President’s Pick: Colombia & Guatemala

“I am a self-admitted history buff, and can’t get enough of it. In much of Latin America, the Incas and Mayans occupied so much of the space, it was difficult to see beyond. I wanted to examine the empires that came before, after, and in between these groups. Enter Colombia, a destination we helped launch in North America almost 10 years ago. Being a pioneer to this area is one my proudest moments. With Guatemala as one of our core products for so long, we were constantly looking for ways to combine Colombia with Guatemala as a way to complete the bridge between the Mayans and early Colombian empires before the Incas came to power. We had access to glamping equipment in Guatemala, which allowed us to offer our guests something more. This allowed them to stay overnight at an ancient site to really feel the Mayan spirit that is imbedded in the ruins, making this a much more compelling experience. I am proud to say Big Five was one off the first combine these two countries, and now I invite you to join us in being a part of history.”

Country Information



President's Pick: Colombia & Guatemala President’s Picks

(Countries Visited)




(Interest Type(s))

Sustainable Travel


Adventure Travel

(Tour Length)

11 Days

Tour Highlights

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  • PP FINAL web smGo hiking or horseback riding in Colombia’s Cocora Valley in Los Nevados National Park, home to Colombia’s national tree, the Quindian wax-palm, hummingbirds and endemic yellow-eared parrots
  • Discover Cartagena’s old walled city, declared both Mankind’s Heritage Site and Colombian National Heritage Site by UNESCO, and explore its local markets with the owner of a local restaurant
  • Travel to Pacaya Volcano for a hike to the top with your volcanologist guide in the morning and enjoy a walking tour of Antigua, Guatemala’s charming colonial city in the afternoon
  • Take a helicopter flight over six different volcanoes to Lake Atitlan for a kayaking adventure
  • Explore the main plaza, pyramids, and temples of the ancient Mayan cities of Uaxactun and Tikal with your guide; and savor a rare experience – Glamping at Uaxactun, an overnight stay in the ruins that offers a unique way to experience this ancient Maya site in the comfort of your own private camp

Day 1: Bogota, Colombia / Armenia
Welcome to Colombia! On arrival into Bogota, clear immigration, collect luggage, and proceed through customs. In the arrivals hall, you are met by a representative from Big Five Tours & Expeditions holding a sign with your name on it. You are welcomed and assisted with check-in procedures for your flight. On arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel. Hotel Hacienda Bambusa

Day 2: Armenia / Valle De Cocora – Filandia / Armenia
Early this morning, depart with your guide to the Cocora Valley in Los Nevados National Park. You’ll spot Colombia’s national tree, the “Quindian wax-palm.” It is known to reach an amazing 60/meters/197 feet in height. This is also home to hummingbirds and endemic yellow-eared parrots. On arrival, enjoy either hiking or horseback riding. Hike into cloud-forest to experience the lush biodiversity of the flora and fauna. Cross Quindio River on an ecological pathway through the tallest wax-palms in the world. Stop at a trout farm and enjoy a traditional smoked-trout meal.

Continue six miles towards the small traditional town of Salento. Stroll past the colorful balconies and colonial architecture of Bolivar Square, "calle real," the handicrafts shops and Cocora viewpoint. The town became isolated and therefore has retained more of its colonial architecture than almost any other town in the Coffee Region as well as a quiet and relaxed way of life. Visit the traditional town of Finlandia, a small community economically supported by agriculture and tourism. Although coffee is the major agricultural product, the municipality's diverse ecosystem makes it perfect for the production of fruits and vegetables. Spend some time soaking-up the regional atmosphere. Return to your hotel late afternoon. Hotel Hacienda Bambusa (B,L)

Day 3: Armenia / Cartagena
This morning you are transferred to the airport for your flight to Cartagena, bestowed with the title of “The Heroic City.” On arrival, you are met and transferred to your hotel. This afternoon at leisure to rest or persue your own interests. This evening, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage that will take you to dinner at the restaurant and wine cellar of the El Marquez Hotel. After dinner, you are transferred back to your hotel. Casa San Agustin – Deluxe Room (B,D)

Day 4: Cartagena
Join your guide for a full day tour to include the highlights of Cartagena.   Visit the most important monuments from the colonial city including the fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, built on San Lázaro hill in order to defend the city from pirate attacks. Continue to the 15th century La Popa Monastery, perched on the area’s only important elevation. It was formerly called “La Popa del Galeón” for its incredible resemblance to the stern of a galleon.

After lunch at a local restaurant suggested by your guide (payable direct), embark on a three-hour walking tour of Cartagena within the historic center of the walled city.   This area has been declared as both “Mankind’s Heritage” and “Colombian National Heritage” site by UNESCO. Its narrow streets are adorned with antique doorways and flower-filled balconies. Explore the colonial streets with stops at the Cathedral of Cartagena, Plaza de Bolivar, and the Temple of Santo Domingo. Casa San Agustin – Deluxe Room (B)

Day 5: Cartagena
Quirky and vibrant, with the relentless energy of a Persian bazaar, Bazurto Market is a world unto itself. But among the chaos lies a daily routine that begins when vendors arrive from all over the country at the crack of dawn to set up their fish, meat, clothes, antiques, and craft stalls.

