Everything you need to know about tours in Colombia

Dear Reader

My name is Frank and I run a travel agency based in Bogota, Colombia. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please write them in our comments section. Thank you and have a great trip to Colombia!

Colombia has extremely improved its security situation since the 2000s and has since developed into an attractive holiday destination. Colombia still lacks decades to reach an international standard across the board, but it is precisely this point that makes the country so attractive and Colombia tours simply unique.

Where is Colombia located?

Colombia is located on the geographical equator in the northwest of the South American continent. Colombia borders Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Panama.

What can you experience on a tour in Colombia?

You can experience almost everything in Colombia. Come with us on a trip through Colombia and get your own idea of ​​the potential Colombia has for tours.

Tours on the Caribbean coast

After Brazil, Colombia is the most biodiverse country in the world and also borders on two oceans. On the Atlantic coast is the Caribbean Sea, which offers a hot climate and a vibrant culture. The possible destinations already differ immensely there.

The destinations Capurgana and Sapzurro are located on the border with Panama and have become attractive destinations for backpackers in recent years. The area is barely developed and largely consists of forested areas. The Caribbean Sea is a dream in this area and a few days of beach vacation and hiking are the perfect balance to everyday stress. The accommodations range from hammocks to passable hotels. Because of the remoteness, you won’t find mass tourism there and get to know a piece of true Colombia.

The entire coast between Turbo and Cartagena serves the Colombians as vacation destination. There are also various island groups on the route that you can visit. I have never met a tourist who has strayed there. And so that you have an idea of ​​the dimension, we are talking about over 500 kilometers of coast.

Let’s go on to Cartagena, where we find a luxury destination with boutique hotels, large yachts and everything that goes with it. The jewel of the Caribbean is one of the number 1 tourist magnets in Colombia.

Further along the coast, we find the coastal city of Santa Marta, which is also considered the oldest city in South America and where colonization started by the Spaniards. The incredible wealth of Santa Marta is not in the city, but it is in the surrounding area. As a predominantly national holiday destination, Santa Marta is a lot cheaper than Cartagena. Tayrona Park is just an hour’s drive away. It offers beautiful Caribbean beaches on one side and exciting nature on the other. If you don’t go to Tayrona Park while visiting Santa Marta, you’re missing out. And another step more spectacularly – the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The highest coastal mountains in the world end at 5,700 meters (18,700 Feet) above sea level. There you will also find an offer to visit the Lost City.

A little further to the east you can finally find yourself in Palomino, which has developed into an alternative destination, especially for backpackers, in recent years. You can find yoga and vegan food as well as interesting visitors.

Finally, as a department bordering Venezuela, you come to La Guajira. The capital Riohacha is not a pearl, but was a center for pearl trade in the past. You are already in a desert and the hot, humid climate of the previous destinations is replaced by a dry, hot climate. From Riohacha you can then take tours in the desert with converted 4×4 vehicles and advance to the northernmost point of the continent. On the way there you can also stop in Cabo de la Vela and go kitesurfing for a few days. An absolute highlight for me, personally!

Tours in the Colombian Andes

We drive south from La Guajira and come to the department Cesar with the capital Valledupar. We are located between the back of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serrania del Perija, which also marks the border with Venezuela as a mountain range. It is an area that has hardly seen any international tourists so far, but it has incredible treasures. The rivers that come from the Sierra Nevada carry crystal-clear water and offer a welcome refreshment in the hot climate. And to keep it that way, the local indigenous peoples protect the waters. One finds landscapes similar to the Rocky Mountains or the Swiss Alps, simply spectacular.

Further south we come to the department Santander. One of the best coffees in the country is produced there. One finds the Canon de Chichamocha, a canyon with a length of over 220 kilometers (137 miles) and a depth of up to 2,000 meters (1.24 miles). These dimensions make it the second-largest in the world. In San Gil, you can do all kinds of adventure sports and just 30 minutes drive away you will find Barichara, probably the most beautiful colonial village in Colombia.

