Colombia is a tropical country with a complex climatic pattern. The northern tip is semi-arid to arid (Köppen climate classification BWh, BSh). A significant portion in the north and central regions displays tropical savanna and monsoon types (Köppen Am, Aw). More than 50% of the land in the northwest and almost the entire southern half have a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen Af). Patches in the central and western regions have an oceanic climate, with its variants (Köppen Cfb, Csb). The Andes above 4000 meters have a mountain climate (Köppen ET). Colombia lies in the northern part of South America. Venezuela lies in the east and Brazil in the southeast. Ecuador and Peru are in the south, the Pacific Ocean in the west, Panama in the northwest, and the Caribbean Sea in the north. The equatorial location, high mountain ranges, and proximity to the vast ocean waters influence the climate.
Colombia lies on either side of the equator, between 12°N and 4°S, and has six natural regions. The Andes Mountains form the Andean Region, adjacent to the Pacific Coast. The region includes the Cordillera Occidental mountains, the Cordillera Central, and the Cordillera Oriental, with hot, temperate, cold, and frozen types of mountain climate. Magdalena, the principal river in the country, flows through the humid and low-lying Caribbean Region adjacent to the Caribbean Sea. The region also comprises of the Guajira Desert and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. The Pacific Region lies near the Pacific Coast, is highly humid, and among the regions of the highest precipitation in the world. The Orinoco Region is a savanna, east of the Andes, in the northeast of the country. The Amazon Region is a rainforest in the Amazon Basin of southern Colombia. The Insular Region comprises maritime areas in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Pico Cristobal Colon and Pico Simon Bolivar are the highest peaks in Colombia at 5775 meters above sea level.
Much of Colombia lies in the warm altitudinal zone below 1000 meters, with mean annual temperatures above 23.9°C (75°F). The average annual temperatures are between 16.7°C (62.1°F) to 23.9°C (75°F) at altitudes ranging from 1000 meters to 2000 meters. Between 2000 meters and 3000 meters, the climate is in the cold 11.7°C (53.1°F) to 16.7°C (62.1°F) range. The climate is alpine to glacial above 4000 meters, with permanent snow and ice. Summers are hot and humid, with a variable amount of rain. Temperatures reach up to 40°C (104°F) in the deserts during the day and drop to 15°C (59°F) in the night. The average high temperatures remain in the 29.4°C (84.9°F) to 36.1°C (97°F) range during the hot season. Winters are mild to cold and dry in most parts. The average low temperatures remain in the 18.9°C (66°F) to 23.9°C (75°F) range in the lowlands during the cold season. The equator passes through the lower half of Colombia. Different seasons occur at the same time in the northern and southern regions.
The annual rainfall in Colombia varies widely based on altitude. May to October registers the highest amount of precipitation. The regions with the equatorial climate in the western Andes and southeastern Colombia receive abundant rainfall throughout the year. Quibdo is the rainiest city in Colombia, with 8001mm (315") of rainfall and 305 wet days annually. The northernmost tip is arid, with less than 304.8mm (12") of precipitation in the Guajira Peninsula. The northern coast near the Caribbean Sea receives moderate rainfall between 508mm (20") to 635mm (25"). Most regions receive between 762mm (30") to 2286mm (90") of rainfall. Much of Colombia receives abundant annual sunshine between 2500 hours to 2900 hours and has days and nights of equal duration. The Pacific Coast receives only 1800 hours to 2000 hours of sunshine annually. The average water temperatures of the Caribbean Sea are warm between 26.1°C (79°F) and 28.9°C (84°F) and suitable for swimming all year round.
The record high temperature for Colombia is 45°C (113°F), set in Puerto Salgar, Cundinamarca, on December 29, 2015. The lowest recorded temperature in Bogota, the capital, is -3.9°C (25°F).
The best time to visit Colombia
The best time to visit Colombia is generally between December to March. The cold period is less rainy and has ample sunshine. The conditions are mild at low altitudes, and only the high mountains see snow and ice. The ocean waters at an average of 26.1°C (79°F) are warm on the Caribbean coast. The Pacific Ocean is warm throughout the year, but the coast is rainy all year round. A few areas receive low rainfall between August and November. The Amazon rainforest has better conditions during relatively dry periods. Precipitation is the most significant factor determining the best time to visit a particular region of Colombia and varies by season and altitude.
