This tour combines Colombia's vibrant cities of  Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena with trips to colorful villages like Guatapé, a hike to La Pierda Rock, and a beach day on Barú Island. Visit unique sites such as the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá, the views atop Monserrate Hill, and the port city of Santa Marta, which is known as the first Spanish settlement in the country. Relax at a 5-star wellness hotel for a day at the spa, and spend an afternoon exploring Cartagena's food scene inspired by the literary works of Gabriel García Márquez.

Highlights

  • Explore the historic cities of Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena
  • Discover the unique Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá
  • Relax your body with a spa day and a trip to the beaches of Barú Island
  • Discover the literary works of Gabriel García Márquez with a food tour
  • Hike to La Pierda Rock via the colorful town of Guatapé

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the city Bogotá
Day 2 Discover the city's neighborhoods and ascend Monserrate Hill Bogotá
Day 3 Explore the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá Bogotá
Day 4 Soak in the thermal waters of a Turkish bath and enjoy nature Bogotá
Day 5 Transfer to Medellín and enjoy a contemporary Colombian meal Medellín
Day 6 Day trip to the colorful town of Guatapé - Hike La Piedra Rock Medellín
Day 7 Fly to Santa Marta - Explore the city Santa Marta
Day 8 Transfer to Cartagena and discover its neighborhoods and castle Cartagena
Day 9 Relax at the beach and spa on Barú Island Isla Baru
Day 10 Discover the flavors of Cartagena on a literary food tour Cartagena
Day 11 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bogotá - Explore the city

Lively Streets of Bogota
Lively Streets of Bogota

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 Colombia. 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.

The area around Bolivar Square is a great place to sit and people-watch. Grab a seat at a terraced cafe for dinner, enjoying a traditional Colombian meal.

Day 2: Discover the city's neighborhoods and ascend Monserrate Hill

Views of Bogotá from Monserrate Hill
Views of Bogotá from Monserrate Hill

This morning, you'll join a guided tour of the city of Bogotá, starting in the neighborhood of La Candelaria. Start in the Plaza de Bolivar, home to the country's first cathedral and important governmental buildings. You may have explored some of these sights yesterday after you're arrival, but today your guide will help you dig deeper and understand the area's interesting history. You'll learn about the  San Carlos Palace where the chancellery operates, and visit the Presidential Palace of Nariño.

Next, you'll step into the Colon Theatre. If you only viewed the exterior yesterday, be sure to explore the ornate interior with your guide. Nearby is the 19th-century Primada Cathedral, which was built during Spanish rule. Walk a few blocks and visit the famous Gold Museum, which features thousands of Pre-Columbian artifacts and goldwork. 

After lunch, you'll ascend to the top of Monserrate Hill by cable car. Here you'll enjoy an excellent view of the Colombian capital, as well as the surrounding mountains and countryside. Spend some time absorbing the views, then settle into one of the hill's cafes to try traditional Colombian street food, such as patacones (deep-friend green plantains) and empanadas.

Upon returning to the city center, you'll have the rest of the day to enjoy it at your leisure. Head into the Santa Fe neighborhood, where you'll find the Museo Nacional de Colombia (National Museum of Colombia) and MAMBO, the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art. There are also plenty of trendy pubs, wine bars, and breweries to explore.

Day 3: Explore the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá

The Underground Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá
The Underground Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá

After breakfast, your guide will lead you on a day trip to the Salt Cathedral Zipaquirá, which is considered the first wonder of Colombia. As you approach the town of Zipaquirá, you'll enjoy the panoramic views of the Sabana countryside and El Puente del Comun, an arched, stone bridge over the Bogotá River. Inside the Salt Cathedral, you'll find plenty of sites to explore. Start with the Stations of the Cross, then visit the Dome, the Narthex labyrinth, and the three naves.

After visiting the mine, your guide will lead you through colonial Zipaquirá, followed by a typical 3-course meal at a popular restaurant in the town of Chia. The restaurant is called El Portico and focuses on the Colombian tradition of "slow food", where recipes have been passed down from generations and still incorporate careful, labored techniques.

