10 days in Colombia is enough time to see all the best bits – if you do it right.

Failure to plan ahead, however, will see you wasting half of your time there. Colombia is a massive country and, while there’s lots to see, you do need to plan your Colombia travel route well to make the most of it. 

With just 10 days, Colombia will simply overwhelm you if you try to see too much. But, given its diversity, you’ll feel like you’ve fitted in more than you could in most destinations. 

Despite its large size, you can see a lot of Colombia in 10 days. This itinerary will guide you through three very different sides of this vast and diverse country, making sure you see all of the best bits along the way.

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10 days Colombia itinerary
 


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Is 10 days in Colombia enough? 

So, what can you expect from 10 days in Colombia? 

When planning a trip to Colombia, my advice is to allow 2-3 days in each destination, plus a day of travel between places. That means that, for a 10-day Colombia trip, you should aim to visit 3-4 places in total. 

I had two priorities for my trip to Colombia: the Caribbean coast and the coffee region. Anything else was a bonus. 

 

Therefore, I decided to fly in and out of two different cities to maximise my time there. Both Medellin and Bogota have lots of international flights, so I would recommend doing the same if you want to see as much as possible. 

Since I only had ten days – and I was taking extra safety precautions as a solo traveller in Colombia – I also decided to fly between destinations. Internal flights in Colombia are frequent and affordable. I took three internal flights during my 10 days in Colombia, and they came to less than $150 USD.


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My 10 day Colombia itinerary

This 10 day Colombia itinerary follows my exact travel route.

When I arrived in Medellin, I started to regret packing so much into a ten day trip. Looking back – and as bold of a statement as this is – I wouldn’t change a thing. 

As a first timer, this was the perfect way to spend ten days in Colombia. I got a taste of three very different regions, and I managed to squeeze in a surprising amount. 

Sure, I still have plenty of places on my Colombia bucket list. But most of those were added while I was there. 

 

You’re never going to be able to see everything on a 10 day trip to Colombia, but this itinerary will help you maximise your time. 

If the flights work better the other way around, you can easily follow it in reverse. Both Medellin and Bogota provide an equally ideal introduction to Colombia, so choose whichever starting point works best for you.


MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA - OCTOBER 10, 2016: Metrocable public transpo


 

Day 1 – Medellin 

I flew into Medellin late at night, then spent my entire first day exploring the city.  Since I arrived late at night, I booked a private airport transfer. This is the one I recommend – and, having tried several, I can’t recommend them enough.

Once you’re there, start your first day in Medellin with the one thing every Colombia trip will be packed with: coffee!

Having taken two tiring flights from Los Angeles, I arrived in Medellin pretty sleepy. This coffee experience, just around the corner from Selina, was a great introduction to Colombia.


READ NEXT: My top tips for surviving long haul flights.


As well as waking me up, I learned about one of the social transformation projects that has been happening in the  city. 

Medellin was once the murder capital of the world, but has more recently been defined by its impressive transformation. Therefore, one of the best ways to experience Medellin is on a tour that shows you some of the incredible things that have been happening in the city. 

 

While you might be tempted to join one of the many Pablo Escobar tours, it was one of the things I would recommend avoiding in Colombia.

Locals suffered at the hands of the infamous drug lord as much as anyone, and most of them would rather focus on the positives that have sprung from the darker times.

Therefore, I recommend taking a transformation tour to see Medellin. This one will highlight the struggles of the people and while showing how they have bounced back. Alternatively, you can learn more about the significant graffiti in Comuna 13 in this tour.

Where to stay in Medellin

The best place to stay in Medellin if you only have a short time is, without doubt, El Poblado .

This central district is one of the safest in the city, with plenty of restaurants and great transport connections. 

I stayed at Selina and it was the perfect base for exploring Medellin for a couple of days. If you prefer a little more luxury, check out Urban Hotel.

 

Streets of Guatapé Colombia
The colourful town of Guatapé Colombia

Day 2 – Day trip from Medellin 

While you could easily spend weeks exploring Medellin, there’s just as much to do outside of the city as there is within it. 

If you want to make the most of your 10 days in Colombia, use your second day in Medellin to get out of the city and see the countryside. 

I was hesitant to take a day trip to Guatapé because it’s a super popular thing to do. Some things are popular for good reason, though, and Guatapé is one such place.

