It was like a dream. Something you only see in the movies. I was new to the city and didn’t know much about nightlife in Cali, Colombia. But my buddy had been taking Spanish classes and got invited to a party. He asked me if I wanted to roll. Of course, I did!
The taxi dropped us off in front of a random, large house in the south of the city. I knew nothing about the area at the time and there didn’t seem to be much going on from the outside. I gave my buddy a sideways glance.
It looked weak, but we had already taken a taxi twenty minutes south. We were going to check it out. We walked around to the side of the house and saw security. Huh? Two security guards with guns were standing at the entrance, along with one of the hosts. A bit odd.
Apparently, it was $12 USD to enter. That included an open bar all night. We chatted and I asked if there were people inside. We couldn’t hear or see anything. The party host claimed it was popping, so we paid up.
The host gave us wristbands and walked us inside. We headed down a long, dark corridor for what seemed like a minute before she opened a door and we finally witnessed the best party of my life.
My expectations were low. Hell, they were non-existent. I certainly wasn’t expecting what we were about to enjoy…
The open door led to the backyard of an old mansion that used to be owned by a member of the Cali Cartel. A backyard filled with a massive swimming pool, slide, hot tub, sauna, dancefloor, and more.
Reggaeton blared from an impressive sound system, as dozens of Caleñas in skimpy swimsuits darted around. The eye candy was more than enough to keep me around all night, and things just kept getting better.
Cali girls…Dios mio!
My buddy and I must have been drolling as the waitress walked up and asked if we wanted a drink. Yeah, something strong.
We followed her to the bar while picking our jaws off the floor. It was gonna be a great night.
And one hell of a night it was!
We drank way more than our $12 USD worth, flirted with sexy Calenas in bikinis, danced some salsa, abused substances well-known around Cali, and generally acted like abject degenerates until the wee hours of the morning.
I distinctly remember one point in the evening. In the midst of all the chaos, everything slowed down and I wondered, “Is this really my life?”
I’d enjoyed a few complimentary party favors with my buddy, headed straight to the dance floor to learn a little salsa, then jumped into the 18-person hot tub before making out with a stunning Caleña who spoke no English. Life was great.
Now, nightlife in Cali, Colombia isn’t always this amazing. In fact, I’d argue nightlife in Bogota is generally better than in Cali.
But, enough with my degenerate reminiscing, let’s dive into this piece and deliver the details on Cali, Colombia nightlife.
Dancing Salsa in Cali, Colombia?
First and foremost, you need to know one thing about Cali, Colombia nightlife:
Cali, Colombia is the salsa dancing capital of the world!
If you don’t like dancing salsa or aren’t willing to learn, you might not enjoy partying in Cali. It’s damn near impossible to enjoy a big night out in the city without salsa dancing.
Why? Because the vast majority of clubs are either salsa bars or crossover clubs. While crossover clubs claim to play a variety of music, they play generally play salsa a majority of the time in Cali, Colombia.
That’s just the way things go in the city. Luckily, there’s nowhere better to learn some salsa dancing than in Cali. There are over 200 salsa schools in Cali, Colombia (Source).
You’ll find classes to fit every budget here, along with reasonably priced private lessons – if that’s something you’re interested in.
If you’re looking to take lessons or join classes, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Sabor Manicero. Click here to learn more.
World famous salsa bar in Cali, Colombia.
How Important is Speaking Spanish?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it, again – Cali, Colombia doesn’t see nearly as many tourists as Bogota or Medellin. As such, English levels aren’t great in the city.
You’ll want to speak a little Spanish before you arrive in Cali. It’ll make your experience in the city so much better, especially at night. Salsa bars and clubs are made for dancing, but they’re generally easier to have conversations in, too. The music isn’t as loud as it is when they play reggaeton or electronic music.
Learn a little Spanish. If you’re ever in a sticky situation, you’ll want to understand what people are saying. By understanding a little Spanish, you can keep a sticky situation from turning dire.
Don’t underestimate the importance of being able to politely tell that friendly fellow in Spanish that you weren’t staring at his girlfriend’s gigantic Caleña ass but simply admiring her salsa dancing skills 😉
While we’ve discussed safety, salsa dancing, and the importance of speaking Spanish while partying in Cali, Colombia – there are a few more things you should know.
First, nightlife culture in Cali is a little different. Where people in Bogota enjoy mingling around, Cali is the exact opposite. If you roll to a bar or club solo and trying to chat up strangers in groups, they’ll look at you like a damn leper.
Cali is a big city, but most Caleños still hang out with people they’ve known their whole life. You’ll see more big groups at bars and clubs here than almost anywhere else. Suffice to say, it’s not a great place to “Conquistar” – if you know what I mean.
Hell, some clubs won’t even let you in unless you have a date with you, especially if you look gringo.
If you’re going out alone in Cali, Colombia, I’d recommend sticking to some of the gringo-friendly spots and the mid-week salsa nights. Click here for gringo events in Cali, Colombia. If you roll up to Menga solo, it’ll end up being a huge waste of time.
You’re much better off trying to get a date or putting together a group to hit the bars and clubs on a Saturday night. That’s just the social norm here.
A Gringo’s Guide to Nightlife in Cali, Colombia
Below you’ll find the best places to enjoy the nightlife in Cali, Colombia. While this whole piece could be about salsa bars, your boy enjoys a little perreando from time to time. So, I tried to include a little variety here:
La Topa Tolondra: Famous salsa bar that’s popular with gringos andCaleños. Weekends are good, but I’d recommend checking this spot out any Monday night you’re bored. La Topa Tolondra is the best thing to do on a Monday night in Cali, Colombia!
Tintindeo: Another famous salsa bar in Cali around the Parque del Perro area. You’ll find gringos here, but not as many as La Topa Tolondra. Overall, Tintindeo is a great place if you’re serious about salsa dancing. If not, don’t come.
