Map from Google - Colombia

Colombia is a vast country, crossed by the equator in the southern part, and has different types of climate, although in each of them, the temperatures vary little throughout the year. The main differences are due to the altitude, according to which the temperature varies, and to the distribution and amount of rainfall. In fact, there are arid and rainy areas, grasslands and forests, plains where the heat is stifling and plateaus with a mild climate, pristine coastlines with a warm sea and snow-capped peaks in the Andes. In the tierras calientes, up to about 3,300 feet above sea level, it's hot all year round.
Let's see in detail the different climatic zones.

Colombia, arid areas
In the far north, the Guajira Peninsula (see the red circle at the top of the map) is the most arid part of Colombia, in fact precipitation is below 12 inches per year; there is even a desert, called La Guajira Desert. In the north of the peninsula, the Parque Nacional Natural Macuira is a bit greener because there are some hills that capture a bit of the moisture brought by the trade winds. This offshoot of Colombia, which overlooks the Caribbean Sea, can be affected by hurricanes, in the period from June to November (most likely between August and October), but this rarely happens because it's located at the southern end of their trajectory.
In Riohacha, the climate is hot throughout the year: in July and August lows are around 77 °F and highs around 95 °F, while in the cooler months, from December to February they are just a few degrees lower, 71/90 °F. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Riohacha
Min (°F)727273757777777775757373
Max (°F)909091919393959591909090

The rains are quite scarce from December to April, then there is a first relatively rainy period in May and June, when 2.8 and 1.6 inches of rain fall respectively, a second dry period from July to mid-August, and a second rainy period between September and mid-November; October is the wettest month with 6 in of rain. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Riohacha
Prec. (in)

Considering both the heat and the rains, here the best time is from December to March.
Although Riohacha experiences little rainfall, with a total amount of 21.5 inches per year, this rainfall pattern with two dry and two rainy periods, is also found in other less arid areas: in fact it is typical of the sub-equatorial climate, where the sun is directly overhead twice in the year.
The Caribbean Sea is warm all year round, and therefore also in this part of the coast, as can be seen in the following table.
Sea temperature - Riohacha
Sea (°F)797979798181818282848281

In the south-western inland areas, between the two Andean mountain ranges and near the town of Villavieja, there is another arid zone, the Tatacoa Desert (see the small circle at the bottom in the map). It is an area with canyons and rocky landscapes, whose good visibility allows you to see the shooting stars in propitious times, but also the stars in the astronomical observatory and a collection of fossils of the area in the archaeological museum. The average altitude is about 1,300 feet. The heat is intense throughout the year, as we can see from the temperature of the nearby town of San Alfonso.
Average temperatures - San Alfonso
San AlfonsoJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°F)737373737273737373737272
Max (°F)939393919395959797939091

During the day, temperatures can reach 105 °F year all round, while at night they can go drop to around 59/63 °F.
The rains drop below below 40 inches per year, but they are not entirely absent: some showers can occur throughout the year, but mainly in March and April and from October to December, while the driest months are June, July and August.

Colombia, climate of the savanna
The climate of the savanna is hot year-round, with a dry season and a rainy season. South of the Guajira Peninsula, along the coast of the Caribbean Sea, the climate becomes more humid, the heat is tropical rather than desert, and the rains become more abundant. In Barranquilla, the maximum temperatures range between 89 °F and 92 °F throughout the year, and the minima range between 75 °F and 77 °F.
Average temperatures - Barranquilla
Min (°F)737575777777777775757575
Max (°F)889090919191919191909090

Here it hardly ever rains from mid-December to April, but then the rainy season, from May to mid-November, is more pronounced, with a peak in the last part (Semptember-October). The summer break is not so evident: in July, 2.6 in of rain fall anyway. The total annual rainfall is 32 in. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Barranquilla
Prec. (in)0000.

In Cartagena, a little more to the south, the rainfall reaches 36 inches per year, with no rain from December to March, 3 inches in July and a peak of 8.7 inches in October.
The best time to visit Barranquilla and Cartagena, goes from December to April.

Further south, the rainfall exceeds 39.5 inches per year, the summer break almost disappears, and the rainy season starts earlier, ie in April. In Montería, the best time is from December to March.

In the inland areas located east of the coast, the climate is similar with respect to this portion of the coast, with a greater risk of intense heat, around 100/105 °F on sunny days.

East of the Andes (in the map, the area to the right), there is a large area which has a similar climate, hot throughout the year, with a dry and a wet season: this is the area of the so-called Llanos, the plains and hills occupied by the savannah. Compared with the previous area, here the rainfall is more abundant, above 78.5 inches, but there is still a relatively dry season, from December to March in the north (see Arauca), and from mid-December to February in south-central (see Las Gaviotas, San José del Guaviare). The dry period is also the hottest, with peaks above 95 °F, even though the air humidity is lower than in the rainy period.

