What a trip! I am finally home after 3 weeks of traveling all over Colombia. With a backpack! (Actually 2— one big, one small).
I can honestly say that after my college years I really didn’t think I would ever go backpacking, but a great opportunity to travel with an old friend came up and it was too good to say no.
So for three weeks we went from big cities to small towns, mountains to beaches, urban tours to local farms, and colorful streets to jungle hikes, all the while drinking good Colombian coffee and fresh fruit juice.
Packing for this adventure, with so many different climates and activities planned, was a bit of a struggle, so today I’m going to share all of my travel looks as well as tips for what to pack on your trip to Colombia.
Here’s our rough itinerary:
USA ⇒ Bogotá ⇒ Salento ⇒ MedellÍn ⇒ Paso del Mango (Minca area) ⇒ Playa Los Angeles (outside Tayrona National Park) ⇒ Lost City Trek ⇒ Cartagena
Graffiti Tour in Bogotá
When you think of Colombia, you probably imagine the hot and humid jungle or toasty Caribbean coast. But Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, is elevated in the mountains and has a pretty chill climate. Year round average temperatures are in the mid 50s! So bringing a light, yet warm, puffer jacket and wearing jeans was completely necessary.
Overall we weren’t blown away by Bogota, but the Graffiti Tour was SO impressive and educational! It was 4 hours long and the city can be on the dirty side, so I wore sneakers for it. These sneakers were so clutch– I wore them on the plane there and back, when we had long travel days between cities, for our Ciudad Perdida Trek (more on that later), and for this long walking tour.
Comfy sneakers are DEFINITELY a must for backpacking!
Hiking the Cocora Valley
This is probably not my most fashionable look here! But I have a point in talking about what I wore to hike in the Cocora Valley.
Our trip itinerary included a fair amount of hiking and outdoor activities. And since I didn’t want to ruin any of my nicer workout clothes, I grabbed this under $8 tank for hiking. If it got torn, stained, ripped, or I left it hanging to dry in a hostel it wouldn’t be a big deal. It actually made it through the whole trip, but it was nice to know that I didn’t have to worry about potentially losing something ‘nicer.’ I also wore this top on my Lost City trek later on in the trip.
Buy some cheap basics before the trip so you don’t have to worry about ruining your nicer items.
Wandering Salento + Visiting a Coffee Farm
After hiking in the Cocora Valley for several hours and several miles, the following day my friend and I decided to dress ‘cute.’ We wore maxi dresses and sandals for exploring the small town of Salento. I actually wore this dress several times over the trip, and really wish I brought more maxi dresses. They’re really easy to throw on since they’re a complete outfit in one!
I will say, however, that dressing ‘cute’ was not the brightest idea for the coffee farm. It rained a little, and we actually walked through a bit of the farm where we picked coffee cherries. I highly recommend a visit, but maybe not in a maxi dress 🙂
Medellín Walking Tour
Do you know what they call Medellín? The city of eternal spring, because the weather is so pleasant year round! I wore this outfit for a 4 hour walking tour around the city, and the weather was just so NICE.
You may have noticed this fabulous straw hat I’m wearing, because it’s so FABULOUS. But let me tell you, it was such a pain to carry around from city to city on buses and planes and walking all over. I almost left it on a bus somewhere around 43 times. But I’m happy to say it made it through the whole trip! My advice to future backpackers, however, is to bring a packable straw hat. I didn’t even know these existed! This similar one here has a snap button band so you can roll the hat up and pack it in your backpack, instead of accidentally leaving it on public transportation every 3 days.
Find ‘packable’ versions of your favorite items to make traveling between places easier.
Day Trip to Guatapé
Guatapé is a colorful and charming town just a short bus ride away from Medellín that we explored. And at this point during the trip my clothes had been packed and repacked several times, and were SO wrinkly. The wrinkles were insane! And until they invent a travel iron that is the size of a smartphone it’s just not practical to bring one backpacking (although a hair straightener works in a pinch!).
These paper bag waist shorts, which I loooovve, were also wrinkly but the fact that they’re black helped hide it more than if they were colored or printed. I think packing a few black basics- like pants, shorts, tanks, tees, and a jacket, will help you get so much more out of your backpack space since it matches everything.
When in doubt, pack black to hide wrinkles and make your small travel wardrobe more versatile.
