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Highlights of Colombia

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Andrés Mesa

Colombia Tours

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Highlights of Colombia

This itinerary was designed to show you some of the most iconic and well known destinations of the country. If you have the opportunity to travel all around Colombia for a few years, you will be amazed with the huge diversity that the country has to offer, however, there are a few destinations that are a must view if you have the chance to visit Colombia. You can NOT leave without visiting the Coffee Region!

DAY 1

Bogota - Arrival day

Vibrant and diverse Bogotá, the country’s capital and commercial back-bone. Colombia's bustling metropolis is a mix of old and new, trendy and traditional, stately and charming. Home to a dazzling array of museums, churches, colonial mansions and stately buildings Bogotá has a fine balance between its historical past and its movement in to the future. This city in central Colombia is located at an elevation of 2,650 m./8,660 ft. on a mountain rimmed plateau high in the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes Mountains. The city lies only 4°36' north of the equator. Bogotá was founded on the 6th of August 1538 by the Spanish conqueror Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada. The new city became the vice-regal capital of New Granada in 1717. It was captured by Simón Bolívar in 1819 and was the capital of the independent nation of Great Colombia (which included modern day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela). It became the capital of New Granada (later renamed Colombia) in 1830 when Great Colombia was dissolved. The city initially grew slowly because Bogotanos (cachacos) wished to preserve their old culture. They cherished their churches, convents, homes (built in the ornate Spanish colonial style) and the National University, founded in 1573. They also prided themselves on speaking the purest Spanish in the New World. The city however expanded rapidly after 1940 as large numbers of rural Colombians migrated there in search of greater economic opportunities. It is sometimes called the Athens of South America. Bogotá is now Colombia's largest financial, political, and cultural centre. The National University of Colombia and many other universities located there make Bogotá the nation's chief educational centre. Bogotá is for many people the gateway city in to Colombia, and a fine start point for your Colombian adventure. Read more

Bogota, 3 Nights
DAY 2

Candelaria Gold Museum & Monserrate

La Candelaria is Bogota’s heart and soul, from its humble beginnings this is the oldest part of the city and the Plaza Bolivar (Main Square) are high on any visitor’s agenda. The Square is the focal point of this historic part of the city. Surrounding the square are several important Colonial and Republican style buildings including the Palace of Justice and Colombian Congress. The Plaza is also home to the Mayor’s office and the Primary Cathedral of Bogota that dominates an entire corner. Standing proud in the plazas centre is a statue of Simon Bolivar (Founder of Colombian independence) the first public monument to be erected in the city. As you wander the streets of La Candelaria away from the main square, your guide will not only explain the history of Bogota but also the intricacies of current Colombian culture and daily life. There will be time for a refreshment stop in one of the cities coffee houses. The Botero Museum or Donation is a permanent exhibition of works of art by Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous artist who’s "oversized” art is instantly recognisable. There are several rooms over 2 floors with displays of his work both on canvas and sculpture. The museum not only houses work by Botero but also other world famous artists such as Dali, Monet and Van Gogh. Next door is the Casa de la Moneda, or mint is home to a museum that takes you on a tour of the history of Bogota through the currency and money used in Colombia. With your guide the next stop will be the Gold Museum which is situated on the northeast corner of the Parque Santander. The Museum is within the premises of the Banco de la Republica, and is one of the finest collections of Pre Hispanic gold in the world. This is a “must see” when in Bogotá, with more than 35,000 pieces of pre-Colombian gold work in the collection. Many of the works are said to be unsurpassed by goldsmiths of today and it’s easy to understand when you allow yourself time to study examples such as the Balsa Muisca (Offering boat). This golden raft is one of the focal point of the display and was the driving force in the Spaniards quest to find El Dorado. Then a short drive or interesting walk from the centre of the old town takes you to the base of the hill that leads up to the hill top view point and monastery of Monserrate. The summit can be reached by either funicular railway or cable car. From the highest point the view across the city will enable you to see the different sectors of Bogota. From La Candelaria and its terracotta tiled roofs to the high rise business sector and then on across the sabana (flat plains) and off in to the distance. The new convent is a pilgrimage site for many Colombians whom make their way past the fourteen Stations of the Cross until reaching the convent. There are a few artisan shops, with others selling snacks and refreshments Read more

