Start your highlights tour in Bogotá, Colombia's Andean capital. From there, head to the Cocora Valley, where you'll sleep in a typical hacienda and tour a working coffee farm. Feel the country moving ahead in vibrant Medellin and experience the contrast between the city's modern downtown and traditional surrounding villages. End your trip in romantic, colonial Cartagena, enjoying a cocktail on the famous wall surrounding the old city.

Highlights

  • Check out street art and snack on empanadas in Bogota's historic district
  • Explore the colorful town of Salento and hike its countryside
  • Explore Medellín's dangerous past and innovative future with local guides
  • Take a sunset tour of the mangrove tunnels outside of 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 Guatavita, Zipaquira & Salt Mines Day-Trip Bogotá
Day 4 Bogotá - Transfer to Zona Cafetera - Coffee Finca Pereira
Day 5 Hiking in Valle de Cocora - Explore Salento Pereira
Day 6 Explore Quindío Villages Pereira
Day 7 Zona Cafetera - Transfer to Medellín Medellín
Day 8 Medellín City Tour Medellín
Day 9 Guatapé Day-Trip Medellín
Day 10 Medellín - Flight to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 11 Cartagena City Tour & Sunset Mangrove Excursion Cartagena
Day 12 Rosario Islands Day Trip Cartagena
Day 13 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. 

(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

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). 

(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), 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.

(Optional add-on.)
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.

Half-day tour duration: Four hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 3: Guatavita, Zipaquira & Salt Mines Day-Trip

Hiking at Laguna de Guatavita
Hiking at Laguna de Guatavita

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 rich 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. 

While in the area, you'll also head to the Nemocón Salt Mine, thirty minutes outside of Zipaquirá. There, 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.

In the afternoon, you'll return to Bogota with free time to explore the city during evening hours.

Day 4: Bogotá - Transfer to Zona Cafetera - Coffee Finca

Sorting the harvest
Sorting the harvest

Today, after a full breakfast, transfer from your hotel to Bogotá's El Dorado Airport. You'll then catch a flight to either the Armenia or Pereira airports in Colombia's Zona Cafetera (coffee region).

Upon arrival, you'll transfer to an organic, working coffee finca (farm) in this bucolic region. You'll immerse yourself in every step of the production process. Adding to the authentic experience is an overnight stay and even more demonstrations about this nation's legacy industry (Colombia is the third highest producer of coffee beans in the world). Yes, the presentations include frequent tastings.

Day 5: Hiking in Valle de Cocora - Explore Salento

Colorful houses in Salento
Colorful houses in Salento

Wake up with a hearty breakfast. From here, a car will pick you up and drive you to a trail in the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley), outside the historic town of Salento. As you make your way to the trail, you’ll find yourself in view of the distinctive Quindío wax palms, which can reach an impressive height of up to 70 meters (230 feet). This protected cloud forest in the Andes is peppered with these soaring palms, which just happens to be Colombia's national tree.

The Valle de Cocora offers hiking opportunities second to none. The route here takes you along dirt tracks through tropical forests and streams and up to lookouts providing some sweeping views. After the hike, head back to the colorful streets of Salento and enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure. Despite Salento's rise in tourism (mostly backpackers) over the past decade, it retains an old-world charm with colorful Paisa (Antioquian) architecture, street musicians, and an impressive range of handicrafts. 

In the afternoon, you'll transfer back to your accommodations. 

Hike duration: Three hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 6: Explore Quindío Villages

Colorful villages
Colorful villages

Breakfast and departure in a jeep with our local guide for an escapade to traditional villages. You will explore lovely towns like Montenegro, Circasia and Cordoba (the exact villages visited is subject to change).

You will succumb to the charm of this region and its beautiful landscapes, its authentic villages and the warmth of its people. Our local guide will introduce you to local fruits (tasting encouraged) and you will stop by splendid viewpoints overlooking on coffee, pineapple, and banana plantations.

Day 7: Zona Cafetera -> Transfer to Medellín

Medellín is nestled in the heart of the Andes
Medellín is nestled in the heart of the Andes

After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport for your flight to Medellín. (Note: this is a small plane and luggage will be limited; however, road transfers are also available.) Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you 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. Enjoy the city's trendy cafes and upscale restaurants. Visit the local plazas and maybe even venture to Pueblito Paisa, a replica of a traditional Antioquian town.

Day 8: Medellín City Tour

Medellín barefoot park; great for kids
Medellín barefoot park; great for kids

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.

Tour duration: Six hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 9: Guatapé Day-Trip

View from atop the rock
View from atop the rock

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-trip duration: Eight hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 10: 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 (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.
  • 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 11: 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 because 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.

Walking tour: 2.5-3 hours (with English-speaking guide) 
Mangrove tour: 2.5-3 hours (with English-speaking guide)

Day 12: 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-trip duration: Seven hours (including transfers)

Day 13: 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.