Perfect for first-timers, this action-packed itinerary starts with a few days in the cosmopolitan capital of Bogotá. Along the route, you'll visit Spanish colonial towns like Villa de Leyva and Barichara. Next is a few days in the up-and-coming city of Medellín. 

Highlights

  • Learn how to cook Bogotá's most loved dish, Ajiaco
  • Walk through a series of preserved salt tunnels from the 19th century
  • Enjoy sweeping Andean views from the lookout points of Barichara
  • Get a tour of a working coffee plantation with a local farmer
  • Enjoy the dining, nightlife, and culture of Medellín

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the City Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Ajiaco Cooking Lesson in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 4 Tour of Guatavita, Zipaquirá & Villa de Leyva Villa de Leyva
Day 5 Explore In & Around Villa de Leyva Villa de Leyva
Day 6 Driving Tour of Villa de Leyva - Transfer to Barichara Barichara
Day 7 Admire the colonial architecture of Barichara Barichara
Day 8 Hike from Barichara to Guane Barichara
Day 9 Barichara - Flight to Medellín Medellín
Day 10 Medellín City Tour Medellín
Day 11 Visit of Santa Elena, Guatapé and Hike Peñol Rock Medellín
Day 12 Coffee Finca Day-Trip Medellín
Day 13 Depart Medellín  

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: Ajiaco Cooking Lesson in Bogotá

Traditional Colombian ajiaco
Traditional Colombian ajiaco

Today you're in for a literal treat. Come to the restaurant at the Escuela Taller where a professional chef is waiting for you. You’ll join other students in learning how to prepare a typical dish of Bogotá: ajiaco. This rich soup of potatoes, chicken, and maize is complimented with rice and avocado. It's a nourshing, hearty dish perfect for the cold-weather Andean region.

After learning the basics and preparing the ajiaco, you will finally get to dig in and taste your authentic Colombian creation. You'll be participating in a good cause, too. The Escuela Taller is an NGO that provides young people without opportunities work/study training in different fields of education like cooking and painting. The objective is to integrate these people into the workforce while preserving the historical patrimony of Bogotá.

Ajiaco cooking lesson: Three hours

Day 4: Tour of Guatavita, Zipaquirá & Villa de Leyva

A hike to Guatavita will be your first stop
A hike to Guatavita will be your first stop

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. 

From here, continue driving north through the Andean highlands and stay overnight in Villa de Leyva, one of the most beautiful colonial villages in Colombia, featuring cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings. After checking into your hotel, you'll hit the streets starting with one of the largest central plazas in Colombia.

Declared a national monument in 1954, this half-day walking tour with a local guide covers important village sites like the huge Plaza Mayor, the main streets, coffee and handicraft shops, and even a wool weaving workshop. You'll also visit the Mesopotamia Mill, a remnant of the Spanish era. You'll learn how the mill works and also about the life of the local population during that time. The tour also includes the convent of the Discalced Carmelites ("Carmelitas Descalzas"), a community of Carmelite nuns living in permanent retreat since the convent's creation in 1645. They devote themselves entirely to manual labor and prayer.

Guatavita tour: 1.5 hours (with an English-speaking guide)
Zipaquira tour: 1.5 hours (guided tour)
Villa de Leyva tour: 3-4 hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 5: Explore In & Around Villa de Leyva

The expansive central plaza of Villa de Leyva
The expansive central plaza of Villa de Leyva

After breakfast embark on a tour of Villa de Leyva. Start in the town's central plaza (the largest such plaza in the nation), and venture out into the foothills and surrounding nature. You'll be surprised to learn that this highland region is a hotbed of archeological sites. Pay a visit to the most popular landmark, El Infiernito—an ancient grouping of stone fertility monuments. If you're an amateur paleontologist you'll be thrilled to visit El Fosíl, a small museum housing the fossil of a 110-million-year-old kronosaurus (an aquatic relative of the crocodile). Other sites of interest include the Monastery of Santo Ecce Homo.

The afternoon is yours to explore Villa de Leyva on your own. There are a number of local treasures within a block or two of the plaza, and these include French bakeries, artisanal ice cream shops, chocolate confectioners, and more. 