In the evening, enjoy Bogotá at your leisure.

Day 4: Soak in the thermal waters of a Turkish bath and enjoy nature

Entremonte Wellness Hotel & Spa
Entremonte Wellness Hotel & Spa

Embrace a day of rest, relaxation, and wellness at the 5-star Entremonte Wellness Hotel & Spa. Begin with a leisurely breakfast, followed by your first relaxation class.

Afterward, enjoy the hotel's spa, where you'll find a thermal circuit. You can ease any tension in the hydro-massage pool, the traditional Turkish bath, the Jacuzzi, and a healing foot bath. Take a break for lunch, which will include balanced and nourishing foods. Then enjoy walking along the property's ecological trail, where you can access the benefits of nature.

Later on, return to the hotel for your second relaxation class. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy however you wish. You can relax on the grounds of the property, or head back to the spa to soak in the thermal waters. In the evening, you'll enjoy dinner at the hotel.

Plan your trip to Colombia
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Day 5: Transfer to Medellín and enjoy a contemporary Colombian meal

Fine Dining in Medellín
Fine Dining in Medellín

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before transferring to your next destination: the vibrant city of Medellín. Upon arrival, settle into your hotel and meet your hosts for dinner. Tonight you'll dine at one of the city's most popular restaurants.

Your hosted dinner will be at Carmen Restaurant, set inside of an elegant house within the neighborhood of El Poblado. The menu offers a contemporary twist on traditional Colombian cuisine, using fresh and local ingredients to infuse unique flavors into modern dishes. Try the empanadas stuffed with lobster or the tacos filled with roasted pig head. For your main course, the restaurant offers dishes featuring freshly-caught fish, Andean lamb, or local, grass-fed beef.

End the night sipping on regional wines or eclectic cocktails and enjoying the restaurant's unique desserts, all while your host reveals the secrets of modern Colombian cuisine.

Day 6: Day trip to the colorful town of Guatapé - Hike La Piedra Rock

View From Atop the Peñol de Guatapé
View From Atop the Peñol de Guatapé

Today's adventure will take you on a full-day excursion to one of the crown jewels of Colombia's Antioquia region: the lakeside town of Guatapé. This private tour includes a guided walk and history lesson through the small village. You'll learn about the town's conflict regarding the dam that created the reservoir, which is known as Guatapé Lake

Later on, you'll make your way to El Peñol (La Piedra Rock). Relax at the base of this natural granite landmark in one of the many market stalls, or work up an appetite by climbing the 740 steps to admire the view from the top. Halfway up the rock, you can visit a shrine to the Virgin Mary.

In the afternoon, return to the town of Guatapé and explore the streets with a local guide. This is one of the most colorful villages in Colombia, with beautiful artwork along the lower half of its buildings. You'll also learn about the history and unique culture surrounding zocalos, the town's typical houses.

You'll then join your hosts at a local restaurant and enjoy lunch before returning to Medellín. Enjoy a free evening in the city, perhaps joining a guided pub crawl to experience some of its famed nightlife.

Day 7: Fly to Santa Marta - Explore the city

Waterfront Promenade in Santa Marta
Waterfront Promenade in Santa Marta

After your final breakfast in Medellín, you'll transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Santa Marta. This busy port city is set on the country's northern Caribbean coast and is known as the first Spanish settlement in the country.

Settle into your hotel and head out to explore this historic metropolis. Start in the center and enjoy some of the Catholic churches, such as Cathedral Basilica of Santa Marta and San Juan de Dios, Marbella. As you meander through the streets, enjoy the architecture and brightly-colored buildings. Stop at Parque de Los Novios to admire its stone gazebo and grab a snack at one of the cafes, then head to the harbor. If you have time, you can walk out to the ruins of the old fortress, Castillo de San Fernando. A bit further, you'll find fluffy sand at Playa Lipe, which is a great place to relax on the beach, swim in the warm waters, and watch the sunset. 

