16 of the Safest Cities in Colombia for Travelers & Expats in 2024

Colombia’s popularity as a tourist destination is growing every year with millions of people discovering this incredible country. While there is a perception that the situation has improved significantly over recent decades, there are still questions regarding security in the country.

While many visitors feel safe sticking to the high end areas of Cartagena and Medellin, where else is safe to explore and what do some of the less well known regions have to offer?

I have lived and worked in Colombia for around 15 years, based in Medellin but exploring all over. In this article I will identify some of the safest cities to visit, discuss local security concerns and hopefully inspire you to look beyond the obvious destinations when planning your next trip.

1. Salento – A charming town that inspired Disney’s Encanto


Salento is a beautiful, picturesque town that was one of the inspirations for the Disney movie Encanto. The charming town is close to the amazing Valley of Cocora which has the tallest palm trees in the world standing high above the green hills.

Salento retains the traditional feel of small town Colombia but has evolved to offer some really nice hotels, a nice range of restaurants and artisan souvenir shops which are popular with national and international visitors.

2. Pereira – A smaller alternative to Medellin with perfect weather


Pereira is a city of 460,000 which has much in common with the more well known Medellin.

The average is around 26° C (78° F) across the year with warm sunshine and quite a lot less rain than the Antioquia capital. They also share the ‘paisa’ culture with similar music, style and warmth. While Pereira doesn’t have the range of attractions it is smaller, more accessible and doesn’t have so many tourists.

It is a really comfortable place to visit and the local football club won their first ever league title in 2022. They have a great stadium and passionate support. There is also the nearby Santa Rosa de Cabal natural thermal waters and spa.

According to Numbeo data there is generally a low perception of crime in the city, with corruption the only reported area of concern for local people. People feel very safe walking alone in the day and generally safe at night.

3. Leticia – A jungle town in the Amazon surrounded by nature


Leticia is a small town in the Amazon jungle on the Colombian side of a triple border with Brazil and Peru. The town has a population of just under 50,000 with visitors coming from across Colombia and from around the world.

Parque Santander, the main square is beautiful with a striking white church and open green space. As the sun sets thousands of birds arrive and fill the sky looking for the best place to settle. They continue to dart around overhead for hours as the late afternoon turns into evening.

The town doesn’t have great internet and hotel options are limited but you will be surrounded by nature and jungle to explore. While the town is quite humble, security is generally good with tourists a key source of revenue. There are few reported thefts and there were 6 murders in the last calendar year.

4. Monteria – The Caribbean region’s safest departmental capital

The capital of the Cordoba department of Colombia is one of the hottest cities in Colombia with an average temperature of 32° C (90° F) across the year but it is also very pleasant.

While it is almost 3 hours from the nearest beach, it is still included in the “Costa” (coastal) region of Colombia, albeit close to the southern limit. The city has a population of around 500,000 with a lot of very friendly people. While it is a fairly large city, it is not a popular destination for tourists and people are keen to say hello.

El Alivio is a neighborhood which has some excellent restaurants and popular clubs such as Milagro, a large modern venue which has hosted some of South America’s biggest musical acts. The stunning white San Jerónimo cathedral in front of Bolivar Park is also amazing.

I think Monteria. It’s really is a bit of a hidden gem in Colombia and a city I really enjoy visiting.

In 2022 the city was the departmental capital in the Caribbean with the lowest number of murders and was referred to by The Crime Observatory of the National Police as the region’s safest major city. That puts it ahead of huge tourist hotspots such as Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta.

5. Manizales – Coffee-lovers paradise surrounded by mountains


Manizales is a city in the mountains of the coffee-growing region of Colombia with a population of around 450,000. The city sits surrounded by rich green hills and there is a lot of stunning nearby nature to explore.

The city itself is not the most picturesque, although the stunning white Basílica Nuestra Señora del Rosario is a beautiful cathedral in the center. Afternoons are generally warm and the average temperature is just below 20° C (68° F) with over 2,000mm of rain annually.

For a fairly large city, Manizales is very safe. Numbeo reports that local perception is low in regards to frequency of theft, attacks, insults and home invasions. People feel very safe walking alone in the day and generally safe alone at night.

6. Tunja – Colombia’s safest departmental capital


Tunja is a small city that sits at 2,822m high in the Andes and 130 km northeast of the capital Bogota. It is the capital of the Boyaca state with a population of around 180,000. The air feels cool but the sun can be bright, with fairly low levels of rain, particularly from December to February.

The central downtown Plaza de Bolivar is wide and surrounded by beautiful, important, historic buildings. The city has a long, storied history that dates back to colonial times with gold and emerald deposits which made Tunja an important settlement. The relatively small city is the home to two professional football clubs – Patriotas and Boyaca Chico.

