Colombia is a gorgeous country with friendly inhabitants. It has world-class colonial cities and towns. Bogotá is a bike friendly city especially on Sundays when many roads are closed off to motorized traffic. A great bike ride from Bogotá to the coast is ruined by too many trucks on often narrow roads and endless construction. If only.
How We Rate This Trip
There’s lots of road construction but at a slow pace. The best highway is Hwy 90 from Barranquilla to Cartagena. Wide shoulder and moderate traffic. Hwy 45 from Bogota to the north coast varies. Through the mountains it’s often narrow and truck filled. Once out of the mountains, a new wider road is nearly finished.
Mostly moderate but for the trucks (18 wheelers). Due to so much construction, the traffic is held up in one direction so there are times of quiet followed by long lines of trucks. Around Villa De Lleva (near Bogota) the roads are pretty and quiet.
Cold in the highlands and hot at the coast. The end of the rainy season (November) resulted in 2 weeks with no rain on the coast but lots of it in the mountains. Right around Bucaramanga it was just right.
We were pushed by a strong trail (North) wind into Cartagena on Hwy 90. From Bogotá on Hwy 45, the winds were soft and variable so not much of a factor.
The mountains are gorgeous. Great vistas. It’s often enhanced by old growth trees shading the road. Down in the low lands after Bosconia on Hwy 45, it’s dull. Hwy 90 to Cartagena is not a great coastal route.
Nobody determines distance by Kilometers, rather by drive time which is usually very optimistic. But, it was easy to get info about road conditions and facilities. The people are very helpful.
Road Safety: 2
Too many trucks spoiled what would have been great riding. They are very vigilant but it is chaotic. We never saw an accident but it just seemed inherently unsafe.
Vastly improved but there are still some instances of danger . You will be warned if there is an area of trouble ahead. So ask as you go. We had Zero problems.
In November 2014, the dollar had appreciated 20% compared to the Peso. Everything was cheap in the smaller towns but the cities adjust quickly and bargains are hard to find.
No tap water but bottled and bagged water is available everywhere as is any other cold drinks. Good coffee and good beer. We often bought 6 litter bags of water. Filled our empty bottles, drank our fill and had a night supply.
The cities offer good variety. The smaller town offer much less. We often found the best pizza or chicken in town which was alright. Lots of good, fresh seafood on the coast.
We were often surprised at the descent standard in the smaller non-tourist towns. All standards are available in the cities.
The Colombians are a special, helpful and warm people. They are ever ready to help. Except that its impossible to hail a ride. They simply will not stop (we tried this a couple of times on narrow truck clogged roads) Money is always accepted but you never get ripped off. They are very honest.
Colombia offers good art, architecture and music. Especially the music is a swirl of all Latin music. Bogota and Cartagena offer beautifully preserved old cities.
It comes alive in the main tourist areas. Cartagena has a lot to offer. The road towns where we stayed, often were nothing but truck stops.
TOTAL SCORE: 82
Routes and Descriptions and Maps
Bogotá to Zipaquira 50Ks
Out of town on bike routes. Carrera 11 to 82 Calle, left. Get to Carrara 19 (bike path) to Autopista at 22Ks. At first, the Autopista has no lane or bike path. Then a lane into Chia at 32Ks. Now a bike path at Cajica at 38Ks. Off on Hwy 45. At first, a lane then a bike path into Zipaquira, flat or easy rolling. North (head)winds. So-so scenery.
Zipaquira to Ubate 47Ks
Narrow highway (many trucks) out of town to a circle at 8Ks. Rolling. Then 4 lanes with a bike shoulder to 16Ks. 2-lanes (no shoulder) again. Climb moderate up to 25Ks. Nice views. Lots of trucks. Moderate descent to 35Ks. Nice scenery. Now gradually rolling down. Circle at 45Ks, straight into Ubate at 47Ks. We dodged the rain. North (head) winds.
Ubate to Chiquinquira 50Ks
Out to Hwy 45. 2-lanes, no shoulder. Less traffic. Dairy country. Very pretty. Easy rolling. Repaving going on 11/13. At 20Ks, we took old dirt railroad bed. OK to ride and fun. (Better on a mountain bike). This is the old train route so its flat. (Let’s pave it!) back out to the highway which was hilly at 26Ks. At 30Ks, Susa. At 35Ks, bridge over Rio Simijaca. (We tried road before the bridge but failed and came back to the Hwy) At 42Ks, climb for 2Ks then down, then rolling and busy. At 47Ks, circle, bare right. Busy urban road. Chiquinquira at 50Ks
Chiquinquira to Villa de Leyva 48Ks**
Out to road to Tunja at 2Ks, Rolling. Narrow, no shoulder but light traffic and No trucks! Moderate short hills. Very good green scenery. At 18Ks, descend, somewhat steep. Hwy 6008, 8Ks down. Tinjacuat at 27Ks. Rolling hills again. In valley, its warmer and drier. Headwinds. At 42Ks, left to Villa de Leyva. More rolling hills. A bike path if you want to use it. At 48Ks, Villa de Leyva. (Cobble stone streets).
