Best Time to Visit Colombia

The Best Time to Visit Colombia: When to Go

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So, you’re planning on traveling to Colombia! Congratulations, it is an incredible country that will not disappoint you. I still remember the feeling when I hopped on a one-way flight to Cartagena, Colombia and all the adventures that ensued… I never could have imagined that years later I would STILL be in Colombia. If you’ve got flexibility in your travel dates, then you may be wondering when is the best time to visit Colombia, which is what we are going to dig into now.

Best Time to Visit Colombia

The short answer is that basically, any month of the year is a good time, but there are some considerations you should make about the weather (in terms of rainy or dry season and region) as well as the tourist season (if you want to either avoid crowds or enjoy the festivities). So there is no single best time to travel to Colombia.

Sorry, I can’t just say you should book your flight for April 10th, but I can give you some good tips and guidelines for when to plan your trip to Colombia and what to expect during that time of year.

Enough with the intro, let’s dig into when and why might be the best time to go to Colombia for you.

When is the Best Time to Visit Colombia? There are some important considerations that you should make about weather, tourist crowds, high season costs, and more.

Best Time to Visit Colombia for Weather

Since Colombia sits so close to the equator, it features a relatively steady climate year round. Theoretically, there are two seasons here in Colombia, rather than the four seasons found in other parts of the world.

Here in Colombia, there is the rainy and dry season:

  • December to March is a DRY season.
  • April to May is a WET season.
  • June to September is a DRY season.
  • October to November is a WET season.

There are a couple of important caveats that we should talk about.

These seasons don’t function like clockwork… They can drag into other months at times.

The dry season doesn’t mean it won’t ever rain, and the wet season doesn’t mean there won’t be dry days.

The wet season also does NOT mean non-stop rain. The reality is that it typically rains for a few hours in the mid to late afternoon (it does rain hard though) and then the downpour stops… It happens, but it isn’t common, where it just keeps raining all night long.

Best Time to Visit Colombia

That all just means that you can most definitely visit Colombia during the wet season and still do plenty of awesome things. You won’t be confined to your hotel or room. That being said, in certain regions of the country, the rainy season often leads to landslides in mountainous regions (whether Antioquia, Putumayo, Narino or others) which can cause travel delays if you plan to move around a lot by bus.

And because Colombia is a tropical country, it is generally humid throughout (except at higher altitudes — more on that in a minute) so the potential for rain is always there. Indeed, many online weather apps will constantly have a warning for rain in the coming days, but they aren’t so trustworthy here.

Altitude = Important

There shouldn’t be much variability of temperature throughout Colombia due to its position in the tropics, but thanks to the extreme changes in elevation, there are some very obvious differences.

You can be in Cartagena along the coast roasting in heat and humidity, or you could be up in Bogota freezing and wishing you brought your coat.

Bogota sits at around 8,660 feet (2,640 meters) which means grand differences in temperatures compared to the coast, including chilly temps at night. The rainy season, which locals call winter, also means cooler nighttime temperatures throughout these areas.

Best Time to Visit Colombia

In places like Medellin (sitting at 4,905 feet or 1,495 meters), people will often plan their weekend outings based on what temperature they want… Meaning if they are looking for pools and sun, they drive an hour or so to lower elevation like Santa Fe de Antioquia, or if they’re looking for some cooler weather, they’ll head up in the mountains near Santa Elena or Rionegro.

Regional Differences in Colombia

There are a few important regional differences when it comes to weather in Colombia that we should note… For one, if you are planning to visit Choco or Amazonas, which are both rainforests, then you can pretty much expect rain year round… There is no real best time to visit those regions, unless…

  • If you want to visit the Choco for the incredible whale watching opportunities off the coast, then you should plan from June to August for the peak activity of whales.
  • Likewise, if you want to visit the River of Seven Colors or Cano Cristales, then you should plan on also visiting in those same months which is when the algae blooms occur that cause the whole colored river effect.
  • If you want to visit the Colombian Amazon, while rain is obviously a year-round phenomenon, there are times when the rain is even more intense which can affect the water level and which should be something you consider when planning a trip.

Best Time to Visit Colombia

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Busiest Tourist Season in Colombia

Generally speaking, if you want to save money and have a more enjoyable trip, you will want to avoid the busy tourist seasons, but there may be some particularly popular local events you may want to experience and which may factor into when is the best time to visit Colombia for you… We will talk about both aspects next.

While the busiest tourist season in North America and Europe are June to August, it is actually the opposite time here in Colombia. The busiest travel months are December and January, which can be thought of as summer for locals. As mentioned earlier, this is a dry season, and not only are there plenty of vacation days due to Christmas and New Years, but students are also on their longest break of the year (their summer break, essentially).

Best Time to Visit Colombia

So, many Colombian families use this time to travel, whether it is to local fincas (farms) or pueblos (towns), but this is also the most common time for the big annual family trip which is most popularly taken by those from the interior on the coast in places like Cartagena or Santa Marta.

Expect lots of people from Bogota and Medellin at the coast during this time of year, which can also mean that prices get jacked up as demand goes up, so be sure to take that under consideration.

