell and back and now it has finally become a touristy-friendly destination.

However, when I visited, it didn’t feel that way.

Many of the places are dirty and some of the tourist attractions are dangerous. For example, the area La Candelaria, the “historical district” of Colombia, is quite dangerous to walk in at night. Monserrate, one of the best viewpoints of Bogota, is only safe to arrive by an Uber.

Update: Uber is now banned in Colombia (January 2020). However, you can still use Uber-like apps such as Beat, Cabify, or Didi for your travel needs!

Bogota is filled with Colombian history that you cannot get anywhere else. My recommendation is definitely to see all the things you need to see and get out.

Things to Do in Bogota

1. Free Walking Tour/Biking Tour

The free walking tour/biking tour is one of the best ways to know the city of Bogota. The “free” tours are led by locals and they tell you about the history of Bogota as well as some of the best things to do, places to eat, things to see.

Don’t miss the free walking/biking tours.

You can find more information here.

2. Zipaquira Salt Cathedral

The Zipaquira Salt Cathedral is one of the best day trips from Bogota. The cathedral is located an hour away from Bogota in the town of Zipaquira and can be easily reached by bus. 

The biggest underground cross in the world exists in the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral. As the First Wonder of Colombia, it is definitely something that should be on your Colombia itinerary.

3. Botero Museum and Gold Museum

Bogota is known for its extensive amount of high-quality museums. For example, the Gold Museum in Bogota, or Museo de Oro, contains the largest collection of gold in the world. 

Another museum such as the Botero museum contains the sculptures and artwork of the famous Colombia artist Fernando Botero. His artwork is controversial and definitely worth checking out.

4. Monserrate Viewpoint (Sunset/Night)

Monserrate is the best viewpoint in all of Bogota. The only trick is that the surrounding area is extremely dangerous at night so you would have to take an Uber. Come at sunset and wait till the sun completely disappear to watch the city of Bogota glow!

5. Eat at Andres Carne De Res 

Andres Carne De Res is one of the most famous restaurants in Bogota.  Featuring some of the best meat dishes, live music, and entertainment, Andres Carne De Res is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. The food is above average but it is very pricey. However, the experience of eating at a high-class restaurant is well worth it. 

6. Visit the Waterfalls Surrounding Bogota

Bogota is surrounded by waterfalls on all sides. The easiest one to get to is definitely Waterfall Rio Archbishop, followed by Cascada la Chorrera, and then Salto Del Taquendama. All the waterfalls are impressive and I would recommend going to Salto Del Taquendama if you have the time.

7. Visit the Sunday Flea Market at Usaquen

If you are visiting Bogota on a Sunday, head over to Usaquen for one of the best flea markets in Colombia. Featuring handicrafts, souvenirs, and all types of weird and amazing things, the Usaquen market is a fun activity for everyone in the family.

If you are looking for company for some of these activities, check out some of the tours we recommend:

Where to Stay in Bogota

Due to the safety concerns of La Candelaria area, none of my recommendations will be in that area.

For a full guide on where to stay in Bogota, click here.

Low-Budget Recommendation

Aurora Hostel– Cozy hotel with a beautiful interior. Comfortable beds and a great common area to meet other travelers. Bar on-site that provides affordable drinks. Good value for money.

High-Budget Recommendation

bs Rosales Hotel– Beautiful big rooms away from the craziness and noise of Bogota. Comfortable beds, amazing breakfast, sleek interior, I highly recommend this place. 

Day 13-15 (3 Days): San Gil, Colombia’s Adventure Capital

Known for some of the most adrenaline-pumping activities, San Gil is the adventure capital of Colombia.

To arrive in San Gil, you will have to take an overnight bus from Bogota. It is the most economical way. You also have the option to fly from Bogota if you are short on time or don’t like night buses.

Besides heart-racing activities, there are activities for travelers who want to take it easy. The beautiful colonial town of Barichara is only a short bus ride away. Las Gachas is a beautiful river filled with naturally-made holes where you can sit in and relax. 

San Gil has more than just adventurous activities.