** Short cut. 43Ks (5 Ks shorter)
At 36Ks, left sign to Museo El Fosil. Down 2Ks (38Ks) to junction. Straight on paved road (left is to Museo) up 2Ks (40Ks). View point over Villa de Leyva. Then 3Ks down (43Ks) into Villa de Leyva 43Ks.
Villa de Leyva to Tunja 38Ks (See Villa De Leyva to Arcobuca for good alternate route)
Out to junction 6Ks, left. Good wide road, light traffic (but fast) 5% grade to 16Ks. Then through a valley to 21Ks. OK scenery. Hwy 6008. Light winds this day. Climb a little steeper to 25Ks, then more gradual to top at 28Ks. Flat top then down into Tunja. Plaza de Bolivar at 38Ks
Tunja to Barbosa 71Ks
1K to circle left to 4Ks then moderate climb to 14Ks. Good views. Gradual top. New road (11/13) then construction then older road. Just a great downhill. Great views, gradual usually. Light traffic but some trucks. At 30Ks, into a narrow valley along a river. Hwy 6209 At 35Ks, Arcobuca. Past the turn to Villa de Leyva, stay toward Barbosa. Older road is a bit rough. At 42Ks, into a beautiful canyon. At 49Ks, climb 1K out of canyon, then a somewhat steep descent to Moniquira at 63Ks. WOW! Rolling hills down then descend to turn for Barbosa at 70Ks. Climb into town at 71Ks.
Villa de Leyva to Arcobuca 23Ks to Barbosa 36Ks total 59Ks
Mostly up. Down to streams. Mostly paved. Good scenery. Very light traffic. Arcobuca to Barbosa 36Ks. So total 59Ks compared to 71Ks Tunja to Barbosa.
Barbosa to Chiquinquira 48Ks
On Hwy 45 north. Rolling for 8Ks then descend to river at 10Ks. Start moderate climb. Light traffic. Some trucks. Usually a shoulder (1 meter). North (tail) winds. OK scenery. At 13Ks, view of Barbosa. Some steep parts and some little dips. At 25Ks, steeper. No shoulder. At 30Ks, rolling hills up to top at 34Ks. Nice gradual down. Now a shoulder. Good scenery. Then almost flat to turn off for Chiquinquira at 46Ks. Urban roads to Plaza at 48Ks.
Left after 90 degree turn. OK dirt road. At 4Ms, a T-Junction, right on paved road. (Left to Santa Sophia). At 6Ms Museo El Fosil. At 7Ms, junction. (Right to Hwy 6008 to Suta) left. Moderate climb to 8Ms then down to town at 9Ms. Quieter and flatter but some dirt road and 1M longer.
Villa de Leyva to Barbosa 40Ms
North toward Arcabuco. Paved and quiet up to 3Ms. Then hilly up to 8 Ms. Often broken road. More moderate. At 11Ms better road. Great rural scenery, at 12Ms, climb to 14Ms then down steep 1M then easy. Arcabuco at 17Ms. Left on 6209. Gradual descent thru a beautiful river gorge and valley. At 24Ms, gradual climb, then again descend steeper with a few short ups. At 33Ms, Moniquerena. Rolling to 38Ms. Then down into town across bridge and left into town at 40Ms.
Barbosa to Oiba 40Ms.
Rolling hills down on 45A. Moderate traffic. Some trucks. Narrow. At 9M, cross river. Rolling hills up to 18 Ms then descend to 21M. Rolling up to 24Ms then rolling down to 38M. Then steep up to Oiba at 40Ms. Head winds. Nice scenery. Narrow Highway.
Oiba to San Gil 31Ms
Climb to 5M then rolling and wider. At 8M, down mostly. A new wider road here. At 14M, climb to 15M then down to Socorro at 18M. At 20M, descend to 24M. Then easy rolling road. At 28M, down to San Gil at 31M.
San Gil to Aratoca 28Ks
Steep climb on Hwy 45A to 1M, then more gradual to 7Ms. Nice scenery . Moderate traffic but lots of trucks that clump up. Mostly up to 24Ks. Now down steep to Aratoca at 28Ks.
