Visit Colombia's cities, countryside, and coast on this comprehensive tour. Visit charming colonial towns like Barichara and Villa de Leyva, the modern metropolitan city of Medellín, and the colorful village of Guatape. Visit a working coffee farm and learn the entire process that goes into your morning cup. Once you reach the coast, you'll spend a few days exploring Cartagena and swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the Rosario Islands.

Highlights

  • Day-trip to a working finca in the hills of Colombia's Coffee Country
  • Enjoy sweeping Andean views from the lookout points of Barichara
  • Devour the best ceviche in the world in charming Cartagena
  • Laze on the white-sand beaches of the Rosario Islands

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the City Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Tour of Guatavita, Zipaquirá & Villa de Leyva Villa de Leyva
Day 4 Explore In & Around Villa de Leyva Villa de Leyva
Day 5 Driving Tour of Villa de Leyva - Transfer to Barichara Barichara
Day 6 Admire the colonial architecture of Barichara Barichara
Day 7 Hike from Barichara to Guane Barichara
Day 8 Barichara - Flight to Medellín Medellín
Day 9 Medellín City Tour Medellín
Day 10 Guatapé Day Trip Medellín
Day 11 Coffee Finca Day Trip Medellín
Day 12 Medellín - Flight to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 13 Cartagena City Tour & Sunset Mangrove Excursion Cartagena
Day 14 Rosario Islands Day Trip Cartagena
Day 15 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the City

Plaza Bolívar in La Candelaria, Bogotá
Plaza Bolívar in La Candelaria, Bogotá

Welcome to Bogotá! A driver will meet you at the airport 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. You'll have ample free time to explore this Andean capital on foot. Start with 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. 

Depending on what time you arrive, you can experience Bogotá's local history and culture by taking a tour with an English-speaking guide.

Day 2: Bogotá City Tour

Sunset in La Candelaria
Sunset in La Candelaria

After breakfast, it's time to hit the streets and explore! A local guide will pick you up and accompany you on a half-day walking tour of the city. You'll begin in colorful La Candelaria—the heart of Bogota's historic center. Amble along its narrow streets, visiting cultural landmarks and local shops selling artisanal goods. Eventually, you'll reach Plaza Bolívar, the city's main square dating back to 1539. There's a grand cathedral here as well as many important government buildings, such as the Capitolio Nacional (Colombia's congress building). 

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 Pre-Columbian gold artifacts in the world, and the Botero Museum (closed on Tuesdays), which houses a collection of masterpieces from renowned Colombian sculptor and painter 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: Tour of Guatavita, Zipaquirá & Villa de Leyva

A hike to Guatavita will be your first stop
A hike to Guatavita will be your first stop

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 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'll transfer 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. After checking into your hotel, you'll hit the streets starting 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 village 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 Discalced Carmelites ("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.

Day 4: Explore In & Around Villa de Leyva

The expansive central plaza of Villa de Leyva
Expansive central plaza of Villa de Leyva

After breakfast embark on a tour of Villa de Leyva. Start in the town's central plaza (the largest such plaza in the nation), and venture out into the foothills and surrounding nature. You'll be surprised to learn that this highland region is a hotbed of archeological sites.

Pay a visit to the most popular landmark, El Infiernito—an ancient grouping of stone fertility monuments. If you're an amateur paleontologist you'll be thrilled to visit El Fosíl, a small museum housing the fossil of a 110-million-year-old kronosaurus (an aquatic relative of the crocodile). Other sites of interest include the Monastery of Santo Ecce Homo.

The afternoon is yours to explore Villa de Leyva on your own. There are a number of local treasures within a block or two of the plaza, and these include French bakeries, artisanal ice cream shops, chocolate confectioners, and more. 

Day 5: Driving Tour of Villa de Leyva - Transfer to Barichara

Barichara quaint cobblestone street
Barichara quaint cobblestone street

After breakfast, you'll have the opportunity to learn more about the village's outer surroundings visiting main points of interest with a driving tour. The sites include El Fossil (a museum built around a bus-sized fossil on the side of the highway), the pre-Colombian archaeological park, and the Monastery of Santo Ecce Homo.

