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Colorful Colombia

Explore the heart of colombia and indulge in its fascinating culture and diverse ecosystems: bustling bogotá; the verdant coffee-growing pereira region; historic medellín & colonial cartagena, check prices & book now, get updates about this package.

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From its stunning modern cities to its mega-diverse natural wonders, Colombia offers the intrepid traveler a panoply of experiences unlike any other destination on Earth. From the moment you arrive in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, you'll be blown away by its stunning architecture and museums, friendly people, fabulous restaurants, and packed markets. Explore the fascinating blue-hued Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá before you fly off to Pereira, a beautiful mountainous coffee-growing region in the heart of this incredible country. Hop in a World War II-era Willys Jeep with your expert guide. Learn about the country's biodiversity, the history, and the significance of the wax palm, and tour a coffee farm to learn about the entire process from beans to brewing. Try your hand at crafting in the Colombian Andes in Santa Elena, a small village perched on a high plateau. Finish off your trip in Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, where you'll walk through colorful streets, admire the historical monuments, join a salsa class, and more!

Package includes

  • Round-trip flights from Miami including taxes & fees
  • Flights, ground transportation and transfers within Colombia
  • 9 nights' accommodations in first class hotels
  • 16 meals: 9 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 3 dinners, including welcome and farewell dinners
  • Professional English-speaking tour director and local guides
  • Comprehensive touring program and entrance fees

Optional add-ons

  • Flights from other cities are available. Request pricing when making your reservation.
  • Cerro de la Popa and San Felipe Castle excursion in Cartagena
  • Rosario Islands excursion with lunch from Cartagena
  • Cooking class with lunch in Cartagena

Why you'll love it

  • Admire the famous works of Fernando Botero at the Botero Museum in Bogotá.
  • Sip fresh fruit juice as you stroll through the Paloquemao Market, Bogotá's largest food market.
  • Ascend Monserrate Mountain via cable car or funicular and enjoy the sprawling views of the city from more than 10,000 ft. above sea level.
  • Visit Bogotá's Gold Museum, home to the largest collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts ever assembled.
  • Descend over 600 ft. underground to the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, a Roman Catholic church adorned with icons, ornaments and architectural details hand-carved in the halite rock.
  • Plant your own wax palm and learn why these trees are so important to the Colombian people.
  • Walk through a Colombian coffee plantation and participate in the coffee making process.
  • Fly from Pereira to Medellin, allowing more time to enjoy this unique city.
  • Explore Medellin's Metropolitan Cathedral and Plaza Botero during a comprehensive city tour.
  • Witness the social transformation of Comuna 13, one of Medellin’s intriguing and diverse places.
  • Learn about Santa Elena's silleteros, and prepare your own silleta full of vibrant flowers.
  • Master Colombian salsa at a dance school in Cartagena.
  • Explore Cartagena independently, or join an optional excursion to the Rosario Islands, a Natural National Park created to protect Colombia's Caribbean coral reefs.

Itinerary at a Glance

Colorful Colombia map

  • 1 Depart USA/Arrive Bogotá
  • 2 Bogotá
  • 3 Bogotá & Pereira
  • 4 Pereira, Cocora Valley & Salento
  • 5 Pereira & Medellín
  • 6 Medellín
  • 7 Medellín, Santa Elena & Cartagena
  • 8 Cartagena
  • Optional Excursion: Cerro de la Popa and San Felipe Castle, $95
  • 9 Cartagena
  • Optional Excursion: Rosario Islands with lunch, $110
  • Optional Excursion: Cooking class with lunch, $105
  • 10 Depart Cartagena

Dates & Prices

Unfortunately, we don't offer late returns on this package. However, if you select the Land Only option, you're welcome to make your own arrangements to arrive early or stay later. Want to extend your trip?

Options & Fees

1. Prices based on a minimum of two passengers.

So that we can offer you the best deals, our packages are, like most hotels and cruises, priced based on double occupancy rooms or cabins. We charge solo travelers an extra fee to cover the extra costs of single occupancy rooms or cabins. (Consider: if you booked a $200/night hotel room solo, you would pay the $200 yourself; but if a couple booked the same room, each one would pay only $100.) But you only pay extra for the rooms or cabins, nothing else, including meals, sightseeing, tips, etc. Why are single rooms more?

Flights & Departure Cities

This package includes round-trip flights from the city listed above. Please review the flight schedule , especially if you're booking connecting flights.

Want to fly from another city? We can arrange flights from most major cities. Ask us for a quote for flights from your preferred city when (or after) you book, and we'll get back to you with the price and availability within 3 business days. Of course, you can also book your own flights. More information

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 Depart USA/Arrive Bogotá Depart the USA on your flight to Bogotá, Colombia Enjoy a typical welcome dinner at the iconic Andres Carne de Res NH Collection Bogotá Andino Royal or similar Dinner Full Day Itinerary Board your flight to Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. After customs formalities, meet your guide and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy a welcome dinner with your fellow travelers at Andres Carne de Res—an iconic Colombian restaurant that has become a destination in its own right. The atmosphere is electric as you indulge in a feast of local flavors and soak up the vibrant energy of Bogota.   .  Day 2 Bogotá Visit Paloquemao Market, Bogotá's largest food market Admire the view from atop Monserrate Mountain Stroll through the historic center of Bogotá Admire the works of Fernando Botero See the largest collection of pre-Columbian gold items at the Gold Museum NH Collection Bogotá Andino Royal or similar Breakfast & lunch Full Day Itinerary This morning, visit the Paloquemao Market, Bogotá's largest food market. Many of the city's restaurants source their ingredients from here. Choose fruit from the market to enjoy as fresh juice. Then, head up to Monserrate Mountain, accessible by cable car or funicular, and view the city from this vantage point more than 10,000 ft. above sea level. A Spanish cleric built a chapel atop the mountain in 1650, where thousands of Colombians have been coming for many years to show their devotion to the image of the "Cristo Caído y Azotado." Set off on a walking exploration of the historic center of Bogotá. Begin by admiring the street art. Continue to El Carmen Church, a small 17th-century church that expanded in 1926 to accommodate the growing number of faithful to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. See Nariño Palace, the official residence of the President of Colombia, and admire its gardens, including an astronomical observatory. Across the street is the austere facade of the Santa Clara Church, which now contains the Colonial Art Museum. Continue to Bolívar Square, where you will find the National Capitol, the Courthouse, the Cathedral, and the Archbishop's Palace. Continue to the city center to admire the rich art collection of the Botero Museum. In 2000, famous Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero donated an extensive collection to the museum. There are currently 123 works of Botero on display, along with 85 pieces representing the major 19th-century international art movements. This afternoon, visit the Gold Museum, part of the Bank of the Republic. The museum was created to rescue many endangered pre-Columbian treasures, and the Bank of the Republic purchased many items from private collectors and grave robbers. Today, the museum holds about 36,000 pieces of gold and emeralds, making it the most extensive collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts. Day 3 Bogotá & Pereira Be amazed by the underground Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá Flight to Pereira in the Colombian Coffee Triangle Sonesta Hotel Pereira or similar Breakfast & dinner Full Day Itinerary After breakfast, drive to the small Andean town of Zipaquirá, home to what was once one of the world's most important salt mines. In the now defunct mine, the miners carved out a chapel and created elaborate sculptures and carvings representing the Passion of the Christ. Descend into the mine to admire this fantastic structure more than 600 feet below the ground! Drive to the Bogotá Airport for your short flight to Pereira, in the heart of the Colombian Coffee Triangle. Check in and enjoy dinner at the hotel. Day 4 Pereira, Cocora Valley & Salento Ride Willys Jeeps into the Cocora Valley Plant your own wax palm tree to help preserve this vulnerable species Taste a traditional Canelazo, a local cocktail made with cinnamon Enjoy freshwater trout Explore the village of Salento Sonesta Hotel Pereira or similar Breakfast & lunch Full Day Itinerary Travel to the village of Salento and hop on to World War II era Willys Jeeps that will take you down into the Cocora Valley. Admire the beautiful landscape of the valley as you ride toward the wax palm tree forests. Take a walk in the forest and discover the diversity of plant and animal life in this area. After savoring the local drink known as canelazo, learn about the importance of the wax palm tree for the Colombian people from a conservationist. Then, take guided walk up a mountain to plant your own wax palm, thus contributing to its preservation. At lunch, taste the local specialty: freshwater trout. Then, return to the village of Salento to explore the Plaza de Bolívar and the main street, with its colorful houses, balconies, and craft workshops, before returning to the hotel. Day 5 Pereira & Medellín Experience how coffee is grown on a local coffee farm Taste the local specialty in Medellín, Bandeja Paisa Flight from Pereira to Medellín Four Points by Sheraton Medellin or similar Breakfast & lunch Full Day Itinerary Visit a coffee farm and walk through the plantation as you observe and experience growing coffee, from sowing the seed and selecting, hand picking, and de-pulping the coffee grains to roasting them on a wood fire and brewing a delicious cup of Colombian coffee. Enjyoy lunch at a local restaurant, where you can try the regional specialty known as Bandeja Paisa, which includes  rice, beans, chorizo, chicharron, arepa, plantains,  all served with  coconut water lemonade.  Transfer to Pereira airport and board your flight to Medellín, a city nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains with a pleasant climate. Later check in to your hotel and relax or explore this modern and friendly city. Day 6 Medellín Explore the city of Medellín Enjoy a traditional Colombian snack Witness the social transformation of Comuna 13 Admire the view from the Metro Cable Car See the 23 sculptures of Botero that are displayed on the Plaza Botero Four Points by Sheraton Medellin or similar Breakfast Full Day Itinerary Today's discoveries start at El Poblado Park and Llares Park. Later make your way to Pueblito Paisa market area, choose between two classic Colombian snacks: the Arepa or the Salpicón. Witness the social transformation of Comuna 13, once considered the most dangerous neighborhood in Colombia, now one of Medellin’s intriguing and diverse places. Learn about its turbulent past and experience the murals, outdoor escalators, and cable car system. Then, take a ride on the Metro Cable Car, which complements Medellín's metropolitan transit system by providing services to the settlements that are located on the steep slopes that surround the city. Head to the center of Medellín, and walk from the Metropolitan Cathedral to the Plaza Botero. At this urban park, 23 sculptures by Medellín-born artist Fernando Botero adorn the public spaces. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Day 7 Medellín, Santa Elena & Cartagena Discover the culture of the silleteros Visit a flower farm in Santa Elena Evening flight to Cartagena Ermita Cartagena, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel by Marriott or similar Breakfast & lunch Full Day Itinerary After a relaxing morning, depart for Santa Elena, a small village in the high plateau east of Medellín. After lunch in a nearby restaurant, visit a flower farm in the village of Santa Elena. In 1957, during the first edition of the annual Festival of the Flowers in Medellín, 40 peasants from Santa Elena participated in the parade, traditionally carrying their flowers: on silletas. The silleta was a type of chair made to be held on the back and was used in the old days to move goods and even people across difficult mountain passes and was the only way for the flower farmers of Santa Elena to carry their product into the city of Medellín. Learn about the culture of the silleteros, the porters of the Colombian Andes, and even prepare your own little silleta with colorful flowers. Continue to the Medellín Airport and fly to Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast, and check in to your hotel. Day 8 Cartagena Walk through the historic area of the city Visit the 17th century Jesuit church of San Pedro Claver Learn the steps of the Colombian salsa at a private salsa class Ermita Cartagena, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel by Marriott or similar Breakfast Full Day Itinerary This morning, walk through the colorful colonial streets of the old city of Cartagena. Admire the landmarks, including the Clock Tower, the Customs Plaza, the lively Plaza Santo Domingo, and the Parque Bolívar. Visit the church of San Pedro Claver, built by Jesuits in the early 17th century, along with the neighboring monastery of San Pedro Claver. The Jesuit minister Pedro Claver was a defender of human rights. He cared for the needs of many enslaved people who arrived in the port of Cartagena and advocated for their humane treatment. He lived in the monastery until he died in 1654, and his remains are preserved in the church. He was canonized as a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1888. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure or participate in an optional excursion. Later, join a salsa class at a dance school to learn the basics of Colombian salsa. Optional Excursion: Cerro de la Popa and San Felipe Castle, $95 Get a panoramic view of the city and bay from atop the Cerro de la Popa. This hill stands just behind the old city and provides a splendid view of Tierrabomba Island, the harbor area, the historic center, and the modern part of the city. Then, visit the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas, originally built in 1536 and gradually expanded as required until 1657. At the time, it was the most prominent Spanish military building in the New World. See the impressive fortifications, walk through the kitchens and other sites of interest, and reach the residence of the lord of the castle. In 1984, UNESCO added the castle along with the historic center of Cartagena as a World Heritage site. Day 9 Cartagena Enjoy the day at leisure in Cartagena Alternatively, take an optional excursion Join your fellow travelers for a farewell dinner with a salsa show Ermita Cartagena, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel by Marriott or similar Breakfast & dinner Full Day Itinerary Spend your last full day in Colombia independently, in the fantastic city of Cartagena, or join an optional excursion to the Rosario Islands before meeting your fellow travelers for a farewell dinner and salsa show at a local restaurant. Optional Excursion: Rosario Islands with lunch, $110 Head to the pier and board a boat to the Rosario Islands. This archipelago boasts crystal-clear water and coral reefs and is part of a National Natural Park created to protect this delicate ecosystem. The white sandy beaches and turquoise waters shelter a wide variety of tropical fish. Enjoy the day relaxing on these beautiful islands. Have lunch at a local restaurant on Isla del Encanto before returning to Cartagena in mid-afternoon. Note: This optional tour cannot be combined with the Cooking class with lunch. Optional Excursion: Cooking class with lunch, $105 Whether a novice or an experienced chef, a cooking class in Cartagena promises to be an enriching and memorable experience, providing you with a deeper understanding of Colombian cuisine and its cultural significance. Cartagena is known for its diverse culinary scene influenced by African, Spanish, and Indigenous cultures and ceviche. Throughout this hands-on experience, you will prepare ceviche under the guidance of a skilled instructor. Later you will enjoy the fruits of your labor by savoring the delicious ceviche and a meal prepared by the chef. It's a fantastic opportunity to bond with fellow food enthusiasts, share stories, and embrace the vibrant and friendly atmosphere that defines Cartagena. Note: This optional tour cannot be combined with the Full Day Rosario Islands. Day 10 Depart Cartagena Transfer to Cartagena Airport as you bid farewell to Colombia Board your flight to Miami via Bogota, and arrive in the USA later today Breakfast

NH Collection Bogotá Andino Royal

Located the Chico neighborhood in Zona Rosa, one of the most desirable residential areas of Bogotá, the NH Collection Bogotá Andino Royal is ideally situated in an area rich in restaurants and bars.