Bogota, 3 Nights
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DAY 3

Zipaquirá - Salt Cathedral

For some this is a religious monument, others a celebration of engineering or maybe even an artistic masterpiece. One of the marvels of Colombia, the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá is well worth the visit. For the beauty of its landscapes, the richness of its earth and the hidden jewel beneath the earth’s surface, Zipaquirá is somewhat of a must during a stay in Bogotá. Travelling north of the city, through countryside once occupied by the native Muisca Indians, Zipaquirá is one of the more popular tourist destinations in Colombia. Zipaquirá is most famous for its Cathedral carved underground in a still functioning salt mines just west of the town. The subtle lighting pronounces the fourteen Stations of the Cross as you descend in to the mine, each station sculpted by a different artist. At the deepest point of the cathedral, 180 m below the earth’s surface, you encounter the nave and the north and south aisles dominated by the 16m high central cross. The illumination and execution of the work is a tribute to modern techniques and years of work from the miners and artists. Your guide will explain all about the cathedrals construction and how it and the mine still function in harmony. However you view this construction, you can’t fail to be impressed by its size and grandeur. Around the central square of the town of Zipaquirá the colonial buildings still hold their charm footed by brickwork paving and overlooked by the Cathedral Diocesana de San Antonio. Read more

Bogota, 3 Nights
DAY 4

Coffee Region - Arrival Day

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. Campesino or rural life continues as it has done for centuries harvesting coffee, plantains (a type of Banana) and many other fruits in this lush and fertile land. A visit to the Coffee region permits you to experience the tranquillity of the region. It also offers the opportunity for adventure or for friendly encounters with locals going about their daily lives. Staying in one of the many fincas or haciendas provides an opportunity to get a feel for the areas ambience and harmony and a great place to rest after a day exploring. Three departments make up the “Triángulo 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 at 5000 m.a.s.l, 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. Read more

Armenia, 3 Nights
DAY 5

Cocora Valley, Filandia & Salento towns

This tour takes in the culture of the region along with the stunning natural beauty of the Cocora Valley. This tour will take you from the far northeast of Quindío to the beautiful Valle Cocora where the magnificent Wax palm grows, in one of its few natural habitats, then onto the first settlement in Quindío of the modern era. As you enter into Filandia, the first stop, you know you are in the Coffee region of Colombia. The main square has not changed in appearance or in character in decades. Filandia does not have an attraction to visit; Filandia is the attraction. A coffee break in one of the many small coffee shops will allow you to take in the quaintness of uninterrupted lines of brightly painted houses in this traditional Pueblo of the region. The guide will explain about the culture and people of the region and how small pueblos (Villages) like this form the back bone of rural agricultural life, if you want to feel like you are seeing Colombia then look no further. From Filandia you will drive to the Valle Cocora (Cocora Valley). Part of the wider Parque Nacional Los Nevados, the valley is located on the eastern limits of Quindío along the central Andean range. The valley has a unique landscape like a lush version of a Swiss valley. It has been regarded by Colombia as a sanctuary for its national symbol; the Wax Palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense). The Palms cover the Mountain range, which is now protected and declared monument to protect the tree itself and the endemic species that depend on it. The valley is spectacular and great for walking or horseback rides, either way this stunning mountain scenery will not fail to impress. Salento is a municipality in the north eastern part of the department of Quindío. It was the first settlement in Quindío of modern times dating back to 1850, and the first municipality founded in the department. This picturesque town boasts a number of fine houses of traditional architectural style. Rimmed by distant snow capped mountains Salento has a real rural traditional feel Read more

