Looking for the best places to live in Colombia? After graduating college, I still wasn’t sure what to do with my life so I decided to be adventurous and move there to teach English.
I really had my heart set on going to the big city of Medellín, but I ended up being placed in the Coffee Region of Colombia which unexpectedly turned out to be my favorite place in the entire country.
I found an American company, Green Heart Travel, that connected me to the organization Heart For Change in Colombia, who placed me at my amazing school in the town of Santa Rosa de Cabal. I absolutely loved living in the Coffee Region but depending on your preferences, there are lots of great places to choose from when deciding where to live in Colombia.
The Best Places To Live In Colombia
Although I taught in the town of Santa Rosa de Cabal, I lived down the mountain in the bigger city of Pereira. While I lived there, I was able to travel to more than 20 towns and cities throughout Colombia which were all different and wonderful places to visit or live.
If you are a nature and outdoors lover, the Coffee Region of Colombia is one of the best places to live due to its outstanding scenery and great weather. The three main cities within the Coffee Region are Manizales, Armenia and Pereira but Pereira claims to be the capital of the region.
Living in Pereira does give you easy access to all of the surrounding areas and it is very cheap and easy to catch a bus going anywhere from 30 minutes away to 12 hours away.
It is relatively cheaper than the bigger cities like Medellín or Bogotá, and I lived comfortably with roommates for under $500 a month.
As far as health goes, Pereira is not full of healthy, allergy friendly restaurants but there are still a few vegan and vegetarian places around. There are also some organic health food stores as well as big grocery stores with some allergy friendly selections (Jumbo usually has more than Exito).
There are plenty of places around to hike or bike and there are plenty of cheap gyms you can join. One of my favorite hikes that left out of Pereira was up to the glacier at Nevado de Santa Isabel.
There are also lots of pickup games that happen around the city but just aren’t advertised online. I went to the closest turf soccer fields and asked if they had any groups, and ended up playing every week with a group of moms.
To be even closer to the beautiful nature of the Coffee Region and experience a typical small town in Colombia, Salento is another one of the best places to live. The town is located about halfway between Pereira and Armenia, only about a 45 minute to 1 hour bus ride from either city.
You obviously won’t have the luxuries of a larger city, you can walk the whole town in about 15 to 20 minutes, but the town is adorable, the surrounding nature is breathtaking and the amount of tourism has brought in some healthy options.
Although you’ll probably have to drive to a bigger city to find a grocery store to shop at, there are a few allergy friendly restaurants to eat at in town. Check the “Best Food In Colombia” section on our other Colombia Post to see some of the options in Salento.
There are also a couple of organic coffee farms around that offer tours in both Spanish and English. There aren’t really many active group options within the town, but there are lots of great hikes including one of my favorites and the one pictured above, the Valle de Cocora trail.
3. Santa Rosa de Cabal
Just up the mountain from Pereira, about a 30 to 40 minute ride, is the small town of Santa Rosa de Cabal, famous for its hot springs.
It is a small town with not a lot of healthy or allergy friendly options, but it is beautiful, a cheaper place to live and an easy (less than $1) bus ride to Pereira.
The hot springs are the main attraction in town but they are actually located between 30 minutes to an hours drive further into the mountains (you can also hike out to them). The Nevado de Santa Isabel glacier hike is also closer to Santa Rosa than Pereira but still a good three to four hour bumpy ride out to the start.
If you are not a fan of small town living, Bogotá, the capital and one of the three major cities in Colombia, is a great choice for living. It is located straight east of Pereira and the Coffee Region but the climate and prices differ greatly.
Those from Bogotá love Bogotá, but those outside of Bogotá usually hate Bogotá mainly for the cold weather, high altitude, high prices and big city attitudes. However I absolutely loved this city and all of its history, people and weather.
Being the largest city in Colombia, there are a decent number of organic health food stores and allergy friendly restaurants around the city.
You can also find lots of groups to join on Meetup, lots of nearby trails on AllTrails and every Sunday morning cars are banned on certain roads to make way for bikers, walkers and runners.
5. Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is not the most convenient choice of towns to live in Colombia, being over three hours by bus from Bogotá, but it is one of the most charming places in all of Colombia.
Although it may be far from major cities, this is the place to be if you want a colonial, fairytale style town to live.
