On this 9-day tour, you'll get to explore the historical and cultural side of Bogota before heading to the wax palm forests of the Cocora Valley. After spending some time on a local coffee plantation, head over to the beautiful city of Medellin, the home town of the famous Colombian artist, Fernando Botero. Finally, head north to the Pearl of the Caribbean, the colorful town of Cartagena.

Overview

Come feel the local vibe in Bogota, Colombia's Andean capital. Sleep in a typical hacienda and sip a delicious cup of Colombian coffee by the swimming pool, next to the dreamy landscape of the Cocora Valley.

Feel the country moving ahead in vibrant Medellin and experience the contrast between modern and trendy downtown and picturesque surrounding villages with cobblestone streets. Travel back in time to the “Pearl of the Caribbean”, the romantic and colonial Cartagena de Indias. After a cocktail on the famous wall surrounding the old city while listening to tropical melodies, you will never want to leave.

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Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Bogota

Plaza Bolívar in 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. 

Day 2: Bogota

Charming streets of La Candelaria in Bogotá

After breakfast, it's time to hit the streets and explore! A local guide will pick you up and accompany you on a half-day walking tour of the city. You'll begin in colorful La Candelaria—the heart of Bogota's historic center. Amble along its narrow streets, visiting cultural landmarks and local shops selling artisanal goods. Eventually, you'll reach Plaza Bolívar, the city's main square dating back to 1539. There's a grand cathedral here as well as many important government buildings, such as the Capitolio Nacional (Colombia's congress building). 

To spend a full day with your guide, take the aforementioned walk through La Candelaria and then explore two of Bogotá's best museums in the afternoon: the Gold Museum (closed on Mondays), which features the largest collection of Pre-Columbian gold artifacts in the world, and the Botero Museum (closed on Tuesdays), which houses a collection of masterpieces from renowned Colombian sculptor and painter Fernando Botero.

If you are an early riser, start the morning sunrise tour of Bogotá by visiting its best and biggest food market—Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao—which supplies produce for many of the city’s best restaurants. Return to La Candelaria and downtown, strolling the streets and stopping to photograph walled graffiti art.

Day 3: Bogota to Coffee Region

Coffee plants grow on the mountains of the Coffee Region

Today, after a full breakfast, transfer from your hotel to Bogotá's El Dorado Airport. You'll then catch a flight to either the Armenia or Pereira airports in Colombia's Zona Cafetera (coffee region).

Upon arrival, you'll transfer to an organic, working coffee finca (farm) in this bucolic region. You'll immerse yourself in every step of the production process. Adding to the authentic experience is an overnight stay and even more demonstrations about this nation's legacy industry (Colombia is the third highest producer of coffee beans in the world). Yes, the presentations include frequent tastings.

Day 4: Salento and Cocora Valley

Famous wax palms of the Cocora Valley

Wake up with a hearty breakfast. From here, a car will pick you up and drive you to a trail in the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley), outside the historic town of Salento. As you make your way to the trail, you’ll find yourself in view of the distinctive Quindío wax palms, which can reach an impressive height of up to 70 meters (230 feet). This protected cloud forest in the Andes is peppered with these soaring palms, which just happens to be Colombia's national tree.

The Valle de Cocora offers hiking opportunities second to none. The route here takes you along dirt tracks through tropical forests and streams and up to lookouts providing some sweeping views. After the hike, head back to the colorful streets of Salento and enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure. Despite Salento's rise in tourism (mostly backpackers) over the past decade, it retains an old-world charm with colorful Paisa (Antioquian) architecture, street musicians, and an impressive range of handicrafts. 

Day 5: Armenia to Medellin

Medellin, one of Colombia's most beautiful cities

Early morning departure by private transport to Medellin, “The city of the Eternal Spring”. It is a long trip but the beautiful Andean landscapes are worth it. In Medellin, check in at your hotel in a downtown district.

After lunch, you will have a panoramic city tour with the following program: the Pueblito Paisa, San Antonio Park, Plazuela de San Ignacio, La Playa Avenue, the metropolitan church and a stop at the Plaza Botero. Then we will visit the "zona norte" with, among other things, the House of Music, the University of Antioquia and the Botanical Garden. On our way back to the Poblado district, we will spot other famous landmarks of Medellin.

