Discover Colombia

13 days
from
$2,945 USD
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Traveller ratings
3.9 / 5 from 12 reviews >
Leisurely
Learn more
Trip code: 
AAK
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
Culture & Discovery Holidays
Min age:
16
Group size:
5–16

Friendly and diverse, Colombia is simply a must-visit destination

Colombia is a vast country still largely undiscovered despite its amazing variety of landscapes and culture. On this journey from the Andes to the Caribbean we experience the contrasts between cosmopolitan Bogota, colourful Cartagena, and welcoming rural towns. After soaking up the atmosphere of Villa de Leyva and walking amid giant wax-palms in the the Zona Cafetera, we'll learn what it takes to produce the finest coffee and finish off our Colombian experience with a relaxing stay on the Caribbean coast.

Highlights

  • Uncover the historical delights of Colombia's capital city
  • Explore Villa de Leyva's colonial centre
  • Learn all about coffee production on a farm tour in the lush Coffee Zone
  • Walk amid wax palm trees in Cocora Valley
  • Unwind on a Caribbean beach

Key information

  • 12 nights hotels with en suite facilities
  • Some leisurely walks
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs
  • Travel by internal flight and private minibus

What's included

  • All breakfasts and 3 lunches
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)

What's not included

  •  Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call us on
1 844 227 9087
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start Bogota.

    Land only passengers can arrive at the hotel in Bogota this afternoon/evening. There are no included activities today. There will be a message waiting with information about tomorrow’s meeting time once the group flight and tour leader have arrived.
    Standard Hotel

  • Day 2

    Free morning; afternoon tour of La Candelaria district.

    Passengers on our Avianca group flight will have flown overnight and arrived today in the early hours of the morning. The morning is free to rest and in the afternoon the group will meet up in the hotel lobby before setting out with the tour leader on a walking tour of La Candelaria district where the hotel is located. Today we'll have an introduction to Bogota and Colombia in general, with the walking tour including a visit to the much celebrated Gold Museum.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Morning walking tour including Monserrate viewpoint; free afternoon.

    This morning we'll have breakfast in the hotel and then set off once more to continue exploring this fascinating capital city. We'll visit the museum exhibiting works from famous Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, and then get a cable car up to Monserrate viewpoint high above the city. Back down in the city, we learn about the diverse cultures of Colombia whilst visiting the Paloquemao market. This afternoon is free for you to do as you please - you may wish to visit one of the artisanal markets, go on a graffiti tour, or do a cookery class. Your tour leader will be on hand to give advice and assistance.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    To Villa de Leyva via the salt cathedral in Zipaquira.

    We leave Bogota this morning and drive northwards for about an hour and a half to Zipaquira, where we'll visit the unique Salt Cathedral. This subterranean cathedral was carved out of the salt bedrock in an old salt mine. We will have a guided tour, following the carved stations of the cross to reach the main part of the cathedral, which has capacity for over 8000 worshippers. Continuing onwards by road, we should arrive at the beautiful colonial town of Villa de Leyva in the late afternoon.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Walking tour of Villa de Leyva; visit fossil museum.

    This morning we will have a walking tour of Villa de Leyva, taking in the main plaza and the most important and significant colonial buildings, and get an insight into the town's history and the local culture. We will also go to the Fossil Museum, home to an incredibly well preserved 12-metre long fossilised Kronosaurus discovered by a local farmer. The afternoon has been left free for further exploration of the town's cobbled streets and craft shops, or to simply relax in the laid-back cafes and restaurants.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Fly to the 'Coffee Zone'; travel to Salento.

    We drive back to Bogota (approx. 4hrs depending upon traffic) today to catch a short flight to Armenia, in the heart of Colombia's 'Coffee Zone'. From here it’s a fairly short drive to the quaint town of Salento, a municipality in the north eastern part of the department of Quindío. This colourful and picturesque mountain town boasts a number of fine houses built in the traditional architectural style from the region. Surrounded by distant snow-capped mountains, Salento has a very special feel, and this evening we recommend visiting one of the music bars around the main town plaza.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 7

    Walk amid the wax palm trees of Cocora Valley.

