This tour is designed to highlight Colombia’s astounding natural and cultural diversity, and we believe we have struck the perfect balance with this exhilarating itinerary: From the Latin rhythms of the salsa capital of the world to riding motorcycle-powered carts through luscious rainforests, to hiking among the towering wax palms of the Cocora Valley, to learning about Gabriel Garcia’s Magical Realism in the fortified city of Cartagena. This trip is of epic proportions, complete with adventure, city life, seductive scenery, dance, surreal ecosystems, diverse wildlife, and incredible hospitality. Join us in a land where everyday life is very real but visitors can easily escape into a magical world as they explore the culture and natural richness the country has to offer.
Colombia has been undergoing a very positive transformation in the past decade, and with the recent signing of a historic peace treaty, the country is now regarded as one of the safest countries for tourists in Latin America. For many years Colombia has remained a mystery for travelers and photographers from around the globe, but Colombians are now welcoming visitors from around the planet with open arms.
Colombia is tropical, yet it also has ample elevation changes due to the Andes Mountains, the longest mountain range in the world. Furthermore, it has both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The Andes reach great heights (some peaks are glaciated) and are home to a great variety of natural habitats due to the fact that they split into three ranges. Colombia also comprises a vast portion of the Amazon and the Orinoquia region and is home to the highest coastal mountain in the world, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. All these factors synergize to make it one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. Colombia is also the birdiest country on earth, with more than 1,950 species (almost 20% of the world’s total). There are more species of birds in this country than on any other.
Colombia is equally diverse in terms of culture. It is a country with many distinct, varied regions, each with its own unique customs, dances, traditions, accents, social patterns, and cultural adaptations. An added benefit is the food! Along with other cultural expressions of national identity, Colombian cuisine varies among its many different regions and is as diverse as its climate, landscapes, and people.
A country as diverse and friendly as Colombia undoubtedly offers a plethora of opportunities to learn and discover, and an invitation to get immersed in the natural landscapes and vibrant culture the country has to offer.
- Internal flight Pereira – Cartagena
- Professional Bilingual Tour Leader. Bottled Water Throughout the Trip
- Snacks Throughout the Trip
- All Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on Day 9
- All Lodging (Double Occupancy)
- Entrances to Parks and Reserves
- Regional and Local Guides
- Internal Terrestrial Transport From Airport Pickup to Airport Drop-off
- Ride motorcycle-powered carts through luscious rainforests
- Hike among the towering wax palms of the Cocora Valley
- Hike through the well-preserved cloud San Antonio Forest to a panoramic viewing area
- Learn about Gabriel Garcia’s Magical Realism in the fortified city of Cartagena
- Experience adventure, seductive scenery, dance, surreal ecosystems, diverse wildlife, and incredible hospitality
- Visit the Galeria Alameda, a bustling market where the harvests from nearby farmlands and the Pacific Ocean are displayed
Day by Day
Day 1: Arrival
Guests will be greeted at the airport upon arrival with a private transfer from airport to Araucana Lodge.
Day 2: Birdwatching and Hiking in the Cloud Forests of the San Antonio Forest
On this day the group starts the morning with a drive to the San Antonio Forest, which is designated as an Important Bird Area. A hike through the well-preserved cloud forest to a panoramic viewing area is always a favorite, as the group has views of Cali, the Cauca Valley, and the Farallones National Park. This area is of importance in Colombia’s ornithological history. More than 100 years ago, Frank Chapman, of the American Museum of Natural History, spent some time researching the bird diversity of this forest. We will be able to visit a local property known as the Hummingbird Paradise to be mesmerized by an array of hummingbirds, tanagers and other species that inhabit the forest. Lunch will consist of the traditional sancocho dish cooked over a wood fire at a local restaurant. In the afternoon the group explores the Dolmetsch Arboretum with the director, Alvaro Calonje. The Dolmetsch Arboretum houses more than 2,200 plants from around the world and is world-renown for its cycad collection, containing more than 60 species. Cycads are an ancient group of seed plants that are much less abundant than they were during the Jurassic period, and their geographic ranges have contracted, resulting in cycads being one of the most threatened plant groups in the world.
The grounds of the arboretum provide an incredible diversity of plants adorning the impeccably manicured gardens. In the evening the group enjoys a meal highlighting the latest harvest (always a surprise) at the lovely Araucana Lodge.
