Catch a late evening flight direct to Bogotá, arriving early the next day. In the morning you will tour the historic streets of the old quarter with its 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. You’ll then 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 Bogotá – by cable car or funicular for some unmissable views. The following day sees you amongst the flower plantations and impressive salt mines of Zipaquirá – there’s even a vast cathedral built of salt – as well as colonial churches rich in extravagant period decoration.
Stay: Two nights in a superior room at the Sofitel Victoria Regia – bed & breakfast
A short internal flight takes you to Pitalito where you’ll be met and taken to San Agustín. 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 San Agustín.
Stay: Two nights in a double room at the Akawanka Hotel – bed & breakfast
Today you’re taken back to Pitalito to connect with your internal flight to Armenia, the capital of Quindío which is one of the three departments that make up the Zona Cafetera. You find yourself in the heart of Colombia’s 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 museums, monuments and a rich cultural life.
Naturally you’ll visit nearby plantations and gain an insight into creating fine coffee; from growing and harvesting to processing the beans. But 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 double room at Hacienda Bambusa – half board
Take a flight to Cartagena and you’ll be walking through a history that includes Caribe 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 deluxe room at the Casa San Agustín – bed & breakfast
You now swap the ancient city of Cartagena for a stay on the sun kissed Caribbean coastline. You will be transferred to the dock where a boat will be waiting to take you to Isla Barú. An irresistible combination of balmy turquoise waters, exciting water sports and some of the finest white sand beaches on the continent make Isla Barú the perfect finale to tour Colombia adventure.
When you’re not lounging by the pool and soaking up the sun you can head out on a tour around the islands, explore the mangroves, try kayaking or discover the region’s diverse marine life on a scuba diving or snorkelling excursion.
Stay: Three nights in a double room at Las Islas – bed & breakfast
Today you will catch a flight back to Bogotá, from where you will meet your connecting flight home.
Of your various competitors, Ayesha stood out a mile ahead with her advice, decisiveness and willingness to help- RW, India, 2014