Road Trips in Colombia

Along the road from Medellin to Manizales
Along the road from Medellin to Manizales (photo: David Lee)
Along the road from Medellin to Manizales
Along the road from Medellin to Manizales (photo: David Lee)

Colombia has received some bad press in years past, but now it’s settling down and starting to attract increasing numbers of visitors eager to experience the wide range of cultural and natural attractions this dynamic country has to offer.

Many of the main roads across Colombia are in good condition, well-maintained and conveniently connecting all the major towns and cities, and you can check out some car hire comparison deals to pick up a car when you get there and head off to explore the sites.

Renting a car can seem on first sight like a bad idea when you first land at Bogota airport and see how terrible most of the driving is, with trucks, taxis and buses skidding around like nobody’s business and with scant regard for any of the road rules you’re used to back home.

However, get out of the downtown Bogota area and a whole world opens up that it would be a pity to miss.

One of the highlights of a Colombian road trip is negotiating the numerous smaller roads that wind through the mountains, through blankets of thick forested slopes, before suddenly hitting an open stretch in a region such as Los Llanos and stepping on the gas.

You can do a fabulous trip between Bogota and the Tatacoa Desert in around six hours, shooting through a variety of different terrains from urban congestion through mist-shrouded mountain slopes and winding tracks to open highways and dry desert.

Even in the States, the Mecca for road trips, you’d be hard pushed to beat that.

Downtown Manizales
Downtown Manizales (photo: David Lee)

It’s the endlessly diverse landscapes of Colombia that make driving such a joy here, and on the main tourist routes there’s absolutely nothing to be concerned about.

All the heavy unrest is now in the past and the tourism industry is picking up big time in a country largely unspoilt by development.

If you’re heading out to Colombia in a group then a rental car is definitely the best option, as you can stop off wherever you like and accommodation and food are amazingly cheap.

As a starter for a road trip in Colombia, try the now well-established route southwards through the Departments of Antioquia and Cordoba on Ruta 25 of the Pan-American Highway.

You can conveniently stop off on your first night at Sahagun in the Cordoba district and then continue southwards towards Medellin in Antioquia. This is Colombia’s second biggest city and there are plenty of restaurants and hotels as well as a few historic sites.

Manizales, further along the same route, is renowned for its coffee plantations.

Cocora Valley
Cocora Valley (photo: David Lee)

You can camp out in the Bosque Cocora National Park for a night or two before driving on to the picturesque town of Popayan and then to Pasto.

Colombia seems to have been designed with road trips in mind by a deity who enjoyed creating a wealth of different landscapes that are best appreciated in passing by car, stopping off occasionally to savour particularly beautiful scenes and enjoy the regional dishes.


About the Author: David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities. This post was brought to you by

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  1. Hi Dave, I like your writing… I’m living in Medellin now after 4 yrs in Costa Rica and Central America. Next time you do a gig here, let me know.