Colombia Revealed

Colombia combines vibrant cities, ancient ruins and superlative landscapes with African rhythms and exquisite colonial architecture. We start this trip in the capital Bogota, exploring its charming historic quarter of La Candelaria as well the nearby high plateaus of Sumapaz, home to indigenous wildlife, endemic vegetation and local communities. From here we head to the eroded landscapes of the Tatacoa desert, before continuing to San Agustin. Here we discover the remnants of an ancient civilisation about which little is known – all that is left behind is an enigmatic series of statues, tombs and temples.

We then head to Colombia’s famed ‘coffee region’, a land of picturesque farms steeped in tradition, and valleys dotted with the iconic wax palm trees, stretching several storeys into the sky. We learn about the heritage and customs of the region, as well as travelling through some of Colombia’s most scenic parts.

In Medellin we learn how a city has transformed itself from one of the most dangerous in the world to a thriving, rejuvenated community, meeting the people who have helped to turn around its fortunes – as well as sampling some great street food. Nearby Santa Fe, founded in the 16th century, offers an opportunity to step back in time with its historic churches, palaces and plazas – a taste of the Colombia of yesteryear.

Our final stop is the gorgeous Caribbean city of Cartagena, the oldest in South America and a profusion of typical cobbled streets, colourful colonial buildings and easy going atmosphere. Once the site of great riches, it was a frequent target for piracy, and oozes history around every corner. We also visit the nearby African community of San Basilio, who have a very distinct culture, making up yet another part of the fascinating Colombian kaleidoscope.

Colombia has so many different facets that even a month long tour couldn’t cover them all, but this tour includes some of its well recognised highlights as well as showing a little more beneath the surface. Colombia is starting to become better known as one of Latin America’s most exciting countries – discover it before more people do.

Highlights

  • The Caribbean city of Cartagena
  • Explore the farms of the coffee region
  • Learn about the turbulent history of Medellin
  • The archaeological site of San Agustin
  • The landscapes of the Tatacoa Desert

Day 1 - Bogota

Arrive in Bogota and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Regina Hotel or similar.

Bogota
Situated on a plateau and surrounded by mountains, at 2640m Bogota is the third highest capital in the world, after Quito and La Paz. It was once home to the indigenous Muisca people, who settled here in small villages until the arrival of the conquistadors in the 16th century, and became the capital of Gran Colombia – a political union of present day Colombia, Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela – in the early 19th century.

Once one of the most dangerous cities on the continent, Bogota has come a long way in the last couple of decades, reinventing itself as a stylish and chic metropolis, with a huge amount of green space – there are almost 5000 public parks in the city’s boundaries. Sleek skyscrapers jostle for space with elegant residential neighbourhoods, and for visitors one of the most interesting areas is the historic quarter of La Candelaria. Here you’ll find pastel coloured colonial building, balconies draped with flowers and quaint cobbled streets – a little taste of Bogota a couple of hundred years ago. The Gold Museum is also well worth a look, even if you’re not normally into museums – the collection of pre-Columbian gold jewellery is exceptional.

Day 2 - Bogota

Spend the day exploring Colombia’s capital on a walking tour. We visit the historic district of La Candelaria with its traditional houses and picturesque streets, visiting key buildings and monuments such as the State Palace and Plaza Bolivar, as well as its pretty churches. We’ll also visit the impressive Museo del Oro – the Gold Museum, and the hill of Monserrate for panoramic views over the city. Overnight Regina Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 3 - Sumapaz

Today we head out of the city to Sumapaz, to explore the high plateau landscapes of the Paramo. This is a unique ecosystem only found in Latin America, home to endemic vegetation, mountain scenery and the local communities of a more rural side of Bogota, who we stop to meet along the way. We take an easy hike through the paramo with a traditional lunch on the way. This region was once the stomping ground of Colombia’s FARC guerillas, and we’ll learn more about the complex issues that the country has faced on the past, before returning to Bogota. Overnight Regina Hotel or similar. (BL)


