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Plan your gap year to Colombia with this ultimate travel itinerary

Written by Zoe Faulkner on 10 / 05 / 2022

Gap Year Advice

A year's membership so you can use VIP for your global travels not just for Colombia.

With the opening up of South America this year, Colombia has beamed into the lime light, having shaken off its bad boy reputation. High on the hit list for the gapper of 2022 due to the simple fact that is has everything...Amazon, Andes, canyons, pretty colonial architecture, ruins, pacific surf and chilled Caribbean. In addition to this, culturally they know how to party, cook and deliver uber cool hostels...lets go:

Gap Year backpacking Itinerary to Colombia

Get around by bus or plane to complete a perfect circular route to Colombia with a few detours to keep you busy...starting in:

1. Bogota - Colombia's gritty capital

This is your starting point for your gap year to Colombia - throw your jet lag into remission with a night out in the winding streets and buzzing bars of the La Candelaria or Rosa areas. Lots of exploring to be done here - 3 days is all that is needed, taking in:

  • A graffiti tour
  • Visiting the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira
  • A salsa dance lesson to get you into the groove

2. Medellin - Pablo Escobar's old haunt

Bus down to Medellin - also known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ with its perfect climate. It's located in a bowl in the Andes, so from everywhere you can see mountains and incredible landscapes. Its reputation has recovered from its unsafe past when Pablo Escobar led the Medellin Cocaine Cartel from the 1970s to early 1990s. This is now a cool, hipster place to explore for a gap year, don't miss:

  • Pablo Escobar tour
  • Pretty towns like Guatape are a possible day trip from the city
  • Chill out in one of the many parks and visit the Botanical Gardens
  • Hiking trails in Parque Arvi
  • Enjoy the Scarlet Macaws, iguanas and monkeys that live alongside Medellin’s innovative urban space

3. Cartegena - Caribbean Cool

This is the uber cool, hip port city on the Caribbean coast, where you want to stay in the Old Town - popular with the uber cool, chic hippy types hanging around the groovy bars and restaurants.

  • Explore the Old Town with its cobblestone streets, colonial buildings and colourful squares
  • Take a boat trip to Isla de Baru and the Islas del Rosario to snorkle over the coral reefs
  • Visit the popular Playa Blanca

4. Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park

About 6 hours along the coast is another smaller colonial town of Santa Marta. This is a great base to book tours to Tayrona National Park and the starting point for the Lost City Trek.

  • Great beaches along this coast line, try Guachalito Beach for surfing
  • Scuba diving is good here
  • Visit Minca for hiking in the jungle, yoga and a trip to the waterfalls

5. The Lost City - Mayan ruins

In the 1970s this archaeological site was uncovered deep in the jungle of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. Cuidad Perdida “The Lost City” was built by the Tairona people more than 1000 years ago. It is a challenge to get there but you will be rewarded with the incredible sights when you arrive above the clouds. You can only reach it by trekking, so be prepared to get wet, slide down muddy banks and cross the raging rivers, refreshed by dipping into crystal clear pools. It takes about 3 days to reach the top.

6. San Gil - Adventure

Heading inland - your next logical stop is San Gil, the adventure capital of Colombia. Best way to get here is to fly to Bucaramanga and then catch the bus to San Gill. So many adventures to do here, like:

  • Paragliding over the Chicamocha Canyon
  • White water rafting
  • Caving
  • Canyon trekking

7. Amazon

The Amazon is on the southern border of Colombia with Brazil and Peru. You need to fly from Bogota to Leticia, a small town but the capital city of the Amazonas Department. Lots of hotels, restaurants and tours to be booked here to explore the area and indigenous tribes.

Take a look at the different reserves: Puerto Nariño, Amacayacu National Park, The Cahuinarí National Natural Park and Monkey Island and choose a tour that fits your interests, such as:

  • Kayaking down the Amazon River or Lake Tarapoto
  • Birding and unique species tour
  • Visiting local indigenous communities
  • Piranha fishing
  • Night exploration to see the black caimans

7. Guachalito Beach - Pacific Beaches

Bit of a detour off the circular route but highly recommended - fly to Nuqui to find Guachalito beach - a wild, black-sand beach and one of the most visually stunning beaches in Colombia: fringed by verdant jungle full of incredible wildlife, waterfalls, and biodiversity. Have a look at the El Cantil Ecolodge, best for:

  • Great surfing along the beach
  • Whales and dolphins
  • Jungle tours

How to travel in Colombia?

Independent backpacking or in need of some structure? We can support both options.

The first is through LEAP VIP - a travel resource built by our travellers for future travellers or you simply join our Leap Colombia team program where you travel with a group of like minded Leapers - we take charge of all the logistics and itinerary so you an focus on enjoying yourself - after which you are already a LEAP VIP member so you on afterwards.

Join a Colombia Leap team program

It's a great springboard to being an independent traveller - find your feet and off you fly.

You will automatically be granted Leap VIP membership once you pay your deposit meaning you can plan your onward travels as well.

You have 24/7 support.

Meet new people who are like minded.

Join Leap VIP

Rinse our extensive knowledge on Colombia - find out more about flights, buses and places to stay.

Great for those who want to travel solo or with their friends.

A year's membership so you can use VIP for your global travels not just for Colombia.


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