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Medellin • Cartagena • the Cafetera

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Charming, historic Cartagena; Lively Bogota; Verdant Hills; coffee plantations Unspoiled villages, friendly locals Cathedral of Salt; Colonial treasures

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Tue 03 Nov 2015Fri 13 Nov 2015 $2690
Tue 19 Jan 2016Fri 29 Jan 2016 $2690
Tue 01 Nov 2016Fri 11 Nov 2016 $2690

Optional Single Supplement: $675 (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


The Lonely Planet travel guides recently picked Colombia as one of the top 10 travel hotspots of the year. Colombian President, Alvar Uribe, has taken a hard line against crime and, since 2002, there has been such a huge drop that places like Cartagena and Bogota are now shaking off undeserved nasty reputations. Today the whole country is basking in this new cultural and touristic renaissance. Our 11-day trip visits the country's heartland -- the Andean coffee-growing region, the Cafetera, with its verdant green hills, colourful birds, unique flora, and friendly unspoiled villages.

Regions visited: South America
Countries visited: Colombia


Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrival in Bogota
Today we arrive in Bogota, Colombia and transfer to our hotel.

Also known as Santa Fe de Bogota, or the 'Athens of the Americas' (owing to Bogotanos' reputation for politeness and civility), Bogota is set at an altitude of over 2600m (8,600 feet) with high ranges of the Cordillera to the east. This captivating urban center has a rich cultural life and beautiful architecture. Like any self-respecting capital city, Bogotá is the country's capital of art, academia, history, culture and government. This is Colombia's beating heart.

Overnight in Bogota.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Bogota: City Tour / Gold Museum & Cerro Monserrate
Bogota's name comes from the Chibcha word 'Bacata.' Bacata was the territory of the zipa (overlord) of the Chibcha or Muisca Indian tribes that inhabited the region before the arrival of the Spaniards. Gonzalo Jimenez of Quesada was the first European to set foot in the lands of the Chibchas nation in 1538.

Most of the sights of the city are in the historic central neighborhood of La Candelaria. La Candelaria is the very heartbeat of this cultural and touristic renaissance. The architecture of the old houses, churches and buildings represent Spanish Colonial, Baroque and art deco styles. Our walking tour will take us around myriad streets in La Candelaria and into the vast Plaza de Bolivar. We will encounter some excellent examples of colonial architecture, such as the Catedral Primada de Colombia and San Bartolome College. In Candelaria there are many 'chocolaterias', and we will stop at one so you can sample the famous Bogotano hot chocolate.

During our touring we will visit the world-famous Gold Museum, regarded as the finest collection of gold from pre-Hispanic times. This museum has some excellent, well laid out exhibitions with explanations in English. We are also sure to visit the Botero Museum, home to some of Fernando Botero's finest pieces. Fernando Botero is the most widely recognized Colombian painter and sculptor. Today the museum houses one of Latin America’s most important international art collections. The museum consists of over 100 works of Fernando Botero, and some of the other highlights include works by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and Henri Matisse.

At Plaza Bolivar (Bolivar Square) we will find ourselves in the true heart of the historical area of Bogota. The city's main square is overwhelming in size, and is surrounded by neoclassical government palaces. Here we find the Catedral Primada, the largest church in the country. After taking in the many sights, we will walk over to see the Presidential Palace and its Presidential Guard.

At the end of our day we will take the cable car to Cerro Monserrate. Some amazing views can be had from this great vantage point (weather dependant). Monserrate is crowned with its easily recognizable church and is a place of pilgrimage due to its statue of Senor Caido, the fallen Christ. Cerro de Monserrate is sometimes called the 'mountain-guardian' of Bogota, and has been a place of religious pilgrimage since colonial times.

Overnight in Bogotá.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Paloquemao Market / Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
This morning we will visit the Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao, the most famous flower and food market in Bogota. This is an authentic experience and not your typical tourist market. A visit here will engage all of your senses, and provides us with a great insight into Colombian customs and local living in Bogota. This is the focal point where the produce of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, the fertile Andes and the tropical jungle meld together. The market is divided into sections: flowers; fruit, vegetables and aromatic herbs; and meat and fish. During our time here you will have the chance to taste some of the local produce.

We then travel north to Zipaquira where we visit the Catedral de Sal. The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá (Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá) is an underground Roman Catholic Church built within the tunnels of a salt mine 200 meters underneath a mountain. This is not only a popular destination with travellers, but also an important place of pilgrimage in the country.

This cathedral is an engineering feat under the earth's surface, part of the salt mines that date back from the Muisca period. It has been thoughtfully lit and enchanting music is piped through its internal spaces. 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. Each station has a cross and several kneeling platforms carved into the salt structure.

Overnight in Bogota.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Bogota - Armenia - Salento
We get up early this morning and fly from Bogota to Armenia.

Since UNESCO added Colombia’s coffee region to its list of World Heritage sites, Armenia and the surrounding towns have opened up to travellers.

