Colombians have discovered travel in their own country and are increasingly heading out during vacations and holidays. Very nice of course, but as a traveler it can sometimes be quite difficult to find a cheap flight or a nice hotel on the last moment during extra busy periods in the most popular places. How do Colombians celebrate their vacations? What are the busiest periods and most popular destinations? When are Colombian vacations and vacations? What is the best time to visit Colombia in terms of budget and high season? Read it here and plan a bit more of your trip during certain times.
Colombians and vacation: quite a story
As soon as even one extra day is tacked on to a weekend (a long weekend is called puente here), at once, entire families go out of town in a packed car on their way to relatives, a hotel or a finca. And by family, I don’t just mean parents and siblings, but often uncles, aunts and cousins go with them too. The more souls, the more joy. Not only does this result in interminable traffic jams out of the city, but also at the end of a puente it can take two hours longer to get back into town. I speak from experience. Many towns and popular villages are flooding with vacationing Colombian families. Very cozy of course, but unexpected crowds can be tricky at times if you, as a backpacker, find all the ho(s)tels full upon arrival.
What are popular destinations among Colombians?
Of course, it varies a bit where you are, but in general, destinations within a distance that is easily doable by car are popular. Colombia is so big, that a distance up to about 5 hours of driving falls under “doable”. Bogotans, for example, are moving en masse into Cundinamarca or going to Villa de Leyva. Flying is also popular among Colombians. This way, they also get to destinations a little further away during a three-day weekend. Therefore are Santander (San Gil, Barichara, Bucaramanga) and Eje Cafetero (Salento, Pereira) popular destinations. And, of course, the Colombian coast and islands. In particular Cartagena, the beaches around Cartagena and Santa Marta, Tayrona, and during some longer vacations San Andres. But destinations that are less massively visited also increase in price during temporada alta (the high season). Fine to visit the country during these periods, but some preparation may be helpful.
Best time to visit Colombia: here’s what to consider if you’re in Colombia during high season
Airfares may rise considerably
Not a bit. Flying to Cartagena between Christmas and New Year’s? Expect to spend a few hundred euros. If you still want to make this trip, check out surrounding destinations. For example, a flight to Barranquilla will be much cheaper during that period, and from there you can easily take a bus to Cartagena. But flights to Armenia, Bucaramanga, Medellín and Popayan, for example, also rise during puentes and vacations. It is best to keep a close eye on flight prices during these periods and book earlier if necessary. Or travel by bus.
Hotels Colombia are filling up fast
During the busiest periods, it is helpful to book in advance that nice ho(s)tel you have your eye on. Hotels and fincas fill up quickly during Colombian vacations. Certainly family rooms are hard to find then. In warmer areas such as the north coast and Eje Cafetero, Colombians like to go to somewhat larger hotels with a pool and everything provided. Decameron, for example, is very popular among Colombians, as are fincas around Bogotá or in the coffee area.
Normally so beautiful destinations are ruined by tourists
Don’t expect empty streets in Salento, Villa de Leyva, Barichara or Guatapé during a puente or vacation. The last time I was in Salento I was shocked by the crowds. Kalverstraat is nothing like it. Want peace and quiet in a beautiful village? Then go outside vacations and long weekends, because vacationing with hundreds of Colombians is really pure horror. There are even places that get so extremely crowded that it is better to avoid them during the busiest days. An example would be the Tatacoa Desert and Tayrona. It is full with tourists and totally ruins the experience you can have off-season.
In general, prices of hotels, transportation and food rise during the high season, just like in any country in the world. Now, by the way, for most travelers Colombia will still be cheap, even if prices rise a bit. But if you want more budget travel go outside the major vacations.
Go off the beaten path
Not literally everywhere are the hotels filling up. You can find plenty of places that are quieter even during vacations. However, these are also often places where fewer hotels can be found, so they still fill up quickly. But at least by planning a little well you can end up in the most beautiful places without too many (Colombian) tourists.