More information

Sonesta Hotel Pereira

The Sonesta Pereira Hotel is located within the natural environment of the coffee cultural landscape and just 30 minutes outside of the center of Pereira.

Four Points by Sheraton Medellin

Located in the El Poblado district of Medellin, near shopping areas and surrounded by many dining options, the Sheraton Four Points Medellin provides a haven to relax from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Ermita Cartagena, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel by Marriott

Ermita Cartagena, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel by Marriott provides guests with a welcoming space that reflects the vibe and spirit of Cartagena.  Conveniently located within walking distance from many local attractions, this boutique hotel is a great place from which to explore Cartagena.

In the unlikely event that a particular hotel is not available, a similar or better hotel may be substituted.

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  • Visit the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral and the Paloquemao market at the old colonial town of Villa de Leyva.
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  • Walk around the beautiful San Felipe de Barajas Castle at Cartagena, a UNESCO site famous for early Spanish settlements.
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  • Explore pre Colombian ancient ruins at the Tayrona National Park.
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  • Refrain from saying anything negative about Catholics; the Colombians are closely bound with their religion.
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  • To indicate the length of an object, extend your right arm and mark off the length with your left hand. Using two fingers is considered an obscene gesture.
  • Avoid paying taxi drivers in dollars as they’ll hike the price. Keep pesos in hand before you travel.

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Caño Cristales takes on a striking red color from June through November, as Macarenia clavígera , a rare flowering water plant, blankets the riverbed. © Metropolitan Touring

The low and guttural sound produced by Howler Monkeys is believed to be the loudest of all land animals and can be heard over two miles away. © Gary Krosin

In the heart of Bolívar Square is Catedral Primada, Bogotá’s first church, built in 1539 by Spanish conquistador, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada. © Metropolitan Touring

This colorful, male Clown Grasshopper Paramastax poecilosoma can be found in the cloud forests of northwest South America. @ Kevin Clement

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Found in high elevation forests, the male White-necked Jacobin has a blue head and chest, and sharply contrasting white abdomen and nape. © Metropolitan Touring

Colombia Nature & Cultural Tour

Colombia, a country once torn by strife and long closed off from the outside world, is a study in contrasts—­from pristine rainforests echoing with bird calls, to lively modern cities like Cartagena and Bogotá; from snow-capped peaks to verdant coffee-growing valleys; golden beaches to rainbow-colored rivers flowing alongside vast Serengeti-like savannah. There is something of everything in this rich and friendly country, which contains more bird species than any other on Earth. Join Apex on this 16-day journey, carefully crafted to showcase exquisite colonial architecture, ancient ruins and vibrant local culture, as well as stunning natural spaces and wildlife. Now is the time to visit Colombia, before the rest of the world catches on.


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Arrive Bogotá, Colombia

Arrive in Bogotá, a vital and sophisticated capital city that sits at 8,660 feet, cradled by the magnificent Andes. Transfer to your hotel in the heart of the La Cabrera neighborhood. This evening, meet your expedition leader and fellow travelers at a welcome dinner and overnight at Sofitel Victoria Regia.

After breakfast, visit one of Bogotá’s most important markets, Paloquemao Market. This early-morning market is filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and flowers. An authentic shopping experience offering a treat for the senses with vibrant colors, sounds and smells. Next, visit José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden featuring plants from every Colombian altitude, climate and region. After lunch at a local restaurant, take a city tour, starting in the colonial quarter of La Candelaria. Amble past 300-year-old homes toward Plaza de Bolívar. Some of the city’s most significant buildings surround this square, including La Catedral Primada, the Presidential Palace and National Capitol, and the colonial churches of El Sagrario and San Agustin. Visit the Museo del Oro, containing more than 55,000 pieces of pre-Columbian gold. Dinner and overnight at Sofitel Victoria Regia.

Travel out of the city to the Observatorio de Colibríes, a hummingbird observatory with 14 species of hummingbird to be spotted busily buzzing around. This afternoon, take a cable car to the top of Monserrate Hill where you’ll have time to explore the Basilica Sanctuary of Monserrate, a pilgrimage site dating back to 1657. Enjoy sunset and panoramic views of Bogotá with dinner at a local restaurant on the hill. Overnight at Sofitel Victoria Regia.

Serranía de la Macarena National Park

This morning, transfer to the airport for a flight south to La Macarena, deep in the Plains, or Llanos, region. Just across the Guayabero River from town stands the immense Serranía de la Macarena National Park, the unique meeting point for the flora and fauna of the Orinoco, Amazon and the Andes. Head straight to the park facilities for a briefing on local conservation efforts, then spend the afternoon visiting the Cristalito and Guayabero Rivers. The group may split up according to activity level for walks or hikes in the area. Enjoy lunch at a local outdoor kitchen. Dinner and overnight at the rustic Hotel La Fuente.

Over the next two days explore the Serranía de la Macarena National Park. Embark on a many-tiered journey to the famed Caño Cristales, known affectionately as the “Liquid Rainbow” or “River of Five Colors” for the brilliant yellows, greens, blues, blacks, and especially reds caused by the endemic Macarenia clavígera plant that blankets the riverbed at this time of year. To get there, head to the dock by your hotel and take a boat down the Guayabero River. Look for monkeys—there are 8 species present here—as well as Hoatzín and caimans. About 20 minutes in, board4x4 vehicles and head over the mountains to the spring of Cajuche, the starting point for a moderate hike that takes you along the river, climbing over driftwood, then through the forest toward Caño Cristales. Swim in the many natural pools along the river. Notice the hollowed-out riverbed rocks, or “giant’s kettles,” along the way. The next day, traverse rivers and hiking trails to reach the Lake of Silence. From the vantage point of canoes, search the forest-fringed lake for bird life. Dinners and overnights at Hotel La Fuente.

This morning, transfer to the airport for a flight west, via Bogotá, to Pereira, in the Zona Cafetera , Colombia’s principal coffee-growing area. Located in the lush foothills of the western and central ranges of the Cordillera de los Andes, this area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. Overnight at Casa San Carlos Lodge.

Pereira – Valle de Cocora

Depart for Filandia, a shining example of local Bahareque architecture. Tour Filandia’s colorful, centuries-old buildings along Plaza de Bolívar and the surrounding streets lined with restaurants and shops. This afternoon head to Cocora Valley to hike among the towering Quindío Wax Palms, Colombia’s national tree and the tallest palm in the world, reaching up to 200 feet. Continue into the cloud forest, looking for the endemic Yellow-eared Parrot, Chestnut Wood Quail and Masked Trogon, among many other birds. Join in the Ritual de la Palma, or planting of a wax palm, as part of restoration efforts. Return to Pereira for dinner and overnight at Casa San Carlos Lodge .

Pereira – Otún Quimbaya Wildlife Sanctuary

Early this morning, head east, stopping in La Florida for buñuelos, or cheese fritters. Transfer to 4×4 vehicles and continue up the mountain to Otún Quimbaya/Uacari Flora and Fauna Sanctuary. This reserve is considered one of the best in Colombia for birding. Upon arrival, hike along the river trail looking for Cauca Guans, Torrent Ducks, Multicolored Tanagers, Green Jays and Red-ruffed Fruitcrows, along with Howler Monkeys, Mountain Tapir and Central American Agoutis, or Guatín. Enjoy lunch at the visitor center, then depart for a tour of nearby Finca del Café. Walk the plantation trail and learn about the coffee-making process, from bean to cup. Return to Pereira for dinner and overnight at Casa San Carlos Lodge.

Tayrona National Park

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for a flight north (via Bogotá) to Santa Marta, the “Pearl of America,” nestled between the sparkling Caribbean Sea and the dramatic Sierra Nevada, the world’s highest coastal mountain range.Santa Marta is South America’s oldest European-founded town, dating back to 1525, and its historic center has been meticulously restored. As time permits, visit Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino, before heading to Tayrona, possibly the best-known national park in Colombia, covering over 50 miles of golden beaches and montane rainforest. Dinner and overnight at Villa Maria Hotel.

Apart from the park’s natural beauty, it’s also rich in cultural history, as it was home to thriving pre-Columbian tribes. After breakfast at the hotel, head to Tayrona National Park entrance for a hike. Next, take a guided tour of ancient Taironaka ruins. See remnants of their intricate drainage systems, terraces, stairs and houses, as well as a small museum housing more than 300 pieces of pottery found on site. After lunch at the reserve, head to the adjacent Rio Don Diego and climb into inner tubes for a relaxing float down the river. Return to the hotel, and enjoy an afternoon at leisure, or join a hike to the beach, with views over the jungle-clad mountains. Dinner and overnight at Villa Maria Hotel.

El Dorado Nature Reserve

Birders have deemed this area the “Northern Colombia Birding Trail.” Early this morning, search the lush vegetation on the grounds of the hotel to look for birds such as Scrub Greenlet and Buff-breasted Wren. Head south, up the foothills of the San Lorenzo ridge, stopping in Minca for lunch. Transfer to 4×4 vehicles and continue straight up to 6,200 feet to El Dorado Reserve’s lodge. The reserve is known worldwide for its magnificent endemic bird populations. Spend the rest of the day exploring the lodge grounds, looking for very rare Black-fronted Wood-Quails in the compost pile, and endemic Santa Marta Screech-owls and Santa Marta Antpittas at a feeder, as well as Black-backed Thornbills, Santa Marta Woodstars, Santa Marta Blossomcrowns and more. Enjoy dinner at the lodge, followed by the coaxing of Lemurine Night Monkeys and Kinkajous down from the trees for a feeding. Overnight at El Dorado Lodge .

Overall, twenty endemic bird species have been found at El Dorado, and exploring at various elevations is key to seeing as many of them as possible. Start very early this morning, heading up the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo to look for Santa Marta Parakeets, Rusty-headed and Streak-capped Spinetails, Santa Marta Bush-tyrants, Santa Marta Mountain Tanagers, Yellow-crowned Whitestarts, Santa Marta Warblers, White-tipped Quetzals and Santa Marta Foliage-gleaners, all endemic or near-endemic to this reserve. Drop down to the Experimental Station for an attempt to lure in the elusive Santa Marta Antipitta. Return to the lodge for lunch and the afternoon spent exploring the lodge trails. The views from the lodge are simply spectacular, with humid montane forest stretching in all directions and the Caribbean below. Dinner, Kinkajou feeding and overnight at El Dorado Lodge.

This morning, head back down the mountain, and down the Caribbean coast, stopping in the port city of Barranquilla, known as the birthplace of Gabriel García Márquez and the site of Colombia’s largest Carnival celebration. After lunch, continue down the coast to the romantic and superbly preserved city of Cartagena, standing behind an impressive eight miles of colonial stone walls. Check into your hotel, then head out for a sunset cocktail at one of the baluarte bars located on the city walls. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Bastión.

This morning, start your city exploration from on high, visiting the Augustinian Convento de la Popa, located at Cartagena’s highest point, followed by the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, considered the greatest fortress ever built by Spaniards. Travel through the upscale Bocagrande district, then head to old El Centro for a walking tour. Enter through the imposing Clock Tower Gate and walk through the Plaza de los Coches and Plaza de La Aduana. Head to Plaza de Bolívar, home to the Government Palace, newly restored Catedral. End your tour at the baroque Convento de San Pedro de Claver, named for a Jesuit priest who spent his life ministering to slaves. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant on Plaza Bolivar and take some time this afternoon at leisure. This evening, embark a sailboat for a sunset cruise before dinner. Overnight at Hotel Bastíon.

