Perfect for first-timers, this smart, action-packed itinerary begins in the cosmopolitan capital of Bogotá and then makes its way to the Caribbean coast. Along the route, you'll drive through the Andean highlands visiting preserved colonial towns, fly to the up-and-coming city of Medellín — and then hike through Tayrona Park to get to white-sand beaches and turquoise sea. Spend your last three nights in the romantic UNESCO-listed Old Town of Cartagena, founded in 1533.

Highlights

    • Take a guided tour of Bogotá's colorful La Candelaria district 
    • Stay in two of Colombia's most charming (and historic) colonial villages
    • Ride Medellìn's gondola and visit the Botanical Garden with 4,500+ flowers
    • Spend a day hiking through rainforests and sunbathing at Tayrona Park
    • Walk along Cartagena's original fortress walls at sunset and crack a beer

Overview

While Colombia has a blessed geographic setting against the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, the interior offers another world of natural and cultural highlights — this is where the first half of this 14-day adventure takes place. You'll start with two nights in the big city of Bogotá, home to excellent museums, historic neighborhoods, great nightlife and progressive urban renewal projects. Then drive north through the mountainous highlands staying overnight in charming cobblestoned villages of Villa de Leyva and Barichara. There's also a hike along an ancient path to the small village called Guané where time seems to stay still.

From here, you'll catch a flight to Medellín, a city rising on the world stage with progressive art, a scenic gondola, and year-round spring weather. Then, take a day-trip to lakeside Guatapé before heading north to spend two nights outside of Tayrona Park, walking distance to a beach. Finally, you'll travel to Cartegena on the Caribbean coast where you'll spend two days exploring the narrow streets of this inner-walled city. End the adventure with a relaxing day trip to a nearby Caribbean island by speedboat.

Colombia is an ideal year-round destination with warm, tropical weather. If you want to skip the high season and crowds (December and January), then February to April is a great choice with dry weather and lower prices. Keep in mind that October and November tend to be the wettest months of the year.   

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Drive to Zipaquira - Transfer to Villa de Leyva Villa de Leyva
Day 4 Tour of Villa de Leyva - Transfer to Barichara Barichara
Day 5 Hike to Guané Barichara
Day 6 Barichara - Flight to Medellín Medellín
Day 7 Medellín City Tour Medellín
Day 8 Guatapé Day-Trip Medellín
Day 9 Medellín - Flight to Santa Marta - Transfer to Tayrona Park Tayrona Park
Day 10 Tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona Tayrona Park
Day 11 Transfer to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 12 Explore Cartagena Cartagena
Day 13 Rosario Islands Day-Trip Cartagena
Day 14 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá

Colombia's sprawling capital is full of cultural opportunities.

Welcome to Bogotá! A driver will meet you at the airport for transportation to the hotel.

Colombia's biggest city is on the rise in terms of gastronomy and culture, so spend your free time discovering this vibrant Andean capital by foot. Explore the cobblestone streets through the La Candelaria neighborhood, where trendy restaurants and colonial-era landmarks are located, as well as excellent museums, shopping, and street food options ranging from empanadas to exotic fruit salads. 

(Optional add-on.) 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

Visit key sites in the colonial district of La Candelaria. 

After breakfast, it's time to hit the streets and explore Bogotá! You'll be picked up at your hotel by a local guide who will share his/her city knowledge on this half-day tour. 

Half-Day Walking Tour: Take a thorough walking tour through colorful La Candelaria — the heart of Bogota's historic center with narrow streets, cultural landmarks, and shops selling local goods. 

(Optional add-on.)
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) for the largest collection of gold artifacts in the world, and the Botero Museum (closed on Tuesdays) for a collection of masterpieces from this renowned Colombian painter and sculptor.

(Optional add-on.)
If you are an early riser, start the morning sunrise tour of Bogotá's best and biggest food market — Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao — which provides ingredients for the vast majority of the city’s best restaurants. Wander through the stalls and continue strolling through neighborhood streets stopping to photograph walled graffiti art.

Half-Day Tour Duration: 4 Hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 3: Drive to Zipaquira - Transfer to Villa de Leyva

Take a tour of this underground cathedral built in a salt mine.

After breakfast in Bogotá, you'll be picked up in a private car for your journey north of the capital, which starts at Colombia's 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 from a staff member, along with some free time to explore on your own. 