 

Visiting Guatapé was one of the highlights of my 10 day trip to Colombia. It’s also the day I realised this trip would be even more special than I’d anticipated. 

This is the trip I took and I highly recommend it because it offered incredible value for money. Click here to check availability and book.

If you want to explore the Medellin nightlife, this tour will bring you back in time to do so. The El Poblado area has lots of great bars, so you won’t need to look far to find a suitable drinking spot!


A white colonial building in Cartagena Colombia


Day 3 – Transfer to Cartagena 

Catch an early flight to Cartagena, a cute colonial town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The town is a short ride from the airport, so I recommend taking this budget-friendly transfer to maximise time.

The flight from Medellin to Cartagena takes just under an hour, leaving you plenty of time to explore when you arrive.

Check into your hotel and freshen up before heading out. Cartagena is hot and humid, so the late afternoon is a good time to acclimatise. 

 

Again, I stayed at Selina and absolutely loved it. It’s located at the edge of the hip Getsemani neighbourhood – my favourite area in all of Cartagena. However, it’s also only a 5-minute walk from the Old Town gates, meaning you’re perfectly placed for exploring all of the city.

Join a walking tour to get an overview of the city and its unique history, as well as getting your bearings.


A woman preparing arepas in Cartagena Colombia


Day 4 – Cartagena 

Cartagena is the foodie capital of Colombia. So, today is going to be all about experiencing the unique flavours of Colombian food and drink.

I wasn’t even thinking about food when I travelled to Colombia. After all, Colombian food isn’t exactly famous. 

But, when I arrived in Cartagena, I realised how important the food is here. More importantly, I realised how good the food is here. 

There are few things worth seeking out in Cartagena: street food, exotic and drinks. 

You can find out more about each in my Colombia food guide, but I would recommend jumping on a tour or two. The locals have plenty of stories to share along with the facts and history of their food.

 

These tours will cover all of the best bits: 

Start the day with a trip to the bustling Bazurto Market. Here, you’ll see lots of local ingredients and learn about them from vendors, as well as seeing traditional herbs and remedies. After enjoying a traditional lunch at Ceci’s – a restaurant visited by Anthony Bourdain – you’ll head back to Cartagena with plenty of time to explore.

Use the afternoon to sample some of the local fruits. Colombia has lots of unique and unusual fruits to try, and Cartagena is the best place to do it. As well as trying the fruits themselves, make sure you stop by a juice stall or shop to try some of the locals’ favourite concoctions. 

At 4PM, there is a free foodie walking tour – and I highly recommend it. This was one of my favourite things I did in Colombia, and I got to try things I wouldn’t have even known about otherwise. You can sign up here.


boat at islas de rosario colombia

Day 5 – Rosario Islands 

If you’re feeling full and sleepy after a day of eating, you’ll be pleased to know that today will be a relaxing one!

Cartagena is near the beautiful Rosario Islands, so that’s where we’re heading today.

 

It’s impossible to visit the Rosario Islands on a day trip without joining a tour, so you can completely relax today. It’s not the cheapest place to visit but you do get what you pay for. I recommend joining this tour, which offers the best value for money of all the trips.

The Rosario Islands are one of those see-it-to-believe-it places: vivid turquoise waters, white sand beaches and bursting with marine life. The islands are almost all private, so this is the best way to experience them if you’re not staying overnight.


The countryside around Filandia Colombia


Day 6 – Transfer to Quindio 

Today, we’re moving on to yet another region of Colombia: the coffee zone. I hope you’re ready for a big change of scene!

Colombia’s coffee region feels like an entirely different country to the Caribbean coast. As much as I loved the coast, though, the coffee region was the one that captured my heart. It’s so unique and unlike anywhere else.

Getting to Quindo

Getting to the coffee region is the trickiest of all the places on this 10 day Colombia itinerary. However, it’s more than worth the effort. 

 

To get to the Quindio region, you’ll need to fly into either Pereira or Armenia airport. The distance is about the same, so I recommend choosing the easiest flight from Cartagena (or Bogota, if you’re following this Colombia itinerary in reverse).