Transfer to the airport for your international flights home.

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PLANET TOURS COLOMBIA - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

4 days to discover Colombia’s national parks

Ocean Malandra

Nov 15, 2022 • 10 min read

Hikers on the way to Corcora Valley © Nadege Mazars/Lonely Planet

Hikers on the way to Corcora Valley © Nadege Mazars/Lonely Planet

From the beauty of the beaches of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona to the peaks of Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados, Colombia ’s 59 protected natural areas are a must for nature lovers.

Along with protecting some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world, 26 of these areas are also inhabited by indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.

Ocean Malandra shows how to visit two different parks over four days in Colombia. 


I’m a nature-loving, salsa-dancing, coffee-gulping, freelance travel/food writer and environmental journalist from Northern California who’s been traveling in Latin America for over 20 years. I’ve lived everywhere from Rio de Janeiro to Mexico City but am now based in Bogotá, Colombia, where I am the author of the Moon Guide series to this amazing country and an editor of an anthology on plant medicines. I’m currently at work on a memoir-style narrative non-fiction book based on my adventures here. 


Why you should visit Colombia’s Parques Nacionales Naturales (PNN)

When it comes to natural splendor, Colombia is in a league of its own. It boasts Caribbean beaches , high Andean peaks, the deep Amazon rainforest, arid coastal deserts and much more – in fact, it holds the record as the world’s most biodiverse country per square foot. That’s why the 59 glorious parks that make up the country’s National Natural Park System (PNN) collectively add up to an outdoor-travel offering without equal on earth. In this four-day itinerary, we’ll only have time for two highlights of this unparalleled park network: Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona and the Valle de Cocora. Yet this dynamic duo will take you through two completely different ecosystems and cultural regions that will surely leave you begging for more.

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Explore the rugged Caribbean coast

Begin your journey in Santa Marta , a medium-sized city sitting pretty in a gorgeous bay right next to Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona. This rugged slice of Caribbean wilderness occupies the lower reaches of the largest coastal mountain system in the world, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Its unique topography – with jungle-covered mountains descending steeply to turquoise seas – gives the park rugged features and cove beaches quite unlike any other part of the Caribbean shoreline in Latin America.

Begin your day with breakfast at Ikaro , located on a pedestrian-only street in the pretty Colonial historic core of Santa Marta, the oldest city in all of South America. Enjoy an organic coffee (made from beans grown in the nearby Sierras), omelet and açai bowl in a cool jungle-like setting with a living wall and outdoor planters. Next, take a walk down to lush Parque de Los Novios and onto the Santa Marta malecón for a panoramic view over the boat-filled bay and harbor, where local kids like to splash in the surf.

This is also a great place to catch a taxi to the Santa Marta market (10 minutes; no more than $6). Here, you can stock up on fresh fruit and whatever other foods you will eat inside the park outside of the menu at its beachfront restaurant. Buses to Tayrona run from a small terminal behind the market every half hour, dropping you off at  El Zaino, the park’s main entrance (45 minutes; $5). It’s a good idea to depart as early as you can, as the coast heats up by midday and you want to set out on your hike as early as possible.

At El Zaino (where there’s also a parking lot for those who arrive by car), you must pay an admission fee to enter the park ($15). You can then walk or take the collectivo bus to the coastline and the first set of camping sites within the park, at Canaveral. Those with limited time can spend the night here in an ecohab , lodgings modeled after the thatched-roof houses of the ancient Tayrona civilization that sport amazing views out over the Caribbean Sea. Yet (time allowing) it’s well worth it to hoof it down the coastal trail to other campsites like Arrecifes and (especially) Cabo San Juan. You’ll find a variety of camping options within the park, from cabanas to tents for rent, and you can also pack your own gear if you prefer a DIY setup.

The two-hour hike between Canaveral and Cabo San Juan takes you through thick tropical rainforest and past several spectacular viewpoints over the turquoise sea; be on the lookout for exotic wildlife like tamarin monkeys and green iguanas. Once at Cabo San Juan, you can rent a tent or even a hammock over the gently lapping waves. The onsite restaurant served fresh local fish specialties like pargo (red snapper) and mojarra (perch) as well as shrimp cocktails.

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Swim, hike and explore a hidden city

Wake up to a swim in the crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea, just steps from your tent,  before filling up on a hearty breakfast at the onsite restaurant or whatever you packed in with you. Serious beach bums will want to head down the coast a bit to check out Playa Cristal, just east of Cabo San Juan, where a small protected bay creates bathtub-calm waters perfect for wading and snorkeling. Down the coast toward the west, the wilderness beach of Playa Brava (watch out for the very dangerous waves) gives way to the park’s only nude beach, Playa Nudista.

Another option is to head inland on a two-hour hike to El Pueblito, an archaeological site that once held a bustling Tayrona village. Expect to see tons of wildlife including iguanas and basilisks (lizards that run on the top of freshwater ponds and rivers!) on the way. Jaguars and howler monkeys also live here, the former almost never seen and the latter heard more often than actually viewed. This hike can also be done as a loop to or from Playa Brava; be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen as the entire journey will take four to five hours. 

The Tayrona were an ancient advanced civilization whose descendants, the Kogi, live on in the higher reaches of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and still actively manage the park. Much longer four-to-five-day treks to the larger, higher-up “Lost City” site can be organized from Santa Marta. Often called the Machu Picchu of Colombia, this terraced stone settlement was built around 800 CE and features several circular plazas with breathtaking views out over the jungle-covered mountains.

After grabbing lunch (either from the onsite restaurant or from your provisions), it’s time to head back to Santa Marta the same way you came. Try to make it to the fishing village of Taganga , just 15 minutes outside of Santa Marta by taxi or bus, to catch the sunset over the majestic cliff-lined bay. A row of simple waterfront restaurants serve fresh seafood plates based on whatever was caught that day. Grab a cold local beer or coco loco (coconut filled with rum) and unwind after your first national-park adventure. 

Day 3-bit-2023-itinerary-colombia-parks.png

It’s coffee time

Take an early-morning flight from Santa Marta or Cartagena to Armenia , the capital of the Quindío department, famous for its cultivation of top-shelf coffee. Armenia is also home to the Quindío Botanical Garden ($10), which houses a world-class, 680-sq-ft mariposario (butterfly sanctuary) that’s actually shaped like a giant butterfly. It’s home to almost 2000 butterfly species, including the giant, iridescent blue morpho and the transparently winged Greta oto . 

Back in Armenia’s bus terminal, grab a bus for the hour-long ride to Salento (departures every 20 minutes; $5), which winds through the coffee region ’s beautiful tropical-mountain scenery. One of the most beautiful pueblos in all of Colombia, Salento has a brightly painted and balcony-filled historic baroque core, centered by a lively plaza surrounded by cafes and restaurants. 

Spend the afternoon taking in this traditional coffee town. It takes about 20 minutes to ascend to the mirador (lookout) off Calle 6 – with the reward a gorgeous panoramic view of the pueblo and the surrounding verdant mountains and coffee-farm-dotted landscapes. 

We highly recommend a visit to a local coffee grower. A guided tour (which should be booked ahead of time) will take you to a small but premium family-run coffee finca (farm) in the surrounding area. There are also waterfalls to explore (just 10 minutes from town, the Santa Rita Falls are on a private reserve with hiking trails), plenty of artisan shops to peruse (the region is famous for its handmade woodwork) and charming little side streets to explore in this postcard-perfect mountain village. Whatever else you do in Salento, make sure you grab a cup of joe at Cafe Jesús Martín, run by the “man who saved Colombian coffee.” Years ago, Martín refused to export his best beans, instead roasting then serving them within an hour. This started a national trend – and today Martín is a Colombia legend.

At night, join the locals in the main plaza for some live guitar music from traveling bohemians, as well as traditional eats. The coffee region is famous for its arepas con queso (fat corn tortillas stuffed with cheese), and Salento in particular is known for its fresh lake trout, which you can enjoy either al allijo (cooked in garlic) or grilled to order. Share some aguardiente (sugarcane alcohol flavored with anise) with the locals, and they’ll steer you toward the best spot in town for an authentic dinner. But be sure to get a good night’s sleep as the next day is going to be a real workout.

Day 4-bit-2023-itinerary-colombia-parks.png

Set out on one of Colombia’s most epic loop hikes

Get up early to set out on the epic loop hike through the Valle de Cocora , a lush, tropical mountain valley that is part of the much larger Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados . The valley is home to towering groves of the Quindío wax palm: growing to over 200 feet high and only existing within a small altitude range of 2000 to 3000 ft, these are the tallest palm trees on the planet – and Colombia’s national tree. The entire loop trail will take five to six hours, so wear good shoes and pack plenty of water to get you through.

From the main square in Salento, hop in a jeep (which leave as soon as they fill up; 30 minutes; $3) to the trailhead. Once on the trail, you’ll enter a wide-open valley with towering mountains on the horizon and small farms all around. This part of the trail is relatively flat and even and a great way to warm up for what lies ahead. You’ll need to pay a small fee (under $1) to enter this valley, plus another one at the end: much of this part of the trail is actually on private land.

About two miles in, you’ll leave the valley behind as the trail begins to climb up into the cloud forest–covered mountains. From here, it’s just under two hours of rough uphill hiking – through thick jungle, over footbridges that cross streams and past quaint farmhouses – to the finca at the end of the trail. Expect to see several glorious species of hummingbirds, many toucans and the fabulous yellow-eared parrot along the way. The park is also home to speckled bears, pumas and sloths: you’ll get a gold star if you spot any of these elusive (and dangerous!) creatures.

At Finca la Montaña, a spectacular view awaits – as well as refreshments and lunch (ask for the fresh locally caught trout), if you make it before 2pm or so. The trail down the other side of the mountain is for many the highlight of the trip: this is where you’ll walk underneath the mighty wax palms as they sway in the breeze, as small streams crisscross the verdant landscape. This section can also be done as a relatively quick in-and-out, starting at the end of the trail instead of the beginning. Take your time enjoying the beauty here before heading back to Salento for the night.

Want to head to Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia but wish there was someone to plan this out for you? Let Lonely Planet’s sister company  Elsewhere take away some of the stress of planning by connecting you with the best local expert to craft your dream trip.  

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Lonely Planet’s Colombia is our most comprehensive guide that extensively covers all the country has to offer, with recommendations for both popular and lesser-known experiences. Journey to Ciudad Perdida, explore Cartagena’s old town, and trek in El Cocuy; and see the giant statues of Easter Island; all with your trusted travel companion.

eBook only available in PDF.

Lonely Planet's Colombia is our most comprehensive guide that extensively covers all the country has to offer, with recommendations for both popular and lesser-known experiences. Journey to Ciudad Perdida, explore Cartagena's old town, and trek in El Cocuy; and see the giant statues of Easter Island; all with your trusted travel companion.

Inside Lonely Planet's Colombia Travel Guide: 

Lonely Planet's Top Picks - a visually inspiring collection of the destination's best experiences and where to have them

Itineraries help you build the ultimate trip based on your personal needs and interests

Local insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - whether it's history, people, music, landscapes, wildlife, politics

Eating and drinking - get the most out of your gastronomic experience as we reveal the regional dishes and drinks you have to try

Toolkit - all of the planning tools for solo travellers, LGBTQIA+ travellers, family travellers and accessible travel

Colour maps and images throughout

Language - essential phrases and language tips

Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots

Bogota, Boyaca, Santander and Norte de Santander, Caribbean Coast, San Andres and Providencia, Medellin and Zona Cafetera, Cali and Southwest Colombia, Pacific Coast, Los Llanos, Amazon Basin and more

ISBN: 9781838697181

Edition: 10th

Publication Date: September 2023

Writers: Lonely Planet

288 pages | Dimensions: 128mm width × 197mm height

Next edition due: Not yet determined

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland

The Plain Dealer Cleveland

6 questions about travel to Colombia with Bay Village writer and Lonely Planet contributor Laura Watilo Blake

Posted: November 9, 2023 | Last updated: November 9, 2023

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Laura Watilo Blake took her first trip to Colombia in 2010. She returned six years later to adopt her daughter.

She’s has been back a dozen times since, most recently to research for Lonely Planet Colombia, a new guidebook that covers the country’s top destinations and experiences.

Blake, of Bay Village, has been a travel writer and photographer for more than two decades, contributing to publications both regional and international, on destinations close to home and across the globe.

But Colombia, a country of more than 50 million people in northern South America, has always been special.

She and her husband, Cleveland attorney Chris Blake, have made it a goal to travel to Colombia every year since adopting Kinley, now 9, in 2016. They were forced to skip a couple of years during the pandemic, but have made up for it in the past year.

“It’s my dream come true to support my travels to Colombia while keeping my daughter connected to her roots,” said Blake.

The assignment for Lonely Planet came about after she attended a travel writers conference in Bogota in September 2022. She’s one of several authors contributing to the book ($24.99, 288 pages). Among her sections: chapters on the Caribbean coast, Vallenato music and the toolkit, featuring information on getting around, money, health and safety and other topics.

