Visiting Colombia is like visiting three distinctive, cultural, beautiful countries in one. In this itinerary, you will begin in the Caribbean cultural center of Cartagena, then move onto the idyllic beaches of Tayrona National Park, onto the beautiful coffee country of Pereira, and finally onto metropolitan Bogota.
In the evening, you will be picked up at the airport in Cartagena and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
One can certainly take a tour of Cartagena's historic sites, and we encourage our travelers to partake in such a tour. But Cartagena is about slowing down to a Caribbean pace. The city will seduce you, and slowly, it will ask you to stay longer, and wandering its maze-like streets, you may be tempted.
Rivaling Cusco, Peru for its colonial atmosphere, Cartagena is a beautifully preserved time capsule with a marimba and drum-based soundtrack. Open air cafes offer cooling respite from the humid heat, and beaches laced with tanned locals encourage you to join. Everyone in Cartagena seems to be celebrating something, and it takes one a few days to realize: they're simply celebrating life, and this is the norm here. How could you not want to stay?
Enjoy a half day bike tour of the city. Bike rentals are becoming popular in the old town or Cartagena and this tour give you a whole new perspective of the city.
The tour is better in the late afternoon to avoid the heat a couple of hours of pedal power with your guide exploring the twists and turns of the cobbled streets of the old town is a real delight. Either starting direct from your hotel or a short walk to collect the bikes the routes can vary depending on interests but you can take in some of the old town itself passing by the plazas, chic restaurants and colonial houses.
Alternatively tracing the route of the old walls around the outside of the old town and getting a look at the Caribbean Sea as you pedal along. A great way to end the tour is in the plaza Trinidad in the up and coming neighborhood of Getsemani. You won’t regret taking to pedal power and getting out exploring more of the charms that Cartagena has to offer. (This service is on a private basis.)
This tour is a unique and fascinating insight into the culinary world of Colombia’s Caribbean coast and is designed for adventurous souls who are captivated by indigenous cooking using locally sourced ingredients.
Mercado Bazurto is Cartagena’s labyrinthine central market, an enthralling yet dizzying experience, which will guarantee a full frontal assault on the senses. Guided and shepherded through this captivating world by an expert local guide the market seems to offer all variety of species known to man from the abundance of fish to the endlessly vivid rows of vegetables and fruits, their sweet smells purging the air of the pungent aromas emanating from the butchers’ blocks with their carcasses. A brief respite will be offered by the mountains of dill, cilantro and other purifying herbs but everywhere there are people; gesticulating, whistling, shouting and even singing as they buy and sell everything from pots to hammers and mangos to rosary beads. Men with fish and boys pushing wooden carts, old men packing charcoal and women brewing pots of stew will welcome you into their world.
This market was featured by Anthony Bourdain in his TV program on the Travel Channel in 2008 and like him you will be accompanied by a local chef who will select ingredients with you for the typical local lunch to be cooked in a private colonial house in the walled city. The house is a short drive from the market and on arrival a Colombian soda will be served before the cooking class begins, under the tutelage of your local chef, using the fresh ingredients purchased in the market. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Cartagena and transferred to your accommodations in Santa Marta. (This service is on a private basis.)
The Santa Marta mountains slide easily into Caribbean jungle, and eventually into the balmy beaches of Tayrona. Nearly 30,000 acres of protected beach, dotted with the occasional palm frond lodge, is your playground. The park is large enough to encompass a few different biomes, from the dry west covered in succulents, to the eastern rainforests, all framed by the ocean to the north.
All our lives, we've heard of the legendary Colombian beaches. When the country was closed for business to tourists, they were just a pipe dream. Now they're open to all, and boy, they live up to the hype. Come here, stay here, and then stay here longer. You won't regret it.
Today you will be met by your guide for a full day hiking excursion. Two hours from the picturesque coastline of Tayrona national park lies the pre-Hispanic ruins of a town known as “Pueblito”, where visitors can get away from the crowds and relax in peace.
The ancient town of Pueblito sits high up in the mountains of Tayrona, where it is slightly cooler than by the busy, tourist-filled beaches. On arriving at the ruins, visitors can enjoy the tranquil surroundings without being disturbed, as generally very few people attempt the difficult path through the jungle. Most of the old town is now buried beneath the jungle, but enough remains visible for visitors to imagine how it may once have looked and wonder what life was like over 500 years earlier.
The scenic route to Pueblito leads visitors through the jungle and takes only two hours. Within just one more hour, tourists can be back on the beach taking a dip in the sea to cool off.
After your tour, you will be transferred back to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Santa Marta and transferred to the airport in good time to board your domestic flight to Pereira. Upon arrival in Pereira, you will be picked up at the airport and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Upon arrival at Hacienda Bambusa in Coffee Country's hillsides, enjoy an introductory hike around the functioning farm you'll be calling home. Bambusa is more than just a pretty Hacienda, the 500+ acres that surround and pertain to Bambusa are actively cultivated with fields of banana, cacao, orange, coffee, pineapple and herds of white Brahman cattle.
