Medellin, Cartagena, and Bogota are three of the biggest cities in Colombia—and three of the hottest tourist destinations. They are also three of the top and best cities to visit in Colombia. For those looking to take their next vacation to Latin America, it can be difficult choosing which of these three Colombian cities to visit. All three places offer incredible experiences and the opportunity to see Colombia first-hand. For those of you wondering “where is Medellin”, “where is Cartagena”, and “where is Bogota” – these three cities are located in South America. And Cartagena is also known as Cartagena de indias Colombia.
But is one city better than another? When you are looking for the top cities in Colombia to visit, is there a clear winner among the three—one you should choose above the others without hesitation? The answer isn’t so obvious and will depend largely on your likes and dislikes. It’ll also depend on if you’re traveling alone, traveling with kids and family, traveling as a couple, or traveling with friends. It will also depend on what weather you enjoy, which activities you want to indulge in, and your goals for travel to Colombia.
Deciding which one of the three major cities to travel to take careful thought and consideration. You don’t want to choose the wrong city and waste your vacation—though none of these three great cities would be a waste – but, if you have limited time to vacation in Colombia, you might want to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your time and money. If you don’t have a time constraint or budget, we certainly recommend that you visit all three cities since they are so different you probably won’t tell you’re still in the same country if no one told you.
If you are short on vacation time like most of us, we expect that you might narrow down to either Bogota, Medellin or Cartagena. Some people might even add the city of Cali if they have enough time. You might be thinking about just two of the three and in that case, we want you to be able to decide between Bogota vs. Medellin or Bogota vs. Cartagena or Medellin vs Cartagena easily with the information here. All of these major cities are famous cities so you can’t go wrong with any. You might even compare Medellin vs Bogota or Cartagena vs Bogota or Cartagena vs Medellin. It doesn’t matter which of these popular cities you compare to the others and how you compare them – what matters is that you want to know which one to head out to given limited time and resources.
There are several factors that go into determining which city is right for you. In many ways, the choice you make between these locations will rely on your subjective preferences and your idea of the perfect vacation spots in Colombia.
☑ You might have had one on your bucketlist for a while and just need to check it off.
☑ You might also have an affinity towards a particular city, or something that makes you want to go there rather than the other.
☑ You might have found a cheaper flight to one of the cities and in this case, if you have no other preference, that might be the reason to visit say Bogota vs. Medellin or Cartagena vs Bogota or Medellin vs Cartagena. You might even want to go from Cartagena to Medellin or Medellin to Bogota or Bogota to Cartagena.
☑ You might be heading to another country from one of the cities and in that case, it make sense to stay in Cartagena if that was your departure city or Bogota or Medellin – which ever city makes the most sense.
These subjective reasons are within your control and we’ll let you decide what works best given your vacation goals.
There are some other considerations, however, that should be a bit more objective and universal. And these include things that you might not be able to change but are part of the three cities themselves like weather, altitude, culture, safety, nightlife, etc. So things to do in Medellin, things to do in Cartagena, and things to do in Bogota – are all a big part of your decision-making about where to stay in this South American country and these are things you might not be able to control. Certainly, the points of interest in these main cities will be worth considering.
We understand how difficult it can be reading countless hours of information in an attempt to choose the right vacation destination. That’s why we did the work for you.
Below, we’ll walk you through some benefits of vacationing in each city and compare them from a variety of different angles. Use the information below to help you decide which city is right for your next vacation. By keeping this information in mind, you’ll be able to make a choice that won’t leave you and your family disappointed. And regardless of whether you chose Bogota vs Cartagena or Bogota vs Medellin or Cartagena vs Medellin – whichever city you decide to go, we know you’ll enjoy your vacation in Colombia and you’re visiting one of the best places to travel in Colombia. And no matter where you start, you mostly likely will start by arriving at either Cartagena airport, Bogota airport or Medellin airport – all three which are international and updated airports.
Though there aren’t drastic differences in the weather between all three, there are some clear distinctions. Colombia has two seasons – the dry or hot season that runs from December to January and again from July to August; and the “wet” or “rainy” season that occurs between April and May, and October to November. The “dry” season is referred to as the “summer season” and the “rainy” season is also known as “winter season”. Since each of these cities is located in geographically different areas of Colombia, the weather patterns have some similarities and yet differences. Let’s look at the weather conditions in each of these important cities in Colombia:
Bogota, Colombia Weather–The weather in Bogota is quite cool all year, hovering right over 70°F. It can get colder than this in the winter months and hotter in the summer, but the city has never hit above 86°F in recorded history. If you’re looking for something a little warmer than this, Bogota just might not be the place for you.
But, if you want to remain a comfortable cool temperature during your holidays in Colombia, then this is the city you want to stay in. So, consider Bogota weather before making your final decision to make this Colombian city your city of choice. And like in most places, it gets colder at night and stays cold till early morning. You typically get the warmth in the daytime and then the temperature drops throughout the rest of the day. It however is, at a comfortable range. The average temperature in Bogota doesn’t change much from January to December so you’ll find the weather in Bogota to be the same if you visit in January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November or December. So Bogota temperature by month is stale. The lowest temperature is generally around the mid-40s and goes up to mid-60s for the day. Since Bogota is located at a high altitude, the temperature is pretty stable. It rains the most in April and May and the least in December and January however, the rain is short-lived enough that you can continue with the rest of your Bogotá vacation even if it does rain.
