From the buzzing nightlife of Bogotá to the up-and-coming neighborhoods of Medellín and romance of Cartagena's Old Town, this well-rounded journey covers Colombia's best urban highlights, and yet breaks it up with outdoorsy adventures along the way. Starting in the capital, the two-week adventure is ideal for travelers who want to experience culture and historic sights, but who are also enticed by hiking in coffee fields, exploring a rainforest on the Caribbean Coast, and relaxing on white-sand beaches.
Watch kimkim travelers share their impressions of Bogota and Colombian culture:

Highlights

  • Explore the cobblestone streets through Bogotá's La Candelaria neighborhood
  • Hike a 5-6 hour loop in the coffee region's green mountains dotted with palm trees 
  • Ride Medellín's Metrocable, one of Colombia's most successful urban projects
  • Take a guided tour at a stunning national park on the Caribbean coast
  • Wander the narrow, winding streets of Cartagena's inner-walled city 
  • Spend a day on the Rosario Islands for sunbathing and watersports

Overview

This two-week adventure explores a major chunk of the country including three major cities, as well as Colombia's coffee triangle, Guatapé's lakeside region, a coastal national park, and nearby Caribbean islands. 

Start in the cosmopolitan capital of Bogotá, with time to wander La Candelaria and check out the city’s hip dining scene. En route, you’ll fly to the smaller town of Salento for colonial architecture, hiking in Cocora Valley, and an overnight at a coffee farm. You'll then have a few days to explore up-and-coming Medellin with a day trip to lakeside Guatapé. For the last hoorah, fly to the Caribbean Coast for white-sand beaches, a boat trip to the Rosario Islands, and plenty of time to soak up Cartagena's stunning Old Town.

Colombia is an ideal year-round destination with warm, tropical weather. If you want to skip the high season and crowds (December and January), then February to April is a great choice with dry weather and lower prices. Keep in mind that October and November tend to be the wettest months of the year.  

Overview Map

Brief Itinerary

Day  Highlight Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá (optional city tour) Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Arrive in Salento, Overnight at a Coffee Finca Salento
Day 4 Hiking in Valle de Cocora Salento
Day 5 Tour of Salento & Zona Cafetera Salento
Day 6 Arrive in Medellín Medellín
Day 7 Medellín City Tour Medellín
Day 8 Guatapé Day Trip Medellín
Day 9 Travel to Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona Tayrona
Day 10 Tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona Tayrona
Day 11 Arrive in Cartagena (optional city tour) Cartagena
Day 12 Explore Cartagena (free day) Cartagena
Day 13 Rosario Islands Day Trip Cartagena
Day 14 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá (optional city tour)

Bogotá's scenic skyline.

Welcome to Bogotá!
A driver will meet you at the airport for transportation to the hotel, your home base for the next few days.

Explore by foot
Bogotá 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. While here, don't forget to visit the excellent museums, shopping, and street food options ranging from empanadas to exotic fruit salads.

Day 2: Visit museums and historic neighborhoods on a Bogotá city tour

Spanish colonial architecture in Plaza de Bolivar.

After breakfast, continue to explore the city by yourself or with a guide. Here are some things that you should see:

  • Stroll through Bogota’s lively streets for walled graffiti art, cafes, bookstores, art galleries, and historic plazas and statues while learning about the fascinating political history of Colombia’s capital.
  • Take the cable car to Monserrate for one of the best views of the city.
  • Visit La Concordia market to learn about fruits, vegetables, and spices used in local cuisine.
  • Spend a few hours gazing at pre-Hispanic works at the Gold Museum.
  • Check out the local music scene with live bands and street festivals.

Day 3: Arrive in Salento, overnight at a coffee farm 

Colombia's Zona Cafetera (Coffee Triangle).

Today, you'll fly to Armenia and will be transferred to the colonial town of Salento, a quaint pueblo surrounded by bright green Andean mountains. Despite a rise in tourism over the past decade, this magical place retains an old-world charm with colorful Paisa architecture, musicians on street corners, and an incredible range of handicrafts. Near the town center, you’ll find yourself in view of the distinct Quindío wax palms, which are among the highest trees in the world reaching a height of up to 70 meters.

Furthering this experience, you will have the opportunity stay overnight at a local coffee farm (finca in Spanish) and learn every step of the coffee production process, not to mention frequent tastings!

Day 4: Hiking in Valle de Cocora

Hike amongst the wax palms in Valle de Cocora.

Near the charming colonial town of Salento, this remarkably lush (and thankfully, protected) cloud forest gives the phrase "verdant green" new meaning. Add in the soaring, skinny wax palms – Colombia's national tree – which cheerfully dot the mountainous landscape, and the Valle de Cocora makes for an outstanding hiking opportunity that you won't want to miss.

When you arrive, there are two possible routes, so it depends on how much time you have and how much hiking you want to do. For those that want more exercise and adventure, there's a 5-6 hour loop which takes you through the forest, over wooden suspension bridges and along steep hiking tracks. It's from this vantage point you will find the best views. For those with less time, you can experience the Valle de Cocora by heading straight for the trees for a 1-2 hour hike. Either way, you'll capture some amazing photos.

Day 5: Tour of Salento & coffee farms

Salento's charming downtown. 

