In Colombia, South America, I’ve encountered many women from all over the world travelling unaccompanied. In this first blog in the series on Solo Female Travel Colombia, I invite you to meet five inspiring solo female travellers from Germany, Croatia, Switzerland, Australia and Canada. They explain their motivations for visiting Colombia, they detail their itineraries and offer suggestions on the best places to visit.
During the rest of the series, Solo Female Travel Colombia, they’ll reveal their experience in regards to safety and security in Colombia, they share their challenges and surprises, plus offer advice and tips on travelling solo in this region.
Colombia is not a destination where you would expect to find many solo female travellers.
If women are receiving the same, sometimes misguided, cautions as I did before travelling to Colombia (mostly from people who have never been to the country), it could be assumed that some female travellers are deterred from venturing here on their own.
Yet surprisingly, I’ve met dozens of women travelling independently, who were not only travelling through Colombia, but also throughout South America, without a companion.
In fact, aside from couples, solo females are one of the largest demographics of travellers I have come across in Colombia.
Ironically and mysteriously, in contrast, I have met far fewer males travelling alone.
So what is drawing women to travel solo around Colombia and what has been the outcome of their journeys?
In this series you’ll find out!
Five solo female travellers explain why they chose Colombia as a travel destination. They reveal the realities of travelling solo here, recommend the country’s highlights, flag the challenges and offer advice and tips to other solo travellers.
Ultimately, you’ll discover that their experiences demonstrate that there’s no significant reason for concern when travelling solo to Colombia.
All these women agree – Colombia is a joyous and safe place to visit.
If you bring an open mind, a smile and the sensibility that you would use wherever you travel, Colombia should undoubtedly treat you well as a solo female traveller.
It’s a pleasure to now introduce these solo female travellers, women I consider kindred spirits.
Solo Female Travel Colombia: Meet The Women
Leonie is a SAP software consultant from Germany. We met in San Agustin, a remote town in the south of Colombia, where one of the most mysterious archaeological sites in all of South America is located. Leonie and I shared a love for this special place. At the time of travel, she was twenty-three and the youngest solo female traveller I met. I could not help but admire her independence in pursuing her travel dreams, solo, at her age.
Although she’s been away from home previously for a school exchange to Canada and as an au pair in China, this was her first time on a solo trip. On a six month journey through South America, she started in Bolivia, followed by Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, then to Colombia for six weeks, as “a glorious finish.”
Leonie describes Colombia as: Breathtaking, Diversified, Genuine.
Ivana is a 27 year old journalist, originally from Croatia and currently living in Dublin. She was in Colombia for a three-week solo journey. We ‘clicked’ straight away, both being writers. We crossed paths in the back of a “WILLY.” I know this sounds strange but a “willy” is actually a jeep. We were on our way to the Cocora Valley, near Salento in the Zona Cafetera (coffee region) when we discovered, to my great excitement, that she had previously read some of my travel articles. We spent the day walking, exploring the valley, seeking out hummingbirds whilst talking all things writing and solo travel.
Ivana describes Colombia as: Warm, Happy, Lulo.
Anita is a 31 year old Swiss political scientist currently living in London, working as a Policy Analyst for a think tank in international development. We met in San Agustin and since I have previously lived in Switzerland, there was a connection. I further warmed to her as she is incredibly funny and always see the bright side of unfortunate travel situations. When we parted, I was heading north and she was preparing to travel from Colombia over the border into Ecuador. She was on a six month trip around South America, with three months in Colombia studying Spanish and volunteering as an English teacher before travelling to Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
Anita describes Colombia as: Diverse, Colourful, Warm-hearted.
Jenny is a 32 year old Australian marketing executive who I met in El Poblado, Medellin. Both being Australian we bonded instantly but also our open minded and fun loving spirits united us. Over pizza and wine, she helped with my Spanish vocabulary – especially with naughty words I would not learn from my Spanish tutor! Jenny was in South America for a ten month trip which took her through Argentina several times, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and one month in Colombia.
Jenny describes Colombia as: Warm, Fun, Stunning.
Amal is a 26 year old Digital Advertising executive from Montreal, Canada. We met at a hostel in Medellin and hit it off. As well as having a lot in common since her hometown of Montreal is like a second home to me, we also gravitated towards each other with our similar sense of humour. It was Amal’s first time travelling alone, spending two weeks vacation time in Colombia, visiting Medellin and Cartagena. We shared various adventures together in Medellin, from visiting Comuna 13 to going to bars and restaurants and taking UBER’s all over the city to explore different neighbourhoods and sophisticated shopping malls.
Amal describes Colombia as: Amazing, Exceeding expectations, Safe.
Solo Female Travel Colombia: Motivations and Itineraries
Now, find out more about these women’s reasons for travelling to South America, particularly to Colombia. They share their itineraries and give suggestions for the best and worst destinations to visit in Colombia.
Why did you decide to travel to South America?
Leonie: After I graduated I needed to get out. I wanted to practice my Spanish and my best friend had shown me the most beautiful pictures of her time in Argentina, Peru and Brazil so the decision was fairly easy to visit South America!
Ivana: I decided to travel to South America because I always seek for far away and different. Somewhere I read that Colombians are the friendliest people in the world, salsa is popular and coffee is to die for. As well, I wished to visit my Colombian friend and get an insight into a local’s way of life.