From the airport, Quindio is a 45-60 minute drive. You can take a taxi, but I’d recommend asking your accommodation to send a transfer if you can. This was the one place where somebody tried to rip me off and, after some heated struggles with my taxi driver, I would recommend avoiding them altogether.

If you’re flying into Pereira, you can book a transfer to Salento online. If you’re continuing elsewhere, you can then take a Jeep once you arrive in Salento.


READ NEXT: 9 mistakes to avoid while travelling Colombia.


Now, the beady-eyed among you may have noticed that we have to pass Medellin to get to Pereira or Armenia. I realise this seems totally illogical. And, while you could certainly fly into Cartagena and make Medellin your second stop, I would do it this way again.

Not only does Medellin have more international flights, but it’s also a great city for easing into Colombia.

Cartagena is much more humid, much more touristy and, in my experience, more chaotic. While it has its own unique history, it’s better to learn about Colombia in one of its two largest cities first. It will add much more context for the rest of your trip.


Selina hostel in Filandia Quindio Colombia
My accommodation in Filandia was my favourite of all the places I stayed in Colombia.

Where to stay in the Quindio region of Colombia

Once again, I stayed at Selina. In the Quindio region, the Selina is about 20km to the west of the area’s main tourist town, Salento. Sitting just outside the town of Filandia, it turned out to be the perfect spot for enjoying the Colombian countryside.

While it meant I wasn’t in the heart of things, my choice to stay in Filandia gave me a much more authentic experience. The town is pretty much free of tourists, yet still super close to the buzzing town of Salento. Surrounded by nature reserve and social initiatives, it’s also a  much better spot for anyone passionate about ecotourism in Colombia.

 

The main church in Filandia Colombia


Day 7 – Filandia 

I could spend an entire week in Filandia. But, with only 10 days in Colombia in total, you’ll want to limit yourself to one day.

There’s plenty to do here, so you’ll have no problem filling your time. 

Start your day with the must-do activity in the region: a coffee farm tour. I took the Filandia Nativa tour and it exceeded all the (outrageously high) expectations I had. It’s not often that happens.

As well as learning about the entire coffee process – and getting to try some! – you’ll also hike to the secret double waterfalls and see an impressive bamboo forest. 

The tour ends in Filandia, which is perfect for exploring. Head to Helena Adentro for lunch to try some innovative takes on traditional local dishes. This unique restaurant is gaining a reputation in Colombia, and it was certainly a highlight of my entire Colombia trip.

 

If you love nature, I highly recommend taking a tour of the Barbas-Bremen reserve. If you love wildlife, nature and hiking, it may be the best thing you do in Colombia.

This little-known area is a complete hidden gem. Here, you can see (and hear!) howler monkeys, as well as learning about the endemic plants and learning about the unique jungle ecosystem here.

If you’ve had enough hiking for one day, there’s still plenty to do in the town of Filandia. Head to Mirador for epic views, accompanied by plenty of history about the entire region.


A white house with colonial style balcony in the old town of Salento Colombia
Colombia’s coffee region is full of colourful small towns.

Day 8 – Salento and Cocora Valley

No trip to the coffee region would be complete without visiting the Cocora Valley (Valle de Cocora)

You’ll want to get up early for this one. The only way to get around this region is in one of the old Jeep Willy’s. It’s a fun and unique experience, meaning the journey to the Cocora Valley is all part of the fun. 

The Jeep Willy’s leave Filandia’s main square for Salento at 8:40AM, 9:40AM and 10:40AM. I recommend taking the very first one of the day because you’re going to need to take a second Jeep when you get to Salento. When you hop off there, you’ll see a booth selling tickets for the journey to the Cocora Valley.

Altogether, the journey from Filandia to the Cocora Valley takes around one hour and fifteen minutes, switching halfway in Salento. As I said, it’s really part of the experience and I enjoyed it as much as the valley itself!

 

When you arrive at the Cocora Valley, simply follow the crowds along the dirt path. After a short while, you’ll reach a booth selling entry tickets. 

There are two options at Cocora Valley: a short trail that takes 1-2 hours and a longer one that takes 4+ hours. Unless you’re an avid hiker, I recommend sticking to the short one. This will give you more time to enjoy the town of Salento afterwards.

Spend some time strolling the streets, soaking up the cute buildings and buzzing local life. While you’re here, don’t forget to sample the town’s speciality – river trout – too. It’s incredible!

