This 10-day excursion is perfect for an adventurous visitor seeking full immersion into Colombia's landscape and culture. Travel between colorful cities and tropical island retreats, mountain biking some parts in between. Along the way you'll discover colorful art, high peaks, soaring palm trees and delectable coffee. Cap your journey with salsa lessons in romantic Cartagena.

Highlights

  • Experience the vibrant culture of Bogotá by bike
  • Sip freshly brewed coffee on a coffee plantation
  • Cycle through the stunning Nevados mountains
  • Hike beneath the towering palm trees of Cocora Valley
  • Learn how to salsa dance in the romantic city of Cartagena

Overview

This adventurous itinerary includes outdoor activities plus cultural excursions. From hiking to cycling to salsa dances, the activities in this action-packed trip will have you up and moving from dawn to dusk. The journey begins with a bicycle tour of the Colombian capital Bogotá before moving onto the coffee region and Manizales. Next explore the Nevados mountains by bike and then continue to the traditional village of Salento and the Cocora Valley. The tour finishes off in Cartagena. We also include two options to extend your visit by four days.   

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá

Bogotá is a vibrant city surrounded by the beauty of the Andes. 

You will be welcomed at the airport and driven about 40-minutes to your hotel in Bogotá

Day 2: Tour Bogotá by Bike

Bogotá is also the cultural heart of Colombia

Bogotá is a city best enjoyed by bike, and you'll start your trip off with a four-hour bike tour led by an English speaking guide. This excursion will provide a street-level view of the Colombian capital. You'll visit historic and culturally significant places such as the Candelaria, the Bolívar Plaza, the markets and plazas of San Victorino, Independence Park, the central graveyard, the neighborhood of Teusaquillo, the National Museum, the university of Los Andes and the Plaza of Los Toros. After this busy morning, you'll have the afternoon free to relax, go shopping or enjoy a good coffee.

Day 3: Visit the village of Honda en route to Manizales

Coffee plantation near Manizales
Coffee plantation near Manizales

Travel by car from Bogotá to Manizales, an eight-hour drive. Stop for lunch in Honda, a beautiful and colorful colonial-era village located by the river Magdalena.   

Day 4: Bike through the Parque los Nevados

Begin your day with a bike excursion in the Nevados mountains. These are highest mountains of the central Colombia and feature a spectacular descent into the Parque los Nevados.

Views of the páramo ecosystem, the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, and Cañón del Río Guali are the highlights on the first section of this ride. From there, the adventure descends through the verdant, forested mountains and finishes in the city of Manizales.

From Manizales, continue to Salento by car and check into your colonial-era hotel. After this jam-packed day, enjoy your evening by relaxing in this traditional village.

Day 5: Hike in Cocora Valley in the shade of Colombia's national trees. 

Palma de Cera trees in the Cocora Valley

After breakfast, head to the Cocora Valley with an English-speaking guide to hike the shores of the Quindio River and through a forest of huge palm trees. These towering giants, called Palma de Cera, are Colombia's national tree. After this outdoor adventure that includes about three hours of walking, return to Salento, a town that never loses its charm no matter how many times you visit. Colonial houses, street musicians, local craftspeople selling their wares, and fresh trout caught on the Patacón are just some of the incredible sights and flavors to discover in traditional village. 

In the afternoon, you'll visit a traditional coffee farm near Salento on another guided adventure. To reach the farm, you will walk for about an hour through the lush coffee plantations. When you arrive, a local farmer will explain the process of small-scale coffee production from gathering the grounds to brewing the final product. Sip on a freshly brewed cup of coffee and purchase roasted beans to take home with you before loading up in a jeep for the drive back to Salento. 

Day 6: Enjoy a canoe ride near Cartagena de Indias

Visit a traditional fishing village. 

You'll start your day by taking a private car to the airport and catch a domestic flight to Pereira – Cartagena. When you arrive, you'll check into a quaint colonial hotel located at the heart of the historic center. 

