This festive itinerary begins in Bogotá, where you'll discover museum, restaurants, and nightlife. Next, jet over to Medellín to explore historical sights and see the Christmas lights. From there, drive to the Zona Cafetera to tour the coffee fields and stay on a farm. On your last leg, ring in the New Year in Cartagena and snorkel in Tayrona National Park.

Highlights

  • Stay on a coffee farm and taste local flavors in Zona Cafetera
  • Experience the festive Christmas lights of El Alumbrado in Medellín
  • Ring in the New Year and salsa dance with the locals in Cartagena
  • Go swimming, hiking, and exploring in stunning Tayrona National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá - Guided City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Fly to Medellín Medellín
Day 4 Medellín - Guided City Tour Medellín
Day 5 Guatapé - Day Trip and Guided Tour Medellín
Day 6 Medellín - Self-Guided Tour and Christmas Lights Viewing Medellín
Day 7 Fly to Zona Cafetera - Coffee Region Tour Pereira
Day 8 Valle de Cocora - Guided Hike Pereira
Day 9 Fly to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 10 Cartagena - New Year’s Eve Cartagena
Day 11 Cartagena - Optional Guided Tour Cartagena
Day 12 Cartagena - Guided Landmark Tour Cartagena
Day 13 Travel to Tayrona National Park Tayrona Park
Day 14 Tayrona National Park - Guided Tour Tayrona Park
Day 15 Tayrona National Park - Free Day Tayrona Park
Day 16 Depart From Tayrona National Park  

 Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Bogotá 

Plaza Bolívar, in La Candelaria, Bogotá
Plaza Bolívar in Bogotá

Welcome to Bogotá! A driver will meet you at the airport and transport you to your hotel.

Colombia's largest 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 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 - Guided city tour

La Candelaria
The colorful streets of La Candelaria 

Good Morning! If you are an early riser, start the day with a 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. 

Then, it will be time to hit the streets of La Candelaria and explore! A local, English-speaking guide will pick you up and accompany you on a half-day walking tour of the city. La Candelaria is the heart of Bogota's historic center, and the town is painted with street art murals that are great to photograph. 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 is a grand cathedral here, as well as many important government buildings, such as the Capitolio Nacional (Colombia's congress building). 

After your walk through La Candelaria, explore two of Bogotá's best museums in the afternoon: the Gold Museum, which features the largest collection of Pre-Columbian gold artifacts in the world, and the Botero Museum, which houses a collection of masterpieces from renowned Colombian sculptor and painter Fernando Botero. 

For dinner, make sure to taste the local Colombian fare. Some of the best restaurants in La Candelaria include Capital Cocina y Café, Fulanitos, and Abadia Colonial Restaurante.

Day 3: Fly to Medellín

Medellin, city nestled in the valley
The view of Medellín in the valley

After breakfast, you will make your way to the airport for your flight to Medellín. A car will pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel, and you will have free time to explore the city for the remainder of the day in the year-round spring temperatures.

Despite its turbulent past, the Medellín of today is quite charming with its beautiful mountain setting, friendly locals, and vibrant culture. You can begin your exploration at Parque Lleras, in the heart of the trendy El Poblado district, where most of the city's tourism is centered. This is where some of the best dining, nightlife, and hotels are located.  

If you would like to get an insider's perspective of Medellín, you can book an optional, private, 4-hour tour–with an English-speaking guide–of the city by car. You'll make several stops on this route, including the:

  • Pueblito Paisa, a replica of a traditional Antioquia town.
  • San Antonio Park, which is a central recreational venue with sculptures, an auditorium and important government alliance buildings.
  • Metropolitan Theater, which is home to classical music.
  • Los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park), which encourages a shoeless stroll to connect with the land.

Keep in mind that if you decide to book this optional tour, you may experience some overlap with your guided tour set to take place tomorrow.

Day 4: Medellín - Guided city tour

Plaza Botero
Plaza Botero

Following breakfast at your hotel, you will spend a full day exploring Medellín on a walking tour with a local, English-speaking guide. This excursion includes a mix of sightseeing on foot and taking the Metro system through a neighborhood that represents one of the city's most successful urban projects.

