This two-week cultural adventure is perfect for travelers who don’t mind skipping the Amazon, Pacific, or the Caribbean and want to get to the heart of Colombia's interior. Start the trip with plenty of time to explore the vibrant capital of Bogotá, and then travel north to the famous salt mines and one of the most well-preserved cobblestoned towns in the country, Villa de Leyva. You’ll then swing over to the striking metropolis of Medellín, throwing in day-trips to lakeside Guatapé and a working coffee farm before heading to Cali, the salsa capital of the world, and ending your journey in the “white city’ of Popayán.

Highlights

  • Discover the world's most extensive gold collection in Bogotá
  • Head underground and explore the tunnels of the Nemocón Salt Mine
  • Climb the 740 steps up El Peñol for stunning panoramic views
  • Take a salsa lesson in lively Cali
  • Stroll the charming cobblestoned streets of Popayán

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the city Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Explore Bogotá (free day) Bogotá
Day 4 Day trip to the Salt Cathedral & Raquira Bogotá
Day 5 Driving Tour of Villa de Leyva Bogotá
Day 6 Flight to Medellín Medellín
Day 7 Day trip to a coffee finca Medellín
Day 8 Day trip to Guatapé  Medellín
Day 9 Medellín City Tour Medellín
Day 10 Flight to Cali Cali
Day 11 Salsa dancing in Cali Cali
Day 12 Transfer to Popayán Popayán
Day 13 Explore Popayán Popayán
Day 14 Flight to Bogotá - Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the city

Colonial buildings, Bogota, Colombia
Admire the colorful colonial buildings of La Candelaria

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. 

Day 2: Bogotá City Tour

Plaza Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia
Tour Plaza Bolívar and visit the cathedral

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 where you'll stroll 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). 

The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore at your own pace. Consider a visit to two of Bogotá's best museums, the Gold Museum (closed on Mondays), which features the most extensive 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.

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

Day 3: Explore Bogotá (free day)

Mingle with the locals and check out the Mercado de Pulgas San Alejo

Take the day to soak up Bogotá's bustling and lively atmosphere and visit Carlos Jacanamijoy's painting studio, or wander through one of Latin America's most prestigious international art collections at the Museo Botero. Another great option is to soak in the hustle and bustle of Bogota's largest food market, Paloquemao. Here, you can sample local foods (alongside locals) and learn about fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, dairy, and even flowers that grow in Colombia's diverse landscapes.

Another option is to check out Mambe's shop houses with a selection of weekly rotating Fair Trade handicrafts from artisan-driven communities around Colombia, or the flea market, Mercado de Pulgas San Alejo for vintage clothes and vinyl. Or soak in the cafe culture in La Candelaria. In the evening, experience Colombia’s cultural scene, including notable international restaurants, theatres, and live music venues.

Day 4: Day trip to the Salt Cathedral & Raquira

Find your way to this underground chapel

Today you'll stop at Nemocón Salt Mine, thirty minutes from Zipaquira. Here you'll work your way through 5,000 feet (1,600 m) of underground tunnels at a depth of over 260 feet (80 m), stopping to check out a mirror or two—an optical effect caused by the dissolved rock salt. Among the notable attractions, be sure to visit the room of the chapel where you'll see the massive 3,500 lb (1,300 kg) stone symbolizing the world and the equally large salt crystal cut into the shape of a heart.

Then, you will pass by Raquira, known as “the pottery capital of Colombia.” This village features a lot of brightly painted facades with numerous craft shops selling things such as bags, ponchos, woodcarvings, jewelry and of course, where you can watch pottery being made. Try to visit on a Sunday, when the market is in full swing and pick up a souvenir or two.

Day 5: Driving Tour of Villa de Leyva

Villa de Leyva, Colombia
Spend a little time exploring charming Villa de Leyva

After breakfast, you'll set out north to visit one of the most beautiful colonial villages in Colombia, Villa de Leyva on a driving tour. Stroll its cobblestoned streets and wander past its white-washed buildings before driving on to learn more about the village's outer surroundings where you'll visit 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.

