This fast-paced 12-day adventure highlights four of Colombia's most exciting cities—perfect for travelers who love urban energy and culture. 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 Cartagena for colonial romance, art galleries, and rooftop bars before jetting off for two nights on the San Bernardo Islands.

Highlights

  • Get a taste of the capital's colonial history and trendy restaurants
  • Tour the city of Medellín on foot and by cable car
  • Laze on the white-sand beaches of the San Bernardo Islands
  • Devour the best ceviche, seafood, and chocolate in the world in Cartagena

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the City Bogotá
Day 2 Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 3 Bogotá - Flight to Medellín Medellín
Day 4 Coffee Finca Day-Trip Medellín
Day 5 Arrive in Cartagena Cartagena
Day 6 Cartagena Landmarks - Bazurto Market Cartagena
Day 7 Chocolate Workshop and Afternoon Rum Tasting Cartagena
Day 8 Cartagena - San Bernardo Islands Isla Mucura
Day 9 Múcura Highlights Isla Mucura
Day 10 San Bernardo Islands - Cartagena Cartagena
Day 11 Explore Cartagena Cartagena
Day 12 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the City

Plaza Bolívar, in La Candelaria, Bogotá
Plaza Bolívar, in La Candelaria, Bogotá

Welcome to Bogotá! A driver will meet you at the airport and transport you to your 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. 

(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

Sunset in La Candelaria
Sunset in La Candelaria

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). 

(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), 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.

(Optional add-on.)
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.

Half-day tour duration: Four hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 3: Bogotá - Flight to Medellín

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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:

Optional Add-on 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: Coffee Finca Day-Trip

A worker packs coffee on the farm
A worker packs coffee on the farm

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll transfer by car 1.5 hours to a working coffee finca (farm) located in the mountains outside of Medellín. From here, you'll embark on a walking tour with a coffee farmer who will explain the growing process and the steps it takes for the coffee bean to reach the cup. You'll also learn about the daily life of these farmers and how this important trade is linked to many Colombian families, making it a source of pride for locals.

Return to Medellín in the afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day on your own.

Finca tour: Four hours

Day 5: Arrive in Cartagena

Getsemaní, Cartagena
Getsemaní, Cartagena

Welcome to Cartagena! This colonial fortress city on the Caribbean is rich in culture, architecture, romance, and even pirate history. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your four-star hotel.

Depending on the time of your arrival, you'll have a few options for activities. You can relax and enjoy the hotel amenities or get right into the mix with a neighborhood walk, either on your own or with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on). Here are some other ideas to consider:

  • Wander the narrow streets of the historic Old Town, snapping photos of the lively plazas and colorful houses with bougainvillea-draped balconies.
  • 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 (dating back to 1586), constructed to protect Cartagena from sea attacks. These ramparts also afford panoramic views of the city and make great sunset-viewing spots.
  • Visit Santo Domingo, which, having been erected in 1552, is reputedly the oldest church in the city. 
  • Explore Getsemaní, the bohemian neighborhood just outside the walls of Cartagena's Old Town. Once a seedy area, Getsemaní is now a cultural enclave filled with Spanish colonial architecture, graffiti art, boutique hotels, and street food vendors.

Finish the day with mojitos and fresh gourmet ceviche in one of the city’s trendy restaurants or rooftop bars.

Day 6: Cartagena Landmarks - Bazurto Market

Fresh produce in Cartagena
Fresh produce in Cartagena

After a leisurely breakfast, prepare to dive into the city. First, head outside the colonial Old Town to the Mercado Bazurto, an expansive market bustling with vendors selling everything from fresh fish and produce to electronics. This is the "people's market," a local institution off the tourist trail. Stroll the narrow aisles and savor the sights, sounds, and smells. Bazurto is the gastronomic pulse of the city, where you'll find all the exotic fruits and vegetables that give costeña cuisine its identity. Enjoy a traditional lunch here while your guide introduces you to some of the chefs and purveyors who frequent this local institution.

