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  • Foto do escritorDanae Bianco

The best of Colombia in 12 days - our complete itinerary

Atualizado: 20 de fev.

I had been planning to visit Colombia for a long time, but, you know how things are, an opportunity arises, friends invite you to visit them in another country, a pandemic emerges... It was only in 2022 that we were able, for the first time, to set foot in this amazingSouth American country.

Playa los Naranjos, next to Parque Nacional Tayrona
Playa los Naranjos, next to Parque Nacional Tayrona



We had only a few days there, so we wanted to make the most of them.

For those who live in the US, Canadá or Brazil, Colombia may seem like a small country, but it's a huge country. There are so many cool places to visit, incredible landscapes, charming historic towns, bustling metropolis, dreamy beaches and - as is often the case in all large countries - a lot of time and logistics involved in getting from one place to another.

With a lot of cool things to see and do, amazing places to visit, incredible landscapes, charming historic towns, bustling metropolis, dreamy beaches and - as is often the case in all big countries - a lot of time and logistics involved in getting from one place to another, we decided to focus on a few locations to avoid long car journeys or or endless hours lost at airports. There will be other opportunities (and there's no shortage of desire or interest) to go back and explore what was left out this time.

Our itinerary involved 3 locations: Bogotá, Cartagena, and Santa Marta/Tayrona Park. With the exception of the stretch between Cartagena and the Tayrona, we did the rest by plane.

Islas del Rosario, Cartagena, Colombia. Turquoise blue sea
Is it possible for the water be so blue? Islas del Rosario

Colombia 12 day itinerary overview:

Day 1 - Arrival in Bogota, lunch, explore Parque de la 93 region

Day 2 - Historic Center of Bogota

Day 3 - Bike tour or Zipaquira Salt Cathedral

Day 4 - Morning in the Parque de la 93 region, afternoon flight to Cartagena

Day 5 - Cartagena

Day 6 - Cartagena

Day 7 - Day-tour to Islas del Rosario

Day 8 - Drive to Tayrona National Park, rest of the afternoon at the hotel's beach

Day 9 - Tayrona National Park

Day 10 - Tayrona National Park

Day 11 - Morning enjoying the hotel, afternoon going to Santa Marta and flight to Bogotá

Day 12 - Morning at Bogota, afternoon flight to our next destination


We were in São Paulo, Brazil, and there are direct dayly flights to Bogotá by Avianca, which connects Colombia with several cities in the world, mainly in the Americas and Europe.

It was super easy to fly with Avianca - we had flown before when we went to Costa Rica and Curaçao.

From São Paulo to Bogotá, it's a 6-hour direct flight. The only inconvenience is the flight departure times, which depart in the middle of the night - of course, this wasn't an obstacle for us.

Bogota historical center


Despite being located very close to the equator, Bogotá is at an altitude of 2,600 meters, which gives it a mild climate all year round. We were there in January - summer in the southern hemisphere (although Bogotá is located in the northern hemisphere) and it was a pleasant temperature, sunny and mildly hot during the day, but that pleasant chill in the early morning and at night.

Where to stay in Bogotá

Our proposal for the days we stayed there was to enjoy the city and local life. We wanted to know what it's like to live in the city, moving away from the typical tourist areas. After searching the internet, we decided on the northern area of the city - Chapinero, Chicó and Parque de la 93.

We stayed at Hotel Estelar Parque de la 93. Excellent hotel. Close to several restaurants, bars, shops, cafes, and a very pleasant neighborhood. Overall, we loved it. It was perfect for what we were looking for: to relax and enjoy the city in peace.

If you prefer to stay in the central & historical area, a region that is very popular with tourists is Barrio La Candelaria. An option that friends have recommended in this region and that seemed good to me is Hotel Casa Deco.

Check out rates and availability here:

What to do in Bogota

We stayed 2 full days and 2 half days in Bogotá: we arrived around lunchtime on one day, stayed for two more days, and on the last day we left for the airport also around noon.

Here's the complete post with everything about what to do in Bogotá - what to do, where to eat, what to eat, tours close to Bogotá and much more. It is worth checking!

Doors of Cartagena - There's a really cool reels with this project on our Instagram, check it out: @danae_explore


How to get to Cartagena

We took a quick 1.5-hour flight from Bogotá to Cartagena, flying with VivaAir (now bankrupt!), a local low cost aircompany. Cartagena's airport is conveniently located near the town, and we opted for a taxi upon arrival.

Where to stay in Cartagena de Indias

For our Cartagena stay, we decided to switch things up and booked an Airbnb instead of a hotel (as in Bogota and in Tayrona we stayed in hotels). We wanted more space, and the option to do laundry (as we only travel with a suitcase, washing clothes while on the road is a must).

We found a lovely apartment in Edificio Santo Domingo, which was located in the historic town and just a stone's throw away from the city walls. The apartment was perfect for our family of four, and provided easy access to the famous Cafe del Mar.

For more accommodation suggestions in Cartagena old town, check out our post about what to do in Cartagena or check a list of accomodations here.

