cabo san juan tayrona

Colombia is a magical place. There are so many different sides to Colombia that you’re bound to find something you love. The people, nature, coffee, food, and nightlife here are almost unmatched in the rest of the world. Having a 3 week itinerary is almost necessary when visiting a country like Colombia.

From the Caribbean coast to the coffee regions of the south, to the big cities like Medellin. This country will make it hard to leave.

Everything in this Itinerary I have personally done myself and would recommend. There are a lot more attractions to see in Colombia that I didn’t have time for and I will be back.

fall of the dragon jardin

Where is Colombia Located?

Colombia is the 4th largest country in South America. It borders Venezuela and Ecuador in the Northern part of the continent.

In 1830, Gran Colombia collapsed and this turned into the three countries of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador.

Is Colombia Expensive?

Some of the first comments I hear about Colombia from others is how cheap it is. And this is true. Colombia is super cheap which makes it a hot destination for backpackers.

But just because it is a cheap place to travel to, doesn’t mean it’s impossible to overspend. Just like in any country, you can live luxuriously in Colombia.

I wrote an entire blog about the cost of travel in Colombia if you want more details. It is important to budget when planning your 3-week itinerary in Colombia.

minca hikes, 3 week itinerary colombia

Things to Know Before Traveling to Colombia

Before planning your 3-week itinerary in Colombia, you might be wondering a few things about the country. Some of the details I will go over are the safety in Colombia and what the transportation is like.

Is Colombia Safe?

In short, yes Colombia is safe to travel to. With that being said, you will want to be careful of your surroundings, especially in big cities like Medellin.

Pickpockets or robberies can happen if you are too flashy with your belongings. This can be true for many places around the world and even in places in the United States.

Overall, the majority of people you will run into in Colombia are extremely nice and don’t want to harm you at all. The best tip to not getting yourself into trouble is to refrain from excessive alcohol consumption.

What is the Currency Exchange?

Before we start, let’s go over the current conversion rate of COP (Colombian Peso) to USD (United States Dollar).

At the time of writing this blog, USD 1 = $4,876 Colombian Pesos. You can find the current conversion here.

To put into perspective the level of inflation, I visited Colombia from April until June 2022. The conversion back then was around $1 USD to $3800 COP.

Transportation in Colombia

The beauty of Colombia is the cost of transport throughout the country. If traveling from big city to big city, I would suggest taking a plane. They are super affordable and will save you a bunch of time.

When traveling in the coffee region, it is best to always take a bus. These are very cheap and in my experience seem to be on time mostly.

The best advice is to always take night buses as this will cut costs on accommodation.

All the bus prices are using the site Redbus.

Buses in Colombia

  • Medellin to Cali (11 hours): $91,000 COP (day bus) and $66,000 COP (night bus)
  • Bogota to Medellin (9 hours): ~$100,000 COP
  • Medellin to Salento (8 hours): $73,000 COP
cerro tres cruces

3 Week Itinerary in Colombia

Like I said earlier, I everything in this 3 week itinerary of Colombia I have personally done myself and written about 90% of them. If you want more information on any activity in this list, simply click the link at the beginning of each section. This will take you to the full article is all of the detail.

Day 1: Fly into Medellin

We will be starting this itinerary by flying into Medellin. It is quite normal to fly into either Medellin or Bogota first.

I haven’t been to Bogota or the surrounding areas yet (I will be back) so I didn’t put it on this list.

The flights here can be pretty cheap. I flew in April from Cancun, Mexico for around $100 one-way.

You can pay for a white cab (airport taxi). There is a flat rate of $80,000 to $90,000 COP. Do not pay more than this. You can also get on the public bus, which I did for $12,000 COP to the San Diego area, and then took a taxi to my hostel for around $10,000 COP more.

This is far cheaper but I also there isn’t much room for large luggage. If you are going to Medellin, you will most likely be looking to stay in the El Poblado district. Below are some of the options for the best places to stay.

  • Black Sheep Hostel: This is Medellin’s most popular and social hostel. They have drinks for sale, hammocks, and an amazing terrace for you to hang out at.
  • Purple Monkey Hostel: Another very popular hostel in El Poblado. It is known to have the comfiest beds and is perfectly located. There are also FOUR outlets at your disposal.
  • Los Patios Hostel: If you’re looking for something a little fancier, then Los Patios is an excellent option. It has one of the best rooftop pools in all of Medellin.
cerro quitasol hikes medellin, 3 week itinerary colombia

Day 2: Hike Cerro de la Tres Cruces

One of my top suggestions when you first arrive in a new location is to see if there is some sort of hike with great views of the city/town. Medellin is no different.

