This 5 days in Colombia itinerary will cover two main cities in the country – Medellin & Cartagena. It is a great itinerary to get a feel for a couple different cities in the country and to learn more about what they have to offer.
There will be plenty of fun and unique activities to take part of along the way, making this one action packed vacation for your time in Colombia.
From enjoying paragliding above Medellin to hopping into a mud volcano in Cartagena, this trip will have it all and much more!
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1) 5 Days in Colombia Itinerary Overview
To get started, I want to layout what this 5 day trip to Colombia will look like. The itinerary will bring you along to the two cities of Medellin and Cartagena, with a quick internal flight to get between the two.
- Days 1 & 2: Medellin
- Days 3: Medellin / Flight to Cartagena
- Days 4 & 5: Cartagena
The itinerary is laid out by arriving the evening prior to day 1. This way you will have 5 full days of exploring, as you then leave on day 6.
It is also important to note that the itinerary starts & ends in two different cities. This means you will need to book a multi city ticket from your departure point (i.e. fly into Medellin / return from Cartagena). Based on logistics, you can also do this trip in the reverse order.
2) Colombia Map View
Take a look at the map below which shows you where Medellin and Cartagena are located in Colombia.
The itinerary is set up starting in Medellin before flying up north to Cartagena sometime on day 3. Of course you can also decide to do the itinerary in reverse if that works better for you.
3) Colombia Hotels
Before diving into the itinerary, I did want to mention some top hotel options for both Medellin and Cartagena. These hotels are some of the most highly rated and reviewed ones out there to book.
Medellin Hotels (Nights 0-2)
While there are several neighborhoods to choose from in Medellin, the El Poblado area is a top choice. Around the area you will have many restaurants and bars to choose from.
- All Around Option: The Charlee Hotel
- Best Luxury Option: Intercontinental Medellin
- Best Value Option: Hotel Estelar Milla de Oro
Cartagena Hotels (Nights 3-5)
Within Cartagena you will find the old walled city. Here is where many of the top restaurant, nightlife, and other highlights can be found. Below are a few top options to consider within the area.
- All Around Option: Casa India Catalina
- Best Luxury Option: Nacar Hotel Cartagena
- Best Value Option: Casa La Fe
4) 5 Days in Colombia Detailed Itinerary
Now let’s get on to the actual trip! The following is a detailed breakout of the daily attractions and activities on this 5 day Colombia itinerary.
Feel free to scroll through and click on any more in depth posts along the way.
Day 1 – Medellin / Paragliding & El Centro
You will start your 5 day Colombia trip in the beautiful city of Medellin. There is a ton to do in and around the city, and this itinerary will go over some of the main activities and attractions.
Day 1 is going to be an exciting one if you are a thrill seeker. About 40 minutes north of the city area is San Felix – the main paragliding area of Medellin. Here you will find yourself high up in the mountains above the entire city.
During this experience, you will join a tandem paraglide with an instructor and fly above the Medellin valley down below. The flight should last around 30 minutes or so before landing back in the same spot you took off from.
I would recommend taking part of a paragliding experience in the morning as that is when the winds are usually at their calmest. You can read more about some paragliding tips and logistics in the guide linked below.
» For more info about a morning of paragliding take a look at the Paragliding Medellin Guide
El Centro Walking Tour
Since you will probably be finished paragliding late morning, you can then head over to El Centro, the historical district of Medellin.
If you are into free guided tours, Real City Tours has one of highest reviewed and well spoken of tours you will come by. They take you to all the main attractions and give you some background and history of the city.
The afternoon tour starts at 2:30PM and lasts about 4 hours (must book in advance through the link above). If you aren’t into tours you can also just do it on your own. Follow this map and walk through at your own pace.
El Centro is filled with plenty of different types of experiences. You have everything including Alpujarro, Parque de le Lucas, the National Palace, El Hueco, Museo de Antioquia, Botero Plaza, and Parque Bolivar.
It really is just a great couple miles of authentic Medellin, seeing the past and present and enjoying the city. Once you are finished with either your guided or non guided tour hop in a cab back to your hotel to end your day.
Day 2 – Day Trip to El Penol/Guatape
A two hour drive from Medellin lay the towns of El Penol and Guatape. In the middle of the two is a massive rock formation called La Piedra de Penol that will give you one of the best views in Colombia.
The day trip will consist of climbing the giant rock, visiting the colorful town of Guatape, and stopping at some viewpoints along the way. When it comes to day trips, it won’t get much better than this one.
While you can take part of the day on your own, I would recommend joining a small group or private tour that can take care of all of the logistics for you.
The day’s itinerary will end up looking something like this:
- Drive from Medellin to El Penol with stops along the way
- Enjoy a walk around El Penol and take in some viewpoints
- Drive to La Piedra del Penol and see the rock from afar
- Climb the rock and take in the views from above
- Continue to Guatape, where you will find colorful streets to explore
- Drive back to Medellin to end a fun filled day trip
Day Trip Overview: To learn more, I put together a Day Trip to Guatape and El Penol Guide that can get you ready for the trip
Guided Tour Option: I would highly recommend joining in on a group or private tour if you want all logistics to be taken care of for the day.