Today we will visit Salento, situated in the heart of the coffee region of Colombia. This is one of the oldest towns in the department of Quindio, and probably the smallest. Startlingly well preserved, Salento offers us an opportunity to enjoy a traditional coffee settlement. With it’s low slung timber houses, Salento almost has a wild-west feel to it. Set amid gorgeous green mountains, this small town survives on coffee production, trout farming and, increasingly, tourists, who are drawn by its quaint streets, typical paisa architecture and its proximity to the spectacular Valle de Cocora. It was founded in 1850, and is one of the oldest towns in Quindío.

This afternoon we will be sure to make a stop at the famous "Jesus Martin" coffee shop where we can enjoy some superb organic coffee. Located just half a block from Salento’s main square, one finds this little gem… with an interior that is something like a Parisian cafe with a distinctly South American flavour.

Overnight near Salento.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Cocora Valley & Coffee Tour
Today we visit Valle de Cocora located to the east of Salento. Here we will enjoy a walk in the valley and see the famous Palma de Cera (wax palm) growing abundantly along the hillsides. Towering high, this palm makes for the rather strange but beautiful scenery. The Valle de Cocora belongs to Colombia's coffee region, a destination known for its historical and ecological richness. Having shed years of isolation imposed by surrounding civil war and the central Andean range that marks its eastern limit, coffee country has become the heart of Colombia's nascent "rural tourism" industry that fuses history, ecology and know-your-roots national pride.

The rich volcanic soil together with the climate and the topography make this region ideal for the cultivation of quality coffee. For much of the last century coffee was one of the mainstays of the Colombian economy but over the last 20 years the importance of coffee to the Colombian economy has reduced. There are a number of working coffee farms around the Salento area, and we will explore one of them today. To fully experience the Zona Cafetera you must visit a working coffee farm (Finca) and walk amongst the coffee plants. This lush, green region not only has a temperate climate for travellers but is also home to the snow capped peaks of the Parque National Los Nevados. This region's terraced slopes provide the perfect environment for the coffee to grow with the climate and precipitation levels being ideal.

Overnight near Salento.

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 6 Salento - Medellin
Today we head north from the 'Coffee Zone' and travel to Medellin, Colombia's second city and the capital of 'Paisa' culture.

Medellín is a forward-thinking city, which has reinvented itself over the past decade. Medellin is rightly proud of its status as being Colombia's second largest but also possible most progressive city. With Colombia's most extensive integrated public transport system, this city is a 'pioneer' in terms of social reform and offers a slick uptown district with an international feel.

Overnight in Medellin.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Medellin City Tour & Santa Elena
Today we enjoy a guided tour through Medellin, the "City of Eternal Spring". We walk through the historical and cultural centers where we learn about Colombia's controversial yet fascinating history.

We start our day with a drive out to the small town of Santa Elena, located just east of Medellin high in the mountainside. The weather here is normally cooler due to the elevation, and the soil is rich with nutrients that local farmers enjoy for growing an abundance of tropical and local varieties of flowers. Many of these flowers are exported to international markets abroad. Santa Elena is also the birthplace of the ornate flower arrangements called silletas that are the cornerstone of the Flower Festival or Feria de Las Flores in Medellin.

From Santa Elena we return to Medellin where we will stroll through the hustle and bustle of downtown. We will see the famous Botero Plaza with its exhibition of the Colombian artist Fernando Botero, whose sculptures have become a landmark of the city. We will take the Metro Cable up to Santo Domingo, which was once a notorious area of gang violence in Medellin. The cable car was constructed to make the inner city more accessible to people from the outskirts, and allows visitors a glimpse into the lives of the marginalized population. While enjoying the spectacular view you will learn more about the transformation of Medellin from the most dangerous city in the world into a fascinating melting pot of cultures with possibly the friendliest and warmest people in the world. At Parque de Bolívar we visit the Museo de Antioquia, famous for housing one of the world's largest collections of Fernando Botero paintings. We will be sure to visit Parque Lleras, one of Medellín's must-see quarters as well as the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Overnight in Medellin.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Medellin - Cartagena: Old Town Walking Tour
This morning we fly to Cartagena. Located on Colombia's northern coast, and facing the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena de Indias is the undisputed queen of the Caribbean coast. Founded in 1533 by Spaniard Don Pedro de Heredia, and named after the port of Cartagena in Spain's Murcia region, Cartagena de Indias was a major center of early Spanish settlement in the Americas, which had impressive development in the 18th century as the de facto capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. Today Cartagena beautifully preserves its colonial character with the assistance of UNESCO as a listed World Heritage Site.

This is undoubtedly one of Latin America's most beautiful cities, lost somewhere in time between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the Caribbean Sea as a sparkling backdrop. Sir Francis Drake laid siege to the city but the fortress walls and cannons remain, making the area within the old walled city a living museum. This afternoon we will discover Cartagena’s rich history and beautiful colonial architecture. You will learn about the culture of Cartagena and its interesting architecture from our knowledgeable local guide, and visit such beautiful sites as Plaza de Bolívar, the Cathedral of Cartagena, San Pedro Claver Square and San Pedro Church

This afternoon we will stroll through the narrow shaded streets of the old walled city, where flowers cascade from overhanging wooden balconies. The Old City is nearly encircled by walls that stand 4m (12ft) tall and are as thick as 18m (60ft) in some places. Their strength has preserved some fascinating colonial structures, many of which are situated around Plaza de Bolivar, a lovely, leafy plaza that contains an impressive statue of the liberator himself on horseback.

