Discover the oldest and most culturally dynamic region of Colombia on an 11-day tour of its Caribbean Coast. Far more than just beaches, on this adventure you'll stroll the cobbled streets of Cartagena, tour colonial fortresses, and immerse yourself in Indigenous culture. As if that wasn't enough, you'll brave the jungle on an expedition to the Lost City and travel to the coastal deserts on Colombia's arid Guajira Peninsula.


  • Tour Cartagena and the historic village of San Basilio de Palenque
  • Hike to Ciudad Perdida, the legendary Lost City of Colombia
  • Venture to the far eastern coast and the deserts of Guajira

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cartagena, Optional Activities Cartagena
Day 2 Day Trip to San Basilio de Palenque Cartagena
Day 3 Day Trip to Boquilla, Transfer to Santa Marta Santa Marta
Day 4 Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 1 Lost City Trek
Day 5 Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 2 Lost City Trek
Day 6 Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 3 Lost City Trek
Day 7 Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 4, Transfer to Riohacha Cabo de la Vela
Day 8 Transfer to Cabo de la Vela, Stop in Uribia Cabo de la Vela
Day 9 Taroa Dunes & Punta Gallinas Punta Gallinas
Day 10 Transfer to Riohacha, Stop at Mayapo Riohacha
Day 11 Transfer to Cartagena & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cartagena, Optional Activities

Plaza de la Aduana, Cartagena.
Welcome to Cartagena
Welcome to Colombia! You'll be arriving in the coastal gem of Cartagena. This city was founded in 1533 as Spain's principal shipping port in the New World, and today it remains the largest colonial city in the Americas. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. Once you've settled in, feel free to head out and explore on a self-guided tour.
Start by walking the cobbled streets of Cartagena's historic center. It's known as the Walled City due to the 7 miles (11 km) of stone ramparts that were constructed in the 16th century to protect Cartagena from sea attacks—often from pirates. You can actually walk atop the walls, which offer some great sunset-viewing spots (as well as cool bars).
Within the historic center are lively plazas and colorful houses adorned with bougainvillea-draped balconies. Check out the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo while stopping at key sites like Plaza de la Aduana, Parque Bolívar, and Plaza de Santa Teresa. Don't miss Santo Domingo, which dates to 1552 and is the oldest church in the city. Then venture outside the walls to Getsemaní, a bohemian neighborhood filled with street art, boutique hotels, and street food vendors. Finish the day with mojitos and fresh ceviche in one of the city's hip restaurants or rooftop bars.

Day 2: Day Trip to San Basilio de Palenque

Palenqueras in traditional dress
You're in for a treat, as this morning you'll visit the town of San Basilio de Palenque, a landmark hub for Afro-Caribbean culture and history in Colombia. It was here in the 17th century that Benkos Bioho, a runaway enslaved man accompanied by 36 of his compatriots, founded what became the first slavery-free town on the continent. The people from this area are called palenqueros, and their language and traditions remain intact. A fine example of this is seen in the palenqueras—women in colorful dress who sell fresh fruit on the streets of Cartagena, as their forebears have done for centuries.

A personal driver will pick you up at your hotel for the 1.5-hour ride to this UNESCO cultural heritage site. Upon arrival, a local guide will welcome you and share a bit of the local palenquero dialect, which is distinctly Afro-Caribbean rather than Spanish. Then you'll head off on a walking tour of the town. As you go, you'll meet local artisans skilled in traditional craftwork like weaving. After exploring the village and its surroundings, you'll sit down for a traditional (and delicious) palenquero lunch. Then it will be time to head back to Cartagena. 

Day 3: Day Trip to Boquilla, Transfer to Santa Marta

La Boquilla Fishing Village near Cartagena
La Boquilla, near Cartagena

In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the 30-minute drive north of Cartagena to the humble fishing village of Boquilla. Most in this Afro-Caribbean community live in impoverished conditions, but many are rising above it by offering cultural workshops. One such endeavor run by local women is called DAMARTES (Ladies and Mothers of Art). They generate income by teaching visitors how to make crafts out of common coconuts. During this workshop, you'll hear the ladies' stories as you make your own coconut souvenir, which could be a bracelet, key chain, earrings, necklace, or something else.

Then it will be time to discover another aspect of the rich culture here: drums. In this village, drums have been an integral part of the residents' ancestral heritage for hundreds of years. You'll participate in an hour-long workshop led by energetic young villagers, during which you'll be given a drum and can join right in—no experience necessary. All that's required is you open yourself up to the rhythms of traditional music like cumbia, mapalé, and champeta. It's through music like this that residents preserve the cultural traditions of their African heritage.

