This sweeping 16-day itinerary showcases some of Colombia's most spectacular destinations—with daily tours and excursions to discover the hidden gems in between. Starting on the Caribbean coast, explore colonial Cartagena and the pristine beaches of Tayrona National Park before visiting the lush coffee country of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Fly to Medellín to experience the "City of Eternal Spring" and its surrounding countryside, then end your journey among the lively markets and cafes of Bogotá.

Highlights

  • Taste local rums & take a dance class in Cartagena
  • Relax on the golden sands of Tayrona National Park
  • Tour a coffee farm & chocolate workshop in the mountain village of Minca
  • Discover the spectacular underground Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá
  • Explore Bogotá's historic La Candelaria neighborhood

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cartagena Cartagena
Day 2 Dancing Class, Cartagena City Tour & Food Tasting Cartagena
Day 3 Mangrove Tour, Rum Tasting & Chocolate Pairing Cartagena
Day 4 Day Trip to the Rosario Islands Cartagena
Day 5 Transfer to Santa Marta Santa Marta
Day 6 Tayrona National Park Tour Santa Marta
Day 7 Minca Village Tour, Coffee Farm & Chocolate Workshop Santa Marta
Day 8 Day Trip to Taironaka Santa Marta
Day 9 Fly to Medellín  Medellín
Day 10 Medellín & Comuna 13 City Tour  Medellín
Day 11 Guatapé & El Peñol, Flower Experience in Santa Elena Medellín
Day 12 Hiking Excursion in the Cerro Bravo Nature Reserve  Medellín
Day 13 Fly to Bogotá  Bogotá
Day 14 Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral & Guatavita Lake Tour Bogotá
Day 15 Coffee Tasting & Bogotá City Tour Bogotá
Day 16 Depart Bogotá  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cartagena

Balconies of Cartagena
Colorful balconies in Cartagena's Old Town

Welcome to Colombia! Upon arrival at the airport in Cartagena, your local guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. A colonial jewel bathed in sunshine, culture, gastronomy, and dancing, Cartagena de Indias is one of the world’s most romantic cities. With its magical sunsets, intricate architecture, and mouthwatering cuisine, it's the perfect place for anyone who wants to experience authentic Colombian culture. Take an afternoon stroll around the city to get your bearings and lose yourself in its historic streets.

In the evening, discover Cartagena's thriving culinary scene, choosing from casual cafes frequented by locals to upscale restaurants by some of Latin America's most famous chefs.

Day 2: Dancing Class, Cartagena City Tour & Food Tasting

Dancing Class
Learn to dance the salsa in Cartagena

Today you'll lace up your dancing shoes for an exclusive private dance lesson, taught by some of the country's best instructors. Practice your moves and learn the different local rhythms such as salsa, merengue, reggaeton, and bachata. The activity is located in the area of Getsemani, and you can walk there from the Old Town or easily take a taxi.  

Afterward, a private guide will pick you up for a special half-day tour of Cartagena. Start at the La Popa Monastery for wonderful views of the city, then continue to explore the underground galleries and tunnels of San Felipe de Barajas, a Spanish military fortress that sought to protect the city from attack by the English in the 17th century. Next, you'll travel to Cartagena's walled Old Town, whose fortress-like design and stone ramparts shielded the busy port from countless pirate attacks. Stroll through many colorful squares and the narrow cobbled streets lined with colonial houses featuring bougainvilia-draped balconies. Finish in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Getsemani, where you'll learn about the history of Cartagena through street art and graffiti.
 
Throughout your tour, you will be stopping for snacks like local arepas, homemade cornbread, freshly squeezed juices, exotic fruits, and traditional sweets. At the end of the tour, you can toast the sunset with a refreshing mojito or Caribbean lemonade!

Day 3: Mangrove Tour, Rum Tasting & Chocolate Pairing

Mangrove Tour
Canoe through the beautiful mangroves of La Boquilla

Head just north of the city today to embark on a guided mangrove tour in the area of La Boquilla. The experience takes about two hours and you will navigate the mangroves in a hand-guided canoe with a local fisherman. The mangroves feature local fishing techniques and you'll see a remarkable diversity of birds and nature. You will also likely meet the local villagers who are all very friendly!

