Wondering what to buy in Colombia? Colombia’s diversity of cultures makes it a unique place for souvenir shopping. Some of the best souvenirs in Colombia are clothing, accessories, and art made by indigenous artisans. The low cost of living and the current strong U.S. dollar mean that you can stock up on lots of souvenirs for low prices.
This post will tell you exactly what to buy in Colombia plus give you some things that you can get from home if you’re not able to make it to the country or if you are regretting not buying more souvenirs in Colombia, like I am!
The best souvenirs in Colombia are generally things that are handmade, sustainable, and are not for sale at tourist shops. Of course, they should remind you of your time in the country, too! Most of the items are available all over Colombia but there are a few that are specific to certain locations.
If you are heading to Colombia, I always recommend reading up on your destination to be a better-informed, more responsible traveler. Check out my favorite book for this here.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from these links you’ll be helping to support this blog at no extra cost to you–thank you!
Salt Figures from La Catedral de Sal
A little less than an hour outside of the capital city of Bogotá, you can visit one of the most popular tourist sites at La Catedral de Sal or in English, the Salt Cathedral. It is one of the most unique sites to visit in Colombia because you get to go underground into the salt mine and explore the amazing cathedral and all of the incredible salt carvings.
There are intricate salt carvings of crosses, nature, and more throughout the entire underground site. When you’re down in the mine, you can shop at all the merchant stands, which is where I found some of my favorite souvenirs from my time in Colombia.
The pure salt figures I bought while down in the mine are just as intricate and detailed as the large carvings throughout the mine. The turtles’ shell has a cute little design and the cross has extremely detailed carvings and designs for such a small piece. And one of the best parts about these unique souvenirs is that I spent less than $5 for them.
I bought tons of souvenirs from Colombia during my six months in the country and these are some of the only ones that I still have six years later. They are small, cheap, unique, and something you can only find down in the Salt Cathedral mine.
Carriel Bags of Jerico, Colombia
Before modern roads were built, trade and communication between the mountain towns located south of Medellin were difficult.
Muleteers filled the gap by traveling with a group of up to 30 mules to bring supplies, mail, and news to these remote villages. But they needed a safe place to store their items – money, gunpowder, photos of their loved ones (and their mistress), tobacco, and playing cards. You get the idea.
The route was very different from today, where you can jump on a bus or a chiva to explore these weekend and day trips from Medellin. As a result, the carriel bag of Jerico was developed with a few design elements that were essential for the difficult journey.
First, they had to be made mostly of leather to withstand the weather. Second, they needed a lot of pockets to hold various items. This included hidden pockets to store their valuables – mostly money and that photo of their mistress which they needed to keep hidden.
Carriel bags are made from more than 100 pieces of leather that are carefully cut out and stitched together. The outside is typically a shiny patent black leather decorated with animal fur and trimmed with green, yellow, and red – the colors of Jerico and Antioquia. These gusseted bags open to reveal an accordion of pockets inside. Twelve pockets to be exact, including several secret pockets and one super secret pocket.
With a long history in the region of Antioquia, the carriel bag is one of the best souvenirs from Colombia to remind you of this rugged, beautiful country.
Contributed by Julien of Cultures Traveled. Follow her on Instagram here.
If you’ll be in Jerico, get your carriel bag and then do a tour of the area by horseback!
Sombrero Vueltiao Black and White Hat
This may be the most recognized symbol of Colombia. These hats are handmade with a type of reed grown in Colombia, some of which is dyed black with mud. The hats can take anywhere from three to 30 days to make, depending on how many reeds are used and how intricate the design is. The reeds are very flexible, and the hats can be twisted and folded and still maintain their original shape.
The sombrero vueltiao or turned hat originated in northern Colombia, created by Zenú tribes but today is worn all over Colombia and has become a symbol of national pride.
When shopping, make sure you buy the true hand-made hats and not the knock-offs made of plastic. You can expect to pay $25-90, depending on the style. It’s one of the best souvenirs in Colombia!
Get your own sombrero vueltiao on Etsy.