The Cerro de la Tres Cruces hike offers spectacular views of Medellin. It is also a popular exercise area for locals.

The hike in total is 1.5 miles and shouldn’t take longer than 45 minutes to an hour. To get to the trailhead simply type in ‘Hike Tres Cruces’ in uber and it will take you there.

cerro de las tres cruces, 3 week itinerary colombia

My Suggested Hiking Gear

Below is a list of some of my favorite hiking/travel gear I bring everywhere. Everything below is something I currently use and never leave my house without.

  • KEEN Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots: I finally upgraded my hiking boots in 2022 and these are fantastic. They have top-notch ankle support and are super durable.
  • Petzl Tikka Headlamp: A headlamp for hiking is a must if you’re like me and love sunrise hikes. This is a great price for a quality headlamp and also has a good red light to not disturb others in the morning.
  • Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks: I originally got these as a present but I had to buy more because these are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever tried on.
  • Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: You will never have to rebuy plastic water bottles. This is the best water filtering device on the market. It is excellent for hikers and travelers alike.

Day 3: Comuna 13 Tour

One of the most popular activities to do in all of Medellin take a tour of Comuna 13. This area of Medellin use to be one of the most dangerous places neighborhoods in the entire world.

After the violence stopped, Comuna 13 was transformed into a beautiful art district that also offers excellent views of Medellin.

You can also opt for a free walking tour but it is highly encouraged to tip the tour guide.

comuna 13 medellin, 3 week itinerary colombia

Day 4: Explore Parque Arvi

Arvi Park or Parque Arvi is a beautiful National Park that has many hiking trails to explore. It is also very popular to go dirt biking here.

To get to Parque Arvi you will want to head north on the metro from El Poblado and get off at the Acevedo stop. From here you will want to travel on the K line (which is a cable car) to Santo Domingo.

Once again you will transfer cable cars in Santo Domingo to head to Parque Arvi.

Taking this journey is an experience in itself and I highly suggest it. Below are the hours of the park:

  • Monday – Closed
  • Tuesday – 9 am to 6 pm
  • Wednesday – 9 am to 6 pm
  • Thursday – 9 am to 6 pm
  • Friday – 9 am to 6 pm
  • Saturday – 9 am to 6 pm
  • Sunday – 8:30 am to 6 pm

Related Post: 9 Amazing hikes in Medellin

arvi park

Day 5: Day Trip to Guatape

Guatape is a very popular destination in Colombia where the famous La Piedra del Peñol (Guatape Rock) is located. This is commonly taken as a day trip from Medellin as there are many tours to choose from.

Here you will have the opportunity to climb the 700 steps to the top of Guatape rock and take a boat tour of the lake.

This was one of our favorite activities while visiting this area of Colombia.

la piedra del peñol hikes medellin

Day 6: Walk Around Pueblito Paisa

After the busy many busy days of hiking and exploring Medellin, the last day will be a more relaxing one. This won’t take long and you can opt to instead hang out and chill at your accommodation. Pubelito Paisa is a fun and cheap activity to spend your time.

It is a replica of what old towns in Antioquia used to look like. Located on top of Cerro Nutibara (Nutibara Hill), the views alone make the trip worthwhile. Here you will find old churches, cobblestone streets, a museum, and many food options.

pueblito paisa medellin

Day 7: Fly to Santa Marta

This will be your first full travel day in Colombia. You will be flying from Medellin to Colombia. Flights are currently around $45 and the price doesn’t change much at all.

Whereas the bus will be cheaper, it is much longer and not that much cheaper.

We stayed at Viajero Santa Marta when here and we enjoyed it.

Day 8: Camp on Cabo San Juan

Camping on Cabo San Juan in Tayrona National Park was the highlight of my trip to Colombia. This is a pristine national park located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, directly east of Santa Marta.

It is suggested to leave the majority of your luggage at your hostel. This is very normal as many of their guests do this trip.

The hike to Cabo San Juan beach is relatively easy despite the extreme humidity.

Below will be other costs that you will encounter when arriving at El Zaino entrance.

  • The entrance fee is $57,500 COP
  • Mandatory insurance is $5000 COP per day ($10,000 total if camping)
  • $5000 COP to take you to the trailhead
  • $40,000 COP for a regular hammock (paid on the site)
cabo san juan tayrona
cabo san juan hammocks, 3 week itinerary colombia

Day 9: Bus to Minca

This will be your second travel day in Colombia in this 3-week Itinerary. The public transport back to Santa Marta will cost around $8,000 COP. We instead haggled a little bit and split a taxi with 3 people for $30,000 COP total.

