Colombian Odyssey

Colombia

Culture

An epic journey through Colombia

18 days £3,795 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Intro, Dates & Prices

Intro

This tour takes in the best of Colombia - a country of great diversity in landscape, people and culture. Discover Bogotá's Gothic quarter and wander through rustic Villa de Leyva and the White City of Popayán. Take in the colossal Salt Cathedral, the surreal Tatacoa Desert, and stay on a coffee farm to learn the coffee-making process. Cast your mind back to pre-Columbian times and admire the mysterious statues in San Agustín. Travel onward to the rejuvenated city of Medellín, which has transformed dramatically from the days of Escobar, and is known for its street art and oversized Botero statues. Finally head north to Cartagena, which sits proudly on the Caribbean coast and is considered to be the most picturesque colonial city in entire Latin America.

Read the Independent on Sunday article about this trip.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Wander cosmopolitan Bogotá
  • The internationally acclaimed Museo Botero
  • The colossal Salt Cathedral
  • Colonial gem of Villa de Leyva
  • The surreal Tatacoa desert
  • The mysterious statues of historic San Agustín
  • The White City of Popayán
  • A green valley in the Central Cordillera, the name Cocora derives from an indigenous princess whose of the same name, meaning 'star of water'.
  • Traditional villages in the Coffee Triangle
  • Marvel at Cartagena’s beautiful architecture

Places Visited

Bogotá - Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá - Villa de Leyva - Tatacoa desert - San Agustín - Popayán - Valle de Cocora - Pereira - Filandia & Salento - Colombia's Coffee Triangle - Medellín - Cartagena

What's Included

Airport pick-up & drop-off
All internal flights
Ground transport
Accommodation
Entrance fees to sites
Activity fees
Breakfasts and an occasional lunch/dinner (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
Drivers and guides

Contact us today

Please confirm your humanity

Itinerary
Image 3

Day 1 : Arrival in Bogotá

Arrive at the airport in Bogotá where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative. Transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to explore Bogotá at your own pace.

Overnight in Hotel B3 Virrey, Bogotá

Meal plan: n/a

Nestled high in the Andes at 2620 m. (8646 ft), Bogotá, or Santafé de Bogotá to give it its full title, is a city of contrasts, with high-rise buildings standing next to colonial churches, museums and artisan cafés. Its influences range from Spanish and English to Indian. It is a city of wild traffic and calm oases reflecting a bygone era. 

Read more
Image 3

Day 2 : Bogotá: Local market and city tour

In the morning, head to La Plaza de Mercado Paloquemao. One of the biggest and most recognised local markets in Bogotá, it's where traditional products and ingredients of Colombian cuisine can be found. Try exotic fruits, local doughs, and Colombian cheese, and get to know the charismatic vendors, as well as local cooking techniques. 
Afterwards, embark on a half-day visit to the historic centre of Bogotá, known as La Candelaria. Visit the Plaza de Bolívar, home to a statue of the great liberator, Simón Bolívar. The visit continues with the wonderful Museo del Oro. The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore Bogotá at your own pace.
 

Overnight in Hotel B3 Virrey, Bogotá

Meal plan: Breakfast

La Candelaria is an historic neighbourhood in downtown Bogotá. The architecture of the old houses, churches and buildings utilises Spanish colonial and baroque styles, with iron windows, sturdy wooden doors and internal patios with beautiful yet hidden gardens. This vibrant district hosts the Botero Museum, which showcases not only the works of Colombia's most famous painter but also paintings by Monet and Picasso from Botero's private collection. The 'barrio' is also home to the largest and most impressive gold museum in the world, showcasing an enormous assortment of pre-Hispanic gold work, the church of Monserrate, with its stunning views over the city, many government buildings and an array of cafés and restaurants to suit every taste.

Read more
Image 3

Day 3 : Bogotá - Zipaquirá - Villa de Leyva

This morning, we start at the internationally-acclaimed Botero art museum. Few other Latin American museums contain works by Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Dali and others.

After a head full of Impressionism, we get expressive by heading north through the Bogotá savannah to Zipaquirá. A journey of 90 minutes should be enough to reach a location considered a true feat of improvised engineering: the impressive Salt Cathedral. The excursion will begin by visiting the cathedral in a tunnel that passes the fourteen Stations of the Cross and continues to the dome. Once there, you'll marvel at the enormous cross carved into saline rock, and the three naves of the Cathedral that represent the birth, life and death of Christ. Later, we’ll visit the mine for the chance to see an auditorium that can seat up to two hundred peoples, and even to the extent of hosting film screenings and events, such as fashion shows. The trip ends at a mirror of water where it is possible to experience the amazing visual effects of water on carved saline rock. Continue on a 2-hour trip to Villa de Leyva in the afternoon.
Upon arrival to Villa de Leyva, check in at the hotel.

