Secrets of Colombia
Secrets of Colombia
Colombia is emerging from its reputation as the bad boy of Latin America to show its true colours as one of the most exciting corners of the continent. Put aside what you’ve read about Colombia’s murky past – for those willing to step beyond the stereotypes the country offers a breathtaking array of world class attractions that are sure to leave an imprint on the souls of all who visit. On this two week journey of discovery we take a trip back into the past, exploring the magnificent colonial heritage of Cartagena and Villa de Leyva, and spend time in the famed coffee zone, experiencing rural life set amidst spectacular scenery. We also explore the stunning Tayrona National Park, one of the most beautiful parts of Colombia, with rainforest and pristine beaches. Join us to explore Colombia and become a convert to the joys of this welcoming and enigmatic nation.
Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●○○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●○○○
- Vibrant Bogota and the Candelaria neighbourhood
- Discover the subterranean Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá
- Spectacular scenery and rural life in the Coffee Zone
- Beautiful beaches, bays and forest of Tayrona National Park
- Cartagena’s old town (UNESCO)
Accommodation: Comfortable hotel accommodation
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum 12
Start Point: Bogota
End Point: Bogota
Transport: Private cars or buses, 4WD, domestic flights
Day 1 – Bogota
Arrive in Bogota and transfer to your hotel, located in the historic heart of the city. The rest of the day is free to explore or relax. Overnight Hotel Augusta or similar.
Colombia’s capital was established as a Spanish settlement by conquistadors in the 16th century, displacing the indigenous Muisca population that had been here before. Following independence from Spain in the 19th century it became capital of a federation of states that included Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela, eventually settling for being capital of just Colombia. As with many cities in Latin America Bogota has a rich architectural heritage and nowhere is this more apparent than in the historic quarter of La Candelaria, with its cobbled streets winding between brightly coloured colonial buildings and its wide boulevards. Once renowned as one of the most violent cities in the world, in recent years Bogota has undergone a drastic transformation as social policies have made the city a far safer place – forget what you have heard and come to experience the reality.
Day 2 – Bogota
Firstly today we will enjoy a visit to one of the best and authentic markets in Bogota, Paloquemao Market. The flower market is particularly impressive. We then explore this vibrant city on foot and by vehicle, as we walk around La Candelaria – the historical centre of Bogota with colonial and baroque style buildings and cobblestone streets and plazas, where we also visit the Gold Museum housing many pre-Colombian pieces. See incredible views of Bogota City from one of its mountainous peaks at the Monserrate monastery. Overnight Hotel Augusta or similar. (BL)
Day 3 – Zipaquira – Villa de Leyva
After a walking tour of Zipaquira we drive to the famous Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, carved into the tunnels of a salt mine. From here continue to the beautifully preserved and traditional town of Villa De Leyva. Overnight Hotel Getsemani or similar. (BL)
The ‘Salt Cathedral’ of Zipaquira is carved into the walls of an ancient salt mine once exploited by the Muisca Indians, 200 metres inside a mountain. Although not officially a cathedral, it attracts worshippers every Sunday, and its interior consists of winding passages and rooms, with fourteen small chapels representing the Stations of the Cross. Starting off life as a small chapel for the miners, the construction of the present day cathedral involved the extraction of 250,000 tons of stone from the mine.
Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is one of the most picturesque towns in Colombia, if not all Latin America, with gorgeously well preserved colonial buildings, cobbled streets and a tradition of excellent handicrafts. The town is an excellent place to while away a few hours exploring, watching the world go by from pavement cafes and getting lost in its backstreets.
Day 4 – Villa de Leyva
Spend the morning exploring Villa de Leyva. We take a guided walk through its atmospheric cobblestone streets that boast colourful bougainvilleas spilling from balconies, patios, courtyards and white washed buildings with red tiled roofs. Free afternoon to explore at your leisure. Overnight Hotel Getsemani (B)
Day 5 – Bogota – Armenia - Salento
Drive back to Bogota. From here fly to Armenia and then drive to our accommodation in Salento. Overnight Hotel Salento Real or similar. (B)
The Coffee Zone
The coffee region for many people is the heart and soul of Colombia, its cultural epicentre. With every turn, a spectacular panorama changes your perspective, from the rolling hillsides of fertile coffee plantations to plunging valleys and bold elevations. Campasino or rural life continues as it has done for centuries harvesting coffee, plantains and many other fruits in this lush and fertile land.
Three departments make up the Triangulo Del Café. They run in a North to South line following the Central Andean Cordillera. Caldas is the most northerly of the departments, then heading south to Risaralda and in turn Quindío. All three are flanked by the snow-capped peaks of the Parque Natural Los Nevados to the east. The climate is reflected by the extremes in altitude, from the harsh temperatures and savage beauty of the surrounding mountains, to the sultriness of the Rio Cauca. The Rio Cauca is the largest watercourse in the region and the second most important in Colombia. The river begins from its source in the department of Cauca to its mergence with the Rio Brazo and then onto its connection with the Rio Magdalena further north. As the name suggests the coffee region is the home to the famous Colombian coffee but there is far more on offer in this amazing part of the country.
