Can't decide whether to explore the beaches and islands of the Caribbean coast, get into the groove of cities like Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartegena, or take in the wonder of the Andes mountains? Over 15 days, you can do it all on this far-reaching tour. You'll get a whirlwind overview of one of South America's most diverse and alluring countries, with plenty of awe-inspiring daily activities along the way. Private guides and easy transfers by car and plane will help make your adventure hassle-free.


  • Soak up the atmosphere of Bogotá, Colombia's cultural epicenter
  • Hike in the Andean areas of Cocora Valley and Cerro Bravo 
  • Explore Colombia's "Coffee Triangle," including by horseback
  • Hop over to the Rosario Islands off the Caribbean coast
  • See the city of Cartagena by bicycle and on a street food tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá, Bogotá Walking Tour Bogotá
Day 2 Day Trip to Guatavita, Zipaquirá & Salt Mines  Bogotá
Day 3 Fly to Salento, Butterfly & Botanic Garden Salento
Day 4 Valle de Cocora, Coffee Farm & Salento Salento
Day 5 Transfer to Manizales, Horse Riding at Hacienda Venecia Manizales
Day 6 Hike Up Cerro Bravo Volcano Manizales
Day 7 Transfer to Medellín, Medellín Transformation Tour Medellín
Day 8 Piedra del Peñol & Guatapé Boat Trip Medellín
Day 9 Fly to Tayrona National Park, Santa Marta City Tour Tayrona N.P. 
Day 10 Excursion in Tayrona, Boat to Playa Cristal Tayrona N.P.
Day 11 Transfer to Cartagena, Bike Tour & Dance Class Cartagena
Days 12-13 Transfer to Rosario Islands, Beach Time & Plankton Bioluminescence Rosario Islands
Day 14 Transfer to Cartagena, Street Food Tour Cartagena
Day 15 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá, Bogotá Walking Tour

Explore Bogotá's city center on foot
Explore Bogotá's city center on foot
Welcome to Bogotá! A driver will meet you at the airport and transport you to your hotel. One of South America's most vibrant destinations, Bogotá is Colombia's epicenter of art, culture, and gastronomy. It's also one of the world's highest capitals, sitting at 8,660 feet (2,640 m) above sea level and cradled by chilly Andean peaks.

On a half-day walking tour, you'll explore Bogotá's historical center with an English-speaking guide. Start in the main square of Plaza de Bolívarthe, in the La Candelaria neighborhood. La Candelaria is the city's colonial-era heart and the site of many key buildings, such as the government headquarters, Justice Hall, and neoclassical Catedral Primada—Bogotá's largest cathedral.

Next, visit the Gold Museum and its impressive collection of pre-Columbian goldsmiths from native communities. Finish your tour at Museo de Botero, one of Latin America's most important art collections, with over 200 works donated to the city by Colombian painter Fernando Botero.

Day 2: Day Trip to Guatavita, Zipaquirá & Salt Mines 

Ther sacred site of Laguna de Guatavita

After breakfast in Bogotá, a private driver will pick you up for a journey north of the capital to Laguna de Guatavita. You will have a short guided hike to the sacred lagoon to enjoy this spectacular crater-shaped body of water. You'll learn about the area's rich history, including the ancient rituals of the Muisca people, who threw gold and precious stones into the lagoon as offerings to the gods. 

After, you'll have lunch in the small village of Sesquile, then transfer to Zipaquirá. This town, declared a Colombian heritage site, is known for its famous underground Catedral de Sal—a Roman Catholic 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. 

While in the area, you'll also head to the Nemocón Salt Mine, half an hour from Zipaquirá. Here, 24 feet (80 m) underground, is a collection of immaculately preserved tunnels where eight million tons of salt were extracted between 1816 and 1968. The chambers off the main routes show the history of salt mining amid spectacular atmospheric light effects 28 mirrors. In the afternoon, you'll return to Bogotá and enjoy some free time to explore the city at night.

