Explore Colombia's highlights and venture off the beaten track to discover stunning scenery, bird life and the friendliest people in Latin America
On this small group tour to Colombia you will discover a country full of surprises, diverse and breathtaking scenery, and some of the friendliest people in Latin America. You will travel off the beaten track and have many opportunities to interact with local people, while visiting their colonial cities, unspoilt villages and coffee plantations.
The dates for the tour are 6th – 21st February 2020 – (With optional beach extension to 24th Feb 2020)
The tour will focus on Colombia’s incredible scenery and nature, with some birding, cultural and coffee excursions, but also some leisure time. It combines some established highlights with some less well-known gems to give you a true insight into this amazing country. From the high Andes mountains to the Caribbean coast, this is an adventure of a lifetime to a unique destination that is waiting to be discovered.
You will explore the vibrant cities of Bogotá and Medellin with their amazing culture, art and food. You will be astounded by the stunning natural beauty of the coffee region with its rolling emerald hills, deep valleys dotted with soaring palms, quaint towns and coffee farms. The tour will then finish in the historic walled port city of Cartagena, Colombia’s jewel on the crown. We will also take you off the tourist trail to very special places like Salamina in the Coffee Country, a completely authentic gem of a Colombian colonial town with hardly any tourists, and to Mompox a town frozen in time.
You will stay in very special small boutique hotels on this tour with breakfasts and most lunches included. There are restaurants at the hotels and a wonderful selection of restaurants nearby to choose from in the evenings, at all locations.
Day 1 – Evening departure from London Heathrow – Bogota with Avianca non-stop service
Day 2 – Arrive in Bogota
Arrival at Bogota airport very early in the morning, welcome and transfer to Hotel Opera, an intimate and unique colonial boutique hotel, ideally located in La Candelaria, the historic centre of the city, close to most of the important and historic attractions. You will have the rest of the day to relax, acclimatize and explore the neighbourhood. First night at Hotel Opera
Day 3 – Bogota – City Tour
After breakfast, we will begin our full day guided city tour, starting with a visit to the local fruit and flower market of ‘Paloquemao’. We will then continue by transport to the Cerro Monserrate where we will go up the hill, by cable car, for stunning views over the city. Then after a delicious typical lunch, we will do a walking tour of the colonial area called ‘La Candelaria’ visiting the most important monuments and squares, the Gold Museum and the Botero Museum. Second night at Hotel Opera.
Day 4 – Parque Chicaque Nature Reserve – Bogota
Early morning pick-up and with your guide and driver, we will visit the Nature Reserve of ‘Parque Chicaque’, which is approximately a two-hour drive south of Bogota. This is a Cloud Forest ecosystem, where we will hike downhill, looking for the many and varied bird species on the way. Transport will be provided to bring us back up the mountain and we will return to Bogota in the after-noon. Third night at Hotel Opera.
Day 5 – Manizales – Coffee Country – Salamina
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for a morning flight to Manizales, where we will be welcomed by our guide and transport. Our next stop is the lovely Hacienda Venecia, a working coffee farm, where we will be served a fabulous lunch before doing a coffee tour to learn about the coffee process and doing a coffee tasting. After this we will do the beautiful and interesting drive of around two hours to one of the most picturesque towns in Colombia, Salamina. Along the way we will enjoy stunning views over coffee fields and mountains and stops can be made wherever we want to take pictures. In the after-noon we will do a tour of the colonial town, with its typical colourful houses and patios. Night at Casa de Lola Garcia.
Day 6 – San Felix – Valle de Samaria – Salamina
Today we will do a tour to San Felix and the Valle de Samaria. First of all, we will visit the mountain village of San Felix and from there, we will travel in Willys Jeeps on to Valle de Samaria, which is similar to the Valle de Cocora, but without tourists. We will do a short ecological hike here, observing the ‘Palma de Cera’ (the highest palm trees in the world which grow to 60 or even 70m high) and looking for birds. We will have a picnic lunch in the valley and in the afternoon, we return to Salamina. Second night at Casa de Lola Garcia
Day 7 – Salamina – Cauca Valley – Medellin
After breakfast we will go by private transport on a dirt road for about an hour to the village of ‘la Merced’. From here we will go by Willys Jeeps to Hacienda Amparo, a typical farm house in the Coffee region, with breathtaking views overlooking the Cauca Valley and the Magdalena River. We will have lunch here and then continue for about 4 hours to the city of Medellin, where we will stay in the Poblado area. First night at Hotel Park 10.
Day 8 – Medellin – City Tour
Full day tour where we will first visit the city centre of Medellin, visiting some key sights such as the Botero and Bolivar Plazas. We will learn about the history of this infamous city and its transition to a fascinating metropolis known as the “City of Eternal Spring”. We will also visit the lovely Botanical Gardens where we will have lunch. After lunch, we will take the impressive cable car transport up to the Santo Domingo neighbourhood for amazing views over the city. Second night at Hotel Park 10.