Paso Del Mango (near Minca)
Swimsuit (under $35)
You really can’t go to Colombia and avoid the water. You’re either going to the beach in Cartagena or Tayrona National Park, or you may go to some waterfalls and swimming holes in Minca. Even though I have several swimsuits already, I actually bought one more before this trip: a no-fuss black one piece, and I have no regrets.
Here’s the thing: if you’re going to Tayrona or visiting some waterfalls, you’re going to have to hike to get to the water. We had to hike 2 hours from the entrance of Tayrona Park to get to the most popular beach! So a simple one piece (no ruffles, excess ties, or bulky embellishments) is really easy and comfortable to wear underneath hiking shorts and a tank. I would not want to fumble around with a bikini underneath my hiking clothes personally, but if you think you won’t mind then go for it.
This black suit matched everything I wore over it, and was even fun to dress up with some statement earrings when I wanted to look a little more glam. Annndd it’s under $35!
And here’s a peek at the nice strap detail in the back:
A one-piece swimsuit is comfortable and easy to hike in so you can get to all the great swimming spots.
Playa Los Angeles
You’d think that staying at a place with no Wifi, one so-so restaurant, and a shared bathroom would really suck. But with a view of the water like that and a swing outside your door, it was actually one of my favorite Colombian experiences! We stayed in a yurt on the beach at Playa Los Angeles and it was really special.
And this olive dress I want to buy in every. single. colorway. It’s just a great basic, plain and simple. It was easy to wear at the beach or toss on for a hot travel day. It’s jersey so it’s very breathable, and IT HAS POCKETS! I did find that it wrinkled a good bit, so black may have been a better choice for this one. Its also available in pink, yellow/white stripes, and black/white stripes.
Lost City Trek
I already talked about buying cheap items to take for the ‘adventure’ part of your trip, and this lavender tank top is a well-priced piece that worked perfectly for our Lost City trek.
If you haven’t heard of Ciudad Perdida and what it takes to get there, check out Adventure Junkie’s post on the trek. To sum up, it’s a wet, hot, mosquito-filled 4 days of hiking in the Colombian jungle to reach the ancient city and return. But trust me, it’s a great time!
And as a throwback to my first tip about sneakers, it really helps to have them as a backup for the Lost City trek when your real hiking shoes are stolen outside of your hostel during the first week of the trip. Sh*t happens.
Wandering Old Town Cartagena
You guys know I’m a midi skirt enthusiast. So I had to bring a colorful, floral one for visiting one of the most colorful cities in Colombia, Cartagena! The city was the hottest one we visited and we really felt it. I love midi skirts for being breezy and comfortable during travel, but also looking nice.
This one actually took me completely from day to night: I wore it as pictured walking around the city, and then I switched it up by changing into these low-heeled sandals for a fancy evening dinner followed by dancing at the famous Cafe Havana.
And that’s a major key to making a backpacking wardrobe more versatile: finding pieces that work from day to night. For me that was a midi skirt, but it could also be a maxi dress, maybe a silky tank, or even the perfect black crop pants. It’s all up to you!
Pack outfits that go from day to night with a simple change of shoes or accessories.
Visiting Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
My last look from Colombia! Another maxi dress. Like I said, I wish I had packed more. While our itinerary didn’t start off in such warm climates, at the end we had several days in cities by the Caribbean that were sunny, which equals sweaty for me when not all places have air conditioning. Maxi dresses were truly the most comfortable for me in Cartagena, but I didn’t see a good place to buy any more one I was there.
You guys know I love to shop, and I usually do so when I travel, but I have to say that I found there to be a lack of nice clothing stores in Colombia that weren’t wildly expensive or extremely cheap. I wouldn’t suggest going to Colombia with the intent of buying items once you get there, unless it’s jewelry or a woven bag, both of which are sold by many vendors and souvenir shops in Cartagena and Salento.
Bring everything you think you’ll need to wear during your backpacking trip with you, as it’s not a sure thing that you can find it once you get to Colombia.
If you’re thinking that this isn’t enough outfits for three weeks, you’re right! Besides the days I mentioned here, we also had several travel days where we were on buses or flights getting from one place to another. On these days I kept comfort #1 and stuck with leggings, sneakers, and a comfy top. Nothing special! And our Lost City Trek was 4 days long, so again, 4 days of workout clothes.
If you’re planning a trip to Colombia and have any questions about what to wear for certain events or places, let me know in the comments! Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting more Colombia content, so stay tuned for that as well.
Have a great weekend 🙂
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