In the footsteps of Alexander von Humboldt

Popayan, Southern Colombia

Celebrating Alexander von Humboldt’s 250th anniversary we are offering a trip through Colombia based on his expeditions across this Country. Actually, he was twice in Colombia which was called New Granada back then. In 1800 he visited parts of today’s Venezuela and the very eastern part of Colombia. When he came back to Colombia one year later to continue his studies about the Andes mountains and the indigenous living there, he arrived at the Caribbean Coast in Cartagena and travelled through the country from North to South. Our itinerary takes you to some of the landmark places Humboldt visited in a sequence that is easier to travel in today’s time.

Day 1 – 2 Historical context | Bogotá
Arrive in Bogotá and get first impressions of modern-day Colombia. During a walking tour of Bogotá, you will enjoy the contrast of the modern and historical part of the city. You will see the most important buildings from the colonial era in La Candelaria, the old town of Bogotá, as well as the government district around Plaza Bolívar with its Cathedral, Palace of Justice, Parliament and Town Hall. Experience how the unique emeralds were traded. The Gold Museum is a highlight, with its unique collection of pre Colombian gold jewelry. If the weather is nice you will drive to Monserrate where you have a spectacular view of the big city. Visiting the Instituto Humboldt you will get insights on how the great scientist’s legacy is shaping nature conservation policy in Colombia.

Day 3 – 5 The rain forest | Orinoco
You will fly from Bogotá to Puerto Inírida near the Colombia/Venezuela/Brazil border (ask us about flying in a DC-3). A short boat ride upstream the Río Inirida lie the Cerros de Mavecure. Forming part of the Guyana shield. Humboldt marveled at these Granite domes protruding from the jungle. After hiking up one of the domes you will enjoy a fantastic view of the vast rainforest area. On visits to indigenous communities and a boat ride to the confluence of the Guaviare and Orinoco rivers you will experience aspects of the region that were central to Humboldt’s first expedition.

Day 6 – 10 Crossing the Andes | From Popayán to Bogotá
During this part of your trip in the footsteps of Humboldt you will visit the beautiful colonial city Popayán, which was named “Ciudad Blanca” because of its snow-white facades. In colonial times, Popayán was the most important commercial center between Bogota and Quito. There is the opportunity to visit a village of a Guambiano community. These are some of the last indigenous communities in Colombia’s highlands that still live according to their traditions. Also part of this stage is the coffee zone. The Colombian coffee landscape, declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO has unique geographic qualities, resulting in a cup of coffee characterized by a medium-high acidity, round body, good balance and pronounced aroma.
Humboldt described the mountains around Girardot as the most arduous way in the entire Andes Mountains. “Thick forests lie between morasses; the mules sink to half their body; and one must go through such deep and narrow dreads that one believes to come in tunnels of a mine.”
On the way back to Bogotá you visit in Icononzo the famous natural rock bridge drawn by Humboldt over the raging Rio Sumapaz.

Day 11 – 12 Gold and Salt | Highland around Bogotá
There are many legends about the lake of Guatavita, where the ritual of El Dorado (the gilded) took place. After a 30 minutes’ walk through a forest and typical highland vegetation you will reach the crater border at 3000m above sea level. Enjoy the nice view on the Crater Lake, where once coronation ceremonies of the monarchs of the Muiscas took place. Humboldt draw and described the lake in his diaries. Another place Humboldt visited in this region is the salt cathedral of Zipaquirá, a complete church inside a salt mine and learn more about the religious significance of the place and the importance of the salt for the region and its history. The cathedral is an important religious place and the same time a unique architectural work.
Honda was an important stop during the botanic expedition. From the Piedra Capira you can see the valley of the Magdalena River and the peaks of the Nevados del Ruiz, Santa Isabel and Tolima.

Day 13 – 16 The Magdalena Valley | From Bogotá to Cartagena
You will leave the andes mountains and start your journey along the Magdalena River. The trail leads you through green plains and valleys with intensive agriculture until you reach Barrancabermeja.
In a more modern boat than Humboldt´s your adventure starts on the Río Magdalena. Far away from the roads the river curls his way through the landscape. After 5 hours, you reach El Banco. The route takes you two more hours by car to Mompox, a magical colonial town in the north of Colombian, which teaches you a lot of history, romance and nostalgia in every corner of this town. Humboldt was there in 1801 and eleven years later it became the hometown of his friend and Colombia´s liberator Simón Bolívar.
On your way from Mompox to Cartagena you will make a stop in Turbaco. Humboldt was there to discover the mudvolcanoes.

Day 17 – 18 Cartagena
Humboldt spent eight days in Cartagena. As he did, you will visit La Popa hill. At this highest point of Cartagena, Augustinian monks built a monastery in the 16th century. From here, you have a perfect view of the bay of Cartagena and the most important colonial port city of the Spaniards South America. Cartagena was the place, where the looted treasures of the Incas by the Spaniards and the gold and silver treasures from the mines of Peru and Bolivia were stored for shipping to Spain. Thus, the city was repeatedly the object of desire of many pirates. In the labyrinthine corridors of the fortress, you feel transferred back to the pirate’s time. From the fortress, you walk through the colonial Old Town and feel the spirit Humboldt did back in 1801.

Services included:

Transfers in private car/van/coach from/to the airport
Overland transfers in private car/van/coach according to the program
Excursions with English speaking local guides according to the program (incl. entrance fees) (other languages on request)
Accommodation in double room
On loan prepaid mobile phone

Services not included:

International flight to Colombia
Domestic flights
Tip and local taxes

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