Your guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to downtown Medellín. You will start out with a visit to Plaza Botero, which features works by Colombia's most prominent sculptor, Fernando Botero.

Next, you will take a ride on the city's iconic Metrocable gondola system, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Medellín below. Then, you will make your way to the Botanical Garden, which features more than 4,500 types of flowers.

After visiting a few more parks and landmarks in the downtown area on your tour, you will return to your hotel by public transport. Note that there is also a tour option that includes graffiti street art and riding the Metrocable to more remote neighborhoods that are located higher in the hills.

The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy at your leisure. For a delicious dinner, consider Mondongo’s, El Herbario, Carmen, or In Situ.

Day 5: Guatapé - Day trip and guided tour

View from atop the rock
View from the top of El Peñol 

Once you have had breakfast, you will embark on 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 from your English-speaking guide. You will learn about the town's conflict surrounding the building of the dam that created the reservoir here, which is known as Guatapé Lake. You will also learn about the local efforts to address this reservoir’s encroaching blue-green algae.

Your guide will then take you to El Peñol (La Piedra Rock). You can relax at the base of this natural granite landmark in one of the many market stalls. Or, if you are interested in some exercise, you can climb the 740 steps to admire the view from the top. Halfway up the rock, you will even be able to spot a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary!

Then, you will return to the town of Guatapé, where you can explore the streets. This is one of the most colorful villages in Colombia, and you will find beautiful artwork along the lower half of its buildings. At lunchtime, you can head to a local restaurant and enjoy lunch on your own–make sure to try the freshwater fish and other local delicacies.

In the late afternoon, you will travel transfer back to your hotel in Medellín. Once you are back, you will have some free time to enjoy your evening. If you would like to experience the Medellín nightlife scene, head to Babylon or Bendito Seas.

Day 6: Medellín - Self-guided tour and Christmas lights viewing

Christmas Lights in Medellin
Christmas lights in Medellín

Good Morning! Enjoy free time today exploring more of Medellín. There are many parks and museums to stroll through. Some options include:

  • Arví Park: This ecological nature preserve is an archaeological site where you can bike, hike, birdwatch, or have a nice picnic.
  • Explora Park: Loosely based on the Exploratorium in San Francisco, this museum is great for science buffs.
  • Antioquia Museum: This contemporary art museum was erected in the 1880s and boasts a rotation of intriguing exhibitions.
  • Castle Museum: Here, you will find fine and decorative arts inside, and striking French-inspired gardens outside.

When night falls, you are in luck! Christmastime is the best time of year to be in Medellín. Throughout December, which is known as the Lighting season, you will get to see El Alumbrado, which is an extensive town-wide Christmas lighting display, in all its glory!

However, these are not your average Christmas decorations. Expect the city to go all out. In 2018, the city’s Christmas light display exceeded a whopping 31 million LED lights spread over 100 parks and neighborhoods. People take their walking tours after sundown, enjoying the city’s mild weather, while vendors sell goodies and street performers entertain. Each year there is an overall theme that ties the whole show together.

Christmas lights have been a tradition in Medellín for more than 160 years. Some of these lights are even powered by solar energy, a tradition that started in 2014. If you are here during the lighting season, Medellín is not to be missed!

Your guide will provide you with all of the perfect lighting sites–Parque Norte is known to be one to bookmark–so you can be sure to have the best light viewing tour of Medellín!

Day 7: Fly to Zona Cafetera - Coffee region tour

The coffee fields of Colombia's Zona Cafetera
The coffee fields of Colombia's Zona Cafetera

Today, you will take a flight to either Armenia or Pereira, which are two cities in Colombia's Zona Cafetera, the coffee region.

When you arrive, you will be driven to transfer to an organic coffee finca (farm) in the beautiful countryside of this region, surrounded by sloping Andean Mountains coated in green coffee fields. Be sure to keep your camera within reach. When you get to the finca, you will learn every step of the coffee production process. To further this authentic experience, you will stay overnight, and learn even more about Colombia's famous export (the country is the world's third-largest producer of coffee). Of course, there will be frequent tastings, so you can enjoy the local riches on their home turfs!