Overnight in Posada de San Antonio, Villa de Leyva

Meal plan: Breakfast

The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá is an underground Roman Catholic church built within the tunnels of a salt mine 200 metres under a halite mountain. The name Zipaquirá refers to Zipa, the leader of the Muisca tribe and the chief of these rich salt mines. The name 'Salt Cathedral' is used principally to attract tourists; although it is a functioning church that receives up to 3,000 visitors on Sundays, it has no bishop and therefore no official status as a cathedral in Catholicism. The icons, ornaments and architectural details of the cathedral are hand-carved in the halite rock and impressive marble sculptures are on display within. At the entrance, there are 14 small chapels, representing the Stations of the Cross and illustrating the events of Jesus' last journey. The main altar is found in the central nave, above which is the largest cross made of salt in the world, measuring 16 metres high and 10 metres wide, made by the Colombian artist Carlos Enrique Rodriguez. The Salt Cathedral is considered one of the most notable achievements of Colombian architecture and has been designated a 'Jewel of Modern Architecture'. The cathedral represents for the Colombian people a valuable cultural, environmental and religious patrimony. The cathedral is part of a larger complex including "Parque de la Sal" (Salt Park), as well as a small museum of mining, mineralogy, geology and natural resources.



The Museo Botero is a colonial house in Bogotá filled with works of art created and donated by the renowned Colombian painter and sculptor, Fernando Botero. The museum houses one of Latin America's most important international art collections. There are over 100 of Botero's works on show, in addition to artwork from his own personal collection that includes pieces by Picasso, Renoir, Dalí, Matisse, Monet and Giacometti.

Read more
Image 3

Day 4 : Villa de Leyva and surroundings

Enjoy this colonial jewel, discovering its cultural and ecological attractions. Visit the Fossil Museum, founded in 1977, and located 5.5 km away from Villa de Leyva. The museum was built exactly at the place where a Kronosaurus was discovered. On the outskirts of the town, visit El Infiernito, a pre-Hispanic Muisca site, where around 30 stone columns, known as megaliths, are located. It is believed that these columns are about 2,200 years old, and that this space was reserved for the cult of fertility, judging by the phallic shape of the stones. Others, on the other hand, believe that it was used as an astronomical observatory.

Overnight in Posada de San Antonio, Villa de Leyva

Meal plan: Breakfast

Declared a national monument in 1954, the beautiful town of Villa de Leyva was founded in 1572 by Hernàn Suàrez de Villalobos, who named it after Andrès Dìas Venero de Leyva, the first president of Nueva Granada. In colonial times, Villa de Leyva played a central role in independence developments, and the Viceroy and his entourage spent much time here. To this day, the town has been preserved in its entirety; virtually no modern architecture exists. The result is a colonial town par excellence - a place where the streets are still cobbled and the walls still whitewashed. Stroll through its unhurried streets where the locals will greet you with a welcoming smile. Swelled with visitors from Bogotá on weekends, it is typically much quieter and more pleasant on weekdays.

Discovered in 1977 not far from Villa de Leyva, you can visit an incredible fossil of a Kronosaurus, the most complete Kronosaurus fossil in the world. The fossil measures about 7 metres long (without the tail). This creature, tail and all, would have measured about 12 metres in length despite not having reached its teenage years.

Read more
Image 3

Day 5 : Villa de Leyva - Bogotá

After breakfast, return to Bogotá. On the way, you’ll stop at the Convento del Santo Ecce Homo. Founded by the Dominicans in 1620, this was an important point of evangelisation in a region populated by indigenous communities. The tour ends at your hotel in Bogotá and the rest of the day is well and truly yours to explore at your leisure.

Overnight in Hotel B3 Virrey, Bogotá

Meal plan: Breakfast

Image 3

Day 6 : Bogotá - Neiva - Tatacoa Desert - San Agustín

In the morning, transfer to the airport in Bogotá for your flight to Neiva. Upon arrival at Neiva airport you will be met by a local guide, who will lead you north to visit the town of Villavieja and the Paleontological Museum. For a spot of contrast, next up we’ll visit the surreal, lunar-esque Tatacoa Desert, crossing crevasses eroded by wind and water. This fairly long trip continues 217 km to the south over a paved road until you reach San Agustín. En route, this scenic journey provides bountiful views of the floodplains of the Magdalena River valley at heights ranging from 700 metres to 1,730 metres above sea level. A road trip of approximately 6 hours sees us pull into in San Agustin, grateful to reach our hospedaje  (lodgings) for the night.

