Colombia’s Gems

Colombia offers the traveler unique adventures from its well-preserved, classic colonial cities of Bogota and Cartagena, to Medellin's barrios that were once the haunt of Pablo Escobar, the infamous drug cartel leader, to Chivor and its active emerald mind where you can try to crave out your own gemstone. Enjoy a flight over the coffee plantations in the heart Colombia's coffee growing zone. Discover the UNESCO World Heritage town of San Basilio de Palenque, which became refuge for the original fugitive and escaped slaves from the colonial period of the 17th century. Colombia is a multi-faceted destination.

Country Information

Colombia

Colombia's Gems Enrichment Series

(Countries Visited)

Colombia


(Interest Type(s))

Safari Tours

,

Adventure Travel


(Tour Length)

10 Days


Tour Highlights

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  • Explore some of the more unique aspects of Bogota, Colombia’s capital, on a delightful bicycle ride through “La Candelaria”, a historic barrio of great architectural and cultural heritage, and discover the city’s graffiti art
  • Colombia produces more than half the world’s emeralds, and you have the rare opportunity to try to carve out your own stone in an active emerald mine, and see what it is like in the life of a miner
  • In Cartagena, you savor a private rum tasting at some of Cartagena’s leading bars, where you also learn the history, ingredients and distillery process that creates this popular drink
  • Experience Medellin and its barrios that were once the province of Pablo Escobar, the infamous drug cartel leader, and take a private helicopter flight over his once-luxurious estate
  • Travel through the stunning countryside to Pereira to take a flight over coffee plantations in the heart Colombia’s coffee growing zone

 

Day 1: Bogota, Colombia
Welcome to Colombia! On arrival in Bogota, you will clear immigration, collect your luggage, and proceed through customs. Then, continue to the arrivals hall where you are met by a representative from Big Five Tours & Expeditions, who will be holding a sign with your last name. You are greeted, assisted with your luggage, and escorted to the waiting vehicle for the transfer to your hotel.

Excellent museums dedicated to emeralds and gold are a few of the allures for tourists, as is the contemporary art museum named for Latin America's greatest living artist, the Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero. When it comes to gastronomy and nightlife, Bogota is a city that eats well and never sleeps. Multiple cosmopolitan food zones include the Zona T – an exclusive enclave in the Zona Rosa, the city's top destination for shopping and nightlife – and the Zona G, a center for international haute cuisine near the financial district. Amidst the vibe and energy of the Zona T, your luxury hotel offers a contemporary flare. Bogota is also a green city that boasts 5,200 parks, including large protected ecosystems amidst the urban bustle, with more eco-tourism destinations just a half-hour drive away. Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota

Day 2: Bogota
Discover Colombia’s capital city on a delightful bicycle tour. Bogota has over 300 km/186 mi. of bicycle routes spread throughout the city. This is a great way to discover authentic Bogota. Ride through the most representative sites in "La Candelaria", an antiquated barrio of great architectural and cultural heritage. It is made up of large, old Spanish colonial buildings with iron windows, thick and sturdy wooden doors, balconies, and internal patios with beautiful hidden gardens.

The Bogota Graffiti tour was started by an Aussie street artist and a Canadian graffiti writer, who decided they wanted to share Bogota’s unique and prolific urban art scene and help promote local artists to a wider international audience. It made sense to share their love of the vibrant work that adorns the streets of Bogota with the world! Your guide will share a love for urban art as he is directly involved in the scene, either by actually painting on its walls, or explaining to you the meaning of the art. Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota (B)

