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I love Latin America.

The people, the culture, the nature, the language; all of it is amazing.

We spent almost all of 2017 (and the beginning of 2018) traveling in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico, and I hope that we can return someday to see even more of both South and Central America.

Unfortunately, what many people have to base their opinion on when deciding where to travel in Latin America is what they see in the media.

While there certainly are places that you probably shouldn’t visit in both Mexico and Colombia if you value your life, the reality for both countries is much different than what you might expect.

So, let’s take a look at traveling in Mexico vs. Colombia to see which option is right for you.

Tourist Attractions

Although I don’t feel the need to seek out every tourist attraction that a city or country has to offer, I do enjoy seeing the sites as time allows.

If there’s one thing missing for tourists in Colombia, it’s probably a wide range of true tourist attractions as compared to other countries in Latin America. Some of the most popular are…

While there are certainly other things to do, these are the ones I found that most people tend to visit.

the colorful streets of Guatape, Colombia

Exploring the colorful streets of Guatape, Colombia

If tourist attractions are your thing, you won’t be disappointed in Mexico.

Some of the most popular are…

  • The beaches and islands of Quintana Roo (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, etc.)
  • Mayan ruins like Coba, Chichen Itza, and more
  • Underground Cenotes
  • Colonial cities like Taxco, Puebla, and San Miguel de Allende
  • Laguna Bacalar
  • Boat cruises and scuba diving
  • Many national parks

I had to really limit myself on the Mexico one just because there’s so much to see. For me, their list of tourist attractions beats Colombia’s any day. 

Mexico vs. Colombia Tourist Attraction Winner: Mexico

Ease of Tourism

Because of the sheer volume of tourist attractions in Mexico, there are a ton of different choices for all types of travelers. Whether you want to do everything on your own or do an organized/prepaid tour, there are always options available to you.

Since Colombia is still in the earlier stages of its tourism industry, everything can be just a little bit more difficult to figure out. There isn’t always a ton of information about what to do, and there aren’t many easy options for organized tours if that’s what you’re looking for.

Mexico vs. Colombia Ease of Tourism Winner: Mexico

Infrastructure

Latin America isn’t exactly known for having the easiest infrastructure to navigate, but I found Colombia and Mexico to both have pretty good infrastructure for whatever you need.

In the bigger cities, you can almost always find nice grocery stores, access to public transportation (Mexico City and Medellin both have metros), modern highways, shopping malls, taxis, Uber, and options for quality healthcare.

Mexico vs. Colombia Infrastructure Winner: Tie

Nature and Hiking

Both Mexico and Colombia are beautiful countries with a lot of nature to see.

However, what I found in Colombia (at least in Medellin) was that nature was a bit difficult to access if you didn’t have a car. With that said, there are plenty of really nice places around the country for you to enjoy. Whether you visit Santa Marta, Jardin, or Salento, there’s a lot of beautiful scenery.

The main advantage that Mexico has is that the country is significantly bigger than Colombia, so there are just more options. We swam in cenotes in Tulum, spent days on the beaches of Playa del Carmen, relaxed at the stunning Lake of 7 Colors at Laguna Bacalar, and hiked near active volcanoes in Izta-Popo National Park. Overall, the nature in Mexico is way more varied, interesting, and accessible than it is in Colombia.

Mexico vs. Colombia Nature and Hiking Winner: Mexico

water swings at Laguna Bacalar

Relaxing in the water swings on Laguna Bacalar

Nightlife

Colombia is famous for its nightlife scene. No matter what city you’re in, you can find wild bars, clubs, or parties to go to. This is especially true in the cities that tourists tend to go to, Medellin and Bogota.

Poblado has the best nightlife in Colombia, but you can find one just as good in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Additionally, Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world, so you can find whatever you’re looking for there as well. They also have a much better rising craft beer scene in Mexico City, which I enjoyed taste testing during our trip.

Both countries have great nightlife, but Mexico just comes out ahead on this round. 

Mexico vs. Colombia Nightlife Winner: Mexico

Safety

Both countries have been plagued by drug violence over the years.

However, Colombia has managed to reduce it significantly (at least anywhere that you will likely see), and there’s no question that it’s an incredibly safe country for you to visit as long as you’re smart.

