Bogotá vs Cartagena: Which Colombian City is Better for Your Trip in 2023?

Bogotá vs Cartagena, which one should you visit?

If you are planning your trip to Colombia and need to decide between those two destinations, I know how hard it is to decide between those two interesting cities.

My best recommendation would be to visit both, but if time is short and you need to make a choice, you came to the right place.

I asked Giorgy from G-Extreme Travel to weigh in on this one. And she is going to provide information about both cities to help you make the right decision.

Regardless of whether you’re seeking a bustling city experience in Bogota or a peaceful beach vacation in Cartagena, both cities will fulfill your needs!

Bogota market with colorful products from a small stall.
Bogota Market

Table of Contents

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Overview

Both cities offer something unique and special that will make your visit unforgettable.

From its colonial architecture and Caribbean beaches in Cartagena to its vibrant nightlife and world-class museums in Bogotá, there are plenty of reasons to visit each city.

What’s the difference between Bogotá and Cartagena? Which one should you choose for your 2023 trip?

Let’s compare Bogotá vs Cartagena based on their points of interest, nightlife, restaurants, climate, and culture.

👉🏽 What is Bogotá best known for?

Bogotá is Colombia’s bustling capital city and the largest metropolitan area in Latin America.

It’s a cultural center full of modern art galleries, trendy restaurants, and world-class museums.

The city is also known for its vibrant nightlife scene with plenty of bars, clubs, and music venues.

From its 16th-century historical architecture to its variety of outdoor activities, Bogotá has something for everyone.

👉🏽 What is Cartagena best known for?

Cartagena is a vibrant city located in the Caribbean region of Colombia.

The city’s colonial charm has made it a popular tourist destination over the years.

With its cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, Cartagena offers a beautiful atmosphere to explore.

The city is known for its stunning beaches, delicious seafood restaurants, and vibrant Caribbean culture. It’s also home to the famous San Felipe Castle which offers beautiful views of the bay.

A colorful street in Cartagena with umbrellas hanging.
Cartagena Street

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Weather & best time to visit

Let’s explore the weather patterns of both cities and determine the ideal time to visit each based on that information.

You may find that choosing Cartagena over Bogota is a better option for you!

In Bogotá, in general, the temperature is mild all year round with an average of 19°C (66°F).

The rainiest months are June to August.

For the best weather and time, it’s recommended to travel to Bogotá between December and March (considered to be the driest months).

Meanwhile, Cartagena has a tropical climate with warm temperatures and high humidity throughout the year.

It seems more rainfall than Bogotá on average but remains sunny for most of the year.

December to April are the best months, making them the best time to visit Cartagena for those who want to escape the heat of summer.

USEFUL TIP: Please note that peak season in Cartagena or Bogota coincides with the Christmas and Easter holidays, resulting in increased prices.

It’s recommended to plan your visit to Cartagena either before December or after April.

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Attractions

Both Bogotá and Cartagena have something special to offer their visitors.

Whether you’re looking for a cultural experience or an outdoor adventure, these two cities will not disappoint!

Although both cities offer fascinating attractions, you may ultimately decide to choose the Carribean coastal city over the capital of Colombia.

Let’s strap ourselves in and let’s explore the many attractions each city has to offer.

Cartagena women with Gorgie.

🥇 Top Attractions in Bogotá

👉🏽 Plaza de Bolívar: the main square in Bogotá that’s home to famous landmarks, including the Palace of Justice and the Capitol.

👉🏽 Monserrate: a mountain with stunning views of the city from its peak.

👉🏽 Gold Museum: contains one of the largest collections of Pre-Columbian gold artifacts in the world.

👉🏽 Botero Museum: dedicated to the works of the famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

🥇 Top Attractions in Cartagena

👉🏽 The Walled City: a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of colorful colonial architecture.

👉🏽 Bocagrande Beach: one of the most popular beaches in Cartagena with great views and plenty of restaurants and bars nearby.