Armenia, 3 Nights
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DAY 6

Coffee Experience

This tour will give you a true impression of the life and culture encompassed by the Coffee region. Coffee is the heart and soul of this area and today you will see how this simple bean affects every part of the region. From quaint towns and stunning views, this is a full day insight into the “Triangulo Del Café”. You will visit the settlements of Cordoba, Pijao, and Buena Vista, enjoy a typical lunch and learn about the coffee process. You will make your way through the coffee covered hills and valleys, to your first port of call, Córdoba is one of the twelve municipalities’ that form the department of Quindío. With a sense of time stopped still, the buildings are aching under their own weight and the atmosphere is one of calm. During the day many of the local inhabitants work the steep slopes among the coffee plantations upon which the town is dependant. It’s a great place to sit and drink a coffee whilst watching the senior gentleman of the town play billiards at the club on the corner. Pijao, the next stop is known as "The place where the Herons come" for every night herons come to roost on the highest branches or so the story goes. Many of the inhabitants will be picking the coffee whilst the rest are centre stage in the plaza sipping coffee and chatting. After the tour of the surrounding countryside and discovering the life of the people in the Triangulo Del Café, the next stop will be lunch and a very interesting visit to a local coffee hacienda. These coffee haciendas take their coffee very seriously, and have built their entire existence around the germination, classification, and preparation of Colombian coffee. If you have ever had the pleasure to experience a wine tasting session, then now is your chance to learn the art of cupping, the tasting and classification of flavors, aromas, and bodies of different types of coffee bean. It can get noisy, but once the slurping commences there are tastes and sensations abound that you probably couldn’t imagine. There is even a chance to learn from the expert barista (taster) who will teach you how to make the perfect espresso or cappuccino. You will also walk through the coffee plantations and nursery and there will be an explanation as to how the plant grows and is cultivated before the final bean reaches the coffee cup. At the end of the tour you will be an expert in all things related to Colombian coffee. Read more

Armenia, 3 Nights
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DAY 7

Medellín - Arrival Day

Forget everything you have heard about Medellin as it is probably old news. It was the headquarters of one of the country’s most notorious drug cartels, but what the international media forgot to report was the cities remarkable turnaround. Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia and regarded as one of the most important, in business, politics, and fashion and of course nightlife! For years Medellin had a tarnished reputation, but has now risen above this "Mala Fama" (Bad reputation) and is now one of most exciting cities in South America. Its growth has been impressive over the past ten years, and the advance in the security situation has been such that Medellin is now regarded as one of the safest cities in South America. Medellin is famous for its "Feria de las Flores" which happens every August for a week. The Feria is a carnival atmosphere with processions of flower growers, music, dance and the arts. Medellin is also the home town of Fernando Botero, probably Colombia’s most recognised artist to date. His oversized depictions of Colombian life, people and world issues are exhibited throughout the country most notably in the Botero Museum in Bogota and Medellin's own Museo de Antioquia and his sculptures in the neighbouring Parque Berrio. Medellin is also famous for its metro and "Metro Cable" or cable car a remarkable piece of engineering, a great tourist attraction and a remarkable way the local government opened up and regenerated a previously underdeveloped part of the city. Medellin is vibrant, contemporary and well worth a visit for its vast selection fine restaurants, bars and if nothing else its people. The Paisa, a person from this region, is well known for his or her sense of pride and also the way they look. To sit at a coffee shop or bar and watch the people of Medellin walk by can easily take up a morning! Medellin is rapidly becoming a must on any Colombian itinerary. Read more

