Discover three of Colombia's major cities and both of its spectacular coasts on this comprehensive 12-day itinerary. Starting in the capital of Bogotá, you'll head to up-and-coming Medellín to hike around the lakeside town of Guatapé and get a taste of Colombia's coffee culture. Then it's on to Nuquí to spend three days canoeing, hiking, and soaking in hot springs on the Pacific Coast. End your journey in the magical Caribbean city of Cartagena, where you'll explore its charming neighborhoods and relax on the white sand beaches of the nearby Rosario Islands.

Highlights

  • Ride a cable car up Bogotá's Monserrate Hill
  • Visit a working coffee farm near Medellín
  • Stroll the candy-colored streets of scenic Guatapé
  • Go whale watching & canoeing off the Pacific Coast in Nuquí
  • Tour Cartagena's magical Old Town

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Bogotá! Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour & Ascend Monserrate Hill Bogotá
Day 3 Fly to Medellín Medellín
Day 4 Adventure on a Coffee Farm & Discover Medellín Medellín
Day 5 Day Trip to El Peñol & Guatapé Medellín
Day 6 Fly to Nuquí, Colombia's Pacific Coast Nuqui
Day 7 Whale Watching, Hiking & Hot Springs Nuqui
Day 8 Joví River Canoe & Village Day-Trip Nuqui
Day 9 Fly to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 10 Cartagena Half-Day City Tour Cartagena
Day 11 Day Trip to the Rosario Islands, Colombia's Caribbean Coast Cartagena
Day 12 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Bogotá!

Bogotá's cityscape

Welcome to Bogotá! Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will meet you and transport you to your hotel.

Colombia's biggest city has culture to spare, and its regional gastronomy has made it a global foodie destination. After settling in, head out to explore the center of this Andean capital on foot. Start with the cobblestone streets of the La Candelaria neighborhood, which is brimming with trendy restaurants and colonial-era landmarks. You'll also find excellent museums, shopping, and street food ranging from empanadas to exotic fruit salads.

Day 2: Bogotá City Tour & Ascend Monserrate Hill

Plaza Bolívar in La Candelaria, Bogotá

This morning, you'll join a guided tour of the city of Bogotá, starting in the neighborhood of La Candelaria. Start in the Plaza de Bolivar, home to the country's first cathedral and essential governmental buildings. You may have explored some of these sights yesterday after your arrival, but today your guide will help you dig deeper and understand the area's interesting history. You'll learn about the San Carlos Palace, where the chancellery operates, and visit the Presidential Palace of Nariño

Next, you'll step into the Colon Theatre, where you can explore the ornate interior with your guide. Nearby is the 19th-century Primada Cathedral, which was built during Spanish rule. Walk a few blocks and visit the famous Gold Museum, which features thousands of Pre-Columbian artifacts and goldwork. 

After lunch, you'll ascend to the top of Monserrate Hill by cable car and enjoy excellent views of the Colombian capital, as well as the surrounding mountains and countryside. Spend some time absorbing the views, then settle into one of the hill's cafes to try traditional Colombian street food, such as patacones (deep-friend green plantains) and empanadas.

Upon returning to the city center, you'll have the rest of the day to enjoy at your leisure. Head into the Santa Fe neighborhood to find the Museo Nacional de Colombia (National Museum of Colombia) and MAMBO, the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art. There are also plenty of trendy pubs, wine bars, and breweries to explore.

Day 3: Fly to Medellín

Medellin
Medellín's Botero Park

Today you'll be transferred to the airport and catch a flight north to Medellín. Upon arrival in the “City of Eternal Spring” you’ll be greeted by a driver ready to escort you through a beautiful mountain pass and 1,000 feet down into the trendy neighborhood of El Poblado

Once one of the most notorious cities in the world, Medellín is now known as one of the safest places in South America, as well as one of the most innovative. The hub of Colombia’s medical and tech sectors, the city is nestled in the Valle de Aburrá and offers breathtaking views in every direction. A modern and efficient metro runs north to south with sky gondolas reaching the heights of the surrounding Andes Mountain range. The tropical temperatures average 72 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year, with average daily highs around 80 degrees, and nightly lows of 60.

Day 4: Adventure on a Coffee Farm & Discover Medellín

Views across a Colombian coffee plantation

After you’ve had some time to enjoy breakfast at the hotel, head out for a cultural experience on an authentic working coffee farm. After passing through Antioquia’s gorgeous green landscape, you'll arrive at the finca (farm). Here you'll learn about the entire process of making coffee—from the plant to the cup— and discover the daily life of Colombian coffee cooperatives that still produce coffee traditionally and ethically.

Stroll through the plantation as the farm manager explains the process of growing and harvesting the coffee bean. Learn about the roasting process that takes plain green coffee beans and converts them into the rich brew that we all know and love—full of flavor and fragrant aroma. Listen closely as the coffee farmer explains the key characteristics of a great coffee, both in scent and taste, and shares how to prepare a great cup at home. After seeing the involved, manual process required to grow, harvest, dry, roast, grind, and then brew a cup of coffee, you’ll never take this everyday drink for granted again. At the end of the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to buy freshly roasted coffee straight from its source, the perfect souvenir from Colombia to share with family & friends.

In the afternoon, return to Medellín to explore more of this beautiful city. Starting along the river avenue and arriving at the city center, you'll visit the Plaza San Antonio, Botero Square, and the Museum of Antioquia, before boarding the iconic MetroCable gondola for panoramic views across the city.

