This tour of Colombia starts in the bustling capital of Bogotá, where you'll explore its trendy neighborhoods and culinary scene before hiking through the nearby nature reserves of Chicaque and Chingaza. Make your way to the coastal city of Cartagena for walking tours of its walled Old Town, then head to the Rosario Islands in the Caribbean Sea. Relax along the white-sand beaches, try your luck with sports such as snorkeling and kayaking, tour mangrove farms, and view the bioluminescent plankton at night.

Highlights

  • Hike through the nature reserves of Chicaque and Chingaza near Bogotá
  • Walk inside Cartagena's UNESCO walled city and discover its fortress
  • Enjoy traditional cuisine on a food tour of Bogotá's historic markets
  • Relax on the beaches of the Rosario Islands
  • Tour mangrove farms and view the bioluminescent plankton at night

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the city Bogotá
Day 2 Discover Bogotá with a city and food tour Bogotá
Day 3 Hike to forests and waterfalls in Chicaque Natural Park Bogotá
Day 4 Trek through the trails of Chingaza Park Bogotá
Day 5 Fly to Cartagena - Explore the city Cartagena
Day 6 Discover Cartagena on a guided walking tour Cartagena
Day 7 Take the ferry to Barú Island Isla Barú
Day 8 Spend the day relaxing in the Rosario Islands Isla Barú
Day 9 Departure from the island and back to Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the city

Lively Streets of Bogotá
Lively Streets of Bogotá

Welcome to Colombia!

Upon arriving at the airport in Bogotá, you'll transfer to your hotel with your English-speaking guide, who will give you recommendations for your stay in the city. Although you'll enjoy a guided tour tomorrow, spend your first hours exploring some of the main sights of Bogotá.

Bogotá is a diverse and multicultural city, with a blend of modern and colonial architecture. The green of its many parks and the rich red of its brick buildings dominate the city. Enjoy roaming its historic streets, stopping at sights such as the ornate, 19th-century Colon Theater and the historic San Carlos Palace. Nearby, you'll find Saint Ignatius of Loyola Church and the center of the city, Bolivar Square.

If you have time, take a tour of the Nariño Presidential Palace, or ride the cable car to Monserrate Hill, where you can enjoy amazing views of the city from above. In the evening, find a traditional restaurant to enjoy typical Colombian food. If you'd like to experience some of the city's celebrated nightlife, the El Retiro neighborhood is full of bars and clubs.

Day 2: Discover Bogotá with a city and food tour

Old Town Bogotá
Old Town Bogotá

After breakfast, you'll start your exploration of Bogotá by visiting two of the city's most important food markets. The first stop is Plaza de la Perseverancia, a market that dates back to 1910. Here, you'll taste typical Colombian dishes like ajiaco (a common soup made with chicken and herbs) and sancocho (a brothy soup filled with meats and vegetables).

After this, you will head to the Paloquemao Market, known for its great variety of fresh fruit. Paloquemao is one of the city's most famous gastronomical landmarks and where many of the city's restaurants source their ingredients. You'll taste a variety of fruit that can only be found in Colombia, like granadilla and lulo. You can't miss trying some typical fruit juices, which are a daily staple of the Colombian diet.

After getting your fill of fresh produce, you'll visit the Botero Museum, which houses one of the country's best collections of the acclaimed Colombian artist, Fernando Botero. You'll experience his unique style, which uses large proportions for everything from people to fruits and horses. 

Once you've finished the tour, you are free to roam around the city center on your own. We recommend taking a cable car up to Monserrate to get one of the best views of Bogotá, spending time at the Gold Museum—which houses the largest collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts in the world—or simply walking around the colorful streets of La Candelaria.

Day 3: Hike to forests and waterfalls in Chicaque Natural Park

Lush Rainforests of Colombia
Rainforests of Colombia

In the morning, you'll meet a private driver and guide at your hotel to enjoy a tour of Chicaque Natural Park, a protected green space set just west of Bogotá. Your first stop will be the popular viewpoint known as the Beak of the Eagle (Pico del Águila) which sits at 7,500 feet (2,290 m) above sea level. The vistas here are some of the best in the park, thanks to a series of rockslides that opened up an incredible panoramic view of the region of the Tequendama. You can see several valleys, including Peñas Blancas, Santandercito, and Mesitas. On clear days, you can even see the snow-capped peaks of Tolima, Santa Isabel, and Ruiz in the Central Mountain Range.

While admiring the views, your guide will help you understand the geologic history of the park. In this area, you'll notice that the rocks are mostly black. This is because of the region's high concentration of carbon. You'll also learn about the air currents formed by strong temperature changes, which allow you to see vultures and eagles flying over the valleys.

As you explore further into the park, your guide will explain and show you the rich diversity of fauna and flora. You'll enjoy hikes to waterfalls and through seven different types of forests, hoping to glimpse one of the more than 200 species of birds and 20 types of mammals.

The park includes numerous hiking trails, which can be personalized to your interests. Some of the most famous routes include Pico del Águila, the Roquedal, and Las Mariposas, but you can choose the best trail for your interest and hiking abilities. At the end of your excursion, you'll enjoy lunch with your guide. The view of the park from the restaurant is the perfect way to end your day while continuing to discuss the natural beauty of the area.

In the evening, you'll return to Bogotá in time to rest before heading out for dinner.

Day 4: Trek through the trails of Chingaza Park

Chingaza National Park
Chingaza National Park

You'll enjoy another day hiking near Bogotá, this time in Chingaza Natural National Park, a much larger park set southeast of the city. This is one of the biggest nature reserves in Colombia, featuring abundant views, mountain peaks, glacial lakes, and wildlife.