Things to Do in San Gil, Colombia 

For a complete guide on things to do in San Gil, click here.

1. Level 5 White-Water Rafting on Rio Suarez

The most popular activity in San Gil is definitely the level 5 white-water rafting on Rio Suarez. Level 5 rafting is extremely rare to find in the world and is the highest level where you can go rafting. There are inherent risks involved in activities like this so make sure you listen to the guide and take extra precautions.

If you are with kids, there is also a level 2 rafting that everyone can participate in.

2. Las Gachas

Las Gachas was one of the most unique things I have seen in Colombia. To put it simply, they are little holes in a running riverbed where you can sit in and relax. It is like having your own bathtub there. Las Gachas was definitely one of my favorite activities in San Gil to relax after all the crazy activities I have been doing.

How did those holes develop? I am not entirely sure. It has something to do with the minerals in the water.

Make sure you come on weekdays unless you want to socialize with the locals. Las Gachas is a popular weekend hangout spot for Colombians.

3. Cueva Del Indio/Cueva De La Vaca

The region of San Gil has many caves you can explore. The 2 most popular ones are Cueva Del Indio and Cueva De La Vaca. The two caves are completely different from each other.

Cueva Del Indio is the more adventurous and fun cave. It features parts where you have to jump into water, swim, and tight spaces. At the end of the cave, you have the option to do a 5.4m jump into the water in the darkness.

Cueva De La Vaca is the junior league of Cueva Del Indio. You don’t need to swim, the spaces are less tight, and its just a fun experience for everyone involved. If you are traveling with kids, I would recommend doing the Cueva De La Vaca over Cueva Del Indio.

4. Cascada Juan Curi

One of the most beautiful waterfalls tucked into the lush environment of Colombia. It is easy to pair a visit to Juan Curi waterfall with a visit to the Cueva Del Indio.

You can also do canyoning at this waterfall but tours will have to be obtained in San Gil.

5. Barichara

Barichara is a beautiful sleepy town less than an hour away from San Gil. Beautiful architecture, amazing scenery, and good food are some of the things you will find in Barichara. Come and spend half a day wandering around, but make sure to visit Salto del Mico when you are in Barichara.

Where to Stay in San Gil, Colombia

Low-Budget Recommendation

Hostel Trip Monkey– Family-owned hostel and you can really tell. The owners are very friendly and helpful and make sure every guest has a pleasant stay. The breakfast is phenomenal. The owner also drives you to Las Gachas for a low price.

High-Budget Recommendation

Hotel Castillo Resort– Though not super high-budget, I had to include this hotel in my recommendations. An amazing place with a great outdoor swimming pool, a tanning area, a delicious buffet breakfast, and spacious rooms. It has everything you need for a cheap price. Good value for the money you spend. 

Day 16 (1 Day): Santa Marta

Welcome to Santa Marta, one of the biggest port cities in Colombia. Can you believe you have already been in Colombia for 2 weeks?

Santa Marta has its specific charm and not a lot of people fall in love with it.

I didn’t for sure.

However, that doesn’t mean it is not a place worth seeing just for a day.

Besides, most hostels allow you to store your bags if you stay there, making your journey into Tayrona National Park much easier. The accommodations here usually come with a pool and a bar. Nothing beats a cold drink, especially a coconut, to fight the Colombian heat.

Some places in Santa Marta are also dangerous at night. To be on the safe side, ask your accommodation which areas you should avoid!

Some Colombia travel guides might recommend going to Minca after Santa Marta. Having been to Minca myself, it is a run-down Jardin. Most people go to Minca for hikes and nature, but at this point, I think you’ve had enough. It is time to relax on some of the best Colombia beaches on the Caribbean Sea.

Things to Do in Santa Marta, Colombia

1. Parque de Los Novios

Parque de Los Novio is a nice park surrounded by restaurants and bars. Sometimes there will be live entertainment as well. Great place to get something to eat or drink, but expect to pay gringo prices.

2. Camellón Rodrigo de Bastidas Park

A nice park right by the beach where you can swim. Come relax, enjoy the sun, people watch, or even take a dip in the water with the locals.

