This active 13-day adventure combines the epic Camino Verde trek in central Colombia's rainforests with one of South America's most exciting and fascinating cities. Cradled in a fertile valley in the Andes, Medellín is best explored by foot and gondola, where you can observe the sprawling metropolis from high overhead. In a blink, you'll go from city streets to the surrounding countryside. After completing the three-day Camino Verde trek, reward yourself with time to explore the trails and relax on the incomparable beaches of Tayrona National Park.

Highlights

  • Enjoy sweeping views of Medellín from the Metrocable gondolas
  • Test the limits of your endurance on the scenic Camino Verde trek
  • Stay overnight on a working coffee farm
  • Visit indigenous ruins in Tayrona National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Medellín Medellín
Day 2 Medellín City Tour Medellín
Day 3 Pablo Escobar Tour Medellín
Day 4 Camino Verde Trek - Day 1 On Trek
Day 5 Camino Verde Trek - Day 2 On Trek
Day 6 Camino Verde Trek - Day 3 Medellín
Day 7 Coffee Finca Day-Trip Medellín
Day 8 Explore Medellín (Free Day) Medellín
Day 9 Flight to Santa Marta (Optional City Tour) Santa Marta
Day 10 Santa Marta - Tayrona National Park Tour Tayrona Park
Day 11 Free Day Near Tayrona National Park Tayrona Park
Day 12 Tayrona National Park - Pueblito Ruins Tayrona Park
Day 13 Depart Tayrona National Park  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Medellín

Medellín at dusk
Medellín at dusk

Welcome to Colombia! Despite its turbulent past, Medellín today is quite charming with its beautiful mountain setting, friendly locals, and vibrant culture. A car will pick you up at the airport and transfer you to a nearby hotel. You're now free to spend the remainder of the day exploring.

Start by visiting 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. Perhaps take a ride on the city's gondola (Metrocable) system to see the views, or walk around the various parks, plazas, and museums near the downtown area. Either way, enjoy the weather—due to its elevation, Medellín has year-round spring temperatures.

Depending on the time of your flight, you can sightsee with an English-speaking guide and learn more about this thriving, modern city from a local perspective.

Day 2: Medellín City Tour

Metrocable cars
Metrocable cars

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

The guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to Medellín's downtown. You'll visit Plaza Botero, which features works by Colombia's foremost sculptor, Fernando Botero. Then it's time to take a ride on the city's iconic Metrocable gondola system, during which you'll enjoy panoramic views of Medellín below. Next, stop in at the Botanical Garden, which features more than 4,500 types of flowers. After visiting some parks and landmarks in the downtown area, you'll eventually return to your hotel by public transport. (There's also a tour option that includes graffiti street art and riding the Metrocable to more remote neighborhoods higher in the hills.)

The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy at your leisure.

Day 3: Pablo Escobar Tour

Relics of Escobar's old cars
Relics of Escobar's old cars

Today you’ll embark on a tour around Medellin focusing on the person that used to be its underworld king: Pablo Escobar. Led by ex-policeman Carlos Palau, this tour offers shocking insight into Medellin's most infamous drug lord. Forget what you've seen on TV—the tour uncovers the harrowing realities of what life was like during the heyday of Escobar's rule in the '80s and '90s.

During the outing, you'll stop at his "prison," La Catedral, which he constructed himself after agreeing to terms of surrender from the Colombian government. You'll also visit the townhouse Escobar used as a hideout until he was shot dead by national police while trying to make a daring rooftop escape. Throughout the day, your guide will recount noteworthy events from the timeline of Escobar's life. The tour culminates with a visit to Escobar's grave.

Day 4: Camino Verde Trek - Day 1

Antioquian countryside
Antioquian countryside

Today is the first day of the three-day Camino Verde trek that takes you through one of Colombia’s last untouched tropical rainforests. From Medellín, you'll travel to the surrounding Antioquia mountain area for a traditional lunch. You'll definitely note the warmer difference in climate as you dip in altitude.

Now meet your guide for the rest of the journey. Head off on the mild slope, which boasts several natural pools (perfect for swimming), and observe rare flora and fauna along the way. Later, enjoy the hospitality of a local farm with a traditional, home-cooked meal. This is where you'll stay overnight.

Day 5: Camino Verde Trek - Day 2

River waterfalls
River waterfalls

After breakfast, begin the five-hour hike towards the Río Verde de los Henados. This is the biggest day of the trip, but also the day where you will traverse the most virgin part of the region. When you reach the viewing point of La Esperanza, there will be an opportunity to take a break for lunch and enjoy the vista. 

Continue on and you'll reach the day's final destination, the rural community of La Vereda La Playa. Here, dinner will be served and you'll overnight at a traditional farmhouse.

