You begin your tour in busy Bogota, city of grand Spanish mansions and museums with treasures that include thousands of gold objects and paintings by artists like Picasso, Monet and Renoir.
In San Agustin you’ll encounter hundreds of mythology-inspired statues from the pre-Colonial era. In Cartagena you’ll be walking in the footsteps of pirates, slaves, buccaneers and Spanish generals. And in Tayrona your walk will be along the beach, or nature trails rich in bird and animal life.
Catch a late evening flight, direct to Bogota, arriving the next day. In the morning you will tour the historic streets of the old quarter of Bogota with its architecturally fascinating buildings, its old casonas and grand Spanish mansions with typical ornate ironwork, great entrance doors, internal courtyards and balconies overlooking hidden gardens.
You’ll see the cathedral, and the statue of Simon Bolivar in the old Plaza Mayor – once a market place, bull ring and the scene of military demonstrations and executions. The Museo Botero is next, featuring paintings by Picasso, Renoir, Dali, Matisse, Monet and Giacometti and you’ll end your tour in the glittering Museo de Oro which contains over 34,000 gold objects and 20,000 exhibits from cultures ranging from the Quimbaya and Calima to the Tumaco and Magdalena.
In the afternoon you have the option of soaring up to Monserrate – 500 metres above Bogota – by cable car or funicular for some unmissable views. The following day sees you amongst the flower plantations and impressive salt mines of Zipaquira – there’s even a vast cathedral built of salt – as well as colonial churches rich in extravagant period decoration.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room at the Sofitel Victoria Regia.
A short internal flight takes you to Pitalito where you’ll be met and taken to San Agustin. This archaeological park is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a full day’s excursion presents you with over 500 imposing stone statues depicting the mythology and beliefs of their indigenous carvers.
You’ll find yourself amongst figures and tombs reflecting a mysterious world of spiritual power, funerary rites and the supernatural world of an ancient civilisation. Your sense of wonder will continue into today’s natural world as well; you’ll have time to discover the region’s flora and wildlife on nature walks and horse and cycle rides along ecological trails. Visits to the ceremonial Fuente de Lavapatas, the Lavapatas Terrace and the Museo Arqueologico, as well as a drive to Isnos complete your stay at San Agustin.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room at the Akawanka Hotel.
Today you’re taken back to Pitalito to connect with your internal flight to Pereira, via Bogota. Now you’re in the heart of the world famous coffee region, which has a legacy that pre-dates the Spanish era, so as well as great coffee and beautiful landscapes, you can expect places like Manizales to offer a rich cultural life, museums and monuments. Armenia has been rebuilt after the disastrous earthquake of 1999 and Pereira is known for its bustle, gastronomy and nightlife.
Naturally you’ll visit a coffee plantation and gain an insight into creating fine coffee; from growing and harvesting to processing the beans.
You’ll also have time to visit the colourful houses of Salento, as well as a local village for an insight into the architecture, culture and crafts – like basket weaving – of the area’s indigenous people. If you’re a bird watcher, be on the lookout for hummingbirds and parrots and numerous other exotic species.
Stay: Three nights in a standard room at Hacienda San Jose.
Take a flight to Cartagena and you’ll be walking through a history that includes warlike Indians, Spanish Conquistadors, slaves, Inquisitors, pirates and buccaneers. Today the great city’s fortifications are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the whole place is a treasure house of grandiose religious and civil buildings, quaint streets with balconied houses and myriad twisting alleyways.
You’ll be staying in a luxurious hotel created within three 17th century colonial buildings, in the midst of Cartagena’s historic heart. You’ll go on sightseeing trips to the Monasterio and Iglesia de la Popa with fantastic 360 degree panoramic views of the city, port and ocean. You’ll also tour the San Felipe Fortress, built to repel pirate attacks, and the churches and convents of the old city, culminating in Bovedas, the handicraft market built into the archways of the city wall – previously used as an arsenal and prison.
Stay: Three nights in a classic room at Casa San Agustin.
Tayrona National Park
After the ancient city of Cartgena it’s time to explore a national park nestling between the Caribbean Sea and the foothills of the mighty Sierra Nevada. A scenic, five hour journey brings you to Tayrona National Park – a stunning mixture of natural habitats that include densely wooded slopes, breath-taking mountain landscapes and the sparkling white beaches that fringe the Caribbean.
If you’re keen on nature you’ll have 37,000 acres to explore – home to a massive variety of animals, including mammals, reptiles and insects. The bird watching is outstanding and of course, indigenous trees, exotic plants and tropical flowers abound. You’ll be staying in eco-style cabins on a hill in the heart of Tayrona National Park, overlooking the sea and the surrounding countryside. The cabins are reached by steps, so the more you climb, the better the views.
Stay: Three nights in a standard room at Ecohabs Tayrona.
Tayrona – Bogota – Home
Time to say goodbye to the wildlife and travel to Santa Marta for your flight back to Bogota. You’ll depart Bogota in the evening, arriving back home early afternoon the following day.