Tour duration: Four hours (with a local English-speaking guide)

Day 6: Driving Tour of Villa de Leyva - Transfer to Barichara

Barichara quaint cobblestone street
Barichara quaint cobblestone street

After breakfast, you'll have the opportunity to learn more about the village's outer surroundings visiting main points of interest with a driving tour. (Optional add-on.) 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 be transferred to Barichara by private car, which is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Colombia. 

Tour duration: 3-4 hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 7: Admire the colonial architecture of Barichara

Quiet and picturesque church in Barichara.
Quiet and picturesque church in Barichara.

Barichara is renowned for its quiet charm and is considered to be one of the most beautiful pueblos in Colombia (among many beautiful pueblos). Start the morning with a two-hour hike (mostly downhill) to Guane. Explore this small colonial town before catching the bus back to Barichara to admire the handicrafts on sale in the shops, and maybe pick one up for yourself. 

If you fancy exotic foods, make sure to try some hormigas culonas (fat-bottomed ants). Every year in April, life in Barichara comes to a halt when these ants make their appearance. The locals drop everything in order to harvest and roast as many ants as possible to be enjoyed throughout the year.  

At sunset, walk or take a tuk-tuk to a scenic outlook for a beautiful view of Suarez Canyon and the surrounding mountains. Walking back to your hotel after sunset, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy in the laid-back lifestyle of the locals in this picturesque town.

Day 8: Hike from Barichara to Guane

Colonial village of Guane
Colonial village of Guane

After breakfast, hike up to the edge of town where you'll find the start of the Camino Real (or "royal path"). You'll walk along this path two hours until you reach the small colonial village of Guane. Along the way, you'll be treated to some great views of the canyons as well as a bit of solitude in the peaceful countryside.

Once in Guane, you'll visit the archaeological and paleontological museum. It displays ceramics and jewelry made by the Guane indigenous people, as well as fossils that are millions of years old. Finally, you'll visit the Chapel of Santa Lucia, located in the iconic main square.

You'll then return to Barichara on a moto-taxi (approx. 35 mins.). This means of transport is perfect to relax and enjoy the views of the Río Suarez Canyon whizzing by. You'll have the late afternoon and evening to enjoy as you see fit.

Walking tour along the Camino Real: Three hours (with English speaking guide)

Day 9: Barichara - Flight to Medellín

Medellín's outlying scenery
Medellín's outlying scenery

After breakfast, depart for Medellín! This will be a day of transfers, starting with a 3.5-hour drive to Bucaramanga airport. You'll then fly to Bogotá in order to catch your connecting flight to Medellín. Upon landing, you will be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Depending on your arrival time, enjoy the afternoon/evening exploring the city's vibrant neighborhoods and lively restaurant scene.

Day 10: 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 11: Visit of Santa Elena, Guatapé and Hike Peñol Rock

El Peñol
El Peñol

After breakfast at your hotel, it's time to join a private trip to the colorful resort town of Guatapé.

On the road, you'll stop at the small village of Santa Elena, which is located high up in the mountains of Antioquia. Visit the area where the well-known floral arrangements have become a famous symbol of Medellin.

On arrival to Guatape, if you'd like to, you can climb the 649 steps of Peñol Rock. It's the Antioquia district's version of Brazil's Sugarloaf Mountain, and the views are suitably brilliant. 

After all that exercise, head into town with your guide. Stop for a traditional lunch, tasting some of the regional specialties, before taking a walk through the little streets of Guatapé. You'll see buildings painted every color of the rainbow, lively cafés, and families and couples relaxing in the main square.

Return to Medellin at the late afternoon.

Transport: private vehicle
Assistance: English-speaking guide
Accommodation: 

Day 12: Coffee Finca Day-Trip

A worker packs coffee on the farm
A worker packs coffee on the farm

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll transfer by car 1.5 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 important 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 13: Depart Medellín

The Metrocable, Medellín
The Metrocable, Medellín

It's time to say farewell to Colombia! Enjoy your last moments in the beautiful city of Medellín 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 Culture and Nature in Colombia: Cities, Landscapes, & Colonial Villages - 13 Days
Map of Culture and Nature in Colombia: Cities, Landscapes, & Colonial Villages - 13 Days