About Colombia Travel
Bogota: Colombia’s capital city sits at an elevation of 2,640 meters/8,660 feet in the Andino region. With a population of more than eight million, it is a city of contrasts. Centuries-old plazas and churches coexist with towering skyscrapers, and peaceful tree-lined bicycle paths cut across crowded, frenetic streets. Bogota is home to universities and regional offices for multinational companies. It embraces a variety of cuisine, from traditional dishes to sushi to fast food. It is one of the most modern and metropolitan cities in Latin America. The historic center is known as La Candelaria. The northern section of the city is where most modern development has taken place, and combines upscale living with affluent shopping centers, boutiques and restaurants. The Gold Museum boasts an astonishing collection of pre-Columbian treasures. Zipaquira Salt Cathedral is a huge underground cathedral built into a rock salt mine. This fascinating underground church has 14 chapels, representing the Stations of the Cross. Long before the Spanish came, the mines were used by the Muisca people.
Cartagena: Cartagena was a major trading port for gold and silver going from the New World to Spain. It was also a slave port and market. The architecture of the old city is mainly Spanish colonial, but there are also Italian and republican styles. The Cathedral of Cartagena dates back to the 16th century. Nearby is San Pedro Claver Square as well as the Museum of Modern Art. The 18th-century Palace of the Inquisition is an eerie reminder of an especially turbulent period in world history. It exhibits tools used in torture, and a receipt for ransom paid to Sir Francis Drake in exchange for leniency and his pledge to not burn the city. One of the city’s most remarkable landmarks is a short walk from downtown – the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, arguably the greatest fortress the Spanish ever constructed in Latin America. The original was constructed between 1639 and 1657. Extensive later enlargements resulted in a network of underground tunnels, designed so that it was possible to hear the footsteps of an approaching enemy. Augustinian Fathers Convent is now the University of Cartagena. The Heredia Theater is an architectural gem fronting the Plaza de la Merced.
Coffee Zone: The cities of Armenia and Pereira stand in the center of the western region of the country in a small valley that descends from a part of the Andes. This is the center of the coffee zone as well as the heart of Colombian culture, which is strongly influenced by the traditions of coffee. Working coffee plantations allow guests to see the complete process of growing and production – from planting seeds to sampling a cup of Colombia’s finest brew. Valley of the Cocora, a wildlife sanctuary in the central Andean mountains, is within easy reach. Activities include hiking, bird watching, game fishing, mountain biking, horse riding and rafting.
Colombian Amazon: Amacayacu National Park and Marasha Reserve are reached by boat traveling up the Amazon River. The upper forest canopy in the park varies between 30 and 50 meters/98 and 164 feet in height. There are 468 recorded species of birds and 150 species of aquatic mammals, including the Amazonian manatee and the river dolphin. Marasha Reserve is home to the largest lily pads in the world. In the park, zip lines allow for aerial exploration of this incredible ecosystem.
Indigenous Heritage Trail: San Agustin Archaeological Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in the Colombian Massif of the Colombian southwestern Andes. It contains the largest collection of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in Latin America, and is considered the world’s largest necropolis. The rural town of Isnos is near two archaeological parks: Alto de los Ídolos and the Alto de las Piedras, where there are some well-preserved tombs that reveal the original paintwork and some of the largest stone figures yet discovered. The area is also home to the gorgeous waterfalls of Salto del Mortiño and Salto de Bordones. The region supports plantations of fruit, maize and, of course, coffee as well as rice paddies, cotton and wheat. Tierradentro Archaeological Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, reveals amazing subterranean galleries and tombs in the areas of Alto de Segovia and the Alto del Duende. Archaeological and anthropological museums explore the history of the Paeces community of San Andrés de Pisimbalá. The small picturesque town of Silvia is located in a temperate mountainous area in the center of the indigenous Guambiano community. Numbering about 12,000 people, they live in scattered mountain villages nearby, and come to town on market days to sell their fruit, vegetables and handicrafts.
Medellin: During the 19th century, Medellin was a dynamic commercial center; first exporting gold, then producing and exporting coffee. It was the first area in the country to take part in the Industrial Revolution. Medellin today echoes that kind of vigor – with more than three million people. Medellin is Colombia’s main industrial center, producing everything from designer clothing to cars. It is home to half a dozen universities, adding to the vibrant cultural scene and energetic nightlife, with a pedestrian walkway that encompasses about 30 blocks. Medellin has the only aerial cables connected to a mass metro-type transport system. The city’s architecture includes five large new “Library Parks” – La Ladera, Belen, La Quintana, Santo Domingo, and San Javier Parks – symbols of the urban and social transformation of Medellin. Pueblito Paisa on the Nutibara Hill is a replica of one of the typical Paisa villages of Antioquia, with its colorful houses, church, courtyards, patios, shops and fountain.
Nuqui: On the Pacific coast, Nuqiu boasts beautiful beaches, waterfalls, thick forests, mangroves and thermal springs. Nuquí is culturally diverse with a majority of the population coming from Afro-Colombia ethnicity, represented here by members of indigenous tribes such as the traditional Chocoan community. Adventure activities include scuba diving, jungle treks, snorkeling, and whale watching.