Overnight in Hotel Akawanka, San Agustín

Meal plan: Breakfast

The Tatacoa Desert, the second largest arid zone in this huge country after the Guajira Peninsula, is one of Colombia’s most beguiling landscapes. It occupies 330 square kilometres with two distinctive colours: ochre in the area of Cuzco, and grey in Los Hoyos. 

The Tatacoa, or 'Valley of Sorrows', was so named in 1538 by the conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, due to traces of deterioration he noted in its soil. Not a desert, Tatacoa is actually a tropical dry forest. This desert was once a garden teeming with flowers and trees. Millions of years of desiccation has reshaped the ecosystem, making Tatacoa what it is today. The plants in this area are adapted to climatic conditions through the development of horizontal roots up to 30 metres across, and vertical roots of 15m in length that tap into the aquifers deep below. 

Cacti reaching between four and five metres high are common. Animals found in the Tatacoa Desert include turtles, rodents, snakes, spiders, scorpions, eagles, alligators and wildcats, many of whom hide during the day. By night, Tatacoa makes perfect viewing for all eighty-eight recognised constellations, as well as spectacular meteor showers. 
 



Read more
Image 3

Day 7 : San Agustín Archaeological Park

Morning bears witness to a fascinating visit to San Agustín Archaeological Park. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, San Agustin’s ceremonial Fuente de Lavapatas is a must. While it is a ceremonial place, Fuente de Lavapatas is not a hard lava fountain, in case you were wondering. From the Fuente we’ll head uphill to the Lavapatas terrace, from which remarkable views over the surrounding countryside can be attained. We end our park visit by dropping into the small Museo Arqueológico to uncover the site’s history, and to find out about ongoing conservation efforts. 

Afterwards, we hit the trail with a visit to the wonderful Colombian massif, the source of the Magadalena River, a spectacular rocky gorge that forces the river to pass through a gap of just 2.2 metres. Return thereafter to the hotel.

n.b. The archaeological park of San Agustin is closed on Tuesdays.

Overnight in Hotel Akawanka, San Agustín

Meal plan: Breakfast

Ten hours south of Bogotá, and home to a key archeological centre in all South America, the World Heritage site of San Agustín is a small town of 18,000 people. It’s hard to dispute its breath-taking scenery, and even harder to dispute its great music. A fascinating place, the pre-Incan civilisation that once lived here is shrouded in mystery; even their actual name is still unknown. 

The archaeological park sprawls over an area of 500 square kilometres and is so important as to be considered the largest pre-Columbian site in South America. Uniting cultural influences from the disparate peoples of the Andes, Amazonia and the Caribbean groups, not much is known of the cultures that created the statues, dolmens and carvings, but these relics tell a tale of their own. Approximately 500 statues and tombs are  scattered in groups over an area on both sides of the Rio Magdalena Gorge. Most likely many more lie undiscovered. Some experts speculate that huge Mayan-like pyramids and other structures remain buried throughout the area. Other than amazing statues, on display are burial chambers and ritual edifices in the Parque Arqueológico. Huge petroglyphs are scattered throughout the valley. As far as culture and society is concerned, archeologists have determined that the San Agustín attained a state of gender equality, even sometimes electing female leaders. Furthermore, the people of San Agustin are reckoned to have had a strong grasp of advanced mathematics, attempted complex surgeries and were obsessed with the idea of life after death. Gruesomely, people were subject to ritual sacrifice: burned and buried alive under the influence of hallucinogens. What an end!


Read more
Image 3

Day 8 : San Agustín - Popayán

After breakfast, we depart on a roughly 5-hour unpaved drive to Popayán, the capital of the department of Cauca. Enjoy the journey surrounded by Andean scenery at its finest: picturesque mountains and high-altitude plains. 

Upon arrival, you'll embark on a half-day visit to the historic centre of Popayán, concentrating on Parque Caldas. Around the Parque Caldas are the main religious and government buildings, as well as architectural originals like Torre del Reloj. This centuries-old clock tower is considered one of the symbols of the city, and was built between 1673-1682, then set to the right time in 1737. Continue towards the Puente de Humilladero, built in 1873 to facilitate access from the city centre to El Callejón (currently Barrio Bolívar), particularly for those pilgrims making the journey on their knees. The Morro de Tulcán, Popayán’s main archaeological site, is next and comprises a pre-Columbian truncated pyramid. Visit the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, a baroque-style church designed by the Spanish architect Antonio García and commissioned by the Arboleda family. See the Iglesia de San Francisco, considered the most beautiful baroque church in town. Visit the Museo de Arte Religioso, which houses an interesting collection of religious art.

n.b.the museum of Guillermo León Valencia will be closed every Monday.

Overnight in La Plazuela, Popayán

Meal plan: Breakfast

Popayán was founded in the year 1537 by Sebastián de Belalcázar. Its beautiful white colonial houses lend Popayán the epithet of White City.