Medellin, Colombia Weather– The weather in Medellin is relatively fair. At a year-round temperature of 75°F, Medellin offers paradisal weather. You almost never have to worry about being too hot or too cold, making Medellin’s weather some of the best around. You might wonder about the Medellin weather differences by month. The weather in Medellin is relatively the same in January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December. The lowest temperature is mid 60°F and the general high temps is around 80°F pretty much year-round. Medellin though, compare to Bogota and Cartagena get more rainy days through the year. This is because of it’s location compare to the other two cities – Bogota at a higher altitude and Cartagena at sea level. It rains the most in Medellin around April to November, but the rain tapers off a bit in December and January. The rain is mostly short-lived and so a rainy Medellin should not stop you from planning a trip to Medellin soon because the weather is truly considered perfect. It never gets too hot or too cold and it’s an eternal springtime weather. So if you’re into a comfortable warm weather year-round, then the weather in Medellin Colombia will be the best for you. You never have to worry about being cool like you will in Bogota and can enjoy a warmer vacation any time you visit Medellin. And if you are worried, check the predicated Medellin weather forecast before booking your vacation. But we can guarantee you that the Colombian Medellin weather will not stop you from enjoying a great time in this beautiful city. So, consider the temperatures in Medellin prior to planning your trip here.
Cartagena, Colombia Weather–For those looking for a bit of heat, Cartagena is the place for you. This beach city has temperatures that easily get over 90°F, and sometimes 100°F, making it by far the hottest of the three. The drawback to this for heat lovers, however, is that the tropic climate in Cartagena means that it rains often.
This can be especially bothersome if you come to visit one of the beaches, and the extra humidity can combine with the heat to produce a hotter situation. But if you’re escaping from a cool weather place and want some warmth for just a few days, then Cartagena weather will be top on your list of why you want to vacation in Cartagena, that is, if the amazing beaches of Cartagena Colombia are not enough reason to bring you here. And with Cartagena, you might wonder what the weather is monthly – January, February, March, April and so on. The good thing is that since Cartagena is located on the beachside, the weather in December is pretty much the same weather in June and in July, and the weather in May or August is pretty much the same as the weather in September, October, and November. What are we saying? You don’t ever have to worry about the weather in Cartagena as it’s pretty much stable the entire year. It varies from a low of 75 degrees to a high of about 89 degrees the entire year. So when is the best time to visit Cartagena? Anytime you want to! It might rain the most in October and November, and the least in January, February, and March, but even with the rain, anytime is a good time to visit Cartagena. So if you have to consider Cartagena weather prior to deciding which of the cities to visit, then you don’t have much to worry about.
Of the three, we have to pick Medellin as having the best weather. Though this could entirely depend on your personal preferences, we like Medellin because of its fair year-round climate. Because you rarely have to worry about it being too hot or too cold, and because it doesn’t rain as much as Cartagena, we give it the upper hand. So when is the best time to travel to Medellin? Anytime!
As noted, however, those who prefer warmer beach weather may prefer the weather in Cartagena. Just keep in mind that the rain can put a serious hamper on your daily plans. The great thing though, is that the rain is usually really short-lived and fizzles away sooner than later to allow you sun and fun at the beach. And those who love cooler weather will be better of staying in Bogota. It’s all up to your preference.
Altitude becomes a big deal when considering the differences between these three cities. Because of the high elevation of Bogota, it’s important to consider how this affects its rankings against the other two big-name Colombian cities.
If you are affected aversely by altitude changes, or want to visit a place that’s set in a higher altitude than where you’re coming from, then the altitudes of these three cities will make a difference in where you decide to stay for your entire trip.
Your decision to stay in Bogota vs Cartagena or Medellin vs Bogota or Cartagena vs. Medellin will be very dependent on how your body adjusts or can acclimatize to altitude changes.
Medellin Altitude—Medellin has an altitude of 1700 meters. At this elevation, there’s no need to take any special precautions, and tourists likely won’t notice any difficulty breathing or other respiratory issues. It’s set a comfortable elevation and you don’t have to do any more than you would have done when you’re on a place at sea level, unless of course, you’re overtly prone to little changes in altitude in which case, this might be something to consider.
But for most travelers, this little elevation in altitude is not a big deal so we won’t take off points for Medellin Colombia elevation. And in fact, cities at a higher elevation than sea level have fewer bugs and mosquitoes so that is a positive that you won’t have to worry too much about certain bitten by bugs. It’s still a smart idea to use mosquito repellants whenever you’re in places that have a possibility of mosquitoes that can pass on diseases.
Bogota Altitude—With an altitude of over 2600 meters, Bogota’s location can actually pose some health risks. Because those who are unfamiliar with Bogota’s elevation may have trouble breathing, it’s absolutely imperative that you give yourself time to adapt to the increased altitude. If not, you could be putting your body at risk of not getting enough oxygen—something that could have very serious consequences.
