With its vibrant cities, Spanish roots, Caribbean cuisine, and Indigenous cultures, Colombia is a country with many facets to discover. On this 15-day tour by air, car, and bicycle, you'll bargain with locals at Paloquemao Market in Bogotà, take a bamboo raft down the Río La Vieja, and see Medellín's urban transformation. End your trip dancing salsa and vallenato steps in Cartagena and sailing away to the pristine Rosario Islands.


  • Hike up Cerro Monserrate for some of Bogotá's best views
  • Explore Nemocón's salt mines and Zipaquirá's salt cathedral
  • Float down the Río La Vieja on a bamboo raft
  • Tour Medellín's Comuna 13 street art neighborhood by escalator 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá Museums & Skyline Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Salt Mines Day Trip Bogotá
Day 4 Fly to Pereira, Transfer to Salento via Santa Rosa Hot Springs Salento
Day 5 Valle de Cocora Coffee Tour & Salento Salento
Day 6 La Vieja River Rafting Salento
Day 7 Botanical Garden & Butterfly Farm Salento
Day 8 Fly to Medellín & City Transformation Tour Medellín
Day 9 Fruit Tasting Picnic & Pablo Escobar History Tour Medellín
Day 10 Peñol Boulder & Guatapé Boat Trip Medellín
Day 11 Explore Santa Fé de Antioquia Medellín
Day 12 Fly to Cartagena & Cartagena Bike Tour Cartagena
Day 13 Bazurto Market & Cooking Class, Coffee Tasting Cartagena
Day 14 Rosario Islands & Cartagena Dance Class Cartagena
Day 15 Depart Cartagena   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá

Streets of Bogotá
Get acclimated as you explore the streets of Bogotá
Welcome to Bogotá! Your driver will meet you at the airport for a transfer to your hotel. Take some time to rest and then start exploring Colombia's capital city at your own pace. To get an overview of the city's scale and skyline, climb to the top of Cerro Monserrate, or for a relaxing walk head to Simón Bolívar Park to explore its lakes, gardens, and paths. For lunch, head to Paloquemao Market, where you can join locals buying fruits and vegetables, and try dishes such as empanadas, ajiaco (chicken and potato soup), and crispy cheese buñuelos.

Day 2: Bogotá Museums & Skyline Tour

Hike or ride a cable car up to Cerro Monserrate for some of Bogotá's best views
Get ready to see Bogotá's highlights on a full-day tour with your guide. Start from La Candelaria, the city's historic center, then head to the main square of Plaza de Bolívar to learn about the capital and some of its history. At the nearby Gold Museum, see more than 34,000 pre-Columbian gold artifacts—the largest such collection in the world. At Museo de Botero, see a display of works donated by Fernando Botero. Afterward, stop at Paloquemao Market which covers an entire city block with 750 vendors selling everything from fresh produce and flowers to meats and cheeses.
As your guide leads you down a labyrinth of aisles in the market, mingle with locals doing their weekly shopping, and with vendors ready to tell you about their products. Taste empanadas and then sample tropical fruits such as carambola, passion fruit, and lulo. With plenty of fuel to keep you going, get ready for some of the city's best views at Cerro Monserrate. Opt to hike, take a cable car, or funicular up 2,690 feet (820 m), or if you are ready for a three-hour trek, follow a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) hiking path. As you make your way back down to the city, go back to your hotel to rest, or continue exploring into the evening. 

Day 3: Salt Mines Day Trip

Take a break from the city at Laguna de Guatavita

Put on your hiking or walking shoes for a full day outside the city to explore salt mines, lagoons, and villages. On the first part of your itinerary, hike to crater-shaped Laguna de Guatavita, where your guide will reveal the area's rich history and the rituals of the Muisca people, who offered gold and precious stones into the lagoon for gods. Take a break for lunch in Sesquile village, and then visit Zipaquirá to see its Catedral de Sal ("Salt Cathedral")—a Roman Catholic church built within the tunnels of an underground salt mine.

To take your adventure to the next level, go underground 24 feet (80 m) to see another salt mine at Nemocón, half an hour from Zipaquirá. Learn about these preserved tunnels where eight million tons of salt were extracted between 1816 and 1968. After a full day of exploration, return to Bogotá in the late afternoon and after a rest go out to a restaurant or bar to feel the pulse of Bogotá's nightlife.

Day 4: Fly to Pereira, Transfer to Salento via Santa Rosa Hot Springs

Sant Rosa de Cabal is part of the scenic drive to Santa Rosa hot springs

In the morning, take a transfer to the airport to catch a one-hour flight traveling east from Bogotá to Pereira. Upon arrival, your private driver will pick you up for a ride about half an hour north to Santa Rosa de Cabal, where you'll spot its peculiar araucaria, or monkey puzzle trees in the main square. From there, continue for another 40 minutes north through the mountains to reach the Santa Rosa hot springs.