Zaperoco Salsa Bar: While Zaperoco isn’t as famous as the other popular salsa bars above, it’s located in Granada – the best neighborhood in Cali for travelers. If you want to dance a little salsa while staying in Granada, start here.
Granada is a neighborhood in Cali, Colombia that’s ideal for gringos. There’s bars, clubs, gyms, cafes, and restaurants. You can walk to everything if you stay here and it’s pretty damn safe. Highly recommended.
Here are a few solid nightlife options in Barrio Granada:
Quickly Shots: I almost got jumped at Quickly Shots after an unfortunate encounter with a Caleña while her boyfriend watched. The worst part? It was all her fault. Soy juicioso. That being said – this is a reggaeton and trap club in Granada. It gets packed on the weekend, but it’s small. Bring a date or a few friends.
El Viejo Barril: My buddy swears by this bar in Granada. The open-air spot is well-known and always full, but the vibe never enticed me. Still, it’s a great place to start a night before heading out to Menga.
Antaño Cervecería Artesanal: My favorite craft beer spot in Granada. If you’re looking to have a few beers with buddies or a date, Antaño Cervecería Artesanal is the place to go in Granada.
Bourbon St.: This is the gringo hangout in Granada. Bourbon St. is a rock bar that usually has live music on the weekends. While it’s never too wild here, there’s typically a pretty good crowd. A great place to start the night. Just don’t eat here. The food sucks.
Bourbon St. in Cali, Colombia.
Menga is an area to the north of Cali. The neighborhood is filled with some of the biggest and baddest clubs in Cali, Colombia. Most clubs and bars in Menga claim to be “crossover” clubs, but they generally play salsa and more salsa.
Here are some of the famous clubs in Menga:
Café Mi Tierra: My absolute favorite club in Menga is Café Mi Tierra. The open-air club gets absolutely packed with middle-class Caleños on the weekend. People are friendly here and prices are cheap. Highly recommended.
Living Club: Giant club in Menga that’s pretty damn famous. You won’t get in here without a date, especially if you’re a gringo and it’s a weekend night. Expect a lot of salsa here.
Lolas: Another large club in Menga. While similar to Living Club, they actually play crossover music here. Again, don’t expect to get in without a date or a group of girls with you. For the most part, packs of horny gringos won’t be allowed in. My buddy and I got denied entry with the swiftness.
Other Clubs in Cali, Colombia
La Purga: If you’re looking for a decent sized club that plays reggaeton and trap music in Cali, Colombia – La Purga might be your best bet. Just to let you know – it attracts a lot of the LGBT community, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I had a hell of a time here, as the vibe is pretty damn fun.
Levels Rooftop: Supposedly this place hosts a “Gringo Wednesday” that occasionally attracts a crowd, but I’ve never been. My buddy went a few times and said the setup is solid, but it’s hit or miss whether Levels Rooftop gets a crowd.
Sonido Central: The spot for electronic and house music in Cali, Colombia. Located in the center near Granada, you’ll want to take a taxi to and from this club. The area is sketchy, but expect a good crowd on weekends.
Mazao Park: I was surprised the first time I went to Mazao Park. It was a damn good time. The nightlife here is the best you’ll find on Tuesday nights, as the club hosts a cultural exchange that turns into a party. I’ve never been on weekends, but it might be alright on Saturdays, especially if you’re staying near Parque del Perro.
Nightlife in Cali, Colombia – Overall
If you’ve ever wanted to party in the salsa dancing capital of the world, this post should help you do it. I detailed every single thing I know about nightlife in Cali, Colombia.
If I missed anything, let me know. Sound off in the comments and let this gringo know what he missed. And of course, I can dance a little salsa. Don’t doubt these gringo hips, maricas.
Ya Tu Sabes.
Don’t forget to learn a little Spanish before you go!
I was hammered. Three sheets to the wind. The nightlife in Colombia had gotten the best of me. The sexy bartender with the cute accent who kept “practicing” her English had gotten me drunk. Hijo de puta!
Midnight was fast approaching. It was time to bounce from the rooftop bar to a club. So, my buddies and I paid our bills and hit the streets.
There were a few clubs down the road and we were anxious to check them out. A little perreando was on our radar. Ya tu sabes.
There was only one issue…
I forgot to hit the restroom before leaving the rooftop bar. Being hammered, I had to piss. Waiting simply wasn’t an option. I quickly scanned the streets in my drunken state.
There was an isolated area about 20 feet away. I sprinted over and whipped it out. The relief was instant, as I began urinating on the stone wall in front of me.
But an abrupt noise prematurely ended my damn near orgasmic state. My buddy was yelling:
“Jake! What the F*%K are you doing?! You’re pissing on a church and the police are walking this way!”
Oh, shit! I cut it off mid-stream, quickly zipped my pants up, and tried to act like nothing had happened. Luckily, the police didn’t catch me and the night went on as planned.
Now, before you go pissing on churches and attempting to dance salsa, let’s talk a little more about nightlife in Colombia and what you can expect:
Colombia Nightlife Culture
In most Colombia cities, nightlife involves going out with a big group of friends you’ve had since high school. Colombians go out with old friends, share a bottle of booze, and dance salsa, bachata, and reggaeton.
While many Westerners prefer to go out and mingle with new people, especially those of the opposite sex, that’s simply not common in Colombia. This is especially true in smaller cities and towns, like Ibague or Armenia.
Types of Music
Colombia is a Spanish-speaking country, so you can expect the vast majority of the music to be in Spanish. Electronic and techno are popular in certain clubs, but the majority of the places focus on salsa and reggaeton.
Outside of Bogota nightlife, most places are “crossover” discos. This means they play a variety of genres throughout the night. Typically, a crossover club will play salsa, merengue, reggaeton, and maybe some electronic music.
Always Go Out On Payday
This is a major key in Colombia. If you really want to have a good time, always go out on payday or around it. Colombian payday is always on the 1st and 15th of every month.