    Today we'll board 'Jeep Willys' to drive out on the scenic route to the wonderful Cocora Valley. Part of the wider Parque Nacional Los Nevados, Cocora Valley is located in the central Andean range, just outside of Salento. The valley has a unique landscape and has been regarded by Colombia as a sanctuary for its national tree; the Wax palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense). The tall Palms cover the valley, which is now protected and declared as a monument to protect both the tree itself and also the endemic species that depend on it. The spectacular valley is great for walking as well as taking photos from some of the viewpoints. We'll do a two hour walk, and if anyone prefers not to walk on the rough terrain then there are a couple of cafes' in which to wait.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 8

    Coffee tour; orchid farm visit; fly to the port city of Cartagena.

    This morning we visit a coffee plantation, a 1.5 hour drive from our hotel near the town of Chinchina, where we will find out about the whole production process from seedling to cup, as well as learning about the plantations themselves and the many workers who rely on coffee for their livelihoods. Naturally, we will have the chance to sample some of this glorious coffee. We will also visit a nearby Orchid Farm (approx. 30 min drive) before going to the airport in Pereira and catching an evening flight up to Cartagena. Upon arrival we'll transfer straight to our characterful hotel in the vibrant Getsemani district, part of the historic centre and close to the walled city.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 9

    Walking tour of Cartagena old town.

    Today we explore the beautiful colonial centre of Cartagena on foot, wandering through narrow streets and colourful plazas to discover some of the city's historical gems, including the Puerta del Reloj (clock tower gate), Plaza de los Coches, Plaza Bolivar, and the church of San Pedro Claver. After a break for lunch and an escape from the heat of the day, we resume our tour of the city this afternoon with visits to San Felipe Fortress and La Popa Monastery. San Felipe dominates the old town and is the largest Spanish fort in the Americas, and its solid construction allowed Colombian forces to successfully defend the city against frequent attacks in the 17th and 18th centuries. La Popa is a fortified monastery dramatically perched on a hilltop overlooking the city and offers fantastic views as well as an insight into Cartagena's religious and cultural life from the colonial era to the modern day. Tonight is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the lively nightlife of this Caribbean gem of a city.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Morning mangrove canoe tour; free afternoon.

    In the morning we will transfer by vehicle to La Boquilla fishing village about 20 minutes outside of Cartagena. After an introduction from a local guide, we will board canoes along with local guides who will take us on a 1 hour ride around the tropical mangroves of Ciénaga de La Virgen. Along the way our guides will explain the endemic birdlife and talk about the way of life for people who live here. Once the canoe ride is over you will have some time to visit the village and then we'll head back to Cartagena. If you prefer to stay at the beach in La Boquilla, you could do this and take a taxi back later on.

    This afternoon has been left free for further exploration of the city, simply soaking up the atmosphere sitting in a shaded plaza. Tonight we'll enjoy our third and final night in Cartagena.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Morning at leisure; transfer to Palomino on the Caribbean coast.

    We leave Cartagena behind early this morning as we set off on a long journey eastwards and follow the coastline in the direction of Santa Marta, passing Tayrona National Park and then onwards to our next destination Palomino. We should arrive late afternoon and check in to the hotel opposite a peaceful Caribbean beach in time for sunset.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    Free day to relax on the beach; optional day visit to Tayrona N.P.

    A full day to relax on the beach or at the hotel and enjoy the tranquil setting. There are some hiking trails in the area around the hotel that can easily be followed. Alternatively you may choose to do an optional excursion to explore and hike within the nearby Tayrona National Park (the tour leader will arrange this for you, and there will be an additional charge to be paid locally. Minimum 3 participantants required in order to run this excursion).
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 13

    Transfer to Santa Marta; fly to Bogota; trip ends.

