This active Colombian adventure includes three days of trekking in the snowy mountains of Los Nevados National Park, which sprawls across 143,000 acres of the Colombian Andes. Enjoy hiking through a unique high-elevation ecosystem, where rare species of flora and fauna thrive. You will also have time to explore the charming colonial town of Salento, the coffee region hub of Manizales, and the revitalized city of Medellín—the best of both worlds.

Highlights

  • Explore Manizales, the star of Colombia's "coffee triangle"
  • Trek the high-altitude mountain region of Los Nevados National Park
  • Horseback ride through Colombia's coffee country
  • Tour of Medellín and ride high above the city on the Metrocable 

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 Horseback Riding, Armenia and Travel to Medellín Medellín
Day 7 Medellín - Guided City Tour Medellín
Day 8 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, you will end your trip with a pre-planned and guided tour of Medellín, where some of the above destinations may overlap. For a delicious dinner, our favorite restaurants include Mondongo’s, El Herbario, Carmen, and 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 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: Horseback riding, Armenia and travel to Medellín

Horseback riding in the Cocora Valley
Horseback riding in the Cocora Valley

Today, you will spend the morning horseback riding in the Valle de Cocora, just outside of Salento. Be sure to take in all the panoramic vistas and snap multiple photos of the towering, iconic wax palms (Colombia's national tree) that dot the countryside. You will also pass along waterfalls and visit a working coffee farm for a quick tour. 

When you return, you will travel to the nearby city of Armenia. Here, you will catch a flight back to Medellín. You will arrive in the late afternoon, and will have just enough time to enjoy an evening out in the trendy Poblado district before retiring for the night in your hotel.

Horseback Riding Duration: 4 hours

Day 7: Medellín - Guided 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 dinner at one of the recommended restaurants.

Day 8: 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 Colombia Outdoor Adventure: Medellín & Los Nevados Trek - 8 Days
Map of Colombia Outdoor Adventure: Medellín & Los Nevados Trek - 8 Days