On the flipside, if payday lands on a Saturday, I’d suggest showing up a little earlier than you normally do. Shit will be packed. Some of my best nights partying in Colombia occurred when Saturday was also payday.
Spanish is Important
In tourist bars that are gringo heavy, you’ll find a lot of Colombians who speak English. Hell, in Bogota and Medellin, you have a decent shot at meeting English speakers on any night out.
Once you get into smaller cities, you’ll need to speak some Spanish. I wouldn’t venture to somewhere like Pereira, Colombia without some Spanish skills.
Luckily, it’s easy to learn Spanish these days. With a few months of study, you’ll think you sound like Rico Suave en Espanol – if you’re drunk enough.
If you get an Airbnb apartment in these neighborhoods, you’ll be able to walk around all day and night without much worry. You’ll also be within walking distance to some of the best Colombia nightlife spots known to this gringo!
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Best Nightlife in Colombia: Top 11 Places to Party in the Country!
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. The absolute best places to enjoy a little Colombia nightlife.
I’ve spent many a night abusing substances and attempting to move these gringo hips properly. Never works well, but I always have a damn good time. After extensive research, here are my favorite places to party in all of Colombia:
~ Bogota ~
La Villa: Home of the legendary Gringo Tuesday, this is a must visit club if you’re in Bogota. Obviously, you’ll want to come here on Tuesdays, but I also enjoy La Villa on weekend nights. If your budget is tight, La Villa is one of the cheaper spots in Zona T, too.
Armando Records: Another classic Colombia nightlife spot, Armando Records is one of the most famous clubs in Zona T. The club is decent sized and tends to play electronic music. Drugs certainly aren’t uncommon here. Wednesday nights can be good fun here. Weekend nights will almost always be solid here.
Mint Social Club: This is the late night club in Bogota. Some of my best Colombia nightlife memories started in this after-hours club. Mint Social Club is open from 3-6 am every weekend night. If you want to stay out late and mingle with some of Bogota’s rumberas, this is where to go.
Hotel V: If you’re looking to buy a bottle and enjoy a big Saturday night out in Bogota, there’s no better option than Hotel V. The large club is located in the heart of Zona T and packed with people looking to have a good time. They typically play reggaeton music and the party tends to pop around 1 am on weekend nights.
Hotel V in Bogota, Colombia.
~ Medellin ~
Bendito Seas: While Babylon used to the ladies’ night spot in Medellin, Bendito Seas has taken the cake. Come here on Thursday night. This is one of the few spots in Medellin where people don’t necessarily go out in big groups. They play reggaeton, electronic, and even a little hip-hop on occasion. You won’t find sexy Colombian girls dancing to “Back That Ass Up” too often, but it’s commonplace here!
Son Havana: Now, we’re getting to Colombian-style music and nightlife. I couldn’t write a guide to nightlife in Colombia and not include a few salsa clubs. That’s just not right! If you like salsa music and are in Medellin, Son Havana is the best spot to go. Highly recommended bar in the Laureles neighborhood.
~ Santa Marta ~
La Brisa Loca: La Brisa Loca may be my favorite place to party in all of Colombia. This place truly is one hell of a time. Basically, it’s a hostel bar that turns into a raging nightclub on Saturday nights. It’s on the roof of the hostel and fills with people from all over Colombia and the world. The DJs play all types of music and the drinks are damn cheap. The breeze rolls in from the Caribbean and people dance the night away. Again, drugs certainly aren’t uncommon here.
La Brisa Loca in Santa Marta, Colombia.
~ Cali ~
La Topa Tolandra: I’ll be honest. I don’t like salsa. Hell, I’d say I hate it. But, even I had a damn good time partying in La Topa Tolandra in Cali, Colombia. This small salsa club is world-famous and fills up on Mondays when Calenos basically offer free salsa lessons to the gringos in Cali.
La Purga: Ok, this spot is a little weird. Hell, it’s a lot weird, especially when talking about nightlife in Colombia. But, if you’re looking to party in Cali without salsa music, it’s your best option. La Purga is a good sized club that plays reggaeton and trap music. Just make sure you come here with some friends, as this place is a little more aggressive (in every which way) than others on this list.
Cafe Mi Tierra: A gigantic, open-air crossover club in Menga, to the north of Cali, Colombia. If you have a group of friends or a date, this place is absolutely ideal. It’s cheap, big, and the music is fantastic. I’ve spent more than a few fun nights here during my months in Cali.
~ Cartagena ~
La Jugada Clubhouse: It can be hard to find good nightlife in Cartagena. The city is filled with hustlers and many locals tend to stay away from the tourists when they’re not trying to rip them off. That being said – La Jugade Clubhouse can be a lot of fun. The club features five levels and an international ambience. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely the best place I found to party in Cartagena.
Everything You Need to Know About Colombia Nightlife
While some complain about the big groups found in most clubs and all the salsa music, nightlife in Colombia can be amazing. You just have to know where to look!
That’s why I created this list. To give you the absolute best places to party in Colombia. If Colombia nightlife is a priority while you’re on vacation, you needn’t look any further.
There’s levels to this. Santa Marta can be one hell of a good time, but you can’t expect a city of 500,000 to offer as many nightlife options as a city of 10 million. The numbers just don’t add up.
What you can expect is a beach city filled with backpacker-style nightlife and a mix of tourists and locals. The parties rage on, but the scene is laid-back and you certainly wouldn’t want to rock a custom suit here.
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What Makes Nightlife in Santa Marta So Much Fun?
There’s a little more to it than that. So, let’s dive in and take a look at what makes nightlife in Santa Marta, Colombia so damn fun. Here are a few things I noticed while staying semi-sober and going out in Santa Marta:
~ Lots of Foreigners
Santa Marta is one of the backpacker hotspots in Colombia. The city boasts beaches, Parque Tayrona is just an hour away, and Taganga is a mecca of drugs and partying. As such, most places you go to in Santa Marta will have other foreigners enjoying a little rumba. Normally, I’d hate this. But in Santa Marta, it actually makes the nightlife more fun.