Welcome to Coffee Country. Quindio is the region in Colombia most well known for mass coffee bean growth, so whether you're staying in Armenia, its capital, or a countryside hacienda, activities here are likely to involve the popular cash crop. Rolling green hills, perpetually tropical green, are continuously worked by a plantation community of locals who are only too happy to feed the coffee drinkers of the world. Locals are very proud of the culture they've worked hard for, and the region's few towns are lined with small cafes serving the goods.
We will visit one of the most attractive coffee estates to witness the daily activity on this traditional hacienda. Coffee cupping with an expert will bring our senses to a higher level. This excursion has been specially designed for those who want to dive deep into the cup, while enjoying one of the best views over the Quindio Valley and probably the best coffee as well.
Today’s tour will take you from the far northeast of Quindío to the beautiful Valle Cocora where the magnificent Wax palm grows, in one of its few natural habitats, then onto the first settlement in Quindío of the modern era.
As you enter into Filandia, the first stop, you know you are in the Coffee region of Colombia. The main square has not changed in appearance or in character in decades. A coffee break in one of the many small coffee shops will allow you to take in the quaintness of uninterrupted lines of brightly painted houses in this traditional Pueblo of the region. The guide will explain about the culture and people of the region and how small pueblos (Villages) like this form the back bone of rural agricultural life.
From Filandia you will drive to the Valle Cocora (Cocora Valley). Part of the wider Parque Nacional Los Nevados, the valley is located on the eastern limits of Quindío along the central Andean range. The valley has a unique landscape like a lush version of a Swiss valley. It has been regarded by Colombia as a sanctuary for its national symbol; the Wax Palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense). The Palms cover the Mountain range, which is now protected and declared a monument to protect the tree itself and the endemic species that depend on it. The valley is spectacular and great for walking or horseback rides, either way this stunning mountain scenery will not fail to impress.
Your group will enjoy the unique Wax Palm ritual. This is an educational experience where you will learn more about the importance of the wax palm and how it became the national tree, before getting a chance to plant a wax palm yourself.
Salento is a municipality in the north eastern part of the department of Quindío. It was the first settlement in Quindío of modern times dating back to 1850, and the first municipality founded in the department. This picturesque town boasts a number of fine houses of traditional architectural style. Rimmed by distant snow capped mountains Salento has a real rural traditional feel. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Pereira and transferred to the airport in good time to board your domestic flight to Villa De Leyva. Upon arrival in Villa De Leyva, you will be picked up at the airport and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Today you’ll visit the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. Traveling north of the city, through countryside once occupied by the native Muisca Indians, Zipaquira is one of the more popular tourist destinations in Colombia. Zipaquira is home to a Cathedral carved underground in a still functioning salt mine just west of the town.
The subtle lighting pronounces the fourteen Stations of the Cross as you descend in to the mine, each station sculpted by a different artist. At the deepest point of the cathedral, 180 meters below the earth’s surface, you encounter the nave and the north and south aisles which are dominated by the 16m high central cross. The illumination and execution of the work is a tribute to modern techniques and years of work from the miners and artists. Your guide will explain all about the cathedrals construction and how it and the mine still function in harmony.
Enjoy lunch at Zipaquira. (This service is on a private basis.)
As awesome as they may be, you might eventually get tired of the big Colombian cities. Villa De Leyva, the perfect colonial village frozen in time, might just be the cure. White buildings frame cobblestone roads, and modern buildings are a rarity. Originally a retreat for Spanish nobles, Villa De Leyva remains a popular day trip from Bogota, and you'll be sharing the tourist markets with Colombians as well as foreigners.
Thanks to all the new tourist attention, the village is transforming. Luxury boutique hotels, modern restaurants and big markets are popping up all over town. The result is the perfect mix of modern convenience, and old school surroundings. If you're seeking an even more authentic atmosphere, plenty of day trips to the smaller villages in the region are definitely an option.
Today you'll enjoy a half day walking tour of Villa de Leyva, exploring the historical city with your bilingual English speaking guide. Enjoy a stop at a coffee shop for an authentic Colombian blend.
Later, enjoy another half day guided tour. The first point of interest during this second half day excursion will be the Pozos Azules; this mineral enriched lagoon with its vibrant turquoise waters. Then from the Lagoon you will drive through the desert like terrain towards El Fossil (The fossil). This 120 million year old 12 meter Kronosaurus fossil is on show in a small paleontology museum with other artifacts that have been found in this fossil rich area.
From the museum you will continue your journey towards the astrological site of El Enfiernito. This site was once central to the local Muisca Indians and was used by them to predict seasons and hold rituals. The site has 30 cylindrical stone monoliths sunk vertically into the ground. From the comfort of your vehicle is a great way to see the local area and this half day trip takes in a number of the sites around Villa de Leyva. You will finish the tour back in to town in time for a well earned refreshment. (This service is on a private basis.)
Today you will enjoy an amazing trekking experience.
