There's no better country to travel off the beaten path in luxury and style than Colombia. This 10-day journey takes you into the highlands to the Spanish colonial town of Villa de Leyva, then continues south for more history and refined gastronomy in the "White City" of Popayán. The adventure ends in the verdant Antioquia region with visits to colorful coffee towns and touring the revitalized streets of Medellín.


  • Travel the Colombian highlands, from Bogotá to Villa de Leyva
  • See pre-Columbian sculptures at San Agustín and explore the countryside
  • Indulge in the renowned gastronomy of Popayán
  • Tour the coffee fields around Salento and the artistic streets of Medellín

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá, Transfer to Villa de Leyva via Salt Cathedral Villa de Leyva
Day 2 Villa de Leyva Tour, Transfer to Bogotá, Afternoon Walking Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Fly to Pitalito, Visit San Agustín Archaeological Park San Agustín
Day 4 San Agustín Countryside Jeep Tour San Agustín
Day 5 Transfer to Popayán, Food Tour of the Historic Center Popayán
Day 6 Transfer to Salento, Tour a Local Coffee Farm Salento
Day 7 Day Trip to Filandia & Valle del Cocora Salento
Day 8 Transfer to Jardin, Walking Tour of Jardin's Highlights Jardin
Day 9 Transfer to Medellín, Tour the "City of Eternal Spring" Medellín
Day 10 Day Trip to Santa Elena, Depart Medellín  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá, Transfer to Villa de Leyva & Salt Cathedral

The Salt Cathedral at Zipaquirá
Stop on your way to Villa de Leyva for a tour of the Salt Cathedral at Zipaquirá

Welcome to Colombia! This wildly biodiverse country is famous for many things, including its fun-loving culture, natural beauty, and rich history—both colonial and pre-Columbian. You'll experience all of it over 10 days that will take you to famous hotspots and lesser-visited gems that many tourists often miss. Even better—you'll travel in style and enjoy luxury accommodations the whole way.

It all kicks off in Bogotá. Located high in the Andes, this city is not only the nation's capital but also the gateway to adventures in the nearby highlands. You'll leave the capital behind for now as a private transfer takes you from the airport outside the city to Zipaquirá, a town famous for its Salt Cathedral. This unique Roman Catholic church (literally made out of salt) was built by miners in the mid-20th century. Spread over multiple levels, you'll tour its various chambers. These include the Narthex Labyrinth, a winding pathway adorned with religious sculptures and artwork carved into the salt rock.

After Zipaquirá, continue north through the highlands to Villa de Leyva, one of Colombia's most beautiful colonial villages. Famous for its cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings, it's biggest attraction (literally) is its main square, which covers a whopping 3.4 acres (1.4 ha). You'll be staying just off this famous plaza at Hotel Casa Tierra. This hacienda-style retreat occupies a colonial building dating to the 1800s, and its comfy rooms and suites feature king beds with 450 thread count linens. 

Day 2: Villa de Leyva Tour, Transfer to Bogotá, Afternoon Walking Tour

Villa de Leyva has one of the largest colonial plazas in the Americas

Wake up early and head out on a private walking tour of Villa de Leyva. During colonial times, the village was used as a summer retreat for the rich, as the region reminded the Spanish of Madrid's vast plateau. For centuries, it's drawn all kinds of people, from artists and monks to tourists and retired politicians. You'll learn all about its history as you stroll the massive Plaza Mayor.

Afterward, you'll meet your personal driver for the 3.5-hour ride back to Bogotá. There, you'll check into Casa Legado. Located in the fashionable Chapinero neighborhood—a commercial hub with a bohemian edge—this boutique hotel occupies a re-imagined seven-room midcentury home. The "family" theme is evident right off the bat, down to the friendly dog that welcomes guests. It's a great hideaway amid the bustle of Bogotá and a perfect place to relax—which you can do right away with a cleansing and body care ritual at the on-site spa.

Later, you'll embark on another walking tour. Along with your private guide, head over to Bogotá's historic center and Plaza Bolívar, where the city was founded in 1538. Today, it's home to the parliament, supreme court, and the 19th-century Catedral Primada de Colombia. Next, visit the nearby Museo del Oro (Gold Museum). One of the finest museums in South America, it boasts a staggering collection of over 34,000 pre-Columbian gold artifacts. The tour finishes at the Museo de Botero, which features over 200 works donated by renowned Colombian sculptor/painter Fernando Botero.

Day 3: Fly to Pitalito, Visit San Agustín Archaeological Park

One of several megalithic statues at San Agustín

A driver will pick you up in the morning for the transfer to the airport. There, you'll catch a flight south to Pitalito, which takes a little over an hour. Located in the state of Huila, this town sits in an agricultural region most famous for its coffee farms—one of Colombia's main export crops. It's also a hub for excursions to nearby wonders like nature reserves, waterfalls, and the famous archaeological park at San Agustín, which features a collection of megalithic statues, tombs, and other artifacts dating to pre-Columbian times.