Best Time to Visit Colombia

That being said, when I first traveled to Colombia, we landed in Cartagena in January, and I had no idea about the local tourist season… But prices aren’t ridiculously crazy, we still found reservations on Booking, and my buddy and I had a great time with lots of friendly locals from Bogota or Medellin who came to the coast to have a good time before the drudgery of the work year kicks off again.

A special note about December in Colombia: it is also a very cool time to visit, as they go all out for Christmas here with elaborate decorations and big parties, food, and fun. It is a festive time to visit Colombia, for sure, although don’t expect too much for New Years, that’s a pretty dead night when everyone is at home with family.

The second busiest time for local travelers would be during Semana Santa (Holy Week) which is the week right before Easter (the end of April, typically). Colombians have a LOT of public holidays throughout the year, but there are two in a row during Holy Week which gives them a big four day weekend, plus many choose to take vacation days from work so they can travel.

Best Time to Visit Colombia

Again, the majority of Colombians don’t travel abroad but travel within Colombia, so if you are planning to visit Colombia during that time of the year, be prepared for plenty of company and be sure to book your cheap accommodation and other travel plans in advance.

Popular Colombian Festivals

Finally, there are a number of really big Colombian festivals at different points of the year and in different parts of the country. They are obviously fun events that you may want to witness or take part in, but you may also just want to avoid those cities or towns entirely if your trip coincides…

Best Time to Visit Colombia

A few of the most notable Colombian Festivals are:

  • Carnival of Blacks and Whites in Pasto in January.
  • Barranquilla Carnival in Barranquilla, of course, in March.
  • Semana Santa which is across the country in April.
  • Vallenato Legend Festival in Valledupar in April as well.
  • Flower Festival in Medellin in August.
  • Cali Fair in Cali in December.

Personally, I try to avoid big crazy festivals like that, but I’ve been to the Flower Festival in Medellin (because I live there) and yeah, it a pretty cool experience to have.

The TRUE Best Time to Visit Colombia

Honestly, the best time to visit Colombia is whenever you’ve got the time to get away for two weeks (or hopefully longer!)…

But if I had to pick a few months, I’d say that July and August would be the best time in terms of weather and overall crowds (although you’re sure to encounter plenty of foreign backpackers, but nothing like the number of Colombians during their peak travel time)…

Best Time to Visit Colombia

…or if you want more solitude, then September and October which tends to be quieter overall with foreign travelers (many are college students who head back to school) and which will also be during the low rainy season. When I was hosting travelers in my Airbnb, October to November was especially dead months. So that’s a good time if you are looking for better deals in general.

I hope that this discussion of weather and crowds has helped you better understand the seasons and when might be the best time to visit Colombia for you. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below. Be sure to check out my comprehensive guide to traveling to Colombia for more insider information from someone who has traveled almost everywhere here.

Colombia Travel Tips

Colombia Travel Tips

Important tips and resources for planning an amazing trip to Colombia, based on my years of traveling and living in Colombia.

Instructions

  1. Book a cheap flight to Colombia with Momondo, or better yet, start travel hacking so you can fly for free.
  2. Plan a rough itinerary and how long you will spend in each destination. Use an itinerary planning service for custom recommendations and/or pick up Lonely Planet Colombia.
  3. Work a little every day to teach yourself Spanish, you'll want to know as much as possible before you arrive.
  4. Book cheap accommodation in advance, at least for the first destinations -- For hostels use: Booking, for cheap hotels use: Hotels.com, for apartments use: Airbnb.
  5. Reserve your on the ground tours and activities through Get Your Guide.
  6. Purchase travel insurance with World Nomads to protect yourself from illness, injury, and theft while in Colombia. VERY important.
  7. Sign up for my free emails about planning a better trip to Colombia, and be sure to check out my comprehensive guide about traveling to Colombia.
  8. Learn more money saving tricks with my top budget travel tips.
  9. Put together your Colombia packing list.
  10. Enjoy this incredible country!

Notes

I hope this helped you plan your travels in Colombia! I know it can be a struggle to find accurate and on the ground information when traveling to a new place like Colombia, which is why I started writing so extensively about it!

If you have any questions about Colombia, budget travel, or anything else shoot me an email at ryan@desktodirtbag.com.

(I love getting questions! That is how I get ideas for my blog posts and what to write about!)

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Ryan

Author, Writer, and Head Honcho at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, perpetual wanderer, and self-proclaimed dirtbag (but that might not mean what you think). Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out truck camping to road trip across the American West. Since then he set out traveling to Colombia, drove across all of Central America, and also wrote a best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget. He just finished driving his old truck across all of South America. Follow the adventures on social media or read more about me.

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    Another excellent article Ryan, thank you. I’m dealing with some health issues so my opportunities to travel will be limited for a while. That being said, visiting Colombia is way up there on my bucket list. Best wishes and enjoy that beautiful warm place you live.

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      Author

      Thanks, Alan — sorry to hear that you’re having some health problems but I wish you a speedy recovery and you get the opportunity to travel again more soon!!

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