~ Cover Isn’t Common
Certain places charge cover around Parque de Los Novios, but the spots catering towards backpackers tend not to. That could always change, but I only remember one spot asking for cover when I went out.
~ Pretty Safe
I found Santa Marta to be a pretty safe city. Even at night, the center of Santa Marta didn’t seem sketchy at all. You shouldn’t have many safety issues enjoying the nightlife in Santa Marta. Someone could always drug your drink, as it’s still Colombia, but you have fewer worries here than in Bogota, Cali, or Medellin.
~ Mingling Made Easy
Since Santa Marta is a tourist spot, it’s pretty easy to mingle in the clubs here. People go out to meet other people. This isn’t like Cali, where people go out with huge groups of friends they’ve had since middle school. Personally, I enjoyed this aspect of the nightlife here.
Nighttime at La Brisa Loca.
~ Spanish Needed?
Since Santa Marta nightlife is fairly international, you can definitely get away without speaking any Spanish. Most of the people in the tourist areas can speak a little English. However, you’ll definitely make things easier on yourself by speaking some Spanish. If you’re looking to learn, I recommend starting here.
Costs of Santa Marta Nightlife
Honestly, it’s pretty cheap to enjoy a big night out in Santa Marta. Many of the clubs cater to the backpacking crowd and we all know these types aren’t big spenders.
As such, you won’t have to spend too much money to have a great time partying in Santa Marta. Here’s a quick look at some cost estimates:
Beer in bar/club: $1-4 USD
Drink in a bar: $2-6 USD
Drink in a club: $4-8 USD
Cover charge: Many places don’t have cover in Santa Marta. The ones that do tend to charge between $3-7 USD.
Bottle of wine at bar: $15-40 USD
Bottle of booze at club: $20-100 USD
These are just estimates, but overall, everything is pretty damn cheap in Santa Marta. While you could spend a lot of money on a night out, you could also have a great time for under $20 USD!
While I won’t go too deep into this topic, it should be noted that drugs are cheap and common in Santa Marta, especially in Taganga.
Where to Party in Santa Marta, Colombia?
Santa Marta isn’t a huge city. In fact, I was surprised how small the place was. As such, Santa Marta nightlife is fairly concentrated around a few areas. If you’re looking for a little rumba here, you’re likely to end up at:
Santa Marta Center: This is where I spent a majority of my second trip to Santa Marta. You’ll find solid nightlife here, especially around Parque de Los Novios. While Santa Marta doesn’t have a Zona Rosa, this is the closest thing you’ll find to one.
Taganga: The backpacker mecca of cheap drugs, scuba diving, and nightlife. If you want to get into something, this is where you go. The nightlife here can be hit or miss, but when it hits you’re guaranteed one hell of a night.
Rodadero: People party on the beach a bit in Rodadero and there are a few bars, but I’ve never been to a club here that was popping. Overall, you’re better off in the other two areas.
Rodadero at night!
A Gringo’s Guide to Nightlife in Santa Marta, Colombia
Now we’re getting to the good stuff.While I’ve been to the city twice, nightlife spots always change. So make sure to ask around. New bars and clubs open up every month.
Alright, let’s dive in and take a look at some of the nightlife hot spots in Santa Marta:
La Brisa Loca, Santa Marta Center: This is my spot in Santa Marta. If you want to party in the centre of the city, this is where you want to be on Friday and Saturday nights. The huge rooftop bar turns into a dance club and fills to the brim with backpackers, travelling Colombians, and locals. Highly recommended, especially in high season.
La Puerta, Santa Marta Center: If La Brisa Loca isn’t your speed, head over to La Puerta. This is a Santa Marta classic and most of the locals that come here enjoy hanging out with travellers. Beers are cheap and it’s one of those bars that has a club feel to it when it gets full.
Crab’s Bar, Santa Marta Center: More of a dive bar than a nightclub, Crab’s Bar plays rock music and caters to a local crowd. The people are friendly and this is the ideal place to start a big night out while in the center.
La Azotea, Santa Marta Center: A small rooftop bar/club near Parque de Los Novios that connects to a club below. This place isn’t packed with foreigners, as the crowd is a bit more local and the prices are a bit more expensive. I only stayed here for half an hour, but the spot had a good vibe to it.
Santa Marta at night.
El Mirador, Taganga: While I checked out Sensation Club during my first time in Taganga, I heard it had since closed down. Not sure? However, the other popular club in Taganga is El Mirador. Offering amazing views harbour harbor in Taganga, this is said to be the hot spot right now. Definitely worth checking out.
La Escollera: This is a club in Rodadero. I never went, but it’s apparently an amazing place when they bring DJs and reggaeton artists in town. The club is massive and considered high-end for Santa Marta. If you here of an event here while you’re in Santa Marta, make sure you check it out. An epic night of partying awaits!
Bars and Clubs Around Parque de Los Novios: There’s legit at least two dozen bars and clubs around Parque de Los Novios in Santa Marta Center. If you’re unsure where to go, just head here and walk around on a weekend night. You’ll find somewhere that’s popping. Plus, this Zona Rosa is a five-minute walk from La Bris Loca. So, you could easily just go back and forth between this area and that fantastic club.
Parque de Los Novios.
Nightlife in Santa Marta, Colombia: The Verdict
That’s it! Everything you need to know about Santa Marta nightlife. Honestly, I was surprised how amazing the nightlife in this small city was. If you love to enjoy a little rumba, you’ll have a great time here.
Overall, this would be my plan if I were to come back. I’d go out every Friday and Saturday. I’d start in the center of Santa Marta and have some drinks at one of the bars around Parque de Los Novios.
