Jun 07

One Week Colombia Itinerary: Bogotá and Cartagena

cartagena colombia itinerary

 

Colombia travel has changed dramatically over the 5-or-so years that we’ve been working as a Colombia travel blog – back in 2011 when we started blogging about this country most people travelling in Colombia were here backpacking, taking their time and moving around the country for at least 2-4 weeks at a time, often with no set itinerary. These days Colombian travel is becoming more accessible, and as the reputation of the country improves more people are coming to explore Colombia on their holidays rather than as part of some epic Latin American backpacking adventure.

One big change has been the increasingly cheap and simple flights coming to Colombia from the USA. These days a return flight to Colombia for one week can set you back as little as US$300-400, making a one-week Colombia vacation an increasingly appealing prospect. But what to do in one week in Colombia? There’s so much to do that it can be hard to decide, so why not let us give you some ideas for one week Colombia travel itineraries? Over the next few weeks we’ll be putting together a series of these one week Colombia travel itineraries to help you plan your Colombian vacation. In my view, to get the best out of your trip and not rush too much, it’s best to focus on 2 destinations and the surrounding areas, so each itinerary will focus on 2 places (feel free to mix and match).

NOTE: these itineraries are jam-packed by deliberate design – there’s a lot to experience in the cities covered and, in just one week, there’s limited time to experience it all! Therefore we’ve tried to include lots of activities on every day covered – obviously you can chop-and-change and mix-and-match. These one week Colombia itineraries are simply meant as suggestions to make sure you get the most out of your trip and are able to experience the real diversity of Colombia.

So here’s our first one week Colombia itinerary: Bogotá and Cartagena…Click on any of the links for more information (booking, prices etc.) of the places listed below…

Day 1: Arrival in Bogotá and La Candelaria

Arrive in Bogotá (ideally in the morning to maximise your time if possible), and head to your hotel/hostel: I’d recommend staying in the old town of La Candelaria for a short visit, as it’s closer to most of the activities I’d recommend. For hostels my top tip is Fernweh Photography Hostel, an excellent and comfortable new hostel in the heart of the old town, with amazing beds and a fantastic social area. If you prefer a hotel then try the highly-recommended Orchids Hotel. If you get in in time for lunch then try the delicious menu at Saint Just. Spend the afternoon enjoying the nearby attractions of La Candelaria: the Botero Museum, Gold Museum and the nice atmosphere on Chorro de Quevedo square. Then make your way to the cable-car station at Montserrate at about 4:30pm – take a ride up the mountain for panoramic views over the vast city, and you can also enjoy the sunset and the sight of the city lighting up below you. For dinner head over to the nearby bohemian neighbourhood of La Macarena for dinner at Tabula (Anthony Bourdain’s top restaurant pick for Bogotá), and drinks in a nearby bar.

 

El Chorro
El Chorro, Bogotá: today`s Chicha Capital.

 

Day 2: Bogotá Graffiti Tour and Paloquemao Market

Grab a hearty and filling breakfast burrito and a delicious cup of expertly prepared Colombian coffee at the newly opened Papaya Gourmet restaurant and Contraste Coffee Lab on your walk directly down from the hostel to the Plaza de los Periodistas for the 10am start of the Bogotá Graffiti Tour – this excellent tour takes you on a good guided walk of the old town whilst introducing you to the diverse and incredible range of street art that Bogotá has to offer, all led by some truly expert graffiti guides. Then jump in a cab to Paloquemao food market further into the west of the city. Hopefully you’ve still got post-burrito stomach space, ’cause now’s the time to eat! Paloquemao can be a bit overwhelming, so just wander round and let your stomach do the guiding! I’d recommend the lechona pork at the small stand by the loading bay, the fish stew at ‘Primo’s’ restaurant behind the dried flowers section, and one of the many fruit stalls all over the market to sample some of the wonderful variety of Colombian fruits on offer. If it all seems a bit overwhelming then check out the Bogotá Foodie’s guided tour of the market. In the evening grab a cab up to Chapinero neighborhood and have a delicious dinner at the incredibly hip restaurant Salvo Patria, then grab a delicious craft beer at Statua Rota bar just down the road.

