Intensive Colombia – off the beaten track

Popayan, San Agustin

In just two weeks you will experience the diversity of Colombian nature and culture. From colonial villages, mystical statues and coffee haciendas to the vibrant coastal town of Cartagena, you’ll discover many facets of Colombia.
And everything is complemented by authentic encounters with hospitable Colombians. Beside the travel programme you will always have the opportunity to take a break from everyday life.

• Gold Museum in Bogotá – on the path of El Dorado
• San Agustin – mysterious statues and impressive tombs, UNESCO World Heritage Site
• Colonial villages – Villa de Leyva and Barichara
• Coffee farm – process of coffee from seedling to espresso
• Cartagena – Colonial architecture, pirates and the sea, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Day 1 Bogotá
Welcome to Bogotá! Your guide or driver will wait for you at the airport. It is recommended to change money directly at the airport. The most convenient is to withdraw money from the ATM. They are located after exiting the customs area in the arrival lobby. Your guide will be pleased to assist and look after your luggage. Subsequently you will drive to the hotel and can have some rest after your flight.
Hotel: Casa Deco ***

Day 2 Bogotá
During the 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. Visit Bogotá’s famous museum of the artist Fernando Botero, with its outstanding collection of contemporaneous art. Experience how the unique emeralds were traded. The Gold Museum is a highlight, with its unique collection of pre-Columbian gold jewelry. If the weather is nice you will drive to Monserrate where you have a spectacular view of the big city.
Visit the traditional market Paloquemao, a huge market hall with more than 1800 stands with fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, herbs, flowers and handcrafts. Enjoy the colorful outdoor flower market and gaze at the numerous exotic fruits.
Hotel: Casa Deco ***

Day 3 Bogotá – Popayán
Transfer from your hotel in Bogotá to the airport on time for your flight.
Popayán is a beautiful colonial city, 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. During a walk through the bustling narrow streets, you can experience the traditional and modern Colombia at once. Explore the historic old town and visit the most important monuments during a city tour. In case you visit Popayán during Easter time, you can admire the processions through the old town.
Hotel: La Plazuela ***

Day 4 Popayán
You visit the traditional indigenous market in Silvia. The Guambianos are one of the few indigenous tribes in the Andean region that still live their traditions. It is a colorful view seeing them offering their goods at the market. They wear striking long royal blue skirts, a dark bowler hat and a typical ruana or cape. The color blue stands for the cosmos and black stands for mother earth.
Hotel: La Plazuela ***

Day 5 Popayán – San Agustín
On the way to San Agustín you will cross the central mountain range of the Andes. Passing by the active volcano Puracé, from which with good weather you can catch a glimpse. The road winds into the typical high moorland of the “Páramo” at over 3,000 meters height. In this water-rich area four of the largest rivers of Colombia rise and flow towards the Pacific, the Caribbean and the Amazon. Take the opportunity to stop and walk around and observe 3 meters high frailejones plants, which can be found only in the high altitudes of Ecuador and Colombia, from closer. During the afternoon, you reach San Agustín, which is situated in the hills high above the gorge of the Río Magdalena.
Hotel: Akawanka Lodge ***

Day 6 San Agustín
The region around San Agustín is the most important archaeological site in Colombia as well as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.It is the largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America. It was only in the 18th century Spanish missionaries reported the mysterious statues in the forests around San Agustín. The modern archaeology has not found out much about the culture, with its peaks from the 6th to the 8th century. Mountainous terrain and the lack of written records make it difficult to research. The Archaeological Park of San Agustín is the place where on a relatively small space a good cross-section is given by the legacy of the culture of San Agustín. The “Ceremonial Fountain” and the “Forest of Statues” are the highlights of this archaeological collection. At each of the mysterious statues you can spend a long time wondering if it’s a human or an animal and whether it‘s threatening or reassuring.
After an easy hike or horseride you will reach “La Chaquira”, an astronomical site of the San Agustín culture. A few steps lead down to the rock representation of the deity images. The platform is situated high above the Rio Magdalena. Enjoy the beautiful view and feel the energies of this mystical place. This excursion can optionally be made on horseback.
Hotel: Akawanka Lodge ***

Day 7 San Agustín – Bogotá
Transfer from San Agustín to the airport in Pitalito on time for your flight back to Bogotá.
Hotel: BH Usaquen ****

Day 8 Bogotá – Villa de Leyva
You drive from Bogotá to Zipaquirá, which depending on the traffic can be reached after 1.5 hours. The nice colonial old town of Zipaquirá gathers numerous buildings of the 18th century. Marvel at the imposing underground salt cathedral, 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. Afterwards you take the main road to Tunja and stop at the Sisga dam, where you can take a break and enjoy a fresh trout (food not included). If you are interested in history, quickly stop at the Puente de Boyacá, which is the place where in 1819 Simón Bolívar won the last and decisive battle against the Spanish colonial rulers. From there it’s only a short ride to Villa de Leyva, a village which in colonial times used to be a “summer residence” of the bishops from the cooler Tunja and gathers spacious and beautifully preserved churches. Walk through the cobbled streets and end the day at the Plaza Mayor.
Hotel: Campanario de la Villa ***