Then I’d bounce to La Brisa Loca around 11:30 pm. If I was bored around 1:30 am, I’d head back to Parque de Los Novios from 1:30-3:30 am and hit one of the clubs there. Guaranteed to be a great night!
Hell, you could always just head out to Taganga, too. Parties, booze, and party favours always await you in the backpacker mecca of Taganga. Either way…
In Colombia, there is a little town called Guatape.
On the outskirts of Medellin, this little town rivals your current idea of what heaven would look like.
With a population of no more than a few thousand people, this town possesses a warm and cozy culture. The community has countless cafes (with coffee’s for less than one U.S. dollar), outdoor gyms, public soccer fields, and just about anything else one would need to have a good time. It’s hard to find a person who isn’t wearing a smile here.
Furthermore, the houses are all painted and throughout the town not one color of the rainbow was forgotten. Artwork further decorates each house making you feel as though you are living inside of a cartoon.
And the nature…
A gorgeous lake with countless inlets surrounds the town. Off in the distance, mountains overgrown with lush jungle canopy make you stare in awe.
If the scenery wasn’t enough to tickle one’s soul, the possible outdoor activities are seemingly endless.
Pack a bag with a lunch and set off for 10 minutes in any direction. Before you know it, you will find yourself sweating and smiling until the sun comes down. Kayaking, biking, hiking, swimming, cliff jumping…You name it, you can do it here.
My first day in Guatape had me questioning if it was the best day of my life simply for seeing it all. When I really experienced Guatape, this place forever cemented itself in my mind as heaven on earth.
Rivers, Waterfalls, and Wild Magic Mushrooms
I was lucky enough to have a connection in Guatape before I even arrived. A friend of a friend owned one of the main hostels in town. While he didn’t provide me with free accommodation, he gave me experiences that I won’t soon forget.
On my first full day in Guatape, we set off at sunrise on our pedal bikes up into the mountains. A brief 30 min uphill battle rewarded us immensely with well over two hours of downhill action.
As we coasted down the mountains on our bikes, we were surrounded by a multitude of jungle flowers and trees to our left and a massive cliff to our right. In the lowlands of the cliff was endless coffee fields, rivers, and secluded farms.
Eventually, we pulled off the road and hiked for 30 minutes to a secret waterfall that hid all evidence that any humans had ever seen it before. We jumped off cliffs into pools below and forgot that life at home even existed.
On our way back to our bikes we took a different route and this is when things got interesting…
At one point, without warning, my new best friend dipped down to the ground and returned with a plant that, I shit you not, had an aura to it. He looked me in the eyes and, hardly containing his laughter and excitement, said “Golden Teachers”
After shouting a “this is the best day ever”, we became laser focussed on the ground and began to find wild magic mushrooms in abundance…More than two men probably should have eaten. But that is neither here nor there.
Munching On Magic Mushrooms
After hitting the jackpot, we finished our bike ride in a town about 30 minutes south of where we left our bikes.
We stopped for a quick breakfast as the day was still young and then we grabbed a truck to drive us back. Of course, this wasn’t your typical Dodge Ram 3500.
This was a Colombian pickup which meant me and my friend were riding in the truck bed with our bikes. We didn’t mind. After all, the scenery wasn’t so bad.
As the truck carried us back into the mountains we shoved mushrooms into our gullet. One for you, one for me…Ten for you, ten for me.
We arrived back to the main town about 30 minutes after our initial munchdown. Since we made the mistake of eating, the mushrooms took an alarming amount of time to kick in. My friend needed to stop at his house quickly, so we walked through the skittled colored town, all smiles.
At this point, I was starting to feel a bit stoney. The colors on the walls looked frickin sweet…But they did before anyways, was this still a placebo?
My friend got what he came for and told me he had one more spot to show me. We once again took off into the hills, this time on foot. After a 20 minute walk, we ended up in deserted pastures with wild horses and cows. The sun was abnormally cooperative that day and had the surrounding trees and fields bursting with pristine color and definition.
After roughly one hour of our initial munch down, the blue of the sky and the green of the trees was starting to look highly pleasant. However, both of us were still confused as to why we weren’t tripping. To be clear, we still had our wits in full.
A river ran through the pastures and my friend assured me that it came from a waterfall that was highly worth checking out.
On our way to the waterfall, we found more wild magic mushrooms. Since our first batch wasn’t proving to be too strong (yet), we enjoyably munched a few more wild magic mushrooms as they came.
Ten minutes later and things got intense.
For some uncommunicated reason, we both took our shoes off at the same time. Just minutes later, the open pastures disappeared and we found ourselves surrounded by dense jungle.
At this point, in a single instant, I felt like something had been lying dormant within in me for my whole life and this jungle was the home it had been waiting for.
We continued to hike up knee dip in this river. My friend and I couldn’t stop telling each other how free we felt. Soon, all of the rocks within the water were smiling at me with cheeky faces.
Shortly after, we arrived at the waterfall we came to see.
What I was expecting was much less than what I got. This waterfall was more like three waterfalls.
At its peak, it must have been 70 feet tall. However, it cascaded over three levels and left a nice pool at the bottom for us to swim in.
We laughed in ecstacy for the next 20 minutes or so until things took a scary turn. My friend went off to take a crap and it turns out the mushrooms were just getting started.
I lost my sense of control and momentarily panicked. I wanted to crawl back into bed and sleep it off. Fuck! I was having so much fun before…
When my friend returned, I found my center. A little positive talk from my friend and a little mental self-talk and I was as good as gold again.
Just five minutes later, the same thing happened to my friend. I looked at him and could sense panic. For the next five minutes, it was my turn to bring him back to his happy place.
Success! We were both back to earth. Actually, we were more alive than ever.
We exited the jungle and returned to the piercing beauty of the sunshine covered pastures. Until the sun went down, we walked barefoot and discussed the meaning of life as if we had all the answers.