The Muiscas, the ancient tribe’s people who inhabited the area high above Villa de Leyva , considered the Lago (Lake) Iguaque to be the birthplace of mankind. They believed that the goddess Bachuè emerged from lake holding her new-born child. When the child grew the goddess and her sun set about populating the earth. In old age the two evolved into serpents and returned to the lake forever. It’s easy to see why this area is so fascinating with its wealth of indigenous folklore and history.
Today this birthplace of mankind is known by the more modest name of the Santuario de Flora y Fauna de Iguaque. There are 8 lakes found inside the park, including the principal lago Iguaque, all resting at altitudes of between 3550 and 3700 meters above sea level. This important “Paramo”, or mountain highland, is home to numerous plants and animals, including the famous Frailejon, a strange mountain like cactus endemic to the Andean region.
A trip to the park can be a bit cold and good walking clothing and boots are a must but the rewards for the brave trekker are amazing views and scenery in one of the most unique parts of the Andes. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Villa De Leyva and transferred to your accommodations in Bogota. (This service is on a private basis.)
When we sit down to dream up our perfect city, we take crisp moderate weather, Andean mountain peaks, vibrant colors, beautiful architecture, even more beautiful people, South American food, and a nightlife that will not quit. It doesn't take long for travelers to realize that Bogota is the urban playground they've been seeking their whole lives.
La Candelaria is the cultural center of the city, where colonial architecture now houses museums, bars, restaurants and hotels. Locals are rightfully proud to call Bogota their home, and celebrate this fact nightly as drum beats, delicious gastronomy, and generous drinks take over the streets. Life is a party, and Bogota is the host.
Today your bilingual guide will meet you at your hotel lobby and take you south where you will commence your walking tour through the streets of La Candelaria Bogota. The Square is the focal point of this historic part of the city and surrounding the square are several important Colonial and Republican style buildings including the Palace of Justice and Colombian Congress. The Plaza is also home to the Mayor’s office and the Primary Cathedral of Bogota, which dominates an entire corner. Standing proud in the plazas center is a statue of Simon Bolivar (Founder of Colombian independence) the first public monument to be erected in the city. As you wander the streets of La Candelaria away from the main square, your guide will not only explain the history of Bogota but also the intricacies of current Colombian culture and daily life. There will be time for a refreshment stop in one of the city's coffee houses.
After this short break you will head on to the Botero Museum. This is a permanent exhibition of works of art by Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous artist who’s "oversized” art is instantly recognizable. There are several rooms with displays of his work both on canvas and sculpture. The museum not only houses work by Botero but also other world famous artists such as Dali, Monet and Van Gogh.
Enjoy lunch at Son de los Grillos. (This service is on a private basis.)
Enjoy this free time at your leisure.
In the afternoon, you will be picked up at your hotel in Bogota and transferred to the airport. (This service is on a private basis.)
Originally built as a monastery in 1621, the Sofitel Santa Clara Hotel is a reference point in the heart of Cartagena de Indias, where its walls, which acted as a shield in ancient times, combine with colonial balconies and republican structures to evokethe splendor of days gone by. In recognition of its great cultural and architectural wealth, the walled city, with its castles and bastions, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Center in 1984.
Merecumbe Hotel offers sophisticated and modern eco-cabanas with minimalist high-quality interiors, built in natural materials like wood, stone and palm. The hotel is surrounded by nature and on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta beachfront. Located just 50 kilometers from Santa Marta and 13 kilometers from Tayrona Park. The cabins are built for comfort and are integrated into the surrounding environment for an intimate and welcoming quality. Each cabana has an outdoor deck-type wooden terrace with chairs for sunbathing in privacy and refreshing showers. For environmental reasons, Merecumbe does not provide hot water or television. The hotel also offers fine dining, with fresh, local ingredients found throughout the menu.
Hacienda Bambusa is located in the south of what is locally called the “ejecafetero” or “coffee country," blessed with an agreeable subtropical climate. When you come upon the Hacienda you are instantly immersed by a maze of plantain, yucca, orange, and pineapple cultivation. Smaller roads lead to further surprises. The landscape is breathtaking and its diversity of flora and fauna make it a little paradise. Among its many charms are the presence of exotic flowers like heliconias, more than 100 species of birds and a large number of mammals such as monkeys, foxes, armadillos and agouti. The main house is built of bamboo and clay tiles in the traditional manner of the region's coffee culture. It is surrounded by huge Andean mountains, enormous trees, exotic gardens and crops - an oasis of tranquility and natural beauty. The lodge's management spent six years redesigning the building to receive guests and have established it as the ideal destination for visitors to Quindio.
The Getsemani Hotel combines the colonial architecture of the town with a Mediterranean design that ensures a relaxing, comfortable and memorable stay. For the past 16 years, it has provided guests with the highest levels of service. Rooms combine modern convenience with colonial design.
Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia enjoys an upscale location in the north of Bogota. Perfect for business or leisure, it is close to the city's main financial and business districts as well as renowned art galleries for indulging in a spot of culture. With the many restaurants and boutiques you'll be spoiled for choice! The international airport is just a 30 minute drive away.
*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.