Blake was recently named a finalist for a 2023 award from the tourism board in Colombia in the category, “The world talks about Colombia: best journalistic story highlighting the beauty of Colombia.” For more on her work:

She recently agreed to answer a few questions about the country and her deep affection for it.

What is it you love about Colombia? Why do you keep going back?

Colombia is full of surprises. Every time I think I can finally check it off my bucket list, I find more and more things I want to see and do there, such as waterfalls, hot springs, snow-covered volcanoes, beaches, islands, whale-watching, chocolate production, coffee production, indigenous cultures, pink river dolphins, the rainbow river and ancient ruins. And that’s just scratching the surface. We have also met some of the nicest people on the planet in Colombia, some of whom have become good friends.

It’s also close to the U.S. From Cleveland, I can hop on a plane in the morning and get there a little after 2 p.m., plus it’s in the same time zone for part of the year. No jet lag!

My daughter is pura Colombiana. It has become my purpose to keep her connected to her roots and teach her to be proud of her heritage. There is a wonderful Colombian community here in Cleveland that I’ve met through the Ohio Colombian Foundation , the sponsoring organization for the Colombian garden, the first Latin American cultural garden along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Can you recommend three top destinations or experiences for someone who has never been?

Bogotá: The vast majority of international flights land in Colombia’s bustling high-altitude capital city, which is worth exploring for a few days. Get your bearings by taking a free walking tour of the historic La Candelaria neighborhood with its colonial architecture and vibrant street art. Most tours start in front of the free Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), which houses an impressive collection of artifacts that Spanish conquistadors lusted after in the 16th century. Some of the gold came from Lake Guatavita, 35 miles north of Bogotá. The sacred lake, which spawned the legend of El Dorado, can be visited on a day trip.

Cartagena: This historic colonial city on the Caribbean coast is one of South America’s most-visited destinations. The well-preserved Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, features colorful buildings with flower-draped balconies, narrow streets and pleasant plazas for people watching. The city’s Afro-Caribbean influence is evident in its music, dance and cuisine. Nearby islands and beaches, including the Islas del Rosario (Rosario Islands) provide opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving and beach hopping.

Medellín: Once infamous for its association with Pablo Escobar and drug cartels, Medellín has transformed into a city of innovation, art and progress. One of the must-visit spots is Comuna 13, a troubled neighborhood turned tourist destination thanks to community-based street-art tours. The city’s Jardin Botánico (Botanical Gardens) is a serene escape from the urban hustle and a place to discover the region’s diverse plant life. Venturing into the area’s mountain towns is a must-do, too. The town of Guatapé is notable for its brightly colored buildings and a monolithic football-shaped rock with panoramic views from the top.

For many years, large parts of Colombia were essentially off limits to tourists due to drug-related violence and other safety concerns. Is Colombia safe now?

Colombia has made great strides to distance itself from its violent past and it is safer than it has been in two decades. I’ve been in the country a dozen times in the last decade and they’ve all been positive experiences. That said, it’s always important to be vigilant anywhere you go to avoid common crimes of opportunity against travelers, such as pickpocketing, cell phone snatching and muggings.

Criminal groups still operate in the country, mostly in remote locales, where they can hide drug-making labs and coca-growing operations. Refer to the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisory page for Colombia for its list of no-go places.

You were asked to write an essay on an aspect of Colombian culture for the book. Why did you choose Vallenato?

I had recently come off one of the greatest tours I’ve ever taken anywhere in the world, let alone in Colombia. It’s called Sounds of Colombia, which is offered by Impulse Travel . The creator and tour guide, Gregorio Uribe, is a performing musician/singer/songwriter from Bogotá, who studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He created the tour after he transitioned from a mainstream musician to one who embraces and incorporates traditional musical styles heard in his home country. He traversed Colombia seeking out some of the most talented musicians to work with, some even Colombians may have never heard about. The tour focuses on the Caribbean region, which has such a culturally rich blend of influences originating from indigenous, African and European traditions. The other participants and I danced and sang across several communities we may not have visited otherwise and really had a amazing experience, made even better by Uribe’s passion for the music.

I chose to focus on Vallenato for the guidebook’s essay because it’s a homegrown musical genre that was born from Colombia’s cultural melting pot that has made an impact beyond Colombia’s borders thanks to international recording artists, such as Carlos Vives and Fonseca.

On a side note, Uribe has been nominated for a Latin Grammy this year in the “Best Cumbia/Vallenato Album” category. He’s up against Carlos Vives. The ceremony will takes place Nov.16 in Spain.

You’ve expressed some surprise that travelers still like printed guidebooks. Have you become a convert?

You better believe I’ll be traveling with my Lonely Planet Colombia guidebook when I go back to Colombia for New Year’s. I’m visiting a few places I’ve never been to previously. I trust the authors implicitly and I’m going to be taking their advice on what to do and where to stay.

Any interesting projects coming up?

I am on a personal quest to visit all six of Colombia’s natural regions. I have visited five: Caribbean, Orinoco, Amazon, Andean and Insular regions. I still need to visit the Pacific Coast. I hope to create a book that highlights the vast diversity of Colombia. In the meantime, I’ve produced a 2024 Colombia calendar to benefit the Ohio Colombian Foundation and its efforts to build the Colombian garden at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. Visit for more details.

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Worldly Adventurer

Three Mind-Blowing Colombia Itineraries For One & Two Weeks

By Author Tom Osborne

Posted on Last updated: 6th October 2023

Fancy heading to a country which has it all? Colombia is the place for you. Whether you love sitting on a beach and swimming in warm tranquil waters, climbing mountains, tasting delicious food, chocolate or coffee, exploring ancient ruins or trekking through jungles – Colombia has something for everyone.

Visiting Colombia is perfect for a vacation or make it a longer adventure backpacking through Colombia.

As a huge country, it does require you to move around if you want to appreciate all of its diversity and the following Colombia travel itineraries aim to help you do just that!

The routes below for traveling through Colombia help you to navigate all of the most fascinating places to see and things to do , with options for a week, ten-day or two-week stay. 

All are aimed at being both accessible and helping you to minimize your travel time. To help you travel as sustainably and environmentally-friendly as possible, I’ve tried to keep flights far and few between. 

Colombian tea planted in the Rainforest.

What's in this article:

How to plan a trip to and travel around Colombia

  • Colombia is a big place. Whenever travelling remember: less is more. Plan your Colombia itinerary to allow you to take your time and get to know the culture and the places you are visiting before jumping on a bus or plane to your next spot. 
  • Flying is a relatively affordable means for traveling through Colombia, particularly if you book in advance. It can save you a lot of time, too. There are a few different airlines and most routes are serviced by more than one. It is not uncommon to find a one-way flight between Santa Marta and Medellin for as little as $40-$60 USD, for example. Key airlines: Copa, Avianca, Satena and LATAM (Check for the best prices via ) Some will include baggage in their fare but others won’t. Be sure to check this before you book!
  • Buses are also really reasonable in price per distance traveled. However, a lot of the routes are very long and some are notorious for pickpockets. I never had any problems but we did meet people who had had items stolen from their bag whilst they were sleeping on the route between Cali and the Ecuadorian border. To keep yourself and your items safe, carry a money belt (applicable for any travel in Colombia), and if you have to take a night bus, make sure your valuables are on your person at all times. 
  • Wherever you are coming from, you may well have to fly into Bogotá. Colombia has so many incredible places to see; sadly Bogotá is not one of them. If you can, try to begin your trip in Medellin, Cartagena or even Cali. If you are flying into Bogotá, you can easily take a connecting flight elsewhere. 

The buildings of Medellin Colombia among the trees.

One week in Colombia itinerary 

Medellin – guatape – jardin – salento .

There is so much to see and do in Colombia; however, for me, the area around Medellin is the absolute highlight.

This Colombia travel itinerary couples the country’s most interesting city with the coffee-growing mountains around Salento and Jardin .

If you are looking for a Colombia itinerary to help you explore this glorious country in one week, this is where to head. 

Days One and Two: Medellin

Medellin is one of the most notorious cities on the planet and also one of my absolute favorites. It’s a vibrant, youthful city that is the capital of the Paisa region – whose people are known for their remarkable hospitality. 

Book yourself in advance on the walking tour with Real City Tours for your first morning in Medellin. The tours start at 9.14am, 10.24am or in the afternoon at 2.19pm (yup, seriously) and are free but, like most others in cities across South America, run on tips – which you will definitely want to do.

The guides are engaging, personable and thorough in their explanations of the journey of Colombia for the past 100 years or so. They are frank and mainly from Medellin so they have first-hand stories of the tragedies that have taken place here.

The cable cars in Medellin Colombia.

In the afternoon, head out to the gondola, which takes you up into Park Arvi for a spectacular view over the city. To get there, take Metro line A up to Acevedo before changing onto line K (the gondola). Once you get to the end of line K, you’ll transfer again onto line L. A ticket on this gondola is $6,000 COL ($1.80 USD) each way. 

Top Tip: If you only want to ride up and straight back down again, you only need one ticket. If you get off the gondola and want to walk around the park, you’ll have to pay again.

Medellin is well known for its lively nightlife. If you’re staying in El Poblado , you’ll be right near the heart of the action. Check out three great bars: El Social (Carrera 35#8a-8) has a more local vibe, Mad Radio (Calle 8a # 33 – 40) has good and sometimes live music (it is a radio station too!) and great cocktails, and Panorama (Calle 8 # 34 – 33) also has great cocktails and a lovely view of the city.

For later on there are many clubs offering loads of different music styles. Try Calle 9+1 for everything from underground house to disco and techno.

On your second day in Medellin, head to Comuna 13 , which was the nucleus of the cocaine empire that once existed in this city until the early 90s.

It’s now perfectly safe and boasts a newly installed set of escalators, which takes you up the hillside and graffiti from some of the most talented street artists from Colombia and across the world. 

Cat-themed street art in Medellin Colombia.

There are plenty of free tour options. Or, if you’ve already been on the Real City walking tour, I’d recommend heading to Comuna 13 by yourself and exploring it on foot.

To get there, hop on the Metro to San Javier (orange line out of San Antonio) and then punch in “ Escalator Comuna 13 ” on Google Maps, or click here. It’s perfectly safe during the day to walk around (you’ll see plenty of other tourists) or you can hop in a local taxi or Uber. 

Top Tip: as you head up the hill towards the start of the escalators along Carrera 109, make sure you stop off at the small empanada shack with a blue sign above it. The lady selling them is delightful and so are her empanadas !

In the afternoon head to the botanical gardens to see the nicest park in the city, full of beautiful flowers attracting plenty of birds. To get there, take the Metro to Universidad.

Feeling peckish? Check out the restaurant in the middle called IN SITU for good food in a sea of tranquillity – a great escape from the madness of the city.

Depending on when you are in Medellin, you may be able to catch an Atletico Nacional football match. The team aren’t amazing but the atmosphere is incredible. Tickets are super reasonable ranging from around $18,000 – $40,000 COP ($5-$12 USD). You can buy them at the stadium before the game.

Where to stay in Medellin: There are plenty of brilliant places to stay in Medellin ; we recommended the art-inspired 23 Hotel , with its spherical windows and mountain views from the bathroom!

Overlooking the lakes and hills of Guatape Colombia.

Day Three: Guatapé 

On the third day of this Colombia travel itinerary, you’ll want to head out on a day trip to the beautiful town of Guatapé . Sitting on a lakeside, this quaint town is just two hours from Medellin and is perfect for a day trip.

The highlight here is a hike up to the top of El Peñol for spectacular views of the huge lake, considered one of the most picturesque in all of South America . It costs 18,000 COP ($5.30 USD) to hike El Peñol and you can buy drinks and snacks at the bottom or at the cafe at the top. Spend the rest of your day wandering the beautiful streets or grab a coffee and chill in one of the plazas.

To get to Guatapé take a bus from Terminal Norte , which is located next to the Caribe Metro Station on Line A. Tickets are sold at either booth #9 or #14 in the terminal and shouldn’t cost more than $15,000 COP ($4.50 USD). Once on the bus you can choose to be dropped in the town center or at El Peñol. 

A garden in the hillside town of Jardin Colombia.

Days Four and Five: Jardín

From Medellin, hop on a bus to Jardín . Tickets should be $27,000 COP ($8 USD). It takes three hours or so and departs from Terminal Sur .

Jardín was one of my absolute favorite places in all of Colombia (read our complete guide to Jardín ). It is delightfully set in the mountains, surrounded by the greenery of the banana and coffee plantations. The town is quiet and rustic and the plaza in the middle is completely idyllic – perfect for grabbing a coffee or two and sitting for a few hours in the morning. 

After some lunch head off on an easy stroll up through the banana and coffee plantations to the old yellow gondola, Garrucha . Here is a route map .

Chill out for a bit in the cafe at the top of the gondola, which boasts lovely views over the town and the surrounding mountains. Head back down in the gondola $7,500 COP ($2.30 USD) per person, as it rattles just over the top of a plantation. It’s quite an experience!

A great way to spend an hour or so wandering around and getting your twitching fix is in the Parque Nacional Jardin de Rocas. You can see the strange but beautiful (and wonderfully named!) Andean cock-of-the-rock, as well as hundreds of smaller and beautifully colored birds dancing around the flowers and fruit left out for them to eat.