Popayan: Founded in 1537, it played an important role during the colonial period as it was the mid-point of gold’s journey between Lima, Quito and Cartagena on its way to Spain. It is well-known because of its beautiful colonial architecture and its contributions to Colombian cultural and political life. Often referred to as the ‘White City’ due to the prevalence of white-walled buildings in the historic center, it has stunning colonial churches such as San Francisco, San José, Belén, Santo Domingo, San Agustín, and the Catedral Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, known locally as “La Catedral”. The city’s cathedral was home to the Crown of the Andes, a 16th-century Marianist devotional object featuring emeralds taken from the captured Inca Emperor Atahualpa. But it was sold to finance local health care institutions. Although the city was damaged by an earthquake in 1983, most historic colonial architectural structures have been restored. Popayan is also widely-known for the solemnity of its Easter Week sacred processions, a tradition dating back to the 16th century. In 2009, Popayan’s Easter Week celebrations were declared by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park: Founded in 1525, Santa Marta was Colombia’s first Spanish settlement on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It has a fine natural harbor. Gold was the primary reason the Spanish settled this area. The Tairona indigenous communities were celebrated for their talents as goldsmiths. The precious items were shipped to Spain via the new port of Santa Marta. Some of the relics are on view in Bogota as part of the “Treasures from the Museo del Oro” exhibition. Santa Marta is ideally located to discover the Santa Marta Mountains, the second highest range in Colombia, and Tayrona National Park. The park has one of the most pristine and scenic coastlines in South America and includes hiking trails, beautiful beaches, secluded bays and offshore coral reefs. It protects some 108 species of mammals and 300 species of birds. The black howler, oncilla, deer, eagle, iguana and more than 70 types of bats are among the park’s residents. There are also 31 species of reptiles, 471 varieties of crustaceans and 401 species of sea and river fish.
Villavicencio: Surrounded by amazing mountain scenery, Villavicencio in central Colombia is situated on the eastern slopes of the Andean Cordillera Oriental. Founded in 1840, the city was named after Antonio Villavicencio, an early advocate of the struggle for independence from Spain. It serves as an important manufacturing and commercial center for the plains and rainforests of eastern Colombia. Lying in a rural area with a tropical climate, Villavicencio is on the great Colombian-Venezuelan plain called Los Llanos, to the east of the Andes Mountains. Villavicencio is also called “La Puerta al Llano”, or “The Gateway to the Plains”, due to its location on the historical route from the Colombian interior to the vast savannas that lie between the Andes range and the Amazon rainforest. Villavicencio’s proximity to mountains and plains offers insight into Colombia’s geodiversity. A hike through the riparian forest travels through territory inhabited by a variety of mammals including jaguar, ocelot, puma, capybara and giant otters. The area is rich with opportunities for kayaking, swimming, artisanal fishing, and horseback riding.
Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral and Villa de Leyva: The name Zipaquirá refers to Zipa, the leader of the Muisca tribe and the overlord of these rich salt mines. With over 500 years of history, the mine has a large chamber with mirrors of salt water. The Salt Cathedral has the 14 Stations of the Cross, an enormous cross carved into the rock and the three naves of the cathedral that represent the birth, life and death of Christ. Villa de Leyva is a beautiful town, founded in 1572. In colonial times, the Spanish Viceroy spent much time there. Today, the city is a colonial jewel with an enormous plaza surrounded by colonial-style houses, small alleyways, cobblestone streets and a 17th-century parochial church.
Suggested Colombia Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Bogota, Colombia
This is a city of contrasts where century-old plazas and churches coexist with towering skyscrapers.
Day 2: Bogota
While it is one of the most modern and metropolitan cities in Latin America, its heart is the historic La Candelaria.
Day 3: Bogota/Medellin
The second largest city, Medellin enjoys art and cultural venues as well as fashionable shops and excellent cuisine.
Day 4: Medellin
Founded in 1616, Medellin was the first Colombian city to take part in the Industrial Revolution.
Day 5: Medellin/Cartagena
Once the Spanish empire’s most important Caribbean port, the city today is one of Colombia’s prettiest.
Day 6: Cartagena
The 16th-century walled colonial city and fortress has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 7: Cartagena/Depart
Custom Travel Options
Coffee Zone (4 days)
In the western Andes, the center of the coffee producing region features working plantations and a wildlife sanctuary.
Colombian Amazon (3 days)
The Colombian Amazon offers a stunning ecosystem to explore.
Indigenous Heritage Trail (4 days)
Colombia’s rich indigenous history is explored at the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of San Agustin Archaeological Park and Tierradentro Archaeological Park, as well as in Alto de los Ídolos and the Alto de las Piedras.
Nuqui (4 days)
Scuba diving, snorkeling, jungle treks to waterfalls and whale watching are among the activities available.
Popayan (4 days)
Popayan is known for its beautiful colonial architecture and nearby Purace National Park.
Villavicencio (2 days)
Surrounded by amazing mountain scenery, the area is rich with opportunities for kayaking, swimming, fishing, and horseback riding
Santa Marta & Tayrona National Park (4 days)
The colonial city offers historic and cultural sights while, nearby, Tayrona National Park remains one of the most pristine and scenic coastlines in South America.
Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral & Villa de Leyva (3 days)
The impressive Salt Cathedral has the 14 Stations of the Cross and three naves. The town of Villa de Leyva was founded in 1572 and remains a colonial jewel.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: Approx. $500 - $900 per day.