From Medellín to the green mountains of Colombia's coffee region and world-class archaeological sites, this fascinating two-week journey covers major highlights and off-the-beaten-path destinations of Colombia's rich interior. This trip is ideal for travelers who don't mind skipping the coast and want a mix of outdoor and cultural adventures, like hiking in the Andes, salsa dancing with locals, and horseback riding in the desert.


  • Take a guided city tour through Medellin's colorful streets and hip neighborhoods
  • Climb 740 steps to reach Piedra Rock for outstanding views of Guatapé
  • Stay overnight at a coffee farm and hike through lush green trails
  • Eat well in Popayán, a city recognized by UNESCO for its gastronomy
  • Go horseback riding in the Tatacoa Desert through rugged rock formations

Brief Itinerary

Day  Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Medellín Medellín
Day 2 Medellín City Tour & Metrocable Experience Medellín
Day 3 Day Trip to Guatapé, Hike La Piedra Rock Medellín
Day 4 Fly to Armenia, Visit Salento, Overnight on a Coffee Farm Salento
Day 5 Valle de Cocora Hike Salento
Day 6 Tour Salento, Explore 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 Tatacoa Desert Neiva
Day 14 Fly to Bogotá, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Medellín

Views from Medellín's gondola. 
Views from Medellín's gondola

Welcome to Medellín! You will be picked up at the Medellín airport and transferred to a nearby hotel. Depending on your flight time, you can explore on your own or join a local tour to learn more about this thriving, modern city.

Despite its dangerous past, Medellín today is charming, with a beautiful mountain setting, friendly locals, and vibrant culture. Most of the city's tourism centers around Parque Lleras in the heart of the trendy El Poblado district, where the best dining, nightlife, and hotel options are within easy reach. You can ride on the city's gondola (metrocable) to see the views or walk around the various parks, plazas, and museums. Either way, enjoy the weather—the city has year-round spring temperatures due to a high elevation near the equator.

Day 2: Medellín City Tour & Metrocable Experience

Experience a local side of Medellín on this guided tour. 
Experience a local side of Medellín on this guided tour

Today's guided tour starts with breakfast and takes you through one of Colombia's most successful urban projects. Named the World's Most Innovative City in 2013, the city has undergone a massive transformation through a number of social and infrastructure victories aimed to include, empower, and revitalize some of Medellín's worst areas.

You'll take a ride on the metrocable, the city's iconic gondola lift system (great views!), toward remote neighborhoods on the valley side. You'll also visit redeveloped areas, allowing the Paisas (people from Medellín and Antioquia—the department of which Medellín is the capital) to enjoy their city once more. After descending on the metrocable, you'll have a typical Paisa lunch at one of the city's well-known restaurants. The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy at leisure.

Day 3: Day Trip to Guatapé, Hike La Piedra Rock

The area surrounding Guatapé.
The area surrounding Guatapé

Today, you'll head east of Medellín and explore the picturesque lakeside town of Guatapé. Take a two-hour walking tour through the countryside and learn about the town's conflict surrounding the building of the dam that was renamed Guatapé Lake.

As you walk toward the neighboring town of El Peñol, take in the stunning vistas of the granite La Piedra Rock. Climb the 740 steps to admire the classic view from above before returning to Guatapé to explore its streets. One of the most colorful towns in Colombia, with beautiful artwork along the lower half of its buildings. Head to a restaurant for a relaxing meal of freshwater fish and other local delicacies.

Day 4: Fly to Armenia, Visit Salento, Overnight on a Coffee Farm

Colorful architecture in the Zona Cafetera.
Colorful architecture in the Zona Cafetera (Colombia's coffee-growing region)

Today, you'll fly to Armenia and transfer to the colonial town of Salento, surrounded by the bright green Andean mountains. Despite a rise in tourism over the past decade, this quaint destination retains an old-world charm with colorful Paisa architecture, musicians on street corners, and an incredible range of handicrafts. Near the town center, you'll find yourself in view of the distinctive Quindío wax palms, among the highest trees in the world, reaching a height of up to 230 feet (70 m).

Furthering this experience, you'll have the opportunity to stay overnight at a local coffee farm (finca in Spanish) and learn every step of the coffee production process, not to mention frequent tastings!

Day 5: Valle de Cocora Hike

Valle de Cocora is the perfect place for day hikes. 
Enjoy a hike amid the soaring wax palms of Valle de Cocora

Near the charming colonial town of Salento, this remarkably lush (and thankfully protected) cloud forest gives the phrase "verdant green" new meaning. Add in the tall, skinny wax palms—Colombia's national tree—which cheerfully dot the mountainous landscape, and the Valle de Cocora makes for an outstanding hiking opportunity you won't miss.

When you arrive, there are two possible routes, depending on how much time you have and how much hiking you want to do. For those who want more exercise and adventure, a 5-6 hour loop takes you through the forest, over wooden suspension bridges, and along steep hiking tracks. It's from this vantage point you will find the best views. For those with less time, you can experience the Valle de Cocora by heading straight for the trees for a 1-2 hour hike. 

