Start your fast-paced tour in the cosmopolitan capital of Bogotá, where you can explore street art, museums, and restaurants. Then you're off to the hip metropolis of Medellín and Cali, known as the World Capital of Salsa. Santa Marta and a visit to a coffee farm in the Andes are next. End your trip with the beaches of Tayrona National Park and yet another vibrant city scene in beautiful Cartagena.

Highlights

  • Check out street art in Bogota's trendy historic district
  • Explore Medellín's past and innovative future with local guides
  • Learn the secrets of Colombia's most passionate dance, salsa
  • Devour the ceviche, seafood, and chocolate of 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 Medellín City Tour Medellín
Day 5 Medellín - Flight to Cali Cali
Day 6 Salsa Dancing in Cali Cali
Day 7 Flight to Santa Marta - Transfer to Tayrona National Park Tayrona Park
Day 8 Tour of Tayrona National Park Tayrona Park
Day 9 Drive to Minca - Coffee Farm and Village Tour Minca
Day 10 Sunrise Birdwatching - Transfer to 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. 

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). 

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.

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

Medellín

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 who will cover some of the following sites:

As an optional add-on, 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: Medellín City Tour

Medellín barefoot park; great for kids
Medellín beach park

After breakfast at your hotel, spend a full day exploring Medellín on a walking tour with a local guide. This excursion includes a mix of sightseeing by foot and taking the Metro system through a neighborhood that represents one of the city's most successful urban projects.

The guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to Medellín's downtown. You'll visit Plaza Botero, which features works by Colombia's foremost sculptor, Fernando Botero. Then it's time to take a ride on the city's iconic Metrocable gondola system, during which you'll enjoy panoramic views of Medellín below. Next, stop in at the Botanical Garden, which features more than 4,500 types of flowers. After visiting some parks and landmarks in the downtown area, you'll eventually return to your hotel by public transport. (There's also a tour option that includes graffiti street art and riding the Metrocable to more remote neighborhoods higher in the hills.)

The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy at your leisure.

Day 5: Medellín - Flight to Cali

Municipal Theater, Cali
Municipal Theater, Cali

Today you'll hop a flight from Medellín to Cali, all the way at the southern end of Colombia. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport for transportation to your hotel. If you aren't too tired, you can take the opportunity to hit the town and explore.

There's much to do and see here. Colombia's third largest city has its share of historical, cultural and recreational sites to keep visitors busy, particularly in three walkable neighborhoods: Centro, San Antonio, and Granada. While visiting Cali's galleries, museums, and ornate churches is a great way to spend an afternoon, the real enjoyment occurs after the sun goes down. That's when Cali springs to life with music and dancing.

Day 6: Salsa Dancing in Cali

Street musicians in Cali
Street musicians in Cali

Cali is legendary for its dance culture. This city of seduction has no shortage of salsa clubs that boom long after midnight. You can even find welcoming locals dancing in the city's parks. Be prepared to hear foot-tappingly infectious music everywhere in Cali, from the suburbs to the supermarket.   

If the mood strikes, you can join a Salsa 101 class (as a newbie or a refresher) before heading out to authentic local bars like La Topa Tolondra, or full-on nightclubs like Club Tin Tin Deo, to show off your moves. Lastly, on the third Saturday of every month, there is a free open-air dance party called Salsa al Parque, held at Antiguo Club San Fernando.

Day 7: Flight to Santa Marta - Transfer to Tayrona National Park

Beach near Santa Marta
Beach near Santa Marta

After breakfast, a car will pick you up and transfer you to the airport for your flight to the city of Santa Marta, on Colombia's Caribbean coast. Upon arrival, you'll drive to just outside the entrance of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tayrona National Park), where you'll stay overnight. 

You'll have the rest of the afternoon to relax and enjoy your hotel, which is located on a peaceful spot overlooking the Caribbean Sea at the foot of the mountains. Wander down to the nearby beach, which is an ideal spot to view the sunset. Dinner will be served on-site so there's no need to rush.

Day 8: Tour of Tayrona National Park

Arrecifes Beach, Tayrona
Arrecifes Beach, Tayrona

After breakfast, you'll begin a half-day tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tayrona National Park). This protected area is known for having some of the most virgin coastal landscapes in the entire country. Indeed, when you see promotional images of Caribbean Colombia, often you're seeing images of Cabo San Juan, which is located in Tayrona. You'll experience much of this coastline with a local guide while touring the white-sand beaches and rainforests further inside Tayrona.

First, it's a hike in the tropical foothills near Playa Cañaveral, at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Then visit the exotic beaches of Arrecifes and La Piscina, the latter of which is an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling. Continue to Cabo San Juan and enjoy the bay of white sand surrounded by large volcanic rocks. On the way here, you can observe several species of flora and fauna pointed out by your knowledgeable guide. The afternoon is yours to enjoy on your own. Have a bit of lunch and relax on the shore.

You'll return to your hotel in the late afternoon with time to enjoy the sunset and dinner served on-site.

Day 9: Drive to Minca - Coffee Farm and Village Tour

Sunset in Minca
Sunset in Minca

After breakfast, a driver will meet you for your transfer to Minca, a mountain village located on the coastal hillside. Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains, remote Minca is seemingly a world away from the bustling city of Santa Marta just down the Caribbean coast. It's also at altitude, so remember to bring an extra layer or two as the temperatures here are cooler than they are at sea level.

Your Minca adventure includes a half-day tour by 4x4, and you'll start at one of the working coffee farms in the region. After learning about the production process (and enjoying complimentary tastings), you'll visit the natural swimming hole of Pozo Azul for a refreshing dip, so bring your bathing suit! 

Enjoy some free time and have lunch on your own before you embark on an afternoon walking tour of Minca's town center. Alternatively, visit the hummingbird balcony at Hotel Minca, where you can relax and observe the hundreds of hummingbirds that feed there.

Optionally, take a full-day excursion that includes a trip to the stunning waterfall of Marinka, as well as a driving tour of the area with beautiful views of Santa Marta.

Day 10: Sunrise Birdwatching - Transfer to Cartagena

Keel-billd toucan, a denizen of the forests around Minca
Keel-billd toucan, a denizen of the forests around Minca

After an early breakfast, experience the biodiversity of Minca's surroundings with this unique birdwatching excursion. The area's dry tropical forest is a haven for many species of the country's whopping 2,000 species of birds. You will leave from Minca at dawn on a moderate hike through the forest. During this time your local guide will point out a wide variety of rare and exotic species such as the keel-billed toucan, golden-winged sparrow, black-backed antshrike, and the rosy thrush-tanager.

After lunch on your own in Minca's village, you'll transfer by vehicle to Cartagena de Indias.

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.

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 Medellín, Bogotá, & Tayrona National Park - 12 Days
Map of Discover Medellín, Bogotá, & Tayrona National Park - 12 Days