It was the most therapeutic experience of my life.
The mushrooms seemed to open a portal to the secrets of the Universe. On this day, I understood the source of all my anxiety, worry, and misery. It was highly apparent why they call them “Golden Teachers”.
The magic mushrooms began to wear off just as the sun was setting.
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Still High On Life
We returned to the hostel to have a beer and discuss the experience. We both sat with the biggest smiles on our faces. When others asked what we got up to, we could only laugh.
I write this roughly two months after the experience and I remember everything…The experience, the lessons, and the ways I restrict my own happiness. I still feel high on life.
Not only did Guatape show me a little piece of heaven, it showed me heaven within.
Heading to South American, but unsure what big city to visit? Curious which metropolis is best for gringos? You’ve come to the right place. In this post, I compare Lima vs. Bogota.
We’ll dive deep and find out which city is best geared towards your wants and needs. Both these cities are massive South American metropolises, but Lima and Bogota couldn’t be more different.
In this post, we’ll look at:
Cost of Living
English & Education Levels
Girls & Dating
Tourism & Stuff to Do
So, without further ado, let’s dive in and see which city suits your needs.
~ Lima Vs. Bogota ~
Bogota is a giant city of over 8 million people in the city proper. Lima has a population of nearly 10 million (Source).
If you like big cities, both Lima and Bogota will treat you right. Personally, I found Bogota felt a bit larger and had more areas to explore. But, it really doesn’t matter. Lima and Bogota are two of the five biggest cities in all of Latin America.
Cost of Living
Bogota is Colombia’s most expensive city. While Bogota is cheap for Western standards, it’s not cheap for Latin America.
Surprisingly, Lima is more expensive than Bogota. In fact, I’d say it’s at least 10-15% more expensive – when comparing the neighborhoods of Zona T in Bogota to Miraflores in Lima.
For example, a studio apartment can be found in Zona T for around $550-700. For something similar in Miraflores, you’re looking at $700-800.
This category isn’t even close. While I haven’t had any issues in Colombia and think the dangers are a bit hyped up, there’s no denying that Bogota isn’t a completely safe city.
Even Zona T and the north of Bogota have significant crime, including tourists getting mugged in broad daylight. While you shouldn’t be scared traveling to Colombia, you shouldn’t whip your new iPhone X out on the street, either.
In Lima, you don’t have much to worry about, especially if you’re staying in Miraflores.
In fact, Miraflores may be the safest neighborhood in all of Latin America. Hell, they even have signs saying cops will fine people who honk their horns in Miraflores! That’s absolutely insane – even by Western standards.
Overall, Lima is significantly safer than Bogota, especially when comparing popular neighborhoods like Miraflores and Barranco versus Zona T and Chapinero.
I found education and English levels were pretty high in Bogota. I was impressed by the number of people who spoke English in the city. Plus, nearly everyone I spoke with either had a job, was studying in college, or both. Bogota is where Colombians go to work and study.
Lima, on the other hand, is where most upper-class Peruvians live. Nearly all the wealthy in Peru congregate in Lima. That means high levels of education and decent English, especially in the expensive neighborhoods like Miraflores and San Isidro.
English levels and education are fairly similar when you compare Miraflores to Zona T and Chapinero. However, once you get outside these areas, I found the education levels of people in Bogota to be much higher than in Lima.
Winner: Bogota by a little
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Now we’re getting to the good stuff. If you like a little rumba while you travel, which who doesn’t, then you’ve come to the right place. Just be prepared for a hangover or three!
Both Lima and Bogota have great nightlife, especially by Latin American standards. You won’t be disappointed.
But, what city offers better nightlife? Lima vs. Bogota? Well, that all depends on what you like.
Lima nightlife is exceptionally gringo-friendly. You’ll find dozens of clubs and bars in Miraflores – all within walking distance. You can walk around safely at night and the scene is fairly international.
There’s plenty of really attractive girls in Lima once you get off Tinder and start using your words in-person. Just go to Lima Bar in Larcomar on a Saturday night and tell me what you think about the girls in Lima.
That being said – the women in Bogota are going to be more attractive on average than the girls in Lima. Colombian girls are renowned for their looks. Peruvian girls are not. There’s a reason for that.
Overall, the girls in Bogota will be hotter than the girls in Lima. However, Peruvian girls tend to make better girlfriends, as the culture in Peru is a bit more conservative than in Colombia.
I’m no foodie. Nor do I claim to be. But, you don’t have to be a foodie to clearly see that Peruvian food is better than Colombia food.
It’s not even close. Colombian food is a bit bland, while Peruvian food is filled with flavor and chalk full of exotic dishes to test out.
In Peru, you can try food like Ceviche, Lomo Saltado, Aji de Gallina, and more. In Colombia, they have Bandeja Paisa and soups. While Colombian food isn’t that bad, there’s no contest here.
Surprisingly, neither of these cities are “played out” yet. While both Lima and Bogota see some tourists, things aren’t on the scale of Medellin, Cartagena, or Cusco.
One reason? Lima and Bogota are both too big. In cities of 8-10+ million people, you’d need tons of tourists to overwhelm the city. Sure, Miraflores is a bit touristy in Lima, but it doesn’t ruin the vibe.
Plus, half the gringos in Lima stay a few days in a hostel before taking a bus down to Cusco. So, they really don’t hurt the city.
Most travelers view Bogota as either having horrible weather or being too dangerous. So many gringos skip it completely when visiting Colombia.
Overall, you’ll see more gringos in Lima, but neither Bogota nor Lima is suffering from much gringo fatigue. Both cities are happy to welcome travelers.
Tourism & Stuff to Do
This one isn’t too tough. In Lima, you can:
Swim with sea lions
Visit ancient ruins
Go to the beach
In Bogota, you can look at some graffiti and then take a cable car to Monseratte. Well, that’s outside the drugs and women.