It’s also important to note that, because of this, Bogota may not be the best place for all individuals. Those with pre-existing health conditions, for instance, may find it harder to breathe here or get weary from doing uncomplicated tasks. If you think this may be a concern, first speak with your doctor before planning any trip here.
It shouldn’t pose a problem to young and able-bodied individuals. However, you should still expect that you’re going to have to give your body time to adapt. This means that you have less time to spend outside doing what you want because you’ll be resting while trying to adapt. This elevation of Bogota may be a welcome thing for some travelers—especially for those who get tired easily from flying.
Just keep in mind that this may dent your travel time. Overall, if you have just an extra day to stay in Bogota, that should help you adjust to the elevation. And like we’ve said, if you’re healthy and have no issues with breathing, you should be find in Bogota. For the most part, you might not even notice that you’re on an elevation unless you try to do too much.
Take it easy for your first few days until you’re comfortable and you’ll be fine going about your vacation. We won’t let a little elevation of Bogota stop you from enjoying this city as this is what also makes it a special place to visit vs Cartagena vs Medellin.
So, keep in mind that that Bogota Colombia elevation might have possible effects on you and enjoy your trip. We have gone to Bogota with no altitude issues and didn’t have to allow extra travel days. Again, it’s all up to you to decide the best thing for your travel to Colombia.
Cartagena Altitude—A seaside town, Cartagena boasts a normal altitude and fresh beach air. People traveling to Cartagena have no need to take special precautions because of the altitude, meaning that you can travel with one less burden.
You’ll also have more time to do what you want to do—provided it doesn’t rain. Basically, Cartagena is on sea level and there you don’t have to consider things like the elevation of Bogota or the elevation of Medellin when you visit here.
Alternatively, people who live in higher altitude or have visited Bogota and experience the higher altitude of Bogota before coming down to Cartagena might find it easier to breathe and do things in Cartagena. So, depending on where you’re coming from or where you live, Cartagena being at sea level might be a positive.
If you are considering which of these three cities to visit based on their elevation and altitude, we would say to consider where you’re coming from, where you’re heading to, and where you live. If you want to stay around the same elevation as you’re used to, you can compare Cartagena vs Bogota vs Medellin to find a comfortable place.
If you want to experience something different, then pick a place with a different elevation and just come prepared. We think you will be fine in any of the places you visit and we think it’ll be based on your preference. We prefer the sea level city of Cartagena but also love the altitude of Bogota as that is one of the reasons it stays cool all day. And if you want a little elevation without the extra effects of the higher altitude, then you should consider Medellin.
The population of a city can be an important determinate of just how much there is to do. Additionally, it can have an effect on their crime rates and in other key areas. The more populated a city is, the more things to do there but also the more likelihood of crime. So where we will consider the populations of Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena.
We will also consider how safe these three cities are as you must have asked yourself those critical questions people ask when they first start planning to visit any of the South American countries – Is Bogota safe? Is Medellin Safe? Is Cartagena safe? We think knowing the population is a big deal to answering these questions as well so let’s look at the three cities and their populations.
Bogota Population—With a population of 8 million people—10 million with the metro area included, Bogota is by far the largest and biggest city in Colombia. This has helped the city grow and attract more international tourists every year. Due to its large population, there’s always something to do in Bogota—and you can be confident that you’ll find other foreigners who may be able to point you in the right direction of some of the city’s hottest commodities.
A full-scale city, Bogota has handled its population quite well, with several recreational areas and centers built. With so much to do, you’ll never have to worry about being bored in Bogota. Its wide-open metropolis might appeal to some over the smaller cities of Medellin and Cartagena. So when we compare Medellin vs. Bogota or even Cartagena vs. Bogota, we want to consider how relatively large each city is compared to the other.
We think Bogota is big but also fun. We consider Bogota safe as it’s one of the safest South American cities to visit but also, it’s not so populated that the crime is not well-controlled. However, like you’re supposed to do in every other big city in the world, take proper precautions as you would when you’re here to safeguard yourselves and your belongings. But we don’t consider the crime in Bogota any more than the crime in most urban metropolis cities.
Medellin Population—At 2.53 million, the population of Medellin is no joke, either. Those looking for a more moderate-sized city may find Medellin a nice change of pace. Big enough to offer almost anything you could ask for, but small enough not to be so densely overcrowded, Medellin hits a sweet balance. If you’re not a fan of large crowds and crowded public transportation, Medellin may be your best bet. It’s a town worth your consideration if you’re looking for where to stay in Colombia.
And that’s without even mentioning that the weather there is perfect all year round. So far, it seems as if there’s nothing to dislike about this city—meaning it could be the next great vacation spot for you and your family. With a mid-sized population, you’ll find it easier to move around the city and also find it easier to safeguard your personal properties and belongings because it’s not so crowded.
But like other big cities, be sure to keep an eye on your things to avoid pickpockets and other petty crimes especially in tourist areas. We consider Medellin as safe as Bogota but again, don’t over-expose yourself just like you wouldn’t in other places and you should be fine.
