On this 15-day culinary tour, you're never far from the flavors that comprise Colombian culture. You'll dive right in, sampling exotic fruits, savory street food, and local rum. You'll even participate in cooking classes and prepare some of the nation's most famous dishes. In between food-related adventures, take time to relax on some of Colombia's pristine beaches in Tayrona National Park.

Highlights

  • Taste exotic fruits in Bogotá's largest open-air market
  • Tour the city of Medellín on foot and by cable car
  • Hike to remote Caribbean beaches in Tayrona National Park
  • Participate in a chocolate and rum tasting in Cartagena

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 2 Take a Food Tour of the Mercado de Paloquemao Bogotá
Day 3 Ajiaco Cooking Lesson in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 4 Flight to Medellín (Optional City Tour) Medellín
Day 5 Coffee Finca Day-Trip Medellín
Day 6 Day trip to Jardín Medellín
Day 7 Flight to Santa Marta - Transfer to Tayrona National Park Tayrona Park
Day 8 Tour of Tayrona National Park Tayrona Park
Day 9 Free Day Near Tayrona National Park Tayrona Park
Day 10 Tayrona National Park - Transfer to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 11 Cartagena Walking Tour - Cooking Class Cartagena
Day 12 La Boquilla Fishing Trip Cartagena
Day 13 Chocolate Workshop and Afternoon Rum Tasting Cartagena
Day 14 Kayaking Around Barú Island Cartagena
Day 15 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá

La Candelaria, Bogotá
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: Take a Food Tour of the Mercado de Paloquemao

Exotic fruits, Mercado de Paloquemao, Bogotá, Colombia
Exotic fruits, Mercado de Paloquemao, Bogotá, Colombia

Begin your day with a walking tour of Bogotá's largest food market, the Mercado de Paloquemao. Open every day, Paloquemao supplies fresh ingredients for the majority of the city's best restaurants. Wander the aisles, marvel at the sheer number of flowers for sale, and sample the variety of exotic fruits and local dishes served up by the market's vendors and restaurant stalls.

In the afternoon take part in a foodie tour around Bogotá. This unique excursion takes in Bogotá's budding gastronomy scene, where you'll sample the fare at some of the best restaurants in the city, many of which are at the forefront of Latin American cuisine. Cap off the evening at Andrés DC, the city location of Andrés Carne de Res, one of Colombia’s liveliest and most popular steakhouses.

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.

Day 4: Flight to Medellín (Optional City Tour)

El Poblado, the trendiest neighborhood in Medellín
El Poblado, the trendiest neighborhood in Medellín


After breakfast, transfer to the airport and hop a flight to Medellín. Despite its turbulent past, Medellín today is quite charming with its beautiful mountain setting, friendly locals, and vibrant culture. A car will pick you up at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. You're now free to spend the remainder of the day exploring. 

Start by visiting 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. Perhaps take a ride on the city's gondola (Metrocable) system and enjoy the 360° views of the city below. Either way, enjoy the weather—due to its elevation, Medellín has year-round spring temperatures.

Get an insider's perspective of Medellín on a private tour of the city by car. You'll make several stops on this route, including at Pueblito Paisa (a replica of a traditional Antioquian town), and San Antonio Park. You'll also visit the iconic bronze sculptures at Botero Square, and stop in at the city's expansive Botanical Garden, which features more than 4,500 blooms plus a butterfly enclosure. The last leg of the tour stops at the Metropolitan Theater and Los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park). 

Day 5: Coffee Finca Day Trip

Coffee plantation
Coffee plantation

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.

Day 6: Full Day trip to Jardín

Main plaza and cathedral in Jardín
Main plaza and cathedral in Jardín

The Southwest of Colombia's Antioquia region is one of the world's major coffee-growing regions. Here you'll find the petite village of Jardín, which is cradled like a baby amid steep Andean hills blanketed with coffee and banana plantations. This humble and indescribably beautiful village is surrounded by untouched nature, including running rivers abounding with trout. 

Jardín is famous for its colorful houses and balconies, and the area around the central plaza has been declared a Cultural Heritage Village. You'll take a tour of this town, starting at the museum Clara Rojas, where the history of the region comes to life. After tasting the award-winning sweets of Doña Mariela, the mama de los dulces de Jardín ("mother of sweets in Jardín"), at her Macanas Café, you'll hop onto the old cable car known as "La Garrucha." It will transport you a short distance to the other side of the valley from which you'll enjoy a nice walk back to the town center. In the early evening, you'll return to Medellin.

Day 7: Flight to Santa Marta - Transfer to Tayrona National Park

Sunset in Santa Marta
Sunset in Santa Marta

After breakfast, a car will pick you up and transfer you to the airport for your flight to the city of Santa Marta, on Colombia's Caribbean coast. Upon arrival, you'll drive to just outside the entrance of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tayrona National Park), where you'll stay overnight. 

You'll have rest of 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 will be served on-site so there's no need to rush.

