Contrasts Of Colombia

Cable Car courtesy of the Medellin Travel Bureau
Colourful Cartagena
In the Cocora Valley
Transporting bananas in the Coffee Triangle
Cabo San Juan beach
  • Overview
  • Itinerary
  • Dates
  • Explore!

Colombia is currently one of South America’s most exciting destinations, with a rich cultural heritage, many areas of outstanding natural beauty and a notoriously friendly and welcoming population. Join us in our discovery of the country that is ‘magical realism’ personified, through the colonial cities of Cartagena, Bogota and Popayan, the beautiful wax palms and coffee farms of Armenia, and the blossoming cultural hub of Medellin.

Cartagena - Explore Latin America's colonial gem on the Caribbean Coast
Coffee Region - Lush green landscapes with coffee plantations
Silvia Market - Travel back in time to this local market run entirely by the indigenous Guambiano people
Bogota - Visit its superb pre-Colombian gold museum and the historic streets of La Candelaria
Medellin - Discover innovative design and development in this diverse modern city
Why Book this Tour
This trip is one of the more comprehensive overviews of Colombian diversity. Not only do we visit the popular Caribbean coast and colonial Bogota, but we also contrast the modern city of Medellin with the indigenous Andean populations near Popayan.
  • South America
  • Colombia
  • Bogota
  • Cartagena
  • Tours to Colombia
Tour Types
  • Foodie
  • Cultural
  • Active
  • Small Group
  • Scenic
  • Adventure
Day 1: Join tour in Bogota
Bogota is set at an altitude of over 2600m with the high ranges of the Cordillera Mountains lying to the east. The city's name comes from the Muisca indigenous people who inhabited the region before the arrival of the Spaniards in 1538, and the remnants of not only the Muisca empire but of Colombia's many other indigenous cultures can be found in the city's impressive Gold Museum. Bogota boasts grand colonial churches alongside futuristic architecture and a lively cultural scene. Arriving today we check-in to our hotel.

Day 2: In Bogota; city tour. Visit to Paloquemao local market
This morning we spend time exploring the city, first delving into local life by a visit to the flea market at Usaquen. Walking down the charming cobbled streets, this market is set in a traditional residential area of the city and is a beautiful place to wander and witness Bogota's artistic side. We also visit the farmers' market at Paloquemao, with its overwhelming array of smells and colours. Colombia is the world's second biggest producer and exporter of flowers, and as well as being an important source of local produce, the market's selection of flowers is enormous and enchanting. In the afternoon, we head to the colourful colonial streets of La Candelaria for a tour of the city. Walking under the balconied houses from where local residents often observe the comings and goings below, we'll cross the vast Plaza de Bolivar encountering some excellent examples of colonial architecture, such as the Catedral Primada de Colombia and San Bartolome College. The visit continues with the Museo Botero, a colonial house filled with works of art by the Colombian artist and sculptor Fernando Botero, famous for his abstract portrayal of people with large, exaggerated proportions. Finally, we will visit the Gold Museum, which is regarded as housing the finest collection of gold from Pre-Hispanic times.

Day 3: Cable car up Monserrate; flight to Popayan
This morning we head out of Bogota and take the cable car up Mount Monserrate for magnificent views of the city. On top of the mountain there is a church, whose statue of Senor Caido, the 'Fallen Christ', has become a pilgrimage location for the locals. If weather conditions allow you should be rewarded with fine views across the city and the countryside beyond. In the afternoon we fly to Popayan, often referred to as the 'White City', due to the prevalence of white-walled homes, buildings and churches in the historic centre. Founded in 1537 by Spanish Conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar, it played an important role during the colonial period as it was the mid-point of gold in the journey between Lima, Quito and Cartagena on its way to Spain. As result of its colonial importance, Popayan's historic centre is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved in Colombia. There are stunning churches such as the San Francisco, Santo Domingo, San Jose and La Ermita. In 2009 Popayan's Easter celebrations were declared by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. On arrival, our Leader will provide an orientation tour on foot.