Day 3: Fly to Salento, Butterfly & Botanic Garden

Butterfly at the Botanical Garden in Medellín
Butterfly at the Quindío Botanical Garden
Today, you're flying west from Bogotá to Pereira, a journey that takes around an hour. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport and take you to Salento. Fringed by forested peaks, the town of Salento is one of the loveliest destinations in Colombia's UNESCO-listed Coffee Triangle. The settlement was founded in 1850, and its bahareque architecture of brightly painted balconies and doors still line the main street. It's also an excellent base for day trips to nearby coffee fincas, traditional villages, and nature reserves.  

Spend the afternoon among the butterflies and blooms of Quindío Botanical Garden. Here you'll find 600 species of plants and trees aged up to 200 years old. The tour around the botanical garden includes a visit to the Insect Zoo, a seven-floor balcony where you can witness the many layers of vegetation. Spend time at the height of the treetops, which are home to countless birds of more than 70 species. Afterward, head over to a butterfly garden, filled with 1,500 butterflies of 50 different species and hundreds of flowers lining the walkways.

Day 4: Valle de Cocora, Coffee Farm & Salento

The wax palms of the Valle de Cocora
The wax palms of the Valle de Cocora

Salento is stunning in its own right, but the biggest attraction lies in the nearby Valle de Cocora, where towering Andes peaks are blanketed in electric-green flora and dotted with 328-foot (100 m) tall wax palms—the national tree of Colombia. This morning you'll walk among these extraordinary giants, ascending a mountain trail into the cloud forests. The route here takes you along dirt tracks through tropical forests and streams and up to lookouts providing some sweeping views. 

After lunch at a local restaurant, you'll be immersed in Colombian coffee culture, with a visit to a coffee farm to learn how the crop is grown and processed. Then head back to Salento to explore, centering yourself around the lively main street of Calle Real. The street retains an old-world charm, with colorful Paisa (Antioquian) architecture, street musicians, and an impressive range of handicrafts. Browse the myriad shops and galleries, and maybe indulge in a game of tejo (Colombia's national sport, played like horseshoes). 

Day 5: Transfer to Manizales, Horse Riding at Hacienda Venecia

Horseback riding in Colombia
See the Coffee Triangle on horseback

This morning you'll be transferred by car from Salento to Manizales—the most adventurous of the three cities that make up Colombia's Coffee Triangle. As you approach Manizales, embark on a horseback tour of the Hacienda Venecia, a working farm that delivers awesome views across coffee, plantain, and avocado plantations. There's flora and fauna aplenty, with native trees, water springs, and more than 260 species of birds. The farm's traditional house is the perfect place to refuel and learn about Colombian coffee.

After checking into your hotel in Manizales, spend some time exploring this relaxed university city, where steep streets are backed by green mountain scenery. Have lunch by the neo-gothic Catedral de Manizales, and then visit the massive bronze sculpture of Monumento a los Colonizadores for spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.

Day 6: Hike Up Cerro Bravo Volcano

Nevado del Ruiz, PNN Los Nevados, Caldas, Colombia
Cerro Bravo volcano
Plan your trip to Colombia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Lace up your walking boots—today you're going on a hike up the Cerro Bravo volcano, in the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes, a short drive from Manizales. The steep approach to the crater is well worth the effort—from the summit, there are panoramic views of the Nevado del Ruiz, Valle de Magdalena, and the Letras Paramo.
The route is a 3-mile (5 km) round trip, passing through forest and moorland. Depending on the time of year, you might see high-altitude blooms, such as wild orchids, as well as hummingbirds and butterflies flitting past. Bring warm clothing, as the top is 13,123 feet (4,000 m) above sea level. If you're planning on doing more hiking in Colombia, today's adventure forms a great introduction.