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Day 6: Tour Salento, Explore the Coffee Triangle

Explore the colonial streets of Salento.
Explore the colonial streets of Salento

Start your day with an in-depth walking tour of the quaint colonial streets of Salento. Founded in 1850, the town is a shining example of the typical Guadua-bamboo-influenced architecture with brightly-colored facades. The surrounding Andean views and the Valley de Cocora add to its beauty. Coffee and trout fishing are big industries in Salento and the surrounding region.

In the afternoon, take a driving tour of the Coffee Triangle, stopping at coffee farms or "fincas" along the way.

Day 7: Transfer to Cali, Salsa Lesson & Nightlife

Watch or partake in Cali's vibrant salsa scene.
Watch or partake in Cali's vibrant salsa scene

Today you'll transfer south a few hours to Santiago de Cali, commonly referred to as "Cali." Colombia's third-largest metropolis is legendary for its dance-centric nightlife, featuring numerous salsa clubs that boom long after midnight and where welcoming locals can be found dancing in parks. Prepare to hear foot-tappingly infectious music everywhere, from the suburbs to the supermarket. 

In the late afternoon, join a Salsa 101 class (as a newbie or a refresher) before heading out to cool hole-in-the-wall bars like La Topa Tolondra or friendly yet full-on nightclubs like Club TinTinDeo to show off your moves. Lastly, there is a free open-air dance party called Salsa al Parque—the event is held on the third Saturday of the month at Antiguo Club San Fernando.

Day 8: Transfer to Popayán, Explore 

Gorgeous architecture in Popayán.
Discover the stunning architecture in Popayán

Another three hours south takes you to one of Colombia's most picturesque, multicultural, and well-preserved colonial cities. Surrounded by undulating countryside, Popayán offers beautiful, Baroque-style architecture with impressive churches and museums like the Popayán Cathedral, the Museum of Natural History, and the Colonial Religious Art Museum.

The historic center is compact and can be explored on foot or by bicycle. Make sure to check out Cauca University (the nation's most prestigious university), Caldas Park, and any of the many coffee shops and great restaurants—Popayán is a city that UNESCO has recognized for its gastronomy.

Day 9: Transfer to San Agustín

An example of San Agustín's pre-Colombian remains.
An example of San Agustín's pre-Colombian remains

After a leisurely breakfast in Popayán, you'll drive to San Agustín in the Andes and stay overnight. San Agustín is an area known for its incredible archaeological park—a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to numerous pre-Columbian remains spread over several locations.

Day 10: Tour San Agustín Archaeological Park

An in-depth tour of the park.
Discover historic Colombian monuments in San Agustín

Today, you'll visit the wild landscape surrounding the San Agustín Archaeological Park, home to the largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America. Created by two Indigenous cultures, Magdalena and the Cauca, the park's mysterious statues are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mystery surrounds the area, though it is believed that the statues were carved between 50-400 CE and meant to worship the dead, probably the elders or chiefs of the region. Well worth a visit, arrive early to allow time to hike between the areas of interest.

Day 11: Transfer to Tierradentro

 Views along the route.
 Views along the route to Tierradentro

Today, you'll travel north toward another stunning UNESCO-protected site in Tierradentro. Though it's not as popular with tourists as San Agustín, this peaceful archaeological park is well worth a visit for its elaborate underground tombs.

Day 12: Tour Tierradentro Archaeological Park

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

Today, you'll have an opportunity to explore Tierradentro Archeological Park, famous for its painted underground burial chambers. A UNESCO World Heritage site, these subterranean tombs were created around 700 CE and rediscovered and excavated between 1930 and 1995.

Located off the beaten track of some rough roads, you'll discover a peaceful place with friendly locals. Archaeologists have discovered about 100 of these unusual funeral temples, the only examples of their kind in the Americas. Wear your walking shoes to take advantage of paths that take in major tomb sites amid beautiful mountain scenery.

Day 13: Transfer to Neiva, Explore Tatacoa Desert

Spend some time exploring the rugged Tatacoa Desert, the Badlands of Colombia.
Spend some time exploring the rugged Tatacoa Desert, the Badlands of Colombia

Today, you will arrive in Neiva, where you'll be picked up and transferred to the stunning Tatacoa Desert. Rich in fossils, this is the second largest arid zone in Colombia and is excellent for hiking and horseback riding through rugged rock formations. Get an early start and return to your hotel during the hottest hours of the day. Some of Neiva's hotels have thermal-spring-fed swimming pools—a relaxing way to cool off after a dusty trek.

Then, return before the sun sets to see the setting sun over the desert and to partake in a little stargazing—another reason travelers flock to Tatacoa. You can visit the astronomical observatory located in front of the Cuzco area. 

Day 14: Fly to Bogotá, Depart

Walk around Bogotá for street art and restaurants.
Walk around Bogotá for street art and restaurants

This morning you'll board a quick flight to Bogotá to say farewell to Colombia! Enjoy your last moments with a leisurely breakfast, a city stroll, and/or souvenir shopping. A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home.

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Map of Culture & Archaeology of Colombia - 14 Days
Map of Culture & Archaeology of Colombia - 14 Days