👉🏽 San Felipe Castle: an old Spanish fort with stunning views of the Caribbean Sea.

👉🏽 Islands hopping: explore the nearby islands of Isla Tierra Bomba and Cholon for some beach fun.

Bogota street with a yellow building on a sunny day.
Bogotá Street

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Things to Do & Activities

From sightseeing to outdoor activities, both Bogotá and Cartagena have plenty of things to do for visitors. And neither Cartagena nor Bogota will disappoint!

🏆 Top tours and Activities in Bogotá

👍🏼 Bogotá Bike Tour

5.0 ⭐️ 2,477 Reviews

Check out one of the best day trips from Bogota and explore the city’s streets and neighborhoods on a 3-hour bike tour.

What a great way to cover a lot of ground in a third of the day. We were able to see various neighborhoods in the central area, learn cultural local facts, and meet friendly travelers from various parts of the world. Tour guide was very friendly & knowledgeable. They have a bicycle repair person come along in case there are issues. Easy ride for beginner cyclists.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ nguyen_t, Jun 2023
Carrera Septima in Bogota Colombia filled with people.

👍🏼 Social Project & Cablecar in Bogotá

5.0 ⭐️ 103 Reviews

Visit the amazing cable car on Monserrate and learn about the social project that has been set up in this area.

Great tour! I truly enjoyed the cable car tour and walking around the area! The snack we’re great as well! The tour guide was super friendly and made us feel very safe!!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Brittney_P, Apr 2023
Cable car in Bogota and view of the surroundings filled with trees.
Visit and explore Bogota on this tour.

👍🏼 Bogotá City Tour

4.5 ⭐️ 32 Reviews

Explore the city on a guided tour of its most iconic attractions.

I had a private Saturday tour as tourism is still way down. Laura was a wonderful tour guide and offered all sorts of unique and interesting facts about Colombia, Bogota, the people and foods. I really enjoyed the tour and would highly recommend it to others.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Michael_B, Jan 2022
Bolivar Square and tourists nearby.
Bolivar Square in Bogota

🏆 Top tours and Activities in Cartagena

👍🏼 Cartagena ATV Tour

5.0 ⭐️ 457 Reviews

One of the best things to do in Cartagena is to take an ATV tour from Cartagena to explore the Colombian countryside. You’ll ride past unique beaches, trails, dirt roads, and rock formations that are not located within the city walls. The tour promises an action-packed adventure.

Ms. Lillian was great and Jusepi is an awesome tour guide. We definitely enjoyed the ride and he kept us safe.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Reed_P, Jun 2023
Streets in Cartagena under a clear sky.
Cartagena Streets

👍🏼 Biking Tour Cartagena

5.0 ⭐️ 246 Reviews

Explore the beautiful city of Cartagena on this 4-hour tour. Pedal past historic buildings and monuments, as well as some hidden gems.

We absolutely loved our biking trip! It was our first day in Cartagena and Amelia was the most amazing guide! She gave us so much information about the city and it’s history. She gave great recommendations for the rest of our stay! 10/10! Would book again.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Kelly_R, Jun 2023
Plaza de la Aduana and yellow building on the background during a sunny day.
Explore Cartagena on this tour.

👍🏼 Sunset Cruise in Cartagena

4.5 ⭐️ 197 Reviews

Take a sunset boat tour of the inner and outer bay. Enjoy tropical drinks, snacks, and live music while you take in the stunning views of Cartagena’s skyline at night.

Excellent sunset cruise! Beautiful and very spacious catamaran. Friendly crew. Smooth sail. Great music and amazing views of the sunset. I would definitely do this again and would recommend to everyone. Cartagena sunsets are beautiful!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Pamela_V, Jun 2023
Cruise in Cartagena and buildings nearby.

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Food

Bogotá and Cartagena are two of the most popular cities in Colombia. Both offer a unique culinary experience for visitors to enjoy.