Day 7: Transfer to Medellín, Medellín Transformation Tour

Graffiti art in Medellín's Comuna 13
Graffiti art in Medellín's Comuna 13

After a car transfer from Manizales to Medellín, you'll delve straight into the city's fascinating history. Join a guided tour of Medellín's past and present, and learn more about the transformation of this fascinating metropolis. Just over 25 years ago, Medellín was one of the most dangerous cities in the world due to the presence of Pablo Escobar, the founder of the Medellín Cartel.

Since Escobar's death in 1993, Medellín has experienced a resurgence, thanks to local politicians who started to invest heavily in infrastructure and public education. Today, the "City of Eternal Spring" is one of the most innovative cities in the world. 

The tour highlights an area of the city called Comuna 13, which was plagued with violence from drug trafficking organizations and paramilitary groups in the 80s and 90s. Since then, locals have made a major transformation and the sprawling mountainside neighborhood is now a hub of graffiti art and street murals. You'll get to ascend the giant escalator that scales the mountain in six sections, linking once-isolated residents to the city below.

Day 8: Piedra del Peñol & Guatapé Boat Trip

Lakeside Guatapé 
Today, you'll head off on a full-day guided trip to one of the crown jewels of Colombia's Antioquia region: the lakeside town of Guatapé and its surroundings. A scenic drive through the eastern highlands will take you to Piedra del Peñol ("Peñol Boulder"), about 1.5 hours outside Medellín. Summit this 650-foot (200 m) monolith by climbing 740 steps. Halfway up the rock is a shrine to the Virgin Mary, and once at the top, you'll get a 360-degree view of the vivid green Antioquia countryside.
About 30 minutes from Peñol Boulder is Guatapé itself. One of the most colorful towns in Colombia, every building is decorated with a brightly colored frieze. Eat lunch along the waterfront of the reservoir, known as Laguna de Guatapé, and take in the verdant scenery on a boat ride. Your guide will explain the town's conflict surrounding the building of the dam that created the reservoir, and you'll gain an insider's perspective on local efforts to pressure the government to address the encroaching blue-green algae.

Day 9: Fly to Tayrona National Park, Santa Marta City Tour

Santa Marta's Cathedral
Santa Marta's Cathedral

A driver will take you to Medellín's airport today to catch your flight to Santa Marta. The oldest city in Colombia (founded in 1525), Santa Marta packs a historical punch, but it's also fringed with virgin beaches and the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range. Upon arrival, you'll be transferred to your hotel, just outside the entrance of postcard-worthy Tayrona National Natural Park—a biodiverse protected area between the peaks and the sea.

While there's plenty of time to relax today, you'll also get a guided walk of the city. Santa Marta's cathedral (with foundations dating back to 1531), is one of the oldest on the continent. You'll visit other major landmarks like Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the hacienda where the great Libertador and Venezuelan president, Simón Bolívar, spent his last days. Other stops include Santa Marta's historic center and the coastal viewpoint in the adjacent fishing village of Taganga.
After, you'll have time to relax at your hotel, which is in a peaceful spot looking out to the Caribbean Sea at the foot of the mountains. Then wander down to the beach to watch the sunset. 

Day 10: Excursion in Tayrona, Boat to Playa Cristal 

Beach life in Tayrona National Park

Spend the day exploring the diverse natural beauty of Tayrona National Park on a private tour. Start at Playa Gairaca, a solitary bay on the road to Playa Neguanje—this little-visited spot has been preserved in a pristine state. Drop by Mirador Siete Olas, a beach where rows of waves reach the shore in a mesmerizing sequence, giving it its name "Seven Waves Viewpoint." You'll also be able to see it from a viewpoint in the peaceful hills along the way.

From the park's western entrance, take an unpaved road through the tropical dry forest of the Sierra foothills to the bay of Neguanje (around a one-hour hike). Neguanje in the ancestral Indigenous language means "sea of deep and crystalline waters," and it truly lives up to its name. It's here you'll board a boat for the 10-minute ride to your last destination, Playa Cristal ("Crystal Beach"). In this heavenly place, a sweep of hill-backed white sand meets famously clear waters. You'll have plenty of time to relax, swim, and snorkel the marine life-rich reefs.

