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Cocora Valley, Colombia
Cocora Valley, Colombia | © Chris Bell
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The Best Backpacking Spots in Colombia

Picture of Chris Bell
Updated: 29 November 2017
Colombia has become a hugely popular backpacker destination in the last few years, and there is now a well-established backpacker trail in the once no-go country. So here are the best backpacking spots in Colombia: the places with good hostels, loads to do, good food, good prices and plenty of other travellers to meet.

Medellín

Colombia’s second city is arguably the hottest backpacker destination in Colombia, if not South America, at the moment. Why? There are loads of great hostels, plenty of fun activities to enjoy, excellent day trips, quality wifi, nice restaurants and a buzzing nightlife – what more could you need in a backpacker destination?

The innovative Medellín Metrocable
The innovative Medellín Metrocable | Chris Bell / © Culture Trip

Salento

This pretty little town in the Colombian Coffee Region is perhaps the most popular rural travel destination in Colombia right now. There are loads of nice hostels to stay at, great coffee, some of the best small-town restaurants in the country and, above all, it’s the base for the most popular hiking trip in Colombia: the Cocora Valley. It’s also really accessible from other major cities and, for all its popularity, it remains an inexpensive destination.

Bring back some gifts from these fun artisan shops in Salento
Bring back some gifts from these fun artisan shops in Salento | © Triángulo del Café Travel / Flickr

Bogotá

The Colombian capital doesn’t count on the same overwhelming popularity that Medellín enjoys, but it’s the capital for a reason, and Bogotá boasts a wealth of nice hostels, free activities and museums, as well as a growing range of alternative tourism activities such as coffee tastings, beer tours, cooking classes and even citywide scavenger hunts.

Guatapé

This colourful little lakeside town less than two hours from Medellín has become something of a mecca for Colombia backpackers in recent years. There are nice, cheap hostels, good restaurants and plenty of fun things to do, including kayaking on the lake, mountain biking, and, above all, climbing the iconic El Penol rock to enjoy stunning panoramic views over the lakes and islands that make the region famous.

San Gil

San Gil is the adventure sports capital of Colombia and, as such, is really popular with backpackers, who seem to love nothing more than either climbing up things or throwing themselves off them. With paragliding, caving, rappelling, white-water rafting, bungee jumping and more available, San Gil is a paradise for adventurous backpackers, and you can enjoy all of these activities for a fraction of what you’d pay in Europe or North America.

Minca

This pretty little village in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is practically a must-visit spot if you’re backpacking on the Colombian Caribbean coast. It’s a welcome relief from the sweltering heat of the coast, and you can enjoy swimming in rivers and waterfalls, hiking in the mountains, touring coffee and cacao farms or simply relaxing in the world’s biggest hammock at Colombia’s coolest backpacker hostel, Casa Elemento.

A beautiful waterfall near Minca
A beautiful waterfall near Minca | © Niek van Son / Flickr

Palomino

A little beachside village on the Caribbean coast, Palomino is another spot that has become essential for backpackers in Colombia. With loads of great hostels, often with swimming pools and beachside locations, and delicious seafood, Palomino’s location is about as good as it gets in Colombia, with the backpacker hub of the town located just meters from the gorgeous, palm-tree fringed beach. You can also go tubing down the paradise waters of the Palomino River.

Tubing in Palomino
Tubing in Palomino | Chris Bell / © Culture Trip 

Cartagena

Cartagena is probably the most iconic Colombian city and, although it might seem better set up for travellers on higher budgets, it is a great spot for backpackers as well. Around the Getsemani neighbourhood there are loads of nice hostels, cheaper restaurants and beautiful architecture, and the nightlife in the city is excellent as well. You can also use Cartagena as a base to spend some time at amazing island hostels such as Paraiso Secreto and Casa en el Agua.