The sun, the sand, the surf. The sentences, the subject+verbs, the syntax. Ah, yes—it’s all in a day’s work for TEFL teachers in Colombia. And why not? One of the best parts of teaching abroad, in Colombia or otherwise, is the chance to effortlessly mix adventure with hard work.
Just picture yourself: English teacher extraordinaire by day, top-notch adventurer by night(s and weekends).
Read on to learn the eight must-do experiences while teaching in Colombia!
Quick tips for budget travel in Colombia
- Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Typically speaking, prices for items like bus tickets and taxis are negotiable. Use haggling to cut costs! If you’re TEFL teaching in the tourist off-season and speak decent Spanish, you can also try to negotiate discounts of guesthouses and hostels.
- Walking tours are usually free—as are hostel breakfasts. Book accommodations with included breakfasts and always use the internet and hostel resources (like the front desk!) to learn about other low-cost entertainment options.
- Sundays = free museums! While easy on the pocket book, they won’t be easy on crowd control. Get there early to beat the rush. We love the Museo Botero and the Gold Museum!
- Pack your student ID, even if it’s expired. Cha-ching!
8 must-have experiences for TEFL teachers in Colombia
1. Sunbathe on Isla Fuerte
Island hopping is a must-do for a TEFL teacher in Colombia, and we recommend getting started with your new island love affair by stopping at this archipelago located about 20 minutes by boat from Cartagena.
You’ll find secluded white sand beaches, palm trees, and shades of blue that will make your eyes pop. These little islands are the perfect getaway for marine recreation lovers. Snorkeling, kayaking, and scuba diving are all on offer here!
2. Shop til you drop in Bogotá.
Bogotá is paradise for any TEFL teacher with a passion for fashion. Collect souvenirs as you romp about street markets, but then head to ultra-modern malls for a more upscale feel.
The Centro Comercial Andino is particularly popular amongst TEFL teachers; home to luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, and Tiffany, we hope you brought savings on this TEFL adventure! Other malls include the Hacienda Santa Bárbara and El Retiro. If you’re looking for a more unique shopping excursion, don’t miss out on the Usaquen Sunday Market.
3. Bask in colonial charm.
Take your pick—there are plenty of gorgeous colonial sites to behold while teaching in Colombia. Visit Santa Cruz de Mompox, an enchanting 1540 city that takes travelers back in time to the era of the Spanish Conquest. Wander the La Candelaria in Bogotá, the historic city center (these wanderings pair well with a strong cup of Colombian coffee!). Get snap happy with your camera while taking in the glorious architecture of colonial Barichara, “the prettiest town in Colombia.” Follow the tourist crowds to Boyaca for a weekend to check out the ancient solar calendar at El Infiernito.
Just be sure to couple your colonial delights with some #realtalk and learning about both the bad—AND good—that colonization brought the country over time.
4. Trek to a lost city.
The Lost City Teyuna (“Ciudad Perdida” in Spanish) is an ancient, ruined city located in the Colombian jungle. Built between the 8th and 14th centuries by Tayrona Indians, the views and location of this historical site are extraordinary.
Lazy TEFL teachers be warned: this jungle-covered paradise can only be visited on foot via trekking, but there are multiple routes, trails, and lengths for you to choose from. It typically takes 4-6 days to complete the whole she-bang.
5. Explore a national park.
There are 51 national parks in Colombia—get your butt out of the city and into the fresh air at some point during your TEFL job in Colombia! Tayrona National Park, Los Nevados, Chicamocha, Chingaza.
Colombia’s national parks range from the Caribbean region to the Pacific and Amazon regions, with the most national parks in the Andean region (24!). Find biodiverse rainforests, Pueblito ruins, volcanoes, mountain lakes, canyons. And views. EPIC views. The natural parks cover over 11% of the country’s landmass.
6. Drink coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
Visiting the coffee-growing region of Colombia just makes sense, and not only because you’ll walk away on a major high (caffeine might have to do with it!). The Coffee Triangle is located in the heart of the Andes, so even for our TEFL friends who prefer decaf, the views alone are worth it.
Learn about coffee farming, different roasting processes (natural vs. washed vs. honey), and participate in eco-friendly rural tourism. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to see one of the traditional Paisa towns.
7. Celebrate local holidays.
If you’re lucky enough to be teaching in Colombia during a national holiday celebration, do everything in your power to get out and participate! And truth be told, there’s very little possibility you won’t be there for a national holiday—there are 18 that are celebrated in a calendar year! Here’s a quick summary of the Colombian holiday calendar to inspire your planning:
- Año Nuevo / (New Year’s Day) (January 1)
- Día de los Reyes Magos / (Epiphany) (January 6)
- Monday of Carnival (48 days before Easter Sunday or 2 days before Ash Wednesday. Valid only for the city of Barranquilla.)
- Tuesday of Carnival (47 days before Easter Sunday or the day before Ash Wednesday. Valid only for the city of Barranquilla.)
- Día de San José / (Saint Joseph’s Day) (March 19)
- Jueves Santo / (Maundy Thursday) and Viernes Santo (Good Friday) (the Thursday and Friday before Easter Sunday, variable dates in March or April)
- Primero de Mayo / (Labour Day) (May 1)
- Ascensión del señor / (Ascension of Jesus) (39 days after Easter Sunday)
- Corpus Christi (60 days after Easter Sunday)
- Sagrado Corazón /( Sacred Heart) (68 days after Easter Sunday)
- San Pedro y San Pablo / Saint Peter and Saint Paul) (June 29)
- Declaración de la Independencia de Colombia / Declaration of Independence (July 20)
- Battle of Boyacá (August 7)
- La Asunción / (Assumption of Mary) (August 15)
- Día de la Raza / (Columbus Day) (October 12)
- Día de los Santos / All Saints’ Day (November 1)
- Independencia de Cartagena / Independence of Cartagena (November 11)
- La Inmaculada Concepción (Immaculate Conception) (December 8)
- Navidad (Christmas Day) (December 25)
8. Wade into a red river.
Caño Cristales, located inside the National Natural Park La Macarena, is one of Colombia’s most stunning, unspoiled destinations for TEFL teachers looking for a “WOW” experience in nature.
During wet season (June to November), you can visit the river to see the sub-aquatic plant “Macarenia clavigera” on full display—a bright red lining on the river floor. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen before, and its frequent rapids, waterfalls, and natural pools make for a fun, exotic, aquatic day.
Work hard, play hard while TEFL teaching in Colombia!
Bust out your day planner (or Google calendar) and start penciling in these adventures during your TEFL job in Colombia. By planning ahead and knowing your “fun goals” from the get-go, you’re more likely to feel fully satisfied and accomplished in the “adventure” category of your overall experience. These eight must-see places while teaching in Colombia never disappoint!
What are you waiting for? Grab your TEFL certification and get packing!