Day 8: Valle de Cocora - Guided hike

Colorful houses in Salento
Colorful houses in Salento

Wake up and enjoy a hearty breakfast on the farm! 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 will find yourself in view of the distinctive Quindío wax palms, which can reach an impressive height of up to 230 feet (70 m). 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 an extraordinary experience for hikers. The route here takes you along dirt tracks through tropical forests and streams and up to lookouts providing some stunning, 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 (Antioquia) architecture, street musicians, and an impressive range of handicrafts. 

In the afternoon, you will make the trip back to the coffee farm and can relax among nature in the evening.

Hike Duration: 3 hours

Day 9: Fly to Cartagena

Cartagena
Welcome to Cartagena!

After breakfast, you will travel to the airport for your flight to Cartagena. This colonial fortress city on the Caribbean is rich in culture, architecture, romance, and even pirate history. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. 

After settling into your hotel, you will have a few options for activities. Get to know the town on a guided tour with an English-speaking guide, or you can explore on your own. Some ideas include:

  • Wandering the narrow streets of the historic Old Town, where you can snap photos of the lively plazas and colorful houses with bougainvillea-draped balconies. You can also stroll the original fortress walls (dating back to the 1580s), constructed to protect Cartagena from sea attacks. These ramparts also afford panoramic views of the city and make great sunset-viewing spots.
  • Stopping at key sites like Plaza de los CochesPlaza de la AduanaParque Bolívar, and Plaza de Santa Teresa, which all hold historical significance.
  • Visiting Santo Domingo, which, having been erected in 1552, is reputedly the oldest church in the city. 
  • Exploring Getsemaní, the bohemian neighborhood. It is a cultural enclave filled with Spanish colonial architecture, graffiti art, boutique hotels, and street food vendors.

In the evening, enjoy the local fare for dinner. Options include:

  • Carmen, which hosts a tree-filled patio area, with beautiful lights, that resembles a jungle.
  • Alma, which is housed in a colonial-era mansion, and offers candlelit dining by the pool.
  • La Cevicheria, which was made famous by Anthony Bourdain, and offers exceptional, no-frills ceviche.
  • Di Silvio Trattoria, a hidden Italian gem with pizza and pasta located inside of an old soap factory.
  • Maria Bonita Taqueria Cantina, which is the best spot in town if you are in the mood for some tacos.

Day 10: Cartagena - New Year’s Eve

Cartagena at night

Good Morning! On this final day of the year, make sure to enjoy a nice breakfast or brunch. You can visit Pasteleria Mila, a French farmhouse-inspired spot with Colombian fare, or Beiyu, located in Getsemani and features breakfast bowls, juices, and lighter bites.

After brunch, stroll the colorful streets and make sure to treat yourself to some downtime before the nighttime festivities.

One of the many reasons that Cartagena is such a popular tourist attraction is its fun and vibrant nightlife scene. When night falls on New Year’s Eve, you will see another level of international partying in this gorgeous city. When it comes to ringing in the New Year, you can:

  • Enjoy the festivities in stunning Old Town after dark.
  • Celebrate in one of the town’s exclusive restaurants.
  • Have casual drinks at one of the many bars.
  • Hit the nightlife scene–Café Havana and Bazurto Social Club are popular spots.
  • Dance salsa with the locals in Plaza San Diego.

Day 11: Cartagena - Optional guided tour

Old Town Cartagena
Old Town

After breakfast, you can take your pick of the numerous ways to experience more of Cartagena, either on your own or with a private tour guide by your side. If you are up for a beach day, you can visit Playa Blanca, where you can surf, hang out on the white sands, and take a sunset sail.

If you would rather continue exploring on a private tour, now is the time to visit the UNESCO World Heritage “Walled City” of Old Town, if you have not gone already. Together, with your English-speaking guide, you will delve deep into Cartagena's Spanish-colonial history. You'll visit the city's extensive fortifications and famous fortresses like the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. You'll also stroll the Walled City's cobblestoned plazas, like the Plaza de San Pedro Claver, with its Andalusian-style cathedral.

At dusk, take part in the sultry coastal atmosphere as the city comes alive with street performers and musicians.

Day 12: Cartagena - Guided landmark tour

https://www.bigstockphoto.com/image-313822351/stock-photo-fresh-fish-for-sale-at-a-market-stall-in-cartagena%2C-murcia
Fresh fish for sale in Cartagena

Take your time with breakfast this morning, and then prepare to dive into the city for a day-long tour with your English-speaking guide.