On the other hand, Mexico is still fighting its war on drugs. With that said, the violence tends to be concentrated in specific areas of the country that you can easily avoid. We never felt the least bit unsafe at any point during our two months in Mexico, even while visiting a city (Taxco) in one of the states (Guerrero) that the United States has on its no travel list.

In both countries, common sense prevails. If you’re seeking drugs, prostitutes, or any other nefarious activities, all bets are off.

Mexico vs. Colombia Safety Winner: Colombia

Food

I love food, and it’s one of the most important things to me when I’m traveling.

There’s a lot of good Colombian food (bandeja paisa, anyone?), and there are also quite a few different international options for you if you’re in the bigger cities. Even in the less touristy neighborhood of Envigado in Medellin, there were definitely some really good restaurants.

However, for me, Colombian food doesn’t come close to Mexican food. Being from the United States, I’ve always enjoyed Mexican food, so it was pretty great to be able to get really amazing and cheap Mexican food wherever I went. There’s also a ton of really great options for international food as well in Mexico City, which sealed the deal.

Mexico vs. Colombia Foor Winner: Mexico

shrimp tacos in Mexico

Shrimp and avocado tacos (be still, my heart) on the beach in Playa del Carmen

Overall Winner of Mexico vs. Colombia

There’s really no question for me when it comes down to which country I recommend visiting. The score says it all, and Mexico wins this showdown 5 to 1. Although I loved the time that I spent in Colombia, Mexico just comes out ahead.

Whether you’re a long-term traveler or someone looking for an easy and fun vacation, Mexico has it all.

Ready to go? Explore hotels in the popular Roma neighborhood in Mexico City or browse the best beachside escapes in Playa del Carmen and Tulum

Still not sure where to go next? Keep reading the Country Comparison series to see more showdowns like Mexico vs. Peru in South America, Thailand vs. Vietnam in Asia, Norway vs. Sweden in Europe and so much more!

10 Comments

  1. JIm

    Compare Mexico
    With Colombia is like comparing USA with Belize. Mexico is huge, big, is like a continent , with the most sophisticated nightlife in Latin America . It is Better to compare Mexico with Brazil . Colombia is too much small and without any decent nightlife and entertainment options for US people.

    Reply
    • Di Michelle

      Interesting take, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Reply
    • coolman

      I think Mexico will have an edge when compared to any other Latin Country due to the amount of people that travel there Mexico probably gets more international arrivals in 2 months than Colombia gets in a whole year.

      Reply
  2. Joshua

    Quintana Roo is the perfect storm of global tourism gone bad. Cancun has all-inclusive crowd, Tulum has obnoxious hipsters, Akumal has cruise ship crowd, and PDC has remote working libertarian techbros.It’s the least interesting part of Mexico. Meanwhile Poblado is the least interesting part of Medellin, and Colombia as a whole, a small version of Playa with a bit of Tulum mixed in – in that it’s mostly young foreigners who just come to club and drink coffee (sample some of Colombia’s other famous export) for cheap. If people like sanitized version of Latin America that fits neatly on instagram posts then this is where they should go. But if they like more texture and they learn a bit more of Spanish, and come with open mind they can see more wondrous things both in Colombia and Mexico….

    Reply
    • Di Michelle

      Writing off an entire coast of Mexico and one of the biggest cities in Colombia isn’t exactly open minded… We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

      Reply
    • Gregg E

      Please clarify Joshua. You sound knowledgeable… what are the best places to visit in Colombia? It sounds like you don’t enjoy Cartagena? Colombia as a whole is … “a small version of Playa — with a bit of Tulum”..? What does this mean?? The entire country?

      Reply
  3. cameron cox

    Hi! I think that Colombia would be a great place to visit . has a great variety of climates and places to visit, it´s urbanization (Medellin, Bogota and Cartagena) in my opinion is better than that of some other country in Latin America or rather if you want to visit it for its landscapes, the culture that keeps or simply for the coffee, I do not think you’ll be disappointed

    Reply
    • Di Michelle

      It definitely is a great place to visit, it all just depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation!

      Reply
  4. Beth

    FYI I keep trying to read posts on this blog, but each one appears with the same content (a post about craft beer).

    Reply
    • Di Michelle

      Thanks Beth – I’m working to get that fixed and everything should be back to normal in the next few hours.

      Reply

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