How to Get from Bogotá to Medellín
Navigating the Colombian Landscape: How Far is it Between Medellín and Bogotá?
Colombia is a country known for its diverse landscapes, vibrant culture, and historical significance. Making travel difficult around the country is it’s geography marked by being the only country with three ranges of the Andes, the only in South America with both Pacific and Atlantic (Caribbean) coast, deserts, plains, Amazon, and more. Because of this difficult terrain, what might only take 15 minutes in plan might take 5 to 10 hours in a car, bus, or van.
Two of the most prominent cities in the country are Colombia’s largest city, Bogotá, and its second-largest city, Medellín. As travelers and enthusiasts seek to explore the beauty and richness of this South American nation, they often wonder how far is Medellín from Bogotá and how do I get there?
Your main transportation options are by plane and by bus. We’ll discuss both below as well as a little bit about renting a car.
As mentioned, Colombia is largely marked by the three ranges of the Andes. While Bogotá is located in the eastern range, Medellín is located in the central range. This means that to go between each city there are major elevation changes, geographic hurdles, and of course crossing the mighty Magdalena river in the middle.
Bogotá, the capital city, is nestled high in the eastern Andes at an elevation of approximately 2,640 meters (8,660 feet) above sea level. Medellín, on the other hand, lies in the gorgeous Aburrá Valley at an elevation between 1,500 and 1700 meters (4,905 – 5,100 feet) depending on where you are in the city. The varied topography of Colombia contributes to the unique charm of each city, making them distinct in their own ways. While Bogotá is flat and walkable, Medellín features sweeping views in almost every direction thanks to its often hilly terrain. That said, Bogotá is vast and long, and traffic can often be terrible, taking more than one hour to get from point A to point B, even when the distances are not actually that far. In comparison, Medellín has a terrific mass transit system, highlighted by the above ground metro and metro cables/gondolas. Distances are usually much shorter and often walkable.
Distance by Road:
The least common but absolutely doable mode of transportation between Medellín and Bogotá is by road. The distance covered by the Pan-American Highway, which connects these two cities, is approximately 415 kilometers (258 miles). The journey takes travelers through winding mountainous roads, providing breathtaking views of the Colombian countryside. The highway is locally known as “La Ruta del Sol,” or the sun route. There are often extremely large potholes in stretches due to the unstable geography and mass movement of large shipping trucks. At times, the roads are in great shape and at times they are littered with potholes. This usually depends on the season and politics. Right after rainy season there is usually more damage, as well as after elections when there are budgetary battles to fix the roads.
It is not advisable to go by land during the rain seasons (May, and October-November) as massive landslides are commonly an issue and may shut the roads for long hours or even days at a time.
That said, buses are common between the cities. There is little difference between the bus companies. Some of the common bus companies include Rápido Ochoa, Aruaca, and Bolivariana.
Websites such as redBus will let you filter between options and amenities as you choose bus tickets. Some of the buses have wifi, fully reclining seats, chargers, and more. The website will help you find the best prices as well. The ticket prices of bus tickets usually ranges between 100,000 COP and 150,000 COP (about $25-$40 USD).
If you have the chance to travel by road, the payoff is huge as the drive is absolutely gorgeous and runs through various intersections of Colombian departments including Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Tolima, Caldas, and Antioquia.
That said, the road is often confusing, full of toll booths, and difficult to navigate. We highly recommend against renting a car and trying to do this on your own. You can expect long stretches of road without towns nearby and even longer stretches without a language besides Spanish. If you get a flat tire you might be stranded for a very long time. If you’re not prepared, this can be a very inadvisable option.
Is it safe to take the road between the cities
Yes, the areas between Medellín and Bogotá are very calm and safe. There are a few regions like Puerto Berrio where crime has risen and are not advisable for visitors, but in general the area between the cities is beautiful and safe. Especially if you are traveling by bus or van or with a private driver you should have no problem in making the drive.
In Medellín, you can grab buses and vans from the bus station called Terminal del Norte, and in Bogotá you can get them from most all of the terminals, with a particular quantity leaving from the bus station in Salitre. You can always stop in Marinilla along the way and grab a separate bus to Guatape.
The duration of the journey between Medellín and Bogotá depends on the mode of transportation chosen. If one opts for a direct bus service, the travel time typically ranges from 8 to 12 hours, subject to traffic and weather conditions. If you have time to stop along the way, we highly recommend visiting the historic towns of Honda, Tolima or Guaduas, Cundinamarca.
Air Travel between the two cities is significantly faster. Most airlines will list the time as around an hour for the flight, but in actuality the flight distance can take as little as 35 minutes from takeoff to touchdown.
The quick flight time, coupled with the convenience of major airports, makes this option popular among both business and leisure travelers.
That said, flying can be a little confusing:
In Medellín there are two airports:
- Olaya Herrera (EOH) is the municipal airport located in the city. It is the hub for smaller and generally propeller planes (puddle jumpers). The majority of the flights go to less-common and smaller destinations, but there are flights to Bogotá on both Clic Airlines and Satena. This option is great if you are already in Medellín city, just keep in mind that you’ll have to pay an overweight charge for bags over 15 kilos / 33 pounds.
- José María Córdova (MDE) is the international airport. It is located about 45 minutes from Medellín in the town or Rionegro and it is much bigger than Olaya Herrera. When people refer to the Medellín airport, this is the airport that is most likely in reference. You can find flights on major airliners through Latam (Oneworld Alliance), Avianca (Star Alliance), and Wingo.
In Bogotá, there is only one airport but ...
- The main Bogotá airport is El Dorado International and it’s the main hub for everything in Colombia. The vast probability is that you’ll fly through this airport at some point and it’s the big stop for Latam and Avianca. However….
- At the far side of the airport, closer to the city, is the “Puente aereo” which is a detached section of the airport that you’ll either have to take a long walk or shuttle to reach. This is where all of the flights from Olaya Herrera land. So keep in mind, if you are flying Satena or Clic, you’ll be at the Puente, if you are on Latam, Avianca or Wingo, you’ll be at the main section.
The best price between the airport can vary, Latam and Avianca are usually cheaper than Satena and Clic, but you have to figure in the cost of taking a taxi into the city. The fligh is usually around $50 - $100 USD without adding in luggage, and the taxi into the city is around $35 - $50 USD. If you fly in to Rionego, you may consider taking a taxi straight to Guatape as well.
If you are flying without check luggage we say you can arrive for check-in 60-90 minutes before your flight. If you have checked luggage, we recommend the full two hours. All of the flights between these two cities should be direct flights.
The distance between Medellín and Bogotá really long by road and really short by flight (which is common in Colombia). However, for the adventurous bunch, the road represents the diversity and beauty that Colombia has to offer.
Whether one chooses to embark on a scenic road trip, experiencing the breathtaking landscapes along the way, or opt for a swift flight connecting these two vibrant cities, the journey is sure to be filled with adventure and discovery.
In the future, a third option is being studied: a bullet train that will be 3 hours door-to-door. In the meantime the choice is clear, for convenience take a flight, for adventure go by road.
And of course, remember to check our travel guide for each city.