It’s Colombia, not Columbia
Any visitor to Colombia soon learns that many people can’t spell. Locals know it too and they’ve turned that problem into a funny souvenir for the country.
Many native English speakers misspell Colombia, replacing the second O with a U, like the university instead of the nation. Now the misnomer is one of the most popular Colombian souvenirs.
The “It’s Colombia, Not Columbia” souvenir is available nation-wide: from Santa Marta to Medellin, Cartagena to the Zona Cafetera, items with this slogan are available everywhere.
This Colombia souvenir is a great keepsake for anyone thanks to its versatility. The motto is emblazoned on a wide range of merchandise and sold throughout Colombia. Tourists love the witty slogan so much it’s printed on ball caps, coffee mugs, tote bags, tee-shirts, hoodies, fridge magnets, anything a visitor will buy! Prices start as low as $5 for magnets and rise for the more elaborate products. While available at the airport for last minute gifts, it’s always more affordable to buy anywhere else.
This souvenir is a fun reminder of a fun country, where people and tourists can laugh together over a common mistake. And you’ll never forget how to spell Colombia once you’ve visited this wonderful place.
Contributed by Mel from Mel On The Go. Catch her on Instagram here.
One of the best and most interesting souvenirs you can buy in Colombia are emeralds. Did you know that Colombia is one of the highest producers of emeralds in the world? They are the third highest exporters of emeralds (after Zambia and Brazil), but they without question export the highest quality emeralds.
Emeralds are mainly harvested in the regions right around Bogota, so Bogota is where you’ll find the most emerald dealers and markets in Colombia. However, Cartagena is also a good place to buy emeralds, and you can find many stores around the city selling emeralds.
Emeralds vary in price depending on the size and quality. Darker, more translucent stones are more precious than lighter, more opaque stones, and stones with more inclusions (air bubbles or small imperfections inside the gem) are generally less valuable than stones with less inclusions. However, all real stones will have inclusions, if they don’t, then it’s likely a fake.
You can also buy emeralds that are still connected to rock. These stones are not polished or refined, but seeing them enveloped in rock is a pretty cool souvenir. Finally, you can buy emeralds that have been sculpted into shapes, or even gems that are a part of a larger sculpture.
During your stay in Bogota, the Emerald Market is a good place to start your search for the perfect emerald. If you don’t find what you want there, just continue looking throughout the city, you’ll definitely run into many emerald stores in the La Candelaria district. In Cartagena, there are also many stores scattered throughout the Walled City.
Small, lighter stones start at around $30, and can go into the hundreds to thousands of dollars for larger or deeper green pieces.
When shopping, hold up the emerald to the light to check for inclusions, make sure to haggle for the price (even in an fancy shop, you can and should still haggle), and double check that the gem they packaged up for you is the gem that you purchased, and you’ll come home with a unique and beautiful souvenir you can enjoy for years to come.
Contributed by Stephanie from The Unknown Enthusiast. Catch her on Instagram here.
Wayuu Mochila Bags
Colombian mochila bags, also known as Wayuu bags, are hand-woven bags that are traditionally made by the Wayuu indigenous people of Colombia. They are made with a technique called “crochet,” which involves using a hook to weave threads together. The bags are known for their intricate designs, bold colors, and high-quality craftsmanship.
One of the things that makes Colombian mochila bags unique is the fact that each one is completely handmade, making them one of a kind. The designs and patterns used on the bags are often passed down through generations and are influenced by the Wayuu’s cultural beliefs and traditions. The bags are typically made with cotton thread, but some artisans also use acrylic or wool thread.
Colombian mochila bags come in a variety of sizes and styles, from small purses to large totes. They are typically used for everyday use, but are also popular as beach bags, travel bags and even as fashion statements. The prices of mochila bags vary depending on the size, design, and materials used, with smaller bags costing around $15 and larger bags costing up to $50.
When buying a Colombian mochila bag, it’s important to look for authentic and high-quality bags that are made by skilled artisans. Avoid buying imitations, as these are often made with lower quality materials and lack the craftsmanship of authentic mochila bags.
It’s also good to know that many of the artisans are women and buying a mochila bag directly supports the Wayuu community and their economic development.