Day 3 – Medellin / Parque Arvi & Flight to Cartagena
Before heading out to Cartagena later on in the day, the morning will entail some time above the Medellin at Parque Arvi.
In order to visit Parque Arvi, you will head to the Acevedo station. This is the base of the first of two cable cars, which will take you all the way up above the city to the Santa Domingo station.
On this first car you will get amazing views of the entire city of Medellin to the north, west, and south.
Once you get to the Santa Domingo station follow the signs to the Parque Arvi cable car. This cable car takes you even higher up the mountain and into the forest and eventually to the park itself.
Depending on how much time you have in Arvi you can do a bunch of different things – everything from hiking, walking tours, ziplining and more.
There are also a few outdoor restaurants and bars at the entrance along with a market filled with different local cuisine.
Flight to Cartagena
After a morning/afternoon enjoying Parque Arvi, it is time to head to the second city of this itinerary – Cartagena.
There are plenty of flights throughout the day that will take you there so just hop on one sometime in the afternoon/evening time and be on your way.
You will see it right away how different Cartagena is from Medellin. While it will clearly be more touristy, it is also such a great city to walk around and enjoy.
The walled city feels like an old European town, with great restaurants, bars and squares throughout. If you are into the nightlife scene then you will definitely find a place around the Old City or Getsemani neighborhood that will suit your needs.
Day 4 – Cartagena / Mud Volcano
You can spend the next morning strolling the old city, and exploring all the twists and turns. It really is a great place to just walk around and get lost in.
After having some lunch you can then head to the El Totumo Mud Volcano.
Located around 1 hour north of the city, you will find this small volcano filled with mud. Here you can jump inside, float in the mud, and even get some massages.
It is a very unique experience to take part of during your 5 days in Colombia, and one you won’t be able to find in many other places.
Learn More: Check out the El Totumo Mud Volcano Guide for all you need to know to do it yourself
Day 5 – Cartagena / Out at Sea
Your final day of this Colombia 5 day itinerary will have you hit the waters of the Caribbean Sea.
There are a few different options to choose from deciding what type of experience you would like to have:
The first option is rent a private boat for the day that will take you out to many of the highlights all around the Cartagena waters. During a trip you will get to snorkel the Rosario Islands, enjoy lunch at Cholon, and relax at Playa Blanca.
A second option is to join a day trip tour that will take you around in similar fashion but with a small group of people. Feel free to check out this Rosario Islands Day Trip as a potential option.
Learn More: The Renting a Boat in Cartagena Guide will give you some more information on how to rent a boat for a day out at sea
Your day out on the sea should end around 4:00PM. It is possible to take a flight later this evening if one is available. If not then take a flight first thing on Day 6 and head back home.
Of course there are more cities and attractions to go to but this can give you a good sense what you can take advantage of in two of the country’s main cities within five days.
To better help you prepare for your 5 days in Colombia, check out some helpful travel tips & things to know for the trip!
5) How to Get Around Colombia
When it comes to traveling between Medellin and Cartagena, internal flights will be the way to go. There are several airlines that run hundreds of flights each day between major cities.
I would recommend looking into LATAM and Avianca when going about your internal flight options. Wingo is a third option, but it is a budget airline. And Satena is a fourth option (they offer flights to Medellin’s city center airport).
For the purpose of this itinerary, there will be just be one internal flight to think about:
- Medellin to Cartagena (day 3)
With just 5 days in Colombia, you do not want to waste a full day traveling. So, try to avoid those midday flights, where you really won’t be able to enjoy any time on either side of the flight.
Medellin Note: as mentioned above, Medellin has a city center airport (EOH). By flying into/out of this airport, you will be able to avoid a 30-45-minute drive to the outer city airport (MDE). Just note that fewer airlines use EOH.
6) Traveling Within Cities
Once you have made it to Medellin and Cartagena, you will need to think about how to get to the various attractions.
For the most part, there are four main ways to go about it – walking, public transport, Uber/taxi, and guided tours.
Whether it is Medellin or Cartagena, you can certainly make your way around on your own two feet to get around the cities.
Of course, some attractions will just be too far away from one another (that is when you can utilize the next few options). But for the most part, do expect to spend some time on your feet as you explore these various destinations.
If you need to make your way along some longer distances, the most affordable option will be public transport.
Whether that be local busses, trams, or cable car rides, those can all be utilized during your time in the country.
Just be sure to understand your route, where to buy tickets, and how to get from point A to point B. I did find standard Google Maps to be pretty easy to follow for overall directions.
While public transport can be the cheaper option, taking an Uber or taxi can be the more convenient. You will find Ubers and taxis all throughout the cities that you are visiting, and these can be pretty cheap compared to other countries.
If you want door to door accessibility, then that will certainly be possible in Colombia.
