Over two weeks, see the highlights of Colombia's central and southern regions, from revitalized Medellín to the sultry salsa clubs of Cali. But this adventure isn't all about the cities—you'll also enjoy coffee tours in the famous Zona Cafetera, explore historic colonial towns, and visit ancient archaeological sites. A real treat is traveling to the otherworldly Tatacoa Desert, one of Colombia's many natural wonders.


  • Experience art and culture in Medellín and ride a gondola into the hills
  • Visit the colorful town of Guatapé and hike up its iconic granite mountain
  • Stay at a coffee farm in the Zona Cafetera and hike the Valle de Cocora
  • Enjoy some of Colombia's best cuisine in the colonial city of Popayán
  • Go horseback riding in the Tatacoa Desert amid stunning rock formations

Brief Itinerary

Day  Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Medellín, Optional Activities Medellín
Day 2 Medellín Metrocable Tour Medellín
Day 3 Day Trip to Guatapé & La Piedra Hike Medellín
Day 4 Fly to Armenia, Transfer to Salento Salento
Day 5 Valle de Cocora Hike Salento
Day 6 Tour Salento & the Coffee Triangle Salento
Day 7 Transfer to Cali, Salsa Lesson & Nightlife Cali
Day 8 Transfer to Popayán, Explore  Popayan
Day 9 Transfer to San Agustín San Agustín
Day 10 Tour San Agustín Archaeological Park San Agustín
Day 11 Transfer to Tierradentro Tierradentro
Day 12 Tour Tierradentro Archaeological Park Tierradentro
Day 13 Transfer to Neiva, Explore the Tatacoa Desert Neiva
Day 14 Fly to Bogotá, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Medellín, Optional Activities

Views across the rooftops of Medellín's historic center

Welcome to Colombia! With over 2,000 years of settled history under its belt, this gorgeous South American nation doesn't lack for culture. During your time here, you'll experience all of it, from the art and music of Colombia's cities to the ancient archaeological sites in its countryside. 

It begins with your arrival in Medellín. Despite its turbulent past, today, this city is pure charm. Nestled in the Andes mountains, it's known for its friendly locals (called "Paisas") and has music and art to spare. A car will pick you up at the airport and transfer you to your hotel, after which you can head out and explore. Perhaps start in Parque Lleras. Located in the heart of the trendy El Poblado district, this area is home to some of the most popular restaurants and nightlife venues in the city.

From there, you can travel to Medellín's other highlights, like Pueblito Paisa (a replica of a traditional Antioquian town) and Parque San Antonio. Nearby is Plaza Botero, which hosts the unmistakable bronze sculptures of celebrated international artist and hometown hero Fernando Botero. Whatever you decide to do today, enjoy the weather—due to its elevation, Medellín enjoys year-round spring temperatures.

Day 2: Medellín Metrocable Tour

The Metrocable is just one highlight of Medellín's successful urban revitalization 

Named the World's Most Innovative City in 2013, Medellín has undergone a massive transformation. It has achieved this via a number of social and infrastructure projects aimed at revitalizing some of Medellín's worst areas and empowering its residents. As such, today, you'll tour one of Colombia's most successful urban development initiatives.

Meet your guide after breakfast and hop aboard the Metro, Medellín's prized mass-transit system. It includes trains and buses, but the real star is the Metrocable. This network of gondolas transports commuters up to the comunas (neighborhoods) dotting the Andean mountainside above the city center.

During a ride on one of these cable cars, you'll soar over once-forgotten areas that have been redeveloped, connecting residents all over the city. Disembark at the top stations for a quick stroll through one of these colorful comunas, stopping for some street food and juice, coffee, or beer. After descending the Metrocable, you'll stop at a restaurant for a rustic Paisa lunch (think rice, beans, and grilled meats) and will have the rest of the day free.

Day 3: Day Trip to Guatapé & La Piedra Hike 

One of the most famous landmarks in Colombia is El Peñol, in Guatapé

Wake up early and leave on a full-day excursion to one of the crown jewels of Colombia's Antioquia region: the lakeside town of Guatapé. This charming hill town is famous for its colorful street art and murals, as well as the brightly painted zócalos (lower facades) of its colonial buildings.

Upon arrival, you'll meet today's guide for a private tour. During a two-hour walk around, you'll learn about the town's conflict surrounding the building of the dam that created the surrounding reservoir known as Guatapé Lake. As you walk toward the neighboring town of El Peñol, you'll be treated to epic views of the region's most popular landmark: El Peñón de Guatapé (the Rock of Guatapé).

