With snow-capped peaks, vast savannahs, arid deserts, Caribbean coast beaches, tropical jungle and a rich cultural heritage, Colombia makes the perfect destination for solo travel, offering many of the highlights of South America in one country.
Adrenaline junkies should head to the Andean town of San Gil, where whitewater rafting, paragliding, caving and rappelling are just some of the activities on offer. Nature lovers can travel deep into the Amazon basin, in search of pink river dolphins, caimans and the world’s smallest monkey, the Pygmy marmoset. Sun worshippers can take their pick from countless coral islands off the Caribbean coast or the ruggedly beautiful Pacific shoreline.
But Colombia offers much more than stunning natural landscapes. The merging of indigenous, European and African cultures has resulted in a diversity like no other. From molecular dining in Medellín to Cartagena’s salsa clubs to the graffiti-scrawled streets of the capital, Bogotá, you’ll find a vibrancy that’s reflected in all walks of life. As author Gabriel García Márquez once said “Five Colombians in a room invariably turns into a party”.
If you prefer to share your adventure with like-minded solo travellers – all in their 30s and 40s – Flash Pack’s Vibrant Colombia trip will immerse you in the country’s culture through can’t-do-by-yourself activities. Here’s everything you need to know about group solo holidays to Colombia.
Colombia travel facts
Known as the gateway to South America thanks to its position in the northwestern corner of the continent, Colombia shares borders with Panama, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru. With around 60 national parks and over 4,000 species of orchid, it’s the second most biodiverse country in the world, according to the WWF.
Colombia also has a rich cultural diversity, with nearly 100 indigenous groups. There are nine Unesco World Heritage Sites, including Chiribiquete National Park, which has some of the oldest rock paintings on the planet, and the archaeological parks of Tierradentro and San Agustin.
Is Colombia good for solo travel?
With its rich biodiversity, vibrant cities, indigenous history and lively festivals, solo travel to Colombia has lots to offer. Its chequered history means it hasn’t quite felt the full force of tourism so it retains much of its authentic charm. Away from the more popular sights, visitors are still something of a novelty. Safety has improved dramatically over the past decade and, with the exception of a few specific areas, the country welcomes tourists with open arms.
The majority of the population speaks Spanish. However, Colombians are friendly and will always make the effort to help you if they can. When you travel with Flash Pack, you’ll have the experience of a Pack Leader with you throughout the trip, who will sort out the logistics, introduce you to local culture and ensure every aspect of your trip runs smoothly.
Best places to visit in Colombia
At the outset of your solo holiday to Colombia, you’ll likely arrive in the capital, Bogotá. It’s definitely worth spending a couple of days exploring the preserved colonial area of La Candelaria, visiting the dazzling Gold Museum and taking a day trip to Zipaquirá’s imposing salt cathedral.
Next, head to San Gil for some hiking, rafting and kayaking, before making a beeline for the sparkling Caribbean coast. The golden-white beaches of Tayrona National Park, dotted with vast boulders and backed by mountainous jungle, are only accessible by boat, making them the ideal place to unwind. It’s only a short hop along the coast to Cartagena, the labyrinthine walled city teeming with historic buildings, and the idyllic offshore Rosario Islands.
The colonial (and Unesco) town of Santa Cruz de Mompox is a worthwhile stopover, as is Medellín, known as the ‘city of eternal spring’ thanks to its warm weather. Continuing south, you can visit coffee plantations and fincas in the Zona Cafetera, part of the Unesco-listed Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, before exploring the whitewashed colonial streets of Popayán and the archaeological parks of Tierradentro and San Agustin.
Where to stay as a solo traveller in Colombia
What are hotels like for solo travel in Colombia? They run the full gamut from family-run guesthouses and farmstays to boutique hotels and huge five-star resorts. Eco resorts are found in rural areas throughout the country, from the Amazon jungle to the mountains and coast. Eco farm stays are designed to help local farmers develop their land while also preserving the environment.
On Flash Pack’s 9-day Vibrant Colombia trip, you’ll stay in some beautiful boutique accommodation, from a restored historic landmark in Cartagena to a brilliantly located hotel in central Bogotá. And you won’t have to worry about booking ahead as we’ll take care of that for you. Sharing a room helps keep costs down, but if you want your own space, that’s possible, too.
How to get to Colombia
The easiest way to kick off your solo holiday to Colombia is by plane. There are direct flights from the UK to Bogotá (El Dorado International Airport), the main international hub, but it’s also possible to fly via European hubs, such as Spain and Germany. Cali (Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Cali Airport), Cartagena (Rafael Núñez International Airport) and Medellín (José María Córdova International Airport) also receive international flights from the USA, Central and South America.
Frequent buses ply the overland routes from Ecuador and Venezuela, however, due to security issues we don’t advise either. There’s no overland crossing from Panama as the Darien Gap remains a lawless area. It is possible to take a scenic speedboat from Panama’s San Blas archipelago to Capurgana or travel by riverboat from the Amazon areas of Manaus in Brazil and Iquitos in Peru.