Day 3: Day-trip to Zipaquira/La Chorrera Waterfall/Coffee Farm

I’m going to give you multiple options here, because it’s almost impossible to anticipate what all traveller’s will be into. The three options I’m using here are designed to appeal to a broader range of tastes. Either take a trip north of Bogotá to the salt cathedral of Zipaquira if you fancy seeing a unique piece of ‘architecture’ and a really unusual local icon, join Bogotá & Beyond for a hike through some lovely Colombian rural landscapes to visit La Chorrera, the country’s highest waterfall, or take a tour south of the city with Andes EcoTours to experience the coffee farms of the Cerro del Quinini. The latter of these trips is the longest day out, but all are worth doing, and I’d highly recommend choosing one for your third and final day in Bogotá.

 

La Chorrera Waterfall Colombia
Getting wet at La Chorrera: less than 2 hours from Bogota!

 

Day 4: Flight to Cartagena and explore the Walled City

A combined trip to Bogotá and Cartagena is a nice slice of two different sides of Colombia (plus it’s easy to fly direct to or from both cities to the States meaning you don’t have to return to Bogotá at the end of your trip to get home) – take a morning flight from the capital to the Caribbean and the city they call the ‘Jewel of the Indies.’ For a place to stay there are almost an overwhelming number of options: the best hostel options are clustered around the increasingly hip Getsemani neighborhood just outside the old Walled City – I would recommend either Hostel Mamallena (if you fancy a party place), Volunteer Hostel Cartagena (if you want your money to go to a good cause), or Papaya Hostal Getsemani (for a top location just off the buzzing main square). For a slightly higher budget the best boutique-style hostels are clustered around the old Walled City – I would highly recommend Casa India Catalina: I have stayed here twice with family and found it to be a lovely, calm and intimate little hotel, just blocks from the main squares of the city, with a delightful little swimming pool. Once you’ve arrived and checked-in, then spend the afternoon wandering the streets of the Old Town, pausing to enjoy a few cold beers on the main squares, and popping into museums and galleries as they take your fancy. Or, if you fancy something with more direction take a Free Tour of Cartagena (tips please!). Freshen up for dinner and head over to La Cevicheria, a nice little restaurant with outdoor seating and some of the best seafood in the city, without the crazy prices and staid atmosphere (plus, as above, Anthony Bourdain loved it here!). Once you’re done with dinner head over to Donde Fidel Salsa Club – this is Cartagena’s most iconic salsa bar, always tightly packed with locals, with excellent salsa blaring out in the intimate little space.

 

la cevicheria cartagena
Dinner at La Cevicheria

 

Day 5: Castillo de San Felipe, Bazurto Market and Champeta Tour

On your first full day in Cartagena you can start the day by continuing to enjoy wandering around the Walled City (it’s especially wonderful between 6-7am as the city is remarkably peaceful before the street vendors start working and the tourists wake up!), stopping for a morning coffee and book-browse at the lovely (and air-conditioned!) Abaco Cafe and Bookshop, and then heading out (the earlier the better to avoid the heat!) to San Felipe Castle for some history and panoramic views of Cartagena’s old and new cities. Then, around lunchtime, take a tour with some edge: a visit to Cartagena’s crazy and hectic food market, Bazurto, with Cartagena Insider by FEM tour company. This tour offers an off-the-beaten-track side of Cartagena which most tourists rarely see. Once you finish your tour, stick around the nearby Getsemani neighborhood for a casual stroll, taking in the incredible street-art for which Getsemani is rightly becoming famous. For dinner tonight try one of the restaurants cluttered around the main square of Getsemani, then it’s time to don your dancing shoes again! Book a tour with the same company who took you to Bazurto to learn how to dance Champeta with local dancers. Champeta is a traditional African-influenced Colombian music, native to the region – it’s a great experience to actually be taught to dance by a Colombian champeta dancer, and definitely one to tell your friends about!

