Strap on your hiking boots for a whirlwind adventure around Colombia. Near Bogotá, you'll go horseback riding in colonial towns, hike the Andes mountains, and go river rafting in national parks. Then hit the coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains for the cherry on this grand Colombian cake: a multi-day trek to Ciudad Perdida, one of the most incredible archeological sites in Latin America.


  • Hike the nature reserves and national parks around Bogotá
  • Visit a salt cathedral and ride horses in historic colonial towns
  • Tour Barichara and brave whitewater rapids on the Fonse River
  • Travel to the coast and hike to the legendary Ciudad Perdida

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá, Monserrate Hill Tour Bogotá
Day 2 Day Hike in Chingaza National Park Bogotá
Day 3 Day Trip to Chicaque Natural Park Bogotá
Day 4 Transfer to Villa de Leyva, Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral Villa de Leyva
Day 5 Villa de Leyva Walking Tour & Horseback Riding Villa de Leyva
Day 6 Transfer to Barichara, Hike to Guane Barichara
Day 7 Fonse River Rafting, Visit Chicamocha Park Barichara
Day 8 Fly to Santa Marta, City Tour Santa Marta
Day 9 Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 1 Lost City Trek
Day 10 Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 2 Lost City Trek
Day 11 Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 3 Lost City Trek
Day 12 Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 4 Minca
Day 13 Birding in Minca, Transfer to Santa Marta & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá, Visit Monserrate Hill

View of Bogotá from atop Cerro Monserrate

Welcome to Colombia! This jewel of Latin America has both a rich indigenous and colonial history, plus it boasts some of the most stunning natural beauty anywhere on earth. You'll arrive in Bogotá, the nation's high-altitude capital (it sits at 8,661 ft/2,640 m), which is home to over seven million people. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will transfer you to your hotel in the city. After checking in, you can then head out and explore.

The best way to take in Bogota's massive urban sprawl is on the famous hill overlooking the city, Cerro Monserrate. On a three-hour tour, you'll arrive at the base of Monserrate and ascend it via cable car. A few minutes later you'll arrive at a plateau 10,341 feet (3,152 m) above sea level. Here, you can visit Monserrate Sanctuary, a whitewashed Catholic church that was completed in 1657. But the real star is the panoramic view of the city below—make sure your phone is charged! 

Day 2: Day Hike in Chingaza National Park

Chingaza's sacred lakes
Laguna de Fausto, in Chingaza National Park
In the morning, a driver will pick you up in a 4WD vehicle for the ride northeast out of Bogotá to Chingaza National Park. This large protected area covers 188,000 acres (76,000 ha) and is located just a couple hours outside the city, yet it seems a world apart. Rather than bustling neighborhoods and blaring horns, here you'll find remote forests, lagoons, and rivers. In fact, the misty páramo (high-altitude plateau) ecosystem here is responsible for generating 80% of Bogotá's drinking water. 
When you arrive, you'll hit the trail on a 7-mile (11 km) hike through forests at an altitude of between 10,170-11,155 feet (3,100-3,400 m). At these heights, you'll pass exotic vegetation including orchids, puyas, unique mosses, and the iconic frailejón. The species of this high-altitude plant you'll see here slightly resembles a palm and can grow up to 33 feet (10 m). Eventually, you'll reach Laguna de Fausto, a glacial lagoon that, like the rest of the park, is considered sacred by the local Muisca Indigenous people. All told, the hike takes about six hours, and at the end, you'll transfer back to Bogotá by 4WD. 

Day 3: Day Trip to Chicaque Natural Park

Hike through cloud forests outside Bogotá
Today, you'll visit another stunning protected area near Bogotá—this one a mere hour away! Chicaque Natural Park is an unspoiled cloud-forest reserve filled with miles of hiking trails and great birding opportunities. After a pickup from your hotel, you'll transfer west of Bogotá to the park entrance. From there, your guide will lead you on a walk to El Refugio, a lodge and meeting point for hikers.
At El Refugio, you'll decide which trail you want to embark on. They're all scenic, and options include hiking through oak forests, over streams, and up to the incredible viewpoint at Pico del Águila ("Eagle Peak"). Along the way, you're sure to spot some of the more than 400 bird species that call this area home. Common sightings include wrens, tanagers, hawks, flycatchers, emerald toucanets, and various species of hummingbirds. Depending on your level of physical fitness, you can complete up to three nature trails in one day. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Bogotá.

