The images you see in many publications advertising Colombia typically feature virgin rainforest and windswept Caribbean beaches. But in the center of the country, you'll find an entire highland region abounding with colonial villages, ancient archeological sites, and other unique landmarks. The best part is that these highlights are invariably located within day-tripping distance of the nation's capital, Bogotá. So pack your cold-weather clothing and prepare for a quick jaunt to Colombia's highlands region.

Highlights

  • Discover Bogotá's well-preserved colonial neighborhood, La Candelaria
  • Tour a cathedral carved out of an old salt mine
  • Visit the colonial town of Villa de Leyva, which boasts the largest central plaza in all of Colombia

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 2 Zipaquira Salt Cathedral - Transfer to Villa de Leyva Villa de Leyva
Day 3 Explore In & Around Villa de Leyva Villa de Leyva
Day 4 Tour Villa de Leyva - Transfer to Bogotá - Departure Bogotá

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá

Plaza Bolívar, in La Candelaria, Bogotá
Plaza Bolívar, in La Candelaria, Bogotá

Welcome to Bogotá! A driver will meet you at the airport and transport you to your hotel.

Colombia's biggest city has culture to spare, and its regional gastronomy has made it a global foodie destination. You'll have ample free time to explore this Andean capital on foot. Start with the cobblestone streets of the La Candelaria neighborhood, where trendy restaurants and colonial-era landmarks are located. You'll also find excellent museums, shopping, and street food ranging from empanadas to exotic fruit salads. 

Depending on what time you arrive, you can experience Bogotá's local history and culture by taking a tour with an English-speaking guide.

Day 2: Zipaquira Salt Cathedral - Transfer to Villa de Leyva

The Salt Cathedral at Zipaquirá
The Salt Cathedral at Zipaquirá

Today you'll transfer to Zipaquirá. This town, declared a Colombian heritage site, is known for its famous underground Salt Cathedral—a Roman church built within the tunnels of an underground salt mine. Entry to this popular site includes a guided tour along with some free time to explore on your own. 

From here, continue driving north through the Andean highlands and stay overnight in Villa de Leyva, one of the most beautiful colonial villages in Colombia, featuring cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings.

Day 3: Explore In & Around Villa de Leyva

The expansive central plaza of Villa de Leyva
The expansive central plaza of Villa de Leyva

After breakfast embark on a tour of Villa de Leyva. Start in the town's central plaza (the largest such plaza in the nation), and venture out into the foothills and surrounding nature. You'll be surprised to learn that this highland region is a hotbed of archeological sites. Pay a visit to the most popular landmark, El Infiernito—an ancient grouping of stone fertility monuments. If you're an amateur paleontologist you'll be thrilled to visit El Fosíl, a small museum housing the fossil of a 110-million-year-old kronosaurus (an aquatic relative of the crocodile). Other sites of interest include the Monastery of Santo Ecce Homo.

The afternoon is yours to explore Villa de Leyva on your own. There are a number of local treasures within a block or two of the plaza, and these include French bakeries, artisanal ice cream shops, chocolate confectioners, and more. 

Day 4: Tour Villa de Leyva - Transfer to Bogotá - Departure

Terracotta house, Villa de Leyva
Terracotta house, Villa de Leyva

After breakfast at your hotel, hit the streets and learn more about the preserved colonial town of Villa de Leyva—a cobblestoned village with one of the largest central plazas in Colombia.

Declared a national monument in 1954, this half-day walking tour with a local guide covers important sites like the huge Plaza Mayor, the main streets, coffee and handicraft shops, and even a wool weaving workshop. You'll also visit the Mesopotamia Mill, a remnant of the Spanish era. You'll learn how the mill works and also about the life of the local population during that time. The tour also includes the convent of the Discalced Carmelites ("Carmelitas Descalzas"), a community of Carmelite nuns living in permanent retreat since the convent's creation in 1645. They devote themselves entirely to manual labor and prayer.

In the afternoon, transfer back to Bogotá. Enjoy the rest of the day before transferring to the airport and catching your flight home.