The worst time to visit Colombia
The worst time to visit Colombia is usually from April to October. The heat and humidity are high in most regions, and the rainfall is heavy. The equatorial regions receive almost daily rain, and the sticky atmosphere is unbearable for people from cold countries. Flooded rivers pose significant obstructions. The Amazon Basin is notoriously humid, wet, and uncomfortable in the summer. The arid regions in the north register severe temperatures above 40°C (104°F) in the hot season. Thunderstorms frequently occur in the mountains.
Colombia is vulnerable to weather hazards, such as thunderstorms, floods, droughts, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Heavy and frequent rainfall brings floods in many regions due to the numerous river systems. The La Nina influenced rainy season in 2010-11 affected 3.5 million people, with damages from unprecedented floods, landslides, and related hazards. A series of floods and landslides affected the country nationwide, in 2017 and 2018. Droughts frequently occur in the northern arid areas due to a shortage of rainfall. Thunderstorms with lightning and heavy rain are standard during the summer. The far north, including the islands of Providencia and San Andres, infrequently witness the passage of the Atlantic Ocean hurricanes. Colombia is in the Pacific Ring of Fire and prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Weather in January
January is cold to warm in Colombia, with average low temperatures between 18.9°C (66°F) to 25°C (77°F) on the plains. Bogota, at 2600 meters above sea level, registers cold temperatures between 6.1°C (43°F) to 20°C (68°F). Frost is common, but rainfall is hardly 50.8mm (2"), and the daily sunshine lasts for 6 hours. Between 1500 meters and 2000 meters, Medellin registers in the 17.2°C (63°F) to 27.8°C (82°F) range, and Popayan is between 12.8°C (55°F) and 25°C (77°F). Leticia, in the Amazon Basin, is warm between 22.8°C (73°F) and 31.1°C (88°F), with 355.6mm (14") of rainfall, and experiences the summer season of the Southern Hemisphere in January. The daylight lasts for 12 hours and 20 minutes, with a high relative humidity between 75% and 95% in the rainforest. Barranquilla is dry, with 9 hours of brilliant sunshine and temperatures between 22.8°C (73°F) to 31.1°C (88°F). Riohacha, in the northern region, has the coldest temperatures of the year between 22.2°C (72°F) and 32.2°C (90°F). The Caribbean Sea at 26.1°C (79°F) is suitable for swimming and sunbathing. January is an ideal time to visit Colombia.
Weather in February
February has comfortable conditions in much of Colombia, with relatively less precipitation. Cartagena and Barranquilla on the northwestern shores register between 23.9°C (75°F) to 32.2°C (90°F), with daily sunshine of 9 hours and no rainfall. The relative humidity along the Caribbean Sea Coast is between 70% and 95%, and the seawaters are above 26.1°C (79°F). Tumaco has average temperatures between 22.8°C (73°F) to 28.9°C (84°F) but receives only 5 hours of daily sunshine and 279.4mm (11") of precipitation in February. The average seawater temperatures below a warm 26.7°C (80.1°F) near the Pacific Coast are favorable for water activities. Bogota has spring-like weather with temperatures usually in the range of 7.2°C (45°F) to 20°C (68°F). The average hourly wind speeds remain below 6.1km/h (3.8mph) and blow predominantly from the north. February is the driest month in Quibdo, the rainiest city in Colombia, with 508mm (20") of precipitation in 22 wet days. A rain jacket is handy in Colombia during any part of the year. February offers beautiful weather in many regions of Colombia.
Weather in March
March brings warm temperatures in Colombia, with moderate rainfall. The daily sunshine lasts for 7 hours in the north and northwest regions but registers below 5 hours in the rest of the country. The average high temperatures touch 32.8°C (91°F) in the Guajira Peninsula and the deserts of the north, with negligible rainfall. The slopes of Nevado del Ruiz in the Andes register in the cold zone of 1.1°C (34°F) to 8.9°C (48°F). Frost, ice, and snow occur in the high mountain ranges. Cali, at an altitude of 100 meters, is warm between 18.9°C (66°F) to 30°C (86°F), with 144.8mm (5.7") of precipitation in March. Much of Colombia registers 12 hours of daylight, and the conditions are comfortable. Popayan in the south receives 210.8mm (8.3") of precipitation and has spring-like temperatures between 12.8°C (55°F) to 25°C (77°F). The skies are overcast for 85% to 90% of the time in the country in March, and the humidity is high. Temperatures gradually increase in most regions by March-end in Colombia.