3. Tairona Gold Museum – Casa de la Aduana

A FREE museum that tells the stories of the indigenous people that lived in this area. Though the museum is not too big, it is filled with interesting facts and history.

Definitely don’t miss this one since it is FREE!

4. Lost City Trek **

** The Lost City Trek is a 5-day trek into the rainforest of Colombia. You will discover a “lost city” of the indigenous people that used to live there.

If you have time to spare or you are spending more than 3 weeks in Colombia, consider the Lost City Trek an exciting option to add to your itinerary.

Where to Stay in Santa Marta, Colombia

Low-Budget Recommendation

Hostel Masaya Santa Marta– Cheap hostel prices with the quality of a hotel. Two swimming pools. Beautiful terrace with a bar and amazing views of Santa Marta. Delicious breakfast can be purchased. Spacious rooms. Everything about this place speaks luxury. 

Masaya also offers private rooms at affordable prices.

High-Budget Recommendation

Hotel Boutique Maree– An amazing 5-star hotel for an affordable price. The rooftop with a jacuzzi, swimming pool, and cocktail bar is one of the best places in Santa Marta to be. The rooms are spacious and clean and the hotel is located in a good neighborhood. 

Day 17-18 (2 Days): Tayrona National Park, Where Jungle Meets the Caribbean Sea

As you approach the end of the 3 week Colombia itinerary, it is time to properly relax on the best Colombia beaches.

Some say Tayrona National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Colombia and I for sure had my doubts before going there. Places with a big name like that seem to be overrun with tourists and only looks good in photos, such as Machu Picchu in Peru.

After spending 2.5 days in Tayrona National Park doing nothing but relaxing on the best beaches in Colombia, I can say Tayrona is one of my favorite places in Colombia.

The best beach in Tayrona National park has to be Cabo San Juan. With a beautiful watchtower that juts into the turquoise Caribbean Sea, it offers unparalleled views. The waves are calm and are just the perfect place to suntan on the sand or go for a nice swim!

If the idea of sleeping in hammocks or tents right next to some of the most amazing Caribbean beaches sounds good to you, you definitely don’t want to miss Tayrona National Park.

You can do hikes in the jungle of Tayrona and watch the native animal species that live there and then next minute arrive at a secluded beach of the park.

The jungle reminds me of the time when I was camping in Tikal Ruins in Guatemala, especially when I started hearing the howler monkeys.

Tayrona National Park is a well-protected area of Colombia and therefore comes with many restrictions. For example, every February the Tayrona park is closed.

Read this Tayrona National Park camping guide before going.

Day 19-21 (3 Days): Cartagena, Colombia’s Most Beautiful City

To arrive at Cartagena, you will need to take a 5-hour bus from the Santa Marta bus terminal to Cartagena, and to get to Santa Marta from Tayrona, you will need to take a bus as well.

So that means you will arrive in Cartagena quite late a night.

But you have finally made it, the last stop of our Colombia itinerary for 3 weeks, Cartagena.

In the Caribbean Gem of Cartagena, you will immediately notice that the city is nothing like any of the cities you have been to in Colombia. Cartagena was one of the most important cities in protecting Colombia against invasions, hence you will see many fortresses and even the historical center is inside a wall.

Demographically, Cartagena is very diverse due to its history. You will see many different ethnic groups living here such as the Palenqueras (the women with bowls of fruits on their head)!

Things to Do in Cartagena Colombia

1. FREE Walled-City Walking Tour

No better way to know the city and understand the history of it through a guided tour by one of the locals. The FREE walled-city walking tour is funded by voluntary donations at the end of the tour. You can give as little as nothing to as much as your entire bank account.

Find more information here.

2. Explore the Walled City

If the free walking tour wasn’t enough, take some time to walk around the colorful alleys within the walled city. Every street is filled with colorful colonial buildings, Palenqueras (black women in colorful dresses with bowls of fruits on their heads), and historical landmarks.