Cartagena, located on the Caribbean coast, offers delicious fish dishes, which is the main difference between the two cities. Indeed, taking a foodie tour in both cities would let you discover the deliciousness Colombia has to offer.

Here is a list of the delicious food from Colombia that you cannot miss:

✔️ Bandeja paisa (a Colombian dish consisting of beans, rice, pork, beef, and plantain)

✔️ Arepas (a type of cornmeal flatbread)

✔️ Chorizo (spicy sausage)

✔️ Patacones (fried green plantains)

✔️ Sancocho (a traditional Colombian stew)

✔️ Ajiaco (a soup made with potatoes, chicken, and corn)

✔️ Empanadas (meat or cheese pastries)

✔️ Chicharrón (fried pork skin)

✔️ Caldo de costillas (rib soup)

✔️ Ceviche de camarones (shrimp ceviche)

✔️ Aguacate relleno (stuffed avocado)

✔️ Arroz con coco (coconut rice)

✔️ Buñuelos (fried corn dough balls).

A street in Bogota.

🍽 Let’s explore the delicious food scene in Cartagena or Bogotá

👉🏻 Foodie Tour in Bogotá

5.0 ⭐️ 131 Reviews

This food tour will take you to experience Bogota in a delicious way. Learn about the history and its culture and understand the context of gastronomy and a lot o food tasting you shouldn’t miss!

Fantastic experience. Hector was very knowledgeable and a great tour guide and the food was phenomenal. Would 100% recommend this tour.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Tripadvisor Reviewer, Jun 2023
Bandeja Paisa with sunny-side-up egg.
Taste Bandeja Paisa and other delicious delicacies on this tour.

👉🏻 Foodie Tour in Cartagena

5.0 ⭐️ 116 Reviews

Explore and learn about the history and culture of food in Colombia from this guided tour in Cartagena.

Karen was an amazing guide! She was so passionate about Cartagena and very excited about sharing her city with us. The food was also delicious. Take this tour! Do it the first full day of your trip.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Portia_D, Jun 2023
A Colombian dish called Ceviche de Camarones with shrimp.
Ceviche de Camarones

Bogotá vs Cartagena: History & Culture

Both Bogotá and Cartagena are rich in culture and history.

While each city offers its unique attractions, there is no doubt that both cities have something special to offer their visitors.

In this case, Bogota has a richer offering of history and culture compared to Cartagena or the rest of Colombia.

Bogotá has been the capital of Colombia since 1538 when it was founded by Spanish conquistadors.

It is a vibrant cosmopolitan city with a unique culture and architecture that reflects its colonial past.

This is the perfect place to explore the country’s history, with many museums, churches, and monuments located around the city.

Cartagena was founded in 1533 by Spanish conquistadors and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.

It has become Colombia’s most popular tourist destination due to its rich colonial architecture and stunning Caribbean beaches.

Visitors can explore the historic city walls, take in the vibrant street art, or visit the nearby islands for some beach fun.

Are you curious to know more about Pablo Escobar and the drug cartels?

Then Bogotá is the place to be. Visit the Historical Museum of the National Police where you can learn about the infamous leader of one of Colombia’s deadliest cartels.

Cartagena Historical Center filled with people.
Cartagena Historical Center

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Nightlife

When it comes to nightlife, Bogotá and Cartagena have something special to offer visitors.

Each city has its unique atmosphere and attractions that make for a memorable experience.

But, let’s be honest, Cartagena’s nightlife is considered to be better than Bogotá’s, thanks to its vibrant atmosphere and Caribbean vibe!

In Bogotá, there is a wide variety of clubs, bars, pubs, and lounges that cater to everyone from late-night partygoers to those looking for a more relaxed evening.

Some of the most popular spots include Andrés Carne de Res, La Villa, and Gaira Café Music Bar.

If you’re looking for some live music, Jazz Café is a must-visit for jazz lovers.

Cartagena offers an equally diverse nightlife scene that includes bars, clubs, and pubs located in its iconic walled city, as well as beachside spots like Café del Mar and La Puerta Grande.