A couple of small hills then descend gradually. Great vistas but cloudy today. Becomes steeper and serpentine. Lots of slow trucks. Over bridge at 25Ks. Gradual climb up a beautiful river gorge. At 38Ks, climb switch backs up to 41Ks. Headwinds (north). Down gradually on nice tree lined road. At 49Ks, wider road. At 50Ks, divided hwy:4 lanes. Rolling hills into Florida Blanca at 56Ks. Busy. Sign for “NO BIKES” but there is no other way. Tough, fast traffic, finally got off at Carrera 27, then to center on busy streets at 67Ks. Bad ending.
Bucaramango to San Alberto 117Ks
Out Carrera 15 then down steep to 8 Ks. Climb moderately then mostly down to Rio Negro at 25Ks. Part of the way is 4-lanes. More hills mostly down a river gorge. New road. Good scenery. Traffic. UP valley to 50Ks then down to El Playon at 66Ks. Rolling hills mostly up to 82Ks. Now down. Serpentine and steep to 87Ks. At 93Ks climb steep to 96Ks then down steep to La Esperanza at 100Ks. Up to 106Ks then down rolling to the flats. Headwinds. San Alberto at 117Ks.
San Alberto to Aquachica 70Ks
Now flat. New divided Hwy. Almost finished with wide shoulder to ride on. (11/14 we rode on the finished but not open 2-lane road to Morrison.) A very gradual descent. Variable winds but light. At 44Ks, 4-lane Hwy is finished. Wide shoulder. A few mild hills. At 64Ks. Off to west, a nice quiet 2-lane road to Aquachica at 70Ks. A few hills.
Aquachica to Pailitas 79Ks
Out east to Hwy 45 at 2Ks. Left (north) climb 1K to 5Ks. 2-lanes with a shoulder. At 6Ks, new 4-lane under construction (We rode unopened new lanes) down to 10Ks. Rolling hills then easy to 36Ks. End of new Highway. Starts again more rolling 4-lanes (2 for us & 2 for all others) at 46Ks, Pelaya. New Hwy does not run through the towns. Easy rolling. Finally, at El Buro, the new road ends at 63Ks. Old highway has a shoulder and is tree shaded but lots of big trucks. Very good rural scenery. At 79Ks, Pailitas.
Pailitas to Curumani 36Ks
2-lanes with a wide shoulder. Moderate traffic but lots of trucks. Beautiful scenery. Tree shaded Hwy. New construction for 4-lanes is only beginning here (11/14). A few minor hills. At 28Ks, a thiner shoulder and flat. Variable soft winds. At 36Ks, Curumani. (It’s a stretched out town.)
Curumani to LaLoma Cruce 50Ks
Some traffic and road slightly down. Narrow shoulder. At 12Ks, San Roque (basically a truck stop) road splits. Its the same flat, tree shaded for a while. Then few trees. Drop down narrow shoulder, featureless and straight. Now bad riding. Light headwind. At 39Ks, a wider road. Into La Loma Cruce at 50Ks. (Very good Hotel but must book ahead.)
La Loma Cruce to Bosconia 50Ks
All forms of construction and backed up truck traffic. Flat. Sometimes narrow. Lots of waits for one way traffic. Little scenery. Variable soft winds. Toward Bosnia at 20Ks, less construction. Wider shoulder on left than right. A grubby ride to Bosnia at 50Ks.
Note: From Bosconia, we planned to cross to Plata and Carmen but the road was under construction (11/14). The buses could not carry our bikes. So we were forced to take a bust to Barranquilla, a painfully long 5 hours due to Police checks.
Bosconia to Barranquilla
Hwy 45 is narrow and busy with lots of trucks, then Hwy 90 is wider with a shoulder and less traffic.
Barranquilla to Puerto Colombia 30Ks
From Murillo outside of Barranquilla on the ring road. Wide and busy but a shoulder on the right. At 16Ks, left on Carrara 46 (Hwy 90) toward Puerto Colombia and Cartagena. 1K climbs and descents on both roads. Easy grades. Hwy 90 is four lanes with a narrow shoulder. Way fewer trucks. At 28Ks, turn down into Puerto Colombia at 30Ks.
Puerto Colombia to Cartagena 104Ks
Same way out to Hwy 90 at 2Ks. Right. 4-lanes and wide shoulder. Long moderate hills. At 13Ks, 2-lanes with a wide shoulder. Strong tail wind, fast and hot. OK scenery with some ocean views. Water sources every 20Ks or so. Easy hills occasionally. At 86Ks, 4-lanes with shoulder. Light traffic and almost no trucks. Fun down wind. Then 2-lane narrow road. At 100Ks, passed the airport. Now 11/14 construction. The old city at 104Ks
Cartagena short rides
Sunday is best (less traffic) up and down back and forth on the one way streets around the old city. Now no cobble stones. Any distance, great way to cover the old city.
NOTE: Our plan was to continue on from Cartagena to the south (Medellin and Cali) but we’d had enough with the narrow roads and heavy traffic We were warned off this plan multiple times.