Day 4: Transfer to Villa de Leyva, Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral

The Salt Cathedral at Zipaquirá
The central crucifix in the Catedral de Sal
In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the 3.5-hour trip north to the colonial town of Villa de Leyva. About 45 minutes outside of Bogotá, you'll stop in the city of Zipaquirá to visit its highlight attraction: the Catedral de Sal ("Salt Cathedral"), an old rock salt mine that was converted into a church in 1954. The church spans three subterranean levels, features 14 shrines with sculpted crucifixes, and contains various rooms including naves, a choir, and a baptistery. Unsurprisingly, the church is dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Rosario, the patron saint of miners.

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Afterward, you'll continue driving as you leave the department of Cundinamarca and enter Boyacá, where Villa de Leyva is located. This well-preserved colonial town was founded in 1572 and today is a popular weekend retreat for Bogotanos from the city. They come for the historic, white-washed homes and to visit the expansive Plaza Mayor, the largest town square in the country.

Day 5: Villa de Leyva Walking Tour & Horseback Riding

The massive Plaza Mayor, in Villa de Leyva
After breakfast, head out on a walking tour of Villa de Leyva. During colonial times, the village was used as a summer retreat for the rich, as the region reminded the Spanish of Madrid's vast plateau. For centuries, it has drawn all kinds of people, from artists and monks to tourists and retired politicians. You'll learn all about its history as you stroll the 150,000-square-foot (14,000 sq m) Plaza Mayor.
When you've finished the walking portion of the tour, you'll hop in the saddle for a ride around the arid highlands surrounding the town. As you trot along the scenic trail through the foothills, you'll pass charming rural villages and landmarks like man-made lagoons. Also, in this area, many fossils of long-extinct marine mollusks and reptiles have been found, including plesiosaurs. 

Day 6: Transfer to Barichara, Hike to Guane

The colonial town of Barichara
Your driver will pick you up this morning for the 4.5-hour ride north into Santander Dept. and the town of Barichara. With its cobbled streets, sandstone church, and an idyllic location next to a dramatic canyon, Barichara is one of the loveliest colonial towns in Colombia. 
You'll experience its full majesty on the famous hike between Barichara and the nearby town of Guane. The path was built 150 years ago and was a vital trade route between the two towns. The scenic hike covers about 3 miles (5 km) and takes approximately two hours to complete. 

Day 7: Fonse River Rafting, Visit Chicamocha Park

Enjoying a quiet portion of the River Fonce
Enjoying a quiet portion of the Río Fonce

After breakfast, you'll travel to the nearby Río Fonce. This is one of the most popular rivers for whitewater rafting in all of Colombia, and today you'll experience it on a four-hour ride. The route you'll be traveling has a length of 7 miles (11 km) and will get your adrenaline pumping with its Class III rapids. It's perfectly safe, as leading the excursion will be a professional instructor/guide who will ensure you're fully prepared to conquer the river.

Back on land, meet your driver for a half-day trip to Chicamocha National Park, home to the awe-inspiring canyon of the same name. It stretches 141 miles (227 km) and reaches depths of 6,600 feet (2,000 m). That makes it the second-largest canyon in the world, and you'll get to cross it by cable car. Optional activities include visiting the Museo Guane (an archeological and paleontological museum) and Socorro. This colonial town is a cradle of history in Latin America, as it was here in 1781 that the first act of revolt against the Spanish occurred, eventually leading to Colombian independence. 

Day 8: Fly to Santa Marta, City Tour

Santa Marta

In the morning, your personal driver will pick you up for the three-hour ride north from Barichara to the airport in Bucamaranga. Here, you'll catch a one-hour flight to the coastal city of Santa Marta, the capital of Colombia's Magdalena Dept. Upon arrival, another driver will transfer you to your hotel. After settling in, head out on a guided walking tour of the city.

Founded in 1525, Santa Marta is the oldest city in Colombia, and its Cathedral (whose foundations date to 1531), is one of the oldest on the continent. You'll visit other major landmarks like Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the hacienda where the great Libertador and Venezuelan president, Simón Bolívar, spent his last days. Other stops include Santa Marta's historic center and the coastal viewpoint in the adjacent fishing village of Taganga.

