Discovering Colombia

  • 11-day expedition to historic cities, cloud forests, and the Coffee Triangle
  • Encounter the treasures of Bogotá, Villa de Leyva, and Cartagena.

Expedition Details

 

Emerald hills lush with coffee crops and spiked with palms, pastel-hued colonial towns, and some of the best architecture on the continent—Colombia bursts with natural beauty and cultural treasures that have been hard to reach for decades. Delve into pre-Columbian culture and a rich colonial heritage in Bogotá and Villa de Leyva, and explore the "coffee triangle" deep in the Andes. Discover magical Cartagena and soak up the exhilaration of a beautiful country's reawakening.

Trip Highlights

  • Venture into an underground cathedral carved out of salt, and see pre-Columbian artifacts at the renowned Gold Museum.
  • Visit a coffee plantation and look for exotic flora and fauna in lush cloud forests.
  • Learn about the work of native sons Fernando Botero and Gabriel García Márquez.
  • Explore the colonial walled city of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Itinerary - 11 Days

Day 1 — U.S./Bogotá, Colombia

Arrive in Bogotá this evening and transfer to our hotel in La Candelaria, the historic heart of the city and the hub of Bogotá's cultural life.
Hotel De La Opera

Day 2 — Bogotá

Stroll past graceful plazas and Spanish colonial architecture on a walking tour of La Candelaria. Examine the works and private collection of one of Colombia's most famous artists at the Botero Museum. Then immerse yourself in the glow of more than 30,000 pieces of pre-Columbian goldwork at the extraordinary Gold Museum. Ride a gondola to the summit of Cerro de Monserrate for panoramic views of Bogotá bathed in early evening light. Tonight, gather in one of Bogotá's stylish northern districts for a welcome dinner.
Hotel De La Opera (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Zipaquirá/Villa de Leyva

This morning, set out for the 17th-century town of Zipaquirá. Descend some 600 feet beneath the Earth's surface to witness the beauty and ingenuity of Zipaquirá's Salt Cathedral, whose haunting, illuminated chambers were originally hewn out of rock salt by salt miners. Later, visit the Puente de Boyacá, the site of a decisive battle for Colombia's independence in 1819, and continue to the tranquil town of Villa de Leyva, with a cobblestoned square that is one of the largest in South America.
Hotel La Posada de San Antonio (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Villa de Leyva

Discover the charms of Villa de Leyva on a walking tour this morning. Then set out into the nearby desert to view the mineral-rich, turquoise waters of the Pozos Azules and a 110 million-year-old kronosaurus fossil at the Museo el Fósil. At the archaeological site of El Infiernito, learn about the spiritual traditions of the Muisca Indians, who used the stone monoliths still found here to mark the seasons. Return to Villa de Leyva late this afternoon.
Hotel La Posada de San Antonio (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Bogotá/Armenia/Quimbaya

Transfer to the Bogotá airport for a scenic flight over the Andes to Armenia, situated in Colombia's coffee triangle. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape in 2011, this small region of lush, terraced hillsides and misty valleys backed by snow-capped peaks produces some of the best coffee in the world. Travel through the hills to the town of Alcalá and settle into our hacienda-style hotel.
Hotel Casa Nogales (B, L, D)

Day 6 — Quindío

Experience the coffee-growing process from bean to brew at a local farm. This all-important industry employs a significant portion of the country's rural population. After learning about the phases of coffee cultivation, harvesting, drying, and roasting, sample a cup while taking in the beautiful surrounding landscape.
Hotel Casa Nogales (B, L, D)
(L)

Day 7 — Cocora Valley/Salento

On a hike through the Cocora Valley, discover the rich biodiversity of the region. Stretch your legs beneath swaying wax palms, an endangered species and the national tree of Colombia; and look out for exotic birds and orchids in the cloud forest. Explore the picturesque town of Salento, and learn about the work of Luz a Salento, a foundation that provides arts training to the area's underprivileged youth.
Hotel Casa Nogales (B, L, D)

Day 8 — Armenia/Cartagena

Transfer to the Armenia airport for a flight to the lively Caribbean port of Cartagena. Surrounded by the most extensive fortifications in all of South America and brimming with stunning colonial architecture, this vibrant city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. Settle into our hotel in the historic walled city, and sample local seafood at dinner this evening.
Sofitel Santa Clara (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Cartagena

Cartagena comes to life on a walking tour past colorful façades, colonial churches, balconies overflowing with bougainvillea, and bronze Botero sculptures. Trace the history of the city, once an important gateway to South America, a target of buccaneers, and a refuge for explorers. This afternoon, learn about the life and work of Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez with a local expert. Enjoy an evening to experience this enchanting city—and its world-class restaurants—on your own.
Sofitel Santa Clara (B,L)

Day 10 — Cartagena

Spend the morning at the magnificent fortress of Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, perhaps the most impressive colonial castle the Spanish ever built. Explore its complex labyrinth of tunnels and discover its innovations of architecture and engineering. Continue to the Convento de La Popa, perched on the highest hill in Cartagena. On a visit to a local foundation, learn about the challenges facing modern-day Cartagena. Take advantage of free time for a leisurely lunch and a stroll through town. This evening, ride a horse carriage through the walled city, and toast our Colombian adventure at a festive farewell dinner.
Sofitel Santa Clara (B,D)

Day 11 — Cartagena/U.S.

After breakfast, transfer to the Cartagena airport for your return flight home.
(B)

Optional Extension

Related Trips

National Geographic Expert

Christopher Baker

Christopher BakerThe Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year,' photographer and writer Christopher Baker is one of the world's foremost authorities on Colombia, Costa Rica, and Cuba. He has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Panama in the National Geographic Traveler series. He is also the author of the award-winning Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba, published by National Geographic Adventure Press. His more than 20 other books include the coffee-table book Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles. He has written for dozens of publications, from National Geographic Traveler to Newsweek, and has been an invited speaker at National Geographic headquarters, the National Press Club, the World Affairs Council, and other prestigious organizations. Christopher has been profiled in USA Today and featured on the National Geographic Channel, NPR, and dozens of other radio and TV outlets.

Christopher will join the following departures:

Nov 05 - 15, 2014
Feb 15 - 25, 2015

Dates

2014
  • Nov 05 - 15, 2014
2015
  • Feb 15 - 25, 2015

Expedition Cost

2014-2015

$6,795

Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room add $1,400.

International airfare to Bogotá and return from Cartagena and airfare within Colombia are not included in the expedition cost. The group flights within Colombia are $495 (subject to change).

Please note: A State Department travel warning for Colombia is currently in effect (click here to view the State Department's information page on Colombia). We expect to operate this trip as planned, but will continue to closely monitor events in the region, and will alter the itinerary if necessary.