Classic Colombia - 16 days
Take in the highlights of captivating Colombia, wander around colonial cities, uncover sun-kissed beaches nestled in the wildlife-rich Tayrona national park and discover the ancient stone monuments of San Agustin on this 16 day adventure.
Saturday. Hola Colombia! Upon arrival at Bogota airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel. This afternoon we embark on a guided tour through the city's cobbled streets, passing through the fascinating colonial area of Candelaria with its fine historical buildings, including churches and the presidential palace. Then we visit the Botero museum where we see the art and sculptures of Colombia’s most famous artist. Our final stop is the city's famous Gold Museum which houses more than 50,000 pieces of gold.
Please note: we recommend booking flights to arrive into Bogota before midday, in order to join the city tour which usually starts at approximately 2pm. Pre tour accommodation can be arranged upon request.
Today is free to spend at leisure or there are some optional excursions in and around Bogota on offer including a visit to the picturesque La Sabana countryside to the centuries-old Zipaquira salt mine - which lies 200 meters beneath the earth and houses the salt cathedral whose pillars and walls are made from the gleaming salt from the mines. The excursion continues to the Guatavita Lagoon, where there is a hike to the crater-lake‘s rim for amazing views of the surroundings.
Overnight: Bogota | Breakfast
Bogota - San Agustin. After breakfast we’re transferred to the airport for a quick one-hour flight to Neiva. We then continue our journey with a 4-hour drive through emerald green hills and coffee plantations until we reach the town of San Agustin. This pretty little town, which was once the neutral ground used to trade and worship by Magdalena and Cauca indigenous cultures, is our base for the next three nights. The town is home to attractive colonial houses and churches, cobbled streets and shady plazas.
Overnight: San Agustin | Breakfast
We spend our day exploring the remarkable San Agustin archaeological park, which is home to over 100 statues, some of which date back to 3,300 BC. Alongside the statues are the burial houses which were used to make human sacrifices and offerings to the gods. We spend some time marveling at the beauty of the countryside and have the opportunity to hike into the surrounding area, to the Fuente de Lavapatas, a fountain set on a bed of carved rocks in the creek.
Overnight: San Agustin | Breakfast
Today is free to spend at leisure or there is an optional Jeep excursion to the Magdalena Canyon passing through sugar plantations and steep gorges. We have time to explore the canyon and see the huge figures caved into the rocks of the canyons walls, with some free-standing stones sculpted into animals while the river crashes below us.
Overnight: San Agustin | Breakfast
San Agustin - Popayan. This morning finds us driving through rugged hills until we descend to the university town of Popayan, a stately colonial town often referred to as the ‘White City’ due to the abundance of white-walled buildings and cathedral in the centre. The city was founded in 1537 by the Spanish Conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar and played an important role in colonial times as a rest stop for the miners transporting the gold between Lima, Quito and Cartagena before it was sent to Spain. In March 1983 an earthquake shook the city, caving in the cathedral roof which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people, and despite other earthquakes since then the city has maintained its charm and character. We spend the night at leisure.
Overnight: Popayan | Breakfast
The Coffee Region
Popayan - Armenia. From Popayan it's a 5-hour drive to the heart of the coffee region where we spend three days relaxing and walking along the trails of colourful flora, fauna and fresh coffee. On arrival there is a guided tour of a local farm where we gain insight into the regions agriculture and learn about fruit and coffee production including the picking, de-pulping, washing, drying and roasting of the beans.
Day 8 will be spent driving to the traditional village of Salento, where we have free time to wander through the streets and admire the houses adorned with balconies bursting with flowers, and sit back and bask in the view of the Cordillera Central mountain range emerging from behind the buildings. The afternoon finds us heading east of Salento to the beautiful nature reserve of Valle de la Cocora, home of Colombia’s national tree, the wax palm which grows over 3000m. We follow the well market path to the top of the valley for views of mountains’ foothills.
On the last day in the region there is an optional visit to the Botanical Gardens at Calarca and follow the series of natural trails, passing tropical flowers until we reach the insect museum and enclosed butterfly garden. Alternatively, there is the option to explore the surrounding areas on a horse-riding excursion.
Overnight: Armenia | Breakfast x 3
Armenia - Santa Marta. Flying via Bogota we arrive at the oldest city in Colombia and the first one settled by the Spanish, Santa Marta, which is our base for the next two nights. The city has an important historical centre and a beautiful old town, and it is most famous for being the birthplace of the great liberator Simon Bolivar. We spend the rest of the evening at leisure exploring the city.
On day 11 we embark on an excursion to the beautiful Tayrona National Park, which was once home to the indigenous Tayrona Indians and has some of the best coastline on the continent. Tayrona is perfect for a spot of escapism. We have the day here to follow the tree-covered trails through the tropical forest, with monkeys swinging above our heads, until we reach the secluded beaches where roads and cars have no access. You can snorkel in the reefs, visit some of the local villages in the nearby mountains or hike through the dense rainforest, stumbling across ancient pre-Columbian ruins reclaimed by the jungle.
Overnight: Santa Marta | Breakfast x 2
Santa Marta - Mompos. We board our bus this morning and make our way to the provincial town of Aracataca, the famous birth place of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of Latin America’s most famous writers. Born in the town in 1927, his family home is now a museum and we take some time to follow in the footsteps of this iconic writer.