Explore the local markets that feed most of Cartagena with the owner of La Cevicheria Restaurant for an authentic taste of Colombia. Take part in an interactive cooking class at the relaxing beachfront home of Jorge Escandon, owner of Bazurto Social Club. Casa San Agustin – Deluxe Room (B,L)

Day 6: Cartagena / Guatemala City, Guatemala / Antigua
At a pre-arranged time, you are transferred to the Cartagena Airport for your flight to Guatemala City. On arrival into Guatemala City, clear immigration, collect luggage, and proceed through customs. In the arrivals hall, you are met and escorted to the waiting vehicle for transfer to your hotel in Antigua. Enjoy dinner at Bistro Sanq, a two-block walk from your hotel. El Convento Hotel Boutique – Deluxe Suite (B,D)

Day 7: Antigua / Pacaya Volcano / Antigua
After Breakfast, Your Volcanologist Guide Will meet you in the lobby of your hotel and transfer you to Pacaya Volcano, where you will set out on a 2.5 hour hike. At the top of the volcano, enjoy spectacular views as you savor lunch. Active since 1965, this volcano is classified as a strombolian but occasionally plinian. Pacaya recently had a slight increase in volcanic activity, which created several lava rivers. Finish off your meal with a unique dessert – marshmallows heated by volcanic steam!

Return to Antigua to enjoy an afternoon walking tour of this captivating city. Even Antigua’s present location is the result of volcanic activity. It was moved here in 1527 after being destroyed in another location by a volcanic eruption. It has the distinct feel of a place lost in time, from its cobblestone streets to its priceless colonial architecture. There is much to explore here – art galleries, museums, shops, restaurants, quaint bars and cafes. This evening you are transferred to Meson Panza Verde for dinner. El Convento Hotel Boutique – Deluxe Suite (B,L,D)

Day 8: Antigua / Lake Atitlan / Antigua
After breakfast, board a helicopter for an overflight of the valleys and six different volcanoes – Agua, Acatenango, Fuego (active), Atitlan, Toliman, and San Pedro – en route to Lake Atitlan. With three stunning volcanoes rising out if its emerald surface, Lake Atitlan is characterized by its natural beauty surrounded by gorgeous views of the volcanoes and its culturally rich indigenous villages. The famous writer, Aldous Huxley, considered it “the most beautiful lake in the world”.

On arrival at the lake, a private boat will take you to the starting point for your kayaking adventure. You will paddle approximately one hour to the base of Cerro de Oro, a lava dome. This bump was formed from the lava of Atitlan Volcano and a hike to the top reveals stunning views. After a hike, stop for lunch at a local restaurant. Transfer back to Antigua by helicopter. Enjoy dinner at the hotel. El Convento Hotel Boutique – Deluxe Suite (B,L,D)

Day 9: Antigua / Uaxactun
Early this morning you are transferred back to Guatemala City for your flight to Flores. On arrival at the Mundo Maya Airport, you are met and transferred to Flores for breakfast. After breakfast, your guide will transfer you to Uaxactun Archaeological Park, surrounded by 47 hectares of dense tropical rainforest. In addition to its natural beauty, this city was an important center for the development of monumental art during the Pre classic Period (2000 BCE – 250 CE). Explore the main plaza, pyramids, and temples. The most impressive ruin is the Structure E-VII sub, the focal point for the plaza with three temples aligned along its eastern edge. Together these structures were used for astronomical studies. The equinox and solstice were accurately determined by sighting the sunrise from the eastern stairway to one of the three pyramids to the east. Watch the sun set in the company of an astronomy specialist. Then, you are in for a rare experience - Glamping at Uaxactun. This overnight stay in the ruins offers a unique way to experience this ancient Maya site in the comfort of your own private camp. Glamping at Uaxactun (B,L,D)

Day 10: Uaxactun / Tikal / Guatemala City
Another early wake up allows you to experience sunrise from the top of the main pyramid. After breakfast, travel to Tikal with your driver and guide. The Tikal complex is one of the most famous Maya sites and Guatemala’s most significant cultural and natural preserve. Your guide will accompany you throughout the main plaza and temples to explain the history of this massive city and why it was so important.

Tikal was a vital ceremonial center of the ancient Maya civilization with the construction of major pyramids and temples. Its best years were the Late Classic Period (600-900AD). After the tour, you take a break for a very special picnic lunch prepared just for you. Enjoy the magic of having a great meal in this remarkable jungle landscape. It is prepared and catered using fresh local ingredients from the region. Your guide will transfer you to Mundo Maya Airport for your flight to Guatemala City. On arrival, you are met and escorted to the waiting vehicle for transfer to your hotel. Westin Camino Real Guatemala – Executive Room (B,L)

Day 11: Guatemala City / Depart
You are transferred to the Guatemala City Airport and assisted with check-in procedures for your international flight. (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$750 per person per day

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