Get a fair trade Wayuu bag on Etsy.
Chiva Bus Figurines
One of the most iconic Colombian souvenirs you can buy is a miniature version of the Chiva Bus. These decorative rustic buses are used throughout rural Colombia and have been adapted to the rugged terrain and mountain roads. You’ll find them dotted around beautiful plazas and running between the smaller towns, and are a novelty to ride on for anyone visiting Colombia.
So iconic is the Chiva bus that its idea is now used as gifts and is the go-to souvenir from Colombia. You’ll find keepsakes from small toys to magnets and figurines, they will even be on postcards and paintings! These souvenirs represent Colombia’s mixed culture and heritage and should always showcase the traditional Colombian colours: yellow, red and blue.
One of the best souvenirs you can buy from Colombia is the Chiva bus mini magnet. They come in various forms and sizes but are easy to carry and can be found in multi-packs, meaning they make great gifts. You’ll find them everywhere from souvenir shops in Bogota to market stalls in Cartagena. The original hand-painted clay magnets are recommended.
Contributed by Abi of I’m Going On An Adventure. Follow them on Instagram here.
Get a chiva bus ornament to remember your trip!
Getsamani Art from Cartagena
There is no place in Cartagena to feel the pride or understand the history of the Colombian Afro-Carribean roots than in Getsemani. And no better souvenir than a piece of art created in this vibrant neighborhood of Cartagena.
Getsemani has a rich history dating back to the colonial era, when it was settled by enslaved Africans brought over to the space. The area was known for its sprawling slave markets and harsh living conditions.
However, in the 19th century, the neighborhood began to change as it became a popular destination for merchants, and later, tourists. Today, Getsemani is known for its colorful and cultural street art.
Any trip to Cartagena should include a walking tour of the street art of Getsemani. And if you fall in love with the work that you see, a piece of art from the neighborhood is the perfect souvenir.
Artists in Getsemani make larger pieces that hang outside of their shops and line the streets and alleys of the neighborhood with these larger pieces. Artists then make smaller, more affordable copies of those works to buy. Art work really varies in price, but even those on a budget can pick up a small piece for $10-$15.
In buying art work in Getsemani, you have an amazing reminder of your time in this neighborhood that has truly reinvented itself. And the best part of buying art is you are supporting a local Getsemani artist whose work celebrates this area’s resilient and vibrant culture.
Contributed by Faith from 3 Tickets Please. Catch them on Instagram here.
A guayabera shirt is a great souvenir to buy for a male when in Colombia! Guayabera shirts are simple linen or cotton shirts for males – perfect to wear in hot temperatures as they are made of a light breathable fabric. The shirts are unique as they come with pockets (often 4 pockets) and have two rows of pleats sewn down the front of the shirt.
The Guayabera makes for a great souvenir as it is comfortable and stylish and you can wear it time and time again on your subsequent holidays to hot destinations! They are versatile as they go well on the beach, during the day or for evening drinks and are effortlessly Latino.
Guayabera shirts can be purchased from many stores and markets in Colombia, but you’ll see a greater concentration of them in the Caribbean region of Colombia such as Cartagena, as the climate is a lot more hot and humid up there than the rest of Colombia. Prices will vary – you can get them for as little as $10 at a market stall, or you can pay a lot more if you want one of higher quality at a boutique store.
Guayabera shirts are extremely popular and can be found across many Latin American and Caribbean countries, not just Colombia. They are thought to have originated in Cuba or Mexico, however if you’ll be going to a Colombian wedding you’ll need to make sure you have one as the dress code for all males at a Colombian wedding is a white Guayabera!
Contributed by Catrina from 24 Hours Layover. See her Youtube Channel here.
Colombian Food and Drink to Carry Home or Order
As you can imagine, the best things to eat and drink in Colombia are best enjoyed in Colombia. But, if you want to remember your experience a few months later, here are some products you’ll recognize that you can get in The States:
- Aguardiente: this anis-flavored firewater has a sweet burn to it. It’s available in specialty liquor stores.