Entrance is 10,000 COP ($3USD). The website claims you should contact them in advance to book a spot to visit, however, we just turned up rang the bell and the owner came out and greeted us with a warm smile.

If you fancy a sweet treat in the late afternoon, head to Dulces Del Jardin , a family-run dulceria which is famous for its arequipe , a sweet spread a lot like dulce de leche . They also do a cracking pana cota and arroz con leche (rice pudding).

The colorfully painted buildings of Salento Colombia.

Days Six and Seven: Salento 

Nestled in the Los Nevados mountains, the beautifully picturesque town of Salento is surrounded by lush green fields and plantations. This is the beating heart of Colombia’s coffee-growing region, where you can learn why this is one of the best places on earth for coffee beans. 

Take a jeep from the plaza in the center of town and head out to one of the many fincas (coffee estates). Don Elias is a small, family-run finca, with a short but personal tour that leaves hourly. Finca El Ocaso is bigger, with a longer tour which goes into more detail about the coffee-making process, from berry to cup.

Both give you a good idea of how it all works. All the cafes around Salento will serve great coffee if you just want to drink as much as you can.

Another top thing to do in Colombia is play the national game, tejo . This game is essentially throwing rocks at gunpowder and Salento is supposedly where it comes from. Head to one of the two best spots: Bar Danubio (pool upstairs, tejo downstairs) or Los Amigos.

Don’t be afraid to get involved. The laws of the game are written in English and the people working there are super friendly and helpful. Most importantly, the beers are cheap and the rum measures are large! Plus, if you hit that gunpowder, it’s utterly exhilarating. 

In Cocora Valley, the tallest palm trees in the world.

Finally, the Cocora Valley hike is one of the highlights in all of Colombia. Here you can walk amongst the tallest palm trees in the world. The trail is essentially a loop with a small detour halfway to a gorgeously situated finca that sells wonderful coffee and hot chocolate for you to sip on as you watch hummingbirds dancing around you.

Read our complete guide to Los Nevados National Park for more information.

To get here:

  • Get an early jeep from Salento (they leave at half past the hour every hour from 6.30am from the main square and cost $3,600 COP ($1USD)); you will avoid the tours this way.
  • Begin the loop by heading down the right side. The track up this side is narrow and a bit muddy and there is one point where you have to negotiate a steep hill. By starting on the right, you go up the narrow, occasionally muddy track instead of down – something you’ll likely find easier. 

Top Tip: Get a jeep ride over to Filandia for an afternoon of people-watching and coffee-drinking in the quaint, beautiful plaza and get amazing views up the mirador tower just a short walk from the town. 

From Salento you can either get a bus back to Bogotá or to Medellin. If heading to Bogotá, you’ll have to go back to Armenia and catch a connecting bus. You can also fly from Armenia to Bogotá, as there are three flights a day. 

If heading to Medellin, there are a number of direct buses from the bus terminal in Salento. The timetable changes regularly so head to the terminal a day or so before you plan to leave to check the times and buy a ticket as the most popular buses can sell out. 

10 Days in Colombia: Travelling through the south

Cali – popayan – san agustin – tatacoa desert – salento.

If you have 10 days in Colombia, start in Cali , heading south on a largely untrodden tourist path.

Here, you can discover the mysterious, ancient pre-Columbian civilizations, watch the sunset over the colonial city of Popayan , star gaze in the desert, and finish in the coffee plantations of Salento.

One of many cat sculptures in Cali Colombia.

Days One and Two: Cali 

Spend your first few days of this ten-day travel itinerary getting to grips with Colombia by learning how to salsa like the best of them in Cali.

By day, wander the streets of Barrio San Antonio (the bohemian district in Cali) dotted with cafes and bars and explore the nearby Iglesia de San Antonio (Carrera 10). In the evenings, dance the nights away in the party capital of Colombia.

For the best music, make sure you check out: Zaperoco Salsa Bar ( Ave. 5 Norte #16 ), one of the oldest institutions with great music, so either sit back and listen or get on the floor and dance! La Topa Tolondra ( Calle 5 #13-7 ), is another bustling bar with live music.

Cali isn’t safe to walk around at night, so always take a taxi – Uber works here.

Days Three and Four: Popayan 

Heading south, catch a bus from Cali to Popayan (2.5-4 hours). It follows the Panamerican Highway so the journey is smooth and easy. Multiple services run each day from the bus terminal in Cali.

Spend a day wandering Popayan and exploring its cobbled streets, delightful churches and a picturesque plaza, Caldas Park . The food here is really good too, as it’s home to the particularly moreish empanadas de Pipian , which are filled with potato and served with a delightful peanut and chilli dip. The best place to try them is La Fresa (corner of Calle 5 and Carrera 9).

For sunset, grab a few beers and head up Cerro El Morro for a spectacular view over the city. The climb up the grass bank is pretty steep if you head up from the main street so bring appropriate footwear! Otherwise, you can take the gentler path via Calle 1BN.

For your second day, you have two options:

Visit the famous market in Silvia

Head to the market in Silvia where people from villages in the surrounding mountains congregate every Tuesday. This is more of a food market so you’ll be able to try some local delicacies and empanadas, but the best part is just wandering around, talking to the locals and generally soaking up the atmosphere. 

Most hostels and hotels advertise tours for Silvia, however, the cheapest and best option is to hop on a bus from the Popayan bus terminal. Look for the bus company Coomotoristas.

Buses are frequent throughout the day but it will take over an hour to get to Silvia so head off early to catch the best of the market in the morning. 

A soaring Andean Condor.

Purace National Park

Want to see a condor up close? The Purace National Park is home to three condors as well as a really interesting variety of wildlife. The park ranger will put out some meat on a rock, which juts out from the edge of a cliff to bring the condors closer. 

Unfortunately, bus timetables make this trip impossible to do on your own if you want to really enjoy the park. Therefore, the best option is to take a tour. There are a number of tour operators running these but they appear to change quite often.

We went into the tourist office just off the main plaza in Popoyan and got all the information we needed from there (FYI the tourist office on Google maps is incorrect. You’ll find it on the west side of the plaza ). If you want to book in advance, Popayan Tours run day trips. 

Days Five to Seven: San Agustin 

San Agustin is the best spot in all of Colombia for archaeology. Here, a civilization that we unfortunately know little about existed for some 1,000 years from around 1 AD has left us with hundreds of beautifully carved and well-preserved statues, which are well worth the arduous journey to reach. 

To get to San Agustin from Popayan on what is a slow but scenic drive (roughly four hours), there are a number of departures from the bus terminal in Popayan. The times are subject to change so head to the bus terminal the day before and purchase a ticket.

Note that, while you have a ticket to get you to San Agustin, the bus will not take you all the way there because it will most likely carry on to Pitalito. Don’t panic, the driver will get out and flag down one of the regularly passing collectivos for you, which will take you the rest of the way, for no extra cost.

The following day, head out to the Archaeological Park .  It’s located around five kilometers from town so it is perfectly possible to walk.

Otherwise, it is relatively inexpensive to take a bus or taxi from town. The park is split over a number of different sites and has a brilliant museum, which is a great starting point for any visit. 

A walk up to Chaquira for a bit more archaeology and some great views is highly recommended.

For your second day in this beautiful town, take advantage of a horseback or jeep tour of the other sites around the town. Both take you out into the beautiful countryside and could include: visiting the highest waterfall in Colombia – ‘ Salto de Bordones ‘ – or some of the other amazing archaeological sites in the area, such as Alto de los Ídolos and Alto de Las Piedras . 

Most hostels or hotels will be able to set this up for you so ask at reception. If they don’t, there are tour agencies just off the plaza in town.

Horseback tours should cost between $50,000 COP-$70,000 COP ($15-$20 USD) per person depending on whether you have a private or group tour. For a jeep tour, it will cost between $40,000 COP-$50,000 COP ($12-$15 USD) per person. 

An aerial view of the orange, red and yellow rock in the Tatacoa Desert, Colombia

Day Eight: Tatacoa Desert 

From San Agustin, head north to visit the sparse desert-like landscape near Neiva , the Tatacoa Desert . Here, you can cycle through the barren lands in the day, swim in a pool in the middle of the desert and star gaze from an observatory at night.

The Tatacoa Desert is split into two parts: the red and grey. In the morning, cycle out into the grey desert. Aim for the Los Hoyos , which is where the swimming pool is. Next to the pool is a 30-minute walking loop you can do out into the desert to get close to eccentric-shaped sand banks. 

Most hotels and hotels rent bikes for around $4,000 COP ($1.30 USD) per hour. Another option is to hire a tuk-tuk, which will cost around $60,000 COP ($18 USD) for a round trip.

After 4pm the sun will have calmed down a bit so head out into the red desert. Take the trail from the back of La Guaca hostel. There is a map and it is well-signposted along the way.

Later that day, book yourself onto an evening tour of the Astronomical Observatory Tatacoa for a bit of stargazing. 

To get to the Tatacoa Desert from San Agustin, it’s a bit of an adventure, but completely worth it!

First take a jeep as early as you can from San Agustin to Pitalito, they depart from the corner of Calle 3 and Carrera 11 and cost between $5,000 COP ($1.50 USD) and $7,000 COP ($2 USD) per person.

Upon arrival at the Pitalito bus station, take a bus north towards Neiva (four and five hours, $25,000 COP-$38,000 COP ($6-$11 USD)). 

From Neiva, take a jeep to Villavieja with the bus company Coomotors. Jeeps leave hourly until around 6pm and cost $8,000 COP ($2.50 USD) per person and take two hours. Once you have made it to Villavieja, jump in a tuk-tuk and head into the desert to your accommodation.

The colorful streets of Salento, Colombia.

Days Nine and Ten: Neiva to Salento 

From the desert, head back to Villavieja and onto Neiva. The jeeps depart from the square in the middle of Villavieja where you were dropped on the way here. There is a Coomotors bus from Neiva to Armenia which departs at 12.30pm and $60,000 COP ($18 USD) per person. The bus takes six-seven hours. 

Once you make it to Armenia, there are buses, which run to Salento or Filandia and go regularly between 5.30AM and 8PM. You don’t need to buy a ticket from inside the terminal for this bus as it is considered a local service.

Follow the signs for the local buses and once outside keep walking around to the right and you’ll find a bus with ‘Salento’ on the front. It costs $4,000 COP ($1.20 USD). If you arrive late or don’t fancy the bus, taxis are readily available from the terminal and should cost around $20,000 COP ($6 USD) to Salento. 

Spend your final day in Salento as per the itinerary above. 

Two Weeks in northern Colombia

Cartagena – rincon – caribbean islands – minca – tayrona national park – palomino.

Colombia’s northern coast is home to one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world, with crystal blue waters, white sandy beaches, and deserted islands.

On this Colombia vacation itinerary, spend two weeks beach-hopping, exploring Cartagena and the beautiful Tayrona National Park . 

Cartagena Colombia at sunset over the water.

Days One and Two: Cartagena 

The beautiful, walled city of Cartagena was made for a few days of wandering its streets – although given the heat, which is unbearable by midday, you’ll want to get out early and enjoy a mid-afternoon siesta. We’ve got a full guide to Cartagena on the site, but you can also keep reading below for some further great suggestions.

Start by heading to the castle to learn about the conflict between the Spanish and English (and pick up an audio guide, which is both hilarious and informative).

After that, head back across the river and into the streets of the beautiful neighborhood Getsemani. Stroll around streets packed with colorful buildings and look out for street art. 

For lunch, grab an arepa on the go, from Colombitalia Arepas . Arepas are a corn tortilla and are everywhere in Colombia. Served with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here you can get one with pizza toppings on – delicious!

A quiet street in Cartagena, Colombia

In the evening head into the old town for a stroll around the cobbled streets. High-end shops and fantastic ice cream sellers (check out Gelateria Tramonti ) are the main attraction here.

For sunset, get to the famous Cafe del Mar on the city walls early to grab a table. Otherwise, just hang out anywhere along the wall and people will come around and offer you a beer if you fancy.

For dinner, swanky restaurants abound but for something really special, check out Interno , the first restaurant in the world to be run from inside a women’s prison, where practically all staff are prisoners.

The food is excellent – you’ll pay $90,000 COP ($26 USD) for a set menu. For fantastic steak, check out Quebracho .

Stay overnight in one of our favorite hotels and guesthouses in Cartagena , whatever your budget.

A sombrero vueltiao, a typical Colombia hat woven by the Zenu people from cana flecha and seen on a day tour of Cartagena

The next day, gain a unique perspective of Cartagena and Colombia with a tour led by the Zenú , an indigenous people who have been forced out of their homes through the centuries and now survive selling coffee on the streets of Cartagena (read all about founder Steph’s experience of this sustainable Cartagena tour ).

Few tourists ever even hear about the Zenú. Not only will you see the city in a different light as your guide narrates the story of Cartagena from an indigenous perspective, but you’ll learn about their struggles for justice and exceptional prowess when it comes to craftsmanship, as you visit their workshop to see how caña flecha is woven into the famous Colombian hat, the sombrero vueltiao .