Cartagena Population—Cartagena is the smallest city on the list, but even then, it packs a punch. With “only” one million people, Cartagena offers a completely different experience than both Bogota and Medellin. Because Cartagena is a beach city, it’s more designed for tourism than for permanent residency anyway—but at least you get to enjoy less crowded transportation and streets.
The good news is that there is still plenty to do in Cartagena, so you’ll never be bored—even if it does have seven million fewer people than Bogota. Small crowds may even be your thing—in which case, Cartagena should be at the top of your list. And since this is a more touristy place you’ll find more things in place and more things to do for fun vs Medellin vs Bogota.
The crime rate is about the same in all three cities and Cartagena still remains on our list of top safest South American cities to visit, along with the other two cities – Bogota and Colombia.
One of the most important considerations you can make is your safety. We’ve talked about this slightly but will expand a bit more as we think this is one the most important things you should consider before deciding on Bogota vs Medellin vs Cartagena for your next family vacation.
So, is Bogota safe to visit? Is Medellin safe to tour? Is Cartagena safe to travel to? Are these large and best towns in Colombia safe to visit?
You probably ask these questions regardless of where you travel to but given the past negative vibes in the country many years ago, you especially want to know what you’re getting into before coming here especially if you’re traveling with kids or traveling solo.
How do the three cities stack up? While you can be reasonably sure that you will have a safe vacation to any of the three, it’s still nice to see how they compare. Again, Colombia is ranked one of the safest South American countries to visit and you should be okay in any of the cities you chose to stay in.
Bogota Safety—Despite constituting over 50% of all Colombia’s travels, Bogota doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to safety. Part of that comes from the fact that it’s the country’s largest city. Even still, it can be nerve-wracking to find that the city you’re wanting to go to has one of the highest crime rates in the country, but the good news is that it likely depends on where you are.
Though you might be followed if you go into shadier sections of the city—especially at night—you can expect to be safe in tourist areas. In recent years, the government has used more police force to help protect the city’s image, especially as more and more tourists are looking to come into the country.
☑ Just be sure not to wonder off the beaten path or get a little creative with your itinerary.
☑ By sticking to the tried-and-true tourist locations, you can help ensure that you and your loved ones have a safe and memorable trip in Bogota.
☑ And if you do want to go off the route, be sure to hire a tour person with you or someone who’s familiar with the city. If you stay where most tourist stay, or go where most tourist do, or have the company of a local, or speak Spanish fluently, you will be okay.
People do speak English in Bogotá like you see in many big cities in the world, but knowing some Spanish will help you to keeps safer as you’re more aware of your surroundings and more able to know when something is going wrong. That said, a ton of people travel to Bogota each year without speaking a word of Spanish, have fun, and return safely.
We won’t ding points for Bogata when it come to safety as we know the larger the population, the more petty crime you’ll see. So, plan your trip and don’t over worry about Bogota Colombia safety!
Medellin Safety—Medellin was once a crime epicenter in Colombia, but governmental efforts have helped make it one of the safest cities in Colombia for tourists. Though some tourists have reported muggings or scams, violent crimes are very rare on tourists—meaning that you can travel with greater peace of mind.
So if you want to go visit the city that used to be really “bad” but has now been cleaned up that it’s worth visiting, this is your chance and Medellin is your city. Is Medellin safe for families to visit?
We like to think so! Medellin is a kid-friendly city and we think if kids live there, kids can also visit there. Again, you take your proper precautions like keeping an eye on your purse, concealing your wallet, not brandishing expensive stuff like an expensive camera, and not displaying your money in public – the same things you’ll do in big cities such as Paris, London, Rome, New York and so many other cities that have petty crimes, and you will be just fine and I wouldn’t over worry about Medellin Colombia safety!
Cartagena Safety—The most common crime tourists experience in Cartagena is theft. Locals looking to make a quick buck off “rich” tourists will attempt to scam or flat-out pickpocket you in some cases. Though this is rare, it’s common enough that it’s something that you should keep at the back of your mind so that you don’t get ripped off.
In terms of violent crime, however, the city is pretty safe—at least for tourists. By staying in tourist areas of the city, you can be fairly certain that you will have a safe trip. Some have even advised you can walk around late at night within the walled tourist portions of the city—but we don’t think we’d recommend doing that anywhere, at least not late at night and not alone.
We’ve actually ranked Cartagena on our list of the safest South American cities to visit, so again, be careful and you won’t have to worry much about Cartagena Colombia safety! And we think if you ever fall in love with Colombia and want to retire here, any of these cities will be a great option.
The bottom line is that Cartagena vs Bogota vs Medellin are about the same when it come to crime. One city might have more crime than the other, but if you take the right precautions as you would in any other part of the world, you will be fine. So which city is a safer? We think they are all safe as long as you’re a smart traveler.
5. Things to Do
Of course, the consideration that’s likely most important to you (other than safety, we hope) is the range of activities you’ll be able to do while traveling. We know you probably plan to check out the amazing tourist places in Colombia. The good news is that all three cities offer wonderful activities for you and your whole family. The bad news is that this makes it harder to choose between them if that’s something you really have to do. So things to do in Bogota will be different from things to do in Medellin, which are widely different from things to do in Medellín.