Day 11: Transfer to Cartagena, Bike Tour & Dance Class

Streets of Old Town Cartagena
Cartagena's colonial buildings

In the morning, a private driver will transfer you to Cartagena. This colorful fortress city on the Caribbean coast is rich in culture, colonial architecture, romance, and even pirate history. Exploring by bicycle is a great way to get an overview. Led by an expert guide, you'll set off from the historical center on a private cycling tour.

Your first stop is the neighborhood of Getsemaní, to see the home of Florentino Ariza. Ariza is the main character in the novel "Love in the time of Cholera" by Colombian Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez. Then, cross the Roman Bridge to the Manga neighborhood and Villa Roman—this Moorish-inspired house was built in 1929, its owner having taken inspiration from Spain's Alhambra palace. Visit Manga's cemetery, the oldest in Cartagena, and continue to the seafront to finish your tour.

Later, get into the Colombian groove with a one-hour dance class. Music and dance are important elements of Colombian culture. Popular dance styles include salsa, merengue, and vallenato, often to the beats of traditional vallenato music (multi-instrument folk music originating from this region). Your dance teacher will show you key steps that you can try later at a bar or club.

Days 12-13: Transfer to Rosario Islands, Beach Time & Plankton Bioluminescence

Try some snorkeling in the Caribbean
Snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea

Island life awaits! Your driver will take you to the port of Cartagena, where you'll board a boat and cruise over to your hotel on the Rosario Islands. Just 45 minutes from Cartagena, this beautiful archipelago is made up of 27 islands. The islands are part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Park, one of the most important nature reserves in the country. Here, both the islands and the surrounding waters are protected, leaving them as remarkably well-preserved ecosystems.

You'll have the next two days free to explore the island and enjoy the warm, crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea at your own pace. Snorkeling equipment can be arranged, to allow you to discover the underwater worlds and their colorful fish. As soon as it gets dark, the real show-stopper begins—a natural spectacle where planktons' bioluminescence glows whenever you move in the water. Don't miss an evening excursion where you'll get to swim among these "lights" on a small-group tour.

Day 14: Transfer to Cartagena, Street Food Tour

Fruit sellers in Cartagena

Start the day with a boat ride from the Rosario Islands back to the mainland. Bring an appetite, as today you'll explore Cartagena's diverse culinary scene on a street-food tour. The two-hour guided excursion will get you up close and personal with the real Cartagena, as street sellers fill your belly with their signature dishes and warm your heart with hospitality.

Grab a fried snack, like papas rellenas (fried stuffed potatoes), empanadas (filled pastry), or caribañolas (a torpedo-shaped meat and cheese pie). Order a refreshing coconut water or raspao (an icy beverage made with fruit and sweetened condensed milk). Finish off with tropical fruits, such as granadilla, guanabana, or papaya. As well as being delicious, street food is one of the best ways to gain an insight into the daily lives of local. It serves as a cultural shortcut to everything from music to history, architecture to art.

Day 15: Depart Cartagena

Cartagena's Old Town

Enjoy your last day in Colombia. After breakfast, relax at a sidewalk café, or explore a new neighborhood. Walk through a maze of colorful houses and squares, some from the 16th century, or explore the colonial areas of San Diego and Santo Domingo. Visit Saint Philip's Castle, or 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. When it's time to leave, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the airport. Safe travels!

More Great Colombia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Colombia? Check out these other Colombia itineraries, explore other ways to spend 15 days in Colombia, and discover the best time of year to visit Colombia.


Map of Colorful Colombia: Cities, Mountains & Beaches - 15 Days
Map of Colorful Colombia: Cities, Mountains & Beaches - 15 Days