Ten Affordable Trips For Students In Colombia

by John Pitta

One of many perks of studying abroad in Colombia is that it is a relatively small country. Meaning, students can see much of it during their international program. Planes, buses, and trains, as well as reliable bus routes in the major cities, have made Colombia accessible despite the country’s wild terrain. Fill your calendar with these ten recommended weekend trips to help you explore the country in between classes.

Bogotá, Colombia Street Graffiti.
Bogotá, Colombia Street Graffiti. Photo Courtesy of Hernán García Crespo on Flickr

1. The Carnival of Barranquilla

For four days in January, Colombians gather in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla to celebrate art, culture, and music in a festival that has been called a world masterpiece. The festival combines European, African, and Indian traditions reflected in a number of activities including concerts, parties, and even a grand parade. This is a crash course in local culture for weekend travelers who want to know what it’s truly like to celebrate like a Colombian.

2. Bogotá Graffiti Tour

Local art is thriving on the city streets of Bogotá. Along the sidewalks, graffiti covers building walls and street corners. The designs usually represent political views and artistic expression. Artists have decorated the city in intricate murals and colorful paintings depicting animals, movies, politicians, and visionscapes. A weekend trip to the capital city is well worth it for the collection of modern graffiti art. Tours are inexpensive and a favorite of many who have visited Bogotá.

3. Medellin, Piedra de Peñol

Located about 20 miles east of the city of Medellin in northwestern Colombia, Piedra de Peñol is a gigantic boulder resting on the eastern shore of the Guatape Reservoir. Visitors can follow a winding staircase to the top of the rock for breathtaking views of the hills and lagunas. Those looking for a weekend trip should stop in the nearby town of Guatape for hotels and tour guides.

4. Taganga, Diving

Hidden in the hills along Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Taganga is a site for some of the best offshore diving tours in the country. Visitors will have a chance to see beautiful underwater landscapes and hundreds of species of marine wildlife. Snorkeling, reef tours, night dives, scuba, and first aid courses are just a few activities offered in the area. Many dive centers are available to weekenders in Taganga, each unique to the level and type of venturing diver.

5. Cartagena, Hay Festival

For almost a decade, Cartagena has hosted a festival hailed as one of the most important hispanic literary events in the world. The Hay Festival combines cultural exchange, art, literature, and debate honoring social responsibility of the hispanic world. This festival features local and international artists and speakers teaming up with reading programs from institutions around the globe. A weekend trip to Cartagena offers a glimpse into the festival’s aim to provide a model for social responsibility and safety for the people of Colombia and visitors from abroad.

6. Bogotá, Iberoamerican Theatre Festival

Every two years, the Iberoamerican Theatre Festival puts Bogotá on the world stage as one of the largest performing arts events in the world. Thousands of performers flock to Colombia’s cultural center for over two weeks of performances by international and local artists. Weekenders here will see the city streets come alive with plays, music, puppetry, and circus acts.

7. Bogotá, Rock al Parque

Many people in the U.S. wouldn’t think the largest free rock music festival in Latin America is in Colombia, but thousands of people travel to Bogotá every year for Rock in the Park. Rock and roll music has grown in popularity over the last decade, and weekend visitors enjoy three whole days featuring over 900 different bands playing in parks around the city at no cost. Plus, there is endless locals to meet, food to try, and celebrations in between.

8. Bike Chicamocha Canyon

The highlands of Central Colombia are home to forests, coffee and tobacco farms, ponds, waterfalls, and the second largest canyon in the world - Chicamocha Canyon. All of these sights can be seen on a weekend bike tour which follows the canyon, visiting all the beautiful sights along the way. Tour guides know English and provide lunch and 4x4 travel along the tour. Many tours take visitors to a special location to watch the sunset and enjoy celebratory drinks.

9. Parque El Gallineral

Outside the small Northeastern town of San Gil lies a land of waterfalls, caves, cliffs, forests, and swimming ponds known as Parque El Gallineral. The park features tours of all types, from repelling down a waterfall, to river rafting, and caving exploring. It is a great spot for weekenders looking for a concentration of extreme sports and nature. Visitors can also see cultural monuments carved out of stone, and a cemetery for musicians famous to the region. Tours are available in San Gil, but the restaurants are usually pricey, so pack a snack.

10. Leticia, Amazon Jungle

Behold the Amazon Rainforest, the largest on Earth. Weekend travelers who want to experience this natural wonder can visit Leticia, on Colombia’s southern tip. Leticia is a gateway to year round tours and jungle lodges in the area, with hotel and restaurant accommodations available.  Visitors will be able to see marine wildlife along with thousands of species of animals native to the region.