Colombia Perceptions Cultural Tour - 10 Days

This tour takes you through three of Colombia's most diverse and interesting cities — Bogota, Medellin, and Cartagena. You'll begin in Bogota, with its high-Andean look but altogether bohemian feel. You'll visit world-class museums, learn about a rich and eventful history, and experience a complex urban scene with stunning graffiti murals, topped off with a varied culinary offering and some great nightlife.

Highlights

  • Visit one of Colombia's largest fruit and vegetable markets
  • Wander through the beautiful barrio of El Poblado in Medellin
  • Have lunch at a 'Bogotano's' house and learn how to cook a typical meal
  • Visit some of the best museums in Latin America
  • Learn about Colombia's rich pre-Hispanic past
  • Explore 16th-century Cartagena, UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Cook a fresh meal with local afro-Colombian communities on the coast
  • See a city transformed in Medellin, one of the 'World's Most Innovative' cities
  • Sail from island to island in the Islas del Rosario, Caribbean spots of paradise just waiting to be explored

Overview

From Bogota, you'll fly to Colombia's second largest city, Medellin, the self-named 'City of Eternal Spring' due to its excellent climate. Here you'll see a city that yearns to leave its dark history behind whilst becoming one of Latin America's shining beacons of social development, urban planning, and forward thinking. You'll walk the urban maze of what once were the most feared 'barrios' (neighborhoods) in Colombia and learn why it was named 'World's Most Innovative City' in 2013. The turnaround could not be more complete, today.

After having a taste of present-day Colombia, you'll finish the tour in what is, without a doubt, one of the world's great historical cities: Cartagena de Indias, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and living museum dating back to the Spanish colonial times of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Wander the small tight, cobble-stoned streets, searching out the excellent array of restaurants, bars and quaint plazas that have been around for hundreds of years. You'll visit local communities, learn how to fish, and top it all off with a trip to Caribbean islands allowing for some well-deserved beach time to ponder over how your perception of Colombia has changed over the past few days.

Overview map

Overview map
Overview map of the "Colombia Perceptions Cultural Tour"

Brief itinerary

Day Highlight Overnight
Day 1 Arrival into Bogota Bogota
Day 2 Market visit, lunch at a Bogotano's and Usaquen township Bogota
Day 3 Historical & Urban tour of Bogota Bogota
Day 4 Fly to Medellin & explore the City of Eternal Spring Medellin
Day 5 Medellin Innovation tour & English lesson Medellin
Day 6 Goodbye Medellin, hello Cartagena! Cartagena
Day 7 Historical Tour of Cartagena de Indias Cartagena
Day 8 Boquilla - Fishing & Cooking Cartagena
Day 9 Islas del Rosario cruise and beach time Cartagena
Day 10 Goodbye Cartagena!  

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Bogota

Arrival into Bogota
Arrival into Bogota

Arrive in Bogota and transfer directly to your hotel. Depending on your flight time, you'll have an evening at leisure in Bogota. Restaurants will be recommended for dinner in and around the Zona Rosa or Zona T in the north of Bogota, depending on where you hotel is located.

Day 2: Market visit, lunch at a Bogotano's and Usaquen township

Market visit, lunch at a Bogotano's and Usaquen township
Market visit, lunch at a Bogotano's and Usaquen township (© Juan Ortiz)

Your guide will pick you up at the hotel nice and early for a very special market visit at Paloquemao. Revel in the hustle and bustle of this wonderful market that is Bogota's largest and most diverse. Sample local foods and learn about what grows in Colombia (which is pretty much everything). Food from cold climates, numerous varieties of potato (endemic to the Andes), more fruits than you could imagine and seafood direct from the Pacific make this the perfect place to learn about Colombian food and rural culture.

Also at the market, you can purchase produce to take to a local Bogotano's to cook a meal for lunch! Learn about what it is to be a Bogotano and make a lasting friendship before finishing the day in the lively township of Usaquen, full of restaurants and bars and a beloved nightspot for the more affluent side of the city. 

Day 3: Historical & Urban tour of Bogota

Historical & Urban tour of Bogota
Historical & Urban tour of Bogota (© Juan Ortiz)

Today you'll leave your hotel in the morning, ready to explore a few of Colombia's most famous museums, some of which rank amongst the best in the world. The iconic Gold Museum (Museo del Oro) houses the largest collection of Tumbaga gold on the planet and displays a rich history of pre-Hispanic Colombia, a country more culturally diverse than most give it credit for. Here, you'll learn about the ancient craftsmen of the various regions of Colombia, what they believed in, and how they lived prior to the Spanish conquest.

After a walking tour of La Candelaria, Bogota's historical colonial district, you'll visit Bogota's main 'Plaza de Bolivar' which is dedicated to the famous 'Libertador', Simon Bolivar, who gave Colombia its independence from the Spanish crown. You'll also see the famous artwork of Colombia's most master painter and sculptor, Fernando Botero.

After finishing in the historical center, you'll explore a more contemporary side of Bogota's cultural manifestations — its awe-inspiring graffiti that lines the walls everywhere. Graffiti is one way to ready a city and Bogota is no different. The rest of the afternoon will be at your leisure, and you'll be provided with a great list of the city's best eateries to check out.

Day 4: Fly to Medellin & explore the City of Eternal Spring

Cable car
Riding the cable car up the valley above Medellin (© Juan Ortiz)

Today you'll be transferred to Bogota airport for your flight to Medellin. The flight takes you over the Magdalena River valley, hot and full of extensive haciendas, before rising up again to the Central Andes in which Medellin is nestled, deep in the Aburra Valley.