Ok, maybe there’s a little more to do in Bogota. But, overall – Lima has so much more to offer from a tourism standpoint. If you need a lot of stuff to keep you entertained, Lima is a better bet.
So, where does that leave us in? Let’s take a look at the Lima vs. Bogota scorecard:
City Size: Tie
Cost of Living: Bogota
English & Education Levels: Bogota
Girls & Dating: Bogota
Gringo Fatigue: Tie
Tourism & Stuff to Do: Lima
Got damn! After 1,500 words, we’re still tied. Why? Because both Lima and Bogota are truly great cities for gringo travelers. Luckily, there’s an easy way to know what city is best for you. In my opinion…
If you’re new to traveling in Latin America and/or don’t speak good Spanish – Lima, Peru is the better choice.
If you’ve traveled in Latin America and/or speak some Spanish – Bogota, Colombia is the better option.
If you’re traveling between November to May – Lima, Peru is the better option.
If you’re traveling May through October – Bogota, Colombia wins.
Colombia Vs. Peru. Two great South American countries for traveling gringos to visit. But, which country is better? Well, that’s what we’re about to find out.
After spending a decent amount of time in both these countries, I’m qualified to compare and contrast. But, I’m just one dude with a laptop. This is just my opinion.
If you’re looking for unique Latin cultures, world-class tourism, crazy nightlife, and fun-loving locals – both Colombia and Peru fit the bill. Suffice to say, adventures abound in both places.
But, what spot is best for you? Well, there’s only one way to find out…
Colombia Vs. Peru
You’re better off just booking a ticket and exploring. I’m thrilled you’re here reading this post, but seriously – just get the fuck off the Internet and live your life.
Anyway, I’ll break it down to the best of my abilities. While there’s no clear winner in my opinion, I’ll try to point you in the right direction if you’re struggling to decide where to go.
Mano a mano. Head to head. Colombia Vs. Peru:
Colombia has nearly 50 million people (Source). Peru has a little over 30 million people (Source).
While Colombia has a much larger population, it’s not really going to affect the average traveling gringo. The difference between 30 and 50 million people means a few more cities to explore, but isn’t noticeable during day-to-day traveling.
Colombia has five cities nearing one million people or more. Peru has one, maybe two, if you include Arequipa. Suffice to say, you have a lot more cities to explore in Colombia compared to Peru.
For example, in Colombia, you could base up in these cities for a month or two:
In every one of these cities, you will find modern conveniences, solid Airbnb options, decent Wi-Fi, and enough creature comforts to ensure you forget you’re in the developing world.
In Peru, you simply don’t have many options. I’ve found these cities in Peru offer enough creature comforts for a month or two stay:
Outside of those three cities, I would not spend more than a week or two in any Peruvian city. After spending some time in Piura and Trujillo, I didn’t find the small cities had enough modern conveniences to keep me happy.
So, Colombia wins by a far margin. That being said – Lima, Peru is a fantastic city filled with modern conveniences and I’m a huge fan.
Ya tu sabes.
Cost of Living
Overall, Colombia is cheaper than Peru. Bogota is cheaper than Lima. Cali is cheaper than Arequipa. The comparisons could go on and on.
Now, I’m sure you can do Peru for cheaper than Colombia. But, the cities most people visit in Peru will usually be a little pricier than those in Colombia. Others may disagree, but I spend more in Peru than in Colombia – for a similar lifestyle.
Check out some of my cost of living content from Colombia:
You’ll definitely want to speak some Spanish if you’re traveling around either country. In fact, you’ll have a far better experience if you speak a little Spanish than none. English levels just aren’t great in either country.
That being said – you can find enough English speakers in Bogota, Colombia or Lima, Peru to get by. In fact, around neighborhoods like Miraflores and Zona T, I’d say 25% of locals can understand a little English.
Overall, there’s decent English levels in Bogota and Medellin. There’s also decent English in Lima and Cusco.
Outside those four cities, you’ll want to have some Spanish speaking abilities while traveling around Peru or Colombia.
When looking at how people speak, I’ve found Rolos speak the clearest Spanish in Colombia or Peru. Many Limeños speak a slower Spanish, as they’re used to speaking with gringos.
Either way, you’ll want to learn some Spanish before you arrive. The best way to learn Spanish? Just click here!
Ease of Travel – Inside Country
Do not Google “Peru bus crashes” after reading this article. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
In fact, bus travel sucks in both countries. Both Peru and Colombia are mountainous countries that make traveling by bus a pain in the ass.
Sure, a 3-6 hour ride here or there shouldn’t be an issue. But, I can’t recommend taking overnight bus journeys in either spot.
In Peru, the bus could fall off a cliff and kill half the passengers. In Colombia, you might wind through mountain roads until you’re about to throw up. Neither situation is pleasant.
Flying is a much better option in both countries. Avianca offers solid flights throughout Peru an Colombia. Plus, both countries have local, budget airlines that do a solid job. In Colombia, you have:
All four of these carriers offer in-country roundtrips for under $100 USD! Hell, some flights can be $40-50 roundtrip. That’s a freaking steal.
Why take a 14-hour bus ride for $40 when you can take a 2-hour flight for $70 or less?! If you have a flexible schedule, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and headaches by flying. And it won’t cost much more.
Outside of Lima, the infrastructure is simply better in Colombian cities. Colombian cities are just more developed than similar sized cities in Peru.
While Colombia’s infrastructure isn’t amazing in every city, a place like Pereira blows somewhere like Trujillo out of the water – in terms of infrastructure and modern conveniences.
Lima and Bogota offer similar infrastructure, but Medellin and Cali blow any other Peruvian city out of the water in this regard.
While Colombia has some fantastic tourism, I’m not sure the country competes with Peru.
Peru attracts nearly 3.5 million visitors each year. Colombia attracts 3 million tourists each year (Source).