    Our final morning, we transfer to Santa Marta to catch our flight to Bogota which will arrive in time for the evening flight to London. If not travelling on the international group flight please be aware that you will probably not be back in Bogota till at least 17:00. The land only portion of the trip ends upon returning in Bogota.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Colombia

Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most European countries do not require a visa and will be granted a 90-day entry permit on arrival. Please ensure you have at least 3 blank pages in your passport.

Vaccinations

Colombia

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. Zika fever is a mosquito‐borne viral disease and a known risk in places visited on this trip. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. For the latest information please visit www.exodus.co.uk/zika‐virus‐q‐a.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 3 lunches.

Please note that Colombia is not very vegetarian friendly, especially in rural areas, as meat forms a major part of the diet and many soups are often made with a meat base or products. However in Bogota and Cartagena there are a wide range or restaurant and eating choices, to cater to all needs. Breakfast is provided everyday and is usually eggs (fried, boiled or scrambled), bread or arepas (thick corn pancakes), local cheese, tea or coffee and a fruit juice. In Tayrona National Park the principal restaurant has a great menu of locally caught fish, with meat and vegetable options.

Weather

Bogota and Villa de Leyva are warm during the day but temperatures can drop quite significantly at night and rains occur at any time of the year. In the coffee region the climate is warmer during the days but again can be cooler in the evenings. We visit the Andes mountain range, where weather is very unpredictable and can range from warm and sunny to cold in the space of a few hours. On the Caribbean coast the weather is generally very hot and humid year-round.

Bogota

Cartagena

Is this trip for you?

This trip is graded leisurely. It is not activity based however there are several city tours on foot, as well as a day walk in Cocora Valley, and canoeing in mangroves whilst at the Caribbean coast. The itinerary visits some of the main cultural and natural highlights of Colombia. We travel by private minibus and take three internal flights to allow you to experience as much as possible of this beautiful and diverse county in a short space of time. You should be aware that there are some fairly long road journeys involved in the itinerary, with the longest being from Cartagena to Palomino (just along the coast from Tayrona National Park) which can take 5-6 hours. We mostly stay in mid-range 3 star hotels throughout the trip, and free time is built in to each destination in order to ensure that the itinerary is relaxing as well as insightful. Altitudes: Bogota is at an altitude of aprrox. 2640 metres above sea level and is the highest destination visited on the itinerary. It is rare to feel any adverse affects at this altitude. In the coffee region we'll be staying at approx. 1895 masl in the town of Salento, 2150 masl in Villa de Leyva, and at sea level when visiting the Caribbean coast.

Call us on
1 844 227 9087
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels

12 nights hotels with en suite facilities. This trip offers a good standard of accommodation throughout the trip. We'll spend 12 nights in hotels with en suite facilities that are located in interesting areas, for example in Bogota we stay in the historic 'Candelaria' district and in Cartagena within the 'Getsemani' district. Some of the hotels have swimming pools. The final two nights feature a beach hotel on the Caribbean Coast, the perfect way to end the trip!

Call us on
1 844 227 9087
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

  • Reviewed March 2016
    Stella Pilsworth

    Discover Colombia

    A wonderful introduction to a complex country. The colour and architecture of the historic towns we visited was was fascinating and vibrant. The people were welcoming and friendly and Tayrona National Park and coastline was just beautiful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cartagena was the place I wanted to see and I wasn't disappointed. Hearing the horses hooves clopping around the old town at night as they took the carriages through the beautiful narrow streets was lovely.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Friendly and agreeable but he certainly needed more experience. He was out of his depth with a group of 15 or so seasoned travellers.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You do need to be reasonably fit to keep up with the group and participate in the long walks. Also the last day involves a hike out of Tayrona to get the coach and it is a long journey back home before you can shower unless you book an extra night in Bogota.
  • Reviewed March 2016
    Derek Gott

    Discover Colombia

    Colombia was a pleasant surprise. The people are friendly and the accommodation and food are of a good standard. We visited a variety of interesting places ranging from the cool highlands to the heat of the Caribbean coast. We has a comfortable air conditioned bus and travelling, once we escaped the traffic jams in Bogota was easy.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It was all new to me . I particularly enjoyed visiting Villa de Leyva, the coffee zone, Cartagena and Tayrona N.P.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gabriel is a pleasant friendly lad. He admitted he was still learning but we all liked him.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It helps if you have an elementary knowledge of Spanish if you go off on your own.Be careful after dark as there are a lot of uneven pavements in the towns. Take care of you valuables.
  • Reviewed December 2014
    Stephen Devlin