Spend some time relaxing in the springs with their waterfalls and Andean cloud forest landscape. On the way back to Pereira, taste chorizo santarrosano—cured sausage served with arepas (ground corn pancake), then continue your travel to Salento, about one hour south. Settle into your Salento hotel to prepare for another day of adventure tomorrow.

Day 5: Valle de Cocora Coffee Tour & Salento

The wax palms of the Valle de Cocora
Walk among the towering wax palms of Valle de Cocora

In the Valle de Cocora, about 20 minutes west of Salento, towering Andes peaks are blanketed in electric-green flora and dotted with 328-foot (100 m) wax palms—Colombia's national tree. This morning you'll walk among these giants, ascending a mountain trail into cloud forests. After lunch, it's time to learn about Colombian coffee culture, with a visit to a farm to learn how the crop is grown and processed. Then head back to Salento to explore, centering yourself around lively Calle Real, where you can browse shops and galleries. For dinner check out the local street food, or have a leisurely meal at a restaurant. 

Day 6: La Vieja River Rafting

Travel into the mountains of the Central Andes today
As you travel through the mountains and cloud forests of Colombia's Central Andes on today's day trip, you'll start to hear a river flow. Follow your guide and trace a path to the Río La Vieja as the ancient Quimbaya people did. Board a guadua (bamboo) raft,  and feel the power of the natural material that some describe as "vegetable steel." Learn fascinating facts about the region's biodiverse ecosystem as you float down the waterway, then stop for a dip into a refreshing waterfall. Eat a picnic lunch on the river's banks, then continue rafting before heading back to Salento for the afternoon.
Plan your trip to Colombia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 7: Botanical Garden & Butterfly Farm

Get close to Colombia's native plants and butterflies at Quindío Botanical Garden
Colombia's temperate climate makes home to some of the world's most threatened flora species. In Quindío Botanical Garden, about an hour south of Salento, see these protected plants along with birds and butterflies. Soak up the lush landscape as a heritage interpreter explains the forest foliage and its bird residents, and climb to an observation tower above a canopy of trees. Your discovery of the garden continues with a stop at a butterfly farm, where you can watch as hundreds of wings show off their shapes and colors. Then spend time on your own in this tropical sanctuary before returning to Salento.

Day 8: Fly to Medellín & City Transformation Tour

Graffiti art in Medellín's Comuna 13
In Medellín's Comuna 13, see how the city is transforming through creativity and community support

Medellín is known as the "City of Eternal Spring," and to get there you'll travel an hour north from Salento to Pereira's airport, and then catch a 45-minute flight north. Meet your driver at the airport for a private transfer to your hotel and then get ready to explore with your guide. Your personal local expert will reveal the history of the dynamic city, explaining how some of its neighborhoods have shifted from dangerous areas to hubs for artistic expression and community gatherings. 

In Comuna 13, see how the sprawling mountainside neighborhood now links to the city below with a series of giant escalators. Your guide will point out some of the area's significant murals and street art pieces as you learn about one of Medellín's best examples of transformation. 

Day 9: Fruit Tasting Picnic & Pablo Escobar History Tour

Taste fruits that are native to Colombia on a food tour

Colombia's biodiversity, climate, and geography create the ideal habitat for native tropical fruits. In the morning, you guide will lead the way as you shop for and taste fruits such as lulo, guanabana, chontaduro, and maracuyá, and hear how they are used in traditional recipes. Explore this farmers' market of purveyors from the Andean highlands and pick your favorite fruits to try later. With baskets of fruit in hand, your next stop is the Botanical Garden of Medellín, which is home to more than 4,500 plant species, including orchids—Colombia's national flower. 

After lunch and fruit tasting in the garden, see another side of Medellín on this afternoon's tour. The story of Pablo Escobar Gaviria and the “Cartel of Medellín” is an important part of Colombia's history. During the 1980s Escobar's role in international cocaine trafficking created a powerful force across the city. Learn the history of Escobar and his impact on Medellín as you visit key landmarks from his life and the network he controlled, and hear stories about this tumultuous period of Colombia's history. At the end of your tour, ask your guide for a recommendation about a new area to explore for the evening. 