Day 9 – El Peñol and Guatape – Medellin
Today we will head out of the city for a full day tour to ‘El Peñol’ and the town of Guatape, which is located on the shores of a sprawling manmade lake. Standing in the middle of the lake is the famous El Peñol rock. The energetic among us can climb the 654 steps to the top for the outstanding views. We will then continue to Guatapè for lunch and tour. Labelled the world’s most colourful town, the buildings, bridges, balconies and staircases of Guatape are all painted in impossibly bright colours. Returning in the afternoon to Medellin for the third and last night at Hotel Park 10.
Day 10 – Medellin – Cartagena – Mompox
An early morning transfer to the airport and flight to Cartagena, where we will be welcomed by our guide at the airport. We will then do a 5 hour drive and ferry crossing to the colonial town of Mompox, a magical town situated on an island in the middle of the Magdalena River, renowned for its architecture, culture and its great natural surrounding landscape. First night at Hotel Bioma
Day 11 – Mompox
A half day tour to explore Mompox, which in many ways a living exhibition of colonial architecture and deserves its Unesco world heritage status. Nearly all the buildings are still used for the same purpose that they were during colonial times and most are in incredibly good condition. Some of the best examples of the architecture are the churches and the palatial riverside mansions, built by rich merchants. The town is world famous for its intricately crafted gold jewellery, there are numerous workshops where the jewellery is still made to this day in time honoured fashion with the original tools, and a short demonstration at one of the workshops is included in the tour. For years Mompox has been stuck in a time warp, but things are slowly changing, but it remains a laid-back place that hasn’t yet succumbed to mass tourism, so it’s a good idea to visit now, before it becomes too overdeveloped. Second night at Hotel Bioma
Day 12 – Cienagas of the Magdalena River – Mompox
After breakfast, we will depart on a tour to the Cienagas of the Magdalena River, a kind of wetlands, where we explore some of the many tributaries. We will travel in wide, motorized canoes and observe hundreds of herons and white egrets as well as more exotic bird species, reptiles and local fishermen casting their nets. Returning to Mompox, we will have a typical lunch on the ‘Malecon’, quayside restaurant. Third night at Hotel Bioma
Day 13 – Mompox – Cartagena
After breakfast we will travel back to Cartagena where we will stay in the old colonial centre, where our hotel is conveniently located, with plenty of good restaurants and sights within easy walking distance. Depending on arrival time, we will still be able to do a short walk with our tour leader, through this beautiful and historic town. Overnight at Hotel Ananda.
Day 14 – Cartagena – City Tour
Cartagena is certainly one of Latin America’s most beautiful cities. Located on the Caribbean coast, the historic centre is protected by ramparts and fortifications, and has been preserved as a living museum. Once crumbling colonial mansions have been restored to their former grandeur. Our half day guided tour, will start with a walk around the neighbourhoods of ‘Getsemani’, ‘San Diego’, and ‘Calamari’. After lunch at a local restaurant, we will visit the San Felipe de Barajas Fortress, and explore some of the colonial treasures within the historic centre. Second night at Hotel Ananda.
Day 15 – Cartagena – Flight back to UK
A last free morning, when we may like to further explore the city or just relax by the pool at our lovely boutique hotel, before it is time to transfer to the airport for the flight to Bogota and onward connection to the UK.
Day 16 – Arrival in UK
With Beach Extension at Sanguare
Day 15 – Cartagena – Transfer to Sanguare on ‘Golfo de Morrosquillo’
After breakfast, you will be collected from your hotel by the driver who will take you on the drive south lasting around 3-4 hours from Cartagena to Sanguare, on the Caribbean coast. The mosaic of ecosystems that make up the Sanguaré Nature Reserve, support countless animal species including a wide range of fish, amphibians, reptiles, a large variety of birds and mammals. So far 228 bird species, 126 insect families with 36 species of dragonflies and 67 of butterflies, 16 species of frogs, bats and 28 species of terrestrial mammal species have been identified in the area around the Sanguare Eco-lodge where you will be staying. Part of the profits generated by tourists visiting the reserve are for research and restoration of ecosystems in the area
The nearest town is Rincon del Mar, 11 kilometres away. This town was originally inhabited by the Balsillas Indians, the result of merging the Arawak with Carib, then colonized by the Spanish and later by the Palenque culture of African roots that prevails today and based their livelihood on fishing, agriculture, livestock and small scale tourism.
The hotel itself has been described by previous MotMot visitors as “Sanguare was fantastic in every respect, for those who want somewhere beautiful, relaxing and utterly enjoyable, it is a great place to go”. Three nights at Hotel Sanguare with all meals included.
Days 15 & 16 – Sanguare
Two full days to enjoy the hotel, Nature Reserve, beach and activities, some of which like guided walks in the Reserve are included. Numerous other activities like kayak tours, boat trips to Islands of San Bernado, diving, horseback riding and sailing are available and can be arranged directly with the hotel.
Day 17 – Sanguare – Cartagena Airport
A last day at leisure before it is time to transfer back to the airport at Cartagena for the flight to Bogota and onward connection to the UK.
Day 18 – Arrival in UK