From the buzzing nightlife of Bogotá to the colorful "comunas" of Medellín and the romance of Spanish colonial Cartagena, this two-week journey hits Colombia's urban highlights—with some outdoor adventures along the way. Start with Bogotá city tours followed by hikes amid towering palms in the Coffee Triangle. Then, enjoy revitalized Medellín before wrapping up in Cartagena and lazing on Caribbean beaches.


  • Stroll the cobbled streets of Bogotá's historic La Candelaria neighborhood
  • Hikes amid towering palms in Colombia's famous Zona Cafetera
  • Ride Medellín's Metrocable, one of Colombia's most successful urban projects
  • Wander the historic streets of Cartagena's Walled City and walk its ramparts
  • Visit the Rosario Islands' beaches and snorkel in the Caribbean Sea

Brief Itinerary

Day  Highlight Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá, Explore Colombia's Capital Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour & Cooking Class Bogotá
Day 3 Fly to Armenia, Transfer to Salento & Coffee Estate Salento
Day 4 Valle de Cocora Hike Salento
Day 5 Salento & Coffee Triangle Tour Salento
Day 6 Fly to Medellín, Explore the City of Eternal Spring Medellín
Day 7 Medellín Metrocable Tour Medellín
Day 8 Day Trip to Guatapé & Hike El Peñón Medellín
Day 9 Fly to Santa Marta, Transfer to Tayrona National Park Tayrona
Day 10 Tayrona National Park Tour Tayrona
Day 11 Transfer to Cartagena, Self-Guided Tour Cartagena
Day 12 Free Day in Cartagena, Evening Salsa Dancing Cartagena
Day 13 Day Trip to the Rosario Islands Cartagena
Day 14 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá, Explore Colombia's Capital

Welcome to Bogotá, Colombia's largest city and its capital

Welcome to Colombia! The inspiration for the mythical El Dorado, this Indigenous nation was later settled by the Spanish in the 15th century, and much of Colombia's colonial history remains well-preserved on its historic streets. And there are few better places to witness it than in the capital of Bogotá. Upon arrival at the airport in Colombia's largest metropolis, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. Then, feel free to spend the rest of the day exploring—but remember to pace yourself. Bogotá is nestled high in the Andes mountains at 8,612 feet (2,625 m), so stay hydrated—and be sure to dress warm.

To see the most history in one place, visit the La Candelaria neighborhood. The city was founded here in 1538, and many colonial landmarks remain. The main square, Plaza Bolívar, is still the government quarter, home to the parliament, supreme court, and the 19th-century Catedral Primada de Colombia, the city's most famous church. While here, you can also visit museums, go shopping, and enjoy delicious street food ranging from empanadas to exotic fruit salads.

You won't want to miss Cerro Monserrate, the famous hill overlooking Bogotá. There are various options to ascend it, the quickest being a four-minute cable car ride up 2,690 feet (820 m) to the top. There's also a slower funicular rail car and a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) hiking path. Be aware that the hiking trail can take up to three hours to complete (it also closes at 1 pm). Once at the top, you'll visit Monserrate Sanctuary, a whitewashed Catholic church that was completed in 1657. But the real star is the panoramic view of the city below. 

Day 2: Bogotá City Tour & Cooking Class

See historic buildings and Spanish colonial landmarks around Plaza Bolívar

Eat a hearty breakfast to fortify yourself for the day's walking tour of Bogotá. Whether you opt for a guided or self-guided tour, you can start in La Candelaria, the historic center. If you missed them yesterday, marvel at the historic landmarks around Plaza Bolívar. And no trip to Bogotá is complete without visiting the Gold Museum, which boasts over 34,000 pre-Columbian gold artifacts—the largest such collection in the world. Finish at the Museo de Botero, home to an impressive art collection donated by the renowned Colombian painter/sculptor Fernando Botero.