3. Watch the Sunset at Cafe Del Mar 

Cafe Del Mar is the only restaurant that sits on top of the walls of Cartagena. Its elevated location above the ground and right next to the Caribbean sea makes it the best place to watch the sunset

Beware though, Cafe Del Mar gets crowded during sunset and the prices are geared towards tourists.

4. Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas is a historical fortress that was built on top of a hill for its strategic advantages. Its superb location gave the defending team many advantages over the approaching enemies. 

Nowadays, you can walk the fortress and explore the intricate tunnels the Spaniards set up for communication inside the fortress.

5. Mud Volcano (Volcan de Lodo el Totumo)

The mud volcano, or Volcan de Lodo el Totumo in Spanish, is a popular day trip from Cartagena. The mud inside the volcano is filled with minerals and it’s said to have “healing and therapeutic powers”. Come and enjoy the feeling of weightlessness and get a massage from one of the locals. Warning: they are not shy. 😉

6. Bioluminescent Plankton at Playa Blanca 

Located a little over away from Cartagena is a stunning beach called the Playa Blanca. Many people come here for a day trip or stay for a day or two and relax on the beaches. 

At night, there are tours that take you out to see the bioluminescent plankton in the area. These planktons make the ocean look like it has lights. Pretty cool thing to check out if you haven’t seen one before.

7. Casa En El Agua

Casa en el Agua is an island hostel located about 2 hours from Cartagena! It is quite a unique experience so check it out if you have extra time!

If you don’t feel comfortable doing any of these activities alone, check out some of these recommended tours: 

Where to Stay in Cartagena, Colombia

Low-Budget Recommendation

Bourbon St Hostal Boutique– One of the cleanest and most spacious hostels in Cartagena, perfect for anyone traveling solo in Cartagena. Each bed is equipped with an outlet, lights, and a curtain for privacy. Every room has air-conditioning which is equivalent to hitting the lottery. 

The hostel also comes with an amazing swimming pool.

High-Budget Recommendation

Hotel Capellán– An elegant 5-star hotel located close to the historical center. The decor is beautiful, modern, and romantic. Rooms are spacious, clean, and well-furnished. By far one of the best hotels in Cartagena.

Safety Tips For Traveling in Colombia

As beautiful as Colombia is, there are proper precautions that should be taken when you travel there.

The safety of Colombia has improved drastically over the years. Nowadays, most travelers would consider Colombia safe to travel.

The touristy area in most of the cities are safe during all times, but exercise extra precaution at night.

Bogota is the only city where safety was my concern. It is easy to accidentally walk into a neighborhood that is not safe. In addition, the main touristy area “La Candelaria” is not so safe at night. Try to use Uber in these areas.

UPDATE: Uber has now been officially banned in January 2020. However, visitors can use Uber-similar apps such as Beat, Cabify, or Didi for their travel needs. Those apps are looked down upon by the locals so make sure you get in the front passenger seat when you get in the car. If your driver gets pulled over, remember to stick up for them and say you are related to the driver!

Pickpockets are probably more of a concern than armed robbery, especially at bars, clubs, and public transportation. Keep an eye on your belongings in crowded areas.

I recommend getting travel insurance when visiting Colombia.

Packing List for Your 3 Weeks in Colombia Trip

For your 3-week Colombia itinerary, you will be going from the hottest beaches in Colombia to the Andes mountains in Bogota. 

The weather will go from suffocatingly hot to freezing cold, especially at night. Hence, you will need to have a comprehensive packing list. 

Outside of the regular packing items you need for every trip, you should pack:

1.  Sunscreen Saves you from skin cancer and looking like a tomato. Better pack some for your Colombia trip.

2. Insect Repellent with Picaridin – Colombia is very tropical and humid. There are tons of insects and mosquitos. Pack some so you don’t come back looking like you broke out in hives!

3. Filtration Water Bottle – One of my favorite traveler items. It will save you money from buying water, and will also save you in dire circumstances.

4. Rain poncho or rain jacket – The weather can be unpredictable in Colombia. Even when you are traveling in the dry season, there is always a possibility of rain. Pack a lightweight rain poncho or jacket at all times to stay dry!