While these numbers are similar, visitors are much more spread out in Colombia. In Peru, nearly all of those 3.5 million people fly into Lima, spend a little time, and then head to Cusco for a Machu Pichu trip.
In Colombia, gringos fly into Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena regularly – as there are cheap flights to all three airports. This means no one Colombian city sees nearly as many tourists as Lima and Cusco.
But, enough with the stats – which country has better stuff to do, bro? Well, I’d say Peru.
In Colombia, you have fantastic tourism like:
Castillo San Felipe
Valle de Cocora
These are some world-class attractions, especially Parque Tayrona. Yet, there’s nothing in Colombia that can compete with Machu Picchu. Nothing!
Machu Picchu is one of the finest tourist attractions in the world. People come from every continent to check it out. If you go to Peru, it’s an absolute must visit. Every Peru trip should include a trip to Machu Pichu.
Still, Peru has much more to offer than ancient Incan ruins. Throughout the country, you can find great tourism, like:
Sandboarding in Huacachina
Exploring Iquitos & the Amazon rainforest
Surfing in Huanchaco & Mancora
You could spend months in Peru and not see all the amazing sites. Peru is just blessed in the tourism department. It’s just a fantastic country to explore and enjoy some of the unique sites and activities.
Peru has a few beaches. There’s beaches in Lima. Punta Hermosa is a fun place to go in the summers. Mancora has a couple pretty playas. Huanchaco is a great place to surf for cheap.
That being said – Peru’s beaches are all Pacific coastline. Colombia has beaches on the Pacific coast, too. But, Colombia also has stunning beaches in the Caribbean.
Caribbean beaches tend to be far prettier than Pacific ones. And in this case, there’s no contest. Colombia has way better beaches than Peru.
The beaches in Peru simply cannot compete with the likes of Parque Tayrona, Punta Gallinas, or Costeno beach. Hell, even Rodadero in Santa Marta is nicer than any beach I’ve seen in Peru.
This one is surprisingly tough. After taking a solid sample of nightlife options throughout both countries and suffering many a hangover, it’s hard to pick a winner.
I believe Bogota has the best nightlife in Latin America – but Lima is pretty damn close. The high-end options are much better in Bogota, but Lima nightlife is still a ton of fun, especially when you get away from the over-touristy spots.
Outside Bogota, the nightlife in Colombia falls off. I wouldn’t recommend spending too many big nights out in a city like Cali or Medellin. I just never liked the nightlife in those spots.
In Peru, I had an amazing time partying in Cusco. One of my best buddies loved the nightlife in Arequipa.
So, I’m torn. While Bogota is still unbeatable in my mind, Peru has solid nightlife in three major cities.
If you have any great Peruvian songs, feel free to link them up in the comments. I couldn’t find any I liked.
Interactions with Locals
Colombians are incredibly friendly, helpful, and fairly outgoing. Peruvians are a little more reserved, but certainly just as friendly. Overall, I find the locals in both countries quite pleasant to be around.
I’m no culinary expert. I won’t front and act like I am. However, you don’t need to be an expert to see that Peruvian food is some of the best in Latin America.
Colombia food is fine and all. I enjoyed testing out some of the popular dishes throughout the country. But, Colombian food simply isn’t as tasty as the food in Peru. Peruvian foods, like ceviche, lomo saltado, and anticucho, are simply fantastic.
Well, I won’t sugarcoat this one. Colombian girls are some of, if not THE, sexiest in all of Latin America. Go to Medellin and tell me the girls aren’t some of the best looking you’ve ever seen.
However, Colombian girls aren’t perfect. Many men have gone to Colombia, got drugged by a pretty girl, and then robbed. Others have gotten Colombian girlfriends that haven’t been loyal.
Colombian girls can be amazing looking, but they may also only be interested in cash, be hard to trust, or worse.
Don’t get me wrong. There are tons of Colombian girls that are simply fantastic and I’ve dated a few during my time in the country. Overall, I’m a huge fan of the women in Colombia. Just saying they’re not perfect…
Peruvian girls are a little different. On average, you won’t see as many stunners in Peru as you would in Colombia. However, don’t get it twisted. Lima, Peru has nearly 10 million people living in the city. There’s a ton of hot chicks in Lima.
Plus, Peruvian girls are, on average, a little more down to earth than the average Colombiana. Peruvian chicks are a bit more conservative and honest.
If all things were equal in the looks department, I’d venture that a Peruvian girl would make a better girlfriend than a Colombiana. Again, on average.
Just my opinion. That being said – if women are you main concern, Colombia is tough to beat.
Winner: Colombia, by a small margin.
Not even close. Peru is much safer than Colombia. While I’ve yet to have any issues in Colombia, I’ve met many people who have been drugged, robbed, or both.
I’ve yet to hear anyone have a major issue in Peru. Plus, the statistics mirror what my anecdotal evidence has found. Just check out these articles:
If you’re concerned about safety or don’t speak decent Spanish, Peru may be the better country for you. It’s just safer than Colombia by all accounts.
It’s pretty easy to get to Peru and Colombia. You can find cheap flights to Lima when visiting Peru. In Colombia, it’s easy to get to Bogota or Medellin.
I can’t say there’s much of a difference in price for airline tickets from the United States to either country. It takes an extra hour or two in the air to get to Lima compared to Medellin or Cartagena, but that’s minor.
Coffee Region, Colombia.
Colombia Vs. Peru: A Gringo’s Go-To Guide
So, Colombia Vs. Peru? Who is the winner? Well, if we look at the results, we see Colombia won six categories – while Peru only won three. There was also six tied categories. All my opinion…
So, Colombia is the better bet overall. That being said – I’d say Lima, Peru is better than any Colombian city from mid-December through mid-April. When the weather is good, Lima is one of the absolute best cities in Latin America.
Overall, Colombia vs. Peru is a tough call. Lima is a great options for many travelers, but Colombia is just tough to top due to a number of factors.