Our afternoon journey continues past banana and palm oil plantations until we reach the 16th century town of Mompos. Situated on the eastern banks of the Magdalena River the town resembles something out of one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels, with the whitewashed colonial mansions and buildings which were once home to Spanish merchants, who used the town as a stopping off point on the trade route to Cartagena. The rest of the day is at leisure.
On day 13 we embark on a boat trip along the banks of the wildlife-rich Magdalena River, which is home to cormorants, white heron and iguanas. Our last night in Mompos is at leisure.
Overnight: Mompos | Breakfast x 2
Mompos - Cartagena. Today we travel back to the Caribbean coast and the famous city of Cartagena. Our final destination, is one of the most interesting colonial towns on the continent. On arrival we have the rest of the day to wander the streets of the city and soak up the mix of Caribbean and African influences. There are several interesting sites to see such as Castillo San Felipe and the fortress on San Lazaro hill. Beneath this fortress is a maze of tunnels and there are still cannons in place along the battlements. Also worthwhile is a trip up La Popa hill to visit the colourful convent with great views over the city. The Boca Grande area of Cartagena is where Colombians come for their beach holidays and it is full of shops, nightclubs and bars. Near Cartagena is the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, a mud volcano where you can relax and wallow in the mud, which is believed to be a good treatment for the skin.
Overnight: Cartagena | Breakfast
Our morning is spent walking through the streets of the Caribbean’s most romantic colonial city. Founded in 1533, this city quickly became the main Spanish port in the Caribbean, and a prime target for pirates when native treasure was stored in the city while waiting to be shipped back to Spain. In a bid to protect their loot the Spanish constructed walls around the city which still encircle the town. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Make your way to the old town square to watch some of the Cumbia dance performances or sit in one of the cafes lining the walkway to sip on a drink and look out onto the sea.
Overnight: Cartagena | Breakfast
Sunday. Cartagena - Bogota. Transfer back to Cartagena airport for an included flight back to Bogota.
Please provide us with your international flight details and we will book the domestic flight at a suitable time for you. Arrangements end upon arrival at the Bogota airport or we can book post tour accommodation upon request.
Prices & Dates
Prices shown are per person travelling. 'Twin/Double' prices per person apply when there are 2 people travelling, sharing a room. The 'Single supplement' applies to travellers who would like the comfort of their own room (on all or many of the tour nights) and needs to be added to the 'Twin/Double' price. If you are happy to be paired up with another single traveller of the same sex on your tour, this can be arranged, thus avoiding the single person supplement.
The hotels listed below are ones which we frequently use on this tour. We reserve the right to substitute these hotels to ones of a similar standard when necessary.
Hotel Casa Deco, Bogota
Centrally located in the colonial neighbourhood of Bogota, the Casa Deco Hotel offers a home away from home in this small family run boutique property. Each guestroom is equipped with Italian furniture, private bathroom, TV, WiFi and 24 hour service. The hotel features a lovely terrace to sit and enjoy breakfast or a drink at the bar while enjoying the breath-taking views of the city. Or for cooler evenings, sit in front of the fireplace.
Akawanka Lodge, San Agustin
Surrounded by lush natural landscapes and attractive manicured gardens, the Akawanka Lodge is a peaceful nest in the mountains and the perfect base for exploring the San Agustin Archaeological Park. The rustic guestrooms are generously-sized with simple furnishings and colourful decorations. Free WiFi is available and the lodge also has an onsite restaurant and bar where guests can dine on dishes made with organic produce cultivated from the local garden. It's possible to book mountain bike expeditions, rafting and canoeing trips, and excursions to the local waterfalls through the lodge.
Hotel La Plazuela, Popayan
Set in converted 18th century mansion in the heart of Popayan, is the charming Hotel La Plazuela. Each guestroom provides a private bathroom, TV, WiFi and room service. You can enjoy local and fusion cuisine in the onsite restaurant , then head out to explore in the evening - you’ll find plenty of bars close by.
La Casa Del Piano Hotel, Santa Marta
Set in the heart of Santa Marta’s historic centre, La Casa Del Piano Boutique Hotel is conveniently located minutes from the beach and Santa Marta Bay. Its bright guestrooms pay homage to famous pianists such as Mozart and Beethoven and feature a private bathroom, TV and safe. Once outside, the hotel boasts three terraces with a swimming pool and jacuzzi to soak up the sun. You can dine in the rooftop restaurant and bar and bask in the views of the city.
La Casa Amarilla, Mompos
Nestled in the historic Santa Barbara Plaza, just in front of the Magdalena River is the charming colonial Casa Marilla Hotel. Set in a converted 17th century home, the hotel offers a home away from home. Each air-conditioned guestroom features a private bathroom and LCD TV. The highlight of this property however, has to be the rooftop terrace, which offers spectacular views of the river and is perfect to enjoy the sunset before heading out in the evening to explore – you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants close by.
Don Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena
With its attractive colonial style set against the historical centre of Cartagena, the Don Pedro de Heredia offers the perfect combination of romantic character and tangible history. The rooms display a rustic decor with traditional beamed ceilings and wood furniture but also boast free WiFi and satellite TV for modern comfort. The rooftop terrace is the perfect place to unwind under the Caribbean sun with loungers and panoramic views of the city.