Perfect for travelers who love urban energy and culture, this fast-paced itinerary highlights four awesome Colombian cities: Bogotá, Medellín, Santa Marta, and Cartagena — each with their own special qualities and vibes. Too much city? You'll visit a coffee farm in the Andes and hike through a rainforest for a dose of beach and Caribbean Sea to round out this fun adventure.

Highlights

    • Check out street art and snack on empanadas in Bogota's trendy historic district
    • Get a tour of a working coffee plantation with a local farmer
    • Ride Medellín's gondola and check out lesser-visited neighborhoods
    • Hike and beach-hop in a gorgeous national park on the Caribbean
    • Explore Cartagena's colonial architecture and sophisticated cocktail bars

Overview

This is a solid option for first-timers to Colombia who want to see a lot of the country in less than two weeks. You'll get a local perspective with English-speaking local guides and have time on your own. Plus, with overnights in each place, you'll get a chance to partake in restaurants and nightlife in order to experience these cities on a more intimate level. 

Start off in the cosmopolitan capital of Bogotá where you can explore street art, museums, and restaurants, then fly to the scenic city of Medellín, a hip metropolis making a comeback after a turbulent past. You'll then head north to Santa Marta and make your way along the coast towards Cartagena's Old Town for colonial romance, art galleries, and rooftop bars. 

You'll also take relaxing city breaks with two day-trips in Medellin including a lakeside region called Guatapé where you can give your hiking legs a work-out on La Piedra Rock, with 740 steps. You'll also visit a coffee farm in the Andean mountains. Later in the trip, you'll spend a full day at Tayrona Park, with rainforest trails and beautiful beaches. Though most of your transfers are by flight, you'll take a private car transfer to Cartagena allowing you to see some of the Caribbean coast as you make your way west for the last leg of your trip. 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Bogotá - Flight to Medellín Medellín
Day 4 Guatapé Day-Trip Medellín
Day 5 Coffee Finca Day-Trip Medellín
Day 6 Medellín - Flight to Santa Marta Santa Marta
Day 7 Santa Marta - Tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona Santa Marta
Day 8 Transfer to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 9 Explore Cartagena Cartagena
Day 10 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá

Bogotá's scenic capital is surrounded by mountains.
Bogotá's scenic capital is surrounded by mountains.

Welcome to Bogotá! A driver will meet you at the airport for transportation to the hotel.

Colombia's biggest city is on the rise in terms of gastronomy and culture, so spend your free time discovering this vibrant Andean capital by foot. Explore the cobblestone streets through the La Candelaria neighborhood, where trendy restaurants and colonial-era landmarks are located, as well as excellent museums, shopping, and street food options ranging from empanadas to exotic fruit salads. 

(Optional add-on.) 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

Get a local's perspective of La Candelaria's historic sites.
Get a local's perspective of La Candelaria's historic sites.

After breakfast, it's time to hit the streets and explore Bogotá! You'll be picked up at your hotel by a local guide who will share his/her city knowledge on this half-day tour. 

Half-Day Walking Tour: Take a thorough walking tour through colorful La Candelaria — the heart of Bogota's historic center with narrow streets, cultural landmarks, and shops selling local goods. 

(Optional add-on.)
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) for the largest collection of gold artifacts in the world, and the Botero Museum (closed on Tuesdays) for a collection of masterpieces from this renowned Colombian painter and sculptor.

(Optional add-on.)
If you are an early riser, start the morning sunrise tour of Bogotá's best and biggest food market — Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao — which provides ingredients for the vast majority of the city’s best restaurants. Wander through the stalls and continue strolling through neighborhood streets stopping to photograph walled graffiti art.

Half-Day Tour Duration: 4 Hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 3: Bogotá - Flight to Medellín

Check out Medellín's street art and outdoor sculptures.
Check out Medellín's street art and outdoor sculptures.

After breakfast, depart for Medellín! Upon landing, you will be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, you can enjoy the afternoon/evening on your own, or explore the neighborhoods with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on) who will cover some of the following sites:

Panoramic City Tour (4 Hours): Hop in a car and get an insider's perspective of Medellín from your private transfer. You'll make several key stops including the Pueblito Paisa, San Antonio Park, La Plazuela de San Ignacio, La Playa Avenue, Metropolitan Church, and the iconic bronze sculptures at Botero Square. You will visit the Music House, Antioquia University, and the city's expansive botanical garden with more than 4,500 blooms. The last leg of the tour includes a stop at the Convention Center in Plaza Mayor, the Metropolitan Theater, and Los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park). On your way back to the hotel, check out Poblado Parque, a popular city park surrounded by bars and restaurants. 

Day 4: Guatapé Day-Trip

Climb La Piedra rock for views over this pretty region. 
Climb La Piedra rock for views over this pretty region. 

After breakfast, you'll be picked up from your hotel for a full-day excursion to the picturesque lakeside town of Guatapé. This private tour includes a guided walk through the village where you'll learn about the town's conflict surrounding the building of the dam that was renamed Guatapé Lake. You'll gain an insider’s perspective on local efforts to pressure the government to address the reservoir’s encroaching blue-green algae.

Your guide will then transfer you to La Piedra Rock. Relax at the base of this natural granite landmark where there are market stalls, or work up an appetite by climbing the 740 steps to admire the view from the top (not included). You can also climb about halfway for a shrine to the Virgin Mary.

Return to Guatapé and enjoy free time to explore the streets. This is truly the most colorful town in Colombia with beautiful artwork along the lower half of its buildings. Head to a restaurant and enjoy lunch on your own — keep an eye out for freshwater fish and other local delicacies.