For a more relaxed evening, head to Centro Historico for some craft beer or grab a cocktail at one of the many rooftop bars in town.

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Cost of Travel

The cost of travel in Bogotá vs Cartagena varies greatly depending on what kind of activities and services you plan to use.

The daily cost per person is on average $50 in Cartagena and $40 in Bogota.

Accommodation is generally more expensive in Cartagena than in Bogotá.

A mid-range hotel room in Cartagena can cost around $70 per night, while the same type of room in Bogotá can be found for around $50.

However, budget accommodation is much cheaper in both cities, with prices ranging from $10 to $25 per night depending on the location.

The cost of food also varies between the two cities.

Eating out in Cartagena is more expensive than in Bogotá, with average prices ranging from $3 for a fast food meal to $15 for a high-end dinner.

In contrast, meals in Bogotá are generally cheaper, with an average price of around $8 for a delicious lunch or dinner.

A street in Bogota with murals.
Bogota Street

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Transportation

The transportation systems in Bogotá and Cartagena are both modern and reliable.

Both cities offer a variety of options to get around, from buses, taxis, renting a car in Colombia, and rideshares to bike-sharing programs.

Let’s explore together the best options for you!

🚙 Renting a car

Renting a car is an excellent option for travelers who want to move around at their own pace and reach hidden places outside Cartagena or Bogotá and also explore the rest of the country.

Colombia has a wide range of rental companies from which to choose, and the prices are generally quite competitive.

Check out the following post to know all about renting a car in Colombia.

🚌 Public Transportation

Public transportation is a great way to get around Bogotá or Cartagena without breaking the bank.

Both cities offer a vast network of buses, taxis, and rideshares, making it easy to explore both cities on a budget.

However, Bogotá’s bus system is much larger and therefore offers more options for getting around the city.

In terms of public transportation, the bus system in Bogotá is much larger than in Cartagena and offers access to some of the city’s most popular destinations including Zona Rosa, La Candelaria, and Parque 93.

On the other hand, Cartagena’s public transportation system is smaller but still efficient.

Taxis are widely available and can be found at many of the city’s landmarks.

These are generally reasonably priced and offer a convenient way to get around.

USEFUL TIP: Remember that Cartagena is a walkable city, which means that you won’t need to catch a bus unless you’re leaving the city or your accommodation is really outside the city center.

It is important to mention that Uber is illegal in Colombia and it is not recommended to use their services as they are not regulated by local authorities.

A horse carriage in Cartagena.
Cartagena carriage

✈️ Is it cheaper to fly into Bogotá or Cartagena?

When considering where to fly into Colombia, the cost of airfare is an important factor.

Generally, flights to Bogotá are cheaper than those to Cartagena.

This is especially true if you’re flying from Europe or North America, as Bogotá is closer in distance and usually has a more direct flight path.

However, if your budget allows for it, flying into Cartagena may be the better option.

Cartagena is a popular destination for tourists and flights to the city can be found at more competitive prices than those to Bogotá.

Additionally, many international airlines offer direct flights from North America and Europe to Cartagena, making the journey easier and faster.

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Where to stay

When it comes to where to stay in Colombia, Bogotá, and Cartagena offer a variety of accommodations for all budgets.

Depending on your preferences and budget, you can choose from luxury hotels, boutique hostels, or inexpensive Airbnb.

Colorful street of La Candelaria in Bogota.
La Candelaria, Bogota

👉🏻 Where to stay in Bogotá?

When it comes to choosing where to stay in Bogotá, the options are endless! The city is divided into 20 different districts, each with its unique flavor and attractions.

Here are the top-rated places to stay and the reasons why they are recommended.

🏅 La Candelaria: If you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, La Candelaria is the perfect spot. This district offers some of Bogotá’s iconic attractions such as Plaza Bolivar and Capitolio Nacional.

🏅 Chapinero: If you are looking for a hip and trendy neighborhood full of cafes, bars, and restaurants, Chapinero is the place to stay!

