May 9

My Four Favorite Cities in Colombia

51  comments

Colombia is known as a country full of traditions and beauty. It has  beautiful beaches and some spectacular archaeological finds that cannot be seen  anywhere else in the world. Yet perhaps surprisingly some of it’s biggest cities are full of character and destinations you must visit when in the country. These are the four I highly recommend:

Cartagena

This city plays a very important role in terms of international trade, being home to one of the mains ports in Colombia. You will feel how the colonial period has impacted the city, just by walking through the streets. Cartagena has a variety of attractions including visiting the “Casa de Marqués Valdehoyos” (an old house portraying old Cartagena), the Cathedral, and the “Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas”, a fortress which was built to protect the city from pirates. Finally, if you’re a beach lover, Playa Blanca will not disappoint you. You can hop on one off the tourist boats or save some money and head there early in the morning with a public speedboat.

cartagena de indias

Bogota – Colombia’s Capital

This city is influenced by a mixture of cultures from English, Spanish and Indian. Bogota is very modern with lots of interesting architecture, restaurants and shops. There are many districts in Bogota, such as “Norte”, “Noroccidente”, “Occidente”, “Sur” and “Centro” – all having their own character and uniqueness. Expect to find a lot of things to do in this capital, including the “Cerro de Monserrate” – which is a stunning monastery located on top of a hill. You can take a cable car here and remember to take your camera to shoot some amazing views of the city. As for lodging, you’ll find some amazing accommodation in Bogota, including private bed and breakfasts in the city center or in one of the city’s exciting districts.

bogota

Cali

This is Colombia’s third largest city and was founded in 1536. If you want to go somewhere hot this summer then Cali is the place for you. Of course like Bogota and Cartagena, there are lots of things to do . The “Iglesia de la Merced” is a wonderful stunning cathedral, located in the Plaza Caycedo. There are of course plenty of museums to visit here, including the “Museo de Arte Colonial” and the “Muse de Oro”, and if dancing is your thing, there’s no better place to learn Cumbia and master salsa till the wee hours of the morning.

cali colombia

Popayan

Perhaps Colombia’s most spiritual city, Popayan exudes a charm and beauty that does not go unnoticed- even to the untrained eye. Known as the “white city” because of the white walled buildings that dominate the cobbled streets, the old quarter is easily walkable and the best place where to stay. The best of Popayan can be visited in just one day, but just a 45 minute bus ride away is Silvia, a small village with an indigenous population (the Guambinos, easily identified by their black hats and blue capes) that will keep you in awe for the day.

Today the locals have earned their reputation as visionaries and entrepreneurs who love life on the streets and are famous for exaggerating their colorful stories. The hospitality, frugality and proactive spirit associated with the region are proverbial and the enticement of this wondrous place stretches even beyond the picturesque landscape and beauty.

Have you visited Colombia? Do you agree with my pick or do you have other favorites? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you liked it!


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    1. Really? I’m surprised to hear this. I thought Cartagena would be everyone’s favorite, maybe followed by Medellin or Popayan if they visited it.

  1. Loved Popayan and we were lucky enough to be there during Semana Santa. We were not very big fans of Cartagena.

    I definitely want to get back and explore more of this beautiful country.

  2. Is Cali safe these days? I remember when it was a strictly no go zone because of the drugs cartels. I love Cartagena – I spent about 4 days there a couple of years back and found so much to see and do.

    1. Hi Katie. Cali is safe except for(oddly enough) the city center. I was there for 3 days and had no problem at all, though I was advised to be ware when around the cathedral area. Like you, I also loved Cartagena 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!

  3. I want to experience to travel in Bogota, Columbia. My friend had already visited the place and I was so amazed with the beautiful spots she visited.

  4. Planning to book tickets on points to Colombia in a few days for about 1 12 day trip next February. This city list gets me started but also want some time away from noise – and maybe a few days of hiking. Any suggestions??

  5. Colombia is one of dreamed countries that i want to visit someday. And i hope that i can visit all these beautiful cities. Thanks for sharing those lovely photos with us.

  6. I have never been to these places and I think when I have holiday time, I will definitely check this out.. Thanks for the great photos here..

  7. This place looks too good. I didn’t know it’s so beautiful especially Popayan. I would like to visit the Purace National Natural Park in the White City which includes the wonderland of hot springs, waterfalls, and an inactive volcano as soon as possible so that I can add some more breath taking pictures to my collection.

  8. Very cool list! I used to think Colombia was a really dangerous place, but I’ve heard in the last few years that it’s actually an amazing place to visit. I’ll get there one day!

