The Perfect Colombia Itinerary for Backpackers
With its affordable prices, proximity to Central America and other South American countries, and natural destinations, Colombia is the perfect country for backpackers. The Caribbean coast specifically is ideal for backpackers to bounce from one fascinating city or town to another. We’re breaking down the perfect Colombia itinerary for backpackers who want to explore the gorgeous Colombian coast – an area that boasts turquoise water, jungle terrain and warm people.
Day 1: Santa Marta
Historically, Santa Marta is known for being the first Spanish settlement in Colombia. For backpackers, the draw of Santa Marta is thanks to lodging, food and transportation prices that are generally cheaper than in nearby Cartagena. Santa Marta has a charming historic district, complete with town squares, colorful buildings and a tropical ambience. It’s also the closest major city to Parque Tayrona.
So spend your day exploring Santa Marta’s historic district. Stop by the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Marta and La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the final resting place of Simón Bolívar (the leader who liberated present-day Colombia and neighboring countries from Spain). In the evening, spend some time getting to know other travelers in backpacker-friendly hostels like The Dreamer Hostel in Santa Marta.
Day 2: Parque Tayrona
Parque Tayrona is one of the must-see destinations in Colombia. This national natural park is situated between the Caribbean Sea and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountain Range. It’s a unique destination because it offers visitors beautiful beaches and exotic, steamy jungles.
You can spend the day hiking, relaxing on the beach or doing a combination of the two. While there are places to sleep in tents near the beach and pricier eco-huts, backpackers can either head back to Santa Marta at the end of the day or continue to Palomino.
Day 3: Palomino
Palomino is a backpacker haven to the east of Parque Tayrona. It’s located about 2 hours by car or bus from Santa Marta. Upon arriving in Palomino, you’ll immediately notice the relaxed beach vibes. This isn’t the place for travelers who want the 5-star experience, rather Palomino has a variety of hostels. Some hostels are very basic, while others like The Dreamer Hostel in Palomino offer more amenities like a pool, billiards table, massages and a restaurant.
Pass your time relaxing by the beautiful beach. The area is tranquil and isn’t over run with people like other beach vacation spots around the world. It’s also an ideal place to learn to surf.
Day 4: Palomino
Spend another day in Palomino by going tubing down the Palomino River or hiking to Quebrada Valencia, a gorgeous waterfall that can be reached by bus then by walking through the jungle for 20 to 30 minutes. Or maybe you just want to spend another day soaking up the sun on the beach.
Day 5: Minca
Minca is situated in the mountains and therefore might be a welcomed break from the tropical heat in Santa Marta and Palomino. The small town is located about an hour by car or bus from Santa Marta. So you can visit on a day trip from Santa Marta, but it’s recommended to stay there for at least a night. The town is more developed than Palomino, but it’s definitely not as big as Santa Marta or Cartagena. Walk through the town or get around by the many moto-taxis who offer rides for a few thousand pesos.
Minca is popular with cyclists and multi-day bike tours start there. If peddling up mountains isn’t your thing, Minca also has interesting coffee tours and chocolate tours.
Day 6: Santa Marta
Make your way back to Santa Marta. Use the small airport in Santa Marta to continue your adventure to another Colombian region such as the Andes or the Amazon. Just be sure to plan your backpacking adventure now before Colombia becomes overrun with tourists. With these beautiful destinations and improved security, it’s bound to happen.