3-week itinerary in Colombia: from Bogota to Cali on the southern route

Taylor made trip to Colombia

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In 2022, we spent three weeks on the southern route in Colombia, an itinerary between Bogotá and Cali, to discover the best-known destinations on this route used by many travelers curious to discover other Colombian destinations.

So here’s a new idea for a 3-week itinerary in Colombia and links to the posts where we give you all the details on our discoveries in Neiva, San Agustin, Popayan and Cali.

Disclaimer: we apologize in advance for any grammatical or syntactic errors, as our native language is not English (we're a Colombian-French couple), so we hope you'll forgive us and still enjoy the information we share with you! Please note that all the information on our blog is based on our own experience, and is checked and updated regularly.

Preparations

3 weeks on Colombia’s southern route

# 1

Take a free bank card abroad

This is the best advice we can give you: take a free bank card for travelers that will allow you to pay anywhere in Colombia without paying any fees.

# 2

Book your hotel nights in the most popular tourist destinations

Hotels quickly become saturated in the most popular tourist destinations, such as Bogotá, Cartagena, Salento, Medellin, and so on. If a particular hotel catches your eye, we advise you to bookin advance!

# 3

Take out travel insurance

With the Covid pandemic, we’ve all seen that nothing is impossible… Take out travel insurance to cover you in case anything goes wrong.

# 4

Pay your booking deposits at a reduced rate

Another really great way to avoid paying huge fees on international transfers to Colombia is to use the specialized Remitly platform. Very useful for paying a deposit to an agency to book an activity!

# 5

Use a VPN to access Colombian sites from France or english sites from Colombia

Payment refusals frequently occur when trying to pay online on internal Colombian sites. We’ve solved the problem by using our VPN and locating it in Colombia.

Itinerary between Bogota and Cali

3 weeks on Colombia’s southern route

Duration: 3 weeks

Destinations: Bogota, Neiva, Tatacoa Desert, San Agustin, Pitalito, Popayan, Silvia, Cali

Activities: guided tours, mountains, cultural immersion, archaeological heritage, encounters, producers and craftsmen, natural wonders

Estimated Budget for 2 pers. $8.732.521 COP

Transport: plane, bus and cab

Hotels: mid-range

Meals: restaurants

Neiva and the Tatacoa Desert – 2 nights

3-week itinerary between Bogota and Cali

3-week itinerary in Colombia: from Bogota to Cali on the southern route

J1

Arrival in Neiva

On the first day we drove from Bogotá to Neiva. It’s possible to do this by bus or plane. We took the opportunity to explore the city a little, mainly by walking up to the Mohan Tower, which offers a lovely view of the Magdalena River.

J2

Tatacoa Desert

Early morning departure with our partner agency for the Tatacoa Desert for a full day’s exploration of the grey and red deserts. In the evening, we return to Neiva for the night before setting off for San Agustin the following day.

Our Tips for Neiva and Tatacoa

Click on the yellow buttons to follow our Tips

Average budget Neiva and Tatacoa for 2 people

Neiva 2 days/2 nights

Lodging: $300.000 COP

Activities: $302.521 COP

Flight Bogota – Neiva: $400.000 COP

Restaurants: $175.000 COP

Total budget: $1.177.521 COP

posts about Neiva and the Tatacoa

3-week itinerary in Colombia

San Agustin – 8 nights

3-week itinerary between Bogota and Cali

3-week itinerary in Colombia: from Bogota to Cali on the southern route

J3

Transportation to San Agustin

We leave in the morning for San Agustin for a 6 to 7-hour bus ride, depending on road conditions. We arrive in San Agustin at dusk, lucky enough to find a cab to take us to our hotel, located 10 minutes from the village.

J4

El Purutal and El Tablon

After a lie-in, a chat with Yeraldin and Alirio from Finca El Cielo , where we’re staying, and a good meal, we set off for a full afternoon’s walk from the hotel to discover the archaeological sites of Purutal and El Tablon.

