This classic itinerary covers Colombia's Zona Cafetera (coffee zone), bookended by two of Latin America’s most exciting cities. The adventure starts in striking Medellín, where you'll explore this up-and-coming metropolis with a local guide. You'll then drive to the heart of the coffee region and stay overnight at a working farm. Enjoy a day in Salento with a guided hike through stunning green mountains before flying north to Cartagena, where you'll have time to hit the narrow streets of this colonial inner-walled city. Conclude your week with a free day on the coast — perhaps a speedboat ride to the Rosario Islands for white-sand beaches.

Highlights

  • Learn about Medellín's dangerous past and innovative future
  • Explore the famous coffee triangle with an overnight stay in a coffee finca
  • Hike the beautiful Cocora valley, with the country's iconic wax palm trees
  • Explore the narrow, winding streets of Cartagena’s inner-walled city
  • Sunbathe, swim, and kayak on a relaxing Caribbean Island

Brief Itinerary

Day  Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Medellín Medellín
Day 2 Medellín City Tour Medellín
Day 3 Drive to Pereira -> Overnight at a Coffee Finca Coffee region
Day 4 Hiking in Valle de Cocora -> Explore Salento Coffee region
Day 5 Flight to Cartagena (optional city tour) Cartagena
Day 6 Explore Cartagena Cartagena
Day 7 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Medellín

Medellín metrocable view
Medellín metrocable view

Welcome to Medellín! You will be picked up at the airport and then transferred to a hotel nearby.

Despite its turbulent past, Medellín today is quite charming with its beautiful mountain setting, friendly locals, and vibrant culture. Most of the city's tourism is centered 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 take a 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 — due to a high elevation near the equator, the city has year-round spring temperatures.

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

Day 2: Medellín City Tour

View of Medellín city
View of Medellín city

After breakfast at your hotel, spend a fun day exploring Medellín on a private tour with a local guide.

Walking Tour: This excursion includes a mix of sightseeing by foot and taking the Metro (fares included) through one of Colombia's most successful urban projects, as if you were a citizen of Medellín yourself. The guide will pick you up in your hotel and you'll take a ride downtown visiting the Administrative Center (La Alpujarra) and Botero Square. From here, enjoy the views from the city's iconic gondola car system (pay directly) — and head for the Botanical Garden with more than 4,500 flowers. The tour ends by taking the Metro to Central Mayorista, Plaza Mayor, and a zen-inspired public park in Medellín before you return to your hotel using public transportation. (Hint: there's also an option that includes graffiti street art and riding the Metrocable towards remote neighborhoods on the valley side.)

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

Tour Duration: 6 Hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 3: Drive to Pereira -> Overnight at a Coffee Finca

Coffee finca
Coffee finca

Today, you'll be picked up from your hotel in Medellín after breakfast and transferred by private car to Colombia's Coffee Triangle. The drive takes about six hours, but the beautiful landscapes along the way are rewarding as you leave the city behind and enter bright green Andean mountains. In other words, keep your camera within easy reach.

After lunch on your own, you'll be driven to a nice, traditional coffee finca (farm) on a picturesque hillside outside of Pereira, where you will see every step of the coffee production process. Furthering this authentic experience, you'll stay overnight and learn even more about this important trade in Colombia (third highest in the world for coffee bean production), not to mention frequent tastings!

Dinner will be served in the early evening, and you'll have free time to enjoy the grounds and accommodations.

Day 4: Hiking in Valle de Cocora -> Explore Salento

Wax palms in teh Cocora Valley
Wax palms in teh Cocora Valley

Wake up with a hearty breakfast. From here, you'll be picked up and transferred to a trail in the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley), near Salento's charming center. As you make your way to the trail, you’ll find yourself in view of the distinctive Quindío wax palms, which are among the highest trees in the world reaching a height of up to 70 meters. 

This remarkably lush (and thankfully, protected) cloud forest set against the Andean mountainside gives the phrase "verdant green" new meaning. Add in these soaring, skinny wax palms — Colombia's national tree — that cheerfully dot the mountainous landscape, and the Valle de Cocora makes for an outstanding hiking opportunity that you won't want to miss. This loop takes you along dirt tracks through tropical forests and streams for some incredible views and amazing photos, so bring your camera!

After the hike, head back to the colorful streets of Salento and enjoy the rest of the day on your own. Despite Salento's rise in tourism (mostly backpackers) over the past decade, this magical place retains an old-world charm with colorful Paisa architecture, musicians on street corners, and an incredible range of handicrafts. 

Hike Duration: 3 Hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Day 5: Flight to Cartagena (optional city tour)

Cartagena old town
Cartagena old town

After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the airport for your flight to Cartagena. This picturesque colonial city on the Caribbean Sea is rich in culture, architecture, romance — and, yes, even pirate history. Upon arrival, you'll be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Depending on the time of your arrival, consider a few options. You can relax and enjoy the hotel amenities or jump into action with a neighborhood walk, either by yourself or with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on). Here are some things that you should see:

  • Wander the narrow, winding streets of the inner-walled city with a camera to photograph colorful houses and lively squares overflowing with bougainvillea.
  • Check out the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo stopping at key sites like Plaza de los Coches, Plaza de la Aduana, Parque Bolívar, and Plaza de Santa Teresa.  
  • Walk along the Old Town's original fortress walls, built (starting in 1586) with the purpose of protecting Cartagena from any attacks. You'll get some amazing panoramic views of the city (and the sunset!) from here. 
  • Pay respects at Santo Domingo, reputedly the oldest church in the city. 
  • Peek in La Vitrola for future reference — this is the city's most famous restaurant in a 400-year-old colonial home. 
  • Explore Getsemani, the up-and-coming neighborhood just outside the walls of Cartagena's historic Old City. Once a seedy area, Getsemani is now a haven for hip culture with charming Spanish colonial architecture, graffiti art, boutique hotels, and street food vendors.

Finish the day on your own with mojitos and fresh ceviche in one of the city’s hip restaurants or rooftop bars.

Day 6: Explore Cartagena

Tourists in the Cartagena old town
Tourists in the Cartagena old town

After breakfast, take your pick between numerous ways to experience Cartagena, either on your own or with a private tour (optional add-on), whether it’s a surfing trip along the coast, a boat trip to pristine Caribbean beaches, or even a sunset sail with a glass of bubbly.

Other options include a guided walking tour of Cartagena's UNESCO World Heritage walled city. Together with an English-speaking professional, you will delve deeper into South America’s most extensive fortifications and visit famous sites like the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, located on the Hill of San Lázaro, and San Pedro, with its Andalusian-style palaces and Cathedral.

If an organized tour isn’t appealing, simply create your own adventure around the city. At dusk, take part in the unforgettable atmosphere as the city comes alive with street performers and musicians.

Day 7: Depart Cartagena

Cartagena at dusk
Cartagena at dusk

It's time to say farewell to Colombia! After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a relaxing café, or — if you have not done so yet — take a walk around the city with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on) to gain a new perspective of the city from a local. 

This tour covers Cartagena's enchanting maze of colorful houses and lively squares from the 16th century. Meander through the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo while learning about important historical sites like Saint Philip's Castle and el Museo del Oro. 

A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home.

Map

Map of Medellín, Zona Cafetera & Cartagena - 7 Days
Map of Medellín, Zona Cafetera & Cartagena - 7 Days