Day 4: Visit Silvia local market and countryside haciendas
This morning we drive to the weekly Silvia indigenous market, run mainly by the indigenous Guambiano people. This is an opportunity to witness the interactions between the local communities that have largely maintained their traditional way of life. We will see open backed vans and lorries bringing locals from the high mountains down to the town to trade at the market - this is a sight in itself as they are using every inch of space, hanging off the back of the bus, pouring out of the doors or riding on the roof with their wares. The market is not geared towards tourism, and local produce, farming supplies and hand-spun textiles dominate the stalls. We leave with the impression of having been transported back in time. After returning to Popayan we have a free afternoon, where we may visit some of the town's art and history museums or alternatively take a trip to visit two of the old 18th century haciendas in the countryside surrounding the city. These historic buildings housed some of the country's most important figures, being built and inhabited by the Mosquera family, one of the most traditional and revered families in Colombia and a producer of two respected ex-presidents. The remarkable architecture of the haciendas is unchanged since colonial times.

Day 5: Drive from Popayan to Armenia via sugar cane mill
Setting off early from Popayan we head towards Armenia, the capital of the Quindio department and an important coffee growing centre, where we will spend the next three nights. During our 7 hour drive, we will visit an old sugar cane mill in Palmira, near Cali. This well- preserved 18th century mill has been converted into a museum and presents a fascinating look at how sugar production contributed to the development of the region. After our visit we continue to the countryside around Armenia, where we overnight in an old hacienda with views out to the Quindio River Valley.

Day 6: Full day exploring surrounding mountains and valleys
After breakfast, we spend time exploring the beautiful rainforest and creeks of the valley with the opportunity to see the multitudes of towering wax palms peppering the mountainsides, along with other flora and fauna. We will also visit the charming town of Salento to see the very characteristic architecture of this coffee growing region and enjoy a typical lunch. Smoked trout is particular to the area, usually served with plantain and rice, but you may also find yucca and arepas, a type of cornbread eaten by locals throughout the country. We finish the day off with a spectacular view of the landscape at sunset from the Mirador of Salento before returning for dinner at our accommodation.

Day 7: Full day visit to coffee farm
This is one of the most attractive parts of the country and today we will take a full day out to a local coffee farm. During the visit you will learn about the whole process from the planting of the beans all the way through the picking and roasting process, finishing off with trying the fresh coffee. The coffee in this region tends to be planted in rows extending up the mountainside, and we will be amazed by the physical work undertaken by the pickers in hauling their loads up through the coffee plants. After our visit to the coffee farm we take time to explore Pijao, a local town set atop the mountainside with astounding panoramas around the Andes. This town is integral to the history of coffee in the region, with many plantation owners or coffee vendors having come here to settle and build their homes. Now it is the perfect place to soak up the relaxed atmosphere and taste the product of the region.

Day 8: Fly to Medellin; explore on foot and by cable car
Transferring to the airport early, we catch a morning flight to Medellin, where we arrive in time for lunch. Medellin has had a colourful history, yet since the death of its most infamous resident, Pablo Escobar, in 1993, the city has gone through comprehensive urban and cultural development. After many years in which the city was considered to be the most dangerous in the world, it now has a reputation for innovation and creativity and is representative of the country's social transformation, with growing industry and projects of social integration. Part of this innovation lies in the building of a cable car system allowing the residents of the poorer neighbourhoods on the steep mountainsides surrounding Medellin to easily commute into the city to work and trade. This has undoubtedly had a huge social impact on the city, and our stay in Medellin is an opportunity to learn more about Colombia's recent, and fascinating, history. In the afternoon, we discover the mountainous barrios on the cable car, as well as visiting Espana library park, which is part of a series of 0f urban-social regeneration projects in Medellin.

Day 9: Full day trip to colourful Guatape town
Today we drive out of the city to the picturesque lakeside town of Guatape, where the houses are painted in glorious pastel shades. The town is known as 'Pueblo de Zocalos' for the intricate paintings of animals, musical instruments, flowers and birds found on the lower half of almost every building in the centre. After discovering the cobblestoned streets and lakeside cafes, we visit the enormous rock of El Penol. This monolith is Guatape's most visited site, and the 650 step climb to the top is well worth it for the astounding views over the town, the lake and the mountains before us. After taking a breather on the top, we descend and return to Medellin, taking a stop at San Antonio de Pereira, a quiet town known for its confectionary and desserts. Although there is not much to see, the 'dulce' (sweet) shops and stands are well worth a visit to sample some of the local specialties, with flavours from orange and aguardiente to caramel and yucca.