Tunja has the lowest homicide rate of any departmental capital in Colombia with 9 murders in 2022. The Numbeo study found the perception of crime to be very low overall, with corruption the only reported area of concern.

7. Pasto – Friendly city with a volcano and famous carnival

San Felipe temple in Pasto
San Felipe temple in Pasto

Pasto is a city in the west of Colombia with a population of around 400,000. The city is surrounded by green fields and the 4,276m Galeras volcano is nearby and one of the most active in the country.

The city celebrates the incredible black and white festival in January, a fascinating week long event which has celebrations and brings together the traditions of indigenous, Afro-Colombian and European descendent Colombians of the region. The Santuario de Las Lajas has been voted as one of the most beautiful churches in the world and is an incredible sight, perched on a bridge above a green valley.

The number of robberies is relatively low and while Pasto is the capital and biggest city, there are smaller cities in the Nariño department with a much higher number of reported crimes such as Ipiales and Tumaco.

8. Armenia – A progressive city with nearby coffee coasters


Armenia is the capital of the Quindio department, the smallest in the country, which is slightly to the west of central Colombia. It is famous for coffee production and sits at the edge of the Andes mountains.

The historic center of Armenia was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011 for its importance in the “Coffee Cultural Landscape”. The city has been described as the “miracle city” due to its fast urban growth. The city center has a nine block area of pedestrian only walkway with green, open squares.

Parque Cafe is a theme park 20 minutes outside of Armenia with roller coasters, great views of the countryside and a celebration of the importance of coffee in the region.

Armenia is one of Colombia’s safest cities with low reports of theft or crime. Numbeo surveys show a low to moderate perception of insecurity with people very comfortable walking alone.

9. Medellin – From world’s most dangerous city to the coolest

Medellin center

Once amongst the world’s most dangerous cities, Medellin has been completely transformed and is now one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world.

In October 2023, TimeOut named Laureles the coolest neighborhood in the world, while Provenza in Poblado was named the 15th coolest street in 2022. “The city of eternal spring“, as Medellin is known for its year round warm weather and occasional downpours, sits along a river within a large valley.

Medellin is an important cultural center with an international reputation for music, fashion and art. With a population of just over 4 million, Medellin is a fairly large city but also very accessible with metro, cable car, tram and BRT bus routes.

Organized crime retains a considerable influence in poorer neighborhoods while robberies are still regularly reported in the more expensive parts of town. That said, the vast majority of visitors will have no issues and you should have no concern as long as you take a little care.

The Numbeo survey identifies robberies, drug use and corruption as the biggest security concerns but overall the perception is Medellin is generally a safe place to be.

Read my article Is Medellin safe? It’s not what you immagine to dig on safety issues in Medellin.

👉 And if you’re planning a trip to Mdellin, you should take a look to my article Where To Stay In Medellin: The 4 Best Areas (Safe & Fun).

10. Cartagena – Beautiful Caribbean city set within colonial walls

clock tower gate, cartagena
Clock tower gate in Cartagena

Cartagena is a beautiful city on the Caribbean coast with a population of just over 1 million which attracts around 3.7 million tourists per year.

The old town is surrounded by Spanish colonial walls with quaint narrow streets, impressive churches and spectacular views over the sea. Bocagrande is a more modern area of town, with a narrow stretch of land filled with hotels alongside the coastline. From Cartagena you can also head out to the white sanded and palm tree filled islands.

It is a city full of great live music, delicious seafood and lively costeño culture.

Cartagena is a deeply unequal city and has areas with high levels of crime, instability and violence. That said, this is something that tourists or residents of the more expensive areas will never see.

While there is the potential of a tourist scam or a snatched phone, millions of people come to Cartagena every year and the vast majority will leave believing it to be a very safe place to visit.

11. Villa de Leyva – Key cultural center untouched for 400 years

Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva is a charming and historically important town northeast of the capital Bogota.

The central square dates back to the early 17th century with Our Lady of the Rosary church and the House of the First Congress of the United Provinces, where laws were drafted following Colombia’s 1812 independence. The central plaza is believed to be the largest cobbled square in the whole of South America.

The town has been largely unchanged over the past 400 years and it has become an important touristic and cultural center. Villa de Leyva hosts a major Jazz Festival in July, the International Kite-flying Festival in August and the Festival of Lights on December 7. There is a good selection of excellent restaurants with live music often heard.

Villa de Leyva is extremely safe and very few crimes are reported in the charming little town.

12. El Centro, San Andres – An incredible tropical island paradise

San Andres

San Andres is an archipelago located 750 km north of the mainland, a Colombian territory but one that is closer to Central America than South America.