The small Caribbean islands of San Andrés and Providencia, to the east of Nicaragua, are hot all year round, with highs around 84/86 °F and very rainy: the total rainfall is 75 inches per year; we put it in this section because here too there is a dry season, from mid-January to April, which therefore is the best, and a rainy season from May to mid-January.
Here is the average precipitation in San Andrés.
Average precipitation - San Andrés
San AndrésJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec. (in)31.611.

Colombia, areas having an equatorial climate
There are two areas of Colombia in the west and south-east, which have an equatorial climate, hot and rainy throughout the year. The rains in tropical areas generally occur in the form of downpour or thunderstorm, preferably in the afternoon or in the evening.
In the southern part of the coast of the Caribbean Sea, in the Córdoba Department, north of the border with Panama, more than 120 inches of rain per year fall. The only period in which precipitation drops to less than 6 inches per month, even though they are still more than 4 in, is from January to March, which therefore is the best period in this area.
South of Panama, even the coastal area of the Pacific Ocean receives heavy rains throughout the year. Further east, on the slopes at the foot of the Western Cordillera of the Andes, we find the rainiest city in Colombia, as well as one of the wettest in the world: in Quibdo, 315 inches, ie 26 feet of rain fall in a year! Here you can see heavy downpours almost daily, and also the cloudiness that forms in the late morning and persists in the afternoon, however if you want to venture into this region you can choose February and March when it rains "only" 22 days per month, with "only" 20.5 inches of rain per month... otherwise if you're looking for strong emotions, you can choose August, when 33 inches of rain fall, it practically rains in a month like it does in an average rainy city in a year. In fact, Quibdo is the rainiest city of a certain size in the world (in the mountainous areas of India, where it rains even more, there are only small villages and towns).
Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Quibdo
Prec. (in)21.920.320.72628.329.732.133.126.825.228.322.8315.2

The temperatures are high throughout the year, and the air is constantly moist. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Quibdo
Min (°F)737373737373737373737373
Max (°F)868686888890888888868686

Further south, near the border with Ecuador (see San Andrés de Tumaco), things are a bit better, because from July to mid-December, and especially from October to mid-December, it rains on average every second day, and from 4 to 8 inches per month fall: better than the rest of the year.

The climate of Colombia is influenced by the phenomenon known as ENSO: a cycle that sees periods in which the waters of the Pacific become warmer than normal, those of El Niño, alternating with normal periods, and others in which they are colder than normal, those of La Niña. In much of Colombia, in the years of El Niño the rainy season becomes hot and dry, while in the years of La Niña it becomes cooler and rainier than normal. On the contrary, in the southern part of the coast, north of Ecuador, the relatively dry season which normally occurs from October to December, does not occur in the years of El Niño, so that the rains are still heavy, like in the rest of the year, while in the years of La Niña it becomes more pronounced, therefore quite dry.

The western area of which we have dealt (that is, the southern part of the coast of the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific coastal plain area), is not the only part of the country with an equatorial climate. The south-eastern part of Colombia, that of the Amazon rainforest (in the map, the highlighted area on the right), has a similar climate. This is an area, however vast, sparsely populated and difficult to penetrate. In the far south, in Leticia, in the area where the Amazon River marks for a few miles the border with Peru, it rains a lot throughout the year, with a slight decrease in rainfall in July and August.
Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Leticia
Prec. (in)1413.213.813.811.

In fact, since here we are, albeit slightly, south of the equator, the seasons are reversed, so that June, July and August can be considered as winter months, and sometimes nights can be a bit cool from June to September.
Average temperatures - Leticia
Min (°F)737373737372707072727273
Max (°F)888888868684868888888888

Colombia, climate of the Andes
In the west, Colombia is crossed from north to south by the Andes, which are divided into three mountain ranges, called Cordilleras: Western, Central and Eastern, to which must be added the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which is located in the north and is isolated from the Cordilleras, and home to the highest peak of Colombia, Pico Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) with its 18,700 feet. However, there are several peaks (often volcanic) exceeding 16,400 feet. Considering that we are at the equator, to find very low temperatures we must rise above 11,500 feet, which is typically the limit beyond which there are neither trees nor towns. Between 11,500 and 14,800 feet there are areas with a particular vegetation, a tropical high mountain tundra with shrubs and cactuses, called páramos, while over 14,800 feet there are snow-covered areas (called nevados).
In the Andean zone, rainfall is more or less abundant depending on slope exposure, while the temperature varies with altitude.

In the valleys between the mountain ranges, the rainfall amount is lower than in the two external sides, typically between 35.5 and 47 inches per year. We have seen that the western side, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, is rain-soaked, but so is the eastern side, even though it doesn't reach the peaks of Quibdo. For example, in Villavicencio, at 1,400 feet above sea level, almost 157 inches of rain per year fall, and the only months in which precipitation goes below 4 in, are January (1.6 in) and February (3.5 in). Here, the best time goes from mid-December to mid-March. Further south, in Florencia, the least rainy period, between 4 and 6 inches per month, is shorter, and it's limited to December and January.