Below, we’ll take a brief look at some highlights of each city so you can have a better idea of what to expect while traveling there. And when in doubt or can’t decide what to do in any of these Colombian cities, visit all three and compare for yourself. You’ll be glad you did!
Bogota – As the largest city in Colombia, the capital city of Colombia, Bogota has an insane amount of stuff you can do. In fact, you’ll probably never run out of things to do in Bogota which makes it a fun city to visit in Colombia. Perhaps the highlight of many trips, however, is a trip to the Gold Museum. With a complete collection of amazing gold items, this museum is unlike any other that you’re likely to find anywhere else in the world.
Tourists who come to Bogota will also be treated to Capitolio Nacional, the country’s “White House” for their congress. And of course there is the underground salt cathedral – Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira – which is a must-see and a must-go-to while visiting Bogota. It’s about 30 miles north of Bogota and a place the family will enjoy visiting.
Credits: Museum of Antioquia
Medellin – Medellin offers a more modest selection of activities that are great for those who love the outdoors. With several parks available—such as Parque Arvi—Medellin offers several attractions great for the whole family. You can even go on free walking tours of the city. Those looking for fun things to do in Medellin indoors can check the Museum of Antioquia that houses one of the region’s best collections. We think Medellin is one of the coolest cities to visit here.
You can also visit Plaza Botero, a free attraction in the city center. It’s basically a place filled with larger-than-life statues made by Fernando Botero, Medellin’s most famous artist. You can visit other many city attractions, most of which are within walking distance from the city center.
Cartagena – There’s no secret to what Cartagena offers. This popular Colombian city is famous for its beaches. And for good reason. From Punta Arena to Playa Blanca, Cartagena has one of the best assortments of beaches in Latin America.
There are several other things to do in Cartagena, such as walking along the city’s historic walls. So if you love old cities and warm beaches, this is the place to be. And if you want to get the best of this beautiful beach city, take a walking tour. Cartagena will be number one on your list when you compare Bogota to Cartagena to Medellin.
Bottom line, all three cities have a lot to offer and which one tops the list for you really depends on what your taste and likes are. There are so many activities to do in Bogota, so many places to see in Cartagena, and so many things to do in Medellin. You’d have to decide what makes you happy or what you want to gain out of the vacation to these cities and decide which one to go. You have to decide where to travel based on your preferences. But like we’ve said, regardless of which on you go with – Bogota or Cartagena or Medellin, you’ll have an amazing fun time.
Here’s where the real fun starts – that is if you’re an adult or traveling solo or as a couple. And even if you’re traveling with kids, teens, young adults, there’s stuff for them to at night with you.
If you’re looking to have a fun nightlife experience, all three cities offer a fun and unforgettable time. If you like partying in Colombia then you’re certainly going to need to need to know which city has the best parties and night entertainment. You won’t know the best of Colombia till you enjoy the night in the city.
But which is the best? Which Colombian city should you visit? When comparing Bogota vs Medellin and Bogota vs Cartagena, which city’s night life comes out on top? How about when comparing Medellin vs Cartagena? Or Bogota vs Cartagena? If Medellin better than Bogota or is Cartagena better than Medellin? Or, are all 3 major cities ranked the same?
Let’s take a look at each in turn to find out.
Bogota Nightlife – The nightlife in Bogota is quite possibly the best, hands down. As the biggest and capital city of Colombia, this is to be expected. With its signature club being the Sony T, Bogota has an endless assortment of nightlife club and bar options that really set it above the rest. What really helps, though, is the fact that Bogota has a very large population—meaning that there are always crazy parties with crazy amounts of people.
And for those looking to have fun, what more could you ask for than that? And apart from parties and night clubs since we know not everyone is a fan of those, Bogota comes alive in so many other ways at night. It could be listening and dancing to live music in a restaurant in the restoration zone or simply walking the safe side of the city at night, but you can find plenty to do in Bogota as long you’re looking.
Medellin Nightlife – That’s not to say that Medellin’s nightlife is bad. It’s actually quite good. It’s only when you start comparing Medellin to Bogota that it starts to look a little mediocre. With almost three million people, however, the city does have a thriving nightlife with several bars and clubs to choose from.
The most famous is probably Parque Lleras. This famed club can offer an incredibly good time, but the crowd and the atmosphere just aren’t quite as bombastic as you’ll find in Bogota. If you like your parties wild, but not too wild, however, Medellin may be the place for you. This is because the crowd is less in Medellin vs Bogota since it’s a less populated area. Dosen’t mean the music and vibe are less fun, just means that you might have more standing room in Medellin than Bogota.
Is Bogota any better than Medellin? Really depends on your idea of a good night out. If you want it fun but not overtly rowdy, then you might opt of Medellin or some quiet areas in Bogota. If you want it wild and fun, Bogota will be a great place to do that. You can certainly have a nice quiet evening in a lounge in Bogota, of course. The point is that Medellin nightlife to Bogota nightlife is as loud or quiet as you want it to be, but if you really want it all loud, then Bogota might be a bit better for you.