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Day 5: Day Trip to El Peñol & Guatapé

View from the top of El Peñol de Guatapé
View from the top of El Peñol de Guatapé

Today's day trip takes you through the municipality of Peñol to reach the Andean hill town of Guatapé. This small resort town offers a peaceful break from the city, while also featuring a stunning panoramic view of nature and the surrounding scenery from the top of its dramatic hilltop setting.

Start with a visit to the iconic Rock of Guatapé, where you can climb 649 steps to reach the viewpoint with a 360-degree view of the Guatapé reservoir and its neighboring lands. Then, you will be transferred to Guatapé itself, known as the most colorful town in Colombia. Make sure to keep your camera close—it's hard to find a street that isn't worthy of being admired and photographed! Enjoy a walk through the streets, where a specialized guide will explain the town's unique culture and lead you past its traditional houses and zocalos (city squares) This memorable excursion includes a boat ride in the reservoir and a ride in a typical three-wheeled motochivas taxi.

Later in the afternoon, you will be transferred back to Medellín.

Day 6: Fly to Nuquí, Colombia's Pacific Coast

Nuquí's Guachalito Beach
Nuquí's Guachalito Beach

This morning, you'll fly to the village of Nuquí on Colombia's remote Pacific Coast. From here you'll be picked up at the airport and transferred by boat to the pristine beaches of Guachalito, where you can get settled into your hotel. 

After lunch, you'll have free time to enjoy the surroundings. You can relax on the sand, take a dip in the area's thermal hot springs, or head out on one of the ecological trails through the lush rainforest.

Day 7: Whale Watching, Hiking & Hot Springs Excursion

Whale watching is a popular activity in the Pacific Coast
Whale watching is a popular activity on the Pacific Coast

Start the morning with a boat trip in search of humpback whales accompanied by a local guide. This is a great way to see these gentle giants up close. The impressive mammal is a regular in the Chocó region, found in warm water and low currents as they make their way to their breeding ground in the Tribugá Gulf (depending on the season). 

After that, enjoy lunch on El Cantil beach. In the afternoon, your guide will take you on a nature walk that's known for thermal hot springs. Don't forget to bring your bathing suit!

Day 8: Joví River Canoe & Village Day-Trip

Dugout Canoe, commonly used as transportation in the Colombian Pacific Coast
A dugout canoe, commonly used as transportation in the Colombian Pacific Coast

After breakfast, head to the friendly village of Joví and sail along the river via dugout canoes to reach the destination of La Chontadura Waterfall, where you can take a dip in the clear waters.

Following lunch, you will have free time to explore the village surroundings on foot. At the end of the afternoon, a boat will pick you up for a return trip to your hotel.

Day 9: Fly to Cartagena

The Church of Santo Domingo, in Old Town Cartagena

After breakfast, take one last walk along the beautiful beaches by your hotel, where a boat will take you back to the village of Nuquí. Here you'll catch a flight back to Medellín, then board a connecting flight north to the beautiful city of Cartagena on Colombia's Caribbean coast. Here you'll be welcomed and transferred to your hotel.

Day 10: Cartagena Half-Day Walking Tour

Colorful balconies in Cartagena

After breakfast, meet your guide and begin a walking tour of Cartagena’s historic center. Once the principal gold shipping port in the New World, the city's fortress-like design and stone ramparts helped protect it from countless pirate attacks. You will visit myriad plazas, the church and the monastery of San Pedro Claver, the Basilica Minor cathedral, and you'll stroll along narrow cobbled streets lined with colonial houses featuring bougainvilia-draped balconies. 

Visit the modern neighborhoods of Bocagrande and Manga, where daring modern architecture contrasts with the beauty of the old houses from the twentieth century, then continue to El Castillo De San Felipe de Barajas, where the Spaniards sought to protect the city from the attacks of the English in the seventeenth century.

The rest of the afternoon and evening are yours to explore more of the city at your leisure. You can start at Café del Mar for sunset drinks with a view, and then choose from the Old Town's diverse and thriving restaurant scene for a late dinner. 

Day 11: Day Trip to the Rosario Islands, Colombia's Caribbean Coast

White sands and brilliant blue skies on the Rosario Islands.
White sands and brilliant blue skies on the Rosario Islands

Today's visit to the Rosario Islands takes you on an exciting day trip to the warm, crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea. Located just 45 minutes from Cartagena, this beautiful archipelago is made up of 27 islands off Colombia's west coast.

The Rosario Islands are part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Park, one of the most important nature reserves in the country. Here, both the islands and the surrounding waters are protected, leaving them as remarkably well-preserved ecosystems.

In the morning, you'll transfer from your hotel to the pier and board a boat headed for Isla Grande, the largest of the islands. Start with lunch at San Pedro de Majagua, then spend the afternoon discovering coral beaches and swimming amongst the diverse fauna of the reefs. If you're interested in water sports, Isla Grande is known for its scuba diving, snorkeling, standup paddleboarding, and kayaking. You can also take short boat trips to neighboring islands.

You'll return to Cartagena in the evening, where you can relax at your hotel and enjoy dinner.

Day 12: Depart Cartagena

Sunset over Cartagena

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia! After enjoying a last breakfast at the hotel, you'll be picked up and driven to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

More Colombia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Colombia? Check out these other Colombia itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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