Day 3: Bogota – Chivor – Bogota
You are in for an once-in-a-lifetime experience! Colombia produces more than half the world's emeralds. Very early this morning you are picked up at the hotel and will be private transferred during a four-hour drive to Chivor. On arrival, you first enjoy a delicious breakfast before you continue to the local museum for an introduction to the fabulous green gems – emeralds. You chat with experts in the mineral trade, who explain the mining industry. You also are given the necessary safety gear for your excursion. Mid-morning, you are transferred by jeep to an active mine. En route visit an Indian aqueduct, stop to learn about the different types of cuts made to extract emeralds. On arrival at the mine, walk through the emerald exploitation sectors. When you arrive at the tunnel entrance, you feel the heat, smell the dynamite and see what it is like in the life of a miner. See the different areas of the mine. You will be able to try your hand at carving out a stone of your own. Whether or not you take away a gemstone, you will most certainly come away having enjoyed a unique and memorable experience. Enjoy refreshments before you are driven back to Bogota, arriving early evening. Four Seasons Bogota Casa Medina (B)

Day 4: Bogota / Cartagena
This morning you are transferred to the airport to board your flight to Cartagena. Upon arrival, you will be met by your Big Five representative and transferred to your hotel. The city was one of the most important Spanish ports in America. It was one of the first cities to declare its independence, fighting for its freedom. It came to be known as “La Heróica” (The Heroic City). It is the capital city of the Department of Bolivar, and features a perfect mix of colonial and modern influences.

This afternoon, you savor a private rum tasting. The most treasured booty for any good pirate during those seafaring days of the Caribbean wasn't a treasure chest of gold, but a good bottle of rum. This caramel-colored liquid, ron in Spanish, is the national liquor of Colombia. You will enjoy a special rum tasting at some of Cartagena's leading bars. During the tasting of four special rums, you will learn about the history, ingredients used, and distillery process that creates this popular drink. Casa San Agustin Hotel Boutique (B)

Day 5: Cartagena
This morning, you are in for a four-wheel treat – a ride in a classic Chevrolet Ballet Model 55 inside the walled city. In old Cartagena, inside the walled city, both sides of the narrow streets are adorned with striking antique doorways, flower-filled balconies, restaurants and hotels. The Walled City was declared a Colombian National Heritage Site in 1959 by UNESCO as well as a Mankind’s Heritage Site. In the afternoon, you relax aboard a private yacht that sails the waterways around the city as you sip champagne, watching the sun set. Casa San Agustin Hotel Boutique (B) 

Day 6: Cartagena – San Basilio de Palenque – Cartagena
In the morning, you set out by road to San Basilio de Palenque, a town located 60 km/37 mi., about an hour’s drive along the “Vía de la Cordialidad” on the way to Barranquilla. Recognized by UNESCO, the town’s name comes from the Palenques, the original fugitive and escaped slaves from the colonial period of the 17th century. Their descendants continue to survive in San Basilio with their practices, customs and traditions intact. They retain heavy African influences in their daily routines, including their palanquera tongue, which blends elements of Spanish with the Bantu dialects of Africa. Explore the town and to listen to tales of religious beliefs and customs. Try some traditional sweets. See the rhythm of the residents’ daily lives. The women teach you how to carry fruit in a head basket while walking. In general, the men take care of the children while the women work. Later, return to Cartagena. Casa San Agustin Hotel Boutique (B) 

Day 7: Cartagena / Medellin
Today you fly to Medellin. On arrival, join your guide for an afternoon private city tour of Medellín, including the barrios of Pablo Escobar, the infamous drug cartel leader. He was born in 1949, the son of a peasant farmer and a school teacher. As a small-time hustler in Medellin, he was always trying to make money by running petty street scams, selling contraband cigarettes and fake lottery tickets. By the 1960s, he was working as a small-time dealer but with America's new-found obsession with coca, he eventually moved into drug trafficking, where he built an enormous illegal empire, and with that he became the most powerful man in Colombia. This unusual tour takes you inside Pablo Escobar’s world, including to the Monaco building, bombed by the Cali cartel, the house where he was killed in a shootout with the national police, and a grotto, said to have been built by Escobar for the Virgen de la Rosa (Rose’s Virgin). 