Popayán has played a major role in Colombia's history dating back to the early days of the Spanish conquest right up to the twentieth century. A number of Colombian presidents were born there, including, most recently, Guillermo Leon Valencia who was in power from 1962 to 1966. In 2005, Popayán became the first city to be designated a City of Gastronomy as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative. Typical local dishes come from a legacy of Spanish and indigenous cultural interaction: a delightful fusion of special ingredients and cooking styles from the region with fruits brought from Spain. Popayán is also widely known for the solemnity of its Easter processions, during which it commemorates the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Since the 16th century processions have passed through Popayán's historical downtown. During Easter week, the old town is also home to the Festival de Música Religiosa (Festival of Religious Music), which began in the 1960s. Partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1983, Popayán’s administration had the foresight to take their time with its reconstruction. Two decades on and there is almost no evidence of damage to its white-paved streets. Rich with impressive churches and colonial architecture, it’s easy to spend hours wandering around a magical little town where one elegant street leads onto another.


Read more
Image 3

Day 9 : Popayán: Silvia Market

Half-day visit to the small town of Silvia, located in a temperate mountainous area near Popayán and consisting of picturesque houses surrounded by vast sugar cane plantations. The indigenous Guambiano community with a population of 12,000 inhabitants lives in small mountain villages nearby. Every Tuesday, on market day, the village of Silvia is transformed into a colorful, bustling and picturesque place when the Guambiano indigenous people descend upon Silvia dressed in their traditional 'anacos', a blue knee-length skirt-like wraparound to sell, fruit, vegetables and handicrafts.

Return to Popayán. The rest of the day is free for you to explore at your own pace.

Overnight in La Plazuela, Popayán

Meal plan: Breakfast

Image 3

Day 10 : Popayán - Coffee Region

After breakfast, begin a 6-hour drive north to Pereira, through rolling countryside and traditional towns. On arrival at your accommodation in the coffee region, once checked-in, the rest of the day is all yours.

Overnight in Sazagua Hotel, Pereira

Meal plan: Breakfast

 In a country full of beautiful landscapes, the Valle de Cocora stands out as one of the most picturesque. The valley stretches east of Salento into the lower reaches of Parque Nacional Natural de los Nevados. Everywhere, you’ll see the famous Quindian wax palm, Colombia’s national tree and the largest palm in the world (up to 60 metres tall). Valle de Cocora is also home to a trout farm and the trout dishes are particularly good. The endemic fauna is semi-mythical:  mountain tapirs, spectacled bears, pumas, sloths, yellow-eared parrots, black-billed mountain-toucans, Andean condors and hummingbirds. Wow!

Pereira is the capital city of the department of Risaralda in Colombia. Bang in the heart of the western region of the country, Pereira lies in a small valley branching off the western Andes mountain chain. An urban centre in a coffee-producing region, this regional capital is a principal gateway into a verdant region

Read more
Image 3

Day 11 : The Coffee Region

After breakfast, we leave for the Valle de Cocora in the central mountains of the department of Quindío. Upon arrival in the valley, the options are either to hike in, or on horseback (not included), to the cloud forest to enjoy the biodiversity of flora and fauna. On the return journey, we cross the River Quindío along an ecological pathway that takes you past the tallest wax palms in the world. Learn why the indigenous people here worship this tree. Afterwards, enjoy a typical lunch, after which you can soak up the surrounds with some free time. 

In the afternoon, continue 10 km towards the traditional town of Salento to enjoy a tour that takes in the Plaza de Bolívar with its colourful balconies, Calle Real, handicrafts shops, and the Cocora viewpoint. Subsequently, you’ll be taken onward to the village of Filandia to enjoy a tour that includes a viewpoint, colonial homes, the Plaza de Bolívar and the coffee shops. Here, enjoy some time absorbing the regional atmosphere, and perhaps some local spirits before returning to the hotel.

n.b. Cocora Valley and Salento can be very popular during the high season.

Overnight in Sazagua Hotel, Pereira

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

 In a country full of beautiful landscapes, the Valle de Cocora stands out as one of the most picturesque. The valley stretches east of Salento into the lower reaches of Parque Nacional Natural de los Nevados. Everywhere, you’ll see the famous Quindian wax palm, Colombia’s national tree and the largest palm in the world (up to 60 metres tall). Valle de Cocora is also home to a trout farm and the trout dishes are particularly good. The endemic fauna is semi-mythical:  mountain tapirs, spectacled bears, pumas, sloths, yellow-eared parrots, black-billed mountain-toucans, Andean condors and hummingbirds. Wow!

Filandia and Salento are two small pretty colonial style villages in the coffee region of Colombia, both set in stunning surroundings. Salento is the oldest village in the Quindio region with cobblestone streets and a wealth of restaurants, cafés and bars. Filandia is home to the beautiful María Inmaculada church. Its streets lined with colourful buildings with wooden balconies.