Lastly, there can be instances when you want to explore a city as part of a guided tour (whether that be a group or private option).
Guided tours are a great way to visit a certain area, while having someone there to teach you all about the area & having the ability to ask questions.
There are so many different tours to take part of in the country. Whether that be a walking tour, graffiti tour, food tour, or day trip tour, there are options out there for you.
I included a few options throughout the itinerary to better help you with your travel planning.
7) When to Travel to Colombia
One of the main considerations when planning a trip to Colombia is the time of year to visit.
Luckily, Colombia is a year round destination and there isn’t one particular very bad time to go there.
The country is pretty nearby the equator, which means you will not find “seasons” per se. Instead, the average temperature in each city is pretty steady during the year give or take a few degrees.
However, rain does come and go throughout the months. Each region can be affected a bit differently by the rain and climate conditions (i.e. El Nino).
For the purpose of this itinerary, below are some weather basics for Medellin and Cartagena.
- Daytime Temperature: 75F (24C)
- Nighttime Temperature: 60F (16C)
- Rainiest Months: March-May & September-November
- Daytime Temperature: 85F – 95F (30C – 35C)
- Nighttime Temperature: 70F – 75F (21C – 24C)
- Rainiest Months: May to November
Many people opt to head to the country during the northern hemisphere’s wintertime. Going to Colombia between December and February is a top time to consider as you plan your trip.
8) Travel Tips
To better help you out during your 5 day in Colombia, below are some travel tips and some general things to know.
When traveling in taxis or Ubers, don’t be surprised if your car “randomly” gets pulled over for no apparent reason.
This happened to me a couple times during my visit in both Cartagena and Medellin. The police essentially just want to make a few dollars and be on their way.
Learn Some Spanish
While English is spoken here and there, expect lots of taxis, locals, and restaurants to not speak it.
Learning just some basic words and phrases can make a big difference when traveling.
To cover yourself in all situations, be sure to download an app like Google Translate, which can help ease the communication with the locals.
In addition, it is super helpful when looking at restaurants’ menus that have no English on them.
Avoid the Pablo Tourism
While there is a good chunk of Colombian history centered around Pablo Escobar, the country has changed drastically over the years.
From my conversations with locals and some tour guides, many do not want to be associated with that time in the country. And they don’t want people coming to the country to do Pablo type of tours.
Stick to the natural beauty and the culture, rather than something that few want to think about in today’s world.
Specifically, in Cartagena, be aware that you will come across tons of street performers, vendors, and hagglers trying to make a couple of bucks off of you.
The city is by far the most touristy place in Colombia, and the locals know that. For some, this can ruin the charm of the old walled city.
As you walk around, or eat at outside at a restaurant, just be aware that you more than likely will be approached to buy something or to tip for a rapping performance.
Learn More: Be sure to also check out the Colombia Helpful Tips I put together to better prepare you for your trip.
9) Is Colombia Safe
When you tell others you want to go to Colombia, the first thought that comes to many people’s minds is that Colombia is not a safe place to travel to.
That is understandable given the fact that it used to be one of the most dangerous countries with drug cartels ruling different areas and deadly violence prevalent throughout.
However times have most definitely changed and I can say that during my trip there not once did I feel unsafe or in danger. There actually is quite the police presence in major cities which I am sure hinders potential crime.
Now even though I would say Colombia is safe, there will always to certain areas to avoid and times where you will need to use your best judgement.
Wandering out late at night alone is probably not the best idea unless you are around a major area filled with bars and restaurants.
So do not let others stop you from taking a trip there – it is not what it used to be at all!
10) What to Bring to Colombia
As you go about your packing list for Colombia, you will want to consider some important items.
Expect the weather across the cities to be different, with the coast being much hotter than the inland cities.
So, as you pack, be sure to have comfortable clothing items across the temperature spectrum (nighttime sweaters/sweatshirts will be common!).
In addition to a standard packing list, below are some items you may want to bring along:
- Rain Jacket
- Sunscreen, Hat, & Sunglasses
- Quick Dry Towel
- Small Daypack
- Comfortable Walking Shoes
- Flip Flops
- Moisture Wicking Clothing
- Bathing Suits
- Nighttime Outfits
11) Is 5 Days in Colombia Enough
Colombia is a big country and there are a lot of cities to visit & things to do all throughout. So, as you can imagine, there is just no way to fit everything in on one visit (or even multiple visits).
However, with 5 full days in Colombia, you will be able to comfortably visit both Medellin and Cartagena.
This will give you the chance to experience some of the best of the best out of the cities that you choose from.
I would not try to fit in more than 2 places with 5 days in the country as that would entail way too much traveling and less time actually enjoying where you are.
To answer the question of is 5 days in Colombia enough – I would say it is just enough to visit two places in the country. However, if you do have some extra time to spare, I would recommend using it!
That about wraps up a 5 day Colombia itinerary!
If you want to check out some other Colombia itineraries, head over to the Colombia itineraries and guides page. Feel free to comment below with any questions!