Eventually, you'll reach the base of this dazzling granite monolith, which tops out at 646 feet (2,152 m). Climb the 740 steps to the summit, where you can admire 360-degree wraparound views of the towns, lake, and sprawling green countryside below. Then reward yourself with a cold beverage from one of the cafés and food stalls at the summit—try the mango michelada. Afterward, you'll transfer back to Medellín. 

Day 4: Fly to Armenia, Transfer to Salento & Coffee Estate

You'll be charmed by the bright colors and busy streets in Salento

There's no shortage of beautiful regions in Colombia, and today, you'll visit one of the most stunning: the Zona Cafetera (Coffee Triangle). Transfer to the airport in the morning for the 45-minute flight south to the city of Armenia. From there, it's an hour's drive north to the Andean town of Salento.

Nestled in the heart of the Zona Cafetera, Salento is famous for its coffee estates. It's also a hub for day trips to the famous Valle de Cocora for Jeep tours and hikes amid verdant hills dotted with towering Quindío wax palms. These are among the highest trees in the world, reaching up to 230 feet (70 m).

To make the most of your experience, you'll overnight in a local coffee estate. After checking in, spend the rest of the day in town. Despite a rise in tourism, Salento retains an old-world charm, with cobbled streets, brightly-painted colonial buildings, and a grand central plaza. All around this main square, you'll see musicians busking on street corners and vendors selling street food and a wide array of handicrafts. There are also plenty of quaint cafés and restaurants catering to all tastes.

Day 5: Valle de Cocora Hike

The Quindío wax palm, found in the Valle de Cocora, is one of the world's tallest trees

Lace up your hiking boots because you're off to the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley). Leave Salento early in a 4WD vehicle for the quick transfer to the valley's entrance, which is lined with restaurants and parking lots. Once there, you'll choose between two different hiking routes. If you're up for a day hike, there's a five to six-hour loop trail leading through the forest, over suspension bridges, and up steep hillside tracks to dazzling viewpoints. 

For those with less time, you can experience the marvels of the valley on a brisk one to two-hour hike. Either way, you'll capture amazing photos of green hills and mountains, complete with looming wax palms—Colombia's national tree. At the end of the hike, return to the vehicle and transfer back to Salento, where you'll have the rest of the afternoon free to explore. 

Plan your trip to Colombia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Tour Salento & the Coffee Triangle

Learn about the history of Salento, then explore the countryside

This morning, embark on a more immersive tour of Salento. Led by an expert guide, you'll dive deeper into the history of this famous town as you stroll its cobbled streets. Founded in 1850, Salento is a shining example of traditional Colombian colonial architecture, denoted by whitewashed, one-story buildings with red-tiled roofs and wooden balconies. Nowadays, locals find any reason to add bright splashes of paint wherever possible.

After the walking tour, you'll join your guide in a vehicle for a driving tour of the fertile Zona Cafetera. As you go, you'll stop at fincas (farms) to stroll vast coffee fields and enjoy a cup or two of strong Colombian café. Later, you'll return to your accommodation on the coffee estate.

Day 7: Transfer to Cali, Salsa Lesson & Nightlife

Salsa is everywhere in Cali, from the clubs to the streets

Continue your journey through Colombia by transferring a few hours south to Santiago de Cali. Known as simply "Cali," Colombia's third-largest city lies in the tropical Valle del Cauca southwest of Bogotá. It's known for many things, including expansive city parks, museums, and fútbol (soccer) clubs, but it's most famous for salsa. The locals will tell you, "Cali is salsa!" and it's hard to argue with that statement. The passion Caleños have for this music/dance has led to the city becoming the salsa capital of the world. 

When you arrive, you'll transfer to your hotel and have some time to relax. In the late afternoon, join a salsa 101 class (as a newbie or a refresher). Afterward, you can head out to cool hole-in-the-wall bars, small salsotecas, and full-on nightclubs to show off your moves. If you're lucky, head over to Parque Bolívar—the city's main urban park—where you might just be treated to some live dancing. Regardless, prepare to hear foot-tappingly infectious music everywhere, from the suburbs to the supermarket. 

Day 8: Transfer to Popayán, Explore 

Popayán is known for its whitewashed buildings, grand plazas, and historic churches

Another three hours south of Cali takes you to Popayán, one of Colombia's most well-preserved colonial cities. Known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) due to its abundance of whitewashed buildings, Popayán enjoys an ideal location amid rolling green countryside and mountains. Founded in 1537, its historic downtown is filled with cobbled streets and neoclassical cathedrals that have stood for more than four centuries. 