First, you will head outside the colonial Old Town to the Mercado Bazurto, an expansive market bustling with vendors selling everything from fresh fish to electronics! This is the "people's market," a local institution off the tourist trail. Stroll the narrow aisles and savor the sights, sounds, and smells. Bazurto is the gastronomic pulse of the city, and you will find all the exotic fruits and vegetables that give the local cuisine its identity. Enjoy a traditional lunch here while your guide introduces you to some of the chefs and purveyors who frequent this well-known destination.

Your day continues beyond the historic center, off to two landmarks emblematic of the city's colonial past: La Popa Monastery and Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Both the monastery and the imposing castle were strategic sites used to defend Cartagena against pirates and invaders. San Felipe was built in 1536 to protect the bay and was once the mightiest fortress in the New World. La Popa sits on a hill in Cartagena and offers panoramic views all the way out to the Boca Grande neighborhood and its glittering skyscrapers. 

After this cultural immersion, you will return to your hotel to unwind.  

Day 13: Travel to Tayrona National Park

Iguana sunning in Parque Tayrona
Welcome to Tayrona National Park!

After breakfast, you will check out of your hotel in Cartagena. Your private driver will take you to drive your hotel, which is located just outside the entrance of Tayrona National Park.

Once you are settled in, you will have the afternoon to relax and enjoy your hotel, which is located on a peaceful spot overlooking the Caribbean Sea at the foot of the mountains. Wander down to the nearby beach, which is an ideal spot to view the sunset.

Dinner for the evening will be served at your hotel.

Day 14: Tayrona National Park - Guided tour

Arrecifes Beach, Tayrona
Arrecifes Beach in Tayrona

After you have breakfast, you will begin a half-day tour of Tayrona National Park. This protected area is known for having some of the most iconic, untouched coastal landscapes in the entire country. Indeed, when you see promotional images of Caribbean Colombia, often you're seeing images of Cabo San Juan, which is located in Tayrona. You will experience a large part of this coastline with a local, English-speaking guide while touring the white-sand beaches and rainforests further inside Tayrona.

First, you will take a hike in the tropical foothills near Playa Cañaveral, at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Then, you will visit the exotic beaches of Arrecifes and La Piscina, the latter of which is an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling. Continue to Cabo San Juan and enjoy the bay of white sand surrounded by large volcanic rocks. On the way here, you can observe several species of flora and fauna pointed out by your knowledgeable guide.

In the afternoon, you can have some lunch and relax on the shore on your own. After some free time, you will return to your hotel in the late afternoon. Take in another sunset before dinner, which is served onsite again this evening.

Day 15: Tayrona National Park - Free day

Try some snorkeling in the Caribbean
Go snorkeling in the Caribbean

Today, take advantage of a free day–and your last full day on the trip–to experience the surroundings outside Tayrona Park. With its ideal location tucked away in the gorgeous nature of the area, enjoy some time at your hotel and its surrounding jungle paradise. This is your chance to explore the region's scenery on your own, which includes the world's highest coastal mountain range.

If you would like to join a group for some organized outdoor fun, you can choose from a list of adventures. You can snorkel, river tube, hike, or go on a wildlife excursion.

If you would like to experience another area, you can also take a day trip to Minca, which is a beautiful village set in the mountains. Here, you can visit a coffee farm or take part in one of the area’s favorite pastimes: birdwatching! There are more than 2,000 species to spot, which keeps the sport both entertaining and educational.

As the sun sets on your last evening in Colombia, take in the beautiful surroundings and enjoy a peaceful last night.

Day 16: Depart From Tayrona National Park

Adios, Colombia!
Adios, Colombia!

Sadly, it is time to say goodbye to Colombia! Enjoy your last morning near Tayrona Park with a leisurely breakfast and walk along the sea. Once you had said farewell, a driver will meet you at your hotel and take you to the airport to board your flight home, so you can embrace the new year ahead!

Map

Map of December in Colombia: Bogotá, Medellín, & Cartagena - 16 Days
Map of December in Colombia: Bogotá, Medellín, & Cartagena - 16 Days