Medellín, 3 Nights
DAY 8

City tour & Social Development tour

Medellín is certainly a city with a colourful history; from the cities valiant founding fathers trekking across the Andes, through to the dark days of drug cartels and the city’s more recent rebirth as one of South Americas most vibrant & progressive. A tour of the central part of Medellín can really help to bring the city to life and to help you understand why Medellín is so important to Colombia in terms of both commerce and culture. Medellín has undergone a major positive transformation in the past 10 years, one of the main pillars of which is urban architecture. The construction of parks, pedestrian zones, museums, transport systems, libraries and schools, public spaces has not only improved the city’s public spaces, but has also had a strong positive influence on its social dynamics. The tour will take place in the working-class neighborhood of San Javier, famous for its open-air electric escalators, which were built in 2011 to replace the 350 stairs leading to the top of a steep hill and thus to improve the local residents‘ mobility. Your guide will take you around the neighborhood and give you some special insight into some of the social initiatives that are taking place in the area. After visiting the San Javier library park, you will have the opportunity to ride on the aforementioned electric escalators and enjoy a beautiful view of the city from the top of the hill. The city tour will also take in all principal sites and locations of this fascinating location. These sites will include the “Plaza Botero" the famous Botero sculpture park where many giant sculptures of Colombia most famous artist and Medellín born sculptor Fernando Botero are exhibited. A ride on the city’s famous metro and cable car system will not only provide great views of the city but will be a chance to understand a bit more about the geography and social make up of Colombia's second city. Read more

Medellín, 3 Nights
DAY 9

Guatape & el Peñol Rock

You will be met from your hotel by your guide and taken directly to El Peñol for your full day tour, a journey of about approximately 2 hours to reach El Peñol. This great day trip from Medellin takes you out in to the countryside of Antioquia to the giant monolith rock of El Peñol (Literally, "The stone"). Reminiscent of the sugar loaf mountain in Rio this 200 meter high rock towers over a series of beautiful lakes with a mountain back drop. This gentle undulating like scenery makes a stunning comparison to the modern and cosmopolitan city of Medellin only a few hours away. The top of the rock is reached by a series of 649 wooden steps that wind up to the top of the rock. Upon reaching the top you are greeted with a 360 degree bird’s eye view of the surrounding country side. There is normally a guide on the top of the rock to explain a bit about the geography of the area and some of the unusual rock formations around the lakes below as well as point out the confiscated houses of infamous Medellin inhabitants such as Pablo Escobar. The nearby town of Guatape is a lakeside “get a away” for the residents of Medellin and is an ideal location to explore the rural charm of Antioquia and take a leisurely walk along the waterfront or through the main town square or “parque” with its brightly painted houses and store fronts. Guatape has a number of pretty waterfront restaurants in which to enjoy delicious lunch cooked using locally sourced ingredients. Read more

Medellín, 3 Nights
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DAY 10

Cartagena - Arrival day

Founded in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena was formerly the Caribbean gateway port used by the Spanish. Here they would store the riches plundered form the interior before they were transported back to the old world. It is not surprising therefore that the city was a draw for buccaneers and pirates who attempted on many occasions to take the city, most notably by Sir Francis drake in 1586 who "mercifully" agreed not to level the city in return for 10 million pesos that he carted back to England. It was after the attack by Drake that plans were made to fortify the city and work on the defensive walls began. These walls still stand today and mark the boundary between the old and new parts of the city. The walls and fort took a total of 200 years to build and complete and the Spanish finished them just 25 years before Colombia gained Independence. Cartagena eventually won its Independence in 1821; a full 3 years after Bogota had been liberated. Cartagena's rich history, diverse culture and energy absorbs every visitor allowing them a glimpse into the past and a chance to relax in superb surroundings. This passionate and vibrant city with some of the best preserved colonial architecture in all of South America exudes character, mix in African rhythms and indigenous influences with the Spanish colonial splendor and Cartagena is truly an amazing destination. Read more