J5

Stroll in San Agustin Farniente

We spend the day visiting the village of San Agustin and relaxing in the beautiful gardens of Finca El Cielo

J6

Chaquira Cascada El Cinco

From the hotel, we take a stroll to the nearby site of La Chaquira. The view of the Magdalena canyon is spectacular. On the way back, after lunch, we go for a swim at Cascada El Cinco.

J7

Ruta de Sabores

We have a great day ahead of us, meeting local producers on the San Agustin Flavors Route, tasting fruit, coffee, edible plants and fruit wine.

J8

Chiva workshop in Pitalito

We’re off to Pitalito for a workshop to make Chiva, the traditional Colombian bus. Pitalito’s Chiva is a craft renowned throughout the country. The meeting with Rubiela is a great one. We leave proudly with our two hand-painted chivas as souvenirs.

J9

San Agustin Archaeological Park

We spend the day visiting San Agustin Archaeological Park with our super guide Oscar! Magnificent sculptures and mysterious pre-Columbian cultures.

J10

Anillo Turistico

For this last day in San Agustin, we’ll be taking the famous “Anillo Turistico” offered by all the local hotels/agencies/guides, which enables us to take a driving tour of all the sites of interest around San Agustin: Estrecho del Magdalena, Finca de Panela, Alto de los Idolos, Alto de las piedras, Salto de Bordones.

Alternatives

While we wanted to take the time to rest in San Agustin, we can well imagine that not everyone will have this desire or opportunity.
Two options:

  • Reduce the number of days in San Agustin to do this itinerary over 15 days
  • Replace a few days in San Agustin with a trip to Tierradentro from Popayan.

Our Tips for San Agustin

Click on the yellow buttons to follow our Tips

Activities: Farniente, Route des saveurs, Parks and archaeological sites, Waterfalls

Restaurants in San Agustin: Tomate, Fonte Café, Alto de hierbabuena

Average budget San Agustin for 2 people

San Agustin 3 days/3 nights

Lodging: $1.200.000 COP

Activities: $400.000 COP

Local transport: $100.000 COP

Bus Neiva – San Agustin: $100.000 COP

Restaurants: $1.000.000 COP

Total budget: $2.800.000 COP

Popayan – 2 nights

3-week itinerary between Bogota and Cali

3-week itinerary in Colombia: from Bogota to Cali on the southern route

J11

Transport to Popayan

We set off for a little adventure on the road between San Agustin and Popayan, through the Puracé Natural Park. Around 7 hours of asphalt and dirt road, arriving late afternoon in the white city of Cauca.

J12

Visit Popayan

We’re off to visit Popayan and discover its history with Miguel, a local guide from the GetUp and Go Colombia project. An NGO working with victims of the Colombian armed conflict, Popayan’s indigenous, rural and LGBT communities.

J13

Silk Finca

Head for Timbio, 20 minutes by bus from Popayan, to discover a silk-making farm. This is the Colteseda project, an association of 10 women who raise silkworms, make thread and weave various silk products. A wonderful encounter with Doña Amparo and these peasant women who undertake and carry out projects with passion.

Our Tips for Popayan

Click on the yellow buttons to follow our Tips

Average budget Popayan for 2 people

Popayan 2 days/3 nights

Lodging: $675.000 COP

Activities: $200.000 COP

Bus San Austin – Popayan: $120.000 COP

Restaurants: $400.000 COP

Total budget: $1.395.000 COP

Silvia – 1 night

3-week itinerary between Bogota and Cali

3-week itinerary in Colombia: from Bogota to Cali on the southern route

J14

Cultural immersion in Silvia

We’re going to meet Viviana, a young Misak indigenous woman, to discover with her her culture and the village of Silvia located in the mountains 1 hour from Popayan. A superb encounter and a wonderful community tourism project to support. In the evening, we’ll spend the night with Viviana and her husband Victor.

Our Tips to Silvia

Click on the yellow buttons to follow our Tips

Average budget Silvia for 2 people

Silvia 2 days/1 nights

Lodging: included

Activities: $530.000 COP

Local transportation: $20.000 COP

Restaurants: $40.000 COP

Total budget: $590.000 COP

Cali – 4 nights

3-week itinerary between Bogota and Cali

3-week itinerary in Colombia: from Bogota to Cali on the southern route

J15

Transport to Cali

The next morning, we’ll take a short walk to the viewpoint above Silvia with Viviana and Victor, before heading back to pack our gear, have a tasty soup in a local restaurant and leave by bus for Cali.