Speaking of which, upon arrival, a driver will transfer you 1-2 hours from Pitalito to just outside the town of San Agustín and your accommodation, the Hotel Monasterio San Agustín. This expansive 4-star hotel enjoys a gorgeous hilltop location overlooking vast coffee fields and rolling Andean hills. Besides the well-appointed rooms, the hotel features a gourmet restaurant serving up a fusion between Mediterranean and traditional Colombian cuisine, sourcing fresh, local ingredients.

After settling in, you'll transfer a short way to the archaeological park for a half-day private tour. The petroglyphs and statues here were carved by two ancient Indigenous cultures—the Magdalena and the Cauca—and depict human and animal figures. Though their exact age is unknown, it's believed they were made between 50 and 400 CE as artistic and religious expressions, possibly even to honor deceased elders and chiefs of the region. You'll arrive early to allow plenty of time to hike between the areas of interest. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel in San Agustín.

Day 4: San Agustín Countryside Jeep Tour

The Magdalena Strait is the narrowest point on Colombia's largest river

You and your guide will leave in the morning and spend the day zipping around the countryside in a private 4WD vehicle. Highlights you'll stop at along the way include the Magdalena Strait, the narrowest point of Colombia's largest river, the Río Magdalena. Just a few miles away lies the small town of Obando, home to ancient burial chambers known as "hypogea." While here, you'll visit a small museum with pre-Columbian artifacts from the region.

The journey continues to Alto de Los Ídolos (Hill of the Idols). Part of the San Agustín Archaeological Park, the site features megalithic sculptures, tombs, and other artifacts created by pre-Columbian cultures that inhabited the area between approximately 500 BCE and 1300 CE. On your way back to San Agustín, you'll pass an impressive waterfall 656 feet (200 m) high called the Salto del Mortiño.

Day 5: Transfer to Popayán, Food Tour of the Historic Center

Sample the traditional flavors of Popayán on a walking food tour

Leave the hotel early for the transfer about four hours north by car to Popayán, one of Colombia's most well-preserved colonial cities. Known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) due to its abundance of whitewashed buildings, Popayán enjoys an ideal location amid rolling green countryside and mountains. Founded in 1537, its historic downtown is filled with cobbled streets and neoclassical cathedrals that have stood for more than four centuries. 

When you get here, you'll transfer to your accommodation in the heart of the historic center. Hotel Dann Monasterio is right at home amid this historical splendor, as it was once a Franciscan convent dating to 1570. The 47 comfortable and elegant rooms occupy what was once the cloister, and there's an on-site gourmet restaurant that serves elevated takes on the traditional fare of the Colombian Andes.

Speaking of which, as you'll arrive around noon, it's the perfect time for a food tour. Fun fact: Popayán has been recognized by UNESCO for its fine gastronomy, which you'll discover on this tasty three-hour jaunt around the historic center. Led by a local guide, you'll visit eateries and stop at street food stalls to try local favorites like tamales, empanadas, soups, corn cakes, and more. Wash it all down with a refreshing salpicón (a fruit salad/smoothie hybrid).

Day 6: Transfer to Salento, Local Coffee Farm Tour

You'll be charmed by the bright colors and busy streets in Salento

Say goodbye to Popayán as you leave early on the six-hour scenic transfer north into the state of Quindío and the town of Salento. Nestled amid Colombia's Zona Cafetera (Coffee Triangle), Salento is famous for its brightly painted colonial buildings and charming central plaza. It's also a hub for day trips to the famous Valle de Cocora for tours and hikes amid verdant hills dotted with towering Quindío wax palms. These are among the highest trees in the world, reaching up to 230 feet (70 m).

About five minutes outside of town, you'll stop at Finca El Ocaso, one of the many heritage coffee farms in the region. This hacienda occupies an idyllic spot in the Quindió countryside amid rolling green hills and coffee fields. You'll learn all about Colombia's renowned coffee culture on a tour of these fields and a visit to the processing center to see how they turn beans into the perfect cup. Of course, you'll enjoy plenty of cups yourself while here.

After the tour, you'll transfer to your accommodation for the next couple of nights, Hacienda Bambusa. Located on the slopes of the Andes amid centenary trees, gardens, and farmland, Bambusa is an oasis of peace amid the verdant splendor of the Salento countryside. The hacienda itself is designed in the architectural style of a traditional coffee finca, yet it offers modern touches like a shimmering front swimming pool where you can enjoy a refreshing dip after a countryside tour.