After returning to your hotel, a short walk takes you back to Getsemani, where you can taste some of the best Colombian and Caribbean rums paired with Colombian chocolate and small food platters. Each grade of rum and chocolate is carefully selected and paired to give you a unique sensory experience. The spectrum of rum and chocolate spans the coastal and mountainous regions of Colombia, from the smallest artisanal houses to the largest producers.

Day 4: Day Trip to the Rosario Islands

Rosario Islands
The brilliant blue waters and white sands of the Rosario Islands

Today takes you on an exciting day trip to the warm, crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea. Located just 45 minutes from Cartagena, the Rosario Islands are part of a beautiful archipelago off Colombia's west coast, and part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Park, one of the most important nature reserves in the country. Here, both the islands and the surrounding waters are protected, leaving them as remarkably well-preserved ecosystems.

In the morning, you'll transfer from your hotel to the pier and board a boat headed for Rosario Island. Here you'll spend the day at an eco-resort with a beautiful beach, free to snorkel or dive, go swimming, book spa services, tan under the Caribbean sun, practice kayaking, or just relax and enjoy nature. 

You'll return to Cartagena in the evening in time for dinner.

Day 5: Transfer to Santa Marta

Santa Marta boasts ocean views and traditional colonial architecture
Santa Marta boasts ocean views and traditional colonial architecture

Today a private driver takes you up the Caribbean coast from Cartagena to Santa Marta, breaking up the journey with a stop for lunch in Barranquilla. The largest city on the northern Caribbean coast and the main industrial, shopping, educational, and cultural center of the Caribbean region of Colombia, Barranquilla is also home to the Carnival Museum, dedicated to the most important folk and cultural festival of Colombia.

Upon arrival at Santa Marta, you will check into your hotel where you can relax and enjoy the afternoon. This busy port enjoys the distinction of being the first Spanish settlement in Colombia. Though it’s often used as a stopping point for day trips in the area, the historic downtown has been restored and is worth a visit. Stroll its cobbled streets lined with multi-colored buildings and take plenty of photos (you won't miss the stately, white-washed cathedral). There is a slew of hotels, restaurants, and bars in the area, too.

Nearby, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains are home to Colombia’s tallest peak, Pico Cristóbal Colón, which sits at a whopping 18,700 feet (5,700 m). These mountains are also the gateway to postcard-worthy Tayrona National Natural Park on the palm-fringed Caribbean coast.

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Day 6: Tayrona National Park Tour

Cabo de San Juan, Parque Tayrona
Cabo de San Juan, Parque Tayrona
After breakfast, your guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel and begin a full-day tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tayrona National Park). This protected area is known for having some of the most virgin coastal landscapes in the entire country. Indeed, when you see promotional images of Caribbean Colombia, often you're seeing images of Cabo San Juan, which is located in Tayrona. You'll experience much of this coastline with a local guide while touring the white-sand beaches and rainforests further inside Tayrona.

First, it's a hike in the tropical foothills near Playa 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 and enjoy the bay of white sand surrounded by large volcanic rocks. On the way here, you can observe several species of flora and fauna pointed out by your knowledgeable guide. The afternoon is yours to enjoy on your own. Have a bit of lunch and relax on the shore. Your private driver and guide will take you back to your hotel in the late afternoon. 

Day 7: Minca Village Tour, Coffee Farm & Chocolate Workshop

Minca Tour and Coffee Farm and Chocolate Workshop
Minca Tour and Coffee Farm and Chocolate Workshop

Your guide will meet you at your hotel this morning for a transfer to Minca, a mountain village located on the coastal hillside. Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains, remote Minca is seemingly a world away from the bustling city of Santa Marta just down the Caribbean coast. It's also at altitude, so remember to bring an extra layer or two as the temperatures here tend to be cooler.