Weather in April
April sees a rise in temperatures and precipitation in Colombia. The equatorial regions in the west and southeast register relative humidity between 75% and 95% and ample precipitation between 304.8mm (12") to 660.4mm (26"). The average temperatures in Tumaco and Leticia are in the 22.8°C (73°F) to 31.1°C (88°F) range. In the Andes region, Bogota registers average temperatures between 8.9°C (48°F) to 20°C (68°F), with 99.1mm (3.9") of rainfall. The daily sunshine lasts for hardly 3 hours, as the skies are cloudy for 90% of the time. The days remain comfortable, with relative humidity in the 5% to 60% range amid a predominantly eastern wind in the capital. The Pacific Coast is humid and rainy, with hardly 4 hours of sunshine every day. Cartagena and Barranquilla are sunny and dry, with temperatures in the 23.9°C (75°F) to 32.2°C (90°F) zone. The average surface temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean are between 26.1°C (79°F) to 27.2°C (81°F). April provides fair weather in much of Colombia.
Weather in May
May is the first maximum of the rainy period, with high humidity in most of Colombia. The precipitation readings are 71.1mm (2.8") in Riohacha, 127mm (5") in Cartagena, Arboletes, and San Andres, 375.9mm (14.8") in Acandi, 718.8mm (28.3") in Quibdo, and 360.7mm (14.2") in Tumaco and Leticia. Many regions report the highest rainfall of the year and cloudy skies for more than 90% of the time. The humidity touches 95% during the day, which lasts up to 12.5 hours. The heat index is high, with average temperatures between 29.4°C (84.9°F) to 32.2°C (90°F) on the plains. Nights remain mostly humid at low altitudes. Temperate areas register between 8.9°C (48°F) to 27.8°C (82°F), while high mountains above 4000 meters remain in the cold 2.2°C (36°F) to 7.8°C (46°F). The rainforest weather is sticky, rainy, and cloudy. Wear long-sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, and a light rain jacket during a trip to the Amazon Basin. Expect thunderstorms in the afternoon regularly that bring heavy rain and lightning strikes. May is a generally avoidable time to visit Colombia.
Weather in June
June is cloudy, humid, and wet in much of Colombia, but cold in the southern part. Temperatures below altitudes of 1000 meters are usually in the 22.8°C (73°F) to 32.2°C (90°F) range. The extreme north registers many days above 37.8°C (100°F). At intermediate altitudes, Cali and Medellin register average temperatures between 17.2°C (63°F) to 28.9°C (84°F), with 5 hours of daily sunshine, and at least 152.4mm (6") of rainfall in June. The islands of San Andres and Providencia register 205.7mm (8.1") of precipitation, the highest of the year, in June. However, the temperatures are usually in the 26.1°C (79°F) to 31.1°C (88°F), with 6 hours of daily sunshine. The seasons reverse to the south of the equator, so Leticia is cool between 21.1°C (70°F) and 28.9°C (84°F). The Amazon Basin sees relatively less rainfall at 205.7mm (8.1"), and the humidity is bearable in the mild winter. June begins the hurricane season in Colombia.
Weather in July
July is the warmest month in three-fourth of Colombia that lies above the equator. The deserts and savanna regions register average temperatures between 22.8°C (73°F) to 35°C (95°F), with 7 hours of daily sunshine. Cartagena receives up to 119.4mm (4.7"), while Barranquilla records a summer minimum of 66mm (2.6"). Tumaco on the western coast ranges between 23.9°C (75°F) to 28.9°C (84°F), with daily sunshine of 4 hours amid 165.1mm (6.5") of rainfall. Bogota is cloudy up to 73% of the time, with average temperatures in the 7.8°C (46°F) to 17.8°C (64°F) range. Wear breathable clothes to adjust to the high humidity. Light rain jackets are preferable to counter the rain. The average hourly wind speeds increase from a low of 3.2km/h (2mph) in the interior to 16.1km/h (10mph) along the coast. The average seawater temperatures are warm between 27.2°C (81°F) to 28.3°C (82.9°F) in the northwest and 26.7°C (80.1°F) to 27.8°C (82°F) in the west. July is an excellent time to visit the relatively cool Amazon Basin in Colombia, where the temperatures are at its lowest.
Weather in August
August has the highest frequency of hurricanes in Colombia, which occur mainly in the far north and the islands of San Andres and Providencia. Quibdo, on the southwest coast, registers 840.7mm (33.1"), the highest rainfall of the year, and temperatures in the 22.8°C (73°F) to 31.1°C (88°F) zone. The northern regions are mostly hot and humid, with daily highs above 37.8°C (100°F) in the arid regions. The high mountains have pristine weather in the summer but are prone to thunderstorms. Between altitudes of 1000 meters and 2000 meters, the temperatures usually range between 12.2°C (54°F) to 30°C (86°F), with less than 6 hours of daily sunshine. The southernmost regions are relatively dry and record comfortable temperatures between 21.1°C (70°F) to 31.1°C (88°F). The average seawater temperatures remain warm above 27.8°C (82°F) and are suitable for swimming. Stick to light summer clothing and sweatshirts in humid regions, but carry a sweater or jacket at altitudes above 2000 meters. Tourists generally prefer a visit to the southern regions of Colombia in August.
