No matter the weather you desire on your Colombian holiday, this ecologically diverse country has you covered. It’s so close to the equator that the altitude of its various locales determines how hot, cold, rainy and humid it is. If you’d like a fresh springlike climate, you can enjoy Medellín’s average mid-‘70s weather. If you like glaciers and high-altitude trekking, make Bogotá and the central Andes your base of operations. And if you’re interested in a beach holiday, Cartagena and many other locales on the Caribbean coast have you covered.
Crowds & Costs
December and January is the peak holiday season in Colombia, so expect greater crowds and higher prices. This is especially true in popular cities like Cartagena. Some hotels might even require multiple-night stays to book a reservation, so inquire in advance.
Where to Go
You’ll definitely want to make a trip to the Zona Cafetera (coffee country) during your January visit to Colombia. Not only is there a surplus of activities to enjoy here (staying on a working coffee finca, hiking the Valle de Cocora, visiting the colorful town of Salento, etc.), but if you’re here in early January you can also take part in seasonal festivities. The mountain city of Manizales holds their annual party, and it’s one for the books (more on this below).
If you’re here at the end of the month, you should also consider making a trip to Cartagena. Not only is it one of the most beautiful and well-preserved Spanish colonial cities in the world, you can also embark on a number of day trips, such as to the Caribbean white-sand beach of Playa Blanca. If you're planning on staying for a couple weeks and want more ideas of what to do, check out this adventurous itinerary.
What to Do
If you come to Bogotá during the first half of January, you’ll likely make the cutoff for the holiday lights at the city’s famous Cerro Monserrate. Colombians are notoriously festive and like to celebrate Christmas even after that holiday has come to an end. The most striking holiday decoration comes in the form of bright Christmas lights atop a 10,000-foot mountain. So take the cable car to the top and hang around until sunset, when it’s lit up in dazzling displays of red, white, green, and blue.
If at the beginning of January you happen to be in the south of the country, near Cali, Tierradentro, or Popayán, consider making a detour to the city of Pasto. Each year they hold their annual carnival festival, and like in Barranquilla or even Brazil, it involves a few days of revelry.
Events in January
Feria de Manizales. In early January, the coffee-producing city of Manizales throws a diverse party featuring parades, costumes, live music, tango dancing, stunt shows, and beauty queens.
Hay Festival Cartagena. This is the Cartagena branch of the UK’s Hay Festival, which takes place at the end of January and focuses on literature, art, cinema, music, geopolitics, and the environment. The purpose is to promote culture and social responsibility.
Carnival de Pasto. The southwestern city of Pasto has its own carnival, which takes place at the beginning of January. Face painting with black grease and white flour signifies the emancipation of slaves, and there are floats and processions.
Traveling in Colombia in January? Consider these great itineraries.
Colombian Highlands and the Los Nevados Trek This itinerary starts and ends in two of Colombia's most exciting cities, the capital of Bogotá and the "city of the eternal spring," Medellín. In between, you'll embark on a high-altitude trek into Los Nevados National Park. After your trek, you'll relax in the thermal pools outside of Manizales, with the still-active Nevado del Ruiz volcano as a backdrop.
Colombia's Best Cities & Coffee Region. Start with Bogotá's Spanish colonial sites and fly to the Zona Cafetera for an overnight at a coffee farm. From here, head to Medellín before ending on the Caribbean coast.