Day 9: Trekking to Ciudad Perdida - Day 1

The path to the Lost City
The path to the Lost City
Santa Marta is the main hub for trips into Tayrona National Park. One of the natural highlights of the entire country, this 1,614 sq mile (150 sq m) region protects unspoiled coast, mountains, and archeological sites in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region. The park is overseen by descendants of the Tairona people, who have lived here since at least the first century CE.  
Located south of Tayrona, deep in the Sierra Nevadas, lies what is undoubtedly the most impressive archeological site in the region: Ciudad Perdida ("The Lost City"). This ancient complex and former center of the Tayrona empire comprises more than 250 terraces and dates to around 700 CE. That means it pre-dates the Inca Machu Picchu by about 800 years. Also in the area are Indigenous villages where tribespeople still reside to this day.
You'll see this archeological gem firsthand on a multi-day trek. In total, the journey covers 26 miles (42 km) roundtrip, most of which involves trekking through the jungle. The first day starts early with a three-hour transfer by vehicle from your hotel in Santa Marta to the small town of Machete Pelao. After a break for lunch, you'll hike about 4.7 miles (7.6 km) to Adán's Cabanas, the first base camp on the route to Ciudad Perdida. You'll overnight here in shared accommodation (beds, tents, or hammocks).

Day 10: Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 2

Visit Indigenous villages like Mutanyi

After an early breakfast, you'll depart Adán's Cabanas on the second leg of the hike, which covers 9 miles (14.6 km), ascends 2,952 feet (900 m) above sea level, and takes about eight hours to complete. No doubt this is a difficult trek, but you'll break up the march with some fun and interesting stops.

For example, you'll visit the Indigenous village of Mutanyi. Here, your guide will share fascinating info about the history, culture, and daily life of the village's more 3,000 Indigenous residents. They're all descendants of the Tayrona people and belong to the Arhuaco, Kogui, Wiwa, and Kakuamo communities that inhabit the area. After lunch, take a refreshing dip in the Buritaca River then enjoy a leisurely cup of local coffee amid the gorgeous mountain scenery before getting back on the trail.

As you continue hiking through the tropical forests, there will be ample opportunity to observe native animals in their natural habitat. Count on seeing monkeys, hummingbirds, and plenty of butterflies. Eventually, you'll arrive at your overnight accommodation at Rumualdo's Camp, where you'll have dinner.

Day 11: Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 3

The lost city
Ciudad Perdida
Leave around daybreak from Rumualdo's Camp and embark on the final leg to Ciudad Perdida, which takes about one hour. Upon arrival at the site, you'll ascend 1,200 steps to see the ancient terraces of the Lost City hidden within the mountains. The views here are incredible and look out not only to Ciudad Perdida but over the surrounding forests as well.
After a three-hour guided tour of the archaeological site, during which you can snap plenty of photos, you'll return to Rumualdo's Camp for lunch. Then continue on to Gabriel's Camp, which is near the Buritaca River, where you'll overnight. The total distance you'll cover today is 5 miles (8 km) with an ascent up to 3,937 feet (1,200 m) above sea level.

Day 12: Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 4

Finish the day in Minca

It's another early start today, as you Ieave Gabriel's Camp on the route back to Machete Pelao. The hike covers 9.7 miles (15.6 km), mostly downhill, and takes about seven hours. Upon arrival in town, you'll have lunch, and then the group will transfer by vehicle to the mountain town of Minca, where you'll overnight in a hotel. 

Day 13: Birding in Minca, Transfer to Santa Marta & Depart

Biodiverse Minca known for its many hummingbirds
See hummingbirds around Minca

After an early breakfast, you'll embark on a sunrise birding tour around Minca. The area's dry tropical forest is home to many of the country's whopping 2,000 species of birds, including sparrows, hummingbirds, flycatchers, and more. The tour leaves at dawn and is a moderate forest hike accompanied by an expert guide. During this three-hour excursion, the guide will point out rare and exotic species like the keel-billed toucan, golden-winged sparrow, and the rosy thrush-tanager.

After the birding tour, you'll transfer from Minca about an hour north to Santa Marta Airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Adiós!

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Map of Active Adventures in Colombia - 13 Days
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