Day 1: Depart U.S. for Bogota, Colombia We arrive today in the Colombian capital and transfer to our hotel. As guests’ arrival times may vary greatly, we have no group activities or meals planned; on our own we can explore the area surrounding our hotel or simply relax. Dinner tonight is on our own.
Day 2: Bogota After a briefing this morning on the journey ahead, we set out to discover Bogota, one of the largest cities in Latin America. Our first stop is colorful Paloquemao, Bogota’s major market visited by restaurant chefs as well as locals shopping for meat, fish, and exotic produce from around the world. Then we continue on a walking tour through the nearby colonial district of La Candelaria. Founded in 1538, La Candelaria became the core of Bogota as the city grew up around it. Our tour includes the Gold Museum, featuring the world’s largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold work; and the Botero Museum, housing paintings and sculpture by Fernando Botero, Colombia’s foremost living artist, along with his collection of mid-19th-century works by such artists as Corot, Renoir, and Monet. Tonight we gather for a welcome dinner. B,L,D
Day 3: Bogota/Zipaquira We begin this morning in the Usaquén neighborhood, whose colonial buildings, trendy restaurants, and flea market draw Sunday morning visitors. Then we travel north through the center of Colombia’s flower-growing industry to the town of Zipaquira, where we tour the “Salt Cathedral” – an underground church built inside a salt deposit. A functioning Roman Catholic church (not an actual cathedral), the Salt Cathedral is considered an architectural and engineering marvel, having been carved from the halite rock of subterranean tunnels. Then we stop for lunch at a local restaurant and have time to admire the historic city center. We return to Bogota mid-afternoon, with the remainder of the day at leisure. B,L
Day 4: Bogota/Armenia (Coffee Triangle) Early today we fly to Colombia’s heartland: Armenia and the Coffee Triangle, where some of the world’s best coffee grows in the fertile valleys surrounded by snow-topped mountains. Upon arrival we visit a coffee plantation for a tour and to learn about Colombia’s role as a top producer of some of the finest java on Earth. We savor a coffee tasting, learning first-hand how to analyze the aroma, flavor, and body of good coffee. Then we continue on to our intimate hacienda, where we dine tonight. B,L,D
Day 5: Armenia/Cocora Valley Today we embark on a full-day tour of this pastoral region, beginning in Cocora Valley, in the Central Cordillera of the Colombian Andes. One of the last remaining homes of the giant Quindio wax palm tree, Colombia’s national tree, Cocora Valley is part of the larger Los Nevados National Natural Park. We reach a cloud forest, where we set out on an easy hike for outstanding views and to get up close to the diverse biome here at an altitude of about 6,000 to 8,000 feet. We may see the Andean condor and several species of hummingbird that live here. Then we continue on to Salento, a tranquil and picturesque town with much of its traditional architecture intact and where we enjoy a tour through Bolivar Square with its colorful balconies and handcraft shops. Late this afternoon we return to our lodge, where we dine tonight. B,L,D
Day 6: Armenia/Medellin We fly this morning to Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city known for its social and political advances. Upon arrival we head downtown for lunch before embarking on a panoramic tour of the “City of Eternal Spring,” so named for its temperate climate. Then we visit the Museo de Antioquia, Colombia’s second oldest museum with a noted collection of pre-Columbian, colonial, and modern art, as well as paintings and sculpture by native son Fernando Botero. Late this afternoon we reach our hotel; dinner is at a local restaurant. B,L,D
Day 7: Medellin We get to know Medellin in more detail today – and learn why in 2012 it was named one of the 200 most innovative cities around the world. This morning’s city tour features a walk around Botero Square, the inviting sculpture plaza melding art, nature, and culture, with 23 outdoor works by Fernando Botero. We also visit Cerro Nutibara for lovely panoramic views; and get a close-up look at some of Medellin’s vibrant neighborhoods. Our tour ends in time for lunch on our own and an afternoon at leisure to explore this lively city as we wish. Tonight we dine together at a local restaurant. B,D
Day 8: Medellin/Santa Elena Today we visit nearby Santa Elena, a typical – and beautiful – colonial town where traditions related to Colombia’s flower-growing prowess live on. After touring here, we enjoy lunch with a local family. Next we board the Medellin Metrocable, the city’s iconic gondola that traverses a 1.2-mile route to the Santa Domingo barrio to Biblioteca España, Medellin’s treasured ultra-modern library complex. Then we descend by Metrocable to the city center. We return to our hotel late afternoon; dinner tonight is on our own. B,L
Day 9: Medellin/Cartagena We fly this morning to Cartagena, where upon arrival we set out on a city tour. An important center of political and economic activity during the Spanish Colonial era, Cartagena today remains a center of economic activity for the Caribbean, as well as a major city and beach resort. Tour highlights include 16th-century San Felipe Fort, strategically located atop San Lazaro hill to defend against attacks by land or sea; and Las Bovedas, archways – formerly dungeons – built into the city walls that now house artisan shops and boutiques. Dinner tonight is on our own. B,L
Day 10: Cartagena Today we explore Cartagena’s emotional heart: the walled colonial city (Ciudad Amurallada), a UNESCO World Heritage site that has remained vital – and alluring – for almost 500 years. Our morning walking tour takes in the 12-foot-high city walls, winding cobblestone streets lined with colorful buildings bedecked with flowers, and intimate plazas. Then the remainder of the day is at leisure for independent exploration. Lunch today is on our own in this vibrant seaside city; tonight we take a traditional horse-drawn carriage ride to our farewell dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
Day 11: Depart for U.S. We transfer this morning to the Cartagena airport for our flight to the U.S., where we connect with our return flights home. B
Please note: The high altitudes of Bogota (8,700 feet) and the Coffee Triangle (7,900 feet) could pose problems for travelers with certain health conditions. Please consult your physician if you have concerns.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included