Read more
Image 3

Day 12 : The Coffee Region

Half-day visit to the Finca del Café, a place where coffee tastes better when you live the experience of the farm! On arrival, an expert guide will take you through the coffee production process, beginning with the planting, manual picking and pulping. After this, you will toast coffee beans in a wood stove in a typical farmhouse kitchen. During the tour, you will come to several viewpoints from which you can appreciate the verdant coffee landscape. Finally, learn about the innovative drying process of the coffee bean, then visit the coffee processing centre. This tour includes three cups of freshly roasted coffee, from beans cultivated at the Finca del Café. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight in Sazagua Hotel, Pereira

Meal plan: Breakfast

Colombia's coffee triangle is so named for the triangle formed by the region's three main towns - Armenia, Manizales and Pereira. Between these is the region that produces the majority of Colombia's coffee - arguably the best coffee in the world. Coffee growing contributes to more than one in three jobs in agriculture in Colombia, and coffee is an integral part of Colombian life and culture. UNESCO inscribed Colombia's "Coffee Cultural Landscape" into its World Heritage List in 2011. 

The harvest in Colombia takes around a year, although the main period is between October and May/June. Most of the plantations in Colombia cultivate Arabica beans, which produce a delicate and light-tasting coffee that is widely recognised and consumed. The process begins when the bean is planted and takes approximately 75 days to germinate. The seedling is then placed in a plastic bag and placed in partial sunlight until its base dries. Two years after plantation, the tree bears its first fruit, which is harvested when the bean is red in colour, dry and ripe. Once the fruit has been picked, the pulp is stripped away and the bean is cleaned and dried in the sun (the big haciendas now use special machinery to strip and dry the beans quickly). The beans are dried or exported in preparation for sale, before being ground up and prepared for human consumption. 

 


Read more
Image 3

Day 13 : Pereira - Medellín

After breakfast, you'll be transferred from hotel to the airport in Pereira, flown direct to Medellin, then promptly transferred to your hotel there. The rest of the day is your own to explore this rejuvenated city.

Overnight in Hotel Poblado Plaza, Medellín

Meal plan: Breakfast

As the second largest city in Colombia, the bustling streets of Medellín are awash with features that highlight its historical and cultural significance. Medellín is also noted for its numerous sculptures from local artist Fernando Botero. Botero’s sculptures frequently show people that have been purposely swollen and enlarged, something done to convey his negative attitude towards politics.

This is a city reborn from the ashes of the notorious Escobar cartel that controlled it until the 1990s. Its resurgence is considered nothing less than remarkable.


Read more
Image 3

Day 14 : Medellín: Social transformation tour

After breakfast, we begin a half-day tour to visit the areas of Medellín that best represent the city's radical social transformation over the last 20 years. In the 1980s and '90s, Medellín was one of the most dangerous cities in the world, with the notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar, and his Medellín Cartel, operating at their peak. With his death in 1993, the reign of 'El Patrón' came to an end, but it took until 2002 for the city to start seeing real changes, when the government began to invest heavily in infrastructure and public education. 

Nowadays, the 'City of Eternal Spring' is one of the most innovative metropolises in the world. Visit the barrio San Javier, which used to be one of the most unsafe suburbs of Medellín. Located 7 km from the city centre, it is an excellent example of the social transformation that has taken place over the last few years. Arrive here by the Metrocable that joins the north-east area with the city centre, the installation of which has been life- changing for many of the inhabitants of Medellín. Learn more about the city’s transformation after the death of Pablo Escobar and explore Medellin’s newest invention: the outdoor escalators in the Comuna 13 district. Discover stories about the district's past by visiting the most important places marked by historical events and see graffiti that acts as a form of artistic expression for the community. Bask in the beautiful cityscape views from San Javier. 

Then, continue to La Plazoleta (renamed Plaza Botero) located in the city centre. This area fell into decline in the 1980s but today houses 23 sculptures by Fernando Botero. The artist donated the sculptures to the city in 2000 and thus contributed to the cultural transformation of the city. 

After the tour, feel free to explore Medellín at your own pace.

n.b. Communa 13 can be very popular at weekends and throughout the high season.

Overnight in Hotel Poblado Plaza, Medellín

Meal plan: Breakfast

Image 3

Day 15 : Medellín: El Peñol rock and Guatapé

Today, we venture into the town of Guatapé to visit the enormous El Peñol rock. The journey to El Peñol takes around two hours, during which opportunity abounds to appreciate the outstanding landscape of Antioquia. In the picturesque village of Guatapé all of the houses are painted in quaint pastel colours.