Day 4 - Zipaquira - Tatacoa Desert

Travel to the small town of Zipaquira, best known for its remarkable ‘salt cathedral’, which has been hewn from the depths of a mine. Afterwards, drive back to Bogota and from here fly to Neiva. From here drive to Villavieja, on the edge of the Tatacoa Desert. Overnight Hotel Yararaka or similar. (B)


Day 5 - Tatacoa Desert - San Agustin

Explore the wind and sand eroded landscapes of the Tatacoa desert, dotted with huge cacti and crossed by dry canyons – one of Colombia’s most impressive landscapes, and at odds with much of the rest of the country. From here drive to San Agustin. Overnight Finca el Maco or similar. (B)


Day 6 - San Agustin

This morning is spent visiting San Agustin, Colombia’s most important archaeological site. Numerous stone sculptures and monuments dot the site, evidence of a once powerful civilization about which little is known. Later we visit the Estrecho del Magdalena, where Colombia’s largest river passes through a narrow two metre gorge, and the town of Obando with its ethnographic museum and pre-Hispanic tombs. Overnight Finca el Maco or similar. (B)

San Agustin
San Agustin is one of the most important archaeological sites in South America, boasting a wealth of ancient treasures scattered around the pretty countryside of the Upper Magdalena Valley. For some years the site was out of bounds due to security issues, but is now accessible once more. The site was excavated in the 1930s, and archaeologists found rock carvings, ceremonial statues and burial mounds which bear evidence of a sophisticated culture, thought to date back to at least the 2nd century BC. Many of the statues, which are between one and seven metres high and weigh over one ton, express the duality the sun and moon, and between death and birth.

Little is known about this culture as it left no written records, but it had entirely disappeared by the 16th century. San Agustin was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1995.

Day 7 - Cali - Corcora Valley

Fly to Cali, and from here transfer to Salento in the Cocora Valley. This is our base for exploring the landscapes and heritage of Colombia’s coffee region. Overnight Hotel Salento Real or similar. (B)

The Coffee Triangle
The ‘Coffee Triangle’, situated around Colombia’s temperate Andean slopes is famous for its superior quality coffee, which is exported worldwide. As well as its numerous picturesque coffee plantations – there are around 300,000 growers in the region – the region as a whole has much more to offer: butterfly farms, botanical gardens, hot springs, river rafting, and national parks such as Los Nevados, with multiple volcanoes. One of the prettiest areas is the Cocora Valley, known for its iconic wax palm tree, which can reach 60 metres in height, and its numerous hummingbird species.

Day 8 - La Carbonera

An early start sees us taking jeeps along an old mountain road, passing the lush landscapes of the Central Mountains and Nevados National Park. Climbing to an altitude of 3340m, we have superb views along the way, before descending to the farm of La Carbonera. Here we walk among the unique wax palm landscapes – these unusual palms reach up to 70 metres – before returning to Salento for the evening. Overnight Hotel Salento Real or similar. (B)


Day 9 - Coffee farm

Spend the morning on a traditional farm, learning about all aspects of growing and processing coffee – a key element of Colombian culture. Later we see how they grow plantains and learn about their place in local cuisine, with a chef teaching us how to transform them into a meal, and ending with a typical Colombian barbecue. Overnight Hotel Salento Real or similar. (BD)


Day 10 - Medellin

Fly from the town of Armenia to Medellin. On arrival we take a gastronomic tour to explore the city’s varied street food, sampling some of the best regional snacks including empanadas, bunuelos and arepas. Overnight La Campana Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 11 - Medellin

Explore the city of Medellin. From a reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous cities in the 1990s, Medellin has undergone a remarkable transformation, and is now one of the most innovative and progressive cities in Latin America. We’ll learn about the city’s tragic history, and visit the neighbourhood of La Moravia to see how it has been transformed from a rubbish dump into a thriving and popular barrio, meeting community leaders and seeing local projects. Overnight La Campana Hotel or similar. (B)

Medellin
Known as the ‘city of eternal spring’ for its ever pleasant climate, Medellin is also known for its murky past. Back in the early 90s when the search for drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar was underway, Medellin was an incredibly dangerous place, and the cocaine capital of the world. Feuds between gang members and left wing revolutionary groups led to the city suffering a high rate of murder and other violent crime, but since the early 2000s Medellin began to change.