You'll transfer from the airport down the winding mountain road that takes you into the valley to your hotel where you will have the day at leisure. Free to explore the barrio of El Poblado, surely Medellin's most lively neighborhood, full of great restaurants. Your hotel is also a perfect oasis to enjoy for the day, located nearby so that you are only a short taxi drive away from all the action.

Day 5: Medellin Innovation tour & English lesson

Medellin Innovation tour & English lesson
Explore recent urban innovations that have taken place in Medellin (© Juan Ortiz)

Today will begin with what is, in our opinion, one of Colombia's great urban experiences - the Innovation tour of Medellin, named in light of Medellin's own naming as the World's Most Innovative City in 2013. This title did not come alone, however, and it was through a number of vanguard social and infrastructure projects (that looked to include, empower and vitalise some of Medellin's most worse-off neighbourhoods) that Medellin was re-born.

You'll take a ride on the Metro Cable, Medellin's cable car system that defies gravity up to the remotest neighborhoods on the valley sides. You'll also visit entire areas that have been redeveloped, allowing the 'Paisas' (people from Medellin and Antioquia, the department of which Medellin is the capital) to enjoy their city once more. You'll hear stories of social progression — of hope and defiance — no more so than in Comuna 13, site of one of the worst atrocities committed by the Colombian government and the state-sponsored private paramilitary armies. 

After descending once more on the metro cable, you'll have a typical Paisa meal at one of Medellin's most well-known restaurants. After that, you'll have the afternoon to enjoy a language class with a local Spanish teacher - time to flex those linguistic muscles! The rest of the afternoon and evening will be at leisure.

Day 6: Goodbye Medellin, hello Cartagena!

Cartagena
The streets of Cartagena (© ProColombia)

Today, you'll have the morning at leisure to enjoy Medellin before you'll head off to Rionegro airport once more for your direct flight to Cartagena. Upon arrival, you'll be met by your driver and local guide and from there you'll head to your quite beautiful hotel.

This afternoon you'll have some free time to relax at your hotel or explore the endless nooks and streets that make up this living museum of Cartagena de Indias.

Day 7: Historical Tour of Cartagena de Indias, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Cartagena
Colonial buildings in Cartagena's 'Old City' (© ProColombia)

This morning you'll head out on a historical city tour of Cartagena, visiting the main sites, such as Saint Philip's castle, the greatest fortress the Spanish ever built (which in today's money would have equated to over a 1 trillion dollars), mainly due to the fact that Cartagena was Latin America's most important port in the Caribbean, the exit point for the endless supplies of gold which was Colombia's (or 'Nueva Granada' as it was called during Spanish colonial times) largest and most important export.

You'll also visit the Popa Monastery for panoramic views over the city before descending once more into the intimate streets lined with 16th-century buildings in the walled city or 'Old Town'.

You'll explore the various plazas and imagine the horse-drawn carts that once went to and fro, transporting gentry, some of which gained their immense wealth from the slave trade of which Cartagena was an epicenter. The city's most famous landmark — its fortified walls of coral rock, mined in the reefs directly in front of Cartagena — will also be inquired into before you'll head to the grim and morbid (but altogether very interesting!) museum of the Spanish Inquisition, final place of questioning for all of those believed to be heretics.

After completing today's tour, you'll again have the afternoon at leisure, with abundant recommendations for great food experiences within the walled cities. Enjoy the humid tropical Caribbean air and sip a cold glass of beer on the walls themselves at the Cafe del Mar as the sun sets.

Day 8: Boquilla - Fishing & Cooking

Fishing cages
Setting the cages with a local fisherman (© Juan Ortiz)

Today you'll head out to the local mangroves and rivers to see just a small example of Colombia's exuberant and unmatched natural landscape. This region, populated by afro-descendants whose ancestors came from the west of Africa, lives off the abundant fish that swim among the roots of this delicate ecosystem of fresh and salt water. A local fisherman will take you by pole boat where you can catch some fish for lunch. You'll be helping him as he checks his cages and nets to see what delights will be served up later on.

After reaching the local community of Boquilla, you'll interact and chat with the locals as they teach you how to prepare the fish you've just caught. A feast will be had before you head back to the walled city for some well-deserved rest.

Options for the afternoon include an urban tour of Getsemani, the last 'Cartagenero' enclave that still exists within the walls, hardy locals who have not yet left or have been affected by the massive influx of tourism further within the Old Town. Ceviche tasting tours and secret supper events are also available. 

Day 9: Islas del Rosario cruise and beach time

Islas del Rosario
Stopping at one of the islands in Islas del Rosario (© ProColombia)

Today you'll be treated to a deluxe cruise around the Islas del Rosario, named due to the archipelago's resemblance (from the air) to a rosary, though no doubt something to do with the Spanish's obsession in naming new locations with some sort of reverence to the divine.

By boat, you'll visit three beaches in some top-secret locations that the day-tripper crowd has not yet heard about (nor are they likely to). After spending some time at a private property, you'll be taken back to Cartagena to enjoy your last legendary Caribbean evening.

Day 10: Goodbye to Cartagena & Colombia!

Cartagena sunset
Enjoy the beautiful sunsets from Cartagena (© ProColombia)

Depending on your flight time, you'll have some time at leisure in the Old Town before transferring to Cartagena airport for your flight home. Your Colombia 'taster' will be over, no doubt leaving you in the need for more!

Arranging a guide for your trip

If you'd like to have a bilingual guide accompany you during your trip, please let us know. Most people in Colombia only speak Spanish, so some people find it useful to have a guide that can translate for them along the way.