Discover the vibrant country of Colombia by combining lively cities with scenic countryside, starting in Medellín with a guided tour led by local hip-hop artists. Escape to the hills with a visit to a family-run coffee farm, the village of Guatapé, and a hike up La Piedra Rock. Then head to Cartagena, where you'll explore its colonial streets and neighborhoods, learn how to cook traditional cuisine with a local family, and relax on the white-sand beaches of the Rosario Islands.

Highlights

  • Explore the vibrant streets of Medellín with local hip-hop artists
  • Visit a locally-owned coffee farm and learn how to make the perfect cup
  • Enjoy the small village of Guatapé and hike La Piedra Rock
  • Discover the colonial history and modern neighborhoods of Cartagena
  • Relax on the beaches of the Rosario Islands and explore the coral reefs

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Medellín - Explore the city Medellín
Day 2 Enjoy a guided tour of Medellín - Try Colombian street food Medellín
Day 3 Day trip to the village of Guatapé and hike La Piedra Rock Medellín
Day 4 Taste freshly-brewed coffee at a local, family-operated coffee farm Medellín
Day 5 Discover the acclaimed science museum, Explora Park - Fly to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 6 Explore Castillo San Felipe - Cook dinner with a local family Cartagena
Day 7 Visit the beaches and coral reefs of the Rosario Islands Cartagena
Day 8 Enjoy a free day exploring the neighborhoods of Cartagena Cartagena
Day 9 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Medellín - Explore the city

Castle Museum in Medellin
Castle Museum in Medellín

Welcome to Colombia!

Upon arriving at the international airport outside Medellín, the “City of Eternal Spring”, your host will transport you through a beautiful mountain pass down into the trendy and popular neighborhood of El Poblado. On the way to your hotel, your English-speaking guide will give you all the recommendations you need to get the most of your stay in Colombia.

After settling into your accommodation, head out to explore Medellín. Once one of the most notorious cities in the world, Medellín is now known as a safe and innovative metropolis, welcoming tourists from all over the world. The city is nestled in the Valle de Aburrá, a basin of the Medellín River that offers scenic views in almost every direction.

Spend your first few hours exploring the city center, enjoying a modern and efficient metro that includes sky gondolas reaching the heights of the surrounding mountain range. 

Day 2: Enjoy a guided tour of Medellín - Try Colombian street food

Skyline of Medelin
Skyline of Medellín

Start your day in the Comuna 13 neighborhood, where you'll embark on a guided tour revealing the historical, aesthetic, and political history of Medellín. This tour is designed and led by local hip-hop artists, ensuring an entertaining day filled with local knowledge. You'll hear emotional stories of hope deeply embedded into the city's streets, all while perusing its dynamic art and graffiti scene.

Next, you'll take a short trip on the gondola, soaring up into the hills of Medellín. Enjoy unparalleled panoramic views of the city and typical Antioquia cuisine at a local cafe for lunch.

In the afternoon, head back into the city center to discover some of Medellin's most famous attractions, including the Nutibara Hill (a replica of a typical Antioquia village lies at the top) and Ruta N Innovation and Technology Center. Enjoy the city's many parks, such as the Botanical Garden, Explora Park, the Park of Desires, and Barefoot Park. Lastly, you'll visit the Antioquia Museum and Botero Square, where you can view the exhibit of 23 outdoor bronze sculptures by Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

The evening is yours to enjoy at your leisure. Head back into your neighborhood to find a traditional restaurant for dinner, or enjoy some of the city's amazing street food at the sprawling market, Mercado del Rio

Day 3: Day trip to the village of Guatapé and hike La Piedra Rock

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

After breakfast, you'll transfer from your hotel for 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

You'll then transfer 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 at your leisure. This is one of the most colorful villages in Colombia, with beautiful artwork along the lower half of its buildings. Head to a local restaurant and enjoy lunch before transferring back to your hotel in Medellín.

The evening is yours to roam the streets of Medellín, enjoying some of the city's exceptional nightlife or joining a guided pub crawl.

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Day 4: Taste freshly-brewed coffee at a local, family-operated coffee farm

Views Across a Colombian Coffee Plantation
Views Across a Colombian Coffee Plantation

Enjoy a relaxed morning at your hotel, then head out on a cultural experience to visit a working coffee farm. Along the way, you can enjoy the views as you pass through Antioquia’s green landscape. At the farm, you’ll learn the entire process of creating the delicious brew, from the plant to the cup. You’ll also learn about the daily life of Colombian coffee cooperatives who still produce the beverage in a traditional and fair manner.

The coffee finca (farm) that you'll visit is typical of the numerous family-run businesses in Colombia. You’ll stroll through the plantation as the farm manager explains the origins of coffee, starting with growing the healthiest plants and collecting the red coffee cherries that are eventually processed into dried green coffee beans. After building up an appetite, you’ll enjoy coffee tastings and a traditional Colombian-style lunch.