In the afternoon, you will be transferred to Barichara by private car, which is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Colombia. 

Day 6: Admire the colonial architecture of Barichara

Quiet and picturesque church in Barichara.
Quiet and picturesque church in Barichara.

Barichara is renowned for its quiet charm and is considered to be one of the most beautiful pueblos in Colombia (among many beautiful pueblos). Start the morning with a two-hour hike (mostly downhill) to Guane. Explore this small colonial town before catching the bus back to Barichara to admire the handicrafts on sale in the shops, and maybe pick one up for yourself. 

If you fancy exotic foods, make sure to try some hormigas culonas (fat-bottomed ants). Every year in April, life in Barichara comes to a halt when these ants make their appearance. The locals drop everything in order to harvest and roast as many ants as possible to be enjoyed throughout the year.  

At sunset, walk or take a tuk-tuk to a scenic outlook for a beautiful view of Suarez Canyon and the surrounding mountains. Walking back to your hotel after sunset, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy in the laid-back lifestyle of the locals in this picturesque town.

Day 7: Hike from Barichara to Guane

Colonial village of Guane
Colonial village of Guane

After breakfast, hike up to the edge of town where you'll find the start of the Camino Real (or "royal path"). You'll walk along this path two hours until you reach the small colonial village of Guane. Along the way, you'll be treated to some great views of the canyons as well as a bit of solitude in the peaceful countryside.

Once in Guane, you'll visit the archaeological and paleontological museum. It displays ceramics and jewelry made by the Guane indigenous people, as well as fossils that are millions of years old. Finally, you'll visit the Chapel of Santa Lucia, located in the iconic main square.

You'll then return to Barichara on a moto-taxi (approx. 35 mins.). This means of transport is perfect to relax and enjoy the views of the Río Suarez Canyon whizzing by. You'll have the late afternoon and evening to enjoy as you see fit.

Day 8: Barichara - Flight to Medellín

Medellín's outlying scenery
Medellín's outlying scenery

After breakfast, depart for Medellín! This will be a day of transfers, starting with a 3.5-hour drive to Bucaramanga airport. You'll then fly to Bogotá in order to catch your connecting flight to Medellín. Upon landing, you will be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Depending on your arrival time, enjoy the afternoon/evening exploring the city's vibrant neighborhoods and lively restaurant scene.

Day 9: Medellín City Tour

Medellín barefoot park
Medellín's Barefoot Park

After breakfast at your hotel, spend a full day exploring Medellín on a walking tour with a local guide. This excursion includes a mix of sightseeing by foot and taking the Metro system through a neighborhood that represents one of the city's most successful urban projects.

The guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to Medellín's downtown. You'll visit Plaza Botero, which features works by Colombia's foremost sculptor, Fernando Botero. Then it's time to take a ride on the city's iconic Metrocable gondola system, during which you'll enjoy panoramic views of Medellín below. Next, stop in at the Botanical Garden, which features more than 4,500 types of flowers. After visiting some parks and landmarks in the downtown area, you'll eventually return to your hotel by public transport. (There's also a tour option that includes graffiti street art and riding the Metrocable to more remote neighborhoods higher in the hills.)

The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy at your leisure.

Day 10: Guatapé Day-Trip

View from atop the rock
View from atop El Peńol

After breakfast, you'll transfer from your hotel for a full-day excursion to one of the crown jewels of Colombia's Antioquia region: the lakeside town of Guatapé. This private tour includes a guided walk through the village and a mini-history lesson. You'll learn about the town's conflict surrounding the building of the dam that created the reservoir here, which is known as Guatapé Lake. You'll gain an insider’s perspective on local efforts to pressure the government to address this reservoir’s encroaching blue-green algae.

Your guide will then transfer you to El Peñol (La Piedra Rock). Relax at the base of this natural granite landmark in one of the many market stalls. Or work up an appetite by climbing the 740 steps to admire the view from the top (entrance fee not included). Halfway up the rock, you'll see a shrine to the Virgin Mary.

Return to the town of Guatapé and explore the streets. This is one of the most colorful villages in Colombia, with beautiful artwork along the lower half of its buildings. Head to a local restaurant and enjoy lunch on your own (try the freshwater fish and/or other delicacies). In the late afternoon, you'll transfer back to your hotel in Medellín with free time to enjoy the rest of the day.