At 4 pm, you'll depart from the hotel for La Boquilla, an authentic afro-Carthaginian fishing village. With a local guide, you will take a short stroll to meet a fisherman for a canoe trip in the Juan Polo Swamp. Sit back and enjoy the scenery as he paddles you through the mangrove tunnels to Fisherman Island and the Bird Park. As the sun slips below the horizon, you'll be treated to a peaceful view of the colorful birds and surrounding nature. Your guide will drop you back off at the hotel in Cartagena around 7 pm.

Day 7: Tour Cartagena and learn the language of Salsa

Known as the "Pearl of the Caribbean", Cartagena is a city rich in heritage and culture.

An English speaking guide is available on request for a walk through the beautiful city of Cartagena. A colonial-era gem, the city's colorful houses and lively squares will take you back in time. Visit the  charming neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo for a glimpse of Plaza de los Coches, the plaza de la Aduana, Bolívar Park, the Museo del Oro, the plaza de Santa Teresa, the plaza de Santo Domingo, Las Bóvedas, and other areas of interest. 

Even though Cali is the official Capital of Salsa, Cartagena is a hotbed of Afro-Caribbean music. Savoring your time in this city is a must-see for all Latin music lovers. In the afternoon, you'll learn salsa dancing by taking a 1-hour lesson with a Spanish-speaking instructor. 

The dance academy is located in Cartagena’s historical center and the class is open to all skill levels. Widely regarded as the world's most seductive dance, your instructor will guide you through the steps with creativity and enthusiasm. For those looking to interact with locals, this class is an ideal way to meet people who live in the city. 

Day 8: Departure for home... extend your trip

The colorful charm of Cartagena

If eight days is all you can budget for this trip, you'll head to the Cartagena airport by car and be on your way.

If your time in Colombia can be extended by four days, you have two options to choose from below.

Extension - Option #1

Mucura Island Exploration

Mucura Island is a tropical island paradise. 

Day 8:  Take a boat ride to Mucura Island

Rather than heading to the airport, instead you will take a car to the pier of Cartagena.

From there, take a speedboat to Mucura island, a journey of about 1.5 to two hours. Upon arrival, you'll be welcomed at the your hotel with a cocktail and buffet lunch. You'll have the afternoon free to relax and discover the island before heading back to the hotel for dinner. 

Day 9: Hike and tour Mucura Island

Take an ecological hike around the Mucura island to get a feel for it's natural beauty and turquoise waters before enjoying a buffet lunch. In the afternoon, go for a boat tour and visit Tintipan Island.

Day 10: Take your time heading back to Cartagena

Return to Cartagena via a two-hour boat ride in the morning and stop along the way at Rosario Islands or the Canal de Dique (a 118km long canal connecting Cartagena and the River Magdalena). Check into a hotel in the historic center of Cartagena. 

Day 11: Return home. 

Make your way to the Cartagena airport for your flight home.

Extension - Option #2

Hike in Tayrona Park and discover Palomino

Tayona Park offers incredible outdoor recreation opportunities. 

Day 8: Drive from Cartagena to Palomino

Take a leisurely five-hour drive from Cartagena to Palomino, where you will have the rest of the day to relax, go shopping or enjoy a nice coffee.

Day 9: Hike in Tayrona Park 

After breakfast, drive (50 minutes) to Tayrona Park (Cañaveral). Nestled between the mountains, the tropical forests, and the sea, this park is located in one of the most magical landscapes imaginable. Visit the most beautiful white sand beaches and gaze out over the volcanic rocks to the crystal clear Caribbean Sea.

You can tour the jungle and beaches of Tayrona Park with a local Spanish-speaking guide. Begin in the tropical jungle of Cañaveral, then approach the exotic beaches of Arrecifes and stop at La Piscina, which is ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Continue to Cabo San Juan del Guia, a wonderful bay of white sand surrounded by huge volcanic rocks. On the way, your guide will point out the local fauna and flora of this magnificent park. 

In the late afternoon/ evening, you'll return back to Palomino for the night. 

Day 10: Float the Palomino River

Go tubing on the Palomino river and enjoy a moment to relax and take in the beautiful tropical landscape. 

Day 11: Return

Return home via the Santa Marta airport, which is about 1.5 hours by car from Palomino.