Discover the hidden wonders of Colombia on this excursion through two of its historic cities. Travel to Medellín, capital of the Antioquia province, and see with your own eyes how the once-controversial city has transformed through its rich Paisa culture. You'll then explore Cartagena—the jewel of the Caribbean ocean—for the second half of the trip and experience the nearby beaches and islands first-hand.

Highlights

  • Walk inside Cartagena's Walled City, a UNESCO heritage site
  • Join a graffiti tour in Medellín and learn about the city's history
  • See one of the best views of Colombia from El Peñol
  • Visit the beautiful islands and beaches of Cartagena
  • Engage in culinary experiences like coffee tastings and cooking classes

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Medellín Medellín
Day 2 Explore Medellín Medellín
Day 3 Villages of Antioquia Medellín
Day 4 Medellín to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 5 Explore Cartagena Cartagena
Day 6 Totumo Volcano and Dance Lessons Cartagena
Day 7 Flavors of Cartagena Cartagena
Day 8 Islands of Cartagena Cartagena
Day 9 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Medellín

Avocado local vendor and street food tasting
A local vendor selling fresh avocados on the streets of Medellín

Welcome to Colombia and the city of Medellín! Upon arrival, your driver will be waiting for you with your name on a sign, and you'll take a private transfer into Medellín. You'll head to your hotel to drop off your luggage before discovering one of the most progressive cities in Latin America.

Located in the bowl of the Andes mountains, you'll experience views of the surrounding landscapes almost everywhere you go in Medellín. Start by visiting Parque Lleras in the heart of the trendy El Poblado district, home to some of the best dining, nightlife, and hotels. You can see views of the city on the Metrocable, the city's transportation system, or walk around the various parks, plazas, and museums near the downtown area.

Medellín offers a range of delicious restaurants and reservations, which you can arrange through your local tour guide. 

Day 2: Explore Medellín

The fantastic metro cable of Medellin
The Metrocable in Medellín

In the morning, your driver will pick you up from your hotel for a full-day tour of Medellín, also known as the city of the eternal spring. Medellín is the birthplace of the internally famous artist Fernando Botero known for his inflated painting and sculptures, which you'll be able to see when you visit Botero Plaza. Take a ride on the Metrocable and explore downtown Medellin and 70 Boulevard. You will visit the notorious neighborhood Comuna 13, learn about its history, and discover how its graffiti art is a representation of hope.

In addition to seeing Barefoot Park and Park of Lights, you'll visit the natural park of Parque Arvi for a walking tour, which includes following ecological paths, observing different types of birds, and passing through the forest. Explore the area of El Poblado and Parque Lleras, where you'll try homemade empanadas, visit coffee shops, and enjoy dinner at one of the city's best local restaurants.

Day 3: Villages of Antioquia

Guatape
Scenic water views of Guatapé

You'll be picked up from your hotel for a full-day tour that takes you through the villages of Antioquia. After 1 hour and 30 minutes of driving east from Medellín, you'll arrive at El Peñol to discover the history of the town that sits in the middle of the lake. Next, you'll walk up the almost 700 steps of the El Peñol rock, which offers picturesque views of the region. Your final destination is the town of Guatapé, also known as Zócalo, where you'll walk around, take in views of the lake, and enjoy lunch.

You'll head back to your hotel in Medellín and spend the rest of the evening at your leisure.

Day 4: Medellín to Cartagena

Getsemaní, Cartagena
The trendy neighborhood of Getsemani in Cartagena

You'll be picked up at your hotel and head to the airport to catch your flight to Cartagena. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by a driver with your name on a sign and transfer to your hotel in Cartagena. 

Known for its architecture, cuisine, and sunsets, you'll get to explore Cartagena for the rest of the day. You have the option of taking a day trip to the surrounding islands and beaches as well or staying there for a night or two inside an eco-friendly jungle bungalow. 

Cartagena offers restaurants that range from casual spots frequented by locals to upscale restaurants by some of Latin America's most famous chefs. Check with your local guides for food reservations and recommendations. 

Day 5: Explore Cartagena

The jewel of the Caribbean!
The city of Cartagena

You'll be picked up at the hotel by a guide for a 4-hour tour of Cartagena's neighborhoods. Make sure you bring comfortable shoes, water, hats, and sunscreen.