After lunch, visit the Guatapé reservoir, on a 30-minute boat tour. For those who wish to climb El Peñol for outstanding views, there will be time for this.

n.b. El Peñol & Guatape can be very popular attractions during the weekends and in high season.

Overnight in Hotel Poblado Plaza, Medellín

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Located on the outskirts of Medellín, the town of Guatapé is known for its brightly coloured houses and is a popular weekend getaway for residents of Medellín. One of the town's main attractions is its reservoir, created by the Colombian government for a hydro-electric dam, and the huge El Peñol rock that stands within it. It is possible to climb El Peñol, with a zig-zagging staircase winding its way to the top with over 600 steps. The reward for the climb is panoramic views of the whole Guatapé reservation.

Read more
Image 3

Day 16 : Medellín - Cartagena

Medellin is well known for its pleasant climate and annual flower festival. Just an hour away is Santa Elena, a small town from which the silleteros hail. These master florists are responsible for the symbolic annual silleteros' parade, the main event at the festival. The most important tradition for them is the production of silletas (chairs) with flowers grown in their own gardens. The word silleta goes back to colonial times, when the Spanish nobles were carried by native Indians on their backs using a wooden structure shaped like a chair. This tradition continues to this day, but to carry produce rather than people. 

The tour begins early, passing along the Corredor de Las Palmas, the main highway to the international airport. En route, visit a typical craft market to appreciate the local handicrafts, or to taste regional delicacies. On arrival in Santa Elena we’ll visit an authentic flower farm, where you will have the opportunity to meet local farmers and connoisseurs of the silleteros art. Please keep in mind that this is a rural area and roads to plantations aren’t always paved. Transfer to Medellín airport to catch a flight to Cartagena. 

On your arrival in Cartagena, you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. Check-in and enjoy an evening to roam in this iconic Caribbean city.

Overnight in Bantu by Faranda , Cartagena

Meal plan: Breakfast

Meander through Cartagena’s picture-perfect streets. You cannot fail to admire a city that oozes beauty and whispers its long history from its famous battlements.

Founded in 1533, Cartagena became the main port on the Caribbean coast during Spanish rule. Treasure was stored in the city until it could be taken to Spain and for this reason, in the 16th century, Cartagena suffered five sieges including one led by Francis Drake in 1586. This is why the Spaniards then built the forts (Fuertes) and walls (Las Murallas) that still encompass the old town. The Puerta Del Reloj (Clock Gate) signals the entrance to the inner part of the walled city, also called Calamari. Just behind this is the old slave market situated in the Plaza de los Coches. The Plaza de la Aduana and Plaza de Bolivar also have fascinating historical context, as well as the numerous churches, museums, convents and monuments.


Read more
Image 3

Day 17 : Cartagena: Half-day panoramic city tour

Begin your half-day city tour with panoramic views of the city from the Convento de La Popa. Continue to the Castillo San Felipe and walk around the fortress, learning about the castle's construction, the feats of engineering to build it, the tunnels, underground galleries and passageways. Then, continue to the Ciudad Vieja (old city) to visit the Convent and Church of the San Pedro Claver compound, built in the 17th century. Lastly, head to Bovedas, a collection of arches built into Cartagena's city walls and used until the end of the 18th century to house armaments, later being converted into a prison. Nowadays, it’s an artisanal centre where handicrafts can be browsed and purchased. 

The afternoon is yours to explore Cartagena at your own leisurely pace.

Overnight in Bantu by Faranda , Cartagena

Meal plan: Breakfast

Built by the Spanish and named in honour of King Philip IV of Spain, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is a fortress located on the Hill of San Lázaro. Sited there because its strategic location dominated access to the city by land or sea, the fortress has been expanded over the years. The castle has resisted French, British and Spanish attack throughout its chequered history, As for the walls of San Felipe de Barajas, as Cartagena was a major slave port, they are said to be splattered with the blood of traded captives. 

Cartagena is so distinguished that the entire old town is enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The Convento de La Popa sits on the tallest hill in Cartagena. It boasts panoramic views of the city as well as having the most beautiful cloisters in the country. Legend has it that the convent was founded by the Augustinian monk, Alonso Paredes, who was fasting in the desert when he had a vision in which the Virgin Mary demanded that he build a monastery on the tallest point in Cartagena. When he went to carry out the demands, he found that a pagan sect had already built a shrine on the same spot so he threw their idol from the top of La Popa and replaced it with a statue of the Virgin de la Candelaria, which still stands there to this day.


Read more
Image 3

Day 18 : Cartagena: Free day

A free morning to explore more of Cartagena, as it should be.

