Detailed review of our Colombia itinerary - Dec 28 - Jan 11, 2020
Overall the trip was fantastic. There were a few things we probably would have done differently if we had more knowledge about the area. Here is our detailed review of the itinerary:
Day 1: Everything went well with the transportation from the airport to the hotel. The hotel was great. The only critique we have for the hotel is the lack of breakfast options. But the hotel was in a great location and we would stay there again.
Day 2: Awesome bike tour. We really liked our guide and all the stops he took us to. It was one of our favorite activities of the whole trip.
Day 3: Travel day went smoothly. The Hacienda was okay. Really nice service and accommodations. But the hotel was in the middle of nowhere which made it difficult to figure out what to do. Would have appreciated a hotel in a more central location (i.e. downtown Pereira). Would have also appreciated an activity planned for this day given that we got to the Hacienda so early in the day and organizing transportation ourselves for an activity that day was a process.
Day 4: The tour this day was amazing. We loved our tour guide Christian. He was very friendly and informative. The hike was amazing,. However, the hike was different than what we had thought we were doing. The initial itinerary said we would go through 6 suspension bridges and see a waterfall. The hike was changed we assume because we had to change the location of our hotel from the one in Salento to the Hacienda. We wished we would have gotten to do the longer hike and then the coffee farm the next day.
Day 5: We had no planned activities for this day. Oliver told us that there were no tours running on New Years Day. However, our tour guide Christian informed us that there were indeed lots of tours running and that most Colombians, especially in tourism, do not take the day off. We were disappointed that Oliver did not plan anything for us this day. We had to figure out what to do ourselves, including transportation which proved to be difficult for us. We ended up going to Los Termales, and it was wonderful. We don't know why Oliver did not suggest an activity like this for us, given that so many things were actually open.
Day 6: Our flight to Medellin was scheduled midday, which made it difficult for us to fully take advantage of this day in either Pereira or Medellin. We wish we would have either had an early morning flight or a later flight. We made the best of it by going to Pereira early in the morning and walking around downtown, but we wish that we would have had an activity planned for this day. Given that the original activity Oliver had planned for this day (the tour of the coffee farm) was cancelled due to our hotel location, Oliver should have also changed the time of the flight because there was nothing to do near our hotel.
The hotel in Medellin was incredible. Perfect location. We could not have loved it more.
Day 7: We had a walking tour. The tour guide Carlos was not the best. He was nice, but was not effective at communicating the history of Medellin. We probably could have done without paying for this walking tour and instead gone on the free walking tour which we heard great things about. We ended up paying Carlos extra money to take us to Parque Arvi, but he unintentionally mislead us because when we got up there it turned out what we could not do anything without paying even more money (and Carlos failed to inform us of this). And Carlos also didn't let us know that if we went up to Parque Arvi, we wouldn't then have time to do any of the trails. So basically we had to spend 60,000 additional pesos for nothing.
Day 8: We loved our tour this day with Jessica. She was by far the most knowledge tour guide we had and told us so many interesting stories about the history of Colombia. Jessica also was very flexible because apparently the tour she was going to take us on overlapped with the tour we had the day before, so she changed the tour a bit to take us to places we hadn't seen yet. In hindsight, we should have just done this tour with Jessica instead of the tour with Carlos on Day 7 and then had another activity planned for Day 8. For instance, on Day 8, we could have had a specific tour of Parque Arvi or something like that. But Jessica was fantastic.
Day 9: This was our day trip to Guatape with Jessica. Again Jessica was great, but the traffic and lines were horrendous. Because of the large crowds, we probably should have gone to Guatape in the morning and then the flower farm in the afternoon.
Day 10: We arrived to Tayrona Park. Our flight was in the late morning. We wish Oliver would have booked us an early flight so that we could have done an activity in Tayrona Park that first day. We felt like the day was wasted because there was nothing to do once we got to our hotel. The hotel was fine. Lucile was very friendly. We would have preferred to stay in a nicer hotel, but did not want to spend the extra money so we got what we paid for.
Day 11: Very fun day in Tayrona Park. However, we did not need a guide for this hike (although Jose was very nice and gave us space). It was a very manageable hike and we could have done it ourselves. What we did appreciate was the transportation to the start of the hike and that our driver picked up our passes early in the morning so that we didn't have to wait in line. We also wished we had known that there were 2 hike options, each one starting from a different entrance. If we had known, we would have picked the longer/more adventurous hike option.
Day 12: Our driver made good time driving to Cartagena. We liked our hotel. Shortly after we arrived we had a walking tour. This was the worst walking tour either of us have ever been on. Our tour guide was awful. It was hard to understand her and she did not seem knowledgeable about the things she was showing us. She could not answer our questions and in many instances even ignored our questions and just moved on. She was more concerned with showing us where her friends had shops than educating us about Cartagena. The tour was also supposed to be 4 hours, but was just short of 2 hours. However, we were happy it was over sooner so that we could walk around ourselves without her. We are upset we had to pay money for this tour (especially because there were free walking tours that had great reviews--we passed some on our tour and listened to what those tour guides were saying about Cartagena, which sounded so much more informative and interesting than what our tour guide was saying). We would not recommend Oliver ever booking this tour again for other customers.
Day 13: The cooking class was great.
Day 14: We really loved the day trip to the island. The only thing about this trip was that we had to pay for all the activities we did on the island separately. We would have liked to have known beforehand that the activities (i.e. snorkeling, cannoeing, biking) were each separate charges.
Day 15: Smooth transportation to the airport.
We appreciate how smoothly everything went. No real issues came up for us. Everything (all the tour guides and transportation) was on time. One thing we would have liked to have known before the trip was how much to tip each driver and tour guide. If we had known how much we were paying for each activity, it would have been easier for us to figure out how much to tip. But we did not not have a breakdown of how much everything cost. A detailed breakdown of costs would have been helpful overall in the planning process.