The core of this adventure includes three days of trekking in the high, snowy mountains of Los Nevados National Park. With ancient ancestral pathways, your journey passes through an extraordinary ecosystem with rare species of flora and fauna that rely on the snow for preservation. You will land in the up-and-coming city of Medellín, along with taking a day trip to a coffee farm to close out your Colombian exploration.

Highlights

  • Visit the trendy and up-and-coming neighborhood of El Poblado 
  • Trek through Los Nevados National Park and camp in the wilderness
  • Catch the aerial views of hilly Manizales from different viewpoints
  • Take a day trip to a coffee farm and learn the process, from bean to cup

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Medellín Medellín
Day 2 Manizales - Río Blanco Nature Reserve Manizales
Day 3 Los Nevados Trek  On Trek
Day 4 Los Nevados Trek  On Trek
Day 5 Los Nevados Trek and Travel to Salento Salento
Day 6 Travel to Medellín Medellín
Day 7 Medellín - Guided City Tour Medellín
Day 8 Coffee Farm Day Trip Medellín
Day 9 Depart From Medellín  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Medellín

Medellín at dusk
Medellín at dusk

Welcome to Colombia! A car will pick you up at the airport in Medellín and drive you to a nearby hotel. Once you are settled in, you will have the rest of the day to explore.

Despite its turbulent past, the Medellín of today is quite charming with its beautiful mountain setting, friendly locals, and vibrant culture. You can begin your exploration at Parque Lleras, in the heart of the trendy El Poblado district, where most of the city's tourism is centered. This is where some of the best dining, nightlife, and hotels are located.  

If you would like to get an insider's perspective of Medellín, you can book an optional, private, 4-hour tour–with an English-speaking guide–of the city by car. You'll make several stops on this route, including the:

  • Pueblito Paisa, a replica of a traditional Antioquia town.
  • San Antonio Park, which is a central recreational venue with sculptures, an auditorium and important government alliance buildings.
  • Metropolitan Theater, which is home to classical music.
  • Los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park), which encourages a shoeless stroll to connect with the land.

Keep in mind that if you decide to book this optional tour, you may experience some overlap with your planned and guided tour set to take place at the end of your trip. For a delicious dinner, our favorites include Mondongo’s, El Herbario, Carmen, or In Situ.

Day 2: Manizales - Río Blanco Nature Reserve

The Zona Cafetera
The coffee fields of Manizales

This morning, you will travel to Manizales, the most prominent of the three cities that make up Colombia’s “coffee triangle." You will have lunch by the neo-gothic Catedral de Manizales and then visit the massive Monumento a los Colonizadores. This impressive bronze sculpture sits at the top of a lookout offering 360° views of the city and the surrounding mountains.

In the afternoon, you will visit the Río Blanco Nature Reserve, located just two miles from Manizales. Hit the trails of this 30,000-acre protected area and look for unique plants and animals native to the central Andes cloud forests. Hundreds of Colombia's 2,000 bird species exist here, including toucans, rusty-faced parrots, owls, tanagers, and more.

After your visit to the Reserve, you will begin the 1-hour drive (via switchback roads) leading to a traditional Colombian ranch in the mountains. Enjoy a home-cooked dinner and a night of peaceful sleep while you acclimate to the higher altitude.

Day 3: Los Nevados Trek 

Los Nevados National Park
Los Nevados National Park

Good Morning! To start your epic outdoor trek, you will ride in a durable 4x4 vehicle to the entrance of Los Nevados National Park. You will begin your guided hike through a sub-tropical tundra, with the panoramic view of Lake Otún. On the way, explore the high-altitude pàramo ecosystem, home to a wide spectrum of local species, such as the sunflower/cactus-like frailejón plant. 

You will establish basecamp at an alpine lake. Enjoy a quality meal and meet the local park ranger who is happy to share a wealth of knowledge about the region. You will stay overnight at a designated camp near the volcano El Nevado de Santa Isabel.

Hike Duration: 3 hours

Day 4: Los Nevados Trek 

The Andean condor, Colombia's national bird
The Andean condor, Colombia's national bird

After a hearty breakfast, you will embark on a guided hike to the snowy summit of El Nevado de Santa Isabel. Along the way, look out for high-altitude flyers, such as the bearded helmetcrest hummingbird and Colombia’s national bird, the Andean condor. Named the largest flying bird in the world, the Andean condor can travel up 186 miles in a single day.

