From the colonial city of Cartagena to the ancient ruins of the Lost City and the wild costs of La Guajira, this 14-Day journey covers the major highlights and the off-the-beaten-path destinations of the Colombia's Caribbean coast. This trip is ideal for travelers who want to stay on the ground, explore one region in-depth and stay active with a multi-day trek and options for diving and snorkeling.

Highlights

  • Walk along Cartagena's original fortress walls for panoramic views of the city
  • Follow the trails of the Indigenous people towards The Lost City 
  • Explore the terraces, ceremonial centers, and Waterfall of the Youth
  • Enjoy a free day in Tayrona Park snorkeling, boating, hiking and/or wildlife spotting
  • Take a rewarding sailboat trip on the Caribbean Sea
  • Wander the sand dunes of Guajira Peninsula, with some of most spectacular scenery in Colombia

Overview

There's much more to the Caribbean side of Colombia then hitting the beach. This epic 14-day trip travels east from Cartagena towards the Venezuelan border covering Colombia's distinct mix of city culture, ancient trails, indigenous villages, and national parks -- and, yes, there will be time to enjoy the sand and sea. 

Colombia is an ideal year-round destination with warm, tropical weather. If you want to skip the high season and crowds (December and January), February to April is a great choice with dry weather and lower prices. Sun worshippers should stay clear of October and November, as they tend to be the wettest months of the year.   

Overview Map

Brief Itinerary

Day  Hightlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cartagena (optional city tour) Cartagena
Day 2 Explore Cartagena (free day) Cartagena
Day 3 Rosario Islands Day-Trip Cartagena
Day 4 Sights of Santa Marta Santa Marta
Day 5 The Lost City Trek - Day 1 Lost City Trail
Day 6 The Lost City Trek - Day 2 Lost City Trail
Day 7 The Lost City Trek - Day 3 Lost City Trail
Day 8 The Lost City Trek - Day 4 Lost City Trail
Day 9 Explore Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona Tayrona Park
Day 10 Swimming and exploration at Cabo de la Vela Cabo de la Vela
Day 11 Encounters with Wayuu people Cabo de la Vela
Day 12 Farm visit & Taroa Dunes Punta Galinas
Day 13 Sailing Day-Trip Santa Marta
Day 14 Depart Santa Marta  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cartagena (optional city tour)

Cartagena's Old Town at dusk.

Welcome to Cartagena! This picturesque colonial city on the Caribbean Sea is rich in culture, architecture, romance -- and, yes, even pirate history. Head to your hotel from the airport, and depending on the time of your arrival, consider a few options. You can relax and enjoy the hotel amenities or jump into action with a walking tour, either by yourself or with an English-speaking guide. Here are some things that you should see:

  • Wander the narrow, winding streets of the inner-walled city with a camera to photograph colorful houses and lively squares overflowing with bougainvillea.
  • Visit the Palace of Inquisition, which despite its original use, is one of the finest buildings in the city
  • Tour Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards.
  • Pay respects at Santo Domingo, reputedly the oldest church in the city. 
  • Walk along the original fortress wall and see panoramic views of the city. 
  • Check out La Vitrola -- the city's most famous restaurant in a 400-year-old colonial home. 

Finish the day on your own with mojitos and fresh ceviche in one of the city’s hip restaurants or rooftop bars.

Day 2: Explore Cartagena (free day)

Take a guided walking tour of Cartagena. 

There are numerous ways to experience Cartagena on a private tour, whether it’s a surfing trip along the coast, a boat trip to pristine Caribbean beaches, or even a sunset sail with a glass of bubbly.

Other options include a guided walking or bicycle tour of Cartagena's UNESCO World Heritage walled city. Together with an English-speaking professional, you will delve deeper into South America’s most extensive fortifications and visit famous sites like the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, located on the Hill of San Lázaro, and San Pedro, with its Andalusian-style palaces and Cathedral.

If an organized tour isn’t appealing, simply create your own adventure around the city. At dusk, take part in the unforgettable atmosphere as the city comes alive with street performers and musicians.

Day 3: Rosario Islands Day-Trip

This boat heads for white-sand beaches.

Rise and shine! Today, you will be picked up from your hotel bright and early and transferred to the pier for a speedboat transfer towards the Baru Peninsula. Along the way, you will see Tierra Bomba Island and Boca Chica, an ancient fort that once protected Cartagena.

Once you arrive at the Rosario Islands, change into your swimwear before you head to Playa Azul, a stunning white-sand beach on the bright turquoise Caribbean Sea. After lunch is served, you will have time to relax and sunbathe, or do some kayaking in the sea 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 4: Arrive in Santa Marta

Santa Marta's historical downtown. 

Welcome to Santa Marta! Depending on your arrival time, you may have time to explore this Caribbean city before dinner.