Cartagena's historic center is flat and relatively small, making it the perfect city for walking. You'll find a photo opportunity at every corner. Peek into doorways to see the cool tiled patios hidden from other passersby. We will also explore Plaza de Bolivar, Plaza de San Diego and Plaza de Santo Domingo.

Overnight in Cartagena.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Cartagena: Bocagrande, La Manga, Getsemani & Old Town
Today we enjoy a full day of Sightseeing. We start this morning with a panoramic bus tour of Bocagrande and Manga. Cartagena is built on several islands located at the end of a bay. The marshes that originally surrounded these islands were filled in order to link the land to the coast. The city, nestled in the bay, extends onto an L-shaped peninsula called Bocagrande. At the end of this stretch of land are two large islands that appear to be guarding the mouth of the bay. Just south of the downtown area is an island known as La Manga. This is a residential area for well-off Cartageneros. Several bridges provide access to and from the island, and one of these leads directly to the old city. A number of lagoons separate the suburban areas from the old city, whose centre is surrounded by magnificent ramparts.

We will also enjoy a walking tour of Getsemaní, one of the most vibrant and ‘up and coming’ neighborhoods in Cartagena. Back within the walls of the Old City we will see the Fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, the largest and strongest fortification the Spanish ever built in the colonies. We will see the Palacio de la Inquisición. This building documents the darkest period in the city's history. A baroque limestone doorway off Plaza de Bolívar marks the entrance to the 1770 Palace of the Inquisition, the headquarters of the repressive arbiters of political and spiritual orthodoxy who once exercised jurisdiction over Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

The Convento and Iglesia de San Pedro Claver was founded by Jesuits in the first half of the 17th century. Today this convent is a monumental three-story building surrounding a tree-filled courtyard, and much of it is open as a museum. Exhibits include religious art and pre-Columbian ceramics, and a new section devoted to Afro-Caribbean contemporary pieces includes wonderful Haitian paintings and African masks.

Overnight in Cartagena.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Cartagena: Convento del la Popa / Free Afternoon
This morning we will venture slightly outside of the city and visit the Convento de la Popa. Founded in 1607 by Augustinian monks, La Popa sits upon the tallest hill in the city and offers beautiful views of the city and Caribbean. A beautiful image of La Virgen de la Candelaria, the patroness of the city, is in the convent's chapel, and there's a charming flower-filled patio.

The balance of the day is free to enjoy and explore on your own Cartagena. Your Tour Leader will be able to provide you with suggestions. You may want to visit the local Gold Museum with its amazing and priceless national collections, and interesting rooms that recreate the region's Amerindian ethnic groups. Though small, this museum offers a fascinating collection from the Zenu (also known as Sinu) people, who inhabited the region of the present-day departments of Bolívar, Córdoba, Sucre and northern Antioquia before the Spanish Conquest.

Later this afternoon, colonial carriages will take us for a ride around the city before our final dinner.

Overnight in Cartagena.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Departure
Departure from Cartagena.

BUEN VIAJE!

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


El Eden Country Inn

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Salento
Country: Colombia

This is a charming, colonial style country inn in a stunning rural setting. There is a pool, jacuzzi, and homey
... with a cozy decor. The inn also boasts a charming restaurant featuring local specialties.



Read More.

Hotel Tres Banderas

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Cartagena
Country: Colombia

Hotel 3 Banderas is located in San Diego, right in the centre of the walled city of Cartagena. Just three
... from the Caribbean Sea! All of Cartagena's attractions are within walking distance. Neighbourhood attractions include the sidewalk cafes and galleries of Plaza San Diego.


Read More.


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner daily (hotels and restaurants). All sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters (if available). Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuity, some lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), departure taxes, domestic and international air taxes (if applicable). Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs, shopping, and locally paid departure taxes.

Seasonality and Weather

Here the weather and climate are truly those of 'perpetual spring,' as understood in temperate latitudes. Nights are cool but never really cold, and at this height frost is unknown. The days feel warm in the sun but are never really hot. Rain and afternoon cloud are frequent. Sunshine averages from three to five hours a day throughout the year. The Amazon is humid and warm year round.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Land transport throughout by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Though we will have some full bus days, road travel is not particularly arduous as there are plenty of stops of interest. Most roads are in good condition though winding on some stretches. Numerous walking tours on uneven surfaces. Most people are not seriously affected by altitude (2400-3300 m / 8,000-9,500 ft). Flights via scheduled local carrier.

Accommodation

Well-located, heated / air-conditioned, mid-range (3 star) hotels with en suite toilet and bath throughout.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader and driver.

Group Size

10 -21 (plus Tour Leader)