This itinerary highlights one of Colombia's beloved ecological gems: the Caño Cristales. During certain months, the Guayabero River turns shades of rainbow colors in a vibrant natural display. Enjoy swimming holes and waterfalls before flying back to Bogotá, checking out a salt mine cathedral, and visiting Villa de Leyva, one of Colombia's most charming Spanish colonial villages.

Highlights

  • Take a guided tour of Bogotá's historical center
  • Swim, hike, and enjoy the colors of Caño Cristales
  • Visit a monastery in Spanish colonial village Villa de Leyva
  • Check out an underground salt cathedral in Zipaquirá 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Flight to La Macarena - Guayabero River La Macarena
Day 4 Hike to Caño Cristales La Macarena
Day 5 Return to Bogotá Bogotá
Day 6 Laguna Guatavita & Zipaquirá - Transfer to Villa de Leyva Villa de Leyva
Day 7 Tour Villa de Leyva - Transfer to Bogotá Bogotá
Day 8 Depart Bogotá  

Detailed overview

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá

Bogotá
Bogotá

Welcome to Bogotá! A driver will meet you at the airport for transportation to the hotel.

Colombia's biggest city is on the rise in terms of gastronomy and culture, so spend your free time discovering this vibrant Andean capital by foot. Explore 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: Bogotá City Tour

Plaza Bolívar, Bogotá
Plaza Bolívar, Bogotá

After breakfast, it's time to hit the streets and explore. A local guide will pick you up at your hotel and impart his/her knowledge of the city on this half-day tour. 

Half-Day Walking Tour: Take an immersive walking tour of colorful La Candelaria—the heart of Bogota's historic center. Amble along its narrow streets, visiting the cultural landmarks and shops selling local goods. 

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 gold artifacts in the world, and the Botero Museum (closed on Tuesdays), which houses a collection of masterpieces from renowned Colombian painter and sculptor 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: Flight to La Macarena - Guayabero River

The vivid colors of Caño Cristales
The vivid colors of Caño Cristales

You'll take a short but scenic flight to the remote village of La Macarena, south of Bogotá. When you arrive, there will be a quick 10-minute presentation highlighting the environmental practices you're required to adhere to when visiting the biological wonder that is Caño Cristales (everyone who visits the area must attend this). 

After the presentation, head to your hotel to check-in. If you arrive early enough, you can head out for a boat trip along the wide Guayabero River (Caño Cristales is a tributary flowing into the Guayabero), which features several waterfalls and swimming holes. Enjoy the exotic landscape as well as the wide array of birds, turtles, monkeys, and other flora and fauna unique to the region.

This river, which is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world, turns into a vibrant explosion of color between the wet and dry seasons (around June to November) when a mix of aquatic factors come together to give the water its rainbow hues. Time your visit right and this could be your lucky day. Either way, the river is well worth a hike.

Day 4: Hike to Caño Cristales

Caño Cristales
Caño Cristales

After breakfast, depart early for Serranía de la Macarena National Park. This is where the 100 km (62-mile) section of Caño Cristales is located. Transportation is by motorboat on the Guayabero River, and then by land to the disembarkation of Caño Cristales.

Set out on the ecological trail selected for you by the organization in charge of the park. You'll have lunch next to the river before going back to the village of La Macarena. Later that evening, enjoy a traditional dinner and live show with folkloric music and dance.

Day 5: Return to Bogotá 

Street art
Street art

It's time for your return trip to Bogotá. Depending on your arrival, you may be able to fit in another walking tour of the city. Your guided tour starts with a ride on a scenic cable car to Cerro Monserrate, a mountain peak serving up the best panoramic views of the city.

On your return trip, visit the food market of La Concordia where you can practice your Spanish while tasting fruits, vegetables, and spices used in local cuisine. Stroll through Bogota’s lively streets and view walled graffiti art while perusing cafes, bookstores, art galleries, and historic plazas and statues. All the while you'll learn about the fascinating political history of Colombia’s capital.

Day 6: Laguna Guatavita & Zipaquirá - Transfer to Villa de Leyva

Laguna Guatavita
Laguna Guatavita

After breakfast in Bogotá, a private car will pick you up for your journey north of the capital, with your first destination being Laguna de Guatavita. You will have a short guided hike to the lagoon to enjoy this unique, crater-shaped body of water. You will hear stories about its rich history, including the ancient rituals involving indigenous leaders throwing gold objects into its waters to appease their god.

After visiting the lake, have lunch in the small village of Sesquile. After lunch, you will be transported 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 7: Tour Villa de Leyva - Transfer to Bogotá

Monastery, Villa de Leyva
Monastery, 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 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 and evening on your own.

Day 8: Depart Bogotá

Bogotá
Bogotá

Enjoy your last hours in Bogotá with a leisurely breakfast at your hotel, a city stroll, and/or souvenir shopping.  A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home.

Map

Map of Bogotá, Caño Cristales, & Highlands Tour - 8 Days
Map of Bogotá, Caño Cristales, & Highlands Tour - 8 Days