This active South American adventure spotlights trekking in the high, snowy mountains of Los Nevados National Park. A good portion of this 9-day journey will take place in the rugged outdoors before you head towards the charming colonial town of Villa de Leyva in the Colombian Highlands. Start and finish the trip with time to explore the cosmopolitan capital of Bogotá for colorful street art, museums, dining, and nightlife.

Highlights

  • Explore Bogotá's trendy La Candelaria neighborhood 
  • Wander through statues and neo-Gothic architecture in Manizales 
  • Stay overnight at designated camps in Los Nevados National Park
  • Walk around a series of immaculately preserved salt tunnels 
  • Stay overnight in the photogenic colonial village of Villa de Leyva

Overview

Pack your walking shoes and hiking boots and explore a beautiful section of Colombia's vast interior by foot. The trip starts with time to explore the capital city before heading to the lush green Zona Cafetera (Coffee Triangle), where you'll begin the Los Nevados Trek. With ancient ancestral pathways, this medium to difficult three-day hike passes through an extraordinary ecosystem with rare species of flora and fauna that rely on the snow for preservation.

When the trek is complete, you'll head back to Bogotá (by way of Manizales) before driving north to the Highlands to wander underground salt mines as well as Villa de Leyva, one of the most charming cobblestoned villages in the country.

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.   

Overview Map

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá (optional city tour)
Day 2 Manizales & Río Blanco Nature Reserve
Day 3 Los Nevados Trek - Day 1
Day 4 Los Nevados Trek - Day 2
Day 5 Los Nevados Trek - Day 3
Day 6 Manizales to Bogotá
Day 7 Zipaquira: Salt Mine Tour -> Transfer to Villa de Leyva
Day 8 Visit Villa de Leyva -> Transfer to Bogotá
Day 9 Depart Bogotá

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá (optional city tour)

Bogotá's impressive skyline view.

Welcome to Bogotá!
A driver will meet you at the airport for transportation to the hotel, your home base for the next few days.

Explore by foot
Bogotá 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.

While here, don't forget to explore the excellent museums, shopping, and street food options ranging from empanadas to exotic fruit salads.

Day 2: Manizales & Río Blanco Nature Reserve

A traditional coffee farm in the Zona Cafetera.

This morning you will transfer to Manizales -- the most adventurous of the three cities that make up Colombia’s “coffee triangle”. Have lunch by the neo-gothic Catedral de Manizales, and then visit the massive Monumento a los Colonizadores bronze sculpture for spectacular views of the region’s surrounding mountains.

From here, take an afternoon excursion to the Río Blanco Nature Reserve, located a quick two miles from the city. In terms of biodiversity, Colombia is second only to Brazil in the world, with nearly 2000 bird species. Hit the trails of this 30,000-acre reserve and look for unique plants and animals of the central Andes cloud forests. After your visit, begin the one-hour drive (via switchback roads!) that leads you to a traditional Colombian ranch in the mountains. Enjoy a home-cooked dinner and a night of peaceful sleep while you acclimate to the high-altitude.

Day 3: Los Nevados Trek - Day 1

Nevado del Quindio Volcano in Los Nevados National Park.

To start this epic trek, you'll drive in a durable 4x4 vehicle to get to the entrance of Los Nevados National Park. Begin your guided three-hour hike through a sub-tropical tundra to the panoramic view of Lake Otun. On the way, explore the Pàramo ecosystem, a fascinating spectrum of endemic species.

Establish base camp at a breathtaking alpine lake, where you will enjoy quality food, and meet the local, knowledgeable park ranger. Stay overnight at a designated camp and wake early to hike to the summit of El Nevado del Santa Isabel.

Day 4: Los Nevados Trek - Day 2

Views in Los Nevados National Park.

After a hearty breakfast, this early alpine morning allows you to hike six hours with your guide to the snowy summit of El Nevado del Santa Isabel. Look out for high-altitude flyers such as the bearded helmetcrest hummingbirds and Colombia’s National Bird: the Andean condor. As the largest flying bird in the world, the Andean condor can fly up to three hundred kilometers in a single day.

The hike evolves from a soft walk to a rockier, steeper path to the summit. Once you have reached this part of the trail, a stupendous 360° panoramic view reveals the entire Magdalena valley and its coffee farms on a clear day. Here, witness one of the last remaining glaciers in Colombia. Stay overnight in tents by a lagoon.

Day 5: Los Nevados Trek - Day 3

The last day of the trek.

The next morning, complete a new trekking route along Lake Otun and return to the park entrance. Share lunch and tea with the “guardians" of the park, a knowledgeable and warm Colombian family who live in the park full-time. Return to the city of Manizales for the night and have the evening to explore.

Day 6: Manizales to Bogotá

The hilly city of Manizales is full of culture.

Wake up in Manizales and take advantage of the gorgeous Andean mountain views. Spend the morning relaxing in your hotel, or put on a good pair of walking shoes and hit the city's hilly streets. Stop to enjoy a traditional lunch in the area before your flight back to Bogotá

Day 7: Zipaquira: Salt Mine Tour -> Transfer to Villa de Leyva

Zipaquira's underground Salt Cathedral.

Your journey north of the capital starts at Colombia's famous underground Salt Cathedral. While in the area, you'll also head to the Nemocón Salt Mine, thirty minutes outside of Zipaquira. Here, 80 meters underground, are a collection of immaculately preserved tunnels where eight million tons of salt were extracted between 1816 and 1968.  The various chambers off the main routes show the history of salt mining amidst spectacular atmospheric light effects, with no less than 28 mirrors.

Your route will pass through Raquira, known as “the pottery capital of Colombia”. This village features brightly painted facades where you can watch pottery being made with numerous craft shops selling items like ponchos, handbags, woodcarvings, and jewelry. If visiting on a Sunday, you will see a market in full swing!

Continue driving north through the highlands. Tonight you'll stay in Villa de Leyva, one of the most beautiful colonial villages in Colombia with cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings.

Day 8: Visit Villa de Leyva -> Transfer to Bogotá

An artistic clay house in Villa De Leyva.

After breakfast, you'll have the opportunity to learn more about the preserved colonial town of Villa de Leyva -- one of the most beautiful cobblestoned villages in Colombia. Declared a national monument in 1954, this guided half-day tour covers important sites like Casa Antonio Nariño et Casa Antonio Ricaurte, El Carmen Church, and Plaza Mayor.

Day 9: Depart Bogotá

Graffiti art in Bogotá.

It's time to say farewell to Colombia! Enjoy your last moments in Bogotá with a leisurely breakfast, city stroll, and/or souvenir shopping.  A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home.

Map

Map of Colombian Highlands & the Los Nevados Trek - 9 Days
Map of Colombian Highlands & the Los Nevados Trek - 9 Days