- Colombiana La Nuestra: Even more widely loved than aguardiente is the clear brown Colombiana soda
- Colombian candy: Jet chocolate is the Hershey’s equivalent and bars are usually wrapped to include little collectable pictures. Peanuts are popular in candies and also arequipe, which is like dulce de leche. Get an assortment of different candies here.
- Obleas: If you buy these in Colombia they may not last long enough to get them home, as they are sweet arequipe sandwiched between two thin wafers and you’ll want to eat them all. Obleas are a favorite Colombian snack.
- Buñuelos y Natilla: If you are in Colombia during the Christmas season you will see these Christmas foods everywhere. Buñuelos are round, fried doughnuts and natilla is a flan-like pudding. Buy the mixes to make them at home.
- Panela: blocks of unrefined raw cane sugar are very common and used to flavor food and drinks like aguapanela.
Colombian coffee is known for its rich, smooth and well-balanced flavor, making it one of the most popular and sought-after coffees in the world. The coffee is grown in the Andean region of Colombia, which has ideal conditions for coffee production, including high altitudes, rich soil, and a consistent climate. Colombian coffee is usually made with the Arabica variety, which is known for its mild flavor and lack of bitterness.
One of the things that makes Colombian coffee unique is the fact that it is grown and processed using traditional methods that have been passed down for generations. Colombian coffee farmers are known for their commitment to quality and sustainability, with many of them using organic and fair trade practices.
When it comes to buying Colombian coffee as a souvenir, it’s important to look for brands that are certified by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation. This certification ensures that the coffee meets strict quality standards and that it was grown and processed in Colombia.
The prices for Colombian coffee vary depending on the type of beans, roast, and brand. You can expect to pay around $10 for a 12 oz bag of Colombian coffee beans, but the prices can go up to $30 or more for specialty blends or organic beans.
When you’re traveling to Colombia, you should take the opportunity to visit coffee farms and try the coffee straight from the source. Many coffee farms offer tours and tastings that allow visitors to learn about the coffee-making process and to try different types of coffee.
Contributed by Victoria from My Australia Trip.
While the coffee region around Manizales is the main coffee area, coffee is grown in many other places and you can even do a coffee day tour from Medellin and pick your own beans.
Traditional Artisan Goods: Straw Marquetry
If you’re looking for something unique and special to bring home from Colombia look no further than the traditional artisan craft called straw marquetry (or “Enchapado de Tamo” in Spanish).
This traditional Colombian craft dates back to the 16th century. Craftsmen embellish wooden objects with fine golden wheat chaff fibers that are dyed vibrant colors using natural pigments. The colored wheat stalks are flattened and ironed and then individually applied to the surface of decorative wood pieces, such as display dishes, platters, or vases.
These beautiful items make great souvenirs to display in your home, adding a bright pop of color to any room while reminding you of your travels in Colombia! Because they are so cheerful and bright, they also make fantastic gifts for friends or family.
You can find these unique pieces at various boutique stores in the old town of Cartagena–a fantastic destination that offers the culture and vibrancy of a historic walled city with the possibility of a Colombia beach vacation.
Straw marquetry is just one of the many traditional artisan goods that you’ll find walking around the cobblestone streets of Cartagena in the evenings. So be sure to take a close look around the shops during your stay, and bring home a great souvenir while supporting the local artisans at the same time.
Contributed by Lee Friedman of Mango Tree Travel. Follow Mango Tree Travel on Instagram for Caribbean family travel tips.
Items with Colombian slang
Colombia, like just about every country, has its own way of saying things. Some of the common Colombian slang is qué chimba (how cool), parche (group of friends, crew), parcero/parce (friend), pola (beer). ¿Qué más? (what’s more?) is the colloquial way of saying what’s up? You can find signs, t-shirts and more with these sayings on them.
A word of warning though–many of these are not exactly family friendly or have a double entendre. For example, Chimba is also a name for female genitalia, so make sure you know what your purchase says before buying it!
Hopefully this collection has given you some ideas of the best souvenirs in Colombia. Happy shopping!
Love souvenirs? Here are the best souvenirs to get in Poland.