    Discover Colombia AAK

    My first group tour & my first time to South America. A well organised and interesting trip. Nice group of people from all over the UK and Europe from various backgrounds and age groups. Very informative site seeing tour with easy walks within national parks, coffee regions and city locations. Enough time on your own if needed to look around, yet always felt part of the group.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Salento in the coffee region. One of the most beautiful Village's and location I've travelled to. Small independent coffee grower tour that shows how a small family business survives in a very competitive global market. Very interesting, educational and enjoyable tour!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was fantastic Always on hand to answer questions or assist you when needed. Very informative and articulate

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Book the trip as soon as you can................. Don't book a hammock at the end of your trip in the Tayrona national park, people were bitten quite badly by insects. Upgrade to a Cabana instead.
  • Reviewed October 2013
    Anonymous

    DISCOVER COLOMBIA

    This trip is ideal for someone caught up in the western world with bad media coverage. Colombia is anything but dangerous and scary. This place stole my heart and this Exodus tour captured just a small portion of Colombia's natural beauty.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being grounded in Bogota for 2 additional nights due to farming protests and roadblocks restricted us from travelling to Villa De Leyva, which enabled me to see, firsthand, the people's resistance against its own government.  Waking up surrounded by mountains in Manizales at the Palestina Ecohotel left me breathless. Arriving in the Caribbean, in beautiful Cartagena and being welcomed by a wet, yet very warm tropical storm. The rain at no point could get in the way of this perfect city.  Tayrona NP and the hammock experience ! Apart from the hammock not being the most comfortable bedding I’ve ever slept in, this experience is unforgettable - as you fall asleep to the sound of wildlife and nature. Topped off the following day by a swim at a pristine, secluded beach. Absolute paradise !

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Juan really was perfect for this trip. He is so passionate about his country and is incredibly experienced. His local knowledge in all cities was the best I’d ever had on any tour. He knew the best restaurants (very well priced), hideouts and most importantly he knew where to find the best coffee. He became one of the group members early on yet remained aware of each group member's whereabouts at all times. There's no doubting our experience was made better with Juan leading the way !!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Remember, Colombia is only just opening up to tourists ! Be flexible for itinerary changes, lack of water pressure and on the odd occasion, no hot water (Mostly in the Caribbean areas)  Take a wet proof jacket and a lot of sunscreen. The climate is very different from North to South.  **IMPORTANT ADVICE** DO NOT go horse riding in the Cocora Valley !! This is the alternative to a 5 hour hike and not worth the risk even if you are an experienced rider. It is very wet, slippery, muddy, rocky and STEEP terrain. It's certainly not the best ground to fall on, let alone from a further 2 meters up !! (Pack hiking shoes)

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Although this tour doesn’t include places like Cali, Medellin, San Andres, Providencia, San Agustin, Popayan, the Amazon, Ciudad Perdida etc etc etc. it STILL offers so much !! Take some extra time and see more if you need to, or simply go back the following year.  As they say over there, "The only risk is wanting to Stay !"
  • Reviewed September 2013
    Anonymous

    DISCOVER COLOMBIA

    The trip was varied and Colombia is a great country, but you need to be flexible and understanding to potential changes.We had a few issues due to strikes (by the farmers and lorry drivers) and a few flight delays, but the trip leader did everything he could to ensure our safety and that we were kept aware of the frequently changing situations which were out of the control of anyone. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The intensity of the electrical storms in the Coffee Region and Tayrona National Park.   Colombia and it's people are lovely and there is wide variations between the different regions, it really is magical.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Juan took a lot of time to ensure we are all OK and looked after.  He did an amazing job at helping us at restuarants to ensure we all ordered what we wanted and had separate bills.Juan talked a lot about Colombia, it's people and cultures and was very knowledgeable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to be flexible.
  • Reviewed September 2013
    Anonymous

