Wander beneath the floral balconies of Cartagena – the World Heritage-listed town combining Caribbean splendour and irresistible old-world charm.. Tayrona National Park is a nature escape that seems to have it all, from perfect beaches and mountain backdrops to wildlife-filled jungle.. Admire the colonial-era architecture of Barichara – this little gem is widely considered Colombia’s prettiest town. Get lost on the cobblestone streets or head to nearby San Gil – a hotspot for adventure sports.. Head to a local factory supporting women in work and keeping alive a traditional paper-making method by using the natural fibres of the Andean fique plant.
Colombia is one of those gems of South America that still is often skipped on the tourist trail. Be captivated by Bogota’s colonial-era centre, laze on palm-fringed stretches of Caribbean shoreline and meet the locals that make Colombia one of the world’s friendliest countries on this 10-day South American adventure. While Tayrona National Park and the Guachaca region offer gorgeous hiking trails, off-track swimming holes and powdery beaches nestled in lush jungle, eye-catching towns like Barichara are a dream to explore, and adrenaline-fuelled San Gil is just moments away. For an off-track trip in that’s full of rhythm, music, colour and life, Explore Colombia is right up there with the best of them.
Breakfast Included: 8 Lunches Included: 1 Dinner Included: 2
Bienvenidos a Colombia! Welcome to Colombia. Cartagena is one of South America's most historic cities. The old city, particularly the inner walled town, is the main attraction – it's packed with beautiful churches, monasteries, plazas and mansions. Your hotel is located in the vibrant Getsemani neighbourhood, a part of the old town with loads of colourful street art and an authentic feel. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. After the meeting, step out for an orientation walk with your leader to get a feel for the city (note that this may take place tomorrow morning instead).
Spend some free time getting to know the old and new of Cartagena. Wander the old city, shop for local handicrafts, head up to San Felipe de Barajas Castle (the largest of the city's fortresses) or take boat to Punta Arenas or Playa Blanca for a well-deserved swim in the Southern Caribbean. Otherwise, book yourself in a tour out of town to the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo. Instead of lava, this peculiar volcano spews a cream-like mud that is said to contain many healing properties. Enter for a strange bathing experience, then wash the muddiness off in the nearby lagoon. In the evening, perhaps head to one of Cartagena’s hippest eateries, Restaurante Interno. Housed in a women's prison, the restaurant opened in December 2016 with the aim of giving inmates skills and a higher likelihood of integrating back into society when their prison sentence is over. Local celebrities and even the Columbian president have eaten here, and while it isn’t a budget option, it is definitely a unique experience, and you’ll get an authentic Columbian meal.
In the morning, take a shared van transfer (approximately 5 hours) north of Cartagena to Guachaca – your home for the next two nights. Guachaca is located in northern Columbia and is surrounded with lush jungle and mountains that collide with the sun-kissed coastline. It's the perfect spot to take the pace down a notch. Once you've arrived, the remainder of the day is free to explore (or relax!). Park yourself in a hammock with a book or make the short walk to the beach and get a load of that coastline. Your accommodation is a simple and comfortable family-run guesthouse, nestled high in the jungle. In the evening, enjoy a cocktail or two with your fellow travellers or treat yourself to a relaxing massage.
Tayrona National Park / Guachaca Region
Head to Tayrona National Park – a series of jungle and coves surrounding the Caribbean coast on the foothills of the Santa Marta mountains. Today is all about hiking the forest trails for Tayrona’s beaches, and with a fair amount of hiking involved today, be prepared and make sure your walking shoes are on and you’ve packed some bug spray. Along the way, you’ll experience lush the green rainforest, the ambience of the jungle and all wildlife that inhabit it, and the special glimpses of coastline and beaches that peek through the canopies. The trail to stunning Cabo San Juan is well worth the effort; it's further away than some other beaches however highly recommended. The hike today is flexible and can be tailored to suit all fitness and energy levels. There can be some steep ups and downs, and some muddy spots if it’s been raining, so your group leader can organise a route that pleases everyone. When you’ve had enough hiking, swimming and relaxing, head back to Guachaca for the evening.
Guachaca Region / Barichara
Enjoy a final morning in your jungle haven, perhaps rising early to see the sunrise from the beach. After a continental breakfast, head off for an included flight from Santa Martha to Bucaramanga (approximately 3.5 hours including a stop in Bogota). From Bucaramanga, transfer to Barichara (approximately 3 hours). With its quaint cobbled streets, stuccoed houses and hilly backdrop, Barichara is probably the prettiest colonial-style village in all of Colombia. Today is a relatively long travel day, so spend some time relaxing this evening.
With some free time, spend today however you please. Barichara means ‘resting place’ in the local indigenous language and is itself a fine place to wander around on foot, with its laidback feel and range of shops and artisanal workshops to explore. If you'd like to get more active, head over to San Gil, the thrill-seeking capital of Colombia (approximately 30 minutes' drive). Speak to your group leader for suggestions of things to do – rafting, paragliding and caving – it’s an adventure sport hub. The Pescaderito swimming hole on the way there is well worth a visit too; even if the water is a little chilly, it's an idyllic spot to relax for an hour or two.
After breakfast, head to a local factory where you’ll learn the traditional method of making paper from the natural fibres of the Andean fique plant. This factory is the number one employer in Barichara, which began with the aim to financially support single-parent women who previously did not have any promise of work. Afterwards, set out on a 2-hour walk along the Camino Real to the village of Guane. Declared a national monument in 1988, the ancient trail was built by the indigenous Guane people as a trade route between towns, and you’ll be hiking a small section between Barichara and Guane. The walk is stunning, full of panoramic views of the mountain ranges. It starts off with a gentle descent down the rim of a canyon before crossing a valley filled with cacti. The walking is mostly downhill, and you'll likely spot a few fossils embedded in the stones that pave the trail en route. On arrival in Guane, refresh with a cooling drink, soak up the peaceful atmosphere and perhaps check out the town’s church, before catching the local bus back to Barichara.
Today you’ll travel by local bus to Bogota via San Gil (approximately 8 hours), so kick back and enjoy the drive as the scenery rolls by. There will be only the one stop along the way, so ensure you take drinks and snacks for the journey. Your hotel in Bogota is located in the Chapinero neighbourhood, one of the most culturally diverse parts of town.
Time for some exploring – today, you’ll check out a couple of essential local spots in Bogota. One is La Candelaria, the historic heart of the city. Boasting a wealth of cosy cafes and colonial churches, it's a neighbourhood full of surprises. As well as loads of museums, art and great food to try, it's also just a beautiful town to walk around, an interesting clash of the old and new. You’ll also head to the Gold Museum for a chance to learn about the wealth this country once had. Fascinating and easy to navigate, the museum has 55,000 artefacts from various eras on display. During the day, you will also learn about Columbia’s turbulent past on a ‘War and Peace’ tour, which outlines their history of war, including political assassinations and armed groups in conflict, and how the country has developed into the situation it finds itself now. There will also be an opportunity to head up Cerro de Monserrate by cable car, where a 17th-century church overlooks the capital. It's a great place to watch the sunset across the sprawling city.
After an included breakfast, there are no planned activities today and no accommodation planned at night. If you wish to spend more time in Bogota, we’ll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).