Day 6: Camino Verde Trek - Day 3

Look out for hummingbirds on the trek
Look out for hummingbirds on the trek

This is the last day of your epic trek! After breakfast, embark on a hike that features near-constant views of the surrounding rainforests of the Río Verde Valley. Look out for rare birds and plants as you begin to reach more populated areas.

In the afternoon, discover the bucolic village of Argelia, in Antioquia, and enjoy a well-deserved cerveza in the park. Your return trip will get you back to Medellín sometime in the mid-evening.

Day 7: Coffee Finca Day-Trip

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

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll transfer by car 1.5 hours to a working coffee finca (farm) located in the mountains outside of Medellín. From here, you'll embark on a 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'll 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.

Return to Medellín in the afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day on your own.

Day 8: Explore Medellín (Free Day)

Medellín as seen from the hills
Medellín as seen from the hills

Take the day to further explore Medellín and enjoy the sights and activities you might have missed thus far. Perhaps visit the neighborhood of Comuna 13, also known as San Javier, which has had quite the tumultuous history. Once labeled the most dangerous community in Medellín due to its homicide rates and forced displacement of thousands of residents, today it is on the rebound. You can visit this neighborhood and witness the changes taking place now that local politicians have started to invest heavily in infrastructure and public education.

Day 9: Flight to Santa Marta (Optional City Tour)

Santa Marta's cathedral
Santa Marta's cathedral

After breakfast, a driver will transfer you to the airport for your flight to the coastal city of Santa Marta. This busy port has a storied history: it was the site of the first Spanish settlement in Colombia, and it's also South America’s oldest surviving city. Though it’s often used as a stopping point for numerous day-trips in the area, the historic downtown has been restored. So after checking into your hotel, head out and visit the expansive plazas and stroll the cobbled streets lined with multi-colored buildings. 

(Optional add-on.) If you have the energy, consider a city tour in which a local guide picks you up at your hotel and shares his/her knowledge about Santa Marta. The tour includes a visit to Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino (where the Liberator, Simón Bolívar, died in 1830). You'll explore the city's historic center, which has a notable cathedral and gold museum, and then you'll head to the waterfront for panoramic views of Taganga, a traditional fishing village.

Day 10: Santa Marta - Tayrona National Park Tour

Cabo San Juan, Parque Tayrona
Cabo San Juan, Parque Tayrona

After breakfast at your hotel in Santa Marta, you'll transfer to Parque Nacional Tayrona (Tayrona National Park). This 58-square-mile protected area is home to some of South America's loveliest coastline. Its jungles are also the home of the Kogi indigenous tribe, who are direct descendants of the ancient Tairona people of whom the park is named. You'll then check into your hotel on the outskirts of the park. 

Now it's time for an excursion. You'll enter the park and hike in the foothills near Play Cañaveral, at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Then visit the exotic beaches of Arrecifes and La Piscina, the latter of which is an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling. Continue to Cabo San Juan, a windswept cove anchored by huge volcanic rocks. During the trek, your guide will point out several species of flora and fauna. You'll have the afternoon free to enjoy lunch on your own and relax on the shore.

Return to your hotel in the late afternoon and enjoy dinner on your own. 

Day 11: Free Day Near Tayrona National Park

Try some snorkeling in the Caribbean
Try some snorkeling in the Caribbean

Enjoy a free day to experience the surroundings outside Tayrona Park. This is your chance to explore the region's singular topography on your own, which includes the world's highest coastal mountain range.

You can take your pick between a range of organized activities such as snorkeling, sailing, river tubing, hiking, or wildlife spotting. You can also take a day-trip to Minca, a beautiful Colombian village in the mountains, and visit a coffee farm. 

Day 12: Tayrona National Park - Pueblito Ruins

The ruins at Pueblito, in Parque Tayrona
The ruins at Pueblito, in Parque Tayrona

Leave your accommodation bright and early for a full day in the jungles and beaches of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tayrona National Natural Park). The park consists of a 150-square-kilometer (58-square-mile) protected area covering the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta foothills where they meet the Caribbean coast. Today, your destination is the archaeological ruins of Pueblito Chairama.

Get ready for a challenging hike to this archaeological site, which is reached by forest trails. These Pre-Columbian ruins were home to the ancient Tairona people who once inhabited the area. Continue on to the beach of Cabo San Juan for a well-deserved dip in the sea before enjoying lunch. Afterward, walk back to meet your driver at the park entrance and return to your hotel where dinner will be served.

Day 13: Depart Tayrona National Park

Sunset in Tayrona
Sunset in Tayrona

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia! Enjoy your last morning near Tayrona Park with a leisurely breakfast and walk along the sea. A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your connecting flight home.