Your Minca adventure includes a full-day tour, and you'll start at one of the working coffee farms in the region. After learning about the production process (and enjoying a complimentary organic coffee), you'll visit the beautiful Marinka Waterfalls (make sure to bring your bathing suit!) Then it's on to a local chocolate workshop to learn about the importance of cacao in Colombia. You will also get to try some chocolates and learn about the plant and production process. Enjoy some free time and have lunch on your own before embarking on an afternoon walking tour of Minca's town center, and returning to Santa Marta for the evening.

Day 8: Day Trip to Taironaka 

Taironaka Tour
Spend the day exploring the indigenous history of Taironaka 
This morning you'll enjoy a 45-minute ecological walk along the banks of the Don Diego River to get to Taironaka, an eco-hotel that was once one of the multiple indigenous settlements that the Tayrona culture built on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The owners of this eco-hotel worked for years to restore all the area and discovered tools and ceramic pieces belonging to the Tayronas, which today remain in a small museum and archaeological site.
 
Stroll around the place and find the small terraces built on the slopes, which emulate those that can be found in the Lost City. Later, relax and go "tubing" down the calm and refreshing waters of the Don Diego River, where you can hear and observe the howler monkeys at the top of the trees and a great variety of bird species. 

Throughout the day, you’ll enjoy the personalized attention of the staff members, all of whom are committed to making your stay truly extraordinary so that you may relax, unwind and recharge. 

Day 9: Fly to Medellín 

Medellin
Views across Medellín
This morning you'll be driven to the Santa Marta airport to catch a flight south to Medellín.
 
Upon arrival in the “City of Eternal Spring” you’ll be greeted by a driver ready to escort you to your hotel. Once one of the most notorious cities in the world, Medellín is now known as one of the safest places in South America, as well as one of the most innovative. The hub of Colombia’s medical and tech sectors, the city is nestled in the Valle de Aburrá and offers breathtaking views in every direction. A modern and efficient metro runs north to south with sky gondolas reaching the heights of the surrounding Andes Mountain range. 

Day 10: Medellín & Comuna 13 City Tour

Medellín, city nestled in the valley
Discover the neighborhoods of Medellín on a guided tour

After breakfast, your driver and guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to the city's downtown.

Explore the famous Botero Plaza with an exhibition of the Colombian artist Fernando Botero, whose sculptures have become a landmark of the city, then take the MetroCable up to Santo Domingo, which was once a notorious area of gang violence in Medellín. The cable car was constructed to make the inner city more accessible to people from the outskirts and allow visitors a glimpse into the lives of the marginalized population.

At the Comuna 13 district, with its unique escalators, you observe another innovative project that improved the quality of life of the people of Medellín. If there is time, you will also explore the Botanical Garden. At the end of the day, your driver and guide will take you back to the hotel.

Day 11: Guatapé & El Peñol, Flower Experience in Santa Elena

Guatape and El Peñol
 The lakeside town of Guatapé

This morning you'll be picked up for a half-day excursion to one of the crown jewels of Colombia's Antioquia region: the lakeside town of Guatapé. This private tour includes a guided walk through the village, a mini-history lesson, and a boat ride to explore and fully experience the lake. Known as the most colorful town in Colombia, it's hard to find a street in Guatapé that isn't worthy of being admired and photographed! Enjoy a walk through the streets, where a specialized guide will explain the town's unique culture and lead you past its traditional houses and zocalos (city squares) 

Your guide will then transfer you to El Peñol (La Piedra Rock). Relax at the base of this natural granite landmark in one of the many market stalls, or work up an appetite by climbing the 740 steps to reach the top, where you'll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the Guatapé reservoir and its neighboring lands. 

In the afternoon, continue to the small village of Santa Elena. Located less than an hour outside of Medellín in the mountains of Antioquia, the area is famous for its great variety of traditional flower farmers. The flower arrangements of the Flower Festival (Feria de Flores), called silletas, have an impressive history and are today a cultural symbol of Medellín. On this tour, you'll visit an organic flower farm and experience the traditional rural culture of Santa Elena.