Mid/late afternoon, transfer to airport for your flight back to Bogota and connect with your onward flight. Alternatively, join us for an optional extension to Tayrona or elsewhere in Colombia. Contact us for options.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

Image 3

Hotel B3 Virrey

Bogotá (3 nights)

Located close to Parque El Virrey in the desirable Chico area of north Bogotá, Hotel El Virrey is a modern, stylish boutique hotel with a strong focus on environmental sustainability. It has an eye-catching facade, which is covered in a vertical garden, and rooms are decorated in a simple but chic manner. Rooms at Hotel B3 Virrey are equipped with a flat-screen TV, work desk and private bathroom with hairdryer. Facilities at the hotel include Wi-Fi, a fitness centre, currency exchange and bicycles. El Tres Bar and Restaurant offers light meals, snacks and cocktails.

Visit hotel's site
Image 3

Posada de San Antonio

Villa de Leyva (2 nights)

Posada de San Antonio is a charming colonial house located close to Villa de Leyva's historical centre. The hotel has kept its original, traditional features, with gabled roofs and wooden beams throughout. The uniquely decorated large rooms have en-suite bathrooms, a mini-bar, cable TV and Wi-Fi. Facilities at the property include an on-site restaurant and coffee shop.

Visit hotel's site
Image 3

Hotel Akawanka

San Agustín (2 nights)

Hotel Akawanka is a delightful lodge located in San Augustin, surrounded by beautiful gardens in which organic produce is grown and served in the hotel restaurant. The gardens have stunning architecture, landscapes and a natural waterfall and are perfect for relaxing in. The lodge also offers many activities and entertainment, including music, dance, and the work of local artists.

Image 3

La Plazuela

Popayán (2 nights)

Colonial mansion from XVIII century located in the historic centre of Popayan. Comfortable rooms, some with private balcony, mini bar, cable TV and room service free of charge 24 hours.

Visit hotel's site
Image 3

Sazagua Hotel

Pereira (3 nights)

This boutique hotel is nested in the heart of the Coffee Cultural Landscape, declared as UNESCO Heritage of Humanity. Its name is an homage to the civilization that inhabited the region ("Quimbaya"), aiming to provide the warmth of home while surrounded by exotic birds and gardens full of palms and tropical flowers. The property counts with 15 rooms rooms which feature air conditioning, WiFi, cable TV, a security box and minibar and relaxing areas.

Visit hotel's site
Image 3

Hotel Poblado Plaza

Medellín (3 nights)

Located in the main business and tourism area of ​​Medellín, the Poblado Plaza Hotel is an excellent option for business or leisure travelers, thanks to its high-quality service in elegant and comfortable spaces. By staying at the Hotel Poblado Plaza, you will have access to the best shops, the most exclusive restaurants, a pleasant nightlife and the main business centers of the city.
Elegance, exclusivity and comfort are characteristics that you will find in the Hotel Poblado Plaza, both for business and pleasure trips. Upon arrival, the hotel welcomes you with a traditional Baroque fountain, beautiful flowers from the region and the undivided attention of our staff.

 

Visit hotel's site
Image 3

Bantu by Faranda

Cartagena (2 nights)

Surrounded by the vibrant waters of the Caribbean and infinite stretches of coastline, Bantu Hotel By Faranda Boutique is the perfect choice for those who wish to be close to an extensive array of outdoor activities and notable sites such as Simon Bolivar House and Museum, University of Cartagena, San Pedro, Bolivar Square, and Convention Center Cartagena.
Along with beautifully exposed wood beams and rustic furnishing, vacationers of Bantu Hotel By Faranda Boutique revel its prime location and outstanding selection of modern amenities such as LCD TV, premium cable channels, free Wi-Fi, minibar, and in-room safe. What’s more, comfy abodes are aptly fitted with air conditioning, which is ideal for the tropical climate. Articles like hair dryer plus rollaway beds and complimentary cribs are obtainable upon request. Proficient housekeeping is provided daily.

Visit hotel's site
Extensions

Wildlife of Colombia

Remote Amazon, schools of whales and incredible birdlife

Active Colombia (1-14 days)

Hiking, diving, horseriding and more

Coffee & Cuisine of Colombia (2-7 days)

Stay on a coffee farm, experience Caribbean cooking and fine dining

Luxury Colombia

Eco-retreats in the rainforest, converted coffee farms and more

Colombia's Cities (1-5 days)

Discover Medellin's statues, Bogota's street art and Cartagena's charms

Colombia's Beaches (1-7 days)

Remote beaches along the Caribbean and Pacific coast

Tayrona Extension (3 days)

Explore the beauty of Tayrona National Park

Colombian Odyssey (18 days)

An epic journey through Colombia

Black & White Carnival (16 days)

Get carried away at Carnaval de Negros y Blancos

Culture & Birds of Colombia (15 days)

A gentle intro to Colombia's birds and historical sights

Birds & Mammals of Colombia (15 days)