    DISCOVER COLOMBIA

    Well organised and varied trip which encompasses the highlights of Colombia.  Colombia is not at all dangerous - I think you are less likely to have your bag stolen than in Rome or Barcelona - and the people are great.  Highly recommended as a destination.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The whole trip was enjoyable (though I'm not sure I would use the word inspirational - it's a big word).  Cartagena was beautiful and atmospheric, Tayrona national park had stunning beaches. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Juan was a fantastic leader.  Extremely friendly, engaging and interesting.  He was always prepared to go the extra mile and has the perfect personality to be a tour leader.  We loved him.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Colombia isn't at all dangerous, so no need to worry about that at all.  The people are great and very happy to see tourists.  I would recommend this trip.I spent more money than I expected, primarily because I drank wine, which is not really drunk out there and is expensive.  You are better sticking to beer if you are economising (or water!). Not all the hotels had hot water (I'd been told they had) which is why I haven't put the holiday down as five stars.  We had hot water only half the time, which didn't matter to everyone, as it wasn't cold, but I am keen on hot water.I did the riding in the coffee region along with a fellow travelling companion (instead of the walk).  We had told them we were inexperienced riders.  The riding is unsuitable for inexperienced riders.  No helmets provided, but also on very rocky terrain, across rivers and up steep climbs.  My companion got thrown off twice (amazingly she got back on after the first time).  It was very dangerous and I would only recommend this ride to very experienced riders with riding hats. On the walking day in the coffee region we set off at 11 and didn't get back until around 5, so I would recommend eating something before setting off.  Otherwise you will be very hungry.Take insect repellant - quite a lot of bitey things around.In Tayrona national park, five of us rented a cabin to share there and then (we decided we couldn't face the hammocks).. It was fabulous and excellent value between the five of us.  And it had hot water!Not too many early starts, which was great.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you have been to Peru and Argentina and want to see another South American country, I would really recommend this trip.
  • Reviewed June 2013
    Anna Clark

    Anna Clark

    I just want to state that we have traveled on nine previous occasions with Exodus and have always given ratings of four or more stars. This rating is not a reflection on Colombia, which we loved, but on the value for money this trip offers. Compared to previous trips this seemed to be very expensive basically for a trip that offered hotels and transport.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Loved wandering around the streets of Cartagena. Please be aware that if your free day in Cartagena falls on a Monday a number of the museums and churches are closed. Absorbing the atmosphere in Villa de Leyva.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Whilst Juan was a lovely bloke he did not live up to our expectations of an Exodus guide. The information on Colombia was obtained from guidebooks. We saw very little of him. There was often no option for a group meal, which was fine, although if you enjoy the group experience this is possibly not the trip for you.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The optional excursions were a lot more expensive than the prices listed in the itinerary. This may have been because our group was small.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We are extremely sorry that Anna’s trip did not live up to her previously very positive experiences of travelling with us. We understand that this departure did not run as smoothly as we expected, and in conjunction to the below review, we have now responded to Anna and Rosalind’s concerns directly. An Exodus staff member will be travelling on the next departure of this trip and we trust this will ensure that the trip continues to run to the high standards we expect.
    Exodus Customer Services

  • Reviewed June 2013
    Rosalind D'Albert

    It's Colombia, not Columbia!