In the interior area, there are many cities located at high altitudes. The capital Bogotá is located at 8,500 feet, and has a cool, spring-like climate all year round, with maximum temperatures ranging between 63 and 66 °F, and minimum temperatures from 43 to 48 °F. From November to March, in the open country at night there may be slight frosts, while in the interior of the city, the night temperature is a few degrees higher, because of the urban heat island. By day, the temperature rarely exceeds 72 °F, so the air is mild, but the equatorial sun rays at this altitude are very strong, even though the sky is often cloudy. However, the highest recorded temperature is 86 °F, and this happened in April.
Average temperatures - Bogotá
Min (°F)434546464646464545464645
Max (°F)646466646463636364646464

The rainfall pattern, with a total of 37 inches per annum, is related to the two zenith passages of the sun, and therefore sees two maxima in April-May and October-November, and two minima in December to February and June to September. But the summer minimum does not give much reliability, so much so that the rains decrease in quantity (only 1.8 inches in July, and 1.6 inches in August fall) but not in frequency (it rains often anyway). Besides, at this time the sky is often cloudy. Therefore, January and February are the best months to visit the Colombian capital, even though it rains about 7 times per month and there are just 5/6 hours of sunshine per day, because it's better than the rest of the year, while October and November are the worst ones because they are the wettest months.
Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Bogotá
Prec. (in)

A few miles west of Bogota, near Mondoñedo, there is a small arid zone, called a bit emphatically "Sabrinsky desert", where rainfall drops below 20 inches per year. Even in the north-east of the city, rainfall drop below 20 in, and about 60 miles to the north-east, in the department of Boyacá, we find the "Candelaria Desert", an arid area at about 7,000/8,000 feet above sea level, where therefore the temperatures are mild, similar to those of the capital.

The city of Cali is located at a lower altitude, around 3,300 feet, and its temperature is definitely higher than that of Bogotá, so that the climate is hot, but all in all it's usually bearable, at least more than in the plains (though sometimes the temperature can reach 95 °F all year round).
Average temperatures - Cali
Min (°F)666666666666646666666666
Max (°F)868686868486868886848484

Both the amount (about 40 inches) and the pattern of rainfall, however, are similar to those of Bogotá, although the amount of sunshine is higher and the summer rains are less frequent, so here even the summer dry season, from June to August, is a good period. In the western districts of the city, closer to the mountains, and especially in the south-west, closer to the Farallones de Cali, a massif 13,287 feet high, the rains are more abundant, as you can see from the average precipitation recorded at the university.
Average precipitation - Cali
Prec. (in)

Compared with Bogotá and Cali, Medellín is located at an intermediate altitude, 4,900 feet, and as can be expected it has warm and pleasant temperatures: lows are around 57/61 °F, while highs are around 81/84 °F.
Average temperatures - Medellín
Min (°F)575959616159595959595959
Max (°F)828284828282848282818181

The rains, however, are more abundant, about 60 inches per year, and there's no decrease in summer, so the best time here goes from December to February, being the only relatively dry period.
Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Medellín
Prec. (in)

Another city that lies at a high altitude is Popayán, about 6,600 feet above sea level, then at mid-height between Bogotá and Medellin. This is really a city of eternal spring: highs are around 75/77 °F, while lows are around 54/57 °F all year round.
Average temperatures - Popayán
Min (°F)555557575755545454575757
Max (°F)757577757777777777757575

Here, however, the rains are more abundant, about 75 inches per year, and being situated more to the south, it almost doesn't experience a winter decrease (in fact, it rains a lot even in January and February), so here the best time goes from mid-June to mid-September. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Popayán
Prec. (in)

When to go

It's hard to find a time that works for all of Colombia, but in most of the country the best time is from December to March, because it is the driest, or at least the least rainy.
However, there are areas where the rains are abundant throughout the year (see the forest), or where the least rainy season is inverted (see the extreme south of the Amazon and of the Andean area), or areas where the least rainy period runs from August to November (the southernmost part of the Pacific coast, which is also affected by the El Niño cycle).
As we have seen, for swimming and sun bathing, the Caribbean Sea is warm all year round. Even the Pacific Ocean is warm all year round, and has more constant temperatures: 77/79 °F for most of the year, with a peak of 81 °F in October, but as we said this coastline is rainy all year round.

What to pack

On plains and lowlands, in general, light clothing all year round. In the forest, loose fitting clothing, light shirts and pants of natural fibers (cotton, linen) or synthetics that breathe, to be washed often, maybe with long sleeves for mosquitoes; possibly a light sweatshirt and a light raincoat for thunderstorms. On the coast, possibly a light scarf and a light sweatshirt for the sea breeze. In the savannah (Barranquilla, Cartagena), you can bring a light sweatshirt and a light raincoat for thunderstorms, during the rainy season.
In the tierras templadas (see Medellín), light clothing, a sweatshirt for the evening, raincoat or umbrella.
In the tierras frías (see Bogota), clothes for spring and autumn, sweater or sweatshirt, jacket, raincoat or umbrella.
On high mountains, warm clothes, down jacket, hat, gloves, scarf, hiking shoes.