🏅 Usaquén: This area is one of the most exclusive and upscale neighborhoods in Bogotá. It is full of luxurious hotels, restaurants, and shops. Not to mention that Usaquén is an excellent choice for those seeking to explore Colombia’s culture and history. This area features traditional colonial architecture and many museums showcasing Colombian art and artifacts.

🏅 Zona Rosa: This is the perfect spot for nightlife lovers. Zona Rosa is home to plenty of bars, clubs, and pubs where you can party all night long!

👉🏻 Where to stay in Cartagena?

There are 9 neighborhoods in Cartagena with a wide variety of exciting options for choosing where to stay.

🛏 El Centro: This is the oldest part of Cartagena and it’s also you’ll find most of the city’s attractions including the walled city, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, and Plaza de los Coches.

El Centro is very popular among travelers because it has an abundance of restaurants, bars, and hotels/hostels.

🛏 Getsemani: If you want to experience a more authentic and local atmosphere, Getsemani is the perfect place.

This neighborhood is full of vibrant colors and offers many street food vendors. Additionally, many of the best hostels in Cartagena are found here.

🛏 Bocagrande and Laguito: If you’re looking for a luxurious spot to stay in Cartagena, look no further.

Bocagrande and Laguito boast some of the most beautiful hotels you can imagine. The area is also known for its pristine beaches, so if you’re looking to enjoy some beach time this is the place to be!

A mural in Bogota.
Bogota mural

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Which is better for every traveler?

When it comes to deciding between Bogotá and Cartagena, the decision can be a difficult one. Both cities have their unique charms and offer something for every type of traveler.

📌 Which is better for solo female travelers?

For solo female travelers, Cartagena is the better option as it has a much safer reputation than Bogotá.

Additionally, the city offers many attractions and activities for women which makes it easy to explore without feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.

📌 Which is better for couples?

For couples, it is hard to say which city is better. Bogotá has plenty of cultural attractions and activities for couples to explore together, while Cartagena offers romantic restaurants and beaches perfect for a romantic getaway.

Ultimately, it depends on what type of experience you are looking for!

📌 Which is better for families?

Families looking to explore Colombia should consider Bogotá as their destination of choice.

The city offers a variety of attractions and activities for all ages to enjoy, making it an ideal destination for those traveling with children.

Streets of Cartagena under a clear sky.

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Which city is safer?

When it comes to safety, both Bogotá and Cartagena have been known to have their share of problems with crime.

In recent years, however, both cities have stepped up their security measures to ensure the safety of visitors.

While no city is completely crime-free, is Cartagena safer than Bogota?

To be honest, no! Bogotá is generally regarded as being safer than Cartagena.

According to the latest statistics, crime in Bogotá has been decreasing steadily and the city is now seen as a much safer place than before.

The government has also implemented a variety of public safety measures such as increased police presence and CCTV cameras in strategic locations.

On the other hand, Cartagena still faces some issues with crime, although it has improved greatly in recent years.

That being said, the city has also implemented a variety of security measures that have made it much safer for tourists to explore.

Learn how to stay safe in Cartagena by understanding the city’s safety measurements.

In conclusion, if safety is your primary concern when deciding which city to visit, Bogotá may be the better choice.

However, both cities offer plenty of attractions and are relatively safe for visitors.

A bright orange house in Cartagena.

Bogotá vs Cartagena: Length of stay

When it comes to deciding how long to stay in either Bogotá or Cartagena, there is no right answer.

Of course, the length of your stay will depend on what you want to do and see in each city.

In many cases, travelers opt for a multi-day visit to both Bogotá and Cartagena.

This allows them to explore the cities in depth and experience all of their unique attractions.

If you are limited on time, it is possible to see both Bogotá and Cartagena in a single day.

The two cities are located about 5 hours apart by bus, so if you can arrange transportation early in the morning you can easily make it from one city to the other in a single day.