Afterward, you might stop at one of the largest and most popular municipal markets in the city: Paloquemao. It covers an entire urban block, and within it are around 750 vendors selling everything from fresh produce and flowers to meats and cheeses. As you stroll down the labyrinthine aisles, you'll mingle with local Bogotanos doing their weekly shopping, plus chat with vendors about their products. Take a break for a snack at one of the restaurant stalls, then sample exotic tropical fruits like papaya, mango, guava, carambola, passion fruit, dragon fruit, lulo, and many others.

To get a glimpse of Colombia's famous cuisine, opt for a hands-on cooking class this afternoon. With the help of a professional chef, you'll learn how to prepare the beloved local dish of ajiaco. This hearty soup of potatoes, chicken, and maize is complimented with rice and avocado, and you'll get to sit down after the class and savor your authentic Colombian creation with fellow students.

Day 3: Fly to Armenia, Transfer to Salento & Coffee Estate

The town of Salento is known for its colorful architecture and colonial charm

There's no shortage of beautiful regions in Colombia, and today, you'll visit one of the most stunning: the Zona Cafetera (Coffee Triangle). Transfer to the airport in the morning for a one-hour flight to the city of Armenia. From there, it's an hour's drive north into the countryside and the Andean town of Salento.

Nestled in the heart of the Zona Cafetera, Salento is famous for its coffee estates. It's also a hub for day trips to the famous Valle de Cocora for Jeep 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).

To make the most of your experience, you'll overnight in a local coffee estate. After checking in, spend the rest of the day in town. Despite a rise in tourism, Salento retains an old-world charm, filled with cobbled streets, brightly painted colonial buildings, and a grand central plaza. All around this main square, you'll see musicians busking on street corners and vendors selling street food and a wide array of handicrafts. There are also plenty of quaint cafés and restaurants catering to all tastes.

Day 4: Valle de Cocora Hike

The Quindío wax palm, found in the Valle de Cocora, is one of the world's tallest trees

Lace up your hiking boots because you're off to the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley). Leave Salento early in a 4WD vehicle for the quick transfer to the valley's entrance, which is lined with restaurants and parking lots. Once there, you'll choose between two different hiking routes. If you're up for a day hike, there's a five to six-hour loop trail leading through the forest, over suspension bridges, and up steep hillside tracks to dazzling viewpoints. 

For those with less time, you can experience the marvels of the valley on a brisk one to two-hour hike. Either way, you'll capture amazing photos of green hills and mountains, complete with looming wax palms—Colombia's national tree. At the end of the hike, return to the vehicle and transfer back to Salento. 

Day 5: Salento & Coffee Triangle Tour

There's no shortage of bright colors and busy streets in Salento

This morning, embark on a more immersive tour of Salento. Led by an expert guide, you'll learn about the history of this famous town as you stroll its cobbled streets. Founded in 1850, Salento is a shining example of traditional Colombian colonial architecture, denoted by whitewashed, one-story buildings with red-tiled roofs and wooden balconies. Nowadays, though, locals find any reason to add bright splashes of paint wherever possible.

After the walking tour, you'll join your guide in a vehicle for a driving tour of the fertile Zona Cafetera. As you go, you'll stop at fincas (farms) to stroll vast coffee fields and enjoy a cup or two of strong Colombian café. Later, you'll return to your accommodation on the coffee estate.

Day 6: Fly to Medellín, Explore the City of Eternal Spring

Don't miss Plaza Botero, which features sculptures from the famous Medellín artist Fernando Botero

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the 45-minute flight to Medellín, capital of Colombia's Antioquia department. Despite its turbulent past, Medellín today is pure charm, with a beautiful setting nestled in the Andes, friendly locals (known as "Paisas"), and a rich culture heavy on art and music. A car will pick you up at the airport and transfer you to your hotel, after which you can enjoy a self-guided tour.

Perhaps start at the main tourism hub of Parque Lleras. Located in the heart of the trendy El Poblado district, this area is home to some of the most popular restaurants and nightlife venues in the city. In the park itself, you'll find locals selling handicrafts, artwork, and other items.