This morning take an in-depth walking tour of the quaint colonial streets of Salento. Founded in 1850, the town is a shining example of the typical guadua-bamboo influenced architecture with brightly colored facades and is even more beautiful in the presence of the surrounding Andean views and the wax palm-filled Cocora Valley. Coffee and trout fishing are big industries in Salento and the surrounding region. 

In the afternoon, take a driving tour of the Coffee Triangle stopping at fincas along the way.

Day 6: Arrive in Medellín

The Metrocable is free to ride in Medellín.

Welcome to Medellín! You will be picked up at the Medellín airport and then transferred to a hotel nearby. Depending on the time of your flight, you can explore on your own, or join a local tour to learn more about this thriving, modern city. 

Despite its dangerous past, Medellín today is quite charming with its beautiful mountain setting, friendly locals, and vibrant culture. Most of the city's tourism is centered around Parque Lleras in the heart of the trendy El Poblado district, where the best dining, nightlife, and hotel options are within easy reach. You can take a ride on the city's gondola (Metrocable) to see the view or walk around the various parks, plazas, and museums. Either way, enjoy the weather – due to a high elevation near the equator, the city has year-round spring temperatures.

Day 7: Medellín City Tour & Metrocable rides

The city enjoys year-round, spring weather. 

This guided tour starts with breakfast and takes you through one of Colombia's most successful urban development projects. Named the World's Most Innovative City in 2013, the city has undergone a massive transformation through a number of social and infrastructure victories aimed to include, empower and revitalize some of Medellín's worst areas.

You'll take a ride on the Metrocable, the city's iconic gondola car system (great views!) towards remote neighborhoods on the valley side. You'll also visit entire areas that have been redeveloped allowing the 'Paisas' (people from Medellín and Antioquia – the department of which Medellín is the capital) to enjoy their city once more. 

After descending once more on the Metrocable, you'll have a typical Paisa lunch at one of the city's well-known restaurants. The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy at leisure.

Day 8: Guatapé and hike up La Piedra Rock

Spend a day visiting this lakeside region near Medellín.

Today, you'll head east of Medellín and explore the picturesque lakeside town of Guatapé. Take a two-hour walking tour through the countryside and 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.

As you walk towards the neighboring town of El Peñol, absorb stunning vistas of the dazzling granite La Piedra Rock. Climb the 740 steps to admire the classic view from above.  Return to Guatapé and explore the streets. This is truly the most colorful town in Colombia, with colorful designs and murals depicting countryside scenes painted along the lower half of its buildings. Head to a restaurant for a relaxing meal of freshwater fish and other local delicacies.

Day 9: Travel to Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

One of Tayrona's residents against the turquoise sea.

This morning, you'll depart for Tayrona at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The picturesque national park sits between the Piedras River and the Caribbean Sea and is quite a sight to behold. Here, you will encounter a wide range of landscapes from tropical rainforests, white sand beaches, mangrove swamps, and one of the few coral reefs in Colombia. With this diverse array of landscapes comes a huge variety of plants, birds, mammals and marine life. 

When you arrive, spend some free time exploring the area and enjoy the scenery.

Day 10: Tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

Hiking trails lead to remote beaches on the Caribbean coast.

Today, you'll experience some of South America's loveliest coastline with a guided tour to the stunning beaches and rainforests of Tayrona – one of three national parks on Colombia's Caribbean coast. The trip starts with a hike in the tropical foothills near Cañaveral, the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. You'll 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 and relax on the shore.

 

Day 11: Explore Cartagena on foot and see its historic buildings

Watch kimkim travelers enjoy the history and culture of Cartagena

Welcome to Cartagena! This picturesque colonial city on the Caribbean Sea is rich in culture, architecture, romance – and, yes, even pirate history. Head to your hotel from the airport, and 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 walking tour, either by yourself or with an English-speaking guide. Here are some things that you should see:

  • Wander the narrow, winding streets of the inner-walled city to photograph colorful houses and lively squares overflowing with bougainvillea.
  • Visit the Palace of Inquisition, which despite its original use, is one of the finest buildings in the city
  • Tour Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards.
  • Pay respects at Santo Domingo, reputedly the oldest church in the city. 
  • Walk along the original fortress wall and see panoramic views of the city. 
  • Check out La Vitrola – the city's most famous restaurant in a 400-year-old colonial home. 

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

Day 12: Cartagena beaches and historic sites

Cartagena's walkable inner-walled streets.

There are numerous ways to experience Cartagena on a private tour, whether it’s a kiteboarding 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 or bicycle 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 13: Day trip to the Rosario Islands

A boat will take you to the Rosario Islands.

Rise and shine! Today, you will be picked up from your hotel bright and early and transferred to the pier for a speedboat transfer towards the Baru Peninsula. Along the way, you will see Tierra Bomba Island and Boca Chica, an ancient fort that once protected Cartagena.

Once you arrive at the Rosario Islands, change into your swimwear before you head to Playa Azul, a stunning white-sand beach on the bright turquoise Caribbean Sea. After lunch is served, you will have time to relax and sunbathe or do some kayaking in the sea before returning to Cartagena in the late afternoon. A car will pick you up at the pier to take you back to your hotel.

Day 14: Depart Cartagena

Cafes tucked away in Cartagena's Old Town.

It's time to say farewell to Colombia! 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 to gain a new perspective of the city from a local. 

This optional 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 main sites like the Popa Monastery, 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.