Day 1 - Bogota
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Colombia. With a wealth of cosy cafes, interesting museums and old churches, cosmopolitan Bogota is full of surprises. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where your group meeting will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Afterwards, your leader will take you on an orientation walk in downtown Bogota. You're then free to explore as you please. Perhaps take the gondola up the Cerro de Monserrate, where a 17th-century church overlooks the town. Museo Nacional is a good option if you're interested in learning about life in Colombia before and after the Spanish conquest.
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for the welcome meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception.
Day 2 - Salento
Make an early start and join your leader on a morning visit to Paloquemao Market. The market is divided into distinct areas: flowers; fruit, vegetables, and herbs; and meat and fish. Take the opportunity to buy some exotic local fruits like feijoa, araza, guanabana, maracuya and lulo – many of which are seldom found outside of Colombia. Later, take a short flight to Armenia and transfer to the beautiful village of Salento. Take the time to stroll through its quaint streets and admire the colours of 'paisa' architecture at its best. For some local food, trout is the way to go. There are many ways to enjoy it, but it's most often served with a rich, garlicky cheese sauce. Colombia's national sport, tejo, is a popular pastime in Salento. Think bocce with gunpowder! If you're game, you'll have the option to visit the local tejo hall and give it a go.
Day 3 - Coffee Estancia
Travel by jeep out to the magnificent Cocora Valley, home of the towering wax palm (Colombia's national tree). Spend the morning walking among the region's incredible scenery, perhaps hiking up to Acaime Reserve where colourful hummingbirds feed. The hike to Acaime (approximately 5 hours) is quite strenuous, with some steep and slippery sections, so you'll need good walking shoes, as well as plenty of water and snacks. A generous boxed lunch will be provided. If you'd rather take it easy, you can explore the valley as you please, then take a jeep back to town. Later, travel deep into Colombia's coffee region for a two-night stay in a traditional coffee estancia, where you'll have a unique opportunity to learn first hand about this wonderful bean.
Day 4 - Coffee Estancia
Thanks to its tropical altitude and fertile volcanic soil, Colombia is one of the world’s largest coffee producers. You’ll get to know this addictive little bean a whole lot better on a guided tour of the coffee plantation and processing centre. Dig into the history of the plant, learning the inside story of the industry that's long buoyed the country's economy. See how the beans are grown and harvested, processed, dried, roasted and ground, and then sample firsthand what all the fuss is about. Try different types of coffee grains and get a lesson on preparing different types of coffees, finishing it all off with a steaming cup of freshly brewed joe. Afterwards, relax amid the estancia's beautiful surrounds of sloping green hills and valleys.
Day 5 - Medellin
Today you will travel via comfortable public bus (approximately 6 hours) to Medellin. Your leader will take you on an orientation walk of this beautiful city. Along the way, learn a little more about the town's interesting recent history. Having spent the 1980s and 90s with an international reputation as one of the world's most dangerous cities (thanks to Pablo Escobar's infamous drug cartel), Medellin has turned itself around to become one of the most exciting cities in South America. And with some of the country's finest museums, parks and architecture (as well as a much safer and comfortable atmosphere now) it's easy to see why its popularity is increasing.
Day 6 - Medellin
Today you'll enjoy breathtaking views of Medellin and its surrounds during a cable car ride up to Santa Elena, a beautiful town nestled in the mountains just east of the city. Sail up the mountain over brick houses, watching as the corrugated metal roofs give way to vistas of green valleys and forested peaks. Thanks to the elevation, things are usually a little cooler up here. Santa Elena is also known for its extravagant arrangements of colourful flowers, called silletas, which the local farmers are fond of strapping to their backs and parading through the city come August's annual flower festival. Back in Medellin, you might want to search out one of the city's lively salsa bars (many count Medellin's nightlife as the best in Colombia).
Day 7 - Medellin
Enjoy a free day getting to know Medellin. Visit the Museo de Antioquia to see some of Botero's famous works or get more modern at the beautiful Museo de Arte Moderno. Alternatively, venture further afield on an optional day trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia. This 16th-century township has maintained much of its colonial-era charm, its narrow streets and leafy central plazas providing plenty of places to relax away from the midday heat. The Bridge of the West, Metropolitan Cathedral and House of Two Palms are certain to impress, and the plaza is also home to a daily market where vendors sell various varieties of locally-grown Tamarind product (be sure to try a few samples). One of the greatest pleasures here is simply pottering through the town's cobblestone streets and taking in the local scene.