Cartagena Nightlife – Cartagena enjoys a bustling nightlife of its own. Led by the Black Parrot Bar—the most famous and hottest tourist bar spot in the city—Cartagena has a great nightlife scene that adds another pulse to this famed beached city.
Come party with several hundred others as tourists from around the globe come out for crazy nights of fun. While the parties may not be as extreme as in Bogota, you can be sure to have a great time. And remember that Cartagena is the seaside city with plenty of warmth.
That means that parties never have to get canceled because it’s cold or you don’t have to worry about getting sick for exposure to cold weather when you’re stuck partying late. And there’s something to be said about having a beach party, on the beach, every night. There’s simply a lot to do in Cartagena at night and you should consider this city, especially if you’re traveling with kids and family.
So which of these cities – Cartagena vs Medellin vs Bogota tops our list for night life? Depends on what you’re out for. Want it loud, do Bogota. What it slowed down, but still fun? Do Medellin. Want a warm, more family -friendly year-round night entertainment? Then Cartagena should be on top of your list. Either way you go, you won’t go wrong!
Each of these three cities is distinct already because of their location and history, but even within the city, the localities are even still distinct. If you’re traveling to Colombia, we assume you want to experience the local food, people, and culture but we also know you want to remain safe and within an area that has plenty of things to do and plenty to see as well. You also want to know the best places to stay, best places to live in Colombia in case you’re here for an extended visit, and general the interesting places to visit.
We can imagine it’s important to know where to get the best food while on your trip and where to get the best nightlife. If you are traveling with kids, you want to know where your kids can get the best playtime and where you can take them to for local Colombian experiences. This section is not comprehensive but will give you a great idea of where to stay, where to look for food, and where to find activities that you would like to do. We will also tell you a few of the cool places and best tourist and non-tourist places to hang out. And of course, the nice places to hang out here.
Bogota is a mix between history and hip – hard to explain but Bogota, just like Medellin and Cartagena, will appeal to pretty much any traveler including families traveling with kids. Bogota is at an elevation and so there are no gray beaches in the city as there are in Cartagena. Because of this elevation though, Bogota enjoys a series of other landscapes and views that you won’t get from sea-level. Bogota is divided into 20 localities and each one is distinct. You probably won’t be able to visit them all, but perhaps you can get to a few of the top ones.
One area to consider visiting while in Bogota is Chapinero- Zone G, one of the newest coolest places to hang out and get great food. Another place to also visit is the Monserrate area which has the Monserrate mountain. Parque 93 is also another area to visit except it’s mostly residential and unless you’re renting accommodations in this part of town, you probably won’t spend much time there as it is not as vibrant as other parts of Bogota. In fact, it is probably the most laid-back of all the localities and if this is what you’re looking for in a vacation, then this area might be for you.
Zona Rosa is a neighborhood you would want to visit as it’s great for night time entertainment and food. Just like Medellin and Cartagena have their night life areas, so does Bogota, and Zona Rosa is truly the center of nightlife in this city. If you like to see great graffiti art, then add Teusaquillo-Salitre on your list. It’s a safe welcoming neighborhood and great for a day tour.
This area is also where the national university and the US embassy is located. Another part of Bogota, the Santa Fe-Los Martires area is okay to visit but not considered as safe as some other areas in Bogota. One of the best and upscale neighborhoods to visit in Bogota with kids though, Usaquen, has a lot of parks and is also home to one of the best-known flea markets in Latin America.
Cartagena is located on the Caribbean Sea to the west and to the south lies the famous Cartagena bay which is made of two entrances: the small mouth also known as the Bocachica, and the big mouth known as Bocagrande. When you arrive in Cartagena by air, you will be landing in the Northern area where the Rafael Nunez International Airport is located.
From the airport, you’ll be about 10-15 minutes car ride to the downtown area as well as an area called San Diego, both enclosed by the old city charming walls. Just outside the city gates is an area called Getsemani, currently considered as one of the newest hot spots in Latin America. As you can imagine, the downtown is the reason why so many people might come to Cartagena aside from the beaches. This downtown area will take you back in time as most of the buildings here have been preserved for centuries.
Bocagrande, the other big part of Cartagena, is a place you’ll most likely visit or even stay in depending on your accommodation preferences. Bocagrande is lined by a beach but also has the long and famous avenue, Bocagrande Avenida San Martín also known as Saint Martin Avenue. Bocagrande is the heart of Cartagena’s tourist area is where you’ll find most of the commercial activities including hotels, shops, restaurants and night entertainment, foreign currency exchange places, tourism agencies, and of course, the beach.
The sand on the beach is made from volcanic rock which makes the waters appear muddy even though it’s not. The beach is decent and can get crowded sometimes. Also be aware that there are lots of insistent vendors who might want to sell something to you, but this is part of the fun of being somewhere vibrant. The best beaches though, if you really want some good beaches, are found in the Rosario, Baru and the San Bernardo Islands.
Medellin is officially the second largest city in Colombia after Bogota. It is also the capital of Antioquia and located in a valley surrounded by the Andes mountain. Medellin is made of different neighborhoods including Poblado which is the hilly more upscale and luxurious part of the city.