Chingaza Park includes nearly 19,000 acres (7,660 hectares) of virgin, high-Andean forests with alpine and tundra ecosystems, which together create a wide diversity of flora and fauna that your guide will help you understand. The magic of its mountains keeps legends and folklore from the indigenous peoples who inhabited this territory, as well as from agricultural communities.

Because of the high altitude and climate of the park, please remember to bring proper equipment, such as sturdy hiking boots, layers, and a waterproof jacket. Like yesterday's excursion, today's hike can be tailored to your interests and abilities. The best routes, however, gain altitude, gifting incredible views of the park. Any strenuous sections will be matched with breaks, snacks, and plenty of water. 

A picnic lunch will be provided at a stopping point, where you can rest, take in the views, and discuss the geological and archeological history with your guide. You'll return to Bogotá in the evening.

Day 5: Fly to Cartagena - Explore the city

Colorful Squares of Cartagena
Colorful Squares of Cartagena

Enjoy an early breakfast before transferring to the airport to catch your flight to the city of Cartagena, Colombia's most popular destination along the Caribbean coast. After settling into your accommodation, you'll have free time to explore the city on your own.

Although you'll enjoy a guided tour of Cartagena tomorrow, take some time to stroll the walled Old Town and meander by some of the city's main attractions. You can start in the expansive Plaza de los Coches and enjoy the bright buildings that house bars and cafes, with their arched entryways and terraces. You'll find the city's Clock Tower here, acting as a gate in and out of the Old Town. Nearby is the pier with the Los Pegasos monument, where you can cross into the bohemian neighborhood of Getsemani.

Make your way through the twisting streets to the Cartagena Cathedral, built within the 16th and 17th centuries. Then head to Ciudad Amurallada along one of the most colorful streets in the city. You'll pass by Plaza de San Diego, a great spot to grab dinner later in the evening. 

End your tour at the yellow arcades and galleries of Plaza Las Bovedas, where you can look out to the Carribean Sea. For better views, walk along the old Walls of Cartagena, which are particularly beautiful at sunset.

For dinner, your guide will provide you with numerous recommendations for eateries in the city. Cartagena is known for its culinary scene, so you'll have your pick of restaurants, bistros, pubs, and wine bars, ranging from casual street food to high-end, fine dining. 

Day 6: Discover Cartagena on a guided walking tour

Streets of Getsemaniaera in Cartagena
Streets of Getsemaniaera in Cartagena

Today's walking tour of Cartagena starts in the Manga neighborhood, where you'll see the beautiful republican-style houses and the fort of Pastelillo. The next stop is La Popa Monastery, where you can take in sweeping views of the city. From there, you'll continue to the fort of San Felipe de Barajas, an impressive remnant of Spanish colonial strength, and on to the walled Old Town, where you'll see the Bóvedas, another example of military architecture and fascinating history.

Continue the tour by walking through the Old Town and discovering its magical streets, houses, and churches. After a visit to the San Pedro Claver Church, named for the patron saint of Colombia's slaves, the tour continues by car to the modern part of the city, where you'll get a panoramic view of Bocagrande, the beach area, and the island of Tierra Bomba

The rest of the afternoon and evening are yours to explore more of the city at your leisure. You can start at Café del Mar for sunset drinks with a view, and then choose from the Old Town's diverse and thriving restaurant scene for a late dinner. 

Day 7: Take the ferry to Barú Island

Playa Blanca on Island Baru
Playa Blanca on Isla Barú

Today you'll bid farewell to the bustling streets of Cartagena and spend the next two days exploring the Rosario Islands, a beautiful archipelago is made up of 27 islands off Colombia's west coast.

The Rosario Islands are part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Park, one of the most important nature reserves in the country. Here, both the islands and the surrounding waters are protected, leaving them as remarkably well-preserved ecosystems.

In the morning, you'll transfer from your hotel to the pier, where you'll board a boat headed for Isla Barú. After settling into your accommodation, spend the afternoon discovering coral beaches and swimming amongst the diverse fauna of the reefs. If you're interested in water sports, the islands are known for scuba diving, snorkeling, standup paddleboarding, and kayaking. You can also take short boat trips to neighboring islands.

Day 8: Spend the day relaxing in the Rosario Islands

Rosario Islands, Colombia
Rosario Islands, Colombia

Relax with a leisurely morning in the islands, enjoying breakfast and watching the waves along the beach. Today is yours to explore the islands however you'd like. Depending on your preferred activities, your day will vary. You can snorkel or dive, go swimming, enjoy the sea and the waves, sunbathe on the beach, practice kayaking, hike and enjoy nature, or engage in a tour with locals to visit the island by bike, or walking. 

The more popular activities on the island include a mangrove tour with local fishermen and the fascinating bioluminescent plankton viewing tour in the evening. Your host can help you book any activity or tour once you arrive on the island.

For lunch, enjoy the flavors of island cuisine prepared with care and passion by local chefs. In the afternoon, you can spend time at the pool or in the spa. And at dusk, you can't miss an island sunset, which is paired perfectly with a drink and a comfortable spot on the beach.

Day 9: Departure from the island and back to Cartagena

Historic Center of Cartagena
Historic Center of Cartagena

Today you will leave the islands, but you can stay as long as you want, and for as many days as you wish! 
You will leave after breakfast and departure times vary on each hotel but departure time is usually at around noon. 

We hope you have enjoyed las Islas de Cartagena and had a relaxing time there! 

You will be back to Cartagena in the afternoon, and you can decide if you stay more days in this beautiful city and jewel of the Caribbean, or if you continue your journey around Colombia.