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From tropical Amazon jungle to Caribbean beaches, the Andean Mountains and the world’s largest bird population (almost 2,000), it’s time you visited Colombia, the second-most biodiverse country on the planet after Brazil. Tucked into the northwest corner of South America, its warm and friendly people are more than ready for visitors after its 52-year civil war officially ended in 2016, meaning it is now safe and welcoming to travelers.
TPG himself, Brian Kelly, just visited Colombia, as documented on his new vlog series, Being The Points Guy.
The three major hubs are the Andean capital of Bogotá; Medellín, surrounded by coffee country; and Cartagena de Indias, a beautiful colonial city that fuses laidback Caribbean vibes with a curious array of high-rise contemporary architecture. Colombia’s mixed heritage, which includes European, Afro-Colombian and indigenous influences, means you could easily be visiting cities in three different countries.
The Best Times to Visit Colombian Cities
The Best Times to Visit Cartagena
While most of Colombia is located in the northern hemisphere, it doesn’t necessarily mean that seasons apply. Sitting on the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena de Indias’ weather is hot and very humid all year, with an average temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit. “Dry season, December through April, is high season. And it gets particularly sticky between June and September, which is when many locals escape and the city is a lot quieter,” guide Kristy Ellis of Cartagena Connections told The Points Guy. Given that Cartagena is a prime cruise-ship stop-off, expect to find the beautiful, colonial old town to be bustling with visitors at any given moment. The good news is that you’re not competing with cruise-ship passengers for hotel rooms.
The Best Times to Visit Bogotá
At around 8,660 feet above sea level, the city of Bogotá can experience a few weather fronts in a single day; its average, year-round, top temperature is 66 degrees Fahrenheit. It cools down to 48 degrees come nightfall, so always go out with a coat. And, while the mountainous city is prone to frequent showers, the least rainy period is between January and March. Given the altitude, accept coca leaf tea when offered, which can help keep altitude sickness at bay.
The Best Times to Visit Medellín
Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild, year-round temperatures, the peak season in Medellín (whose leafy streets are buoyed by the chubby works of sculptor Fernando Botero) is also between January and March — and when flights and hotel room prices soar. December is low season, though Christmas light excitement might indicate otherwise.
When to Visit Colombia for Events
Every January, Cartagena hosts the Hay Festival, which specializes in literature, a fitting tribute to Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez, the famous Colombian son who made the coastal city his home. In the days before Easter, don feathers and an abundance of glitter for the fabulously flamboyant four-day Barranquilla Carnival, a 90-minute drive from Cartagena, which gives Rio a run for its money.
Colombia’s floral home, every August, Medellín hosts the seven-day Flower Festival, where cultivators parade their petaled beauties through the streets. Should you be visiting over the Christmas vacation, the seasonal lights are a sight for sore eyes.
Culture vultures should make a beeline to the capital in late March for the biannual Ibero-American Theater Festival. The world’s largest of its kind, more than 900 productions are shown over the two-week duration. Bogotá is also known for its music fests (Rock in the Park, for example, takes place in Parque Simón Bolívar every summer) and its own Carnival, when revelers dancing to salsa and cumbia rhythms fill its streets.
The Best Times to See Wildlife in Colombia
The Best Time to See Turtles
Turtles head to Bahía Solano on the Pacific Coast to lay eggs September through December, a wonderful close-up of nature that takes places during evenings.
The Best Time to See Birds
Any time is a fantastic opportunity for spotters to spy on some of Colombia’s 1,920 bird species, which includes 160 types of hummingbird: 73 of those are considered endemic. Other avi-fauna draws include the Andean cock-of-the-rock, which makes cloud forests its home, and the Amazon-dwelling green-backed trogon.
The Best Time to See Whales
Humpback whales travel 5,500 miles to take up residency off Colombia’s Pacific coastline July through December, to mate and calf. It’s a wonderful destination for enthusiastic whale watchers.
The Cheapest Times to Visit Colombia
Depending on where you are traveling to in Colombia, flights are usually priciest during peak season. If you need to keep an eye on your budget, wait for off-peak season, which varies between cities and regions.
Easter is a prime vacation time for Colombians, with many taking the entire week off, spelling a brief high season all over the country.
As Cartagena is a tourist magnet all year, it might be cheaper to fly a major airline such as Avianca, Copa (both part of the Star Alliance), or LATAM (part of the OneWorld alliance) to Bogotá, then connect to Cartagena or Medellín with a budget airline such as Viva. The US legacy carriers all have flights to Bogotá, too.
A favorite destination for backpackers as well as cruise-ship passengers, Cartagena offers an array of accommodation to suit all budgets, starting with $5-a-night hammocks on Isla Barú, a 90-minute boat ride, for a legit Robinson Crusoe experience. There’s also an array of affordable hostels and hotels in the hip Getsemani neighborhood. While Zona Rosa is the heart and soul of Bogotá’s nightlife scene, stay in La Candelaría, the capital’s colonial gem of a district, for a variety of budget hotels. As for Medellín, El Poblado neighborhood is the best place to pitch up, thanks to its lively nightlife scene and assortment of accommodation.
Featured photo by ricardo gomez / Unsplash.
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