At the end of the day, you'll hop back in the car and continue another four hours east to Santa Marta, the capital of Colombia's Magdalena Dept. Founded in 1525, Santa Marta is the oldest city in Colombia, and many famous colonial-era landmarks, like its 16th-century Cathedral, remain today. Santa Marta is also the main hub for excursions into Tayrona National Park and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the latter of which is where you're headed tomorrow.

Day 4: Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 1

The path to the Lost City
The path to the Lost City
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Located south of Tayrona National Park, deep in the Sierra Nevadas, lies what is undoubtedly the most impressive archaeological site in the region: Ciudad Perdida ("The Lost City"). This ancient complex represents the former center of the Tairona civilization, whose descendants still live in the region today. The site comprises more than 250 terraces and dates to around 700 CE, meaning it pre-dates the Inca Machu Picchu by about 800 years. Also in the area are Indigenous villages where tribespeople still reside.
You'll see this archaeological 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 5: Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 2

Mutanyi Village

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 than 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 6: Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 3

The lost city
The Lost City
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 7: Trek to Ciudad Perdida - Day 4, Transfer to Riohacha

Sierra Nevada Mountains
Sierra Nevada Mountains
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 back to Santa Marta. A personal driver will then pick you up for the three-hour ride east along the coast to Riohacha, the capital of Colombia's Guajira Dept. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel.

Day 8: Transfer to Cabo de la Vela, Stop in Uribia

Pilón de Azúcar, in Guajira
Wake up early and embark on a journey farther west into the heart of Guajira. Your first stop is in the city of Uribia, located about 1.5 hours from Riohacha. It's populated mainly by the Indigenous Wayúu people, who are the ancestral inhabitants of the Guajira region. You'll learn more about their history and culture on a short city tour plus a visit to the Wayúu Cultural Center.
Continue driving about 20 minutes to the coastal town of Manaure, which is famous for its salt flats. Accompanied by a community leader, you'll get to tour the ponds where salt is extracted. You'll also visit a weaving co-op comprised of female Wayuú artisans who make mochillas (bags) and chinchorros (hammocks). These items are 100% handcrafted using looms and traditional crocheting techniques. It can take months to hand-weave a hammock, as the colors and patterns of each one tell a unique story.
After spending time in a Wayuú settlement and sampling some traditional foods, you'll leave for the two-hour drive east to the coastal community of Cabo de La Vela. Upon arrival, you'll have lunch at your guesthouse then embark on a 15-minute hike up Pilón de Azúcar. This conical hill overlooking the Caribbean is a sacred site for the Wayuú community, as they believe it's part of the path to the afterlife. Afterward, you'll have time to relax on a couple of beaches before returning to the guesthouse for dinner. You'll overnight here, in a private room with an en-suite bathroom.

Day 9: Taroa Dunes & Punta Gallinas

View from Taroa sand dune
View from Taroa sand dune
Wake up early for the two-hour drive to the tip of the Guajira Peninsula and the Taroa Dunes. This is one of the most scenic areas in the region, as these smooth coastal dunes roll down until they merge seamlessly with the Caribbean Sea. After spending some time here, you'll head up to Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point in South America. The area is marked by the northernmost lighthouse on the continent—Faro de Punta Gallinas—which stands 59 feet (18 m).
Continue on to Playa La Boquita, a sheltered beach on a tranquil bay. Enjoy lunch at a local guesthouse then visit the islets of La Boquita and Hondita Bay, ending at the beach at Punta Aguja. Here, you'll be treated to a golden Guajira sunset. Stop at a Wayúu community to participate in a weaving activity, then return to Punta Gallinas for dinner in the lodge where you'll overnight.

Day 10: Transfer to Riohacha, Stop at Mayapo

Try some kite-surfing in Colombia

At around 7 am you'll leave Punta Gallinas, heading back along the coast toward Riohacha. After about five hours, you'll arrive at the settlement of Mayapo, which boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the region. Here, you'll take a break for lunch and enjoy traditional cuisine like friche (goat fried in oil) and chirrinchi (a fermented cane liquor).

Afterward, you can spend some time relaxing on Mayapo's beaches. This windy coastal area is ideal for watersports, and it's one of the prime kite-surfing destinations in Colombia. Later in the afternoon, you'll leave Mayapo and continue driving another hour or so to Riohacha, where you'll overnight.

Day 11: Transfer to Cartagena & Depart

Goodbye, Colombia
In the morning, your personal driver will pick you up for the seven-hour drive from Riohacha to Cartagena. Enjoy the coastal scenery, as you'll be treated to the beauty of the Caribbean throughout the ride. In Cartagena, you'll transfer to the airport and catch your flight home. Adiós!

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