5. Travel Medicine Kit – A travel medicine kit will contain the first-aid items needed when you fall ill. With a variety of medicine, you will be prepared for many different scenarios!

6. Warm Clothing – The Andes region of Colombia is high in elevation. If you plan on visiting any of the cities there (such as Bogota), you will inevitably need some warm clothing.

Best Time To Visit Colombia

Colombia’s relative location to the equator results in two seasons: the dry season and the wet season. However, the weather could differ drastically in the country because of the different topographical regions. What I mean is that the weather in the Andes will differ from the weather on the Caribbean coast. 

As a result, it is difficult to pinpoint the best month to visit Colombia. Generally speaking, Colombia is a great country to travel year-round. Rainy season does not mean that it will rain the whole day. Usually showers only last a few hours. 

In the Andes, the rainy season is in the months of May to July and October to December. On the Caribbean coast, however, the months with the heaviest rainfalls are September and October.

Another factor to consider when visiting Colombia is when is its peak season? When is Colombia the most expensive to travel? 

Colombians love to travel and they have lots of holidays during the months of December and January. These are the peak seasons in Colombia and prices soar during these months. Hotels are full, beaches are crowded, and tour availabilities decline.

If you are backpacking Colombia or traveling on a budget, I recommend not visiting Colombia in December and January. 

Overall, Colombia’s weather is the best from December to March, but aim to avoid the high season to save money!

Getting Around Colombia

I am happy to say that getting around in Colombia is quite easy. Their bus system between the cities is very reliable. However, you must consider the distance between the cities you are traveling to. Colombia is a big country – 2 times the size of the US State Texas.

Inevitably, there are going to be some bus journeys such as the ones in our 3 week Colombia trip that will take several hours. It is recommended to take these long bus journeys at night so you don’t waste your entire day on a bus.

The best bus company (from my experience) is Bolivariano. You can purchase their bus tickets at the bus station in the respective city or visit them online here. Apparently you can also bargain for your bus ticket in person to get a lower price, though I did not try that when I was in Colombia.

Keep in mind that you might be traversing through the Andes on your bus journey. The roads are windy and the driver will be aggressive. Carry motion-sickness pills with you on your Colombia vacation. 

The other obvious option to get around Colombia is by flying. There are budget airlines such as LATAM that will offer affordable domestic flights. Sometimes the flights are even cheaper than the bus tickets!

More Than 3 Weeks In Colombia?

Do you have more than 3 weeks in Colombia? Worry not! Colombia has enough attractions to keep you excited for months! If you are planning on staying for more than three weeks, here are some places I recommend:

1. Minca

We talked briefly about Minca in our Colombia itinerary because it is a popular day trip for anyone visiting Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park. Minca is located in the rainforest region of Colombia. There are various hikes to do and gorgeous waterfalls to visit in the area. The giant hammock that hovers over the canopy in Casa Elemento is something worth seeing on your Colombia trip.

2. Cali

As the capital of Salsa dancing in the world, Cali is a place you must visit if you are into Salsa dance. If you are not a big dancer yourself, you are still more than welcome to just admire from the sideline. It is mesmerizing what the Colombians can do with their hips! Shakira was right about their hips not lying!

3. Tatacoa Desert

Tatacoa Desert is one of the most stunning landscapes in Colombia. Unlike the typical deserts that are covered by sand dunes, Tatacoa’s most iconic features are the dry and rocky canyons that span across. The Tatacoa Desert is also one of the darkest places in the entire world, the ideal place for stargazing. 

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This concludes our 3 week itinerary in Colombia. I hope it has at least given you a rough idea of how to spend your 3 weeks in Colombia.

Any questions? Leave them in the comments!

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. That means if you book or make a purchase through the links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! The money will help run this site! Thank you 🙂

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9 TOP Things to Do in Jardin Colombia

9 TOP Things to Do in Jardin Colombia

Jardin, a beautiful small town located 4 hours South of the city of Medellin, is a tourist destination that many people skip when traveling in Colombia.

However, the word is out and many tourists are now flocking to Jardin for some of the best waterfalls, hikes, and exotic caves. What to do in Jardin Colombia when there are so many great attractions? 