In the afternoon, you'll be transferred back to your hotel in Medellín with free time to enjoy the rest of the day.

Day-Trip Duration: 8 Hours (with an English-Speaking Guide)

Day 5: Coffee Finca Day-Trip

Learn about this important local trade.
Learn about this important local trade.

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll be picked up and taken to a scenic coffee finca (farm) located in the mountains outside of Medellín with a local guide. 

The tour includes a walk with a coffee farmer who will explain the bean growing process and the steps it takes for the coffee bean to reach the cup. Also learn about the daily life of a Colombian coffee farmer and how this important trade is linked to every Colombian family, 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-Trip Duration: 4 Hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 6: Medellín - Flight to Santa Marta

Santa Marta is Latin America's oldest city.
Santa Marta is Latin America's oldest city.

After breakfast, you'll be picked up and transferred to the Medellín airport for your flight to the coastal city of Santa Marta. Upon arrival, you'll be picked up and transferred to your hotel. 

This busy port has a long history as the first Spanish settlement in Colombia and South America’s oldest surviving city. Though it’s often used as a stopping point for numerous day-trips in the area, the historic downtown has been restored, so take a stroll to see the multi-colored buildings and its magnificent cathedral, as well as a slew of hotels, restaurants, and bars.

Nearby, Santa Marta’s Sierra Nevada Mountains are home to Colombia’s tallest peak. It’s also the gateway for ecological trips to the stunning Tayrona National Natural Park on the palm-fringed Caribbean Sea.

If you have time, consider this private tour with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on)

Santa Marta Tour (3 Hours): A local guide will pick you up at your hotel and share his/her knowledge about this beautiful city. Your tour includes a visit to the botanical garden and Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino (where the liberator Simón Bolívar died in 1830). You'll explore the city's historical center, which has a notable cathedral and gold museum and then head to the Caribbean waterfront for panoramic views of Taganga, a traditional fishing village. 

Day 7: Santa Marta - Tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

Spend the day hiking and relaxing on beaches.
Spend the day hiking and relaxing on beaches.

After breakfast at your hotel in Santa Marta, you'll be transferred to the park where you'll experience some of South America's loveliest coastline with a local guide while visiting the stunning beaches and rainforests of Tayrona — one of three national parks on Colombia's Caribbean coast. 

Tayrona Park Walking Tour

This tour includes 4-5 hours of walking and some additional time to relax on the beaches. 

You'll first hike in the tropical foothills near Cañaveral, the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Then visit the exotic beaches of Arrecifes and stop at La Piscina, an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling. 

Continue to Cabo San Juan del Guia and see a wonderful bay of white sand surrounded by huge volcanic rocks. On the way here, you can observe several species of local flora and fauna pointed out by your knowledgeable guide. The afternoon is your free time to enjoy lunch on your own and relax on the shore.

Return to your hotel in the late afternoon.

Tour Duration: Full Day (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 8: Transfer to Cartagena

A leafy corner in Cartagena's Old Town.
A leafy corner in Cartagena's Old Town.

After breakfast, you'll be picked up from Tayrona Park and transferred to Cartagena. This picturesque colonial city on the Caribbean Sea is rich in culture, architecture, romance — and, yes, even pirate history. Upon arrival, you'll be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Depending on the time of your arrival, consider a few options. You can relax and enjoy the hotel amenities or jump into action with a neighborhood walk, either by yourself or with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on). Here are some things that you should see:

  • Wander the narrow, winding streets of the inner-walled city with a camera to photograph colorful houses and lively squares overflowing with bougainvillea.
  • Check out the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo stopping at key sites like Plaza de los Coches, Plaza de la Aduana, Parque Bolívar, and Plaza de Santa Teresa. 
  • Walk along the Old Town's original fortress walls, built (starting in 1586) with the purpose of protecting Cartagena from any attacks. You'll get some amazing panoramic views of the city (and the sunset!) from here.
  • Pay respects at Santo Domingo, reputedly the oldest church in the city.
  • Peek in La Vitrola for future reference — this is the city's most famous restaurant in a 400-year-old colonial home.
  • Explore Getsemani, the up-and-coming neighborhood just outside the walls of Cartagena's historic Old City. Once a seedy area, Getsemani is now a haven for hip culture with charming Spanish colonial architecture, graffiti art, boutique hotels, and street food vendors.

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

Day 9: Explore Cartagena

Happily, get lost on these narrow streets.
Happily, get lost on these narrow streets.

After breakfast, take your pick between numerous ways to experience Cartagena, either on your own or with a private tour (optional add-on), whether it’s a surfing trip along the coast, a boat trip to pristine Caribbean beaches, or even a sunset sail with a glass of bubbly.

Other options include a guided walking tour of Cartagena's UNESCO World Heritage walled city. Together with an English-speaking professional, you will delve deeper into South America’s most extensive fortifications and visit famous sites like the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, located on the Hill of San Lázaro, and San Pedro, with its Andalusian-style palaces and Cathedral.

If an organized tour isn’t appealing, simply create your own adventure around the city. At dusk, take part in the unforgettable atmosphere as the city comes alive with street performers and musicians.

Day 10: Depart Cartagena

Take your last photos before departing Colombia.
Take your last photos before departing Colombia.

It's time to say farewell to Colombia! After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a relaxing café, or — if you have not done so yet — take a walk around the city with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on) to gain a new perspective of the city from a local. 

This tour covers Cartagena's enchanting maze of colorful houses and lively squares 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 and el Museo del Oro. 

A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home.

Map

Map of Discover Colombia's Cities - 10 Days
Map of Discover Colombia's Cities - 10 Days