On the way towards Bogota, we cross the department Boyaca. A department with a very rich colonial history and, accordingly, you can find many colonial villages. You will also find the Nevado del Cocuy, a spectacular park with snow-capped peaks over 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) above sea level. With a stopover in Villa de Leyva, with one of the largest central squares in South America and a representative historical core, you are only 4 hours drive from Bogota.

Bogota is located at around 2,700 meters (8,860 feet) above sea level and the local mountain Monserrate is 3,150 meters (10,350 feet) above sea level. The country’s largest city, as well as its economic and political center, offers a variety of experiences. But you can learn more about that in my Bogota travel guide. A variety of tours can be done in and around Bogota.

To the east, you come to the coffee zone of Colombia. A bus ride is more for backpackers and Colombians, because the flight prices are not particularly high and the time saved pays off many times over. The coffee triangle actually consists of the departments of Caldas, Risaralda and Quindio. These are perfectly connected to each other by a motorway. The whole area is spectacular and offers an incredible landscape with a mix of mountains and valleys. There are a volcano and hot springs. Residents are among the nicest people in the world and anyone who has visited this zone will rave about it for their whole life. A trip in a Willy Jeep and a coffee tour are of course not missing.

Medellin is also not far from the coffee zone. And although it is probably best known internationally, this city is only mentioned briefly here, because it is absolutely negligible in the entire tourist offer of Colombia.

We continue south and come to the world capital of salsa. Here you can feel the influence of the Afro-Colombian population. And although Cali occupies an inglorious place in the top 40 most dangerous cities in the world, a visit should not be generally excluded. The culinary offer and the surrounding area offer many interesting activities.

Popayan is further south. The white city with its pleasant climate is beautiful and is probably the most pedestrian-friendly city in Colombia. For all lovers of colonial cities, Popayan is certainly a dream destination. From there you can also get to San Agustin, where archaeological excavations have unearthed unbelievable treasures. Summarized in different parks, today you can take an interesting journey into the past.

Further south we come to the department Narino, which also borders Ecuador. With over 30 volcanoes, the area is incredibly spectacular. International tourism has not yet recognized the wealth of this area, but this will change in the next few years. A special feature of this department is the direct access to the Pacific.

Tours on the Colombian Pacific

Arrived on the Pacific there are a few destinations that can be visited, since a large part of the area is classified as unsafe. The islands of Malpelo and Gorgona are definitely worth mentioning. From Buenaventura you can reach any destination by boat and in Bahia Solano or Nuqui, you can watch whales in the appropriate months. The Pacific coast is one of the rainiest areas in the world, but also one of the most biodiverse. If you are looking for a unique experience of nature, you are definitely in the right place on the Pacific coast of Colombia.

Tours in the Colombian Amazon

From the rainy Pacific coast to the Colombian destinations in the Amazon. Contrary to various assumptions, there are various destinations for an Amazon experience in Colombia. In any case, the area takes up around 1/3 of the Colombian total area. Leticia is certainly the most touristic destination and borders directly on Peru and Brazil. I always say that if you have the opportunity to visit the Amazon once in a lifetime, you should absolutely do this, it is an absolute privilege.

As already explained, the area of ​​the Amazon is huge. Therefore, you can travel to Leticia, Mitu or visit one of the neighboring areas, which offer a mix of the Amazon and the Andes.

Tours in the Colombian Llanos

From the Amazon, we travel north again and my emotions start to boil. The Llanos is a huge area and stretches from Colombia to Venezuela. Today the broad plains share cattle breeding and a large number of wild animals. The population density is low and the roads are partly impassable during the rainy season. If you want to feel like a cowboy in your life and experience a unique safari, the Llanos is an absolute dream destination. I have visited this area several times and I am not fed up with it yet.

What type of travel is Colombia suitable for?

Anyone who has already read through the various destinations above will quickly find that Colombia can be an attractive destination for a wide variety of travelers. You don’t necessarily have to speak Spanish, but it is a great advantage, as English is hardly spoken in the cities.

Backpackers

Colombia has one of the highest densities of hostels in the world and offers not only hostels in almost all regions, but also alternative cheap accommodation options. Flights are generally cheap and you can also travel around the whole country by bus. You can survive very cheaply in Colombia for a long time.