Below we have selected the 9 top things to do in Jardin and you will see why Jardin is a place you must visit in Colombia!

What To Do in Jardin: 9 BEST Things to do in Jardin, Colombia

1. Hike to the Hidden Waterfall Chorro Blanco

To be honest, I had never heard of Chorro Blanco until I arrived in Jardin. I can bet almost no travelers have heard of Chorro Blanco before they arrive.

Chorro Blanco is a gigantic waterfall located in a secluded part of the lush environment in Jardin. It is so hidden that you will not be able to find Chorro Blanco on Google Maps.

But that only piqued our interest. Typically waterfalls are overrun by tourists. If you have visited the waterfalls in Bali Indonesia, you will understand. Chorro Blanco is a waterfall that rarely sees any tourists.

We were pleasantly surprised by Chorro Blanco when we arrived, despite the difficult way to get there. It is how a waterfall should be enjoyed, in isolation and at one with nature. Don’t miss out on Chorro Blanco, it is our favorite thing to do in Jardin.

How to Get to Chorro Blanco from Jardin?

Getting to Chorro Blanco form Jardin is quite complicated but worth the effort. I have written a completely separate guide for Chorro Blanco here.

Long story short, it will be a full-day activity that can take about 4+ hours of hiking, depending on which route you take.

2. Discover a Waterfall in a Cave at Cueva Del Splendor

Now Cueva Del Splendor is the opposite of Chorro Blanco. Before I even arrived in Jardin, I heard from many travelers that you have to see Cueva Del Splendor when you visit Jardin.

Cueva Del Splendor did not disappoint.

A huge waterfall entering through the opening of the cave, powerful enough to wash away anything in its way. It is no doubt one of the best places to visit in Jardin.

You can swim in the waterfall if you want but when I visited the water was freezing.

How to Get to Cueva Del Splendor from Jardin?

There are three ways to get to Cueva del Splendor from Jardin. The easiest way is through a tour agency. I highly don’t recommend this way unless you don’t feel comfortable with hiking for 4-5 hours because you will be grouped with a bunch of people. The cave is not that big and it will be crowded.

The other option is to take public transport at the bus terminal. The shared jeep takes you quite far up the road but you will have to hike the last 1.5 hours on your own. The only problem with that is on the way back it will be difficult to find transportation and you might have to hike for 3-4 hours to get back.

The last option is taking a private taxi (mototaxi). They drop you off at the same place as the Jeeps but you will have flexibility as to when you want to leave.

3. Get a Panoramic View of Jardin at CAFE JARDIN

When you are not hiking or chasing waterfalls, take a break at one of the beautiful cafes called Cafe Jardin.

Cafe Jardin is located up in the mountains of Jardin and in my opinion, is the BEST viewpoint there is in Jardin. Not only will you get a panoramic view of Jardin from above, but you can do that while enjoying some Colombian coffee and sweets at an incredibly cute cafe.

After you are done being amazed by the beauty of Jardin, the “I love Jardin” sign is conveniently located adjacent to Cafe Jardin. Time to tell your Instagram followers you are in Colombia!

How to Get to Cafe Jardin from Jardin?

That are two options to get there.

The first one is to hike via Cristo Rey which takes about 30-45 minutes. The way is entirely uphill. I recommend you to do a loop starting with Cascada La Escalera, then to Cafe Jardin, then Cristo Rey, and finally returning back to Jardin.

The second way to get to Cafe Jardin is through one of the mototaxis in town. You can flag them down and pay a small price for them to take you there.

4. Take a Short Hike to the Double Waterfall Cascada La Escalera

Want to go see some of Jardin’s most beautiful natural wonders but don’t want to hike for hours? Then the waterfall Cascada La Escalera is perfect for you.

Though not as impressive as the waterfalls in Cueva del Splendor or Chorro Blanco, you get what you paid for (or hiked for).

If you come after rainfall, the Cascada La Escalera will be much more impressive.

How to Get to Cascada La Escalera?