How to get around Colombia
Colombia has a good network of buses that traverse the country. Long-distance routes generally have reclining seats, toilets, TV and air conditioning but bear in mind mountainous roads can be slow and winding so travel can take longer than you think. Depending where you’re headed, buses may stop at military checkpoints where passengers disembark and the bus is searched.
For longer trips, there’s high competition between domestic airlines, meaning internal flights are good value (only slightly more expensive than the bus), faster and more comfortable. For shorter trips, busetas (minibuses) and colectivos (minivans) depart when full, which can mean waiting around. In the coffee growing areas, the Willy Jeep is an inexpensive but bumpy ride, crammed full of passengers – it’s certainly an authentic way to experience solo travel in Colombia.
Best time to visit Colombia
Other than Chocó in the northwest, one of the wettest places on earth, Colombia enjoys plenty of sunshine year-round. Being so close to the Equator, temperatures are mainly dictated by altitude. Coastal regions are often hot and humid, Medellín has spring-like temperatures and Bogotá gets chilly in the evenings.
The most popular time of year for a solo holiday to Colombia is during the dry season (December to March) when days are hot and sunny. Be aware that this is also the holiday season for Colombians so prices can rise accordingly and there are a number of local and national fiestas. When you travel with Flash Pack, you won’t have to worry about shops being closed, accommodation being full or booking tickets during busy periods – we take care of all the planning for you, so you can sit back and enjoy the ride.
Colombia travel itineraries
So what should you do in Colombia? Flash Pack’s 9-day Vibrant Colombia trip will take you beyond the obvious sights to immerse you in the local culture. Led by a local photographer, you’ll take a graffiti tour of Bogotá’s vibrant La Candelaria district, before stopping for lunch with Mama Luz whose award-winning Ajiaco soup made her a Netflix documentary star.
You’ll also take a boat ride past one of Pablo Escobar’s infamous estates and meet local women in Comuna 13, a colourful hillside favela that was once one of Medellín’s most dangerous neighbourhoods. And you’ll take a private trip to the Rosario Islands for a tour of the best beaches and bars. Along the way, there’ll be a salsa lesson and rum tasting, coffee farms and molecular dining at one Colombia’s best restaurants. You’ll party alongside the locals, together with a group of solo travellers just like you, looking to venture deep into Colombia’s soul.
What to pack for solo travel in Colombia
Packing for solo travel in Colombia can be daunting because of the sheer diversity of the country. Working out a rough itinerary will help you decide what to take. If you only plan to visit Cartagena and the Caribbean coast, you’ll need lightweight casual clothes to keep you cool in the heat. However, if you’re traversing the whole country, you’ll need some warm waterproof layers for the cold, damp mountains and smarter outfits for the cities (Colombians are very stylish and many venus have a dress code).
Wherever you visit, you’ll need a sunhat and sunscreen to protect you from the strong rays, as well as swimwear to take advantage of the hotel pools. Insect repellent is a good idea, especially in Cartagena, Santa Marta or the Amazon region. A money belt can be useful for keeping your valuables safe, too.
Solo travel advice for Colombia
From the Andes to the Amazon, travelling solo around Colombia can be extremely rewarding. There’s are incredibly diverse landscapes to explore and you’ll be in your element savouring the country’s unparalleled food scene, lively festivals and nightlife. It’s easy to meet other solo travellers, especially in the main cities, such as Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena and Medellín.
If you’re unsure about exploring Colombia independently or want to get off the beaten track without compromising your safety, travelling as part of a Flash Pack group offers peace of mind. Your expert local guide will take you beyond the obvious sights, bringing your trip to life through their knowledge and expertise.
Is it safe to travel solo in Colombia?
Thousands of visitors experience solo travel to Colombia every year and most trips are trouble-free. However, do check out the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK), the Department of State Travel Advisories (US) or your country’s local government guidelines for the latest advice before travelling. Once there, follow local advice and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Colombia is safe for solo travellers if you take the right precautions. While petty crime is still a problem, as long as you don’t flaunt your valuables, you’ll likely not run into any problems. When you go out, only take what you need for the day and leave other valuables in your hotel room. Some areas of the country remain off limits – including the rebel area in the north – and stay away from the comunas unless with a trusted guide. For added safety and security, why not consider travelling as part of a Flash Pack group with other like-minded solo travellers.
Ready for your next adventure? Try group solo travel in Colombia with Flash Pack – designed exclusively for people in their 30s and 40s, seeking the independence of solo travel within the safety of a group.
A cool 98% of Flashpackers arrive solo to join our group adventures. So, you’ll be in good company – whether a first time solo traveller or a seasoned pro looking for like-minded new friends.
Images: Flash Pack