From here, continue driving north through the picturesque highlands and spend the rest of the day in Villa de Leyva, one of the most beautiful colonial villages in Colombia with cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings.

You'll take a driving tour around the village's surroundings visiting main points of interest. 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.

You also have the option of taking a walking tour around this Andean village:  

(Optional add-on.) With a private guide, walk through the main streets and squares, cafés and handicraft shops, a wool weaving workshop, the Mesopotamia Mill (discover how the mill works and the life of the local population at the time), and the convent of the Discalced Carmelites — a community of nuns living in permanent retreat who devote themselves entirely to manual labor and prayer, circa 1645. 

Driving Tour Duration: 4 Hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 4: Tour of Villa de Leyva - Transfer to Barichara

Cobblestone streets in the white-washed town of Villa de Leyva.

After breakfast, you'll have the opportunity to learn more about the preserved colonial town of Villa de Leyva. This guided half-day tour covers important sites like Casa Antonio Nariño et Casa Antonio Ricaurte, El Carmen Church, and Plaza Mayor.

In the afternoon, you will be transferred to Barichara by private car, which is considered one of the most beautiful cities of Colombia. Before dinner, visit ornate churches (Cathedral of Immaculate Conception and Santa Barbara Church) and the watchtower, which offers a splendid panoramic view over the Rio Suarez and the Cordillera de los Cobardes. 

Tour Duration: 3-4 Hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 5: Hike to Guané

Hike to the village of Guané from Barichara. 

After breakfast in Barichara, take a guided hike through an ancient path called El Camino Real towards a little village (even smaller than Barichara) called Guané, where time seems to stay still. Here, you'll get a real feel for Colombian life in the peaceful countryside.

Your guide will find the cobbled stones marking the start of a path. Set off on this mostly downhill walk that takes you through the beautiful canyon and valley with great views of the Suarez River. When you arrive in Guané, stroll around the square and adjoining streets where locals herd goats and relax in the shade. Check out the colonial architecture and small archeological museum — and, if you so choose, have lunch in town.  

You'll return to Barichara in a traditional moto taxi. 

Hike Duration: 3 Hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 6: Barichara - Flight to Medellín

Explore Medellín's fantastic outdoor art.

After breakfast, you'll be transferred from your hotel in Barichara to the Bucaramanga airport for your flight to Medellín! Upon landing, you will be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, you can enjoy the afternoon/evening on your own, or explore the neighborhoods with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on) who will cover some of the following sites:

Panoramic City Tour (4 Hours): Hop in a car and get an insider's perspective of Medellín from your private transfer. You'll make several key stops including the Pueblito Paisa, San Antonio Park, La Plazuela de San Ignacio, La Playa Avenue, Metropolitan Church, and the iconic bronze sculptures at Botero Square. You will visit the Music House, Antioquia University, and the city's expansive botanical garden with more than 4,500 blooms. The last leg of the tour includes a stop at the Convention Center in Plaza Mayor, the Metropolitan Theater, and Los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park). On your way back to the hotel, check out Poblado Parque, a popular city park surrounded by bars and restaurants. 

Day 7: Medellín City Tour

Take a ride on the gondola for views and access to local neighborhoods.

After breakfast at your hotel, spend a fun day exploring Medellín on a private tour with a local guide.

Walking Tour: This excursion includes a mix of sightseeing by foot and taking the Metro (fares included) through one of Colombia's most successful urban projects, as if you were a citizen of Medellín yourself. The guide will pick you up in your hotel and you'll take a ride downtown visiting the Administrative Center (La Alpujarra) and Botero Square. From here, enjoy the views from the city's iconic gondola car system (pay directly) — and head for the Botanical Garden with more than 4,500 flowers. The tour ends by taking the Metro to Central Mayorista, Plaza Mayor, and a zen-inspired public park in Medellín before you return to your hotel using public transportation. (Hint: there's also an option that includes graffiti street art and riding the Metrocable towards remote neighborhoods on the valley side.)

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

Tour Duration: 6 Hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 8: Guatapé Day-Trip

Take a day-trip to this scenic area outside of the city.

After breakfast, you'll be picked up from your hotel for a full-day excursion to the picturesque lakeside town of Guatapé. This private tour includes a guided walk through the village where you'll learn about the town's conflict surrounding the building of the dam that was renamed Guatapé Lake. You'll gain an insider’s perspective on local efforts to pressure the government to address the reservoir’s encroaching blue-green algae.