    Colombia is a wonderful country and this trip gives an opportunity to taste a good variety of places, climates and altitudes. From Bogota to the serenity of the coffee zone, then over to the Caribbean and the jungle, we experienced more, and less, than we expected. More in that our guide did not seem to follow the trip notes, not sure if it was him or the notes that were wrong, and less in that there was a lot of free time with no activities, although we could have done them independently - easy if you speak Spanish. An expensive trip to have so much unorganised time.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching the sun set from Cartagena and travelling back from the Rosario Islands in a bouncy speedboat! The day in the coffee region visiting the farm was also a great one.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Juan Diego was charming although he left us to our own devices more than we had expected.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I opted for a cabana rather than the hammocks in Tayrona, very luxurious with fabulous bathroom, worth every penny! It was SO hot, lovely to sleep under a fan rather than with a mosquito net inches from my face. Also, be prepared for some discrepancy in the time the guide reckons a walk will take and the actual times. We found the Lonely Planet estimates were spot on. In Villa de Leyva there was not enough to do to merit a free afternoon, the visit to the dinosaur/fossil museum could easily have been included and still left enough time for exploration and shopping after the guided tour in the morning, so find out about taxis and go it alone. Much cheaper than the extortionate price the local guide was asking.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Rather than spend a free day in the steaming heat of Cartagena we took the trip to the Rosario Islands, organised by the local guide, which was lovely - nice to be out at sea - with a walk round the village, canoe trip, lunch, pool etc. BUT on this very expensive holiday it was not an option for everyone, to have to pay so much extra. Don't get me wrong, we had a fantastic time and loved the country, travelling with a great group, but just had a few niggles about value for money, and attentiveness of our guide, compared to other Exodus trips we've done.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We were sorry to learn that this trip did not quite live up to Rosalind's expectations. Rosalind has also contacted us directly to raise some concerns regarding her trip and we investigated these matters.

    Exodus Customer Services

  • Reviewed April 2013
    Anonymous

    DISCOVER COLOMBIA

    Interesting trip that offers an insight into the geographic and cultural diversity of Colombia. Large distances mean internal flights and time spent at airports but the latter are efficient and its worth it to see the contrasting areas of the country. Colombians are very welcoming - delighted that people are willing to challenge the country's negative image by travelling there.  Only disappointment was being unable to trek in Los Nevados National Park (closed for 8m+) due to the activity of Nevado del Ruiz volcano. Cocora Valley was a pleasant hike but Ruiz would have been special.......a good reason, amongst several, to go back!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Hiking to the well preserved ruins of Chairama (El Pueblito) in Tayrona National Park as an optional activity with our guide, Juan. There is a steepish paved path that leads from from Cabo San Juan del Guía (a couple of beach bays from where we stayed) that consists of boulders which were put together in a manner that allowed the sound of footsteps to carry. This alerted the indigenous peoples of Chairama to the approach of visitors. I had learned a little about these ancient people and their current descendants -the Kogi and Arhuaca- from the episode on Colombia of the BBC documentary-"Lost Kingdoms of South America". There was something truly magical about climbing to this isolated place with very few other tourists around. We were also very lucky to meet two Arhuaca near our base camp. They rarely come near tourists other than when they have mochilas to sell. A mochila is the traditional bag the Arhuaca use, amongst other things, to carry cocoa leaves and popora. It has an important historical and cultural significance to the Arhuaca and I had wanted to purchase one since watching the documentary. It was thus very special to meet the Arhuaca,  purchase the mochila, and walk to Chairama. Tayrona itself is very beautiful. The beaches are magnificent though potentially dangerous because of currents and shelving. I would have happily spent at least another day here despite the hammocks (which arent the most comfortable things to sleep in!).In a different way, the Gold Museum and the National Museum in Bogata were also inspiring - largely because of the rich cultural history of the pre-Colombian peoples that are represented in the artefacts in both places. The Gold Museum is world class, with audio guides in English available. It is worth exploring in your own time in addition to the organised group tour. Finally, Villa de Leyva - the beauty of the old hotel we stayed in, the weird phallic monoliths and astrological observatory of the Muiscas at El infiernito and the 120 million year old fossilised Kronosaurus were special. Again they evoked a past that little is known about.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Juan was a very engaging, helpful and pleasant person who was very interesting to talk to about Colombia but who was perhaps not as forthcoming as he could have been about the country to the group as a whole. On some of the longer drives it would have been good if he had talked more about the country in general and the place we were visiting in particular .....you get used to Exodus guides being good at doing this so miss it when it doesnt quite happen in the way you expect!! He was a good guy though and great at being willing to take us to Chairama in Tayrona. 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Vegetarians are not well catered for in Colombia so if you can compromise at all -for example by eating fish- it would increase the enjoyment of the trip. The trout is fantastic in the mountains. Its easy to change cash -the airport rate is slighly lower than elsewhere but its very convenient. There are ATMs but our card and that of another traveller were blocked by our respective UK banks from withdrawing cash despite the fact we both had notified our banks that we would be travelling to Colombia and using our cards there. We had to phone the UK several times to sort the matter. I would personally now only rely on a card as a back up to cash. Pick up a map of Bogata from the tourist office, La Candelaria: Plaza de Bolívar. It very clearly shows all the stops on the Transmilenio. The start hotel is near the Transmilenio which makes it easy to get in and out of Bogata cheaply and -relative to cars-quickly. Hotel staff showed us how to use the Transmilenio which was very good of them. Worth getting used to especially if you have extra time in Bogata. The museums are great. Botero's work is fun and interesting. If you want to purchase a mochilo speak to the guide and probably wait till you get to Tayrona. There are synthetic imitations around. Its worth learning some Spanish, no matter how little. Not many local people speak English.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The owners of the hotel in the Coffee area threw an impromptu party for us to thank us for visiting Colombia. Really nice. I was sorry I didnt have a small souvenir from the UK to have given them.If you travel independently, the start hotel looks as if its in a grotty area but Zona Rosa is a great area for restaurants. Fine to walk around and lots of students. Good location for getting Transmilenio from Heroes Station into La Candelaria.I personally wouldnt recommend Isles de Rosario as there is nothing there other than beach. If you want to snorkel its important to know that you need to pay extra and stay on the boat to another place. This wasnt clear to our party.Really glad went on this trip. Good with a great crowd of people. If I could have walked in Los Nevados at high altitude in the paramo I guess I would have given it five star!!
  • Reviewed March 2013
    Anonymous