Next, the manager will lead you through the roasting process, taking the odorless green coffee bean and converting it into the rich brown bean that we all know and love. Listen closely as one of the coffee farmers explains the key characteristics of a great coffee—both in scent and taste—and shares how to prepare the perfect cup of coffee at home. At the end of the tour, you can buy freshly-roasted coffee straight from its source.

In the afternoon, you'll return to Medellín and enjoy the evening on your own.

Day 5: Discover the acclaimed science museum, Explora Park - Fly to Cartagena

Colorful Squares in Cartagena

In the morning, you'll enjoy a trip to Parque Explora (Explora Park), an interactive science museum, loosely modeled after San Francisco's Exploratorium. It houses South America's largest freshwater aquarium, Explora Aquarium, which features nearly 4,000 organisms and 400 of Colombia's most common species. Its 25 tanks exhibit many of the most representative species of the country, including piranhas, electric eels, and a panchromatic kaleidoscope of fish.

The museum contains over 300 interactive attractions, as well as a 3D auditorium, planetarium, television studio, and vivarium. It has a combination of indoor and outdoor space, with its four red "cubes" hosting the museum's science and technology rooms. Enjoy lunch at the museum.

In the afternoon, you'll transfer to the airport and catch your flight to the city of Cartagena, set on the country's Caribbean coast. After settling into your accommodation, take some time this evening to explore the city.

The cobbled streets will transfer you back to colonial times as you stroll amid colorful houses and lively squares. Start in the expansive Plaza de los Coches, at the entrance to the city's Old Town. Enjoy the bright buildings lined with 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. 

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.

End your day 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.

Day 6: Explore Castillo San Felipe - Cook dinner with a local family

Streets of Getsemaní, Cartagena

After breakfast, you'll explore one of the city's most striking landmarks: Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. This 17th-century fortress sits atop San Lorenzo Hill,  protecting the gold the colonists shipped back to Spain. After wandering the tunnels on a guided tour, you'll walk along the castle's ramparts. Since the fortress was strategically built at an elevated location, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Bocagrande peninsula, the Old Town, and even as far as northern Cartagena.

In the afternoon, head into the trendy Getsemaní neighborhood and enjoy a refreshment at one of the patio cafes around Plaza de la Trinidad. The plaza's focal point includes an old yellow church of the same name, which was built around 1600. 

It's time to explore the culinary scene of Cartagena. The region's cuisine is known for its warmth and flavor, mainly due to the generosity of the locals who've carried on generations of traditional techniques. For the best experience, you'll learn how to prepare the most authentic dishes of Cartagena in the comfort of a local family's home kitchen. Your hosts will welcome you with a traditional fruit drink as they explain the typical ingredients and techniques used in the recipes of the city.

Step-by-step, you'll learn how to prepare a menu of local delicacies, including appetizers, snacks, main dishes, and desserts. Armed with your fruity drinks, new friends, and a freshly-prepared meal, you'll enjoy a home-cooked dinner with your hosts in true Colombian style, by sharing your dishes and socializing into the night.

Day 7: Visit the beaches and coral reefs of the Rosario Islands

The Beaches of Rosario Islands

A visit to the Rosario Islands will take you on an exciting day trip to the warm, crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea. Located just 45 minutes from Cartagena, this 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 Grande, the largest of the islands. Start with lunch at San Pedro de Majagua, and spend the afternoon discovering coral beaches and swimming amongst the diverse fauna of the reefs. If you're interested in water sports, Isla Grande is known for its scuba diving, snorkeling, standup paddleboarding, and kayaking. You can also take short boat trips to neighboring islands.

You'll return to Cartagena in the evening, where you can relax at your hotel and enjoy dinner.

Day 8: Enjoy a free day exploring the neighborhoods of Cartagena

Centro Historico Area of Cartagena
Centro Historico Area of Cartagena

Today you'll enjoy free time to explore the city at your leisure. Start with a slow morning at your hotel, enjoying a relaxed breakfast. Then head out into the city to meander its neighborhoods.

Enjoy walking through the Old Town, strolling along streets lined with colonial houses featuring bougainvilia-draped balconies. Then make your way to the modern neighborhood of Bocagrande, passing monuments such as the 16th-century church Parroquia San Pedro Claver. 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.

Next, you'll visit the trendy, artistic, bohemian neighborhood 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 back toward your hotel, enjoy the street art along Calle De La Sierpe.

Then head to the residential Manga neighborhood, another one of the city's more modern areas where you can witness blunt contrast between historic colonial buildings and skyscrapers. You'll also enjoy views of the port and skyline, plus the old fort at Pastelillo Park. Return to the Old Town and discover Calle Tripita, one of the city's most photographed areas. If you need something sweet, visit the Museo Del Cacao (Chocolate Museum).

In the evening, grab a seat at one of the terraced cafes for a sunset aperitif before your final dinner in Colombia.

Day 9: Depart Cartagena

Beautiful Architecture in Cartagena

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia. After breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport for your return flight home.