  9. I found out in Cali you can’t go out at night specially a woman alone. You can’t go on the Chivas (buses hopping bar to bar) alone, you can’t go alone to discos, specially in the Avenida 6. Most of the disco places are owned by the narcos and women alone are a target.
    You can’t take taxis from the street, there are a few taxi companies you call from wherever you are at and they pick you up, you get a code from the place and the taxi asks for the code. Malls usually have taxis working for them and are safe to take. Never hail a taxi from the street, you can be given the Millionaire’s trip, which is maximixing your credit cards, taking your money, even your clothes or/and being raped or killed or kidnapped for organs or ransom. Be very careful in Cali, careful with your camera and cellular, drawing money from ATM’s in the street. It is better to go to an ATM in a mall or bank. Do not pay heed to people asking for directions, they have burundanga to render you unconscious and they can do anything they want with you. In a bar, do not allow anyone to pick you or you will regret it. People are friendly and charismatic and happy in Cali but beware of too much friendliness, usually leads to other things. Try to blend in if possible, do not show off wealth, jewelry, camera, laptop or cellular. You can be killed for a cellular. Just give things away if approached in the street asking to give valuables or money. Carry a whistle with you that other people or police can hear. Walk with a hidden pouch with some money, copy of your passport, ID and silent cellular. Do not go to the mountain of Las 3 cruces, or Cristo Rey without someone you know well. Fast friends are easy to make and you can talk to women, men or children without problem but don’t accept invitations of fast friends. And don’t accept drugs or open beverages. In a bar ask for a beer bottle opened in front of you or a pop soda , gaseosa is called, ask for the bottle to be opened in front of you and a glass. Bottled water is best and don’t accept the ice in the glass. Ask for a gaseosa helada and a glass sin hielo. In fruit places where they make juices for you, ask if they can make the juice with bottled water. The water is good fr shower, don’t eat chicken at small kiosks they do not have refrigeration. Locals can eat from them, they are immune to bugs but you are not if you are coming from the USA. Use Deet for mosquitoes, otherwise they will eat you alive and you can develop malaise and fever. Take mosquito nets if possible. Do not open your wallet in the streets. Carry cash in pockets or hidden pouch. Beware of girls wanting to take you to hotels . You might wake the next day without a kidney or you might not wake at all, they took your heart for transplant!
    Try to stay in the North area of town, it is safer and better neighborhoods, bargain when you shop otherwise they will charge you 5 times the price. Tips are not given to taxi drivers, tips are included in restaurants bills.

    1. Wow Juliet, what an extended list of tips and advice. When I was in Cali I didn’t feel such a threat, but then I was only there a couple of days and was taken to places by car ( have a friend there). Didn’t worry too much about the water and the rest. Did you have any problems there? What about Bogota, did you feel the same lack of safety?

      1. Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin were no problem. But I felt unsafe in Cali. Also the locals were afraid to go out at night. They call Cali the capital of heaven but I am not sure, lol.
        I am glad you had a positive experience in Cali, though.

  10. I don’t know how Cali was three years ago. I know how it was one year ago.
    The food is delicious everywhere. There is a PINK ZONE between streets 7th, 8th and 9th in the North side of town. There are many high end ethnic restaurants and local eateries.
    The men are very good looking and so are the women.People walk and exercise a lot. I think this is the key to look gorgeous despite the greasy food and sugary drinks they eat and drink: exercise.
    There are many fruits and vegetables we don’t see in the USA which are amazing and tasty. That’s what I eat anyway.
    Most of the hills are hidden behind tall buildings. It is not as hot as I expected it to be. In the evenings a refreshing breeze comes down the hills.
    The Chinese trade has taken over. You can find a lot of bargains made in China. Artisan crafts are unique and you can find a variety of items made out of wood, alabaster, amber, mother of pearl, pottery. You can get silver jewelry at very good prices. Emeralds and gold are a bit more expensive.
    The coffee is excellent and the best I have tasted. It is better than the Costa Rican’s. The tinto (small cups of coffee) is strong and delicious.
    I saw many Americans there. The education is superior and many Americans study at Colombian Universities for a fraction of what they would be paying in the USA for their education.
    These are the positive things I have to say about Cali, Colombia.

    1. Thanks for the length advice Juliet. I do agree that most of the hills are hidden behind tall buildings, though driving around it is difficult to avoid them. Regarding the fruit, I loved lulo which I tried for the first time there, did you? It’s not a good fruit to eat alone, but any juice from it is to die for!

