From Cali to Ipiales: The Most Beautiful Road Trip in Colombia


If you have been reading my blog for long, you may realize that I am a nature addict. When a fellow traveler showed me the fantastic scenery she captured on her bus journey from Cali to Ipiales, I just know I want to take this trip.

Cali to Ipiales By Bus

The bus trip from Cali to Ipiales usually takes 12 hours. There are daily and nightly buses transporting passengers from Cali to Ipiales. I recommend you take the day bus with Bolivariano to appreciate the beauty of this road. During my road trip in Colombia, there are instances where cheap and small buses stops everywhere to pick up passengers and that makes an originally long journey even longer. Expreso Bolivariano offers the best travel experience coming from their large leg room, comfortable seats, and it only stops at designated bus terminals.

Cali to Ipiales bus trip

Ready to take the 12-hour bus from Cali to Ipiales

You can book the buses from Cali to Ipiales online via Busbud, or show up at the bus station to get your ticket. I purchased my ticket at the Cali terminal shortly before departure, and the price was 11,000 pesos lower than advertised online.

Cali to Ipiales – The Most Scenic Road Trip in Colombia

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way”

I have taken several bus journeys in Colombia and was impressed by the verdant hills and lush pasture lands of the countryside, but Cali to Ipiales is the most scenic road I have been on, with vast landscapes, endless views of the Andes mountain range, idyllic valleys, waterfalls cascading into the river, colonial towns, and small villages drafted by towering mountains. Traveling south from Cali is a step back in time as if I was transported back to another Colombia 30 years ago, as everything looks serene, rural, and traditional.

Cali to Ipiales bus trip

Occasionally, there are children and families walking on the side of the road and glancing at the mountains looming in the distance. This captured my imagination and made me wonder what the lives of locals are really like to live in traditional villages with little access to technology and the outside world? Instead of being rushed to work and school, they went to little roadside shops and white-washed traditional houses, happily talking with their friends. Meanwhile, the owner of the small store took time to chat with their customers with gorgeous vistas on all sides.

Cali to Ipiales bus trip

Cali to Ipiales bus: The Most Beautiful Road Trip in Colombia

Around two pm, the bus stopped at a roadside restaurant for us to get lunch. After lunch, I briefly walked around the area surrounded by verdant hills and extensive farm fields. At 2:30 pm, we again got on the bus and traveled further south. This continued with the road so windy and the driver maniacally speeding. I sat still with my purse on my lap trying to keep balance. This did not bother me as the view out the window become more appealing big mountains and lakes and our bus was still playing some loud salsa and vallenato tunes.

Cali to Ipiales bus: the most beautiful road trip in Colombia

The sun started setting behind the mountains and around 7pm we arrived in Pasto in the dark to drop off passengers, and then continue onto our final destination of Ipiales.

Cali to Ipiales bus: The Most Beautiful Road Trip in Colombia

Ipiales – My last stop in Colombia

I arrived in Ipiales after 12 hours on the road and checked myself into the Hotel Avanty to enjoy my own room and space. It is only $26 per night with a private room and an ensuite bathroom, free breakfast and a in-room minibar.

Ipiales is a border town close to Ecuador and it is the sort of place that you arrive and feel you are somewhere in between two countries, despite it being geographically located inside Colombia.

Cali to Ipiales bus: The Most Beautiful Road Trip in Colombia

My room at Hotel Avanty in Ipiales, Colombia

Las Lajas Sanctuary in Ipiales 

Ipiales has little to offer other than Las Lajas Sanctuary where I visited for the day. It has a Gothic-style church sitting in the canyon, surrounded by ever flowing rivers, cascading waterfalls and rolling mountains.

I walked to the waterfalls to appreciate the sheer beauty of this place and then walked down to the railing on the riverside. A Colombian couple had been taking the same path all along. We said hi and they invited me to lunch and ice cream at the nearby village. They asked to take pictures with me and filmed our travel and our lunch time to show their children how happy they were to meet a foreigner. This was the last time I made Colombian friends while I traveled in Colombia, as in the afternoon they left for Pasto and I stayed in Ipiales to sip my last cup of coffee.

Cali to Ipiales bus trip: The Most Beautiful Road Trip in Colombia

Las Lajas Sanctuary, Ipiales, Colombia

Farewell Colombia

When I walked across the bridge to Ecuador, I had a crazy thought of taking the bus to travel back north. There were so many places in Colombia I was keen to visit, and I have not explored them all. Meanwhile. I have stayed and stuck in beautiful towns I have never planned to set my feet on – Armenia, Sogamoso, and San Agustin. There are many gorgeous sceneries and kind- hearted locals who invited me to be part of their lives; these captured my heart and made my trip beautiful. I will never forget turning up to a fruit store in Armenia and ending up chatting with the owner of the store and her friends for two afternoons, before they offered me frozen bananas under the scorching sun.

Cali to Ipiales bus trip: The Most Beautiful Road Trip in Colombia

Beautiful countryside of San Agustin, Colombia

Passing the border and it’s time for a new adventure. I don’t know what Ecuador has in store for me, but I definitely miss Colombia and want to continue writing about my adventure there to inspire others to discover this beautiful country.

Cali to Ipiales bus

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Road trip from Cali to Ipiales is always on my Colombia’s travel bucket list. This 12-hour road trip takes you to the country side of the Colombia, where beautiful nature and traditional culture thrives. It also takes you to Ipiales, where you can see the most beautiful Church Las Lajas Sanctuary. Click on this pin to read more about this trip, the bus travel tips and why it is one of the unmissable things to do in Colombia.

More posts that will help you plan your travels in Colombia:

Julie Cao

Julie is the creator of Always On The Way. She lived in Hawaii and now resides in London (Ontario, Canada). In 2017, she went on an overland trip from Bogota Colombia to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in the world. She believes travel is not only about visiting tourist attractions but more about getting to know the culture, people, and the place.

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