The tour will start in the neighborhood of Manga to see the republican style houses and the fort of Pastelillo. The next stop is La Popa Monastery, where you will see some of the best views of Cartagena de Indias. From there, you'll go to the fort of San Felipe de Barajas, a significant piece of architecture that shows the strength and power of the Spaniards in Latin America. Your next stop will be the Walled City, where you'll see Las Bóvedas, another example of military architecture and history. While you're there, you can buy local art and crafts by local artisans. You'll continue the tour by walking through the streets of the Old City lined with houses, squares, and churches. You will also visit the San Pedro Claver Church, named after the patron saint of slaves in Colombia and African Americans.

You can stop for lunch at La Cevicheria, known for their ceviche (as the name implies), or La Mulata that serves local cuisine at a fair price. The tour continues by car to the modern part of the city that showcases a panoramic view of Bocagrande, the beach area, and the island of Tierra Bomba. 

Take part in a coffee tasting, where you'll learn about specialty coffee through a sensorial experience at one of the best coffee shops in the country. You can also add Colombian honey and rum pairing, or for a completely different experience, trade in the coffee tasting for a rum and chocolate tasting or a cooking class. Just let your guide know in advance. 

Head back to your hotel in the late afternoon to rest, then go to Cafe del Mar for sunset drinks. You can go to dinner at your leisure, and a few recommended restaurants are Cande, Carmen, Restaurante Donjuan, Mistura, and Alma.

Day 6: Totumo Volcano and Dance Lessons

Salsa and dance lesson!
A dance lesson led by local instructors

Your driver will pick you up in the morning and bring you a few kilometers from Cartagena to Totumo Volcano, an approximately 20-meter high volcano with mud constantly flowing inside (make sure to bring an old bathing suit as you'll bathe in it). Before reaching the volcano, you have the option of taking a pitstop for a mangrove tour with local fishermen. 

Once you've reached Totumo Volcano, head up the wooden staircase that will eventually take you to the mud, where you'll dive in and get a massage. Locals and experts say the mud will benefit your skin and has medicinal properties. Finish your volcanic experience by bathing in Laguna del Totumo.

Your driver will take you back to Cartagena. Head to Mila Pasteleria for lunch for "carimañolas" de queso (cheese Carimañolas), coconut lemonade, and cold Milo. Explore Cartagena's Old City at your leisure with a written guide in hand, which suggests places to see like the Gold Museum (Museo del Oro) and the Choco Museo. Later in the afternoon, you will have a private dance lesson lead by local dance instructors that will include salsa, merengue, reggaetón, and bachata.

Later on in the evening, choose to have dinner at either Alma or La Vitrola at your leisure, both of which have live music and fresh seafood. After, you can take advantage of the nightlife by visiting one (or all) of the three recommended Latin dance clubs: Cafe Havana, Bazurto Social Club, and Quiebra Canto. 

Day 7: Flavors of Cartagena

Local flavors of Cartagena

Start the day at Cartagena's local market, where producers, farmers, and merchants of the region converge, offering products from different corners of the country. You'll take a cooking class led by local chefs and learn about the aromas, recipes, ingredients, and flavors that result in tasty Colombian dishes. You will then enjoy a 3-course lunch prepared by you and the group.

In the afternoon, you will have time to rest or walk around the Walled City and enjoy Cartagena on your own.

Day 8: Islands of Cartagena

Go diving and then relax in a hammock
Take advantage of water sports or just relax on the islands of Cartagena

Today you will experience the sea, beaches, and islands of Cartagena. You'll take a 30-minute boat ride to Tierra Bomba Island and spend the day at Blue Apple, a Balearic-inspired beach club, restaurant, and boutique hotel. You can snorkel, kayak, and go swimming in the sea or lay on the beach and tan under the Caribbean sun. There is also an optional boat tour that takes you around the islands for an additional fee. 

Day 9: End of the Trip (Cartagena)

The colorful streets of Cartagena

It's now time to say farewell to Colombia! Enjoy your last hours in Cartagena before a driver will pick you up and head to the airport for your departure flight. 

Map

Map of Discover Medellín and Cartagena - 9 Days
Map of Discover Medellín and Cartagena - 9 Days