Luxury tourists

The offers are still limited for luxury travelers. In Cartagena and Bogota, you will find boutique as well as 5 * hotels plus gourmet restaurants and opportunities for expensive purchases. In the meantime,  some other destinations provide offers in the upscale segment. However, you won’t find absolute super luxury like in Dubai. The luxury of Colombia is definitely the unique experience that you can live.

History tourism

Colombia not only offers enough material in terms of colonization but the pre-Colombian era also has a lot of history.

Architecture tourism

I have already organized tours to various colonial cities for interested travelers. Colombia has enough destinations for weeks of travel.

Package group tourism

I am not a fan of these organized group tours, which are mostly sold at bargain prices. In my experience, a lot is promised and little is actually experienced. However, there are enough trips and supermarkets in Germany and Switzerland already offer these, for example.

Community tourism

Colombia already offers a lot of local tourism. You can either live with coffee farmers or with indigenous people. A certainly interesting adventure.

Adventure tourism

From biking and horse riding to river rafting to mountaineering and jungle tours as well as paragliding, Colombia offers a large number of diverse tours.

Art tourism

Although only the artist Fernando Botero is known abroad, there are far more artists in Colombia than him. Furthermore, there are many grandmasters in Bogota and Medellin, who were bought by Fernando Botero and are now in the possession of the state after a donation.

Party tourism

Anyone who has celebrated with Colombians will never forget it. There is no tomorrow for the Latinos, so today we will party wild. Bogota is certainly the number one spot for good nightlife.

Ornithological tourism

What can I say? Colombia is home to the most species in the world with over 1,900 different bird species. It is a paradise for bird watching and bird photography.

Sport tourism

With its topography, Colombia offers the best conditions for altitude training. In addition, the temperatures are constant all year round. The fact that some of the best cyclists in the world come from Colombia should be enough to suggest that this country can also be a possible destination for sports enthusiasts.

What tour operators are there for Colombia?

Tourism in Colombia is not very old. Keep in mind that you couldn’t even travel from Bogota in 1995 without risking encountering the guerrillas. However, international tour operators have now established themselves in Colombia, many of which are in foreign hands. For example, I’m Swiss. My competitors are mainly French, Dutch, German and English who have settled in Colombia.

There are large chains that have established a branch in Colombia. In my experience, most Colombian providers are limited to local operations and work more as local partners and providers of national tourism.

In the international context, the Colombian competition has established itself above all in tourism for bird watching, where I am more of an exception as a foreigner.

If you are interested in a Colombia trip and look through the offers online, you should not be fooled. The majority of the providers do not operate such a trip themselves, but in turn, have a partner based in Colombia. There are also more and more platforms such as Tourradar, GetYourGuide, kimkim, viahero and others. These actually have nothing to do with a travel agency. Potential travelers are only fished from these platforms on the Internet and encouraged to buy travel with psychological tricks such as discounts, etc. In reality, these providers are only an unnecessary additional layer and, firstly, reduce the service and quality for the traveler and further reduce the necessary added value in Colombia, since these platforms charge the real travel agencies a considerable commission.

What should you consider when booking a Colombia tour?

When researching a suitable partner for a trip to Colombia, you should first look online to see what the travel agency’s appearance is like. If there is a homepage and information about the internal structures and the employees, general terms and conditions, where the travel agency is located, etc. This first impression is certainly important because it serves as a business card for a company.

You should also contact the travel agency and seek advice. You will quickly find out whether you have reached a quality provider or not. You can also have offers made by various providers.

After all of these steps, you should be able to choose your provider.

How much does a tour of Colombia cost?

The cost of a tour is very different. In the past, I had offered a 2-week tour for a couple for USD 20,000, but also for USD 3,000. This depends on customer requirements and the corresponding budget. In any case, one should not have any illusions. Even though Colombia is generally still a very cheap travel destination, you cannot expect helicopter flights, private yachts and the best hotels in the country for a mini-budget.

Should you be interested in a trip to Colombia after reading all of this, we would be happy to advise you as a travel company based in Bogota.

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2020-05-05T22:22:52+00:00

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