J16

Barrio San Antonio, Museo La Tertulia and Bulevar del Rio

We take our first steps in Cali, wandering through the pretty, colorful San Antonio district. We knock on the door of Linterna, where we’ll be returning the next day with more time on our hands. And we head off quietly to see an exhibition at the La Tertulia museum. On our way out, we cross the river to stroll along the sculpted “Bulevar del Rio” to the famous “Gato del Rio”, the city’s emblem.

J17

Alameda and La Linterna markets

We take a cab to the Alameda market to discover the local colors and flavors! We’ll stroll through the stalls before grabbing a Pacific dish at Chez Basilia on the market’s famous “plaza de comida”.

J18

Guided tour of downtown Cali

We meet up with Natalia, a caleña who offers great guided tours of Cali, in english! Architecture, history, heritage and anecdotes, there’s nothing better than visiting the city with a local!

J19

Popular Salsa Tour

Again with Natalia, we’re off to discover Cali’s popular Salsa culture! A unique tour to immerse ourselves in local life, off the beaten track and into the old “salsotecas” where the little old men dance from afternoon till night.

J20

Back to Bogotá

It’s time for us to head home, heading for Bogotá from Cali airport. Thanks Cali! We really liked its atmosphere and it made us want to come back to discover more things and visit Cali’s surroundings.

Alternatives

After our 3 weeks on the road we returned to Bogotá, but for those who want to continue you have a choice:

  • Drive to the Pacific coast: San Cipriano, Juanchaco or Isla Gorgona
  • Descend to Pasto and Ipiales
  • Up towards Pereira and the coffee region

Our Tips in Cali

Click on the yellow buttons to follow our Tips

Average budget Cali for 2 people

Cali 4 days/5 nights

Hotel: $900.000 COP

Activities: $900.000 COP

Bus Silvia – Cali: $70.000 COP

Restaurants: $600.000 COP

Airport transfer: $60.000 COP

Flight Cali – Bogota: $240.000 COP

Total budget: $2.770.000 COP

Total budget

3-week itinerary in Colombia

DestinationBudget for 2 pers.
Neiva and Tatacoa$1.177.521 COP
San Agustin$2.800.000 COP
Popayan$1.395.000 COP
Silvia$590.000 COP
Cali$2.770.000 COP
TOTAL$8,732,521 COP

Itinerary summary table

Classic 3-week itinerary in Colombia

ActivitiesNights
J1Transport to NeivaNeiva
J2Visit to the Tatacoa DesertNeiva
J3Transportation to San AgustinSan Agustin
J4Purutal TablonSan Agustin
J5Stroll in San Agustin FarnienteSan Agustin
J6Chaquira Cascada CincoSan Agustin
J7Ruta de SaboresSan Agustin
J8Chiva workshopPItalito
J9San Agustin Archaeological ParkSan Agustin
J10Anillo turisticoSan Agustin
J11Transport to PopayanPopayan
J12Visit PopayanPopayan
J13Visit to finca de SoiePopayan
J14Visit SilviaSilvia
J15Transport to CaliCali
J16Bario San Antonio RioCali
J17Alameda LinternaCali
J18Tour CentreCali
J19Salsa TourCali
J20Back to BogotaBogota

Do this tour with a travel agency

Idea for a three-week itinerary in Colombia “The classic tour”

If you don’t feel like organizing this trip yourself, you can hire a travel agency to organize everything for you. Of course, the budget will be higher than that announced in this post, which concerns the organization of a trip on your own. But you’ll be able to rely on a specialist, and you’ll have the security of personalized guidance throughout your trip.

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Authors

Angélica & Samuel

We are Angélica and Samuel, a French-Colombian couple, professional photographers and web editors specializing in travel to Colombia. We created this blog to change the image of the country, help you prepare your trip and inspire you to discover Colombia in a different way!

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