Day 12: Hiking Excursion in the Cerro Bravo Nature Reserve 

Full Day trip to Nature Reserve Cerro Bravo
Hike through the lush surrounds of Cerro Bravo Nature Reserve

Lace-up your hiking boots today, for a full-day excursion to the beautiful Cerro Bravo Nature Reserve. One of the most emblematic peaks in the coffee region outside of Medellín, the Cerro Bravo is an impressive hiking experience. Following an ancient indigenous path, you'll enter the forest and hike through dense cloud forest vegetation up to an altitude of 8,530 feet (2,600 m). At the top, you'll be met with breathtaking views over huge parts of the southwest region of Antioquia and the Colombian coffee region. 

Day 13: Fly to Bogotá 

Plaza de Bogotá in La Candelaria
A private driver takes you to the Medellín airport this morning, where you'll catch a flight to the Colombian capital of Bogotá. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport and transport you to your hotel.
 
Colombia's biggest city has culture to spare, and its regional gastronomy has made it a global foodie destination. If you feel like exploring, head out on foot to the cobblestone streets of the La Candelaria neighborhood, where trendy restaurants and colonial-era landmarks are located. You'll also find excellent museums, shopping, and street food ranging from empanadas to exotic fruit salads.

Day 14: Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral & Guatavita Lake Tour

Zipaquira Salt Cathedral and Guatavita Lake Tour
The colorful underground chambers of Zipaquira Salt Cathedral 

After breakfast in Bogotá, a private car will pick you up for a journey 1.5 hours north of the capital to Zipaquirá. This town, declared a Colombian heritage site, is known for its famous underground Salt Cathedral—a Roman Catholic church built within the tunnels of an underground salt mine. Travel 590 feet (180 m) underground to marvel at the soaring ceilings and illuminated tunnels of this spectacular feat of engineering.

Afterward, visit the mythical Guatavita Lake. This sacred lake is of extreme importance for the Muisca people, as it is here that new caciques (chiefs) were initiated in a ritual that involved dumping massive amounts of gold into the center of the lake. This ritual convinced the Spanish that Guatavita might be the legendary El Dorado, prompting them to try to drain the lake in an attempt to get the gold they believed lay in its belly. You will have a short guided hike to the sacred lagoon to enjoy this unique, crater-shaped body of water and learn about its rich history. 

Day 15: Coffee Tasting & Bogotá City Tour

Browse the colorful wares of Paloquemao Fruit Market

Start this morning with a cup of Colombian coffee as you embark on a tasting experience at one of the best coffee shops in the country. You will learn to appreciate the particular attributes of specialty coffee through a delicious sensory journey. Learn about coffee production in Colombia and enjoy the different flavors and aromas of some of the best Colombian blends. Then return to your hotel for breakfast, where you'll be picked up for a day exploring the historic city center.

Begin with a visit to Paloquemao Fruit Market, which supplies fresh ingredients for the majority of the city's best restaurants. Wander the labyrinth of stalls, marvel at the sheer number of flowers for sale, and sample the variety of fruits (some of which are unique to Colombia and the Andes) and various local dishes served up by the market's restaurant stalls.

Later you’ll be transported further back in time as you enter the famous Gold Museum (Museo de Oro). Full of thousands of spectacular gold artworks, the museum displays artistry and crafts created by the indigenous peoples of the Andes mountains, with some pieces dating back thousands of years and pre-dating the creation of modern metalwork tools. You will also get to visit the Botero Museum and indulge in one of Latin America's most important international art collections.

Continue to the neighborhood of La Candelaria, home to some of Bogota’s most famous universities and the city’s most popular walking streets. Here you can stroll past modern buildings nestled against colorful and detailed street-art murals, leading to some of Bogota’s oldest neighborhoods where original colonial houses still stand. As you walk the historic streets, learn about Bogota’s culture and the importance of the city’s street art. Making your way along a beautiful canal and old restaurants in the city center, you’ll see a variety of architectural styles as you come to Plaza Bolívar, the civic heart of the country. Here you’ll find the city’s expansive cathedral and the local and federal governments, all nestled against the presidential palace, La Casa de Nariño. Finish the day with a cable car ride up to the famous viewpoint of Monserrate, which features some of the finest views in Bogotá. 

Day 16: Depart Bogotá

Goodbye Bogotá!

Bid Colombia farewell today as you're picked up from your hotel and transferred to the Bogotá airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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