Day 3: Cali City Tour
Founded in 1536, Cali is known as the Sucursal del Cielo, which loosely translates to “the branch office of heaven.” A whole day walking the streets in this warm and friendly city nestled at the base of the western Andes will make you work up a sweat. Just a few blocks from the hotel is the Cat of the River and his Girlfriends, a collection of bronze cat sculptures that were designed by various Colombian artists. Some of the morning will be spent visiting the Cristo Rey monument for panoramic views of the city, before a visit to the Galeria Alameda, a bustling market where the harvests from nearby farmlands and the Pacific Ocean are displayed.
Then we visit the historic center of town and many of the churches and colonial buildings along the Cali River. The boulevard along the river is only open to pedestrians and is quite enjoyable, with wide open spaces, large trees, and locals enjoying the outdoors. The final stop of the day is in the bohemian San Antonio neighborhood, before heading up the mountain to the Araucana Lodge.
Day 4: San Cipriano and Travel to Buga
After a two hour drive to Zaragosa and a pleasant 20-minute ride on “brujitas” (motorcycle-powered wooden carts on rails), one arrives in the town of San Cipriano. The ride is exhilarating and will surely get the adrenaline pumping as the “brujitas” travel through a luscious tropical rainforest, one of the most biologically diverse on the planet. The area is a protected reserve and is the source of drinking water for the nearby port city of Buenaventura. Located in the Choco Bioregion, it is known for being one of the wettest places on the planet.
Aside from the amazing diversity of birds and the very interesting local village, the reserve is home to one of the most pristine tropical rivers on the planet. A nice trail borders the river with various side trails that provide access to serene riverscapes. A visit to the Waterfall of Love is also in order, with a chance to take a dip in the refreshing waters. After a full day out and about the group boards the “brujitas” and then embarks on a 2-hour drive to Buga.
Day 5: Buga to Salento. Coffee Farm Tour
The Cauca Valley is one of the agricultural centers in Colombia, the morning is spent crossing a good portion of the valley. The drive affords views of the imposing Andes mountains on either side of the valley, before beginning the ascent towards Salento, in the heart of the Colombian Coffee Triangle. Several stops will be made along the way to enjoy different culinary specialties and to enjoy the breathtaking mountain vistas.
After checking in the afternoon will be devoted to touring a coffee farm and learning about the process from the planting of the seed to the drinking of a cup of coffee. Although coffee is grown in all three of the Andean ranges, the central range is known for the quality of coffee it produces. The tour includes a hike through the coffee fields and a coffee tasting. Dinner is at the hotel.
Day 6: Cocora Valley Hike
The rolling green hills of the Cocora Valley afford surreal scenery and ample opportunities for hiking through cloud forest and along the Quindio River watershed. The landscape is unique as it is dotted with Colombia’s national tree, the wax palm, an endangered species that is the tallest palm tree in the world. The spectacular scenery of the palms overtopping the cloud forest and pastures below on a 4-hour loop is well rewarded with one of the culinary specialties of the region, fresh rainbow trout and fried plantain.
The hike is a bit strenuous, but for those who are more into a moderate or easy hike, there are other options available. After lunch, the afternoon is spent exploring Salento on foot. Salento is a colorful village with a bustling center park that is perfect for people watching. Those who wish can also do a little shopping to support the local artisans that work in town. Dinner is at the hotel.
Day 7: Salento to Pereira and flight to Cartagena. Afternoon City Tour
The day starts with an early departure from Salento and a 1.5-hour drive to the city of Pereira to catch flights to Cartagena. After check-in at the hotel in Cartagena, we have some time to explore the neighborhood around the hotel and walk the streets while waiting for the sunset, which is best viewed from the fortified wall that surrounds the city.
Day 8: Magical Realism in Cartagena
Few cities on Earth are as beautiful as Cartagena. On the sunny Caribbean coast of Colombia, Cartagena de Indias has righteously earned a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it is easy to see why. Founded in 1533, Cartagena still retains its colonial charm, with colorful balconies overlooking cobblestone streets and quaint plazas that pull you into impressive churches. The city was one of the main ports in the Americas during the Spanish Conquest, resulting in numerous pirate attacks that eventually led to the fortification of the city with 13 KM of stone walls.
The morning will be devoted to photographing within the walled city, where there is something to suit all tastes. From beautiful architecture to warm and friendly people, to striking monuments, there are plenty of inspiring opportunities. Before an afternoon photo shoot on the walls surrounding the city, a local expert will present a talk on Magical Realism, a literary style whose defining author is Colombia’s own Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A nice parallel can be drawn between his style and what visitors can experience in Colombia!
Day 9: Depart Cartagena