I needed a change of pace. I wanted to experience the “real” Colombia. I wanted a unique experience. I craved a laidback lifestyle. I found it in Ibague, Colombia.
No other travelers go to this city. There’s little to no information about the city in Google or YouTube. That’s what attracted me. I wanted the adventure. I wanted something unknown. I found it. I’ve yet to even see a hostel in the city.
You won’t see many foreigners here. Outside the English teachers, you won’t see another gringo face. I dig it – but Ibague, Colombia isn’t for Colombia first-timers. The city is safe, but you won’t find the same type of amenities here that you’ll find in Bogota or Medellin.
But for digital nomads looking to base up, enjoy life, and live on the cheap for a month or two – Ibague is a great spot. Here’s why:
Views in Ibague, Colombia.
Ibague, Colombia Travel Guide
Population: A small Colombian city of around 500,000 – Ibague is just big enough. You’ll run into some people over and over, again. However, the city is well-spaced out and doesn’t feel too small – unless you stay for more than a few months.
Weather: The climate here is absolutely ideal for me. You don’t need AC in your apartment here, but it’s hot enough to go to the pool during the day. The temperature is around 70-72 degrees at night, but rises to mid-80s during the day.
Safety: While I don’t want to jinx myself, this is the safest city I’ve been to in Colombia. Even the crackheads here don’t cause any concern for me. I’ve yet to feel nervous here, and the crime statistics suggest it’s safe here.
Language: As a small city with little tourism, you can’t expect much English. However, many young people do study English here. You’ll definitely need Spanish, but the English levels are better than I expected.
Apartment Costs: Renting an apartment on Airbnb is cheap in Ibague. My two-bedroom only costs around $400 USD a month and comes with Internet, cable, pool, sauna, mini-gym, and great location. There’s even a Juna Valdez in my building. Overall, you can find furnished apartments here from $200-700 – depending on location and amenities. I would never spend more than $500 a month for a place in Ibague.
Gym Membership: I found a great gym two blocks from my place for $25 USD a month. It cost $7,000 Colombian Pesos per day, or a little over $2 USD. Gym prices aren’t too high here.
Typical Meal: You can get breakfast for $1, lunch for $2.50, and dinner for $3 if you eat at local spots in Ibague, Colombia. Even at a nice restaurant, a huge slab of baby beef with salad, potatoes, and more only costs $9 USD. It doesn’t make much sense to cook in this city.
Beer in Bar: I haven’t been drinking while I’m here, but I have a little info here. You can get a beer for $1-4 USD – depending on which bar you go and which beer you drink.
Bottle of Wine in Bar: Here’s where things get cheap. You can get a bottle of decent wine in a nice restaurant for $35,000 Colombian Pesos, or $12 USD. A full bottle of red wine for $12!! That’s dirt cheap. Even a pricey bottle at a nice restaurant or bar won’t run you more than $25 USD.
Bottle in Liquor in Club: If you drink aguardiente, you’may only pay $10-20 for a bottle in a bar. In the nicest club in the city, a bottle of rum or vodka shouldn’t cost more than $70-90 USD. $40-50 USD will get you a bottle of liquor in a decent club.
Hiking San Jorge in Ibague.
Where to Stay
Ibague is a small city, but it’s fairly spread out. I’d surmise it’d take 20 minutes to get from one side of the town to the other during daytime hours in an Uber.
As well, the “Centro” of the city is towards the west of the city. It’s not a bad area to stay, but it’s not a central location, either. The nightlife is all towards the east of the city, along with all the shopping malls and movie theaters.
I’m staying in a building called, “Edificio Fountainbleu” that is in the physical center of the city. I’m pretty happy with the location.
If I come back to Ibague, I’d stay here, in the center, or near the shopping malls. While I don’t know the neighborhoods, I recommend these areas:
Get on Google Maps, locate these areas, and then check out apartments on Airbnb near these places.
How to Move Around
Uber works well in Ibague before 11 PM each night. After that, you’ll typically find it tough to find a driver. Uber is also incredibly cheap here. A 45-minute ride only costs me $4 USD.