Day 8 - Cartagena
Fly to Cartagena (approximately 1 hour). Cartagena is one of South America's most historic cities. The leader will take you on a short orientation walk around the hotel. Afterwards, we recommend you explore the old city by yourselves, particularly the inner walled town, is the main attraction – it's packed with beautiful churches, monasteries, plazas and mansions. This town, founded in 1533 by Spaniard Don Pedro de Heredia, was a major centre of early Spanish settlement in the Americas. Its gold and silver exports made it a popular target for pirates, and its walled fort (now on UNESCO's World Heritage list) was built to protect both shipping and the slave trade. Perhaps visit San Felipe de Barajas Castle, the largest of the fortresses, or head out of town for a mud bath at Volcan de Lodo El Totumo. The nearby group of tiny coral islands and stunning expanses of Playa Blanca (White Beach) reveal the hidden beauty of Colombia's Caribbean coast. Maybe end this adventure people-watching in the heart of Getsemaní, Plaza de la Trinidad, where kids play football and singers strum their guitars.
Day 9 - Cartagena
Enjoy a free day getting to know Cartagena's Old City under your own steam. Shop for local handicrafts, head up to San Felipe de Barajas Castle (the largest of the city's fortresses), or perhaps head out of town to the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo. Instead of lava, this strange volcano emits a cream-like mud that is said to contain many healing properties. Enter for a wallow, then wash the muddy goodness off in the nearby lagoon.
Day 10 - Tayrona National Park
Take a shared van early in the morning to Tayrona National Park, a protected plot of wilderness encircled by the massive Santa Maria mountain range on one side and picture-perfect Caribbean on the other. With the majority of the park only accessible by jungle trails, on arrival you'll need to walk for approximately one hour to tonight's accommodation: a sheltered camping area with hammocks. Small lockers are available for the safe storage of your valuables. Spend some time chilling out on the pure white sands, clambering along the boulders that strew the shore and taking dips in the warm waters. It does get quite cold here at night, so be sure to wear layers and bring a blanket or sleep liner. You'll also need a towel, insect repellent, a torch and small backpack for carrying your things in (your main luggage can be left at the park entrance).
Day 11 - Guachaca Region
Spend the day exploring Tayrona National Park or chilling out beachside before making the short drive into the Guachaca region. Your accommodation for the next night is a small, family-run hotel in a peaceful location. A range of walking trails start out from here, though the main attraction is the nearby beach. Just a short stroll from your hotel, this is the perfect place to kick back and relax seaside.
Day 12 - Guachaca Region / Overnight Bus
Enjoy a nice continental breakfast at the hotel, then spend the day relaxing. With the beach just a short walk away, you can come and go from the hotel quite conveniently. If you're feeling active, perhaps try some trekking. While the white sands and lovely clear waters of the beach are hard to beat, the hotel itself is also a nice place to spend some time, especially if the weather turns. You can take to one of the hammocks in the garden with a good book. In the afternoon transfer to Santa Marta and catch an overnight bus to San Gil.
Day 13 - San Gil
Following an overnight bus ride, arrive in San Gil, Colombia's outdoors capital. After checking into your hotel and taking breakfast, spend a bit of time freshening up and resting before hopping on a local bus to a town called Curiti. The highlight attraction of Curiti is Pescaderito, a natural configuration of swimming holes and water slides formed from rock. It's a 45-minute walk from Curiti to the first pool but as this would be along a main road you will taking local tuc tucs to get there, after which the pools only get nicer the further upriver you go.
Day 14 - San Gil
Make the most of a range of adventure sport outings on offer today, from whitewater rafting and mountain biking to canyoning (activities are optional and at own expense). For those looking to spend their time in San Gil a little more leisurely, there's the option of walking along the river, seeking out the town's best bakeries and cafes, or simply taking a seat in the town's 300-year-old plaza and watching local life meander by.
Day 15 - Barichara
With its quaint, cobbled streets, stuccoed houses and verdant backdrop of rolling hills, Barichara is widely considered the prettiest and best-preserved colonial-style village in all Colombia. After settling into your accommodation and getting your bearings, set out on a two-hour walk along the Camino Real to the village of Guane. This ancient walkway, which was declared a national monument in 1988, was built by the indigenous Guane people many centuries ago. The trail starts off with a gentle descent down the rim of a canyon before crossing a valley filled with cacti. The walking is mostly downhill, and you'll likely spot a few fossils embedded in the stones that pave the trail en route. On arrival in Guane, refresh with a cooling drink before catching the local bus back to Barichara.
Day 16 - Barichara
Spend a free day becoming acquainted with bucolic Barichara.
Day 17 - Bogota
In the morning, transfer to Bucaramanga for the short flight to Bogota. Resting among emerald, mist-shrouded mountains, Colombia's cosmopolitan capital is certain to delight. Go for a meander through the colourful laneways of the city's historic heart, La Candelaria. Boasting a wealth of cosy cafes and colonial churches, this is a neighbourhood full of surprises. For breathtaking views of the sprawling capital, head to the top of Montserrat where scenic mountain-top cafes offer an escape from the chilly Andean air.
Day 18 - Bogota
Today is free for your to explore Bogota as you please. Perhaps head up Cerro de Monserrate by gondola, where a 17th-century church overlooks the city. A visit to the National Museum (Museo Nacional) is also a good option for those interested in learning about life in Colombia pre- and post the Spanish conquest.
Day 19 - Bogota
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are free to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money