See Why This is Earth’s Second-most Megadiverse Country

Classic Colombia (14 days)

Discover the history, charms and rhythms of Colombia

Colombia Adrenaline Rush (8 days)

Rafting, rappelling and paragliding in Santander

Amazon Adventure (7 days)

Venture into the heart of the Amazon

Lost City Trek (7 days)

The most intrepid trek of all

Caribbean Chillout (6 days)

Idyllic beaches, water sports and great seafood

Reviews

David and Rahul, what a great company you run! My tailormade trip to Colombia was just perfect! Your advice and guidance in advance of the trip was excellent. I loved the accommodation in Bogota and Cartagena; quaint and traditional. And the staff were incredibly friendly, welcoming and helpful. Your agent, Russell, was very attentive, and the drivers allocated to transport me were punctual, friendly and helpful! I cannot fault a thing. Thanks so much for planning such smooth-running trip for me. And, naturally, Colombia was the big star; can`t wait to visit again!

Stuart Robinson , Tailormade Colombia

I would recommend Travel The Unknown`s Colombian Odyssey tour for anyone who wants a fairly comprehensive tour of the highlights of Colombia. I would definitely advise an add on to Cartagena, if you haven`t already visited. Colombia is a wonderful place to take a holiday whether you have been to Latin America many times before or even if it is your first trip. Travel The Unknown have definitely chosen the best places to stay and we were very well looked after. If you want a completely tailormade trip, I`m quite sure that the experience would be equally excellent. It`s good to find a smaller company where you get a more personal service and which goes to off beat places or off beat areas of well known but far away places.

Julie Crank , Colombian Odyssey, Colombia

We have just returned from a three week trip to Colombia organised on a private basis by Travel the Unknown. This followed our tours with them to both Eastern and Western Turkey in 2015 and to Iran in 2014. We view all three trips as great successes, wherein everything that was promised, was delivered. We will be planning further trips with them.

James & Margaret Stewart , Tailormade Colombia

Seamless, worry-free travel in a far flung corner of the world. It was the best way to make sure we used our travel time seeing the country, interacting with the people, and tasting the food. I`ve already spent enough time, in queues, on buses, or just generally lost to appreciate a well planned trip.

Sean and Bonnee Gregg , Tailormade Colombia

Thanks so much for a wonderful trip. The whole trip was fantastic. Our guides throughout were knowledgeable, enthusiastic and friendly. The Humming Bird walk in Manizales was probably the highlight but it`s not easy to choose. We will definitely travel with Travel the Unknown again.

Shaun Matthews , Tailormade Colombia

An amazing and comprehensive tour of Colombia. This is a beautiful county, go now before it gets too touristy!

Gillian Lowe , Tailormade Colombia

Thanks for making my trip possible and so successful in such a short time. I loved every single second and the trek to the Lost City is amazing. Would do it again in this precise moment. And Colombia was a pleasant surprise, the country is incredible and really safe against the common stereotypes. It is a place I would be happy to live in, with the good weather, the colours and on particular the music. The food was incredible and freshly cooked. I am normally a fussy eater but I had every single meal almost cleaning the plate every time! Really enjoyed the fresh fruit supplied during the breaks.
The package was excellent considering the very short notice. I was impressed by the efficiency and the great communication.

Lisa Zardoni , Lost City Trek, Colombia

There have been so many highlights on our 15-day trip to Colombia: the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, Colonial towns of Villa de Leyva and Cartagena, learning about the coffee culture, the wonderfully crazy Carnaval de Negros Y Blancos at Pasto to name a few. The guides were friendly, knowledgeable, and eager to introduce us to the local culture, making this one of the most memorable trips I've ever taken.

Albert Chau , Festivals of Colombia, Colombia

The Lost City trip was amazing. Would recommend this trip to anyone who has a sense of adventure and not afraid to leave their comfort zone. Machu Picchu is nothing like this and the sense of achievement you get when you reach the Lost City is truely outstanding. I am now looking for a similar adventure in another part of the world.

Daniel Bean , Lost City Trek, Colombia

This was a great adventure. Be prepared to get hot and wet but the rewards are worth it. Beautiful scenery and we learnt a lot about the history of Colombia and the local region from our guide. Would recommend Colombia to any travellers. Thanks to Travel the Unknown for organising trip, we had no issues which allowed us to appreciate the country even more. This was one of the best treks I have done. Very enjoyable and some amazing scenery.

Terry Cooper , Lost City Trek, Colombia

Travel the Unknown organised a brilliant three-location private trip to Colombia, including Bogotá Gold Museum, coffee-country and colonial and Republican Cartagena. Practical arrangements for transport, hotels and guides worked well. It was a delightful tour.

Tony Cram , Tailormade Colombia
More reviews