After grabbing your luggage from your hostel in Santa Marta, you will then want to choose which transportation method you want to take to Minca. There is the collectivo in the Mercado for $9,000 COP or a taxi which will cost no more than $60,000 COP in total.

Minca is known for its many hikes and waterfalls in the area.

Best Places to Stay in Minca

  • Casa Loma Minca: This hostel is located up a hill just through the downtown area. It has a patio that offers spectacular views of Minca below.
  • Rio Elemento Ecolodge: A little pricier hostel compared to most in Colombia but it makes up for this with its great amenities.
  • Finca Carpe Diem: Farther away from the town than other hostels but that is what makes this place so magical.
ear of the world minca, minca waterfalls, 3 week itinerary colombia

Day 10: Hike to Marinka Waterfalls

Minca is full of adventures around every corner. It is a hidden gem of Colombia and a must-add to your 3-week itinerary.

Marinka Waterfalls is one of the most popular attractions in the area and is super accessible. It does cost money to enter but only $10,000 COP (~$2 USD). This money goes to help keep this area in good condition and I would pay way more to enter this park.

There are two waterfalls that you can access currently. The lower one is the main one that people swim in and relax by.

If you are feeling super adventurous, you can add Cascada Oido del Mundo (Ear of the World) and Los Pinos to this hike.

marinka waterfalls, minca hikes

Day 11: Relax at Pozo Azul

If you chose to add on the other hikes to day 10, you will be very exhausted. What better way than to sit by the famous Pozo Azul waterfalls all day?

These waterfalls are fairly popular due to them being free entry and a short ride from town.

We decided to walk the road up to it but you will see many moto-taxis taking fellow adventurers to this area.

Pozo Azul can become very crowded. If that is the case then there is another set of waterfalls a short climb around the base section.

pozo azul

Day 12: Hike to Cerro Kennedy

The Cerro Kennedy hike was by far my favorite activity that we did in Minca. It is the most unique experience you can find in the area (besides the Lost City Trek).

This is a 2-day adventure where you will be staying up at Hostal Moncho. The hike to this Hostal is around 5 hours.

The people who own this hostal are some of the nicest I met on my trip and the dinner they cooked was one of my favorite meals.

After spending the night here, you can wake up for sunrise and see the nearby mountain range consisting of Pico Cristóbal Colón.

cerro kennedy

Day 13: Travel Back to Santa Marta

After waking up for sunrise and coming back for breakfast, you will want to make your way down Cerro Kennedy and back into town. We hitchhiked when we got to the main road because we had no phone service.

If you don’t want to hitchhike or walk, I would suggest asking the owners of the Hostal to call you a moto-taxi.

Once back in town, grab your luggage from your accommodation and buy a $9,000 COP collectivo ticket back into town. Here you will stay the night and fly out to Pereira the next morning.

Day 14 – Fly to Pereira and Travel to Salento

These past two days are the longest days on this entire 3 week itinerary in Colombia. Try to get some rest in Santa Marta the night before because you are on the home stretch.

Flights seem to be a tiny bit more expensive now than they were when I came but still around $65 USD.

Once you land in Pereira, you will then either have to take a bus or uber down to Salento. Our flight got delayed so we were forced to take an uber. It didn’t cost us much and was a needed break from all of the bussing we’d been doing previously.

Best Places to Stay in Salento

  • Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel: This is where we stayed at. It is a beautiful hostel located perfectly in town. Very quiet and safe. The cleanest hostel I’ve probably ever been in. Highly recommend.
  • Viajero Salento Hostel: This is a chain hostel but is also located in a great spot in Salento. They have a bar for those who like to drink and socialize some more.
  • Yambolombia Hostel: Located a little bit further outside of town, this hostel has more of a traditional feel to it. It is also a lot cheaper than the other options mentioned.
salento town center, 3 week itinerary colombia

Day 15: Visit Valle de Cocora

One of if not the most visited attractions in all of Colombia is the Valle de Cocora. This area is known for its famous extremely tall palm trees.

It is truly a sight to be seen. There are so many of them and they are taller than you could ever imagine.

Getting from Salento to Valle de Cocora is super easy. Go to the city square and find the colorful jeeps. Ask for Valle de Cocora and they will point you in the right direction.

