Eastern Coast of Colombia: Our highlights and itinerary ideas
For us, the Eastern Caribbean Coast Colombia is from Cartagena to the Venezuelan border. It includes four departments: Bolivar, Atlantico, Magdalena, and La Guajira.
Be aware that this part of Colombia is the most touristy – and the most expensive – area in the country, and it isn’t simple to find places without many travelers. Fortunately, after a few days looking around, we found some hidden-gems nestled you will be pleased to add to your Colombia itinerary.
Let’s start with Cartagena de Indias in the Bolivar’s department. Yes, this impressive colonial city deserves your interest. With its culture legacy, the beauty of its architecture, its colorful faces, and flowery balconies, many of you will fall in love with Cartagena. Don’t hesitate to devour delicious meals in restaurants and wander at night in the bohemian district of Getsemani.
Don’t like being surrounded by tourists? In that case, book a tour to explore the Bazurto Market or breath some fresh air La Boquilla. We offer an activity where you fish with local fishers in the mangroves. It’s a must!
Nearby, there is also San Basilio de Palenque, the first free town in South America, which is rich in cultural experiences.
A little further West, there is Barranquilla. You must go there if you’re traveling to Colombia for Carnaval. Otherwise, there is not much to see.
On the other side of the Magdalena river – the largest river in Colombia -, there is Santa Marta. It’s the first city built by the Spaniard! Thanks to its airport with many connections to major Colombian cities, it’s easy to get there. While the town isn’t particularly attractive, you will find plenty of activities to do around. Indeed, Santa Marta is nestled between the Sierra Nevada and the Caribbean Sea!
Take a 15 min taxi then grab a speedboat in Taganga to explore the best-secluded beach in Tayrona. Or decide to enter by Calabazo – the Tayrona’s backdoor entrance – and hike for three days through the park. You will sleep each night on a different white-sand beach!
If dream beaches are not your thing, take a 45 min bus to explore the mountains in the Sierra Nevada. Minca and Paso del Mango are two towns offering various outdoor activities like hiking to Cerro Kennedy, chasing waterfalls, bird watching. Nature lovers will love to add this to their Colombia tour.
Besides, there is also the 4-day trek to the Lost city if you want to experience a multi-day adventure through lush vegetation. On the way, the local guide teaches travelers about the four indigenous tribes living there.
For us, traveling is about learning new things and open his mind. Therefore, we want to offer to travelers the possibility to stay a couple of days in an Arhuaco community. You will get another vision of the world in which we live.
La Guajira is the last department of the Eastern Caribbean Coast of Colombia. Its name comes from “Guajiro.” It’s the Spanish name of the indigenous Wayuu living there.
Don’t hesitate to stop in Dibulla. It’s a peaceful and unknown beach town with pleasant beaches.
On the way to Riohacha, landscapes change a lot. It becomes a harsh environment with only a few bushes, cactus, and goats. Once the capital of La Guajira, we can organize for you different expeditions to the desert. There are many highlights to uncover! In Punta Gallinas, the contrast between the blue of the ocean and the yellowish of the dunes is quite striking. And the national park Macuira is a green oasis in the middle of the desert.
Although the Wayuu culture is present in this region, only a few tours offer an authentic experience. Thanks to our reliable partners, you will spend two days in a traditional rancheria -farm-. This lovely family loves sharing their culture with visitors, and they invite you to experience their daily life – without all the fake dancings and costumes. It’s something to add to your Colombia itinerary if you’re curious to know more about the Colombian indigenous community.
Examples of activities in the Eastern Caribbean Region that you can add to your Colombia itinerary:
- Wander in Cartagena’s colorful alleys: Wake up early to get the best light for your pictures and avoid the crowd – and the hot weather. The old city center is filled with trendy boutiques, little restaurants, bars, churches, and flowery balconies. A pleasant spectacle for the eyes!
- Learn about Cartagena’s history and the impact of the African culture: There are many enjoyable tours to discover the different districts of the city. We also recommend you to head to Palenque, to know about the first free town in South America.
- Contemplate incredible sunsets: From the walled city or your hostel in the Sierra Nevada, with a cocktail in your hand.
- Take Andy Warhol’s pictures: The colorful facades in San Diego – Cartagena’s district – are perfect for taking cool profile pictures. It’s a fun moment to share with friends, and the results are excellent!
- Visit an authentic Colombian market: Bazurto is the perfect messy market to get a better insight into the Colombian culture. Book a tour so you won’t be lost in this maze. You will discover a bunch of interesting things! We ate one of the best meals of our stay on the Caribbean coast.
- Take some cooking classes: We can offer you different cooking experiences with delicious recipes you will bring back home. In a friendly and chill atmosphere, learn how to prepare fantastic Caribbean specialties. Then, eat the fruits of your labor.
- Fish in the middle of the mangroves: On a tiny embarcation, learn the traditional fishing methods with the best fishers in La Boquilla. Fishes and crabs will be on the menu for your lunch!
- Chill on white-sand beaches: We know different secluded beaches accessible only after a long hike or a bumpy boat ride. Enjoy crystal-clear water and colorful reefs with fewer people around.
- Hike in a national park, switching between beaches and lush vegetation: Explore Tayrona for 1,2,3 or 4 days, according to your wishes. Look for fauna and flora, listen to howler monkeys, and nap in hammocks.
- Muli-day hike in the jungle: The lost city trek is an excellent opportunity for travelers who want to try a multi-day hike experience for the first time. This activity is perfectly organized, and you don’t have to carry lots of stuff. Moreover, the sceneries are quite fantastic!
- Bird watching: Guided by the “Mike horn of Colombia,” enjoy hiking through dense vegetation to spot beautiful colorful birds with a professional bird watcher.
- Learn about Chocolate making: The Sierra Nevada offers excellent conditions for cacao growers. Visit a cacao farm to discover the different processes to make chocolate. As a bonus, enjoy a beauty mask with cacao butter. It’s good for the skin!
- Chase beautiful waterfalls: There are numerous waterfalls in the Sierra Nevada, although some of them are hard to find. Pick a quick dip in cold water to take off the sweat from the hike. Don’t hesitate to get there with a local guide.
- Live a few days in an indigenous community of the Sierra Nevada: Kogi and Arhuacos, considered as keepers of “the heart of the world,” open their homes to a few visitors each month. You will be able to get an insight into their daily life and participate in different tasks. With the snowy peaks in front of you, listen and bring back with you the poignant message of the Arhuacos about the importance of rebuild the links between Human and Nature.
- Explore the La Guajira desert in a jeep: If you’re looking for diversity during your Colombia tour, then you should consider adding this destination to your itinerary. Grab a day bag and a hat then enjoys the show for 3 or 4 days.
- Sleep near an oasis, in the middle of the desert: During your passage through La Guajira, you have the option to include the city of Nazareth. It’s the departure point to visit the national park Macuira. The contrast of the environment between yellow dunes and green trees is striking!
- Observe thousands of flamingos in their natural habitat: It’s a peaceful and straightforward activity. Drive to the fishing town of Camarones then board on a tiny traditional boat to observe these majestic birds.
- Stay two days in a Wayuu Rancheria: Too many local agencies offer “fake” cultural Wayuu tours with dances and costumes. Our local partner gives you a real and touching experience thanks to a young Wayuu and its family.
- Try to weave a Wayuu mochila (bag): Wayuu women create bags to sell them in big cities. They spend days on each of them! Learn the basics and give it a try!