 

san felipe castle cartagena
The panorama from the castle

 

Day 6 – Day-trip from Cartagena: San Basilio de Palenque, Rosario Islands, La Boquilla Mangroves or Totumo Volcano

Dedicate your final full day to a day trip outside Cartagena – we have a full-length blog post of the best day-trips from Cartagena for extra inspiration. It really depends on your preferences here to be honest: you can do a day-trip to one of the Rosario Islands for some beach time (although I would strongly recommend avoiding the budget Playa Blanca boat-trips – they tend to pack people in and rush around too many places); visit the Totumo Mud Volcano for that ‘weird travel experiences’ vibe; get up early and tour the Boquilla Mangrove swamps for wildlife and excellent birdwatching; or, my personal favorite and top recommendation, head an hour south into the interior of the region to San Basilio de Palenque – a UNESCO-protected heritage site, where the ancestors of escaped slaves still live, preserving many African traditions (including a unique language), and the place where diverse musical forms like champeta were invented. It’s a truly off-the-beaten-track and fascinating day-trip, perfect for anyone with a strong interest in culture and music. Once you’re back from your trip enjoy some aperitif cocktails on the walls of the Old Town at Cafe del Mar. Then, assuming you don’t get too drunk there, head out for dinner – it’s almost impossible to pick a top recommendation for restaurants in Cartagena: check out this list for some inspiration. If you aren’t too exhausted from your day-tripping then dance your final night away at Bazurto Social Club (open Thursday to Saturday) or Cafe Havana (Thursday-Saturday).

 

Sexteto de Tabala
Meeting legendary Rafael Cassiani Cassiani of the Sexteto de Tabala in San Basilio de Palenque

 

Day 7 – Time to go home…

It’s your final day! Depending on your flight time, wither use the time you have to enjoy a final lazy stroll around the Old Town, or get up, have some brekkie, and head to the airport. You’re finally saying goodbye to Colombia (don’t fret, you’ll be back!), but, with this one week Colombia itinerary, you won’t be able to say you didn’t make the most of your week in Colombia! And if you have any more questions about your one week Colombia itinerary then please get in touch via the comment section. Happy travels!

Chris

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6 thoughts on “One Week Colombia Itinerary: Bogotá and Cartagena

  1. Mayra on

    Getsemani is No out of the old city. Is part of the walled city

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Mayra, thanks for your comment. I probably should have been clearer in the post: Getsemani definitely is within the walls of the older neighbourhoods of Cartagena, but it is generally defined – at least for hotel purposes – as not being in the “Walled City”, as in the more upmarket and expensive neighbourhoods within the entrance at the Torre del Reloj (i.e. Centro and San Diego). I will edit the post to clarify this difference. Thanks 🙂

      Reply
  2. Natalia on

    Great itinerary Chris, thank you. It’s a bit disappointing travellers are often advised to stay only around the historical center of the city, because apart from seeing all the museums, they should really see the life of the rest of the city, how people live and where locals go. Especially in Bogotá. I think a nice idea is to explore some places around the north such as Park 93, Zona T to see that not all Bogota is like the center. I understood that you aren’t a big fan of fancy places, but I think people should have more diverse options, for example they could go to the Club Colombia restaurant in calle 82 , to hang out in a different neighbourhood 🙂 I understand that the time is limited but in my opinion, if people only stay in Candelaria, they have a distorted impression of Bogota.

    Reply
  3. Yana on

    Hello! Love this itinerary. Wondering if you think it is too much to do Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena in about 9 days? I only ask because of the flights. Is it a hassle? I know the flights are short. Looking for some best practices around this and how many nights in each are suitable. Please and thank you!!

    Reply
  4. Sonia Giles on

    I would add to your Bogota tour the Botanical gardens & the Military Museum – the gardens are absolutely beautiful (especially the greenhouse) and the museum gives a real insight into the history of Colombia. Cartagena is on our list for our next trip.

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Sonia,

      Thanks for your comment. I absolutely agree about the botanical gardens in particular, they make a lovely half-day trip on a visit to Bogota. The time limitations of a 3-day itinerary forced me to drop some things I would highly recommend sadly. Enjoy Cartagena, it’s a magical place to visit 🙂

      Chris

      Reply

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