Local politicians started to invest heavily in infrastructure and public education, and slum areas were given a thorough make over – Medellin experienced a huge renaissance and is now one of the most pleasant and peaceful cities in Latin America.

Day 12 - Santa Fe de Antioquia

Drive through the scenic landscapes of the Western Andean highlands to the town of Santa Fe de Antioquia. The town was founded in 1541 and is one of the oldest on the continent, with some gorgeous colonial architecture giving it a real feel of days gone by. Return to Medellin for the evening. Overnight La Campana Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 13 - Cartagena

Fly from Medellin to the Caribbean city of Cartagena, perhaps Colombia’s most striking. After settling in at the hotel, we head out again this afternoon for a traditional rum tasting session. Overnight Don Pedro de Heredia Hotel or similar. (B)

Cartagena
Cartagena – or Cartagena de Indias, to give it its full name – is one of our favourite cities in Latin America, with gorgeous colonial architecture, brightly painted old houses and quaint cobbled streets. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, due to its fortified historic centre – the most extensive on the continent, and it was the first Spanish city founded in South America. Its fortifications were necessary to protect it from marauding bands of pirates keen on stealing gold from the Spanish empire, wealth which was manifested in the impressive cathedrals, palaces and other buildings that give the city such character. This is a great place to just wander around and soak up the atmosphere, stopping from time to time in a pavement café to watch the world go by….

Day 14 - Cartagena

We spend today exploring Cartagena. The city is packed full of exquisite colonial architecture and has a very different feel to regions further south. We visit the fort of San Felipe and the San Pedro Claver Convent among other sites, and have plenty of time to wander the picturesque streets and plazas that give Cartagena its unique flavour. Overnight Don Pedro de Heredia Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 15 - San Basilio de Palenque

Travel to the nearby town of San Basilio de Palenque, a stronghold of the Afro-Colombian population and with a rather distinct character, traditions and customs. As we explore the town we meet local musicians, learn a little of the language, and discover the part that the town played in the history of Colombian liberation. We have a traditional lunch here, before returning to Cartagena in the late afternoon. Overnight Don Pedro de Heredia Hotel or similar. (BL)


Day 16 - Cartagena

Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)


This trip can be combined with our Panama – From the Cloudforests to the Caribbean tour for an epic adventure through Central and South America.

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

    Please note that while we prefer to use centrally located hotels where possible, this is not always practical and in some locations they may not be the best option in terms of standards or reliability.

     

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour (www.travcour.com) can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

UK nationals don’t need a visa to visit Colombia and can stay for up to 90 days. Citizens of most American and Western European countries don’t need a visa either. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Peru and you should have two blank pages in your passport. 

Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information. 

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The official currency in Colombia is the peso – confusingly, often represented by a $ sign. Not all shops, hotels, restaurants and bars accept credit cards, or may not accept all credit card types. Check if they take cards before asking for anything and keep all debit and credit card receipts. When using an ATM, it is best to do so in business hours inside a bank, supermarket or large commercial building

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience. 

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any parts of Colombia that we visit on our tours.We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Colombia. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

 

Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
07 August 2021
Price (PP) -
£3,199
Single Supplement -
£410
Trip Status -
Contact us
Date -
05 February 2022
Price (PP) -
£3,299
Single Supplement -
£410
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
06 August 2022
Price (PP) -
£3,299
Single Supplement -
£410
Trip Status -
Available