Day 8: Tour of Tayrona National Park

Arrecifes Beach, Tayrona
Arrecifes Beach, Tayrona

After breakfast, you'll begin a half-day tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tayrona National Park). This protected area is known for having some of the most virgin 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'll experience much of this coastline with a local guide while touring the white-sand beaches and rainforests further inside Tayrona.

First, it's a hike in the tropical foothills near Playa Cañaveral, at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Then 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. The afternoon is yours to enjoy on your own. Have a bit of lunch and relax on the shore.

You'll return to your hotel in the late afternoon with time to enjoy the sunset and dinner served on-site.

Day 9: Free Day Near Tayrona National Park

Try some snorkeling in the Caribbean
Try some snorkeling in the Caribbean

Enjoy a free day to experience the surroundings outside Tayrona Park. This is your chance to explore the region's singular topography on your own, which includes the world's highest coastal mountain range.

You can take your pick between a range of organized activities such as snorkeling, sailing, river tubing, hiking, or wildlife spotting. You can also take a day-trip to Minca, a beautiful Colombian village in the mountains, and visit a coffee farm. 

Day 10: Tayrona National Park - Transfer to Cartagena

Plaza San Pedro de Claver, Cartagena
Plaza San Pedro de Claver, Cartagena

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

Depending on the time of your arrival, you'll have a few options for activities. You can relax and enjoy the hotel amenities or get right into the mix with a neighborhood walk, either by yourself or with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on). Here are some other ideas to consider:

  • Wander the narrow streets of the historic Old Town, snapping photos of the lively plazas and colorful houses with bougainvillea-draped balconies.
  • Check out the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo, stopping at key sites like Plaza de los CochesPlaza de la AduanaParque Bolívar, and Plaza de Santa Teresa.  
  • Walk along the Old Town's original fortress walls (dating back to 1586), constructed to protect Cartagena from sea attacks. These ramparts also afford panoramic views of the city and make great sunset-viewing spots.
  • Visit Santo Domingo, which, having been erected in 1552, is reputedly the oldest church in the city. 
  • Explore Getsemaní, the bohemian neighborhood just outside the walls of Cartagena's Old Town. Once a seedy area, Getsemaní is now a cultural enclave filled with Spanish colonial architecture, graffiti art, boutique hotels, and street food vendors.

Finish the day with mojitos and fresh ceviche in one of the city’s hip restaurants or rooftop bars.

Day 11: Cartagena Walking Tour - Cooking Class

Church of San Pedro de Claver, Cartagena
Church of San Pedro de Claver, Cartagena

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 12: La Boquilla Fishing Trip

Fishing boats in La Boquilla
Fishing boats in La Boquilla

After breakfast at your hotel, a driver will transfer you to the mangroves and rivers outside of Cartagena. Here you'll experience a small sampling of Colombia's diversity. The inhabitants of this region are predominantly Afro-Colombians who subsist on the abundant fish that populate the delicate fresh-and-saltwater ecosystem here. A local fisherman will take you by boat to catch some of these fish, and you'll assist in checking cages and nets to see what delights will be served later on.

After reaching the local community of La Boquilla, you'll chat with the locals as they teach you how to prepare the fish you've just caught. Enjoy a feast for lunch before heading back to Cartagena. The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to explore the city however you wish.

Day 13: Chocolate Workshop and Afternoon Rum Tasting

Learn the intricacies of chocolate making
Learn the intricacies of chocolate making

Today you'll produce your own chocolate directly from cacao beans. You will be participating in the "Bean to Bar" workshop held at the ChocoMuseo (Chocolate Museum) located in Parque Bolívar, in Old Town. You'll learn the history of this substance and even prepare and taste a legendary chocolate drink dating from all the way back to the years of the Spanish conquest. At the end of the workshop, you'll leave with your own handmade chocolates customized to your specific taste. 

But hang on—you aren't done just yet. After the workshop, it's time for more indulgence as you partake in a rum and chocolate tasting hosted by a local mixologist. Rum is Colombia's principal liquor export, and you'll sample a wide variety, all paired with delectable chocolates. The mixologist provides a fascinating intro to rum and chocolate in Colombia, and all told, you'll enjoy about six shots of various local rums and even a welcome cocktail. 

Day 14: Kayaking Around Barú Island

Kayaking the Caribbean
Kayaking the Caribbean

This morning you’ll embark on a kayaking trip around Isla Barú, one of the gems of Colombia’s Caribbean. Located just south of the city of Cartagena, Barú was once part of the peninsula but is now separated by the narrow Canal del Dique, which runs inland and eventually connects to the Magdalena River. You’ll be exploring this canal and its attendant flora and fauna. The mangroves here are home to manatees, turtles, capybaras, and caimans. Some bird species you might encounter include hummingbirds, herons, and the yellow warbler.

Spend the remainder of the day relaxing. The best spot for this is also on Barú at Playa Blanca. It's generally regarded as Cartagena’s most beautiful beach, and the crystalline waters and soft white sands make a perfect spot to while away the afternoon hours.

Day 15: 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.

Map

Map of Food & Culture in Colombia:  Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, & Tayrona National Park - 15 Days
Map of Food & Culture in Colombia: Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, & Tayrona National Park - 15 Days

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