Your guide will then transfer you to La Piedra Rock. Relax at the base of this natural granite landmark where there are market stalls, or work up an appetite by climbing the 740 steps to admire the view from the top (not included). You can also climb about halfway for a shrine to the Virgin Mary.

Return to Guatapé and enjoy free time to explore the streets. This is truly the most colorful town in Colombia with beautiful artwork along the lower half of its buildings. Head to a restaurant and enjoy lunch on your own — keep an eye out for freshwater fish and other local delicacies.

In the afternoon, you'll be transferred back to your hotel in Medellín with free time to enjoy the rest of the day.

Day-Trip Duration: 8 Hours (with an English-Speaking Guide)

Day 9: Medellín - Flight to Santa Marta - Transfer to Tayrona Park

Beautiful beaches await on the Caribbean coast.

After breakfast, you'll be picked up and transferred to the Medellín airport for your flight to Santa Marta. Upon arrival, you'll be driven to the area just outside the entrance of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona's (Tayrona Park), where you'll stay overnight. 

You'll have rest of the afternoon to relax and enjoy your hotel, which is located on a peaceful spot overlooking the Caribbean Sea at the foot of the mountains. Wander down to the nearby beach, which has a beautiful sunset view.

Return to your hotel for dinner on-site.

Day 10: Tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

Hike the trails with a local guide and stop for lunch and sunbathing.

After breakfast at your hotel near Tayrona, you'll be transferred to the park where you'll experience some of South America's loveliest coastline with a local guide while visiting the stunning beaches and rainforests of Tayrona — one of three national parks on Colombia's Caribbean coast.

Tayrona Park Walking Tour

This tour includes 4-5 hours of walking and some additional time to relax on the beaches.

You'll first hike in the tropical foothills near Cañaveral, the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Then visit the exotic beaches of Arrecifes and stop at La Piscina, an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling.

Continue to Cabo San Juan del Guia and see a wonderful bay of white sand surrounded by huge volcanic rocks. On the way here, you can observe several species of local flora and fauna pointed out by your knowledgeable guide. The afternoon is your free time to enjoy lunch on your own and relax on the shore.

Return to your hotel in the late afternoon.

Tour Duration: Full Day (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 11: Transfer to Cartagena

A corner in Cartagena's Old Town.

After breakfast, you'll be picked up from Tayrona Park and transferred 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 (optional add-on). 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.
  • 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 12: Explore Cartagena

Narrow streets are see more pedestrians than cars.

After breakfast, take your pick between numerous ways to experience Cartagena, either on your own or with a private tour (optional add-on), whether it’s a surfing trip along the coast, a boat trip to pristine Caribbean beaches, or even a sunset sail with a glass of bubbly.

Other options include a guided walking tour of Cartagena's UNESCO World Heritage walled city. Together with an English-speaking professional, you will delve deeper into South America’s most extensive fortifications and visit famous sites like the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, located on the Hill of San Lázaro, and San Pedro, with its Andalusian-style palaces and Cathedral.

If an organized tour isn’t appealing, simply create your own adventure around the city. At dusk, take part in the unforgettable atmosphere as the city comes alive with street performers and musicians.

Day 13: Rosario Islands Day-Trip

Spend the day on a nearby Caribbean Island.

Rise and shine! After an early breakfast, you will be picked up from your hotel bright and early and transferred to the pier for a speedboat transfer (an hour by boat) towards the Baru Peninsula. Along the way, you will see Tierra Bomba Island and Boca Chica, an ancient fort that once protected Cartagena.

Once you arrive to the Rosario Islands, change into your swimwear before you head to Playa Azul, a stunning white-sand beach on the bright turquoise Caribbean Sea. After a buffet lunch is served, you will have time to relax and sunbathe, or rent a kayak (pay directly) in the sea 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-Trip Duration: 7 Hours (including transfers)

Day 14: Depart Cartagena

Spend your last night soaking in the views from a rooftop.

It's time to say farewell to Colombia! After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a relaxing café, or — if you have not done so yet — take a walk around the city with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on) to gain a new perspective of the city from a local. 

This tour covers Cartagena's enchanting maze of colorful houses and lively squares 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 and el Museo del Oro. 

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

Map

Map of Colombia's Culture & Nature Tour - 14 Days
Map of Colombia's Culture & Nature Tour - 14 Days