Day 6 – Salento – Valle de Cocora
We visit Salento, a typical town of the coffee zone with an interesting historic centre, and then head to the lush natural park of Valle Del Cocora, where we have lunch and walk in the area. From here we travel to the picturesque village of Filandia, before returning to our hotel. Overnight Hotel Salenta Real or similar. (BL)
Day 7 – Coffee zone
Spend today learning about the life and culture of the coffee region. We will spend time visiting some of the local coffee villages, stop at a coffee farm and hacienda, visit plantations and learn about the process that turns coffee beans into one of Colombia’s most renowned products. Overnight Hotel Salento Real or similar (BL)
Day 8 – Santa Marta
Fly via Bogota to Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast. Overnight Santa Marta Real or similar. (B)
Day 9 – Tayrona National Park
After an early start, we spend a full day exploring the magical Parque Tayrona, with its wild and beautiful beaches and rainforest tracks. Please note that the trails can be challenging especially after rain so good footwear is recommended. Also please be aware that this section of coastline is subject to strong currents and tides. Therefore, swimming is limited to certain beaches and on occasions can close without warning if conditions dictate. After exploring Tayrona we return to Santa Marta. Overnight Santa Marta Real or similar. (BL)
Access to Tayrona National Park
Upon arrival at the national park and after completing entrance requirements the vehicle continues about another 1km into Tayrona. From this point we will walk the final leg to our accommodation which depending on the fitness level of the group will generally take around an hour. Please note the park can be hot and humid and so we recommend that you take adequate water for the walk. You should also be wearing comfortable walking shoes or boots as the trail can be uneven with some short inclines and declines. It can be slippery and wet. Lightweight long trousers and a shirt are recommended as the trail passes through some dense vegetation. Also mosquitos can be present; hence the need to cover legs and arms. For those who may find the walk to be challenging, at an extra cost payable locally, your luggage can be carried by mule. There is also the option to ride a mule rather than walk, again an extra charge will be payable locally.
Tayrona National Park
Tayrona has some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in South America, with palm fringed beaches and rocky headlands making it a superb place to explore. Traditionally home to the Kogui Indians, it is one of the most biologically diverse stretches of coastline in Latin America and contains several species of monkeys, wild pigs, and various species of reptiles and many birds.
Day 10 – Santa Marta
We take a half day city tour of Santa Marta and then you will have some time to explore at leisure or just relax this afternoon. Overnight Santa Marta Real or similar (B)
Day 11 – Cartagena
Drive along the coast to the atmospheric city of Cartagena. Upon arrival transfer to the hotel, located within the old city walls. You will have some leisure time before later in the afternoon taking a horse and carriage ride through the picturesque streets. Overnight Don Pedro de Heredia or similar (B)
Cartagena, founded in 1533, is named after the Spanish home town of many of the sailors who settled here. It soon became a major trading port, not least in the commerce of slavery, and became the target of attacks from numerous pirates and privateers prowling the Caribbean Sea in the 16th and 17th centuries, and then later from the British navy. Cartagena is absolutely packed full of exquisite architectural gems and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With horse-drawn carriages plying its streets and fantastic views out to the ocean, Cartagena is incredibly atmospheric and is rightly considered to be one of the highlights of a trip to Colombia.
Day 12 – Cartagena
This morning we have a walking tour of the old walled city to enjoy the romantic and historic atmosphere of Cartagena, visiting museums and other places of interest in a setting of brightly coloured colonial buildings, churches and balconies which overflow with flowers into windy roads and pathways. Rest of the day is at leisure for you to continue exploring the churches, plazas and monuments of this UNESCO World Heritage city. Overnight Don Pedro de Heredia or similar. (B)
Day 13 – Cartagena
Visit the old monastery of La Popa overlooking Cartagena Bay. Afterwards explore the mighty Fortress of San Felipe, situated in a strategic spot that once defended attacking pirates. Explore its underground passageways, watchtowers and rooms to learn about its historic past. This afternoon enjoy your final afternoon at leisure in Cartagena. Overnight Don Pedro de Heredia or similar (B)
Day 14 – Bogota
Fly back to Bogota for our final evening. This evening enjoy an authentic farewell meal in an atmospheric local restaurant. (BD)
Day 15 – Bogota
Transfer to Bogota Airport for your onward flight. (B)
Arrival and departure transfers
Domestic flights within Colombia
Services of English speaking guide. Small groups will have local English speaking guides in each place
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Any airport taxes
Visa if applicable