Day 9 Villa de Leyva
If you like walking, you can start with an easy two-hour hike through the hills of Villa de Leyva, from where you can enjoy a beautiful view over Villa de Leyva and surround-ings. Visit the monastery of La Candelaria, an Augustine convent of the 17th century and admire how the abundant fossils have been integrated into the architecture of the buildings of the area. A special highlight is the garden of the monastery. Afterwards you can make a short stop in Ráquira, a small town that lives traditionally by the pottery. Visit the numerous souvenir shops, with all kinds of crafts from all over Colombia and take the chance to buy a souvenir of the region. If you fancy you can learn more about the ceramic items and the handcrafted pottery. On the way back to Villa de Leyva, you have the opportunity to visit a fossil museum in which, among other things an 8-meter-long ichthyosaur found in the region is exposed.
Hotel: Campanario de la Villa ***

Day 10 Villa de Leyva – Barichara
The journey slowly leads from the highlands to warmer region. The road from Villa de Leyva first passes through lush green pastures. From Arcabuco the road winds through a narrow gorge, which opens in the direction of the Río Suárez. On the slopes of Suárez Valley, at an altitude between 1’000 and 1’500 meters above sea level, the way leads from Barbosa to San Gil. Along the way there are numerous opportunities to stop at, for example to look at a traditional sugar mill or to taste the typical Guava mousse. Don’t miss to taste the Cuajada con Melao, a cheese cream with sugar molasses. The Caseteja at Oiba is known for this specialty. From San Gil it’s a half hour drive to Barichara. This perfectly preserved village was declared as the most beautiful village of Colombia. The town, located at an altitude of 1’300 m above sea level offers a pleasant temperature of about 26°C.
Hotel: Hicasua ***

Day 11 Barichara
Explore the region while an easy downhill hike from Barichara to the quiet village of Guane. Along the way, you’ll pass tobacco fields and cow paddocks, enjoy the view over the Valley of the Río Suárez and the powerful Cordillera de Cobardes. Don’t miss the little museum of fossils and relics of the indigenous Guane tribe in Guane. Drive back to Barichara by car.
During a leisurely walk, you discover Barichara with its whitewashed houses and cobbled streets. In many small galleries and craft workshops there’s always something interesting to discover. From the small chapel of Santa Barbara, you have a beautiful view over the village and the valley of the Río Suarez. Take your time visiting the artisanal paper mill where you can watch (or do it yourself) how paper is being made of agave and pineapple fibres.
Hotel: Hicasua ***

Day 12 Barichara – Cartagena
This tour takes you from Barichara to Bucaramanga. It leads through the Canyon del Chicamocha, when conditions permitting, you will be able to cross the canyon by cable car and enjoy a fantastic view of the deep gorge. On the other side of the canyon, at 1’600 meters above sea, you will visit the coffee farm “El Roble”, a Rainforest Alliance certified farm operated with the principles of sustainability. Trace the path of the coffee bean from seedling into the steaming cup. Taste some of the coffee varieties grown on the hacienda guided by professional coffee technician.
Meet and greet with the driver at the airport and transfer to your hotel in the center of Cartagena.
Hotel: Bantú ****

Day 13 Cartagena
To get to know the city better you start with a visit to the hill of La Popa. 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. Then visit the Fort San Felipe, which was built by the Spaniards to protect the rich city of Cartagena against attacks from the mainland. 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. If desired, you can stop for a cold fruit juice drink. During a walk through the well-preserved old town, visit the important historic buildings and churches. Get an overview of the city and try to orient yourself to be able to walk through the city on your own in the afternoon, go souvenir shopping at the city wall and admire the sunset from the Café del Mar on the city walls.
Hotel: Bantú ****

Day 14 Cartagena
Enjoy this day in Cartagena at your free disposal. Explore the old town or spend the day at the beach.
Enjoy the beautiful one hour boat ride through the bay of Cartagena to the Rosario Islands. Spent the whole day enjoying the sun or snorkel at the relaxing beach. You will drive back to Cartagena by boat. Lunch will be included.
Hotel: Bantú ****

Day 15 Cartagena
Transfer to the airport in Cartagena on time for your flight.

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)
• Meals like indicated (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
• Accommodation in double room

Services not included:
• International flight to Colombia
• Tip and local taxes (e.g. airport or port taxes, none apply as of August 2019)

07. March 2020 – 15.March 2020
04. July 2020 – 18. July 2020
08. August 2020 – 22. August 2020
21. November 2020 – 05. December 2020