After checking into your hotel, head to the compact downtown and explore on foot or bicycle. Can't-miss highlights include the Popayán Cathedral, which dates to 1546, and the Colonial Religious Art Museum, which is dedicated to the preservation of colonial-era religious art and artifacts. There's also the fine Museum of Natural History, which showcases insects, butterflies, and other animal life in Colombia. Fun fact: Popayan has been recognized by UNESCO for its fine gastronomy, so be sure to try some delicious local fare, like tamales, empanadas, soups, corn cakes, and more.

Day 9: Transfer to San Agustín

San Agustín is famous for its ancient Indigenous sculptures 

After a leisurely breakfast in Popayán, meet your driver for the 3.5-hour transfer south of Popayán to San Agustín, a town nestled in the green forests of the Magdalena River Valley. It's most famous as the gateway to the nearby Parque Arqueológico de San Agustín. This UNESCO World Heritage archaeological park contains the largest group of pre-Columbian petroglyphs and megalithic sculptures in South America. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and have the rest of the day free.

Day 10: Tour San Agustín Archaeological Park

One of the hundreds of megalithic structures at San Agustín

This morning, you're off on a tour of San Augstín's nearby archaeological park. The petroglyphs and statues here were carved by two ancient Indigenous cultures—the Magdalena and the Cauca—and depict human and animal figures. Though their exact age is unknown, it's believed they were made between 50-400 CE as artistic and religious expressions, possibly even to honor deceased elders and chiefs of the region. You'll arrive early to allow plenty of time to hike between the areas of interest. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel in San Agustín.

Day 11: Transfer to Tierradentro

The drive to Tierradentro is long but passes beautiful Andean scenery

Leave early with your driver on a ride north to Tierradentro, another stunning UNESCO archaeological park. Located in the Andes, this site dates back over 1,200 years and is famous for its network of underground tombs and burial chambers, known as "hypogea." They're carved into the region's volcanic rock and served as burial sites for ancient Indigenous people. The drive from San Agustín is long (about five hours), so when you arrive in the village of Tierradentro, you'll check into your accommodation and can rest up.

If you feel like stretching your legs and are eager to start exploring, you can take a short transfer toward the village of Inza, where a scenic walk provides a panorama of the Tierradentro region. A 15-minute hike from the village takes you to the ancient stone Pirámide, where you can climb the stepped sides, explore its hidden tunnels said to be carved by Spanish conquistadors, and search out its many mysterious carvings and designs.

Day 12: Tour Tierradentro Archaeological Park

An underground burial chamber.
Explore underground burial chambers in Tierradentro Archeological Park

Today, you'll hop in a 4WD vehicle and travel off the beaten path to explore the famous underground burial chambers of Tierradentro. A UNESCO World Heritage site, these subterranean tombs were created around 700 CE and rediscovered and excavated between 1930 and 1995. You'll notice the tombs often feature geometric designs and representations of animals, humans, and deities. These carvings and paintings provide insight into the cosmology and mythology of the region's Indigenous cultures. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 13: Transfer to Neiva, Explore the Tatacoa Desert

Spend some time exploring the rugged Tatacoa Desert, the Badlands of Colombia.
Spend some time exploring rugged Tatacoa, Colombia's second-largest desert region

The archaeological adventure continues, as early this morning, you'll transfer about 3.5 hours north to Neiva, the capital of Colombia's Huila department. There, you'll meet another driver for the transfer an hour out of the city to the dramatic Tatacoa Desert. A desert island in a sea of lush greenery, this large arid zone is rich in fossils and features distinct red and gray landscapes, eroded canyons, and unique rock formations. While here, you can marvel at this otherworldly scenery on hiking and horseback riding excursions.

After the activities, you'll return to your hotel in Neiva. It's a great opportunity to enjoy some relaxing downtime, as some of Neiva's hotels have thermal-spring-fed swimming pools—a relaxing way to cool off after a dusty trek. If you like, you can return to the desert in time to witness the setting sun over the desert and enjoy a little stargazing—the clarity at night is spectacular. Another option is to visit the astronomical observatory located in the Cuzco area of the desert. 

Day 14: Fly to Bogotá, Depart

Walk around Bogotá for street art and restaurants.
Bogotá's colorful (and historic) La Candelaria neighborhood is always a good time

Bid a fond farewell to Colombia, as this morning you'll enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, then transfer to the airport for the quick flight to Bogotá. There, you'll catch your connecting flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of Culture & Archaeology of Colombia - 14 Days
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