Medellin has made many successful efforts to move past the dark history of the drug trade and the disturbingly violent career of Escobar, and has emerged today as an innovative, forward-thinking metropolis. But in Barrio Pablo Escobar, the locals regard the notorious drug kingpin as a hero with a “good heart”. Barrio Pablo Escobar is located high up on the eastern slope of Medellin’s valley and seems very similar to many of the other poorer neighborhoods in the city. The big difference is the shared sense of inherited affiliation and gratitude that the locals have towards Colombia’s most violent criminal, who was personally responsible for more than 4,000 deaths including three Colombian presidential candidates, a justice minister, more than 200 judges, dozens of journalists and more than 1,000 police officers. In this sense, Barrio Pablo Escobar, a name ignored by the government, is one of a kind. It is a small pocket of roughly 15,000 people in a city of 2.5 million, where Escobar continues to be highly esteemed by all those who felt abandoned by the government. The tour also includes visit with Pablo's brother, Roberto Escobar, author of “The Accountant’s Story.” Roberto has many fascinating stories to share regarding his famous brother, the Medellín Cartel, and life on the run from the Colombian government. Guests in Roberto's home will be able to ask questions as well as take photos with one of the last original members of the infamous Medellín Cartel. The Charlee Lifestyle Hotel (B)

Day 8: Medellin
Hacienda Nápoles, named after the Italian city, is the once-luxurious estate built and owned by Escobar in Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia east of Medellin. The estate covers about 20 square kilometers/8 square miles. From your hotel, you are privately transferred to Puerto Triunfo (about a 3.5-hour drive) where you will visit Hacienda Napoles, which included a Spanish colonial house, a sculpture park and a complete zoo that included many kinds of animals from different continents such as antelope, elephants, exotic birds, giraffes, hippopotami, ostriches and ponies. The ranch also boasted a large collection of old and luxury cars and bikes, a private airport, and even a go-kart racing track. Mounted atop the hacienda's entrance gate is a replica of the Piper airplane, which transported Escobar's first shipment of cocaine to the United States.

Following Escobar's death in 1993, his family entered a legal struggle with the Colombian government over the property. The government prevailed, and the neglected property is now managed by the Municipality of Puerto Triunfo. The cost of maintenance for the zoo animals was too expensive for the government, so most of the animals were donated to Colombian and international zoos. But it still houses bison, a rare goat, one ostrich and zebras. It also had hippopotami but they have since escaped and are now feral, living in at least four lakes in the area and neighboring rivers. In 2011, there were an estimated 30 hippos living in the wild and the government has had difficulty finding zoos to place them. Return to Medellin. The Charlee Lifestyle Hotel (B)

Day 9: Medellin / Pereira
Early in the morning, travel about four hours to Pereira, where you will take an overflight on the coffee landscape and the snow-capped Nevado del Ruiz Mountain with its active volcano, which along with seven other volcanoes, is part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park. The summit of Nevado del Ruiz is covered by large glaciers, but these have retreated significantly since 1985.

The heart of the coffee-growing zone encompasses three Colombian departments: Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío, with their corresponding capital cities of Manizales, Pereira and Armenia. Although the departments have a common coffee culture, beautiful landscapes and friendly people, each city has its own personality. Manizales stands out for its cultural life and famous annual festival the first week of January, which includes bullfighting, Miss Coffee International, concerts and more. Armenia as in the heart of the region. Pereira offers commercial activity, gastronomy and famous nightlife.

Most coffee production in Colombia is based here and for that reason the region is named the Coffee Axis or Coffee Triangle. The climate, the geographic characteristics, a tropical Andean forest and other factors yield exceptional coffee. You will appreciate observing the fertile valleys, with their seemingly endless coffee plantations, the traditional wooden houses, with brightly colored balconies, and constructions in ‘guadua’ (bamboo), and the Wax Tree Palms, Colombia’s national tree, blend together in the vibrant landscape of Cocora Valley. Fly back to Pereira, where you will be picked up in a jeep for jouney to enjoy a typical lunch and an overnight in one of the coffee farms. Casa Sazagua (B,L)

Day 10: Pereira / Depart                                                                                                                                                                  
Transfer to the airport to board your flight back home. (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$1400 per person per day

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