If you haven’t been following along with me, I recently returned from Colombia back at the end of March. I had an amazing time in my first South American country, and I can’t wait to go back.
As you know eight days anywhere just isn’t enough, but I did manage to squeeze as much as I could of this beautiful country into my time I had. This itinerary by no means covers every area you should visit, or everything you can do, it’s just the trip that I planned with my girl friend by combining the things we wanted to do the most, and the time we had available to us. We also wanted a trip that had a good mix of active adventures, and relaxing days.
Now that you have a good idea for the vibe we were going for, here’s how I recommend you spend eight days in Colombia.
Day One: Fly to Cartagena & Explore
Take off to Cartagena. We started in Cartagena and flex home from Medellin because booking two one way trips was the same price as flying back to our starting destination.
Once you land in Cartagena, head to the hotel for check-in. We stayed at Hotel Don Pedro, which was a great mid-budget hotel, clean, and centrally located in the walled part of the city. Note that most of the hotels in the central area will be loud due to the street noise. Opt for an inward facing room if you have the option or make sure to pack earplugs!
After checking it, head for dinner at La Cevicheria. This restaurant made famous after Anthony Bourdain visited it for its amazingly fresh and delicious ceviche, is definitely worth a visit (or two). We planned to come here just for a snack and stayed for more ceviche. We ended up not even needing dinner because we were so full!
Next head out for a walk around the hustle and bustle of the walled city. If you can catch the sunset by the water, do that, or head for a drink at one of the many great bars and restaurants in the city. Alquimico is a great cocktail bar with a roof terrace, or Townhouse is super cute with a nice view of the city as well.
Day Two: Cartagena
While in Cartagena you MUST visit the Rosario Island’s. Since you only have a day or so if you’re limited on time, it’ll be hard to just choose one to go to, however, they all boast amazing beaches and crystal clear waters.
Playa Blanca is the public beach option that’s free, but it’s super touristy and busy. I personally went to Bendita Beach because it was private, and only about 60 or so people could go each day. Some other popular options are:
- Bora Bora
- Genre del Mar
- Fenix Beach
- Blue Apple Beach
You can wait to book your tour until you’re in Cartagena, but some of the busier places may be sold out, or if you’re visiting on a weekend in tourist season.
Spend the day relaxing on your chosen island, and make sure to load up on SPF!
For dinner, make a reservation at Alma. This restaurant has a gorgeous interior, and amazing food that looks like art. It also has a lengthy cocktail menu, and if you’re lucky and book far enough in advance, you can get a table out on their patio/terrace.
Day Three: Cartagena & San Andres
Book your flight to San Andres for later in the day and spend your half day in Cartagena exploring a bit more. Here are a few options of things you can get up to:
- Join a free walking tour
- Join a tour of Mercado de Bazurto (Note: our hotel recommended us to not do this alone)
- Visit Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas (a castle that overlooks the city)
Next fly off to a far away remote island (okay, it’s not that far, but it is actually technically closer to Nicaragua than Colombia) of San Andres. Another option is Providencia but Providencia can be harder and more remote to get to.
San Andres is a Colombian Island in the Caribbean Sea. It’s known for it’s beautiful clear waters, snorkelling and diving, and is the perfect point for a little R&R. Note that due to San Andres being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, you’ll need to pay a fee at the airport in order to enter the island. The cost translated to around $35 USD and you can pay via card or cash.
When you arrive in San Andres, check-in to your hotel. I recommend staying at Cocoplum as it isn’t a major chain, it’s away from the super touristy city centre that the resorts feed into, and it is on one of the most beautiful beaches of the island, Rocky Cay.
Day Four: San Andres
The beaches in San Andres are incredible. I’m not sure if I’ve seen water this blue, and from Rocky Cay, the sandbanks made it easy to walk out super far from shore while still being able to touch. If you’re near Rocky Cay, walk out to the shipwreck out in the distance. It’s super cool!
Spend the morning relaxing on the beach, and in the afternoon, book a snorkel tour to explore the beautiful reefs and underwater creatures (mine left at around 3pm). I booked our tour through Cocoplum and booked the most popular tour they had based off of me only having the time to do one tour while in San Andres. You never know what to expect with snorkelling, and I’ve done it so many times before that sometimes it can be disappointing, however, this was some of the best snorkelling I’ve done. Our tour brought us to multiple spots, including a shipwreck and to an area in the ocean to see stingrays in their natural habitat. I would highly recommend it!
To end your wonderful sun-filled day, head for dinner at one of the islands great restaurants. Here are some recommendations:
Day Five: San Andres & Medellin
Before flying to Medellin, spend the morning in San Andres by renting one of their infamous four wheelers/golf carts that you’ll see tourists driving around the island. This is a great way to see the island! We unfortunately didn’t have time to do this but we wish we did!
Next up, Medellin, one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited, and the second largest city in Medellin next to Bogota.
When you arrive, check-in to your hotel. It’s recommended tourists stay in El Pablado. It’s safe, and there are a ton of great places to stay and eat. I stayed at Art Hotel, and it was a beautiful, modern, boutique hotel.
Head for dinner at Carmen, one of the best restaurants in the city. You’ll want to make reservations in advance for this popular spot, but I promise, it’s worth it.
Another popular spot for dinner that came highly recommended but we didn’t have time to do was ElCielo. Since it is a tasting menu, you need to ensure you book well in advance for a reservation!
Day Six: Medellin
For your first full-day in Medellin, you NEED to head out on a Comuna 13 tour. This neighbourhood once had the highest homicide rate, and was partly the reason for Medellin being the most dangerous city in the world. Now, it’s taken a turn, and it’s loaded with street art, street performers, cute cafes and shops, and worth a visit. I recommend a tour because you can’t fully learn about the rich history here without one! I booked through Comuna 13 Tours.
For the rest of your afternoon, take time to explore more of the city.
Day Seven: Medellin to Guatape
Guatape is a resort town in northwest Colombia, a short drive from Medellin, making it a perfect, and must-do day trip. Guatape is known for it’s man-made Peñol-Guatapé Reservoir which you can get a birds eye view of when you climb Peñol, the giant granite rock southwest of the town. Note this climb isn’t for the faint at heart as you need to climb 700+ stairs to get to the top. I booked my day tour through Andes Adventures.
In the evening, when you’re back in Medellin from the day trip to Guatape, head for dinner at La Bronca, a Mexican restaurant with fabulous foods and an unreal cocktail menu. Finish off your night with some drinks with a view at Hotel Charlee’s rooftop patio.
Day Eight: Medellin to Jardin
Another day, another day trip. Medellin is a great base for day trips and no trip to Colombia is complete without a visit to coffee country. There are several tour groups that offer day trips to coffee country, however, I loved Andes Adventures, they are local, small group, and fantastic. The tour I did was their Jardin & Landscapes tour but you can also just do their coffee tour if you’re short on time here.