Day 7: Day Trip to Filandia & Valle del Cocora

Hike up into the cloud forests of the Valle de Cocora
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Rise and shine! You're off this morning to explore the Valle de Cocora, a region of unrivaled beauty (so much so that this entire coffee region has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The valley itself is situated in the Central Cordillera of the Andes. It's the native home of Colombia's national tree, the Quindío wax palm, and a great variety of flora and fauna, much of it endangered and protected.

Dotted throughout the valley are historic coffee towns like Salento. However, this morning you'll visit another gem, Filandia. Even more colorful than Salento, no corner of this well-preserved Spanish colonial marvel lacks splashes of bright paint. While here, you can visit Plaza de Bolívar (the main square) and stroll the cobbled streets up to viewpoints affording vast panoramas of Filandia and the surrounding countryside. You can also stop at a basket-weaving workshop and grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant.

After eating, transfer deep into the valley (likely by Willys Jeep) for a hike around the steep green hills of the Cocora Natural Reserve. At the trailhead, you'll meet your expert hiking guide, enjoy a welcome cocktail, and then begin the journey into the reserve. As you ascend into the misty cloud forest, you'll hike amid the towering palms, once revered by the Indigenous populations. The journey culminates with the planting of palm seedlings, after which you'll hike back down and return to your hotel.

Day 8: Transfer to Jardin, Walking Tour of Jardin's Highlights

Jardín is another storybook Colombian town nestled in the Andes

It's another early start as you continue five hours north on a transfer to Jardín. The town's name (which translates to "garden") literally says it all. This storybook village is hidden away amid towering Andes hills and surrounded by coffee farms and banana trees. Like Salento and Filandia, Jardín has preserved its colonial architecture, particularly around the Plaza Bolívar (main square). Dominating the plaza is the impressive Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, a twin-steepled, neo-Gothic church dating to the 19th century.

Your accommodation for the night is the Hotel Boutique Casa Passiflora. Situated in a traditional hacienda, it features elegant rooms that are a rustic throwback with their hardwood floors and antique furniture. However, there are plenty of modern conveniences here, including flat-screen TVs and air-conditioning. Upon arrival, you can enjoy a nice long soak in the Jacuzzi followed by a bit of lazing on the sun deck amid panoramic views of the town and Andes.

After checking in, you'll head out on a private tour of the town's highlights, including its artisanal sweets shops and the famous La Garrucha—a rickety basket gondola leading across a river canyon to a lookout point. Later, you'll have dinner in town before returning to your hotel.

Day 9: Transfer to Medellín, Tour the "City of Eternal Spring"

Medellín, once known for violence, is today a top tourist destination

Leave in the morning with your driver on the three-hour transfer north to Medellín, capital of Colombia's Antioquia department. Despite its turbulent past, today the city is pure charm, with a beautiful setting in the Andes, friendly locals (known as "Paisas"), and a rich culture heavy on art and music. You'll stay in the trendy El Poblado neighborhood at Patio del Mundo. Set in two beautifully restored villas amid lush gardens, this 3-star boutique hotel offers a touch of luxury and plenty of tranquility. The chic suites are adorned with local artwork and feature balconies with courtyard views and comfy king beds. 

After checking in, you'll hop in a car with an expert guide for a private insider's tour of Medellín. During this half-day excursion, you'll visit major city highlights, including Pueblito Paisa (a replica of a traditional Antioquian town) and Parque San Antonio. Nearby is Plaza Botero, which features the unmistakable bronze sculptures of celebrated artist and hometown hero Fernando Botero. You'll also stop at the famous Jardín Botánico (Botanical Garden), a natural wonderland featuring thousands of exotic plants and flowers, an orchid garden, and a butterfly enclosure. 

At the end of the day, you'll return to the hotel. For dinner, be sure to check out one of the upscale restaurants and funky eateries found throughout El Poblado. Later, you cap the night with a relaxing soak in the hotel Jacuzzi.

Day 10: Day Trip to Santa Elena, Depart Medellín

Santa Elena is the hub for producing the flowers used in Medellín's Feria de Flores

Your time in Colombia may be drawing to a close, but the fun isn't over yet. In the morning, meet your private guide for a trip outside the city to Santa Elena. This charming mountain town is the main hub for the mass production of fresh flowers used in Medellín's largest festival–the colorful Feria de Flores.

The town is a cultural symbol of the Antioquia region. Besides growing the flowers, the famous silletas—wooden harnesses locals use to carry bundles of flowers on their backs—are also made in Santa Elena. While here, you'll visit an organic flower farm and enjoy rustic local cuisine. Afterward, you'll transfer to the airport in Río Negro, just south of Medellín, where you'll catch your flight home. Adíos!

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