Anita: I wanted to learn a new language and preferably a language, which was not too hard to learn and at the same time was one of the world’s big languages, so Spanish was the obvious choice. Many of my friends had already travelled to South America and highly recommended it.
Jenny: To reconnect with my Argentine roots and fulfil a dream since I was fifteen to see the Americas.
Amal: My go-to was always Europe when I wanted to travel. However, with everything happening there, I did not want to be stressed when being in public places. Also, South America is more exotic!
Why did you decide to visit Colombia particularly?
Leonie: When I started travelling I didn’t even plan to go to Colombia. Everyone in Germany told me how it was the most dangerous country in South America and how I should basically go everywhere but there. I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go (which didn’t include Colombia). But once I got to South America EVERYONE I met told me how it was their favourite country and how beautiful it was. So that was when I decided I wanted to go there and changed the whole route that had been forming in my head while travelling.
Ivana: Fresh fruits. Music, especially salsa in Cali. Sun – we don’t get it a lot in Dublin. Stories.
Anita: I heard many amazing stories about Colombia, about its people and its diversity, which attracted me. Also, since I had a volunteering option there, teaching English in Pasto, I wanted to go there.
Jenny: I had heard it was beautiful and the history is really interesting.
Amal: I’ve always wanted to visit South America, more specifically Colombia. It seemed like such an exotic country. Also, Colombians in Montreal are so proud to be from this part of the world, which made it even more intriguing.
Which destinations in Colombia did you visit, and explain best and worst places?
Leonie: In Colombia, I started in Las Lajas, which is very close to the Ecuadorian border and supposed to be quite dangerous. It is the only place in South America that I ever felt really uncomfortable and I can’t even tell why. It was just the way the city made me feel and one should always trust their guts, especially when travelling alone. So I was pretty happy when I left and got to San Agustín. It was the one place in South America (apart from Machu Picchu) that had a real cultural touch to it and I didn’t notice until I got there, how much I had longed for something like that. After that I went on to Tierradentro, to Popayán and from there to Parque Puracé, which was one of the most beautiful places in South America. From there I went to San Cipriano, which is a town in the middle of the jungle that can only be reached by a handmade vehicle that uses the existing tracks. Going there makes you feel like Indiana Jones. Subsequently I went from Cali to Cartagena, to Rincón del Mar and from there to Casa del Agua which is a hostel swimming right in the Caribbean Ocean. Swimming with fluorescent plankton there was another highlight. After that I went to Necoclí and from there to Capurganá, which is the last city before crossing to Panama. That I did as well: a day trip to Sapzurro (you just walk over the border and no one really cares as there is no way you won’t come back if you don’t want to be kidnapped in the Panamanian jungle). With a Canadian girl whom I had met in Peru a few months previously, we went to Santa Marta, to Taganga, to Parque Tayrona, Palomino, Riohacha and Punta Gallinas, which is the most Northern part of South America. From there we flew to Medellín and went to Guatapé, Rio Claro, Manizales, Salento, Bogotá and finally San Andrés which I cannot really recommend unless you want to pay double the price as anywhere else in Colombia and be bitten by bedbugs.
Ivana: I visited the capital Bogota, after I went to Cali, Salento, Medellin and Cartagena. Cali, the world capital of salsa was the best place as I spent some time in my friend’s house, getting to know his family and the local’s way of life. Although Cali is one of the most dangerous places in the world (according to some media), and sometimes I felt the same, everything went just fine.
Anita: I started in Cartagena studying Spanish for one month. Then I went to Barranquilla for Carnival, Tayrona national park, Taganga, Santa Marta, Ciudad Perdida trek, Medellin, Salento, Bogota, Cali, Popayan, San Agustin and Pasto, where I stayed for a month teaching.
Jenny: I started in the deep Amazon – Leticia – BEST! I went up river to Puerto Nariño and hung with local guys who run a little low key tour company. They took us into deep jungle, up river in a tiny boat to stay with a community on a riverbank. We went piranha fishing, Cayman spotting, we saw incredible wildlife in their natural habitat and hung with local people for dinner in their huts with incomplete walls and no running water. Their hospitality was above and beyond amazing. Played soccer with them and had so much fun getting to know the kids. Nature was as you would imagine, absolutely pristine and phenomenal. Back at the eco village of Puerto Nariño, I learnt about the local folklore and belief system which also amazed me. Then Cartagena, St Marta, Taganga, Medellin (LOVED!), Guatape, Salento (LOVED!), Cali (It’s a bit more openly dangerous than other places. My energy level was down which impacted on my experience. I lost a bag and things like that. It was where I saw the rawness in the city – where I could see people living in slums and it saddened me), Bogota (LOVED!).
Amal: Medellin – Best – Barrio 13, it was fascinating to see how people live in that part of the city. How houses were built on top of houses as they did not have land. 3-4 Generations living on top of each other. It is really astonishing for me coming from Canada where space is the one thing we are not lacking. Worst – Playa Blanca near Cartagena – lots of locals trying to sell you things, harassing you into buying goods or services. It was dirty and I did not like the vibe AT ALL.
As you’ve discovered, women from all over the world and of all ages and experience travel to Colombia solo. There are some fascinating places to visit in Colombia, and there are also some places you may want to miss. In the next blog in the series Solo Female Travel Colombia, these women reveal their insights into safety and security of solo female travel in Colombia!