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Expat Exchange - Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to Colombia (Plus, Itineraries) 2024
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Cartagena, Colombia

Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to Colombia (Plus, Itineraries)

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Colombian Visa Services
Colombian Visa Services

Summary: If you're thinking about relocating to Colombia but haven't decided on a particular city or town yet, taking a discovery trip to explore several sought-after expat locales can offer valuable perspectives. Check out these recommended destinations for your exploratory journey in Colombia.

Embarking on a Look-See Trip to Colombia is an invaluable step for anyone considering relocation. This exploratory journey offers a firsthand experience of the country's diverse culture, climate, and communities. It allows potential expats and digital nomads to assess the suitability of various cities and towns for their lifestyle, work, and personal preferences. By visiting different areas, one can gauge the local amenities, expat communities, safety, and overall vibe of each place, making an informed decision on where to settle down.

Recommended Itineraries

For a 10-day trip, focus on Colombia's major cities and nearby towns that are popular among expats. Start in Bogotá, then visit Medellín, and finally explore the Coffee Triangle region, including towns like Salento and Pereira. If you have 20 days, extend your trip to include the Caribbean coast, visiting Cartagena and Santa Marta, and then venture into the Andean region to see cities like Cali and Popayán. This longer itinerary provides a broader understanding of the different climates and lifestyles across Colombia.


Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, is a bustling metropolis with a population of over 7 million. It offers a vibrant urban lifestyle with a mix of modern and colonial charm. Expats and digital nomads are drawn to its diverse cultural scene, quality healthcare, and educational opportunities. The cost of living is relatively affordable, and the city's elevation at 2,640 meters provides a cooler climate. Bogotá is also a hub for international travel, making it convenient for those who need to fly often.

Travel Tip: Don't miss the chance to visit the historic La Candelaria neighborhood and enjoy a meal at Andrés Carne de Res, a famous restaurant known for its lively atmosphere and traditional Colombian cuisine.


Medellín, known as the "City of Eternal Spring," boasts a pleasant climate year-round and is famous for its innovative public transportation system. With a population of around 2.5 million, it's a city that's large enough to offer plenty but small enough to navigate easily. The cost of living is reasonable, and the city has a growing expat community, attracted by the friendly locals and the burgeoning tech and innovation scene. Medellín's proximity to nature and outdoor activities also makes it a hit among those seeking a balance between city life and the great outdoors.

Travel Tip: Explore the interactive exhibits at Parque Explora and relax in the nearby Botanical Garden, a green oasis in the heart of the city.

Coffee Triangle (Eje Cafetero)

The Coffee Triangle, or Eje Cafetero, is a region encompassing the towns of Salento, Pereira, and Manizales. This area is renowned for its stunning landscapes, coffee plantations, and slower pace of life. It's an ideal spot for expats and digital nomads who prefer a more tranquil setting and are interested in agrotourism or outdoor activities. The cost of living is lower than in the major cities, and the region offers a genuine taste of Colombian rural life.

Travel Tip: Visit a coffee farm in Salento to learn about coffee production and enjoy a fresh brew with panoramic views of the lush, rolling hills.


Cartagena is a historic port city on Colombia's Caribbean coast, famed for its well-preserved colonial architecture and vibrant cultural scene. The city's tropical climate and proximity to beautiful beaches make it a popular destination for tourists and expats alike. While the cost of living can be higher, especially in the touristy Old Town, many are willing to pay a premium for the unique blend of history, culture, and seaside living.

Travel Tip: Take a walk atop the historic city walls for a sunset view and dine at La Cevichería, a restaurant celebrated for its exquisite seafood dishes.

Santa Marta

Santa Marta, another gem on the Caribbean coast, is smaller than Cartagena but equally charming. It's a gateway to the stunning beaches of Tayrona National Park and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. The city attracts a mix of retirees, expats, and digital nomads looking for a laid-back coastal lifestyle. The cost of living is generally affordable, and the city offers a range of amenities without the overwhelming hustle of larger urban centers.

Travel Tip: Spend a day at Tayrona National Park, where you can hike through tropical forests and relax on pristine beaches.


Cali, known as the salsa capital of the world, is a city with a rhythm of its own. It's the third-largest city in Colombia and offers a warm climate, a lower cost of living than Bogotá or Medellín, and a festive atmosphere. Expats enjoy the city's vibrant nightlife, diverse culinary scene, and the friendly, dance-loving locals. Cali is also surrounded by natural beauty, including sugar cane fields and mountains, providing plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures.

Travel Tip: Experience the city's salsa culture firsthand by taking a dance class at one of the local salsa schools, such as Escuela de Baile Son de Luz.


Popayán is one of Colombia's most impressive colonial cities, often overlooked by expats but offering a peaceful environment with a rich history. Known as the "White City" for its whitewashed buildings, Popayán provides a lower cost of living and a slower pace of life, ideal for those seeking a more relaxed atmosphere. The city is also known for its religious architecture and traditional Colombian cuisine.

Travel Tip: Visit the historic Puente del Humilladero, an iconic bridge in Popayán, and enjoy traditional dishes at Restaurante La Cosecha Parrillada, popular among locals and visitors alike.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
Learn More

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