In the last few years, Colombia has undergone a renaissance. The wars and crime of the 80s are long gone, and the country is filled with adventure, smiling people, incredible natural beauty and great low-cost tourism. From the Caribbean marvel of Cartagena (CTG), home to the famous walled city and a jumping off point to the incredible Tayrona National Park, to the lush coffee region (Zona Cafetera) around Salento and Perreira. Bogotá (BOG), the capital, boasts excellent restaurants, some of the world's most creative street art, and the Museo de Oro, the largest collection of pre-colonial treasures in the world. But Medellín (MDE) - the City of Eternal Spring - is many travelers' favorite. With a lush setting, scores of restaurants, salsa clubs and cheap yoga classes, Medellín is the "startup capital" of the country, and home to many digital nomads.
Bogotá (BOG), Cartagena (CTG) and Medellín (MDE) are the best destinations to look for award flights.
They are well served by American Airliness,
United and Delta, along with
Spirit and jetBlue. Some interesting ways to get to Colombia with award flights include:
Redeeming jetBlue Airways true blue points via Fort Lauderdale, particularly if you live in a city served by jetBlue and/or routing via Florida makes sense for you. We have seen fares from the US as low as 14,400 points one-way to Medellín.
Using United MileagePlus miles, one-way award seats to all the major Colombian airports can be had for as little as 20,000 points in economy.
Finally, a great use of AAdvantage Miles is via their partnership with LATAM, where you can book economy awards for 20,000 AA miles or business class awards for 30,000.
You might be surprised, but really the art of optimizing miles and points involves knowing
when NOT to use them, and instead use cash. (Domestic US flights are often an example). While
AwardSecrets are huge fans of award travel, domestic Colombian flights are great
occasion to actually use cash. There are many low-cost carriers operating internal Colombian flights,
including Viva Air and Easy Fly.
Additionally, Avianca operates numerous domestic flights. Using any
of these carriers, domestic flights (BOG to CTG, MDE to PEI etc) can be found for well under USD $100.
While distances are short (flights are often less than 1 hour), the mountainous terrain of Colombia makes
air travel much more comfortable than busses.
Once your travels around Colombia are done, great award flights can be found FROM Colombia to other parts of South America such as Peru, Ecuador, Brazil or Argentina using AA miles via their Latin American partners. For example, Economy class can be found from Colombia to Brazil for 10,000 AA miles or 20,000 for business class awards.
Wonderful hotels and private homes can be found all across Colombia, while typical chain hotels are not as well represented outside the major cities. We would recommend using award points from chains such as Marriott or IHG for "edge" bookings, i.e. for staying free at an airport hotel prior to a 6am flight, for example.
We have 3 tips for Colombia:
Tip #1: English is spoken in the major tourist areas, but once you leave Cartagena or Bogotá, it's important to be able to speak a little bit of Spanish. If you speak no Spanish, a simple phrase book or translation app can be very useful.
Tip #2: Like most large cities, watch your valuables in the big cities. Don't walk around late at night alone with your Rolex on while staring at your new iPhoneXL. This is just common sense.
Tip #3: Colombia is famous for its music, and you hear Colombian Salsa music all over the world. Dive in to the music. Find some local salsa concerts and take a few lessons. It's a great way to make some local friends too!