  11. Lulo, guanabana, mora, maracuya, uchuvas, curubas, madrono, nispero, cadmio, chontaduro, are the most delicious fruits I have ever tasted. Lulo and lulada are delicious. Now how about champus? and masato? and the yogurt in Colombia tastes to guanabana, lulo. Not like the yogurt we get in the USA which has like 20gr of sugar! Of course I make my own plain yogurt at home. And in a pinch you can get fat free Greek yogurt.
    But there is nothing like the Colombian yogurt brand Alpina.
    The fruits are awsome! and there are many many more I did not mention.
    😀

    1. You make your own yogurt? Good for you! Totally agree with you regarding the fruits, all good. But lulo stood out for me 🙂 Don’t remember masato and cadmio though…

      1. Yes, the recipe for making your own yogurt with 1 gallon of milk is, buy plain yogurt, boil the milk to 37 degrees,remove from heat, then add 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt and let stand overnight in a COVERED glass or ceramic or stainless steel container INSIDE the electric oven or outside in a place where the temperature stays even. Not in a cold place!
        The next day you will have 1 gallon of yogurt. You can add fruits to individual servings, splenda if you like….that is what I do. I make my own apple sauce and add to it. I use stevia or splenda if needed, most of the time pureed banana is enough sweet, blueberries etc.

        Have you ever brought lulo seeds to the USA or any plant seed from Colombia to grow it here? I brought melon and mora. They grew rapidly, last year we had like 50 melons and the mora grew this year like a weed , vines and vines of it. It is a berry no one had in here and it grows well.
        No problems with the visa for Colombia. Thanks for asking. 🙂

        1. Thanks for the recipe Juliet, I will have to try it out. I never thought about bringing seeds, though melon and mora are popular in Spain 🙂 If I were to bring seeds it would be for lulos though haha 🙂

    1. Juliet, there is no such thing as a too expansive comment! I love reading them, and even more when readers like you have much to say 🙂 Keep them coming! By the way, did you get any info regarding your visa status?

    1. Cali appears to be a bit dangerous, as I was there with some friends and even they were cautious when moving around…

      1. Hello again, I was in Cali from January to April 2014. Conditions are much better, there are many tour companies including Cali as a destination.
        It is a heaven if you want to adopt children at an orphanage “Chiquitines”, located in Pance, a high end suburb of Cali, founded and sustained with funds from Denmark, Norway and Uk among other European countries.Most of the adoptions are made by Europeans. American citizens have to wait about 2 years to meet the child. The Instituto de Bienestar familiar in Bogota oversees the adoptions.
        This is an area you should explore. Most of the people who go there to adopt don’t speak Spanish, they need drivers who speak Dutch, Swedish,Norwegian, Swiss, German, English.Most of the hotels send special drivers to learn these languages. There is a place called Hotel Stein, run by a swiss man where most of the adopting families stay. It is a huge place with huge rooms, pool, meals. It is in the north of Cali, high end residential area and about 1 hour and a half from the orphanage Chiquitines. I think it would be a good business to drive people around for some entrepreneurs who want to earn a living as translators of legal and medical documents, interpreters and driving. Some people asked me if I was willing to do this but I am not able to do this. It would take someone in mid-20’s to 30’s, responsible driver who would ensure safety of these people and knows their language. It appears to me a good business. I wish I was 20 years younger to do this, haha. Maybe you have a friend in Colombia who want to do this. It is a good idea but I am not sure if it is feasible, given the ups and downs of Colombia and specially of Cali. I recently read something about someone who went to Siloe, the most dangerous and violent place in Cali and to Aguablanca, another slum, he is from UK and made a video. Write back if you are interested in the adoption business and seeing the videos.
        take care
        Juliet

        1. Hey Juliet, thanks for sharing this info about the orphanage! It’s been a while since I was there and was not aware of the place back then, good thing you have been. From what you say there are some opportunities there, perhaps somebody may pick up on them? As for sharing the info and videos you mention at the end, would you be interested in writing a post about that I would publish here in the blog and share in social media? Let me know!

          1. Yes, you can share what I wrote and I can post the blogs and videos I came across.
            Someone out there can start a business or someone from the USA can do it too. There are two English women who have a company there dealing with the adoptions.
            I know a lawyer in Cali who does adoptions paperwork, she has integrity and honesty. Not all lawyers are liars. Haha.
            I shall post the videos in the blog, so people can see.
            tc and thanks
            Juliet

    1. I visited Cali and while I did have a good time, I was not as impressed as I was with other cities… Thanks for dropping by!

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