This busy port has a long history as the first Spanish settlement in Colombia and South America’s oldest surviving city. Though it’s often used as a stopping point for numerous day-trips in the area, the historical downtown has been restored, so take a stroll to see the multi-colored buildings and its magnificent cathedral, as well as a slew of hotels, restaurants, and bars.

Nearby, Santa Marta’s Sierra Nevada Mountains are home to Colombia’s tallest peak. It’s also a the gateway for ecological trips to the stunning Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona on the palm-fringed Caribbean coast.

Day 5: The Lost City Trek - Day 1

A guided tour of The Lost City Trek.

Today is the first day of an unforgettable journey to the Lost City! Depart from Santa Marta with an English-speaking guide and drive to the village of Machete Pelao, entrance to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This four-hour hike meanders through traditional coffee and cacao farms reaching the Mamey region where you'll have lunch.

When you arrive to camp, there will be free time to enjoy the natural surroundings and swim in a nearby waterfall. Everyone will meet up for dinner and then sleep in the campsite's hammocks.

Day 6: The Lost City Trek - Day 2

The village of Mutanyi. 

After breakfast at the camp, your guide will lead this four-hour hike through the tropical rainforest in Buritaca Valley, crossing the river until you reach the Indigenous village of Mutanyi. There will be free time in the afternoon to participate in the activities of a traditional family living in the camp where you will have dinner and spend the night in hammocks. This stunning area is also home to some great natural pools for swimming.

Day 7: The Lost City Trek - Day 3

Views on the trail on the way to the Lost City.

Today is a longer six-hour hike so eat well at breakfast! You will continue deeper in the Buritaca Valley and experience even more stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is here where you will follow the trails of the Indigenous people towards the camp of the Mamo (Mamo: Kogui spiritual leader) of the Lost City. Enjoy the afternoon with lunch and a swim in the Buritaca River, which is close to a pretty waterfall. Dinner will be served at Mamo's farm and you will sleep in hammocks.

Day 8: The Lost City Trek - Day 4

Arriving to The Lost City!

Today is a seven-hour trek and the final overnight of your adventure so enjoy every moment! Your guide will take you to the entrance of The Lost City where you'll climb 2000 steps to reach the archaeological site. There will be free time to explore the terraces, ceremonial centers of Ciudad Perdida, and Waterfall of the Youth. Have lunch and continue walking along the Buritaca River's Indigenous paths stopping for occasional swims in the natural pools.

When you reach camp, have dinner and sleep in hammocks.

Day 9: Explore Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (free day)

One of the scenic beaches at Tayrona Park.

Today is a free day to explore the park, or we can help organize activities such as snorkeling, boating, hiking or wildlife spotting for you.

Day 10: Riohacha to Manaure to Cabo de la Vela

Unplug on the Guajira Peninsula.

Today, you'll meet in Riohacha and depart for the remote fishing village of Cabo de la Vela, located in the northern panhandle of Colombia. The adventurous 4x4 journey starts by crossing Uribia before continuing via desert paths to Manaure, where you'll have free time to explore the salt mines. 

Upon arrival to Cabo de la Vela, there will be free time to enjoy swimming at the village's scenic beach. Recently, this little town has become a hotbed of ecotourism. It boasts a wealth of indigenous-style accommodations (beachside huts and hammocks) with generator electricity and very few phone lines, so it's a great place to unplug.

Day 11: Experience Wayuu culture near Cabo de la Vela

A donkey on the beach at Cabo de la Vela. 

Today, you'll have a chance to spend more time in Cabo de la Vela, which has some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Colombia. The entire region is inhabited by the indigenous Wayuu people who have lived there for hundreds of years and is considered sacred. 

Day 12: Punta Gallinas & Taroa Dunes

The golden sand dunes of Taroa. 

Today, you'll delve even deeper into the La Guajira peninsula towards Punta Gallinas on the northernmost edge of South America, where the sun-soaked scenery seems otherworldly.

After lunch is served in a typical farm, you'll visit the majestic dunes of Taroa -- a remarkable area where golden sand extends far beyond the spotless beaches. The slope of the sandy mountain is steep and its summit affords a view of the Caribbean Sea. From here, you can spend the remainder of the day wandering the shore, swimming, and then watching the sunset from Punta Gallinas lighthouse.

Day 13: Sailing Day-Trip

Snorkeling off the Caribbean Coast

Today, put on your sea legs and enjoy a sailing trip in the Caribbean Sea where you can relax and partake in a range of water activities including sea kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. This area of Colombia is known for its various bays and secluded beaches, so take advantage of its protected coastline as well as the nearby coral reef system with a highly diverse marine habitat.

Day 14: Depart Santa Marta

A beautiful sunrise in Santa Marta.

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia! Enjoy your last morning in Santa Marta with a leisurely breakfast and walk along the sea. A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your next transfer and connecting flight home.