It’s an area typically visited by tourists as it has skyscrapers, great restaurants, shops, nightlife, and other activities. It’s also a great place to stay if you don’t speak much Spanish since you’ll find a lot more people able to speak with you in English if desired. It’s certainly also a great place for great-tasting food. If you don’t want to be in the main touristy area but still what to enjoy authentic Medellin, you can visit Envigado which feels less touristy, is safe, and is still authentically Colombian.
Food prices and accommodation can be less expensive here. Another place you might want to visit is the El Centro downtown area which is also known as La Candelaria. It is old, fascinating and has a lot of historic things to see and visit like the Museo de Antioquia.
Unlike in Cartagena where you do want to stay in within the old city walls, you might not want to stay in the is part of town at night as it can get a little sketchy sometimes, but you should certainly visit to enjoy some of what the old city has. Other neighborhoods in Medellin include Belen which is a mix between luxury and regular residential living so you can feel like a local, and Laureles-Estadio which is an area that is nice, walkable, but in a lower elevation than the rest of the city.
8. Where To Eat
Since you can never really have bad food in Colombia, your choices are endless. Colombians love food, and rightly so – they have great meal options from all parts of the world. Regardless of which city you end up in, you should be able to get local food within a few minutes from wherever you’re staying. Since Colombia is a hot tourist spot, restaurants serve a variety of international and local food so regardless of what your preferences are, you will find something good to eat.
Zona G which stands for Gourmet Zone! This is a dedicated place in an upscale residential part of Bogota that is packed with a ton of great restaurant. It’s hard not to find what you like to eat in this part of town. Zona Rosa is also another option for decent food. If you want a mountain view restaurant, after all you’re on an elevation, you can head towards Monserrate for a few restaurants with great views.
Unlike Bogota, Medellin doesn’t have a dedicated Zona G for meals but there are lots of great places to eat local food, seafood, American, Mexican food, and other sorts of dishes. We assume you’d want to stick to local Colombian food when you visit and there are plenty of feeding options here.
Like Medellin and unlike Bogota, Cartagena does not have a dedicated Zona G for eating either. However, it does have a lot of great places to eat anything from fried fish (great on the beach) to meat, plantains, rice, and other local food. Food is relatively inexpensive here and in the other two cities as well. Just know that most of the places to eat in the city are closed on Sunday so plan accordingly if you’re set on visiting a particular restaurant while you’re in Cartagena. If you’re visiting the old town, you’ll find a lot of places to eat just around the Plaza Santo Domingo area.
9. Unique Experiences
Colombia, as it stands, is already a unique place to visit. Even if you only visited Medellin, Bogota, and Cartagena, you would have come across so many weather differences, foods, ambience, neighbourhoods, and other things that make these places special and different from each other. You will also discover several famous places and different places of interest while vacationing.
Since Colombia is so welcoming to tourists, a lot of unique international festivals are held here yearly or every two years. It’s worth checking to see if there’s an event that you might be interested in attending and plan your trip to coincide with that event!
Cartagena is so vibrant that it is the home of the annual Cartagena International Music festival – Hay Festival that happens every January and is always sold out. People travel from all parts of the world to be a part of this tradition in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. A few month later in March, this historic, charming city is also the home of The International Film and Television Festival. Cartagena de Indias, the official name of Cartagena, is a mix of charm and inspiration and it’s no wonder people come here to be inspired. These two international events are things you won’t want to miss if you’re into good music and food.
Just like Cartagena, Bogota has its unique festivals as well. In April, The Book Fair allows connects well-known authors from all over the world to readers. Every two years, The Theater Festival turns the city magical. The festival also known as Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro lasts about 20 days and is one of the biggest celebrations in Colombia as well as South America.
And the Estéreo Picnic, one of the biggest music festivals in South America, is held yearly in Bogota. The festival typically held in a park brings thousands of citizens and visitors face-to-face with some of the best-known musicians in the world for a magical weekend. If you’re into something quieter, the city also has an open-air gallery where the best international and national graffiti artists connect with people who love their work.
Since this is the city of eternal spring, you can only imagine it also has a ton of activities going for it. The Flower Fair (Festival de las Flores) is celebrated here every first two weeks of August and is well known around the world as it is a unique event. The 10-day event is supported with parades, concerts, and other effects that make it an event you won’t want to miss. Medellin is also a host for other events like the Book Festival, Expoartesano (a cultural movement to showcase local artisans), Colombiamoda (Colombia Fashion Week), and several other events.
10. Other considerations
Vaccination and Health: Bogota vs. Cartagena vs. Medellin
Even though no vaccines are recommended at this time, you should consider getting your yellow fever vaccination if you plan to go outside of Medellin, Bogota, and Cartagena. If you stay within these three places and some other cities in Colombia, you should be fine. But if you plan to visit sites like the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park, The Tayrona National Park, any Amazon reserve, or certain other areas, you will be required to present a proof of yellow fever vaccination.