The cost for the jeep ride is $4,000 COP each way.

valle de cocora
cost of travel colombia, 3 week itinerary colombia

Day 16: Hike in the Santa Rita Waterfall Park

Santa Rita waterfall Park is located right outside the town of Salento. You can either walk there or take public transportation. In my guide, I will go over the best route to take if going on foot.

I truly enjoyed every activity on this list but if there was one thing to skip on this 3 week itinerary in Colombia, it would be this.

This park has a few waterfalls to enjoy and is a good day trip.

There are other activities you can do instead such as a coffee tour.

Day 17: Bus to Jardin

The last destination on this 3 week itinerary is my favorite town in all of Colombia, Jardin. This is a quaint little town nestled between Medellin and Salento.

The buildings are colorful and the people are happy. There is so much to do here and I will definitely be back.

Bussing from Salento to Jardin is a long journey but well worth it.

This is in large part due to the rocky roads and hills. In total (including time changing buses) we traveled for 9 hours. Below will be the instructions on how to do this trip.

  • Salento to Riosucio: only one bus per day at 9:45 AM (cost is $38,000 COP)
  • Riosucio to Jardin: This is where you’ll get off your bus and wait for a different one that goes to Jardin.
    • It was on a collective bus with row seating. The worst part was the roads and how bumpy of a ride it was. The cost was $20,000 COP.

Best Places to Stay in Jardin

  • Sgt Pepper’s Hostel: This is the hostel that we stayed at during our time in Jardin. It was a great location and only $10. This included breakfast. I highly recommend staying here.
  • Charco Corazon: A little further outside the city is a laidback hostel. This is an eco-friendly green hostel with chill vibes. It costs $9 to stay here and includes breakfast.
  • La Tángara Hostal Rural: Located even further outside Jardin is a wonderful hostal. This is a little pricier at $16 but includes breakfast. If you want to stay closer to the mountains then I suggest that you stay here.
jardin

Day 18: Hike to Cueva del Esplendor

Cueva del Esplendor is the most unique waterfall that I visited in Colombia. It is a super powerful waterfall that is gushing down a huge hole in a cave’s ceiling.

The hike is long and we actually got lost during the hike. My biggest suggestion would be to download Mapsme and follow the trail for this hike.

We used Wikiloc and it took us the wrong way.

A lot of locals do not suggest doing this hike because it is located on the property of someone and they charge money for the entry. Even with this, I would still highly recommend this hike.

la cueva del esplendor

Day 19: Hike to Cascada la Escalera

Ready your legs because this is the last hike you will be doing before heading home. Cascada la Escalera is the first waterfall of many on this trail.

The other waterfalls are Fall of the Dragon, Cueva de Los Guacharos, and Salto del Angel.

I only made it to the Fall of the Dragon for reasons I regret to this day. I was hiking alone and the trail past the Fall of the Dragon says private property. I chose to not go past this area by myself and instead turned around.

I have heard amazing things about these other waterfalls and if you can make it, they are worth going to.

cascada la escalera

Day 20: Bus to Medellin

Unfortunately, your time in Colombia is coming to an end. It is now time to have 2 days long travel day. The first time is back to Medellin.

In Jardin, you will want to make your way to Rapido Ochoa. I would suggest going very early in the morning to get a ticket at a good time.

The price for a ticket will be around $38,000 COP.

You can also purchase in advance on Redbus.

It is a short 3-hour ride back to Medellin. After arriving you can take an uber or taxi to your hostel to prepare for the flight home the next day.

Day 21: Fly Back Home

This is the last day on our 3 week itinerary in Colombia. Unfortunately, it will be mostly spent on a plane.

I hope you enjoyed this trip to Colombia. This might be different than some other itineraries out there on the web as this is for adventure enthusiasts like myself.

There is so much to see and still do in this amazing country, so we will both have to come back to visit.

cueva del esplendor, 3 week itinerary colombia

Popular Activities in Colombia

Colombia is full of adventures. Whether that be from long boat excursions throughout the Caribbean or seeing some of the world’s tallest palm trees at Valle de Cocora. The cost of travel in Colombia can be as cheap as you want it to be and you’ll see have a blast. Below are some of the most popular activities in Colombia with great tour guides.

Final Thoughts on the 3 week Itinerary in Colombia

Colombia is full of adventure and frankly, more than I ever thought before traveling here myself. I thought it was all party and maybe some hike but boy was I wrong. My goal is to come back here one day to explore a different side of Colombia that I haven’t seen yet. I know there are many more adventures awaiting me.

Thank you for reading my guide on a 3 week itinerary in Colombia. I hope this has helped you plan your trip to this amazing country.