Your hike evolves from a soft walk to a rockier, steeper path to the summit. Once you have reached this part of the trail, a 360° panoramic view reveals the entire Magdalena Valley below. On a clear day, you will even be able to see the coffee farms. Here, you will witness an amazing and rare sight: one of the last remaining glaciers in Colombia!

After the active day, you can wind down by a nearby lagoon. You will spend the night here camping out in your tent.  

Hike Duration: 6 hours

Day 5: Los Nevados Trek and Travel to Salento

The town of Salento
The town of Salento

In the morning, you will finish your guided trekking route along Lake Otún and return to the park entrance. Then, it will be time for lunch and tea with the “guardians" of Los Nevados, a knowledgeable and warm Colombian family who lives in the park full-time. Next. You will take the 4.5-hour car ride to the popular town of Salento. 

If you arrive in time, be sure to check out the sunset from the mirador (lookout) on a hill above the town. Salento is a charming mix of paisa (Colombia's Antioquia region) style and Spanish architecture. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the brightly colored balconies of the homes lining the narrow town streets.

Hike Duration: 7-8 hours

Day 6: Travel to Medellín

Manizales
Manizales

Wake up in Manizales and take advantage of the gorgeous Andean mountain views. Spend the morning relaxing in your hotel, or put on a good pair of walking shoes and hit the city's hilly streets. Things to do in Manizales include:

  • Going to El Recinto del Pensamiento Park, which is a cloud forest about 7 miles outside of downtown. Here, you can take the chairlift, watch for birds, and spot beautiful orchids.
  • Heading to the Chipre viewpoint, where you can catch beautiful views of the city below.
  • Taking a field trip to Ruiz Hot Springs, where you can relax in the thermal baths and watch the hummingbirds feed.
  • Going birding at Rio Blanco, which is one of the best birdwatching spots in all of Colombia.

Make sure you enjoy a traditional lunch in the area. Then, you will travel back to Medellín.

Day 7: Medellín City Tour

Plaza Botero
Plaza Botero

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

Your guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to downtown Medellín. You will start out with a visit to Plaza Botero, which features works by Colombia's most prominent sculptor, Fernando Botero.

Next, you will take a ride on the city's iconic Metrocable gondola system, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Medellín below. Then, you will make your way to the Botanical Garden, which features more than 4,500 types of flowers.

After visiting a few more parks and landmarks in the downtown area on your tour, you will return to your hotel by public transport. Note that there is also a tour option that includes graffiti street art and riding the Metrocable to more remote neighborhoods that are located higher in the hills.

At night, you will have some free time. Enjoy a nice, final dinner at one of the recommended restaurants.

Day 8: Coffee farm day trip 

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

After breakfast at your hotel, you will take the 1.5-hour car ride to a working coffee finca (farm) located in the mountains outside of Medellín. From here, you'll embark on a half-day 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 will 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.

When you return to Medellín in the afternoon, you will have the remainder of the day to enjoy on your own. There are many parks and museums to stroll through. Some options include:

Arví Park: This ecological nature preserve is an archaeological site where you can bike, hike, birdwatch, or have a nice picnic.
Explora Park: Loosely based on the Exploratorium in San Francisco, this museum is great for science buffs.
Antioquia Museum: This contemporary art museum was erected in the 1880s and boasts a rotation of intriguing exhibitions.
Castle Museum: Here, you will find fine and decorative arts inside, and striking French-inspired gardens outside.

In the evening, enjoy your final dinner in Colombia, as well as a toast to your journey, before calling it a night. 

Day 9: Depart from Medellín

The Metrocable, Medellín
Adios, Colombia!

Today, it is time to say farewell to Colombia! Enjoy your last moments in the beautiful city of Medellín with a leisurely breakfast, a city stroll, and a bit of souvenir shopping. At the scheduled time, a driver will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home.

Map

Map of Explore Colombia: Medellín & Los Nevados - 9 Days
Map of Explore Colombia: Medellín & Los Nevados - 9 Days