Day 6: Guatape and El Peñol

Lake Guatapé and El Peñol rock

After breakfast, you'll transfer from your hotel for a full-day excursion to one of the crown jewels of Colombia's Antioquia region: the lakeside town of Guatapé. This private tour includes a guided walk through the village and a mini-history lesson. You'll learn about the town's conflict surrounding the building of the dam that created the reservoir here, which is known as Guatapé Lake. You'll gain an insider’s perspective on local efforts to pressure the government to address this reservoir’s encroaching blue-green algae.

Your guide will then transfer you to El Peñol (La Piedra Rock). Relax at the base of this natural granite landmark in one of the many market stalls. Or work up an appetite by climbing the 740 steps to admire the view from the top (entrance fee not included). Halfway up the rock, you'll see a shrine to the Virgin Mary.

Return to the town of Guatapé and explore the streets. This is one of the most colorful villages in Colombia, with beautiful artwork along the lower half of its buildings. Head to a local restaurant and enjoy lunch on your own (try the freshwater fish and/or other delicacies). In the late afternoon, you'll transfer back to your hotel in Medellín with free time to enjoy the rest of the day.

Day 7: Medellin to Cartagena

Cartagena
The beautiful, colonial streets of Cartagena

Today you will fly from Medellín, in Colombia's interior Antioquia Department, to your new destination of Cartagena, located on the Caribbean coast. Transfers to and from both airports will be organized for you.

If you arrive with enough time (and aren't exhausted), stroll the cobbled streets of the city's old town and take in the costeña vibe. Maybe leave the center for the adjacent neighborhood of Getsemaní, Cartagena's bohemian enclave, which is filled with intimate bistros, cocktail lounges, and salsa bars.

Day 8: Rosario Islands

Rosario Islands just off the Caribbean Coast of Colombia

After an early breakfast, you'll transfer from your hotel to the pier where you will board a speedboat for an hour trip to the Barú Peninsula. Along the way, you will see Tierra Bomba Island and Boca Chica, ancient forts that once protected Cartagena from hostile invaders.

After arriving at the Rosario Islands, change into your swimwear and head to Playa Azul, a crescent beach with soft white sands hugging the turquoise Caribbean Sea. After enjoying a buffet lunch, you will have time to relax and sunbathe. An optional add-on is to rent a kayak and embark on a two or three-hour paddling excursion before returning to Cartagena in the late afternoon. A car will pick you up at the pier to take you back to your hotel.

Day 9: End of the Adventure!

Cafe del Mar, one of the best viewpoints within the city

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia! After breakfast, enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a patio café. Or, if you haven't already, explore the bulk of the city on a guided tour. Otherwise, take one last stroll along those cobbled streets.

Enjoy Cartagena's cobbled maze of vividly colorful houses and ancient squares dating from the 16th century. Meander through the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo while learning about important historical sites like Saint Philip's Castle. Maybe pay a visit to the Palace of the Inquisition in Plaza de Bolívar, which was once the seat of the Holy Office of the Inquisition and is now a macabre museum. 

A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home.

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Map

Map of Bogota, Cocora Valley, Medellin and Cartagena - 9 days
Map of Bogota, Cocora Valley, Medellin and Cartagena - 9 days

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We visited Colombia in August and traveled through Jardin, Salamina and Cartagena. Our travel specialist Lisa Calabrese, did an outstanding job in arranging everything including transfers between the towns, tours and our choice of hotels. We were looked after every step of the way right from the booking. Initially I wasn't sure which places I wanted to visit but Lisa helped me through and after week or two we finalised an itinerary. Lisa always answered my query promptly.
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Traveler: Mark W. - Local specialist: Marine Guérin

Most of the trip was very good and well organized.

The Cartagena portion of the trip could have been better. There was some confusion with our day trIp to Rosario island. We didn't have the right information as to where to go and were told we needed a voucher which we never received. Tour guides in Cartagena tried to change our tour times and insisted on taking us to emerald shops (twice) even after we said we didn't want to go there.

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