Colombia’s Place in the South America Backpacking Circuit

Cabo de la Vela, Colombia

Cabo de la Vela, Colombia

The last 12 months of living in Medellin, and traveling around Colombia, have brought me into contact with far more travel bloggers and backpackers than I ever expected. A few were only visiting for a short time, taking advantage of the cheap domestic flights to get around the country, while the majority were at the start or end of much longer journeys around South America.

The backpacker trail through South America is a well-worn one. The number of travelers I’ve met starting or ending their journeys in Colombia feels about even.

Beginning in Colombia

For many traveling the whole of Latin America overland, having started in North America or Mexico, Colombia is the first logical South American country to visit after leaving Panama.

There are three options to bridging the Darien Gap, the no man’s land of thick jungle connecting the two continents: arranging overland trips, sailing, or booking international flights. The Darien Gap has long been considered too dangerous or difficult to cross overland, so most travelers opt for sailing or flying.

Once backpackers have gotten their fill of Colombia, many opt for the 24+ hour bus rides to Ecuador, in spite of the cheap flights that are available. Aside from comfort and speed, flying is a good way to avoid the typical petty crime and pandering that commonly occur at land border crossings.

Ending in Colombia

For those who end their South American tour in Colombia, many got their start in Buenos Aires.

Backpackers start in Argentina instead Brazil for two main reasons, cost of travel, and size of the country.

For example, one backpacker I met while sharing a taxi from the Santa Marta airport to Taganga said he’d spend about $10,000 for three months of travel in Brazil. I know some people could probably spend a year in Colombia for that much!

Backpackers also suggest Brazil is big enough to warrant a trip of its own. Though Argentina seems just as big, it’s much cheaper to cover the large distances.

The colorful pueblo of Jardin, Colombia

The colorful pueblo of Jardin.

My Route

My 6 months in Medellin are up in mid-August, but instead of flying straight to Ecuador, I’m going back to New York for a wedding. After a week back in the States to watch the nuptials, and re-supply, I’ll be flying straight to Quito to begin following the classic backpacking route from North to South:  Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil.

If things are going well by Brazil, I may make the added effort to visit the three little forgotten countries of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.

And there’s a small chance I might find myself in Antarctica, as I’ll be in the region during the Summer travel season.

Once I’ve covered the rest of the continent, and experienced Brazil first hand, I’ll decide what comes next.

Will I return to Medellin for the fourth straight year in 2012?

I have no idea. We’ll have to wait and see!

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This post was written by Dave, and brought to you by Flight Centre.

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About Dave

David is the Editor in Chief of Medellín Living. Connect with him on Facebook and Google+.

Comments

  1. William says:

    so what’s the future of this blog gonna be like…i enjoy reading it 🙁

    • Hola William, glad you’ve been enjoying Medellin Living. The blog will continue, whether or not I’m in the country.

      Jessica is returning in a few weeks, and will continue to write weekly, plus another expat, Ryan, will be moving down in a few months and he’s interested in helping out as well.

      I’ll continue to steer the ship as I travel. 🙂

  2. Sounds great Dave, can’t wait to follow along! 🙂

    • Thanks Kristin, I’m terrible about leaving Colombia, but once I get going in the other countries, I hope to have a great time!

  3. “Once backpackers have gotten their fill of Colombia, many opt for the 24+ hour bus rides to Ecuador, in spite of the cheap flights that are available. Aside from comfort and speed, flying is a good way to avoid the typical petty crime and pandering that commonly occur at land border crossings.”

    Yeah, but you’re missing out on the stunning country side and nature of south western Colombia. The departments of Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Narño and Putumayo are definitley worth exploring (although proceed with caution in parts of Putumayo). It really is a shame to skip it.

    • Hey Kevin, I agree that whenever possible (or you’ve got the energy for it), taking the slow road is preferred when crossing from one country to the next.

  4. Help!!!!
    I am a student of the Master in International Tourism at the University of Lugano, and I need your help for my Master Thesis.
    I am analyzing the potentials of Colombia as a new, successful destination for backpackers.
    I believe this Country may represent the perfect destination for this kind of tourism thanks to his natural and cultural diversity.

    If you have ever backpacked Colombia, I would kindly ask you to complete this short survey. http://fs25.formsite.com/spug/form1/index.html?1355301060030

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