For dinner, find a restaurant along the promenade, Bahía De Santa Marta, or the waterfront park, Camellón Rodrigo de Bastidas Park.

Day 8: Transfer to Cartagena and discover its neighborhoods and castle

Balconies of Cartagena de Indias
Balconies of Cartagena de Indias

In the morning, you'll transfer to the city of Cartagena, which is set southwest of Santa Marta along the coast. After settling into your accommodation, you'll meet your guide for a walking tour of the city focusing on its distinct neighborhoods. First, you'll notice that Cartagena was designed like a fortress; this is because it was once the principal shipping port of gold from the New World back to Spain. No other site shows this in such detail as the city's castle, Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.

This 17th-century fortress sits strategically atop San Lorenzo Hill, with panoramic views of the city and its coastline. After wandering the tunnels, you'll walk along the castle's ramparts, which helped protect it from countless pirate attacks.

Next, you'll visit the trendy, bohemian neighborhood of Getsemani, one of the most traditional and popular sectors of the city. This is a great place to enjoy a traditional lunch. Afterward, explore some of the artisan shops featuring local craftsmanship, such as shoes, leather, jewelry, tailoring, and more. As you wander toward the waterfront, enjoy the street art along Calle De La Sierpe.

Afterward, make your way to the more modern neighborhood of Bocagrande, where you'll pass monuments such as the 16th-century church Parroquia San Pedro Claver. Enjoy walking through the Old Town, strolling along streets lined with colonial houses featuring bougainvilia-draped balconies. As you reach Bocagrande, you'll see the contrast between modern architecture and the beauty of the old houses from the twentieth century. This long peninsula is lined with skyrise hotels and beaches.

In the evening, grab a seat at one of the terraced cafes for a sunset aperitif, then head to dinner in the Old Town.

Day 9: Relax at the beach and spa on Barú Island

White-sand Beaches of Barú Island
White-sand Beaches of Barú Island

Enjoy breakfast before embarking on your trip to the turquoise waters and white-sand beaches of Barú Island. Set just off the coast of Corales del Rosario National Park's long peninsula, the island is home to typical vegetation of the Caribbean environment. You'll settle into your hotel, which offers 32 bungalows nestled within the trees or along the sea. Enjoy its amenities with restaurants, bars, private beaches, and a pool area. 

In the afternoon, head to the beach where you can soak in the sun under a straw umbrella and swim in the warm waters. If you're interested in water sports, try your luck with a surfing or paddleboarding lesson. You can also enjoy the hotel's spa and a terrace bar.

At dusk, relax along the shore and watch the sunset, then enjoy dinner at one of the international restaurants.

Day 10: Discover the flavors of Cartagena on a literary food tour

Food Market in Cartagena
Food Market in Cartagena

Today you'll immerse your tastebuds in a delicious food tour throughout the city. Cartagena is known for its cuisine, featuring locally-sourced seafood and traditional menus that feature recipes that are generations old. One of the best ways to explore both the history of the city and its food culture is to trek through the streets on a literary food tour, tasting dishes inspired by the works of the famous Colombian writer, Gabriel García Márquez (often referred to as Gabo).

The tour starts in the Old Town near the Clock Tower, which is where Gabo first arrived in the city in 1948. From here, you'll make your way through the city, stopping at several eateries, cafes, and bars to taste different specialties. All the recipes were inspired by the works of Gabo, and different chefs put their spin on the recipes. You'll try traditional street food like patacones, fresh lemonades, and seafood.
 
In about three hours, you'll enjoy a total of six unique concoctions, all while learning about the history behind the traditional Colombian Caribbean cuisine. The tour ends with dinner and drinks

Day 11: Depart Cartagena

A traditional horse-drawn carriage in Cartagena.
A Traditional Carriage in Cartagena

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia. After breakfast at the hotel, a driver will transfer you to the airport to catch your return flight home.