If you’re looking for a more relaxed itinerary, we suggest spending two to three days in each city.

This will give you enough time to explore the main attractions without feeling rushed.

Finally, if you have more than seven days available and are looking for an immersive experience, we recommend staying at least one week in Bogotá and Cartagena.

This will give you plenty of time to explore the cities in-depth, experience local culture, and get off the beaten path.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know whether it is Cartagena or Bogota best to visit in Colombia, let’s move on to questions that might be helpful. 

Giorgia sitting in front of a door in Bogota.

What makes Cartagena popular?

Cartagena is a picturesque port city in northern Colombia and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

The city’s unique combination of stunning colonial architecture, golden sandy beaches, vibrant nightlife, and mouth-watering cuisine make it an unforgettable place to visit.

A huge draw for visitors is Cartagena’s rich cultural heritage, which can be seen in its colonial buildings, churches, and plazas.

The vibrant culture of the city is reflected in its street art-lined streets and lively festivals such as El Carnaval de Cartagena.

The sunny climate makes it a great place to hit the beach or explore nature nearby.

There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy such as horseback riding, bird watching, and snorkeling.

For foodies, Cartagena has a great selection of local restaurants and eateries serving up delicious Caribbean cuisines like ceviche and bandeja paisa.

The city’s nightlife is also vibrant with plenty of bars, clubs, and music venues to explore.

All in all, Cartagena is an ideal destination for travelers looking to experience the best of Colombia.

Why is Bogotá famous?

Bogotá is the capital of Colombia, a vibrant and bustling city bursting with culture.

It is one of Latin America’s most visited cities and home to some of the country’s best museums, parks, plazas, and restaurants.

The city has undergone rapid transformation over recent years making it an increasingly attractive place to visit.

Visitors will find plenty of things to see and do in Bogotá.

The city is known for its vibrant culture and street art, with street artists from around the world coming to decorate the walls of the city’s neighborhoods.

There are also plenty of museums showcasing Colombian history and art, as well as bustling markets and plazas where you can buy local goods.

Bogotá is also home to some of the best restaurants in Colombia, ranging from traditional Colombian eateries to high-end international cuisine.

Explore the city’s cafes for a taste of local coffee or enjoy a lively night out at one of the many bars and clubs.

The city is also known as an adventure destination, with plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and birdwatching.

Plus, there are plenty of lush parks and gardens where you can relax or take in the city’s beautiful views.

All in all, Bogotá is an exciting place to explore with something for everyone – from culture lovers to foodies and adventurers.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an active adventure, Bogotá is sure to have something for you.

A mural in Cartagena near the pool.
Cartagena mural

Is Bogotá worth going to?

Yes, Bogotá is worth a visit! The vibrant city has something for everyone – from culture lovers to foodies and adventurers alike.

For those looking to experience Colombian culture up close, Bogotá is the perfect destination.

There are plenty of museums showcasing Colombian history and art, as well as bustling markets and plazas where you can buy local goods.

The city is also known for its vibrant street art, with street artists from around the world coming to decorate the walls of the city’s neighborhoods.

Is Cartagena worth visiting?

Yes, Cartagena is worth a visit! This picturesque port city in northern Colombia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

The city’s unique combination of stunning colonial architecture, golden sandy beaches, vibrant nightlife, and mouth-watering cuisine make it an unforgettable place to explore.

Giorgia eating in one of the food stalls in Bogota.
Bogota – Photo by Giorgy from GExtreme Travel

Wrapping Up: Bogotá vs Cartagena

When it comes to deciding between Bogotá vs Cartagena, it ultimately depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for.

If you’re after a Caribbean paradise, Cartagena is the best way to go.

On the other hand, if you’re searching for a vibrant city experience filled with art and culture, then Bogotá should be at the top of your list!

Whichever city you choose, both offer an unforgettable experience full of culture, adventure, and amazing sights that make them well worth visiting.

So if you’re planning your next Colombian adventure, consider both Bogotá and Cartagena amazing cities!