Taxis are a little more expensive. But you’ll have to take them at night, as there are no Uber drivers late night.
As previously mentioned, you’ll want to speak some Spanish in Ibague. If you’re looking to learn a little, click here.
The vast majority of people in the city don’t speak English. A few younger people are enrolled in the dozen or so language institutes throughout the city, but you’ll still need Spanish. I wouldn’t recommend visiting unless you have a grasp of the basics.
Things to Do In Ibague
There is little to no tourism in Ibague. This isn’t Cartagena or Medellin. You won’t find a tourism agency and operators throughout the city. Hell, I couldn’t even find one tour guide in the city.
Still, I found a few awesome things to do in Ibague, Colombia:
Take in the Views: Ibague is located in a valley and surrounded by mountains on all sides. The city offers stunning views of the mountains. I’ve truly enjoyed relaxing with a coffee and just staring off at the views.
Juntas: If you’re looking for things to do in Ibague, I’d recommend checking out Juntas. Here you can check out the Mirador, Canon Combeima, and hike around in stunning nature. You can take a bus to Juntas from Ibague for a dollar. Ask around how to find it.
La Rivera: This beautiful restaurant, Campestre hotel, and nature reserve is a two-hour hike from Juntas. You’ll find a cable car, great food, a zoo, and great hiking here. Highly, highly recommended.
Hike the Botanical Gardens: If you want to stay in Ibague, then this is the best thing you can do. San Jorge is one of the better botanical gardens I’ve ever visited. The strenuous hike takes about two hours up, but offers fantastic views from the top. The garden is impeccably maintained.
The best thing to do in Ibague, Colombia – Hike.
La Martinica Hike: Another amazing hike in Ibague, La Martinica is just outside the city. It’s a tough one, but you’ll end up with a stunning view at the end. Highly recommended if you like hiking. Just make sure to go with a friend here and bring water.
Playa Hawai: If water parks are more your speed, there’s a cool spot in Ibague called Playa Hawai. I’m no theme park guy, but many locals have raved about this place. If you’re here for a month or two, it may be worthwhile to check it out.
If you’re looking for things to do in Ibague, Colombia – I hope you like hiking and nature. There’s not a lot of tourism in the city, and hiking the stunning mountains around the city is about all you’ll find.
Personally, I loved it, but that’s because I dig nature. If you don’t, this may not be a city for you.
Nightlife in Ibague
For a small city, nightlife in Ibague, Colombia can be considered popping. Every damn night I hear “Chivas” cruise by my window blaring reggaeton as partiers pass by. People enjoy the nightlife here. Here are a few recommendations:
Get on a Chiva: The Colombian version of a party bus is a Chiva. They’re open-air buses that blare music and feature stripper poles. What more could you ask for? The typically cost like $5-15 per person in Ibague – depending on the group and company. Most people ride a Chiva for two hours and then hit a nightclub.
El Tereque: This seems to be the best night spot in all of Ibague. I’d start any night out with a plan to end up here until you know the city. Like most Colombian small cities, most nightlife is group oriented, but you’ll be able to mingle here.
La Estacion: Another top spot in Ibague, this is my second choice for a night out in the city. Many a local has recommended this spot to me as their favorite place to party in the city.
Other nightlife recommendations:
Container City Ibague (more of a drinks spot)
Ibague has an airport, but it’s not big nor international. Luckily, the bus system works great here. You can get to Bogota, Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales within a five-hour bus ride from Ibague. These bus rides cost around $7-10 USD.
You can find cheap flights to Bogota and Cartagena from Ibague, too. Bogota to Ibague roundtrips can be found for $50-70 USD.
Ibague, Colombia Travel Guide For Digital Nomads
Overall – Ibague, Colombia is a great small city for digital nomads with a lot of work to do. You’d get bored here without work, but for nomads basing up and working during the day, the city offers a lot of value.
I’ve had a great time in Ibague and would recommend it to fellow location independent travelers who love nature, hiking, and low cost of living. Not too mention – the best part about Ibague is the people. The locals here are some of the friendliest I’ve encountered.
Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.