Weather in September
September is warm and humid in Colombia, with the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere. The far northern deserts reach average daily highs of 36.1°C (97°F), while the north coast in Riohacha ranges between 23.9°C (75°F) to 32.8°C (91°F). The Caribbean Sea is warm above 27.8°C (82°F), but the coast records high precipitation of 129.5mm (5.1"). The northwest and central regions in the savanna record up to 152.4mm (6") of rainfall and are warm and humid, with 6 hours of daily sunshine. Bogota is chilly in the zone of 8.3°C (46.9°F) to 18.3°C (64.9°F) and cloudy up to 75% of the time. September brings an average of 5 hours of sunlight during 12 hours of daylight in much of Colombia. The average hourly wind speeds remain below 7.2km/h (4.5mph) in most regions except the coast, where scarves are useful. Rain jackets are helpful almost everywhere in the country. The rainforest region registers an uptick in precipitation by the end of September in Colombia.
Weather in October
October is the wettest period that brings the second maximum of the rainy period in Colombia. The precipitation readings are 149.9mm (5.9") in Riohacha, 165.1mm (6.5") in Barannaquilla, 238.8mm (9.4") in Cartagena, 205.7mm (8.1") in Arboletes, 325.1mm (12.8") in San Andres, 640.1mm (25.2") in Quibdo, and 274.3mm (10.8") in Leticia. The daily sunshine lasts less than 5 hours in most regions, and the skies remain cloudy for 73% to 82% of the time. Popayan, at 2000 meters in the Andes region, registers between 12.8°C (55°F) to 26.1°C (79°F), with hardly 4 hours of sunshine every day. Leticia in the southeast registers average temperatures in the range of 22.8°C (73°F) to 31.1°C (88°F), with high relative humidity of 80% to 100%. The sun rises before 5.40 a.m. and sets after 5.30 p.m. in most of the country. The average seawater temperatures on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts are at the warmest of the year above 28.9°C (84°F). October is a humid month, with heavy rainfall, thunderstorms, and hurricanes in Colombia.
Weather in November
November is wet in many parts of Colombia and brings the highest precipitation of the year in a few places. The skies remain overcast between 77% and 88% of the time, but the cloud cover decreases in the north during the month. Many regions register at least 20 wet days in the month. San Alfonso, in the Tatacoa Desert, registers its coldest period between 22.2°C (72°F) to 32.2°C (90°F). Cartagena and Arboletes see 6 hours of daily sunshine, with highs of 32.2°C (90°F), and 152.4mm (6") to 203.2mm (8") of rain. The Pacific Coast is mostly cloudy and receives only 3 hours of sunshine every day. Bogota has comfortable temperatures between 7.8°C (46°F) to 18.9°C (66°F), with 139.7mm (5.5") of rainfall and 4 hours of daily sunshine. The relative humidity ranges between 55% and 65%, and the conditions are pleasant in the capital. Popayan receives 330.2mm (13") in November, the highest of the year, and is mostly cloudy. Expect the temperatures to decrease gradually to the north of the equator in November in Colombia.
Weather in December
December is wet and cloudy in many places in Colombia but sees a drop in temperatures in the north. The Guajira Peninsula has average temperatures between 22.8°C (73°F) to 32.2°C (90°F), which begins the best conditions of the year. The northwest region is between 23.9°C (75°F) to 32.2°C (90°F) and sees 6 hours to 8 hours of daily sunshine. The Pacific Coast and the southeast see an increase in cloudy skies and precipitation, with temperatures usually in the 22.8°C (73°F) to 30°C (86°F) zone. The average hourly wind speeds in the interior are between 2.4km/h (1.5mph) and 6.4km/h (4mph), while the coasts are breezy between 12.9km/h (8mph) and 16.1km/h (10mph). Scarves are useful on the coast, while sweaters and jackets are helpful at high altitudes. Cali and Medellin, at altitudes below 1500 meters, register warm temperatures between 18.9°C (66°F) to 27.8°C (82°F), and a relatively low 101.6mm (4") to 127mm (5") of rainfall. December is the beginning of the favorable weather period that begins the tourist season in Colombia.