Travelers who like to be on the move can check off three cities on this whirlwind 11-day tour starting with Bogotá's Spanish colonial sites and buzzing nightlife. You'll then fly to the heart of Colombia's Zona Cafetera for an overnight at a coffee farm and hiking through the famous Cocora Valley. From here, head to Medellín—a city with a rising culinary and art scene, as well as constant spring-like weather. End the trip on the Caribbean coast where you'll take a day trip to the Rosario Islands and explore the narrow streets of Cartagena's inner-walled city.

Highlights

  • Get a taste of the capital's colonial history and trendy restaurants
  • Have an authentic overnight experience at a working coffee farm
  • Jump on the Medellín's gondola and learn about innovative neighborhood projects
  • Hike the beautiful Cocora Valley through Colombia's iconic wax palm trees
  • Watch sunsets from Cartagena's rooftop bars with ceviche and mojitos

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Bogotá - Transfer to Zona Cafetera - Coffee Finca Pereira
Day 4 Coffee Finca - Hiking - Explore Salento Pereira
Day 5 Coffee Finca - Driving Tour of Zona Cafetera Pereira
Day 6 Zona Cafetera - Flight (or Drive) to Medellín Medellín
Day 7 Guatapé Day-Trip Medellín
Day 8 Medellín - Flight to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 9 Cartagena Walking Tour - Cooking Class Cartagena
Day 10 Rosario Islands Day Trip Cartagena
Day 11 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá

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. 

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

The Gold Museum, Bogotá
The Gold Museum, Bogotá

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). 

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.

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.

Day 3: Bogotá - Transfer to Zona Cafetera - Coffee Finca

The Zona Cafetera
The Zona Cafetera

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 4: Coffee Finca - Hiking - Explore Salento

Unpaved road in the Cocora Valley
Unpaved road in the Cocora Valley

Wake up with a hearty breakfast at your coffee finca. From here, you'll be picked up and transferred to the trailhead in the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley), near Salento's charming center. As you make your way to the trail, you’ll find yourself in view of the distinctive Quindío wax palms, which are among the highest trees in the world reaching a height of up to 70 meters. 

This remarkably lush (and thankfully, protected) cloud forest set against the Andean mountainside gives the phrase "verdant green" new meaning. Add in these soaring, skinny wax palms—Colombia's national tree—that cheerfully dot the mountainous landscape, and the Valle de Cocora makes for an outstanding hiking opportunity that you won't want to miss. This route takes you along dirt tracks through tropical forests and streams for some incredible views and amazing photos, so bring your camera!

After the hike, head back to the colorful streets of Salento and enjoy lunch and the afternoon on your own. Despite Salento's rise in tourism (mostly backpackers) over the past decade, this magical place retains an old-world charm with colorful Paisa architecture, musicians on street corners, and an incredible range of handicrafts. 

In the late afternoon, you'll be transferred back to your accommodations. 

Day 5: Coffee Finca - Driving Tour of Zona Cafetera

Coffee beans maturing in the Colombian Andes
Coffee beans maturing in the Colombian Andes

After breakfast at your coffee Finca, you'll be picked up for a full-day excursion.

This guided tour by private car explores the Zona Cafetera (coffee region), where you'll get to know lovely little villages like Montenegro, Circasia, and Cordoba. Experience the authentic charm, beautiful landscapes, and friendly, tight-knit communities. Your guide will stop by fruit stands for tastings and splendid viewpoints looking over coffee, pineapple, and banana plantations.

When you return to your coffee Finca, enjoy the rest of the afternoon on your own. Have dinner on-site and stay overnight.

Tour duration: 6-8 hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 6: Fly to Medellín

Medellín is nestled in the heart of the Andean mountains
Medellín is nestled in the heart of the Andean mountains

After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight to the city of Medellín. (Please note: This is a small plane and luggage will be limited, however, road transfers are also available.) 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 hop in a car with a local English speaking guide 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: Guatapé Day-Trip

The colorful town of Guatapé
The colorful town of Guatapé

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 restaurant and enjoy lunch on your own (try the freshwater fish and/or other local 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 8: 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 9: Cartagena Walking Tour - Cooking Class

Learn the secrets to Colombian cuisine
Learn the secrets to Colombian cuisine

If you didn't get a chance to explore the city yesterday, not to worry—today you'll experience the "Pearl of the Caribbean" on a walking tour. Let these cobbled streets transfer you back to colonial times as you stroll amid colorful houses and lively squares. You'll start in the expansive Plaza de los Coches, at the entrance to Old Town, and finish at the yellow arcades and galleries of Plaza Las Bovedas, experiencing all of Cartagena in between. 

In the afternoon, you will take part in a cooking class! Gilles and his wife will welcome you to his restaurant in Cartagena's historic Old Town and you'll discover the exotic, rich flavors that comprise Caribbean cuisine. After a welcome cocktail, you will start cooking. The class culminates with an epic dinner where you'll get to enjoy the delectable dishes you've prepared.

Day 10: 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 11: Depart Cartagena

Sunset over the ancient ramparts, Cartagena
Sunset over the ancient ramparts, Cartagena

It's time to say farewell to Colombia! After breakfast, enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a patio café. Or, if you didn't do the guided tour the previous day, explore the bulk of the city.

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.

Map

Map of Colombia's Cities & Coffee Region - 11 Days
Map of Colombia's Cities & Coffee Region - 11 Days
Yenyi
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated Mar 18, 2019