From Parque Lleras, you can travel to Medellín's other highlights, like Pueblito Paisa (a replica of a traditional Antioquian town) and Parque San Antonio. Nearby is Plaza Botero, home to the unmistakable bronze sculptures of celebrated international artist and hometown hero, Fernando Botero. Whatever you decide to do today, enjoy the weather—due to its elevation, Medellín has year-round spring temperatures.

Plan your trip to Colombia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 7: Medellín Metrocable Tour

The Metrocable is just one ingredient in Medellín's successful urban revitalization 

Named the World's Most Innovative City in 2013, Medellín has undergone a massive transformation. It has achieved this via a number of social and infrastructure projects aimed at revitalizing some of Medellín's worst areas and empowering its residents. As such, today, you'll tour one of Colombia's most successful urban development initiatives.

Meet your guide after breakfast and hop aboard the Metro, Medellín's prized mass-transit system. It includes trains and buses, but the real star is the Metrocable. This network of gondolas transports commuters up to the comunas (neighborhoods) dotting the Andean mountainside above the city center.

During a ride on one of these cable cars, you'll soar over once-forgotten areas that have been redeveloped, connecting residents all over the city. Disembark at the top stations for a quick stroll through one of these colorful comunas, stopping for some street food and juice, coffee, or beer. After descending the Metrocable, you'll stop at a restaurant for a rustic Paisa lunch (think rice, beans, and grilled meats) and will have the rest of the day free.

Day 8: Day Trip to Guatapé & Hike El Peñón

One of the most famous landmarks in Colombia is El Peñol, in Guatapé

Wake up early and leave on a full-day excursion to one of the crown jewels of Colombia's Antioquia region: the lakeside town of Guatapé. If you thought Salento was colorful, wait until you glimpse this charming hill town. Guatapé is famous for its colorful street art and murals, as well as the brightly painted zócalos (lower facades) of its colonial buildings.

Upon arrival, you'll meet today's guide for a private tour. During a two-hour walk around, you'll learn about the town's conflict surrounding the building of the dam that created the surrounding reservoir known as Guatapé Lake. As you walk toward the neighboring town of El Peñol, you'll be treated to epic views of the region's most popular landmark: El Peñón de Guatapé (the Rock of Guatapé).

Eventually, you'll reach the base of this dazzling granite monolith, which tops out at 646 feet (2,152 m). Climb the 740 steps to the summit, where you can admire 360-degree wraparound views of the towns, lake, and sprawling green countryside below. Then reward yourself with a cold beverage from one of the cafés and food stalls at the summit—try the mango michelada. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Medellín. 

Day 9: Fly to Santa Marta, Transfer to Tayrona National Park

One of Tayrona's residents against the turquoise sea.
One of Tayrona's residents does some sunbathing near the water

Meet your driver in the morning and transfer to the airport in Medellín, where you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight north to Santa Marta. Located on Colombia's Caribbean coast, this laid-back beach town is the oldest city in Colombia, having been founded in 1525. Many famous colonial-era landmarks remain here, like its 16th-century Cathedral.

Santa Marta is also popular as a hub for trips to nearby Tayrona National Park, which is where you're headed. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up for the approximately 30-minute drive to Tayrona. One of the natural highlights of the entire country, this 1,614 square mile (150 sq m) protected area includes unspoiled coast, mountains, and archaeological sites in the Sierra Nevada range.

Once in the park, you'll transfer to your rustic jungle-style accommodation and will have the rest of the day free to relax. If you want, embark on a nature hike and enjoy the showstopping scenery. Around the park's rainforests, beaches, and mangroves, you'll spot a wide variety of wildlife, including toucans, iguanas, various species of monkeys, sloths, and more.

Day 10: Tayrona National Park Tour

Hiking trails lead to remote beaches on the Caribbean coast.
Cabo San Juan is a beautiful beach in Tayrona—but far from the only one

Get ready to immerse yourself in some of South America's loveliest coastline on a guided tour of Tayrona. Meet your guide in the morning and start the day with a hike in the tropical foothills near Playa Cañaveral, a beach at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Then visit other exotic beaches, like Arrecifes, before stopping at Playa La Piscina for swimming and snorkeling.