Best travel time Colombia: when are Colombian holidays and puentes?
Below is a list of the official holidays in Colombia. Monday and Friday days make the weekend a puente. So the best travel time Colombia is outside these days, to avoid mass tourism and high prices. This post will of course remain up-to-date! Click here to see the holidays themselves for the year you want to travel to South America. This allows you to determine the best time to travel.
Official holidays and vacation periods in Colombia 2023
All holidays below on Monday means that that weekend is a puente. These are weekends that are always crowded with Colombian vacationers, especially near major cities.
Sunday 1st of January: Año Nuevo
Monday 9th of January: Día de los Reyes Magos
Monday 20th of March: Día de San José
Thursday 6th of April: Jueves Santo (Semana Santathe whole week)
Friday 7th of april: Viernes Santo (Semana Santa the whole week)
Saturday, May 1: Día del Trabajo
Monday 12th of May: Día de la Ascensión
Monday 12th of June: Corpus Christi
Monday 19th of June: Sagrado Corazón
Monday 3thof July: San Pedro y San Pablo
Thursday 20th of July: Día de la Independencia
Monday 7th of August: Batalla de Boyaca
Monday 21st of August: La asunción de la Virgen
Monday 16th of October: Día de la Raza
Monday 6th of November: Día de Todos los Santos
Monday 13th of November: Independencia de Cartagena
Wednesday, Dec. 8: Día de la Inmaculada Concepción (with Las Velitas the night before (Barichara))
Saturday, December 25: Navidad
The major vacations are in July/August and from mid December through the third week of January.
Do you want to know what days are official holidays in Colombia in the year you are going to travel? Search on Google to ‘días festivos Colombia 2024/2025/etc‘.
When are the busiest periods? For the best time to visit Colombia better avoid this periods:
The big vacations in Colombia: January and December
Colombia has two larger vacations: in July/August and December/January. However, the latter is the really big vacation in Colombia and therefore the busiest. Schools and universities close (depending on each school/university) around the second week of December and start again around the end of January. Peak season is often seen between Dec. 15 and Jan. 20. The busiest period is found just after Christmas (December 26), when everyone travels to their vacation destinations. Arrange your hotels through the second week of January if you want to sleep in something better than a hostel. This is also the period when many foreign tourists visit Colombia.
The big vacations: July and August
Also in July, schools and universities close and Colombians once again go to travel. A little less massive than in January, but again, if you want to stay in a nice finca, for example, it is better to book it in advance. Flight prices are also rising in this period. This is also the period when many foreign tourists visit Colombia.
Semana Santa Colombia
During Semana Santa, many Colombians head out, causing crowds outside major cities. In fact, some destinations will become extremely crowded and are better visited at another time, such as Parque Tayrona.
Not all puentes are equally crowded, but a puente is also a reason to get out of town, so if you have a nice stay in mind, arrange it in advance. Airline ticket prices also rise during these long weekends. It can save a lot of money to fly just a day earlier or later.
Best time to travel Colombia regarding costs, crowds and reservations
As you read in this article about the best time to travel with respect to the weather, it is generally believed that the best time is exactly during the busiest periods. Not surprisingly, because precisely from mid-December to mid-February is the dry season in Colombia, so you have a great chance of beautiful weather. But since this is by no means how weather always presents itself, it can also be beautiful weather in the other months,I would absolutely recommend always visiting Colombia outside the high season.
Fortunately, you can actually travel well in Colombia in any month. During the rainy season, you are obviously more likely to have rain, but it depends very much on a week-by-week and even day-by-day basis. So it is by no means said that you will have rain every day. So if you want to travel (budget) without booking anything beforehand through Colombia without crowds of vacationing Colombians and rising prices, choose the periods between late January and late June, and between late August and mid-December. If you don’t care about the crowds and are going for sun security, choose December or January.