Your day's adventure continues beyond the historic center, as now you're off to visit two landmarks emblematic of the city's colonial past: La Popa Monastery and Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Both the monastery and the imposing castle were strategic sites used to defend Cartagena against pirates and invaders. San Felipe was built in 1536 to protect the bay and was once the mightiest fortress in the New World. La Popa sits on a hill in Cartegena and offers panoramic views all the way out to the Boca Grande neighborhood and its glittering skyscrapers. 

After this cultural immersion, return to your hotel and unwind in the evening. 

Walking tour (with transfers): All day (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 7: Chocolate Workshop and Afternoon Rum Tasting

Learn the intricacies of chocolate making
Learn the intricacies of chocolate making

Today you'll produce your own chocolate directly from cacao beans. You will be participating in the "Bean to Bar" workshop held at the ChocoMuseo (Chocolate Museum) located in Parque Bolívar, in Old Town. You'll learn the history of this substance and even prepare and taste a legendary chocolate drink dating from all the way back to the years of the Spanish conquest. At the end of the workshop, you'll leave with your own handmade chocolates customized to your specific taste. 

But hang on—you aren't done just yet. After the workshop, it's time for more indulgence as you partake in a rum and chocolate tasting hosted by a local mixologist. Rum is Colombia's principal liquor export, and you'll sample a wide variety, all paired with delectable chocolates. The mixologist provides a fascinating intro to rum and chocolate in Colombia, and all told, you'll enjoy about six shots of various local rums and even a welcome cocktail. 

Bean to Bar Workshop:
Two hours
Rum and chocolate tasting: One hour

Day 8: Cartagena - San Bernardo Islands

Arrive at the island by boat
Arrive at the island by boat

After breakfast, a driver will pick you up from your hotel in Cartagena and transport you to the pier. You will depart from the mainland in a speedboat to Múcura—one of 10 small islands in this archipelago off the Caribbean coast. Have lunch at your hotel and then spend the afternoon swimming and snorkeling (optional) in the calm turquoise water, or just relax on the white sand beach.

Transfer: Two hours by speedboat

Day 9: Múcura Highlights

Isla Múcura, Colombia
Isla Múcura, Colombia

Today you'll enjoy a peaceful breakfast at the hotel before hiking around the island. This coral islet is tiny yet packed with beauty, and you can walk around the entire thing in about an hour. 

Lunch will be served back at the hotel, followed by a boat tour in the afternoon to visit other islands in the chain such as Tintipán and Santa Cruz del Islote (tour fees are not included). The latter of which is a manmade, soccer-field-sized outpost home to about 500 people. It's regarded as the most densely populated island in the world.

The rest of your afternoon is up for grabs. You can rent kayaks, go windsurfing, or explore underwater marine life with snorkel gear or scuba equipment (they even offer night dives!)

Day 10: San Bernardo Islands - Cartagena

Farewell to paradise
Farewell to paradise

This is your last day on Múcura! Have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and enjoy one final swim in the turquoise water. You will then transfer back to Cartagena by boat. Keep your eyes open and your camera close, as you'll pass by the beautiful Rosario Islands on the way.

The boat returns in the early afternoon, so you'll have more time to explore Cartagena, take in the sights you may have missed thus far, and have dinner out on the town.

Transfer: Two hours by speedboat

Day 11: Explore Cartagena

Colorful buildings of Cartagena
Colorful buildings of Cartagena

After breakfast, take your pick of numerous ways to experience Cartagena, either on your own or with a private tour (optional add-on). Maybe a surfing excursion on the coast, or a day lazing on the white sands of Playa Blanca, 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 (Old Town). Together with an English-speaking guide, you will delve deep into Cartagena's Spanish-colonial history. You'll visit the city's extensive fortifications and famous fortresses like the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. You'll also stroll the walled city's cobbled plazas, like the Plaza de San Pedro Claver, with its Andalusian-style cathedral.

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

Walking tour of Cartagena: 2.5 hours

Day 12: Depart Cartagena

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

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia! After breakfast, enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a patio café. Or, if you haven't already, explore the bulk of the city on a guided tour. Otherwise, take one last stroll along those cobbled streets.

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. Maybe 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 Discover Colombia's Cities & Islands - 12 Days
Map of Discover Colombia's Cities & Islands - 12 Days