In addition to the cute colonial style and one of my favorite places to visit at Santo Ecce Homo Convent, Villa de Leyva has prehistoric history and a desert-like landscape that differs from the rest of Colombia.
Popayán is a lesser traveled city by foreigners in the southwest portion of the country. The city is a fairy decent size and is considered a religious center especially during Semana Santa or Holy Week.
Popayán isn’t quite as convenient for bus travel to other parts of Colombia as the Coffee Region but it is one of the closest cities to the wonderful archeological site of San Agustín.
It takes about four to five hours winding through the mountains of the Parque Nacional Natural de Puracé, but this was one of the most beautiful rides I took in Colombia.
There aren’t loads of healthy or allergy friendly restaurants around, but there are a decent number of health food stores. However one of the best things about Popayán is that it is one of the least expensive cities to live in.
Pasto is the southernmost larger city in Colombia, not far from the Ecuadorian border. It is most famous for its Carnaval de Negros y Blancos, the church architecture around the city and its proximity to the famous gothic style church built in a gorge, Santuario de Las Lajas.
Temperatures are similar to Bogotá, staying between the 40s and 60s, and the altitude is almost as high as Bogotá as well. It is also on the cheaper side and a good choice if you want to be closer to explore Ecuador as well as Colombia.
Cali is one of the largest cities by population in the southwest section of the country, just under four hours from both Pereira and Popayán. It is an increasingly more popular city to visit and is most famous for salsa music and dancing.
Cali does sit in a valley making it a hotter area of the country, but temperatures don’t usually go above 90. Cali used to be one of the most violent cities in the world, following Medellín’s fall as the drug capital, but I had a wonderful time there and never had any issues.
Of course you should be careful like anywhere else but Cali is not what it used to be.
And to my surprise, Cali is one of the best cities in Colombia for healthy and allergy friendly eating. They have quite a lot of gluten free and vegan options as well as organic health food stores. You can also find plenty of sports groups on Meetup or find surrounding hikes on AllTrails.
Cartagena is one of the hotter destinations in Colombia, but the nearby beautiful beaches and the historical city center make it a very popular tourist and expat destination. Compared to the rest of the country, Cartagena will be a bit more expensive but it is still relatively cheap coming from either the US or Europe.
We recommend sticking to the historic city center or the Boca Grande areas if you choose to go to Cartagena on vacation or to live.
There are a decent number of organic or health food stores within the city but not quite as many healthy or allergy friendly restaurants. Cartagena doesn’t have any online advertised sports groups but you may be able to find something once you get there.
Barranquilla is a larger city on the northern coast of Colombia, in between Cartagena and Santa Marta. There aren’t as many popular tourist attractions as some of the other cities, but it is not too far from the famous Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona.
One of the biggest events in all of Colombia and one of the largest Carnivals in the world is held right in Barranquilla in February.
Barranquilla is another city that has a decent amount of allergy friendly restaurants as well as organic health food stores. Unfortunately there are not a lot of online sports groups or hiking trails but you may find more once you get there.
Medellín is one of the most popular (and more expensive) places to visit and live in Colombia with plenty of healthy restaurants and lots of active things to do. Medellín is called the “City of Eternal Spring” due to its year round spring like weather.
It is very easy to take cheap flights from here to the rest of the country, as well as busses although most will be upwards of five hours to any other major destination.
If you suffer from any seasonal allergies or have a sensitivity to smog, you may want to rethink moving to Medellín. I loved visiting this city but the heavy cloud of smog that sits in the bowl-like city, gave me headaches everyday I was there.
You can find more hip and healthy restaurants in this city than most of the other smaller towns around Colombia. There are also some sports groups you can find on Meetup and plenty of hiking routes on AllTrails.
Is Moving To Colombia A Good Idea?
The main picture on the very top of this post has a Colombian flag painted on a brick wall. The white paint written across the flag reads “Han demostrado Colombia es mas que coca, marihuana y cafe”.
This translates to “They’ve shown that Colombia is more than cocaine, marijuana and coffee”.
When people think about Colombia, many only see the checkered past of this South American country. But Colombia is so much more than that. It’s a beautiful, kind and welcoming country that is well worth moving to or visiting.
Living in Colombia Pros And Cons
➕ Much cheaper than the US or Europe
➕ Absolutely beautiful nature and landscapes
➕ Easy to travel to other parts of the country as well as other South American countries
➕ People are generally very kind and welcoming
➕ There are tons of amazing hiking and biking trails
➕ So much history (Pablo Escobar, Simón Bolívar, Spanish Conquest, Ancient Civilizations, Prehistoric, etc.)