Day 11: Coffee Finca Day-Trip

A worker packs coffee on the farm
A worker packs coffee on the farm

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll transfer by car 1.5 hours to a working coffee finca (farm) located in the mountains outside of Medellín. From here, you'll embark on a walking tour with a coffee farmer who will explain the growing process and the steps it takes for the coffee bean to reach the cup. You'll also learn about the daily life of these farmers and how this important trade is linked to many Colombian families, making it a source of pride for locals.

Return to Medellín in the afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day on your own.

Day 12: Medellín - Flight to Cartagena

Colorful streets of Cartagena
Colorful streets of Cartagena

After breakfast, you'll be transferred to Medellín airport for your flight to Cartagena. This picturesque colonial city on the Caribbean Sea is rich in culture, architecture, romance—and, yes, even pirate history. Upon arrival, you'll be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel.

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 neighborhood walk, 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.
  • Check out the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo stopping at key sites like Plaza de los Coches, Plaza de la Aduana, Parque Bolívar, and Plaza de Santa Teresa.  
  • Walk along the Old Town's original fortress walls, built (starting in 1586) with the purpose of protecting Cartagena from any attacks. You'll get some amazing panoramic views of the city (and the sunset!) from here.
  • Pay respects at Santo Domingo, reputedly the oldest church in the city.
  • Peek in La Vitrola for future reference — this is the city's most famous restaurant in a 400-year-old colonial home.
  • Explore Getsemani, the up-and-coming neighborhood just outside the walls of Cartagena's historic Old City. Once a seedy area, Getsemani is now a haven for hip culture with charming Spanish colonial architecture, graffiti art, boutique hotels, and street food vendors.

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

Day 13: Cartagena City Tour & Sunset Mangrove Excursion

Calle San Juan de Dios, Cartagena
Calle San Juan de Dios, Cartagena

After breakfast, you will meet your guide and begin a walking tour of Cartagena’s historic center. The reason the city is designed like a fortress is that it was the principal shipping port of gold from the New World back to Spain. The stone ramparts helped protect it from countless pirate attacks, including from the most famous of all: Sir Francis Drake.

On top of this history, 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. 

In the late afternoon, you'll transfer from your hotel to La Boquilla, an authentic Afro-Colombian fishing village. You'll enjoy a short stroll to meet the local fishermen and a canoe trip in the Ciénaga Juan Polo wetlands through mangrove waterways to Fisherman Island and the Bird Park. The end of the day is the perfect time to visit the area, as the sky is alive with birds coming home to nest during the sunset. You'll then return to your hotel in Cartagena after your tour.

Day 14: Rosario Islands Day Trip

A petit island in Rosario
A petit island in Rosario

After an early breakfast, you'll transfer from your hotel to the pier where you will board a speedboat for an hour trip to the Barú Peninsula. Along the way, you will see Tierra Bomba Island and Boca Chica, ancient forts that once protected Cartagena from hostile invaders.

After arriving at the Rosario Islands, change into your swimwear and head to Playa Azul, a crescent beach with soft white sands hugging the turquoise Caribbean Sea. After enjoying a buffet lunch, you will have time to relax and sunbathe. An optional add-on is to rent a kayak and embark on a two or three-hour paddling excursion 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 15: Depart Cartagena

Sunset over the ancient ramparts, Cartagena
Sunset over the ancient ramparts, Cartagena

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia! After breakfast, enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a patio café. Or, if you haven't already, explore the bulk of the city on a guided tour. Otherwise, take one last stroll along those cobbled streets.

Enjoy Cartagena's cobbled maze of vividly colorful houses and ancient squares dating from the 16th century. Meander through the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo while learning about important historical sites like Saint Philip's Castle. Maybe pay a visit to the Palace of the Inquisition in Plaza de Bolívar, which was once the seat of the Holy Office of the Inquisition and is now a macabre museum. 

A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home.

Map

Map of Highlights of Colombia: Cities, Coast, & Colonial Highlands - 15 Days
Map of Highlights of Colombia: Cities, Coast, & Colonial Highlands - 15 Days