Other recommended but not mandatory vaccinations include Hep A and typhoid fever, but you might not need this when you’re staying within Medellin, Bogota, and Cartagena. You should though, use your insect repellant especially when you’re visiting areas that have more chances of mosquitoes.
Luckily, these three cities on our list have fewer chances of mosquitoes being a problem especially Bogota which is at a decent elevation. Also remember to hydrate whether you’re on hotter Cartagena or cooler but elevated Bogota. Drinking fluids is important for keeping you healthy when you’re in the sunny beaches of Cartagena, in the Spring city of Medellin, and when you’re fighting the altitude in Bogota.
Visas: Bogota vs. Cartagena vs. Medellin
Since they are all within the same country, the same visa rules apply to any city within Colombia. Citizens of certain countries do require visas while some do not. Regardless of whether you need a visa or not, always remember to have a passport that has at least six-month validity. If you require a visa, you should start the application process in sufficient time to make sure your papers are all good for travel.
Currency and Money Exchange: Bogota Vs. Cartagena vs. Medellin
Regardless of which of the cities you visit – Cartagena, Medellin or Bogota, you will need to spend money. Credit and debit cards are accepted in Colombia but you do want to have some cash since not everyone will take your credit card, especially street vendors or sellers at the flea market and elsewhere.
A little cash in hand could save you a lot of headache and also possibly, a ton of bank charges. The local currency is Colombian Peso, and this is the legal currency used in Colombia. All visitors are welcome to request for VAT refunds from purchased items so be sure to keep all your receipts if you’re interested in getting your money back. You can do this at the airport. And when changing money, be smart and follow certain guidelines for foreign exchange to make sure you’re not losing money or worse, getting ripped off.
Distance between Bogota and Medellin and Cartagena
For the most part, we hope you visit all three cities and if you plan to do that, knowing the distance between all three will certainly help with planning. Just remember that each major city has an international airport so you should be able to move around by flying. There are other ways to get from one city to the other including traveling by road but your ultimate transportation options will depend on how much vacation time you have and what else you want to experience along the way. So exactly how far is Bogota from Medellin? How far is Bogota from Cartagena? How far is Cartagena from Medellin? what is the distance from Medellin to Cartagena? How far is Cartagena from Bogota?
Here are the distances of each major city to the next.
- Distance from Bogota to Medellin – 426 km or 265 miles (9 hour drive or less than 1 hour direct flight)
- Distance from Bogota to Cartagena – 1070 km or 672 miles (19 hour drive or 1 hour 25 min direct flight)
- Distance from Medellin to Cartagena – 625 km or 400 miles (14 hour drive, 1 hour 15 min direct flight)
Airlines: Avianca, Viva Air, Latam
- Bogota: El Dorado Luis Carlos Galan Sarmiento International Airport BOG
- Cartagena: Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG)
- Medelline: José María Córdova International Airport (MDE)
The Bottom Line
Each of these three cities has something to offer. Though it can be hard to make specific comparisons—Medellin vs Cartagena or Medellin vs Bogota, for instance—comparing the three cities does reflect some differences between them. And it appears that most of these are the result of size.
Bogota leads the pack in terms of its nightlife and things to do—simply because it’s the capital city. With over eight million people, Bogota promises to always show tourists a good time. Its drawback comes in the fact that it does have a higher crime rate that the other two cities, but even then, tourist sections in all areas are generally safe.
If you want somewhere warm, then the beaches of Cartagena should be on your list. Cartagena is one of the best beach towns in Colombia. If you want a truly kid-friendly laid-back trip, Cartagena should still be on your list and probably in the top spot. If you want a laid-back but still hip and fun place, and you want to visit museums and buildings, then Medellin is your spot. But for instance, if you love the beach, and are wondering if there is a beach in Medellin, no, there is none. This means that if a beach is important to you, then Medellin won’t be the place to spend all your time. And don’t even ask if there is a beach in Bogota. No because Bogota in located at an altitude.
We really say to visit all three and compare for yourself if you have a chance to. You can fly from one city to the other and spend some days before moving to the other. If you do decide to do this, you should probably start with Cartagena, then move up a bit to a higher elevated Medellin and then to Bogota. Or you can fly into Bogota, then fly from Bogota to Medellin which is a medium altitude, and then head down to Cartagena to enjoy the sea level seaside city. Either way of course, you’ll want to consider the distance between Bogota to Cartagena to Medellin. Knowing the distance of one city from the other will help you immensely with planning. You also want to know how far Medellín is from Bogota or Cartagena or how to get from Bogota to Cartagena or from Cartagena to Medellin and so on.
Regardless of how you want to get to Bogota or Cartagena or Medellin, you should consider which of the three meets your vacation needs the most. Any of these 3 beautiful places in Colombia will be worth your while.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which of these three cities best fits your preferences. By using the information above, you can streamline your decision-making process and choose the destination that’s best for you. And if you are interested in traveling to other South American countries, we have our list of the safest places to visit in South America and Central America as well! And if you’re asking yourself if Colombia is worth visiting, we say YES, ABSOLUTELY. Colombia is a good place to visit, no, it’s an amazing country to vacation, and Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena, are some top and best destinations in this South American country.