This 3 week long itinerary is ideal for travellers who want to do more than just see the country’s highlights. You will experience Colombia’s colonial history and culture, learn about its rich indigenous heritage, discover its many natural wonders and take part in exhilarating outdoor activities. After arriving you’ll settle in and acclimatise for a couple of days in the capital Bogota, where you can take your pick of charming boutique hotels in the historic quarter or modern, elegant hotels in the trendy neighbourhoods. By day you can immerse yourself in the well-known and very educational Gold and Botero museums and at night you can sample some very innovative cuisine in the capital’s bustling restaurant scene, blending traditional Colombian dishes with modern flavours.
From the capital you’ll head north on a four-day chauffeured road adventure to Villa De Leyva, one of the country’s best preserved colonial towns. The next day, and after exploring both the town and the surrounding Boyaca region, you will continue north and cross into the department of Santander. Here you’ll be based in Barichara, regarded as Colombia’s prettiest colonial village, from where you will either discover the town and it’s beautiful surrounding countryside and mountain trails or head into the breathtaking Chicamocha valley each day for any number of outdoor sports such as white-water rafting, mountain-biking, trekking and paragliding.
From Santander you’ll fly to Colombia’s southernmost city Leticia, which lies on the banks of the world’s largest river and borders both Peru and Brazil. One of Colombia’s most spectacular experiences, the Amazon is a rainforest paradise, a vast jungle chock full of beautiful lakes, wetlands teeming with wildlife and of course the big river itself. At night you’ll sleep in the floating houses of the native communities that live in the heart of the jungle, their buildings completely surrounded by water during the high-water season. During the day you will set out on river safari and will encounter every form of wildlife from scaly iguanas sunning themselves on branches to blue and yellow macaws hidden right up in the tree-tops. Families of monkeys will pass by you as they play around and jump impossible distances between the trees, while pink dolphins jump and dive around you to their hearts’ content.
After a few days on the wilder side your next stop will be Colombia’s second city, Medellin. Here you’ll get to experience first-hand the strong culture of the locals, known as paisas, who are some of the warmest, most welcoming people you’ll meet anywhere. You can explore the city’s traditional neighbourhoods or visit one of the underprivileged parts of the city to witness some of the innovative urban solutions that have gained much international praise. In the evening you can sample the laid-back culture by bar-hopping or dining in one of the many trendy outdoor bars & restaurants within the modern El Poblado district. After basking in Medellin’s warm climate and people, it’s time to fly to the rugged, unspoilt Pacific Coast. With no roads in sight, transport along the coast is by boat and there is very little human encroachment upon the dense jungle. It’s virgin land, where jungle meets the ocean, interspersed with deserted black sand beaches and a handful of eco-lodges. In the right season, July – December, this is where you can see humpback whales playing in the surf, as they mate and also raise their young. You can go trekking along the clear rivers to hidden waterfalls deep in the jungle, eat fresh coconut plucked straight from the palm and go fishing for tuna.
After the Pacific, it’s time to head to Colombia’s other coastline along the Caribbean. From Santa Marta and the Tayrona region, there’s the option to do the 4-day trek to the Lost City in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, where you’ll encounter ruins from the Tayrona tribe which the Spanish fought for over 200 hundred years. Along the way you’ll also pass more peaceful indigenous tribes which exist to this day and preserve their way of life in their spiritual homeland.
As an alternative to the Lost City trek, you can head into Colombia’s northern wilds, the desert region known as La Guajira. This is a land of arid desert and salt plains shimmering in the distance, with endless blue sky above you. Colombia’s largest indigenous population, the Wayuu tribe, calls this land home and they have adapted to survive in the harsh environment. It’s a remote, lonely place that few travellers make the effort to venture to, but for those who do the rewards are spectacular. The night sky is filled with a million stars and at the continent’s most northerly point a perfect, crescent sand dune falls precipitously into the sea. And the best part is you’ll have the whole beach to yourself.
Finally, it’s on to the romantic, magical, Cartagena. Fans of Garcia Marquez will easily be able to imagine the cobblestone streets, filled with musicians and lovers strolling hand in hand. The scent of flowers fills the air and it’s easy to while away the time soaking up the atmosphere of this most romantic of cities. You can unwind at the end of your holiday in any one of the country’s best boutique hotels, from lovingly restored old colonial mansions to former convents with rooftop pools. Watching the sun go down while sipping a fresh exotic fruit juice or cocktail, sat on the old city walls with the warm sea breeze on your face, it’s the perfect place to look back on a magical holiday in Colombia.