    DISCOVER COLOMBIA

    Colombia was a beautiful country and away from Cartagena was almost entirely free of other tourists. Villa de Leyva was a beautiful town and the Coffee Region was just beautiful. We mainly found the people welcoming, many just grateful that we were prepared to visit the country at all. Bogota was a Bustling city and around our hotel was busy with upmarket restaurants and chic bars - all of which was a bit of a (welcome) surprise. Public transport into the historic centre was quick and efficient, if inclined to be rather crowded. In the centre Bogota had a good selection of museums but not much else. Bogota, Villa de Leyva, Coffee Region and Cartagena were all so different that the trip could fairly be described as 'varied and interesting.' The only thing that let the trip down was timekeeping. So often we were exceptionally late arriving at places and everything took much, much longer than it was supposed to.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The scenery in the Coffee Region was fabulous and the visit to the coffee plantation was the undoubted highlight of the entire trip. The hotel in Villa de Leyva was amazing and a destination in itself and the town was very pleasant to walk around. There wasn't an inspirational moment, but the more I saw of and learned about Colombia the more inspired I became.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader was full of enthusiasm and very easy to get along with, a really great guy, but his timings were so way off as to be ridculous sometimes and his instructions and directions (like how to get back to the hotel by Transmilenio bus) could be a little inaccurate.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go to Colombia! But if you are a vegetarian watch out. It is possible to get vegetarian food but you generally get thoroughly ripped off for it. A normal meal of meat, salad and chips can cost 50% more if they leave the meat off. In one restaurant I paid way more than everybody else did for a two course meal of soup and a meat course, and I just got a vegetarian lasagne that was served up in the foil dish it had come from the supermarket in.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The walk in Cocora Valley was really hard with slippery mud, big rocks to scramble over and some long, steep climbs. It took over twice the 3-hours predicted for it and we got lunch at about 6:00pm. If you are going on that walk take some food with you and plenty of water. However, the humming birds at the top made it worth it!The hammock experience didn't work for me. The hammocks were crammed into something the size of a bamboo aircraft hangar with a concrete floor and I just found them uncomfortable and not in any way the charming experience I was expecting.

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