If you want to experience the heart and soul of colonial Colombia, you can't do better than this 11-day itinerary. Leaving no cobblestone unturned, you'll venture from the epicenter of Spanish colonialism in the Andes—the capital city of Bogotá—to the expansive central plaza of Villa de Leyva, a gem of the Andean highlands. Then it's off to Barichara, a throwback pueblo so charming that it was named a National Monument of Colombia. Last but not least you'll visit the granddaddy of them all, Cartagena de Indias to walk its ancient ramparts.

Highlights

  • Immerse yourself in the colonial heart of the nation's capital, Bogotá
  • Visit the Andean colonial city of Villa de Leyva and walk along the largest central plaza in Colombia
  • Enjoy sweeping Andean views from the lookout points of Barichara
  • Tour a working coffee farm in Mesa de Los Santos
  • Stroll the cobble streets and ancient ramparts of Cartagena de Indias

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Zipaquira Salt Cathedral - Transfer to Villa de Leyva Villa de Leyva
Day 4 Explore in and Around Villa de Leyva Villa de Leyva
Day 5 Villa de Leyva -> Transfer to Barichara Barichara
Day 6 Hike from Barichara to Guane Barichara
Day 7 Barichara -> Transfer to Mesa de los Santos - Coffee Tour of El Roble Mesa de Los Santos
Day 8 San Juan de Girón -> Transfer to Bucaramanga Bucaramanga
Day 9 Bucaramanga --> Flight to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 10 Cartagena City Tour Cartagena
Day 11 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá

Plaza Bolivar
Plaza Bolivar

Welcome to Bogotá! A driver will meet you at the airport for transportation to the 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: Bogotá City Tour

Mercado de Paloquemao, Bogotá
Mercado de Paloquemao, Bogotá

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). 

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.

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.

Day 3: Zipaquira Salt Cathedral - Transfer to Villa de Leyva

Multi-colored tunnel at the Salt Cathedral
Multi-colored tunnel at the Salt Cathedral

Today 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.

Day 4: Explore in and Around Villa de Leyva

Monastery of Santo Ecce Homo
Monastery of Santo Ecce Homo

After breakfast embark on a tour of Villa de Leyva. You'll 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. You'll 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. 

Day 5: Villa de Leyva -> Transfer to Barichara

Church of the Immaculate Conception, Barichara
Church of the Immaculate Conception, Barichara

In the morning you'll depart from Villa de Leyva heading north four hours to the village of Barichara. There's no more romantic colonial town in Colombia than this one. It ticks all the boxes: cobbled streets, whitewashed houses with terracotta roofs, an ancient cathedral—and all of it first constructed some 300 years ago. This is history in stone, which is why it is one of Colombia's official heritage sites. 

On a walking tour of Barichara, you will visit the Church of the Immaculate Conception, located on the main square (with the smaller Santa Barbara Chapel to the north of it). You'll go to the cemetery (constructed of local stonework) and even pay a visit to factories producing handmade cigars. There will also be a stop at the viewpoint of the Suarez Canyon—in all of Colombia, this might be the best sunset view. 

You'll return in the late afternoon to your hotel and have the evening to enjoy at your leisure. 

Day 6: 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.

Day 7: Barichara -> Transfer to Mesa de los Santos - Coffee Tour of El Roble

View of Chicamocha Canyon from Mesa de Los Santos
View of Chicamocha Canyon from Mesa de Los Santos

Depart in the morning for the two-hour journey to the coffee plantations of Hacienda El Roble, situated on the large plateau of Mesa de los Santos. On the road, we will cross the Chicamocha Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world at 227 km (141 miles) long and two km (one mile) deep.

At Hacienda El Roble you'll learn all about Colombia's coffee culture via a tour and presentation. The entire process is explained, from the picking of the beans to the final pour. This immersion into the world of coffee will allow you to discover not just the methods of collection and selection of the beans, but also the process of roasting them to obtain the final product.

In the afternoon you will enjoy a delicious lunch of local cuisine served on the patio. You'll have the rest of the day free to enjoy on your own. Relax and take advantage of the comfortable amenities at Hacienda El Roble, and enjoy the sweeping views of the highland landscapes.

Day 8: San Juan de Girón -> Transfer to Bucaramanga

Plazuela Peralta
Plazuela Peralta

After breakfast, you'll transfer an hour and a half north to the colonial city of San Juan de Girón. It is larger and more modern than Barichara or Villa de Leyva, but the colonial center is just as well preserved. Stretch your legs by exploring its cobbled streets, starting with the Parque Principal, where you'll find the dominating Catedral del Señor de los Milagros, with its twin bell towers. Maybe enjoy lunch a couple blocks away at Plazuela Peralta—a little plaza and site of the town's founding. 

Afterward, transfer less than an hour to the neighboring city of Bucaramanga, where you'll overnight.

Day 9: Transfer to Bucaramanga --> Flight to Cartagena

Cathedral in Cartagena de Indias
Cathedral in Cartagena de Indias

After your breakfast, you will pick up from your hotel on direction to Bucaramanga Airport (private vehicle - approx. 1h 30 minutes).
Flight Bucaramanga - Cartagena (connecting flight in Bogotá - about 4 hours).
 
For lunch your driver will advise you where to eat a traditional lunch and to taste the regional specialties.

Upon arrival to Cartagena, check into your hotel in the afternoon before spending the evening at your leisure.  Overnight at your hotel.

Day 10: Cartagena City Tour

Calle San Juan de Dios, Cartagena
Calle San Juan de Dios, Cartagena

After breakfast, you will meet your guide and begin a walking tour of Cartagena’s historic center. The reason the city is designed like a fortress is because it was the principal shipping port of gold from the New World back to Spain. The stone ramparts helped protect it from countless pirate attacks, including from the most famous of all: Sir Francis Drake. On top of this history, you will visit myriad plazas, the church and the monastery of San Pedro Claver, the Basilica Minor cathedral, and you'll stroll along narrow cobbled streets lined with colonial houses featuring bougainvilia-draped balconies. 

You'll have the afternoon to spend at your leisure. Enjoy Cartagena at your own rhythm, or participate in an additional activity or excursion (consult us). 

Day 11: Depart Cartagena

Sunset over the ancient ramparts, Cartagena
Sunset over the ancient ramparts, Cartagena

It's time to say farewell to Colombia! After breakfast, enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a patio café. Or, if you didn't do the guided tour the previous day, explore the bulk of the city.

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. Perhaps 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 Colonial Colombia - 11 Days
Map of Colonial Colombia - 11 Days