If you didn’t spend time in Filandia’s town yesterday, you might want to split this afternoon between both Salento and Filandia. Otherwise, take your time and enjoy some of Salento’s viewpoints.


A solo female traveller at Colombia's Cocora Valley
The Cocora Valley

Day 9 – Transfer to Bogota 

After two jam-packed days in the coffee region, it’s time to head to our final stop on this Colombia itinerary: Bogota.

Once again, I recommend booking an airport transfer. This is the one I highly recommend – they’re professional, punctual and super affordable.

Colombia’s sprawling capital is a complete change of scene from the quaint coffee region. Once again, I recommend catching an early flight out of Pereira or Armenia to make the most of your short time there.

 

If you have time, spend the afternoon getting to know the city on a tour. Given the city’s love of cycling and many bike paths, a bike tour like this one is the best way to experience Bogota.

I stayed at Selina yet again in Bogota – and also loved it. Selina has three locations in the city. I stayed at the Parque de la 93 branch because I wanted to stay in a safe, upmarket area where I could walk around alone.

However, if I went back again, I would definitely stay in the La Candelaria Selina for its proximity to all the main attractions.


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Day 10 – Bogota 

My flight out of Bogota left at 11.30PM, giving me most of the day to explore. If you have another night here, you’ll have plenty of options for filling the extra time.

One place you absolutely have to visit on a trip to Bogota is the gold museum. I’m not usually a big fan of museums, but this one is impressive. It’s a great way to understand yet another face of Colombia and how it became the country it is today.

Afterwards, it’s just a short stroll to the colourful old town: La Candelaria. Here, you’ll find busy squares, cute coffee shops and plenty of churches. It’s super photogenic, but be careful if you take a phone or camera out – this area is notorious for its higher crime rates.


RELATED READ: How to ensure your camera is protected while travelling.


If you’re not interested in the city itself, there are also several great day trips you can take from Bogota. The most popular is the famous salt cathedral in Zipaquirá. 

If you want to visit the famous salt cathedral (and have time!), this half day tour includes both the cathedral and all the must-visit spots in Bogota. 

 

A local man in the forest in Filandia Colombia


If you have 9 days in Colombia or less

10 days in Colombia is a good amount of time for seeing a varied mix of regions. If you have less than ten days, though, you’ll struggle to fit in more than 2-3 places in total. 

 

If you only have 9 days in Colombia or less, you have two options:

  1. Cut out one of the four destinations on this list. If you do this, you won’t be able to start or end in the coffee region. Therefore, consider flying in or out of Cartagena and using one of the two big cities as the other end point. Of the two, I would definitely choose Medellin. 
  2. Focus on one area. Every region of Colombia has plenty more to explore beyond this 10 day itinerary. You could easily spend a week or two exploring any of the four regions included in this Colombia itinerary, and may be better exploring one more thoroughly if you’re short on time. If I had to choose one area, I would focus on the coffee region, flying in and out of Medellin and transferring to the region by bus. This way, you’ll also have time for day trips from Medellin and can include the town of Jardín on the way to the coffee region.

Colourful houses in Filandia, Colombia
Filandia: My favourite town in Colombia.

If you have two weeks in Colombia (or more)

If you have a full two weeks in Colombia and want to adapt this itinerary, I would recommend making these adjustments:

Spend an entire day in the Cocora Valley and another day in Salento. This Colombia itinerary squeezes the two into one day to save time, but an extra day would allow you time to enjoy the longer hike in Cocora Valley.

Spend an extra day in Filandia. Did I mention that I LOVE Filandia? For nature lovers, there’s so much to do here. An extra day will be easy to fill with hiking, bird watching or simply relaxing by the pool.

 

Take another day trip from Medellin. There are lots of great day trips from Medellin. I included Guatapé in this Colombia itinerary because it was such a fantastic experience. If you have longer, you could also fit in an adventure-filled day at La Ceja nature reserve or a day of rafting on the Rio Verde.

Spend a night or two on the Rosario Islands. The Rosario Islands are a little slice of paradise. If you have time, spend a night or two rather than simply taking a day trip from Cartagena and check in to one of the many ecohotels.


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How to spend 10 days in Colombia