➕ Many places throughout Colombia have wonderful year round spring-like weather
➖ You need to be more diligent and aware of your safety compared to most places in the US
➖ It is not the healthiest country and does not have a huge abundance of healthy or allergy friendly food
➖ Conditions might not always be as “nice” as you’re used to (roads, buildings, etc.)
➖ There are constantly protests and strikes happening that are peaceful but you never know when it could go wrong
➖ Driving in Colombia is pretty chaotic, traffic rules are only sometimes followed, there is lots of traffic everywhere, there are motorcycles everywhere and smog is pretty bad in some locations
Of course these are just some of the pros and cons of living in Colombia. I definitely felt as though it was worth it moving there and teaching English so I would recommend it to anyone that is interested.
Which Part Of Colombia Is The Safest?
From our list of the best places to live in Colombia, the cities and towns with the lowest crime rates in no particular order are Villa de Leyva, Salento, Medellín, Barranquilla and Pereira.
The larger cities like Bogotá and Cartagena are going to have more crime (like any city around the world) but you can still have a wonderful time living there, the same as you could in New York City.
Places To Avoid In Colombia
The borders and the pacific coast are usually the areas that you’d want to avoid in Colombia. Within major cities there are definitely pockets you’d want to avoid as well but I wouldn’t say to avoid the cities all together.
I loved visiting Bogotá and Cartagena but some sites suggest avoiding them entirely. I do suggest being aware and cautious, and following the Colombian tip “No Dar Papaya” which means to be smart and not put yourself in dangerous situations or give someone an easy opportunity like flashing your $1000 phone around and then leaving it on the table in reach of others.
Cost Of Living In Colombia
The cost of living in Colombia varies depending on the city or town but any location will be much cheaper than prices in the US or Europe.
The cities that are going to be the most expensive to live are Medellín, Bogotá and Cartagena. If you are in some of the smaller towns or cities you will definitely be able to find nicer places to live at cheaper prices than the big cities.
I lived in Pereira with two roommates but had my own room and bathroom. With everything including groceries, rent, transportation and travel, I would spend less than $500 a month. I did not eat as healthy and clean as I do now, so that would definitely raise the cost of the groceries a little bit.
What Is The Weather Like In Colombia All Year Round?
Colombian weather varies depending on where you are in the country. There are places with year round spring-like weather, high altitude cities with cooler temperatures, hot and dry valleys, hot and humid coastal cities and you can even find snow in Colombia (way up the mountain but still).
No matter where you plan to live, you should prepare for rain and get used to rain showing up possibly every day especially from April to November.
🌸 Coffee Region (Pereira, Salento, Santa Rosa de Cabal)
Average Temperatures low 60s to low 80s, Average Rain 9 to 16 days
Average Temperatures low 40s to high 60s, Average Rain 3 to 12 days
Average Temperatures high 50s to high 70s
Average Temperatures high 40s to high 60s
Average Temperatures high 60s to mid 80s, Average Rain 3 to 10 days
🏝 Coastal Cities (Cartagena, Barranquilla)
Average Temperatures high 70s to high 80s with high humidity, Average Rain 0 to 11 days
Average Temperatures low 60s to low 80s, Average Rain 5 to 16 days
What Is A Typical Colombian Diet?
The Colombian diet includes a lot of fried foods, rice and beans, meats and tropical fruits. The most popular dish is the Bandeja Paisa which is some combination of rice, beans, sausage, chicharron, plantains, egg, avocado, beef or steak and a plain arepa.
How Can I Eat Healthy In Colombia?
Although Colombia is not the healthiest country, you can still find some organic and health food stores, allergy friendly restaurants and allergy friendly selections at regular grocery stores.
You can find a list of healthy and allergy friendly places in different locations throughout Colombia on our post Where To Find A Healthy & Allergy Friendly Restaurant Around The World. Just scroll down to the “Colombia” section and find different drop downs for each city.
Wrap Up: The Best Places To Live In Colombia
Colombia is full of adorable towns, breathtaking views and beautiful beaches, so there are plenty of choices when it comes to the best places to live. Whatever you are looking for or whatever your preferences are, Colombia is sure to have a place for you!