Day 10: Free morning in Medellin, fly to Cartagena and the Caribbean
This morning, we have some free time to explore the city. We have the opportunity to learn about graffiti's artistic, cultural and political context in Medellin and interact with some of the local artists in a street art tour, or visit an organic flower farm in the town of Santa Elena, just outside the city. Alternatively we can remain in the city, perhaps discovering the eccentric Barefoot Park, a zen-inspired public park where children and adults alike are encouraged to wander and play barefoot. Later this afternoon we'll fly to Cartagena, hailed as one of the most fascinating colonial cities in Latin America. Located on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena de Indias was one of the first cities to be founded by the Spanish in South America and today is famed both for its history and beauty. Our hotel is in the heart of the old-town, surrounded by the city walls and the perfect spot from which to wander to one of the city's many fine restaurants and bars. Music and nightlife is at the heart of Cartagena, and our Explore leader can point us towards one of the many popular salsa bars, where bands are often found playing their lively music to locals showing off their moves on the dancefloor.

Day 11: In Cartagena; walking tour; optional trip to Colombia National Aviary
Considered by many as one of the world's most beautiful cities, Cartagena was founded in 1533 by Spanish conquerors as a main port to transport people and their goods into South America, and export gold, silver and all sorts of plants, animals, minerals and handicrafts from all over the continent across the Caribbean and on to Europe. The city quickly became a major trading port, particularly for precious metals. Gold and silver from the mines in New Granada and Peru were loaded in Cartagena on galleons bound for Spain via Havana. It was also a slave port, a business which necessitated the construction of defences and massive fortified walls around the old city, now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today we will take a half day tour with our guide around the old town visiting, among other things, the San Felipe Fort, Convent de la Popa and the Convent de San Pedro Claver. There are plenty of things to do this afternoon, including a boat trip to the fisherman's village La Boquilla, or a visit to Colombia's National Aviary. Here we have a chance to explore the different ecosystems of Colombia, and discover the varied birdlife in each one, such as the harpy eagle, the Caribbean toucan, the pink flamingo and many other species.

Day 12: Free day; optional trip to the Rosario Islands
Today, we have more time to explore this city. Alternatively, we can take an optional boat trip to the Rosario Islands. This archipelago has some great snorkelling, nice beaches and beautiful Caribbean views. This evening there is the chance to take a relaxing horse drawn carriage ride round the beautiful and historical colonial district of Cartagena.

Day 13: Trip ends in Cartagena
Our trip ends today in Cartagena. The flight back to the UK (via Bogota) generally leaves in the evening, and as such there will be a final opportunity to soak up the atmosphere in Cartagena's cobbled streets before departing.

You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.

Dates Price Single Availability
02-Aug-2020 for 12 Nights Visit Website
02-Aug-2020 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
10-Oct-2020 for 12 Nights Visit Website
10-Oct-2020 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
24-Oct-2020 for 12 Nights Visit Website
24-Oct-2020 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
07-Nov-2020 for 12 Nights Visit Website
07-Nov-2020 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
21-Nov-2020 for 12 Nights Visit Website
21-Nov-2020 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
19-Dec-2020 for 12 Nights Visit Website
19-Dec-2020 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
16-Jan-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
16-Jan-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
23-Jan-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
23-Jan-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
06-Feb-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
06-Feb-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
13-Feb-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
13-Feb-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
20-Feb-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
20-Feb-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
01-Aug-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
01-Aug-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
09-Oct-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
09-Oct-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
23-Oct-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
23-Oct-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
06-Nov-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
06-Nov-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
20-Nov-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
20-Nov-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website
19-Dec-2021 for 12 Nights Visit Website
19-Dec-2021 for 12 Nights Flight Included Visit Website

Touring with Explore

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tour details

This tour is operated by Explore!

12 nights from pp; per Night
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Group Size:0 - 16
Suitable For: Adult
Meals:Breakfast: 12 Lunch: 4 Dinner: 3
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