Taking a trip to Colombia? The hardest part is not the planning itself, but choosing which part of Colombia you want to see! Since Colombia is so diverse, a short plane trip can take you anywhere from whale watching on the Pacific Ocean, to exploring sand dunes in the desert, to trekking in snowy mountains, to ziplining in coffee country, and so much more!
Of course it’s not possible to see all those amazing regions in 2 weeks. But you can still have an unforgettable time on your first, second, or third trip to Colombia! The Colombian Caribbean coast invites backpackers and adventurers from all over.
Whether you want to lounge on the beach with turquoise waters or speed in a truck across the sandy desert, Colombia’s Caribbean coast is the place to be.
Here’s the recap of my 2 week travel itinerary!
Flight from Bogotá
You’ll probably arrive from a different airport, but we flew from Bogotá to Cartagena at night. We flew with Avianca, and so we only had carry-on luggage for the approx. 14 day trip.
What I packed
I brought my camera, journal, toiletries, bug repellent, bathing suit, 1 dress, hiking pants and shoes, a couple tanks/t-shirts, rain jacket, microfibre towel, a light sweater, sandals, and a handful of undies.
I ended up wearing the same thing almost everyday, but I was pretty happy to not have a gigantic backpack to lug around (especially on the buses or when hiking in Tayrona).
Days 1-3: Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
We debuted our backpacking trip in the picturesque Tayrona National Park. It is a majorly popular destination nowadays, but it’s worth going if you want to discover the lush greenery of the Sierra Nevada Mountains as they meet with the bright blue and green hues of the Caribbean sea.
We took an overnight van from Cartagena to arrive in Tayrona. It took about 5-6 hours and we were pretty tired when we arrived. Luckily, we were more excited than we were sleepy. But since we arrived two hours early before the park opened, we had time to relax and enjoy the fresh air as the sun rose behind the hills.
Stay at least 2-3 days in Tayrona to take advantage of the cut-off-from-the-world vibe and explore its wild rainforest and beaches.
Traveler’s Tip: If you have extra time, you can explore Santa Marta and Minca at this point, or wait until you head back down the coast.
Days 3-5: Cabo de la Vela
Just when I thought Tayrona’s beach was gorgeous, nothing could prepare me for the Caribbean-desert landscape at Cabo de la Vela. It’s not at all crowded like you’ll see at Tayrona, and the scenery is just mindblowing.
If you want to go anywhere on the Caribbean coast, it should be to Cabo de la Vela. Getting here can be tricky though, but if you leave early on the 3rd morning from Tayrona, you can get to Cabo by the mid-late afternoon.
Many traveler’s come to Cabo to take courses at the renown kite surfing center, but some just come for the adventure. Before arriving you’ll have to speed across the desert in the bed of an old truck. It’ll be a whirlwind of adventure and pretty uncomfortable. I mean, have you ever felt sand at 100 mph?
This old fishing village is truly a hidden gem. It’s no doubt that’ll it’ll continue to popularize in the coming years though. I hope it can retain its small, indigenous authenticity while bringing sustainable economic growth to the community and Wayuu families.
Days 5-7: Punta Gallinas
As part of our Cabo de la Vela tour package with our local guide, we traveled to the northern most point of South America at Punta Gallinas. This trip is not for those who get bored after 1 hour of traveling in a 4×4. We left at 6am from Cabo de la Vela and drove nearly 3-4 hours across the barren desert.
It was both humbling and heartbreaking to travel across this barren land and see families bearing the brunt of the desert’s unforgiving living conditions. Children were guarding makeshift check points, and to have passageway, you needed to give something in exchange (candy, water, fruit, etc.)
Our trip to Punta Gallinas included a visit to the northern most geographical point in SA, a visit to a beautiful lookout and the surreal Taroa sand dunes where you can slide down a towering hill of golden sand right into the Caribbean sea.
Traveler’s Tip: I’d recommend adding a day or two for Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas (just because they take quite the effort to get to!)
Days 7-9: Palomino
After our painstakingly long drive back to Riohacha from Punta Gallinas, we took another bus to Palomino. This little hipster town is a popular backpacker’s destination and it’s no wonder why. It offers the sunny, tropical vibe that most people look for when traveling along the coast. The beach, however, was my least favorite aspect about Palomino.
The local craft shops, delicious cafes and restaurants, and colorful hostels are what make this place come to life. While you can just hang out, eat, drink, and be merry (like we did), you can also go hiking around Palomino or partake in some fun river tubing!
Days 9-11: Minca
Minca is an adorable mountainous town located in the hills behind Santa Marta on the coast. It’s a perfect little retreat and is a popular destination for backpackers wanting to relax in the fresh mountain air and take a break from the sunny coast.
Unfortunately, my time in Minca wasn’t as pleasant as I expected, thanks to a nasty virus that our traveling group caught. Nonetheless, travelers head to Minca in search of the “world’s largest hammock” and for its local coffee plantation and hikes. Most traveler’s who I spoke to here though were just coming to rest, read a book, and eat some good food.
Days 11-14: Cartagena
We spent our last days in Cartagena, which was the cherry on top of the cake. Cartagena is a colorful, colonial port city that’s hard to miss if you’re traveling along the Colombian Caribbean coast.
While it can get heavily crowded during peak season, there’s so much to discover here. If you love fresh seafood, pristine beaches, bright colors, and awesome architecture, then you’ll fall in love with Cartagena! Its people and its history make it a popular travel destination for both Colombian nationals and internationals.
2 Weeks on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast
And that’s it! What do you think about this 2 week travel itinerary for discovering all the must-sees of Colombia’s Caribbean coast ?
We managed to pack A LOT within just less than two weeks, but if I ever have the chance do to it twice, I would definitely give more time to Cabo de la Vela, perhaps revisit Minca and Palomino, and spend extra time beaching it up off the coast of Cartagena. 🙂