Highlights of Colombia
|Resort:||Highlights of Colombia|
|Destination:||Colombia, Latin America|
This once-notorious country now has a reputation for having some of the friendliest locals in South America, a status that is well deserved. Our highlights trip gives first-time visitors a taste of Colombia’s diversity, from the towering Andes to the warm seas of the Caribbean.
Bogota – Take a cable car trip up Mount Monserrate and discover the city’s impressive urban art scene with a passionate local street artist
Salento – Hike amid the beautiful wax palms of the Cocora Valley and try a typical lunch in colourful Salento town
Cartagena – Take a laidback cycling trip around the cobbled streets of this picture-perfect colonial gem
Day 1 Join trip in Bogota
Arrive in Bogota, the capital of Colombia set at an altitude of over 2,600m. The city sprawls out from the high ranges of the Cordillera Mountains, blanketing the Andean peaks with an eclectic mix of historic buildings and modern, urban architecture. Its name comes from the Muisca indigenous people who inhabited the region before the arrival of the Spaniards in 1538, and the remnants of not only the Muisca empire but of Colombia’s many other indigenous cultures can be found in the city’s impressive Gold Museum.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Bogota at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport (airport code: BOG), approximately a 45 minute drive from our hotel. Should you miss the meeting, your leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, La Candelaria is a good place to orientate yourself in the city, where a wealth of museums, bars and restaurants are dotted in between colonial convents and churches.
Day 2 Bogota graffiti tour; visit the Gold Museum
The prolific urban art scene found in Bogota has exploded in recent years, and this morning we set off to explore some of the gems of artwork available on the streets. This graffiti tour was originally set up in 2011 to help expose Colombian artists to a wider international audience, and the passionate local street artist accompanying us really brings this to life.
In the afternoon we will be walking through the colourful colonial streets of La Candelaria and the city’s lively central area. We’ll cross the vast Plaza de Bolivar, encountering some excellent examples of colonial architecture, such as the Catedral Primada de Colombia. The visit continues with the Museo Botero, a colonial house filled with works of art by the Colombian artist and sculptor Fernando Botero, famous for his abstract portrayal of people with large, exaggerated proportions. Finally, we will visit the Gold Museum, which is regarded as housing the finest collection of gold from Pre-Hispanic times.
To round off a busy day of exploration, we take a birds eye view of the city as we ascend the pilgrimage site of Mount Monserrate by cable car.
Day 3 Day at leisure in Bogota
Today we are totally free in Bogota to relax and take in the sights of this eclectic city. If your free day coincides with a Sunday (which is the case on the majority of our trips), take a trip to the street market at Usaquen, an upscale neighbourhood in the north of the city with a weekly market selling masses of high quality products and handicrafts. Alternatively, the daily farmers market at Paloquemao is a lavish display of tropical fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, meat and other fresh produce. For trying local specialities like arepa (corn cakes) and salpicon (Colombian fruit cocktail) this market is quite unbeatable.
Day 4 Discover Zipaquira’s cavernous Salt Cathedral; fly to the Coffee Country
We’ll drive north out of the city this morning towards the small town of Zipaquira, a town that may normally go unnoticed if not for its extraordinary Salt Cathedral. This immense structure, carved out of solid salt, can accommodate over 8000 people and was part of the salt mines – a house of worship created as an easy way for miners to practice their religion while not disrupting their work. Curving and twisting tunnels descend into the Roman Catholic Church, passing 14 small chapels representing the Stations of the Cross, illustrating the events of Jesus’ last journey. The immense cross in the central nave, lit from head to toe, has to be seen to be believed.
After our visit we’ll go directly to the airport, where we catch our flight to Armenia, the capital of the Quindo department and an important coffee growing centre, our location for the next three nights.
Day 5 Full day exploring the wax palms of the Cocora Valley; traditional lunch in colonial Salento
After breakfast we take a drive to Salento, where we climb aboard an immaculately restored vintage Willys jeep and drive into the Cocora Valley. We’re in the foothills of the Andes here, hiking amongst a multitude of towering wax palms that pepper the mountainsides like pins in a cushion. These countryside walks are on undulating terrain with well-trodden paths and the pace gives us plenty of time to enjoy the mountain views. On our return to Salento, we’ll have a typical lunch in this charming town, its colourful architecture so characteristic of this coffee growing region. Trout is particular to the area, usually served with plantain and rice, but you may also find yucca and arepas too.
Our final stop of the day is at the Acaime Nature Reserve, just 5km from Cocora. This paradise for hummingbird watching takes us through leafy rainforest and wooded trails, a contrast to the open mountain scenery of this morning. The walks are leisurely, concentrating more on exploring the cloud forest landscape than strenuous hiking.
Day 6 Explore a coffee plantation and taste the local brew
This is one of the most attractive parts of the country, and our hotel happens to be situated in the midst of its own coffee farm. Today we’ll spend the morning visiting the farm – we will learn about the whole process, from the planting of the beans all the way through the picking and roasting process, finishing off with trying the fresh coffee. The physical work undertaken by the pickers in hauling their loads across the mountainside is quite amazing.
If, for any reason, the hotel for this evening changes, we will visit one of the other many coffee farms in this area.
Day 7 Fly to Cartagena on the Caribbean coast; bicycle tour of the walled city and seafront
This morning we’ll fly to Cartagena, hailed as one of the most fascinating colonial cities in Latin America. Located on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena de Indias was one of the first cities to be founded by the Spanish in South America, and today is famed both for its history and beauty.
Our hotel is in the heart of the old-town, surrounded by the city walls. We’ll be taking an alternative tour this afternoon, exploring the historical centre as well as the seafront and laidback neighbourhoods by bicycle. The city is fairly flat and very easy to discover by bike. More than just cycling past historic buildings, you’ll be enveloped by history as the guide tells us stories dating back hundreds of years. Cycling past the sea walls is a welcome breath of fresh air in the heat. We encourage even the most beginner of cyclist to take part in this tour – safety is paramount and the pace will be slow, with ample time to take photos and listen to our knowledgeable guide as we explore the city.
Day 8 Free day; optional trip to the Rosario Islands
Today we have more time to explore this city. Alternatively, you can choose to take an optional boat trip to the Rosario Islands, an archipelago just an hour away from the city that benefits from some great snorkelling, white-sand beaches and Caribbean views. For people who would prefer something different, why not visit the national aviary or take a canoe ride through the mangroves of the fishing village at La Boquilla.
Day 9 Trip ends in Cartagena
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Cartagena.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Cartagena at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Cartagena’s Rafael Nunez International Airport (airport code: CTG), approximately a 20 minute drive from our hotel.