Help support sustainable, responsible tourism in Cartagena by booking the Zenú Indigenous Heritage Tour with IMPULSE Travel Colombia and get a 5% discount by using the code WORLDLY5 at checkout.

Alternatively, head outside the city; our guide to the best trips to take from Cartagena can get you started.

Days Three and Four: Rincon 

Just a few hours away from Cartagena, is the quaint fishing town of Rincon del Mar . Here you can fall out of your accommodation onto the beach and spend the day lazing in a hammock and swimming in the tranquil, warm waters of the Caribbean Sea .

Get a room at Dos Aguas Lodge , by far the best spot in Rincon with a beautiful quiet beach right outside your door.

Rincon is also a fantastic spot to launch yourself into the San Bernardo Islands (you can see them from the shore!). If you don’t have much time, take a day trip out to the islands leaving at around 8AM and returning at 2PM (Colombian time of course…things are very relaxed here and don’t always run on time).

Tours cost $60,000 COP ($18 USD) per person and can be booked from any of the families living along the beachfront.

An island off the North coast of Colombia, in the Caribbean Sea.

To get to Rincon, take a 25-minute taxi journey to the bus terminal outside Cartagena. Hop on a bus to San Onofre (2-3 hours, $20,000 COP-$30,000 COP ($6-$8 USD)) and let the bus driver know you want to get off in San Onofre (it continues further).

When you arrive, take a moto for $10,000 COP ($2.5 USD) or a taxi for $20,000 COP ($6 USD) to get you to Rincon – there is no bus for this route. If it’s night, a taxi is safer. 

Days Five and Six: Find your paradise and stay a night or two on a deserted island 

From either Cartegena or Rincon, you can sail out to paradise and live on a private island. Head to Isla Baru or  Playa Blanca for white sandy beaches, palm trees, crystal clear waters, go snorkeling or just sunbathe in this heavenly escape. 

Isla Grande : Pick up a local guide to explore secluded beaches, chill on the beach and relax by a bonfire as the sun sets. 

Days Seven to Nine: Minca 

Minca has become a must-visit for anyone taking a trip along Colombia’s north coast. An inland town surrounded by forest, it makes a strong contrast to the seaside stops along this route. 

While in Minca, you can go bird watching with Jungle Joe, head up to the beautiful waterfalls at Pozo Azul (walk up the track on the left of the first pool for a quieter spot and some rock jumping!), have lunch on the deck of the Lazy Cat restaurant and look out for the iguanas in the trees.

Finally, if you aren’t staying there already, head up to Casa Loma hostel for sunset. They have a beautiful deck and bar set up for watching the sun go down. Minca is known for its dramatic and colorful sunsets.

Mountains silhouetted against the sunset in Minca Colombia.

To get to Minca, you need to travel through Santa Marta . You may decide to stop in Santa Marta to break up the journey.

Buses run to Santa Marta from Cartagena bus terminal and it will take between five and seven hours (it took us six and a half). They depart regularly throughout the day so you’ll be able to turn up and buy a ticket when you are ready to go. 

From Santa Marta you can take a collectivo jeep from the town at the corner of Calle 12 and Carrera 9 and will cost between $7,000 COP-$8,000 COP ($1-2 USD). You can also take a taxi for $40,000 COP-$50,000 COP ($12-15 USD). The journey will take between 45 minutes to an hour.

A white-sand beach and tropical coastline in Tayrona National Park in Colombia

Days Ten and Eleven: Tayrona Park

The Tayrona National Park is one of the most famous spots in all of Colombia. It hugs the Caribbean coast of Colombia and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Think white sand, crystal clear waters, and beautiful palm trees. The best bit is that roads only get you so far which means much of the park remains an untouched wilderness for you to explore. 

Because of the inaccessibility of the park, and the fact it is basically rainforest, it is very hot and very humid and the accommodation is very basic. Because of this, it’s recommended to only do either a day trip or stay just one night in the park. 

For a day trip, the best option is to stay the night in one of the many accommodations lining the road near the main entrance and then head into the national park the following morning.

Either Eco Hostel Yuluka (they have a swimming pool with a slide!) or Villa Del Rio (the father of the guy who runs it will give you a lift to the park entrance in the morning for free!) are great choices.

For an overnight stay in the park, book a cabin at Playa Brava – a white sandy beach where a family run a small hotel with cabins.

All the other options in the park are either sleeping in hammocks (pretty close together) or tents (these get incredibly hot!).

You can also stay at Cabo San Juan , which has a few camp spots, hammocks, and cabins. For both sets of accommodation, it is incredibly important to book in advance. 

Sunset along the river in Palomino Colombia.

Days Twelve to Fourteen: Palomino 

Palomino is a delightful sleepy beach town, perfect for taking some time to chill out, do a bit of tubing in the river, and generally relax by the sea. There is one main street, which runs all the way from the main highway down to the beach.

Most of the places to stay and eat line this one street and it takes around 10 minutes to walk. As you stroll down to the beach, you’ll find people selling the tubing experience if you are interested.

The town is known for its excellent fish: eat at 7 Mares (reserve a table and get a free dip selection on arrival!), Bitacora and La Frontera Pizzeria .

Casa Colibri is a great place to stay; the rooms are excellent, large, light and comfortable, some of which have air conditioning, the breakfast is amazing, a medley of breakfast dishes, pancakes, eggs, yogurt, granola, and Joe, the owner, is informative and lovely. 

To get to Palomino, take a taxi from the exit of the Tayrona National Park, or flag down one of the buses that pass every 30 minutes or so along the road. You’ll be picking them up as they run from Santa Marta to Riohacha.

To return to Bogotá or Medellin for your flight home, return to Santa Marta by taxi or bus.

Optional Extras for any Colombia travel itinerary

Bahia solano – six days.

My favorite place – and a truly unmissable place to see in Colombia – is Bahia Solano , an under-visited and largely untouched paradise on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Here you can meet humpback whales, see dolphins from the shore, trek into the jungle, swim with bioluminescent plankton, and relax on your own private beach. 

There are a lot of options for places to stay in the Bahia Solano area and in El Valle (a town 30 minutes south of Bahia Solano) but without a doubt the best possible place to stay is at Mecana Beach Eco Hotel .

From its location on Mecana Beach , you can hike into an area of jungle that is protected by the hotel and is packed with interesting wildlife or visit a local indigenous community.

Humpback whale with her calf in the Caribbean Sea.

What’s more, between June-October every year, up to 14,000 humpback whales migrate to the area to mate, reproduce or nurture young calves.

For the best chance to spot them, take a tour with the lovely people at Mecana Eco Hotel ($350,000 COP ($105 USD) for two people, less if in a group), the biologists and Madre Agua ($150,000 COP ($45 USD) per person), or with a local captain (this is the cheapest way – although prices vary). 

Normally, I always want to support the local economy wherever possible but I have to recommend that you go with either Madre Agua or Mecana Eco Hotel .

The reason being you go out with people who study whales and love the whales. You get more scientific information about their behaviors and the Madre Agua crew even have a microphone they can put in the water so you can hear the whales.

But most importantly, by going with either of these two, you will ensure that your visit does not interrupt the natural habits of the whales. As both have biologists in the team, they know where a boat should be and how far away it should be to ensure this. 

To get here you have two options:

  • Take a boat from Buenaventura ; this takes nine hours and is the cheapest option. However, Buenaventura is the main export port for the cocaine trade in Colombia. We met many people who traveled through here. However, it is still one of the more dangerous cities in Colombia.
  • Take a flight from Medellin. This is the best option and the most enjoyable. You can either fly with Satena (one or two flights per week) or with San German . Crucially, San German is only available to buy direct from them, they will not pop up on Skyscanner . The flight takes around one hour and is normally in a very small 12-seater plane!

Top Tip : the San German flights go from the smaller city center airport in Medellin, called Olaya Herrera.

La Guajira – Four Days

At the very northern tip of South America lies La Guajira, an arid peninsula that feels a world away from the lush, water-rich landscapes of the rest of Colombia. Its indigenous people, the wayuu , were never conquered by the Spanish, and they retain a clear identity of their own, while their land is one of stunning contrast, framing untamed sand dunes against the deep blue Caribbean ocean.

Tourism is increasing here, slowly, and most come for the golden, powdery sand beaches along the very northern coast (Playa Taroa is perhaps the most beautiful) and the world-class windsurfing available at Cabo de Vela.

Sandboard down the sand dunes at Punta Gallinas in the La Guajira Peninsula, an unmissable place to visit in Colombia

Tours leave from Riohacha, a full day’s drive south of the northernmost tip of the peninsula and are the best ways of exploring the region – particularly as public transport is practically non-existent. One of the poorest parts of Colombia – indeed, three-quarters of La Guajira families face food insecurity – jobs are scarce here, which is why it’s so important to visit using a reputable local operator.

You can do this by taking a four-day tour with Macuira Tours ($290 USD pp). Indigenous-owned, their guides really know the region and will give you a fascinating insight into the daily life of those who live in one of the most extreme environments in Colombia.

Friday 28th of July 2023

Love your itinerary but the price-points on your recommended lodgings are not feasible at all for backpackers or people traveling long-term on a budget, with many over $100/night.

Steph Dyson

Wednesday 20th of September 2023

Hi Amir, a lot of my readers aren't backpackers. Steph

Latitude Adjustment

Monday 29th of August 2022

Hello, Nice article and site you have. Not sure the timeframe when this was reported but a few points: Viva Air is a great airline to use and goes to most cities in Colombia and is more affordable than Avianca Guatape is overrun with tourists on the weekends. Folks should visit during the week Comuna 13 also is too crowded on the weekends. It is better to go with a tour guide so you get the history and a much better experience. Never go at night! Palamino is rustic and more geared toward backpackers. The beach is overrated. Go to Tayrona. Renting a car is a much better option as you see a lot more of the countryside and it is not that expensive and the roads are great, for the most part, but do not drive at night.

We are Expats living in El Retiro, Antioquia, Colombia for over 4 years now and travel extensively around Colombia.

There are many beautiful places to see in eastern Colombia as well.

Cheers, John and Susan Latitude Adjustment

Tuesday 19th of September 2023

@Latitude Adjustment, Any reason as to why we shouldn't go out at night? Just curious, thanks!

Thursday 19th of January 2023

Thanks for these helpful comments! Steph

14 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in Colombia

Written by Mark Johanson , Michael Law , and Lana Law Updated May 4, 2023

Authors Michael and Lana Law have made multiple trips to Colombia to explore the different regions. Their most recent trip in late 2022 took them to Medellin and Bogotá.

Cast all of your outdated ideas aside, like drug wars and gangsters, and you'll find that Colombia is a nation brimming with confidence and rushing headfirst into a more peaceful and prosperous future.

In this land of contrasts, you'll encounter snowcapped Andean peaks , tropical Amazonian jungles , turquoise Caribbean coasts , and two sun-kissed deserts. You'll also find a host of spectacular tourist attractions at the places in between, from the magic of Cartagena and the buzz of Medellin to the quiet colonial villages of Salento and Mompox.

Above all else, the famous Colombian hospitality will undoubtedly find you coming back for more. Find the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Colombia.

1. Cartagena

2. medellin, 3. eje cafetero, 5. tayrona national natural park, 7. the lost city (ciudad perdida), 8. providencia island, 10. la guajira peninsula, 11. hacienda nápoles, 12. caño cristales.


Cartagena is the crown jewel of Colombia's Caribbean coast and one of the best-preserved colonial destinations in the Americas. Take a stroll through the historic walled city , and you may feel as if you've stepped back in time to a different era.

Maybe it's the 13 kilometers of centuries-old walls, or the colorful colonial architecture, many of which are now beautifully restored restaurants and luxury hotels. Perhaps it's the bougainvillea-covered balconies along the labyrinthine streets or the soaring Catholic churches that tower above every plaza. Whatever it is, visitors can't help but fall for this Caribbean charmer.

Beyond the old city center lies laid-back Getsemani , and along the oceanfront is Bocagrande , a newer part of town, where upscale condos and hotels fight for prime seafront real estate. And less than an hour away by boat are islands and beaches , offering ideal places to visit for getaways and day trips.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cartagena: Best Areas & Hotels


Bogotá might be the Colombian capital, but it's the smaller and more manageable city of Medellin that tends to capture the hearts of visitors. Medellin was dubbed the most dangerous city in the world in the early 1990s, but a quarter of a century later, it has earned a reputation for something entirely different: innovation.

The city boasts cable cars linking the settlements in its hills to a modern metro system in the valley below, a greenbelt of lush "eco parks," and striking libraries and community centers in some of the poorest neighborhoods.

A great day of sightseeing in Medellin might start in the Old Quarter at Botero Plaza , where you'll find a collection of 23 portly sculptures donated by the beloved Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Adjacent to the plaza is the must-visit Museum of Antioquia and the striking Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture . Then, head into the hills above town by riding the sleek escalator system through Comuna 13 to explore this neighborhood's colorful homes and elaborate street murals.