To get a better view of all the range of accomodation in Cartagena, this can help you:

Cartagena scenes

How to get around in Cartagena de Indias

If you're staying in the Old Town (historic center), you can do everything on foot. The historical part of town is small and pleasant, and Getsemani - the other historic neightborhood of Cartagena, is also very close and a nice place to walk around, get a coffee and an ice cream and, of course, snap lots of pictures. We walked everywhere and we covered a lot of ground, under the merciless sun and with temperatures above 30ºC the whole time.

What to do in Cartagena de Indias

It's worth noting that Cartagena does not have any beaches within the town itself, despite its location on the edge of the Caribbean. The sea can be rough, and there are only a few places with small stretches of sand. During our drive to and from the airport, we observed that these small beach areas were typically crowded with chairs, umbrellas, and people. Furthermore, the water didn't look particularly appealing - quite a contrast to the idyllic image we have of the Caribbean.

We spent three and a half days in Cartagena: the late afternoon of the day we arrived, three full days (including one dedicated to going to Islas del Rosario), and on the last day, after breakfast, we got the rental car to go to the Tayrona National Park.

In this post, I share in details everything we did in Cartagena, what we enjoyed and what we dn't like. Check it out!

Playa Los Naranjos, next to Tayrona National Park
Playa Los Naranjos, next to Tayrona National Park


How to get to Tayrona National Park

On our day in Cartagena, we rented a car from Localiza branch near the airport and drove to Parque Nacional Tayrona, which is about 250 km east - or more than 4 hours by car, not counting the lunch stop.

We had lunch on Isla de Rosario (not to be confused with Islas del Rosario near Cartagena; this one is between Barranquilla and Santa Marta) at the rustic but delicious and beautifully located Restaurante Popeye El Marino. However, please note that this restaurant is in a very poor area, which seemed to us the most precarious of all the way between Cartagena and Tayrona.

Where to Stay Near Tayrona National Park

The main town close to Tayrona National Park is Santa Marta, where there are several accommodation options for all styles and budgets. However, it's worth noting that it takes around an hour to drive from the center of Santa Marta to the park entrance, covering a distance of approximately 40km. Although it's an easy journey, we wanted to enjoy the beach, the hotel and the park, so I looked for options close to the park entrance to make the most of our time on the beach and explore the surrounding area.

We stayed at Casa Maloka, one of the accommodation options within Finca Barlovento. I cannot emphasize enough how fantastic the location of this guesthouse is. Situated at the mouth of the Piedras River, which marks the boundary of the Tayrona National Park area, the inn is practically located on the beach. Another option in the complex, Casa Barlovento, is literally built above the rocks where the waves break. The inn itself is simple but comfortable and cozy. The balcony overlooking the river and the sea is sensational, and the restaurant on-site serves delicious food with attentive staff. The pool, in the middle of the woods, is delightful, and there's a spa (which we didn't use).

Overall, this was the best accommodation experience of the trip and one of the best we've had in recent times. If I we were to return to Colombia, I would certainly stay at this place again.

Despite my recommendation for Casa Maloka (and dreaming of going back there), you can check out other options here

Tayrona National Park, hike to Cañaveral & Cabo San Juan del Guia

What to do in Tayrona National Park

If you're a fan of nature and adventure, and want to experience some stunning beaches, then Tayrona is definitely worth a visit. The park stretches from the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Caribbean coast and encompasses beaches, forests, desert areas, and mountain ranges. While we only explored the areas close to the coast, there is so much more to see.

One of the best things about visiting Tayrona National Park was getting the chance to go on some amazing hikes. One of our favorite hikes was the one from Canaveral to Cabo San Juan del Guia. This trail takes you through lush forests, rocky cliffs, and some of the most breathtaking beaches we've ever seen. While the hike wasn't too difficult, it was quite long with some steep sections and uneven terrain. But it was totally worth it! Our kids, who were 9 and 10 at the time, complained a bit along the way, but they handled it like champs and made it through to the end.

The views were absolutely stunning, and the final destination at Cabo San Juan del Guia was a gorgeous beach with crystal clear waters. We spent some time relaxing, swimming, and taking in the natural beauty of the park. One piece of advice though - make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and wear comfortable shoes for the hike. I made the mistake of wearing my Havainas flip flops, which ended up getting ruined on the last beach, leaving me to walk all the way back barefoot!

We spent two three days in the park and in this post I share all the details on how to visit Tayrona National Park in Colombia describe our experience in detail in this post.

How to get from Tayrona National Park to Bogota

On the last day, we left the hotel early towards Santa Marta, had lunch and headed towards the airport.

We returned the rental car at the Santa Marta airport - there was an extra fee for returning the car at different location, but we did the math and it was the only way not to lose a day of travel, in addition to not spending a night accommodation + fuel + food.

We flew to Bogota by VivaAir, a local lowcost airline (now bankrupt), the flight left at 4:30 pm and landed in Bogotá at 5:57 pm.

The next day we took an Aviança flight to Orlando, USA - it's a 3:30 direct flight, easy and fast.

And this is the end of our 12 day Colombia jourrney, hope you liked our itinerary and if you have any question, please comment below and don't forget to follow us on social media:

Instagram @danae_explore

Pinterest @danaeexplore

Sunset at Casa Maloka balcony, near Tayrona National Park
Sunset at Casa Maloka balcony, near Tayrona National Park

And don't forget to save these pins on your Pinterest board, so you can easily find this post with the best intinerary for 12 days in Colombia!

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