Day 10: Peñol Boulder & Guatapé Boat Trip

Enjoy spectacular views from the top of Peñol Boulder
Get your camera ready for views from Peñol Boulder
It's an early wake-up today, meeting your guide at your hotel for a full-day adventure outside of the city. Start your journey by passing through Antioquia's eastern highlands to Peñol Boulder, about 90 minutes east of Medellín. The 650-foot (200 m) monolith can be reached by climbing 740 steps, with a reward of mountain and lake views. After exploring the boulder, go to Guatapé village, and get your camera ready as you walk through its streets with colorfully-painted homes. Eat lunch on the waterfront at the Guatapé Reservoir, followed by a boat ride before returning to the city. 

Day 11: Explore Santa Fé de Antioquia

Walk across one of Latin America's oldest bridges on the Puente del Occidente
Santa Fé de Antioquia, about a two-hour ride north from Medellín through the scenic Western Andean highlands, was founded on the banks of the Río Cauca in 1541. As the first capital of Antioquia, one of Colombia's current 32 departments, its rich history includes colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and grand plazas. Follow your guide to some of the city's most interesting historical points as you learn about Colombia's past.
Walk across the Puente del Occidente—one of the longest and oldest suspension bridges in Latin America—and return to Santa Fé de Antioquia for lunch. In the late afternoon, go back to Medellín to get ready for your flight to Cartagena tomorrow. 

Day 12: Fly to Cartagena & Cartagena Bike Tour

Explore Cartagena on two wheels
See vibrant Cartagena as you explore side streets and neighborhoods
Today's destination is the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena, traveling about one-hour north from Medellín by air. Your driver will meet you at your Medellín hotel to catch your flight and then you'll have a transfer to your Cartagena hotel. Get settled into your hotel and then it's time to see Cartagena's colorful historical center by bike. 
Start in the district of Getsemaní, with lively restaurants, street musicians, and colorful murals. Visit the home of Florentino Ariza, the main character in the novel "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel García Márquez. Then, cycle across the Roman Bridge toward the Manga neighborhood. Here, visit Villa Roman, a Moorish-inspired house that was built in 1929. Walk through Manga's cemetery, the oldest in Cartagena, and continue to the waterfront for a relaxing end to the tour. Spend the evening exploring more of your favorite areas from the tour, or ask your guide for a suggestion for dinner. 

Day 13: Bazurto Market & Cooking Class, Coffee Tasting

Taste Cartagena's Caribbean dishes in a cooking class 
Cartageneros are rightfully proud of their Caribbean cuisine, and today you'll learn about some of their most popular dishes, including coconut rice, ceviche, and fish soup, during a group cooking class. First, meet your local guide who will take you through Bazurto Market to buy ingredients for lunch. Then, walk to a colonial house in the Getsemaní neighborhood to learn about how to combine those raw materials into classic dishes. After a two-hour cooking demonstration, eat lunch with your new friends. 

After a hearty lunch, it's time to try fresh-brewed coffee, since Colombia is synonymous with the naturally caffeinated bean. On a tasting experience, visit a family-owned coffee plantation and see how the crop is cultivated and harvested in Buenavista. Smell the beans, see how they are processed, and taste a refined brewed coffee to activate all of your senses. Learn about the coffee samples from San Alberto, a single-estate coffee producer which uses a process called Quintuple Selection, and pick up some beans to take home as the ultimate Colombian souvenir. 

Day 14: Rosario Islands & Cartagena Dance Class

Escape to the Rosario Islands for a day relaxing on the beach
Today, take a break from the city and settle into the slower pace of the islands. The Rosario Islands are located about 62 miles (100 km) north of Cartagena, and this morning you'll board a speedboat from Bodeguita Pier in Cartagena to start your adventure. After the boat ride, relax on a private beach and enjoy a lunch of seafood with coconut rice or the catch of the day. Spend a few hours on the island soaking up some sun, or resting under the shade of an umbrella. In the afternoon, hop on a boat back to Cartagena and rest before getting ready to go out. 
Be sure to wear dance-ready shoes as this evening you'll get into the Colombian groove with a one-hour dance class. Learn about the role music and dance play in Colombian culture—especially traditional vallenato (multi-instrument folk music). Your dance teacher will show you key vallenato steps, as well as salsa and merengue. After the class, try your new dance steps at a bar or club as you enjoy your last night in Colombia. 

Day 15: Depart Cartagena 

Colombia's hospitality will be ready for your next trip

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel and maybe go for a morning walk around the neighborhood to get one last look at colorful Cartagena. Then meet your driver for a transfer to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Colombia from Urban to Nature: Bogotà, Salento, Medellín & Cartagena - 15 Days
Map of Colombia from Urban to Nature: Bogotà, Salento, Medellín & Cartagena - 15 Days