Finish your day in Medellin's trendiest commune, El Poblado , where you'll find buzzing eateries, boutique shops, and the vast majority of the city's hotels.

Eje Cafetero

The world's third-largest producer of coffee beans, Colombia is a fantastic country for tastings and tours. The vast majority of production takes place in the subtropical Andean hills west of Bogota between the small cities of Armenia, Pereira, and Manizales.

This region, known as the Eje Cafetero (or Coffee Axis), is home to a growing number of coffee plantations that have opened up their operations to the public in recent years for tours, tastings, and lavish farm stays.

These small (and often organic) plantations are the kind of places where the farmer-owner might take an hour out of his day to explain the process of how a humble "cherry" turns into a coffee bean that will one day be roasted and ground into a latte back home.

The small resort town of Salento is easily the most attractive place to base yourself, with numerous farm tours nearby and plenty of things to do. You'll also have easy access to attractions like Cocora Valley , home to the tallest palm trees in the world.

You can rent bicycles from Salento to explore the region under your own steam or ride on one of the old-fashioned Willy jeeps that serve as the town's de facto taxis.

Squirrel monkeys, Leticia

Picture the Amazon, and Colombia may not be the first country to come to mind — which is odd, because about a third of the nation is blanketed in its thick (and often impenetrable) jungles. The capital of the vast Amazon Basin is the small frontier town of Leticia, which sits along the banks of the mighty Amazon River, right where Colombia bumps up against Brazil and Peru .

Leticia makes a great base for eco-tourism , wildlife safaris, or hikes into the Amazon to learn about the Indigenous tribes that call this area home. The only way to arrive here is by plane from Bogotá, and you can continue onward by boat either downriver to Manaus, Brazil, or upriver to Iquitos, Peru.

Tayrona National Natural Park

You'll find some of the best beaches in Colombia within the protected Tayrona National Natural Park, which is known for its palm-shaded coves and crystal-clear coastal lagoons. Most beaches are set against the dramatic mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, whose rainforested hills make for a great side trip on any beach vacation.

Tayrona is also a fantastic place for snorkeling at protected areas near La Piscina beach and Cabo San Juan . Though remote, these secluded beaches aren't exactly a secret, so it's best to visit in low season (February to November) to avoid the massive crowds. Also, unless you're paying for the lavish Ecohabs Tayrona, be prepared to sleep in a tent (or hammock) at one of the many beachside campgrounds.

La Candelaria, Bogotá

Most visitors to Colombia will inevitably begin their trip in Bogota, the nation's largest city. It's a city that often divides opinion, with some complaining of its gridlocked streets and sometimes dreary weather, and others falling head over heels for its unique combination of colonial charm and urban sophistication. Either way, this city of eight million tends to grow on people who give it enough time.

Begin your sightseeing in Bogota in the historic center of La Candelaria , where you'll find the impressive buildings lining Plaza de Bolívar and can't-miss cultural attractions like the blindingly bright Museum of Gold . Then, head over to the wealthier neighborhoods of North Bogotá for some of the nation's best boutique shops and chef-driven restaurants.

For a bird's eye view of the city, be sure to take a trip up on the cable car to the Sanctuary of Monserrate . While up there settle in for a delightful and leisurely lunch or dinner at Casa San Isidro , serving fine Italian food, or enjoy Colombian food at the historical Santa Clara House dating from 1924.

The Lost City

Colombia's most popular hike is undoubtedly the four-day, 44-kilometer trek to Ciudad Perdida, a lost city hidden deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains that was only rediscovered in the 1970s. Built and occupied by Tayrona Indians between the 8th and 14th centuries, this ancient city is said to be one of the largest pre-Columbian settlements discovered in the Americas.

Much of the site remains buried beneath a thick jungle quilt because the modern Indigenous inhabitants of the area have banned excavations, but you'll find that the stone terraces and stairways are in outstanding shape.

Independent treks are not allowed, you will need to go with a sanctioned and approved tour operator who will provide a guide and all meals. You can book a tour from Santa Marta in advance.

If you decide to go, be prepared, this is no walk in the park. You'll face blazing heat, stifling humidity, rainstorms, copious quantities of mud, and insects. The trail, although easy to follow, is never flat, plan to always be going up or down. However, it's not all drudgery. Along the way, you'll be treated to spectacular jungle views and the opportunity to swim in rivers and ponds.

Hikes start early, usually around 5am to make use of the coolest part of the day. At the designated campgrounds, you'll either sleep in a hammock or on a mattress; mosquito nets are provided. You should count on being able to walk about 12 to 14 kilometers or seven to nine hours in a single session.

The trail is closed every September as part of an agreement with the local Indigenous community. The best time to go, with the least rain, is January and February.

Lovers Bridge, Providencia Island

This quirky Caribbean Island leaves many first-time visitors perplexed. For starters, it's far closer to Nicaragua than Colombia. Then there's the fact that its residents don't speak Spanish but rather an English Creole. Of course, none of that really matters when you find yourself sunning on the most stunning beaches under the Colombian flag.

Little more than a dollop of golden sands and perky palms, this isolated island is the jewel of the UNESCO-protected Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, with some of the world's greatest marine biodiversity just waiting to be explored.

You'll need to first stop on the more popular San Andrés Island and catch a short hopper plane or three-hour catamaran ride to reach Providencia. Once here, you'll find the largest collection of cottages and hotels in the small hamlet of Aguadulce on the stunning west coast of the island.


Lovers of magic realism and the writings of Gabriel García Márquez will fall for the sleepy charms of Mompox. It features prominently in the Nobel laureate's book The General in His Labyrinth and is thought to be the inspiration for the fictional town of Macondo in his most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude .

Mompox was once a prosperous cog in the trading route between the Caribbean coast and the Andes, famed as the spot where "El Libertador" Simón Bolívar recruited his army to gain independence for neighboring Venezuela . Now, this colonial relic along the muddy shores of the Magdalena River is truly a town that time forgot.

Though it lacks a wealth of things to do, many visitors find themselves spending far longer than planned strolling through the cobbled streets; soaking in the ambience of the colonial architecture; or taking boat trips through the Pijiño Swamp , a popular attraction for birders.

La Guajira Peninsula

It's the most northerly point in South America, so perhaps it's only fitting that La Guajira is unlike anywhere else on the continent. This remote and little-visited peninsula is a quiet oasis of sweeping sand dunes, bird-covered mangrove swamps, and vast stretches of empty land where the orange-brown La Guajira Desert meets the turquoise Caribbean Sea.

Indigenous beliefs are the law of the land here, as the peninsula is home to the proud Wayuu people, who were never subjugated under Spanish rule and maintain a vibrant culture to this day.

Keep in mind that tourism is still new in La Guajira, and the ride in from the regional capital of Riohacha requires both patience and a sense of adventure. The windsurfing and kiteboarding Mecca of Cabo de la Vela has the most tourism infrastructure and will likely be your best entry point into the region.

Entrance to Hacienda Nápoles

If there's one man who lingers large over Colombia's recent history, it's the billionaire drug trafficker Pablo Escobar. What few people realize is that you can actually visit the lavish estate built and owned by Escobar in Puerto Triunfo, about 110 miles east of Medellin.

The sprawling complex, known as Hacienda Nápoles, fell into disrepair in the decade after Escobar's death in 1993. But the local municipality took control of the property in the mid-2000s and turned it into-of all things-an ever-growing amusement park with an eclectic mix of themed zones, hotels, a water park, and safari-style zoo.

The amusements and hotels are new, and signs of Escobar are now limited. The ruins of his former mansion were bulldozed, and one of the Cessna planes he used to smuggle drugs to the US that used to be perched atop the entry gate is gone (as is the gate). The only thing remaining is a small museum that grapples with his legacy and some of his antique car collection rusting peacefully in the sun.

There is also a Jurassic zone filled with the life-size dinosaur replicas he purchased for his son and a wild hippo herd that, after years of heavy procreation, has grown from four to 40 and now represents the largest herd outside of Africa.

Caño Cristales

Caño Cristales was off limits for decades while in the grip of guerrilla fighters but is officially back in business and welcoming more tourists than ever before. Most visitors come to this remote river canyon in the Orinoquía region to hike between its waterfalls and bathe in its natural swimming holes.

While worth the trip in any season, the canyon is particularly prismatic between July and November, when an algae bloom turns the riverbed into a rainbow of colors. The isolated outpost of La Macarena is your base for trips to Caño Cristales, and it's only reachable by air from Bogotá or Villavicencio.

View over Cali

The inhabitants of Cali have a zest for life and fun that is unique in Colombia. And, how can you not, when your city is known around the world as the home of Salsa dance? Street festivals celebrating this sensual dance happen most evenings in the Juanchito area under the stars in the sultry air.

However, the city isn't all about dancing, it's also a foodie destination with a plethora of interesting restaurants helmed by innovative chefs making the most of the bounty from both the land and the Pacific Ocean, only a short distance away.

Dance, food, hot weather — what more do you need? Well, a bit of historical architecture dating from the 20th century coupled with friendly people round out the wonderful assortment of things to do in Cali.

Whale off Nuqui

The Caribbean coast of Colombia, with Cartagena as the shining star, soaks up most of the bandwidth when people think of coastal areas in Colombia. However, the small city of Nuqui and the Pacific Coast should not be overlooked by those with a taste for adventure and fun.

This incredibly biodiverse area is home to humid coastal jungles, waterfalls, and the full force of the Pacific Ocean. Empty beaches with humpback whales breeching just offshore, crystal clear rivers emptying into the sea, and some of the most incredible birdlife (especially hummingbirds) in the country await.

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Where you should go in 2024 depends on which hot list you trust

Fiona Carruthers

Wondering where to go in 2024? Prepare to be more confused than ever. It’s that time of the year when every media and publishing outlet (including The Australian Financial Review ) is issuing hot lists on where to go – yet, everyone seems to name somewhere different.

Lonely Planet’s pick of countries for the new year is topped by Mongolia, India, and St Lucia in the Caribbean in that order. For regions, their top three are Montana in the northern United States, Donegal in Ireland and the Trans Dinarica Cycling Route in the West Balkans.

planet tours colombia

Lonely Planet’s pick of the best country to head to in 2024 is Mongolia.   Getty

If it’s bright city lights you’re after, then book Nairobi, Paris or Montreal, says Lonely Planet. (Go figure.)

The Financial Review got around the confusion by asking the co-founder of Melbourne-based Lonely Planet, Tony Wheeler, for his top picks for adventure travel next year.

Booking giant Expedia says the hot trends for 2024 include Taipei instead of Seoul; Pattaya City in eastern Thailand not Bangkok; Paros for Santorini; Curacao in the Caribbean for Saint Martin, and – wait for it – Perth for Sydney.

“The luxury side of the travel industry is still alive and well,” Expedia Group managing director Daniel Finch said while launching Expedia’s 2024 Travel Trends report.

“This year, it felt like every Australian who could, went to Europe. Next year, we’re predicting a slowdown on long-haul; my hunch is people will make shorter trips closer to home.”

planet tours colombia

Taipei’s popular Sakura Garden.   Getty

Mr Finch said “destination duping” – the practice of swapping overcrowded, too popular and expensive cities and regions for slightly lesser-known and often cheaper spots with similar scenery or experiences – would continue as people looked to drive their holiday dollar further.

Another strong trend is “set jetting”, whereby popular location-based shows like Emily in Paris , Outlander and White Lotus drive consumer behaviour. Expedia found that more than 40 per cent of travellers surveyed said they had researched or booked a trip to a destination after seeing it on a television show or in a movie.

National Geographic Traveller has just anointed the Albanian Alps as its pick of the world for the next 12 months. The tiny Balkan nation of 2.83 million citizens is revered for its wild landscapes, proud cultural heritage, and high-adrenalin activities – from hiking to whitewater rafting and skiing.

planet tours colombia

Theth chuch, nestled in the Albanian Alps.   Getty

From wild adventure to urban trails: London-based global publishing juggernaut Time Out took a different tack, looking at the “world’s coolest neighbourhoods”, which Laureles in Medellín, Colombia, topped.

“Laureles took the top spot this year for its authentic balance of laid-back vibes alongside some of the best nightlife in the city, while maintaining a traditional Colombian feel,” says Time Out , adding travellers should head to the “renowned nightlife strip La 70 and Estadio Atanasio Girardot”, plus enjoy the many parks and coffee shops.

Dublin’s Smithfield neighbourhood came in second, followed by Carabanchel in Madrid.

planet tours colombia

La Pelosa Beach in northern Sardinia.   Getty

American Forbes magazine secured itself a forever spot in the hearts of Sardinians after naming the island its number one of 24 global destinations – due to the beauty of its beaches, the gourmet food, and the archaeology, plus other tourism activities on offer.

As one local luxury hotel site noted online, Forbes placed Sardinia “above esteemed destinations in Japan, Mexico, Greece, and French Polynesia”. But actually, you could argue that Forbes was catching up with Condé Nast Traveller’s 2023 Readers’ Choice Awards – which nominated Sardinia as Europe’s number one island, ahead of Mykonos and Ibiza.