In the afternoon, you will return to Bogotá where you'll have the rest of the evening to explore the city and dining scene on your own.

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

Day 6: Flight to Medellín

People watch in Plaza Botero amid the iconic bronze sculptures

After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport to board 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 or evening on your own. Alternatively, you can explore the neighborhoods with an English-speaking guide who will provide you with an insider's perspective of Medellín. Either way, be sure to check out Poblado Parque, a popular city park surrounded by bars and restaurants.

Day 7: Day trip to a coffee finca

A worker packs coffee on the farm
Learn everything there is to know about coffee

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll transfer a couple of hours to a working coffee finca (farm) located in the mountains outside of Medellín. From here, you'll embark on a walking tour with a coffee farmer who will explain the growing process and the steps it takes for the coffee bean to reach the cup. You'll also learn about the daily life of these farmers and how this vital trade is linked to many Colombian families, making it a source of pride for locals.

Return to Medellín in the afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day on your own.

Finca tour: Four hours

Day 8: Day trip to Guatapé

View from atop the rock
View from atop La Piedra 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 also 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.

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 9: Medellín City Tour

cable car, Medellin, Colombia
Look over Medellín from the vantage of the Metrocable

Spend a full day today 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. 

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

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

Day 10: Flight to Cali

Municipal Theater, Cali
Hit up the sites in downtown Cali

Today you'll hop a quick flight from Medellín to Cali. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport to drive you to your hotel. If you aren't too tired, you can take the opportunity to hit the town and explore.

There's much to do and see here. Colombia's third largest city has its share of historical, cultural, and recreational sites to keep visitors busy, particularly in three walkable neighborhoods: Centro, San Antonio, and Granada. While visiting Cali's galleries, museums, and ornate churches is a great way to spend an afternoon, the real enjoyment occurs after the sun goes down. That's when Cali springs to life with music and dancing.

Day 11: Salsa dancing in Cali

Street musicians in Cali
Enjoy the many street musicians in Cali

Cali is legendary for its dance culture. This city of seduction has no shortage of salsa clubs that boom long after midnight. You can even find welcoming locals dancing in the city's parks. Be prepared to hear foot-tappingly infectious music everywhere in Cali, from the suburbs to the supermarket.   

If the mood strikes, you can join a Salsa 101 class (as a newbie or a refresher) before heading out to authentic local bars like La Topa Tolondra, or full-on nightclubs like Club Tin Tin Deo, to show off your moves. Lastly, on the third Saturday of every month, there is a free open-air dance party called Salsa al Parque, held at Antiguo Club San Fernando.

Day 12: Transfer to Popayán

Wander amid whitewashed colonial buildings in Popayán

Today, you will continue onwards to the university hub of Popayán, a historic and charming colonial city famous for its chalk-white facades (nicknamed the "white city"). This is a full-day drive through mountain scenery where you can stop at a couple of small villages along the way to have lunch and take a dip in the area's thermal hot springs.

Popayán sits beneath towering mountains in the Valle de Pubenza, and for hundreds of years was the capital of southern Colombia before Cali took it over.

Day 13: Explore Popayán

Visit the Church of San Francisco

This is one of Colombia's most picturesque, multicultural, and well-preserved colonial cities. Surrounded by undulating countryside, Popayán offers beautiful Baroque-style architecture with impressive churches and museums like the Popyán Cathedral, the Museum of Natural History, and the Colonial Religious Art Museum. 

As the historic center is compact, it's easy to explore by foot or bicycle. Make sure to check out Cauca University (the nation's most prestigious university), Caldas Park, and numerous coffee shops and great restaurants—after all, Popayán is a city that has been recognized by UNESCO for its gastronomy.

Day 14: Flight to Bogotá - Depart 

The view of Bogotá from atop Cerro Monserrate
Take in the view of Bogotá from atop Cerro Monserrate

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia. Complete any last-minute souvenir and gift shopping if there's time, and fly back to Bogotá to connect with your international flight home.

Map

Map of Colombia's Cultural Interior - 14 Days
Map of Colombia's Cultural Interior - 14 Days