The island is a tropical paradise with white seas and a perfectly clear ocean which shines with 7 different shades of blue. There are amazing beach resorts and the locals speak San Andrés Creole, a dialect which takes English, Spanish and African influences.

San Andres has a local population of around 80,000 but in 2022 around 1.4 million tourists visited the island.

While there have been isolated incidents of violence, overall San Andres is a very safe place to visit. Tourism is fundamental on the island with hotels, police and tourist guides working together to ensure visitors are safe.

14. Ibagué – A big destination for coffee, volcanos and music


Ibagué is another very safe city in the Colombian coffee axis. The capital of the Tolima department has a population of around 500,000 and a comfortable warm annual temperature of around 29° C (84° F).

The city is a leading producer of textiles within the country while tourism and coffee production are also important. The Nevado del Tolima and Cerro Machin active volcanoes are close to the city and there is access to Los Nevados National Park.

Ibagué is also the home of Deportes Tolima, one of the more successful professional football clubs in Colombia who last won the league title in 2021.

The city is generally very safe and tourists should have no concerns about coming to visit.

14. Bogotá – A megacity full of great food, music, culture and art

Aerial view of Bogotá
Aerial view of Bogotá

Colombia’s capital has an estimated population of 11.5 million in 2024 and is one of the biggest cities in South America. While there is all of the crime you would expect in such a large, diverse, varied city, it is definitely a place that is safe for tourists to visit.

Bogotá sits at 2,640 meters above sea level high in the Andes. The city has very unpredictable weather with the potential of experiencing 4 seasons within a single day. If you leave the house to perfect sunshine make sure you still take a jacket as you might be heading home in sleet and hail.

Colombia’s capital is full of history, excellent restaurants, bars, clubs and cultural activities. You can survey the spectacular view from the top of Monserrate mountain which is accessible by cable car and stands at 3,152 meters above sea level.

Pickpockets and robberies are fairly frequent in the central Candelaria area and you definitely need to be careful but overall Bogotá is a safe city. There are areas to avoid, particularly some of the poorer neighborhoods to the South, but many millions of visitors come to the city each year and have no issues.

👉 Planning a trip to Bogota? I advice to first read our article Where to Stay In Bogotá: The 3 Best Areas (Safe & Fun)

15. Santa Marta – Friendly base for Colombia’s best adventures

Santa Marta

Santa Marta is a city on the Caribbean coast which is the perfect jumping off point to visit the beaches of the Tayrona National Park, the world famous Lost City and magical Minca, a town up in the mountains amidst the cloud forest.

The population of the city is just over 500,000 with 859,000 tourists visiting the city in 2022. Santa Marta was the first colonial Spanish settlement in Colombia and continues to be an important port.

The city has a warm tropical climate with perfect sandy beaches, sitting at the foot of the snow peaked Sierra Navada mountains.

The Numbeo survey reports that robberies are the biggest concern but overall the perception is Santa Marta is one of the safer Colombian cities. There are more dangerous neighborhoods inland from the coast but the key tourist areas and El Rodadero are generally very safe.

16. Iza, Boyaca – Probably the safest pueblo in Colombia

Iza, Boyaca

Iza in Boyaca is widely considered to be Colombia’s safest town. There have been no reported homicides in over 20 years and Iza is famous as one of the country’s desert capitals.

The town was named a location of cultural interest of national character by the Colombian Ministry of Culture in 2022 thanks to its colonial architecture and rich cultural heritage. The population of the town is around just 2,500 but has been a popular destination for tourists.

Safest Cities in Colombia FAQ

What is the safest city in Colombia?

Tunja is often considered the safest city in Colombia, based on various safety metrics. Manizales and several cities in the nearby coffee region are also known for their safety.

What is the safest part of Colombia for tourists?

The coffee triangle, which includes cities such as Salento, Pereira, Manizales, Armenia, and Ibague, stands out as a major safe tourist destination. These cities are not only scenic but also have a reputation for being safe. Tourists can comfortably travel between these locations by bus.

Is Colombia safe to travel to right now?

Yes, Colombia is generally safe for tourists. While some areas are controlled by organized criminal groups, they typically do not target tourists.

As with many global cities, travelers should be aware of potential robberies, pickpockets, and scams.

By being cautious and sensible, the chances of encountering problems are minimal.

What are the most dangerous cities in Colombia to avoid?

In 2022, Cali, Palmira, Buenaventura, and Cúcuta reported high homicide rates. Although these cities require extra caution, personal experiences indicate safe visits when sticking to tourist-friendly zones.

Some rural areas may pose risks, but with the right precautions, all major Colombian cities can be safely explored.

It’s always advisable to research current conditions and consult local advice.

You Might Also Like…

Leave a Comment