Cartagena, 3 Nights
DAY 11

Historic Centre & Horse and Carriage

Carved from a colorful history rife of piracy, Sultry Caribbean heat, with fusions of African, indigenous and European culture, Cartagena is Colombia’s living, breathing and pulsating museum. Absurdly photogenic La Heroica (Heroic city) awards even the laziest of travelers. Color splashes every corner, balconies overflow with blossom, and energy seeps beneath the ancient wooden doors of hotels, restaurants and Casa Privadas. Your tour will take through the old town under the Puerta Del Reloj (Clock tower entrance), a symbol of Cartagena, into the Plaza de los Coches. Your guide will divulge the myths and legends, histories and stories of Cartagena from ancient times right up to the present. From the Plaza San Pedro Claver with its stunning Church, on through to the Plaza Bolivar; with its shady areas, where a fresh Lemon juice can be enjoyed whilst watching the world go by. After your Walking Tour in the Historic Walled City you will set off first to the Castillo San Felipe. This fort is the largest Spanish fortification in the Americas and dominates the old town. The first fortification on the site was started in 1536 and further extended over the following 200 years mostly by African slave labor. Underneath this amazing structure you will find a labyrinth of tunnels. The sun soaked fortification seeps tales of old for every traveler and the tunnels (some of which are lit and accessible to visitors) and ramparts are a living breathing history book. A short walk away and your final stop is a visit to San Pedro Claver Cloister, monastery and museum built in homage to the protector of slaves, San Pedro, and serves as reminder of the turbulent past of Cartagena and indeed the Americas. The Cloister where Pedro Claver lived and died has become a special place of silence, and reflection – a shrine to the life's work of this extraordinary man. Here, visitors will find examples of pre-Colombian ceramics, and an extensive museum rich with objects of religious art. Adjoining the Monastery is a beautiful baroque church, designed by German and Dutch architects. Here, at the high alter, within a glass encasement, lie the remains of Saint Pedro Claver, “the slave to the slave There are few things more romantic than an early evening traditional horse and cart ride along the cobbled streets of Cartagena's old town, winding along the lanes with colonial buildings rising around you spilling their balconies of flowers and a cooling Caribbean breeze. As you sit in the back of this historical form of transport, your driver managing his cart through the early evening bustle of the town you watch day turn to night and see a different side of Cartagena come alive. Read more

Cartagena, 3 Nights
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DAY 12

Rosario Islands

This full day tour gives you the opportunity to discover one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the Caribbean. The fast motor boat departs directly from the pier and will take you on a 60 minute ride through the Bay of Cartagena to the beautiful crystal clear waters of the Rosario Island archipelago. This group of 27 islands is surrounded by coral reefs, and is the perfect location to go snorkelling and swimming from the pristine white sandy beaches. It´s one of the 46 Natural National Parks of Colombia, created to protect one of the most important coral reefs of the Caribbean Colombian Coast. This marine habitat creates one of the most diverse and richest marine ecosystems in Colombia. The Park has an extension of 120.000 marine and land hectares, and is associated with marine pastures, mangroves and the numerous species of algae and animals that have their habitats in the area, all of which feed the numerous corals and fish life that inhabit the reefs. On arrival at the island you will have time to relax sunbathe and enjoy a swim and refreshment. You will be served a delicious lunch which consists of locally caught fresh fried fish, which is accompanied by coconut rice, plantains and salad, followed by dessert & all washed down with a refreshing soft drink and finished with Colombian coffee. After lunch you will have time to relax and enjoy a final swim in the Caribbean before returning to Cartagena on your speed boat. Read more

Cartagena, 3 Nights
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DAY 13

Departure Day

Private transfer from the hotel to the airport.

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ACCOMMODATIONS

Day in trip
Location
Hotel
Day 1
Location Bogotá
Hotel De la Opera
Day 4
Location Coffee Region
Day 7
Location Medellín
Hotel Lincoln
Day 10
Location Cartagena
Day in trip
Location
Hotel
Day 1
Location Bogotá
Day 4
Location Armenia
Day 7
Location Medellín
Hotel Diez Hotel
Day 10
Location Cartagena
Hotel Casablanca B&B
Day in trip
Location
Hotel
Day 1
Location Bogotá
Day 4
Location Armenia
Day 7
Location Medellín
Day 10
Location Cartagena

TRIP PACKAGE

Package includes

  • Transfer from/to the airport
  • Transport during the tour
  • Accommodation
  • Local guides
  • Information services
  • Entrance fee

Package excludes

  • Airfare
  • Personal expenses
  • Visa, consular 76fees or any other formalities.
  • Tips
  • Beverages
  • Additional journeys and transfers

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