Cascada La Escalera is conveniently located 45 minutes away on foot from the city center of Jardin. Travelers usually stop by Cafe Jardin after visiting Cascada La Escalera to enjoy some delicious snacks and coffee before making the full loop and returning to Jardin.

5. Ride a Wooden Cable Car at Garrucha

Only the bravest shall attempt this dangerous activity. The WOODEN cable car Garrucha is one of the most extreme things you can do in Jardin.

JUST KIDDING.

This wooden cable car is safe and is used by the locals to transport both passengers and goods up to the viewpoint. The cable car ride lasts about 5 minutes but you are flying (slowly) through the banana and plantains trees. It was quite an experience.

At the top of the cable car, you have a viewpoint where you can see the entirety of Jardin as well as a restaurant where you can get food and drinks.

However, I still much prefer Cafe Jardin over Garrucha.

How to Get to the Garrucha?

To arrive at Garrucha, you can take the scenic route through Charco Corazon (a cute little river), which will take you about an hour.

Or option 2 is the less scenic route which takes about 30 minutes from the center of Jardin.

Option 3 is to take the wooden cable car from the town of Jardin. 

6. Check Out the Viewpoint at Cristo Rey

Jardin is full of beautiful viewpoints and Cristo Rey is one of those.

It is a statue of Christ Rey that can be seen anywhere from town. Come here and check out the beautiful white statue. Take a picture of it with the beautiful town of Jardin as your background!

How to Get to Cristo Rey?

A short 30-minute hike from the city center of Jardin will take you to Cristo Rey. There are options to arrive on horseback and vehicles as well. 

7. Take a Dip at the River Charco Corazon

Charco Corazon is the river the borders the southern border of Jardin. You have the option to swim in several places but just be careful as the river gets quite strong especially during the rainy season.

But obviously you are more than welcome to just walk by and admire its beauty!

How to Get to Charco Corazon from Jardin?

It’s super easy and quick (30 minutes) to get to Charco Coraon from the town center of Jardin. Google maps will take you to the right place if you put Charco Corazon!

8. See the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at Town Center

In every town, there is a magnificent church that stands in the center of the town square.

Jardin is no exception.

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is Jardin’s iconic church. Built by the “sins” of the local people, the church is a beautiful piece of art. The high ceiling inside and the detailed paintings are definitely some things worth checking out.

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is one of the best attractions in Jardin

Luckily for you, it is conveniently located in the town center so you can’t miss it!

9. Explore a Man-Made Bat Tunnel

The bat tunnel is a unique thing to do in Jardin. It is pretty secretive so not many people know about it. But if you ever walked the scenic route to Garrucha, you will notice this greenish door that doesn’t look like it belongs there.

That is because it doesn’t. The owner of the Bat Tunnel carved the entire thing by himself. (You can call him Batman.) The whole experience is very surreal as he takes you through the cave and shows you all the bats that live inside! Don’t be afraid though, they don’t bite.

The end of the cave leads you to a hidden waterfall!

How to Get to The Bat Tunnel from Jardin?

You can find the owner of the bat tunnel here on Google Maps. 

Where to Stay in Jardin Colombia

Best Hostel In Jardin – Lulo’s Hostel

Lulo’s Hostel is my favorite hostel in Jardin. A simple but elegantly designed hostel, guests can enjoy their stay in their comfortable rooms or beautiful roof terrace. Their staff is friendly and willing to go out of their way to assist you. Make sure you check out their newly-opened restaurant as well!

Click here for more details!

Best Hotel In Jardin – Casa Passiflora Hotel Boutique

With the quality of a luxury hotel, it is surprised that Casa Passiflora Hotel Boutique offers such high quality at a low price. Everything from the interior decor of the hotel to its friendly staff is just perfect. Did I mention the hot tub in the rooms?

Click here for more details!

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Those are the top 9 things to do in Jardin Colombia. I really hope you get to do at least a few of the popular ones.

As we said, Jardin was our favorite town in Colombia so we hope you enjoyed or will enjoy it!

If you have any questions, leave a comment or contact us via email!

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are affiliate links. That means if you book or make a purchase through the links, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! The money will help run this site! Thank you 🙂

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