Later, continue to Cabo San Juan, a picture-postcard bay and beach with soft white sands hemmed in by giant volcanic rocks. It perfectly encapsulates all the beauty of Tayrona. As an added treat, on the way there, your knowledgeable local guide will point out exotic flora and fauna. The rest of the afternoon is yours to relax on the beach, enjoy a seafood lunch, do some swimming, and laze on the pristine sands.

Day 11: Transfer to Cartagena, Self-Guided Tour

Within Cartagena's "Walled City" are historical landmarks, like Plaza del Reloj

It's time to say goodbye to Tayrona. Wake up early and meet your driver for the drive down the coast to Cartagena. Famous for its colorful colonial buildings, cobbled streets, ancient ramparts, and bougainvillea-draped balconies, this is the most well-preserved fortress city in the Americas. 

After the four-hour scenic ride, your driver will drop you off at your hotel in the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town. Also known as the "Walled City" due to the network of stone ramparts surrounding it, this area is home to Cartagena's most historic buildings. After check-in, you can take the edge off the long drive with a self-guided tour.

Visit the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo while stopping at key sites like Plaza de la Aduana, Parque Bolívar, and Plaza de Santa Teresa. Don't miss Convento Santo Domingo, which dates to 1552. Then venture outside the walls to Getsemaní, a bohemian neighborhood filled with street art, boutique hotels, and street food vendors. Finish the day with mojitos and fresh ceviche in one of the city's hip restaurants or rooftop bars.

Day 12: Free Day in Cartagena, Evening Salsa Dancing

The Castillo San Felipe has guarded the coast around Cartagena for centuries

Today is yours to enjoy Cartagena however you like. There are numerous activities and excursions in the area that celebrate the highlights of both the city and the surrounding Caribbean region. Whether you opt for a city tour, a visit to natural mud baths, lazing on white-sand beaches, or enjoying a sunset sail with a glass of bubbly, there are adventures to suit every taste.

If you like, start with an official tour of Cartagena's Walled City led by a local insider. With your English-speaking guide, you'll delve deeper into South America's greatest fortress city by visiting famous sites like the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. This massive fortress was built by the Spanish in 1536 on San Lázaro Hill to protect Cartagena from pirate attacks. In the evening, stroll one of the Walled City's many plazas and watch as the streets come alive with theatrical performers and musicians.

As evening falls, head back to the Old Town and prepare to experience the beating heart of Colombian culture: salsa. Music and dance link every corner of this nation, none more so than this genre. Under the tutelage of a local instructor, you'll learn the fundamentals of salsa dancing—its rhythms and syncopations, its heart and soul. The best part is all experience levels are welcome. In fact, you can do it by yourself if you're traveling solo. Ultimately, salsa in the Caribbean is about giving yourself over to the romantic mood and sultry night, and everyone's invited to the party. 

Day 13: Day Trip to the Rosario Islands

A boat will take you to the Rosario Islands
A boat will take you to the Rosario Islands

Rise and shine! A driver will meet you at the hotel bright and early for the transfer to Cartagena's pier. There, you'll board a speedboat water taxi and ride it 45 minutes to Islas Rosario (the Rosario Islands), an offshore archipelago. Along the way, you'll be treated to natural and historic scenery, like Isla Tierra Bomba and Fuerte Boca Chica. The latter is an 18th-century fort built by the Spanish that once protected Cartagena's harbor.

Upon arrival at Rosario, change into your swimwear and make a beeline to Playa Azul, a white-sand beach fronting the turquoise Caribbean Sea. After lunch, you'll have more time to relax, sunbathe, or take a kayak ride before returning to Cartagena in the late afternoon. At the pier, a car will pick you up for the ride back to your hotel.

Day 14: Depart Cartagena

Sun setting over the ancient ramparts in Cartagena

Qué lástima!—it's time to say farewell to Colombia. Wake up early for one last stroll along Cartagena's ramparts to watch the sun rise over the Caribbean. Then, after a leisurely breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport and catch your flight home. Safe travels!

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