CN Traveler ’s “24 best places to go in 2024” – one of countless lists CN will roll out on the topic in coming months – is led by Hungary’s Budapest, the Cyclades in Greece, then Yorkshire in the United Kingdom.

So many lists, so little time. Forget the actual travel. Just stay home, trying to figure out where on earth you should go.

For The Australian Financial Review ’s take on travel in 2024, see our Top 50 Hot List of what is new in the Life & Leisure supplement.

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Real-life ‘jurassic world’ may exist on other planet: study.

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A new study argues that a real-life “Jurassic World” could currently exist, just on another planet.

Planets far away from Earth could be harboring species that resemble Earth’s dinosaurs and humans may currently have the ability to find them, according to a new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal.

“Modern Earth’s light fingerprint has been our template for identifying potentially habitable planets, but there was a time when this fingerprint was even more pronounced — better at showing signs of life,” study author Lisa Kaltenegger said in a statement to The Sun.

According to the study, researchers on Earth could detect such life by searching for compounds that are not currently present on our planet but were during the age of the dinosaurs. That’s because the Earth had higher levels of oxygen, about 30%, during the time of the dinosaurs, allowing the complex creatures to grow. Today, Earth’s oxygen levels have leveled off to 21%.

Those high oxygen levels could be a clue to the kind of life that exists on a faraway planet, the researchers argue, noting that special telescopes can be used to detect similar conditions to what dinosaurs confronted millions of years ago.

One clue scientists can search for is whether a planet is in a Phanerozoic stage, which would allow a planet to host large and complex life forms.

The Royal Astronomical Society published a new study that suggests the possibility and probability of dinosaurs on other planets.

“The Phanerozoic is just the most recent 12% or so of Earth’s history, but it encompasses nearly all of the time in which life was more complex than microbes and sponges,” Cornell University scientist Rebecca Payne told The Sun. “This gives us hope that it might be just a little bit easier to find signs of life — even large, complex life — elsewhere in the cosmos.”

According to Kaltenegger, searching for planets with higher levels of oxygen could lead to the discovery of interesting life forms while also making the search easier.

“Hopefully we’ll find some planets that happen to have more oxygen than Earth right now because that will make the search for life just a little bit easier,” Kaltenegger said. “And, who knows, maybe there are other dinosaurs waiting to be found.”

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5 big travel lessons and one ‘mistake’ from 50 years of Lonely Planet

Co-founder tony wheeler shares his best advice from decades of publishing guidebooks.

planet tours colombia

Tony Wheeler has spent half a century traversing the globe but still carries a guidebook. Naturally, it’s his own.

“Just a couple days ago in Brazil, I went to Iguazu Falls,” Wheeler, 76, said during a recent video call from a hotel guest room in New York City . “I went across to Argentina and had the Lonely Planet guidebook. It said to take the walk close to the river level because everybody heads to the top one. You know, the guidebook got it right.”

Wheeler and his wife, Maureen, founded Lonely Planet guidebooks 50 years ago. In 1972, the newly married couple bought a ratty old car in London and drove east, across Europe, and then farther east, to Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, where they sold their vehicle. In Australia, their final stop, one adventure ended and another began.

Their first publication, “Across Asia on the Cheap,” spawned more than 150 million guidebooks covering 221 countries. It also heralded a new generation of travelers who were young, adventurous and scrappy. Like true rebels, they ventured where few parents had gone before.

“These were books for people in their 20s with no money,” he said. “If their parents had gone to Europe, they were going to Asia. If they were in Europe, they were going down to Spain and across to Morocco. Instead of escaping the States to Mexico, they’d go down to South America. Their horizons were getting larger, wider.”

In 2011, the Wheelers, who split their time between London and Melbourne, Australia, sold their publishing company. Red Ventures, which also owns the Points Guy , took over in 2020. Although they are no longer actively involved in the series and have upgraded their travel style, they still embody the spirit of the “ backpacker’s bible.”

The day after Tony returned from South America, he shared some of the lessons he has learned from his 50 spins around the Lonely Planet.

5 essentials for cool-weather camping this fall

Always carry on

Mishaps happen to even the most seasoned traveler, and you just have to roll with it.

During his recent trip in Brazil, the airline repeatedly canceled his flight to New York. He spent four hours standing in line at the airport counter trying to sort it out. “You can fly across the Atlantic in the Concorde in that amount of time and have a meal, as well,” he said dryly.

Also this year, an incident in France forced the railway to shut down its entire line. Then a torrential rainstorm hit. “I was standing around on a platform with rain pouring down for four hours,” he said.

Wheeler gamely acknowledged that a traveler’s best material often comes from plans that go awry.

“People like to hear the bad stuff,” he said. “No one wants to hear that my flight left on time, my seat was the one I wanted, I liked the meal and my baggage turned up.”

Want to avoid those pesky carry-on fees? Be your own suitcase.

Speaking of lost luggage, he avoids it by limiting himself to carry-on . He said an opera singer friend would have significantly reduced her stress levels had she followed suit. On her flight from Munich to his London home, the airline lost her bags. Several days later, a delivery man drove up in a vehicle packed with hundreds of pieces of luggage waiting to be reunited with their owners.

Travel for the people, not the politics

Of all the travel guides, Wheeler said Burma caused them the most angst. At the time, people were urged to boycott the country to avoid indirectly aiding the brutal military regime. After several research trips, the couple decided to publish the book in 1979 but encouraged travelers to support local businesses and not government-owned ones.

“The locals really wanted the tourists, and it wasn’t just for the money,” Wheeler said. “It was for the communication with the outside world.”

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Wheeler is similarly conflicted by Iran. “The government’s awful, but the people are wonderful,” he said. To illustrate this point, he described the heartwarming interactions he repeatedly experienced in restaurants. Diners would notice that he was eating alone and spoke English and would invite him to join them at their table.

“How often does that happen in a restaurant in England or America?” he said. “In Iran, that does happen, and I think it’s kind of amazing.”

The eighth edition of “Lonely Planet Iran” is scheduled for release in December 2024, an update to the 2017 version.

Trust your research and instincts

On the subject of crime, Wheeler has been fortunate: He has been a victim only once, when he was mugged in Bogotá, Colombia. He said travelers should thoroughly research a destination but also trust their instincts.

“Things are not always as unsafe as you fear they are,” he said. “Once you get to a place and are out in the streets, you will feel if it is okay or not.”

On a family trip in Guatemala City, the Wheelers set out at night in search of food. The streets were empty and unnerving. But the next morning, they discovered an entirely different city: vibrant, lively, safe.

Wheeler has ventured to more than 170 countries, including many that have faced conflict, such as Syria, Libya and Yemen. He does not take safety lightly. He is intrigued by Nigeria — “It’s the center for movies in Africa and has a lot of entrepreneurial activity ” — but is cautious about visiting Africa’s most populous nation because of safety concerns. Many foreign offices, including the U.S. State Department, advise travelers against visiting Nigeria.

“You start with the idea that it’s not going to be totally safe,” he said, “but I’d like to see it one day.”

Explore ‘two streets over’ from main drag

For countless travelers, Lonely Planet opened the door to unknown or undiscovered places, but some critics say the books worked too well and have led to overcrowding. Wheeler’s solution to overtourism is actually a Lonely Planet tenet. He recommends always going “two streets over” from the main drag for sightseeing as well as shopping, dining and lodging.

Far off the tourist track, Molise offers the best parts of Italy

“Everyone is in St. Mark’s Square,” he said of Venice. “There are other parts of the city you can go to and find churches that are not crowded with tourists.”

Another option: Skip the popular destination for a lesser-visited city, such as Ravenna, which he described as the opposite of Venice. “It almost felt like it was undertouristed,” he said.

Choose a train over a plane

This year, Wheeler has traveled by train in a dozen countries. He said his best train experience was on Amtrak ’s Coast Starlight from Seattle through the San Francisco Bay Area.

“It was a nice train, and there was quite a lot of conversation at the tables in the bar,” he said. “It was what train travel is supposed to be.”

Amtrak WiFi can be infuriating. Here’s how to make it work for you.

When possible, he chooses more eco-friendly modes of travel. For a return trip from Lugano, Switzerland, he took the slower but greener route home: train from Zurich to Paris, then Eurostar to London. In Uruguay and Paraguay, he relied on trains and buses, which have vastly improved since his last overland adventures.

“My bus travel years in South America was a long time ago,” he said. “It felt dangerous all the time, the buses were uncomfortable, and the bus stations were not good places to be.”

This time around, the bus station in Montevideo, Uruguay, was modern and had a great breakfast spot. The buses were comfortable and safe. The seats came with belts that people actually wore. There was an onboard toilet.

“It was definitely a real change from 40 years ago,” he said.

‘A 50-year mistake’

The company’s name did not stem from a romantic notion about connecting travelers or making the world a less forlorn place, but instead from a 1971 documentary film called “Mad Dogs & Englishmen.”

Over too much red wine at a Chilean restaurant in Sydney, the Wheelers discussed the film’s song “Space Captain” and the opening lines sung by Joe Cocker: “Once I was traveling across the sky/ This lovely planet caught my eye.”

Smitten with the lyrics, Tony suggested calling the series “Lonely Planet.” Maureen agreed, but pointed out the misheard word. “It’s been a 50-year mistake,” he said.

More travel tips

Trends: Japan | Cool all-inclusives | Let ChatGPT plan your day | Is it safe to go to Mexico? | How to be a good weed tourist

The basics: Better travel 101 | Cash-free tipping | Should you always book direct? | Traveling with kids | Decide where to stay | A pre-trip checklist of house chores | How to get your passport | Avoid getting sick | Budget for your trip | Do you have the right travel insurance? | How to travel with pets

Flying: Fly like a decent human being | Gear to pack | How to set airfare price alerts | PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR | Can I fly with weed? | AirTag your luggage | Airport parking 101 | Deal with airport crowds | Why you should stalk airfare after booking | Pet flying 101

Driving: 9 tips for road tripping with a baby | Try the Airbnb of rental cars | Rent an EV | Do I need an international license to drive abroad? | Avoid big rental car fees | Alternatives to flying with your pet

National Parks: A comprehensive guide | Where you need reservations | Lesser known parks | Parks etiquette

Greener travel: New rules of responsible travel | Bike to the airport | How environmentalists travel | How to find ‘greener’ flights | Make your travel better for the planet

Go by train: Overnight Amtraks | Grand Canyon | Vietnam | Harper’s Ferry

In case of emergency: | Make a backup plan | Manage airport disasters | Your flight is canceled | How to get a human on the phone | What to do if your car gets stuck | Find your lost luggage | How to get a refund for a canceled flight | Deal with a bad hotel room | When you’re bumped off your flight | If you get rebooked without your family | What are my rebooking rights? | Recover a lost item at TSA, the airport or your flight

What is the largest airport in the US? Hint: it's different than the busiest airport

The United States contains 1/3 of the world’s airports, the most of any country in the world, according to World Atlas. All 50 states and administrative territories have at least one airport, and there are almost 20,000 airports in the U.S. with over 5,000 open for public use. 

Some of the airports in the U.S. are also among the busiest and biggest airports in the world. With nearly three million passengers flying in and out of U.S. airports everyday, you may wonder what the busiest airport in the U.S. is. If so, we have the answers for you. 

What is the busiest airport in the US? 

According to World Atlas, the busiest airport in the United States by passenger traffic is Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). ATL had over 100 million passengers travel through it in the pre-COVID year of 2019, 20 million more than the second-busiest airport in the U.S. 

Named after two former mayors of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson and William Hartsfield, it is located almost seven miles outside of the city and occupies seven square miles of land. It serves as an international gateway to the United States and is the hub for Delta Airlines, according to World Atlas.

What are the 10 busiest airports in the US? 

According to World Atlas, the following are the busiest airports in the U.S. , based on 2019 pre-COVID numbers: 

  • Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) (Atlanta, GA)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) (Los Angeles, CA)
  • O’Hare International Airport (ORD) (Chicago, IL)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) (Dallas, TX)
  • Denver International Airport (DEN) (Denver, CO)
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) (New York, NY)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO) (San Francisco, CA)
  • McCarran International Airport (LAS) (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) (Seattle, WA)
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) (Charlotte, NC)

Attention travelers: How much do flight attendants make?

What is the busiest airport in the world?

According to World Atlas, ATL is also the busiest airport in the world. The following are the 10 busiest airports in the world based on 2019 pre-COVID numbers: 

  • Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Atlanta, GA)
  • Beijing Capital International Airport (Beijing, China)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Dubai International Airport (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
  • Tokyo Haneda Airport (Tokyo, Japan)
  • O'Hare International Airport (Chicago, IL)
  • Heathrow Airport  (London, United Kingdom)
  • Shanghai Pudong International Airport (Shanghai, China)
  • Charles de Gaulle Airport (Paris, France)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (Dallas, TX)

How to find cheap flights: Tips on how to cut travel costs

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USA TODAY is exploring the questions you and others ask every day. From " Who is the commander in chief of the military? " to " What is a cover letter? " to " Who invented ice cream? ", we're striving to find answers to the most common questions you ask every day. Head to our  Just Curious section  to see what else we can answer


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  3. TOUR COLOMBIA. Medellín y Bogotá.

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