25 Days in Colombia


For as long as I can remember, I had wanted to go to South America. About a year ago, I realized there would be an opportunity to go in 2022 after I graduated from college. My friend Gabe decided to go with me, and after much saving, preparation, and Spanish practice, we left the United States and spent 25 days in Colombia.

About Colombia:

As I quickly realized on my trip, Colombia is a remarkably beautiful country. One publication ranked Colombia as the third most beautiful country in the world — after just New Zealand and Indonesia (1) — and it’s not hard to see why. Colombia has, among many other things, both Pacific and Atlantic coasts, cloud forests, high Andean peaks, and the Amazon rainforest. Colombia has more biodiversity per unit area than any country on Earth, and ranks second, just behind Brazil, in total biodiversity (2). Colombia is so remarkable, that after spending nearly a month traveling across the country, I feel I have just scratched the surface. During my time there, I frequently said that for every one place I visited, I learned of 5 more that were even cooler.

Valle del Cocora, just one of the many amazing landscapes in Colombia.

Valle del Cocora, one of the many places I went during my 25 days in Colombia

Yet despite everything Colombia has to offer, we in the United States tend to associate the country with violence and the international cocaine trade. These associations are certainly based in truth; the country has a long and complicated history of political violence driven by serious inequality and supercharged by the international cocaine trade (35). And while I would love to write about the fascinating, complicated, and ongoing history of the “Colombian Conflict,” others have already done a much better job. So I encourage you all to check out some of the following publications to see just what this amazing country has been through (36).

The Colombian Conflict, while still ongoing, has been on a decades-long decline. This decline in violence has led to a corresponding increase in tourism, with the number of international visitors increasing by 300% between 2006 and 2019 (7). Due to the country’s diversity of landscapes, tourism is viewed by many as a huge source of income for the Colombian economy, with both local communities and the national government pushing hard to make the country safer and more accessible to tourists (79). I certainly felt the positive effects of this push towards tourism during my time in Colombia, and I will go over my 25 days in Colombia.

Getting There:

On September 14, we flew into the port city of Barranquilla, Colombia from Austin, Texas. Within Colombia, we took the bus between every location except from Santa Marta to Medellín and from Medellín to Bogotá. If I could go back, I would have traveled everywhere in a bus. In my experience, the buses were nice, safe, and inexpensive, with the added benefit of allowing you to see the Colombian countryside. The only downside of taking the bus for long distances is that the roads tend to be bumpy and the buses often arrive late.

What We Did:

After spending a night in Barranquilla, we took a bus to the beach town of Santa Marta, then to Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, where we camped on the beach. After Tayrona, we took another bus to the small mountain town of Minca. From Minca, we took the bus back to Santa Marta, where we flew to the city of Medellín. After a few days in Medellín, we flew to the capital city of Bogotá.

From Bogotá, we took a bus to the small mountain town of Villa de Leyva. From Villa de Leyva, we took the bus back to Bogotá, where we spent a few more days. We left Bogotá on an overnight bus to the town of Armenia. Immediately after arriving in Armenia, we took another bus to the town of Salento, known internationally for both its coffee and its forests of Colombian wax palms. From Salento, we took the bus back to Armenia, then to the town of Popayán. From Popayán, we took another bus to the border town of Ipiales where, after spending a day exploring the city, we crossed the border into Ecuador and took a bus to the capital city of Quito.

A map of the places I visited in Colombia. At the top, Minca, Santa Marta, and PNN Tayrona are so close together that they were merged into a single point.

While I thoroughly enjoyed every single place I visited in Colombia, there were a few that really stood out above the rest. They were:


  1. L. B. Bloom, The World’s 50 Most Beautiful Countries (You Won’t Believe Where The U.S. Ranked). Forbes Magazine (2022) (available at
  2. A look at the natural world of Colombia. World Wildlife Fund (2017), (available at
  3. Colombian Armed Conflict. justice for colombia (2017), (available at
  4. Colombia in Detail. Justice for Colombia (2017), (available at
  5. Truth Commission of Colombia: Executive Summary. ABColombia (2022), (available at
  6. Wikipedia contributors, Colombian conflict. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (2022), (available at
  7. L. Rauls, How Tourism Can Jumpstart Colombia’s Economy. Americas Quarterly (2020), (available at
  8. B. L. A. Esquivel, C. O. Prieto, El turismo como fuente de desarrollo socioeconómico para las regiones. Ecological Economics. 15, 115–118 (2012).
  9. L. L. Girma, Colombia Tourism Is Poised for Transformation Under New President. Skift (2022), (available at

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