Colombia’s geography is unique. It is a place where mountains abut azure seas separated by the whitest of sand. Its uniqueness provides habitat for the world’s tallest palms that defy stereotype, finding their perfect purchase in high mountain valleys not sandy seashores. This seemingly contradictory nature of biology is reflected in the culture of the place. Cities, in whose hearts lie vestiges of colonial times, push outward in waves of development. This is where traditional and abstract art display side by side. In those preserved, untouched places, the ears alight with the whirring of wings, the thrashing of windblown leaves, the lapping of water against stone and root wood. Amid the extremes, a tantalizing variety of life is displayed.
Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
Because of the proximity to the Equator, Colombia’s temperature does not vary much throughout the year. What makes more of a difference is the altitude, and Colombia has some extremes – from the hot lowlands to the freezing Andean peaks, you could travel a few hours and have completely different temperature, both during the day and night. The best time to visit is when it’s driest, which is generally between December and March and during July/August. Many festivals and fiestas take place during this time as well, so planning will be required to ensure accommodations can be booked during festival times.
Fly to Bogota, Colombia’s exciting capital city, home to over eight million people and one of the fastest growing metropolitan centers in Latin America. Tonight, enjoy dinner at one of the most popular restaurants in Bogota, Andres Carne de Res D.C., offering traditional dishes and spirits. HOTEL CITE. (D)
Leave the city and drive across the high plateau of northern Bogotá to the small town of Zipaquirá, to the awe inspiring underground cathedral hewn from the walls of a salt mine – comprised of 14 small chapels that represent the Stations of the Cross and Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, a sanctuary, and a main cathedral. Explore the colonial town with its whitewashed houses and cobbled streets. Return to Bogotá and tour historical La Candelaria. Pass the Luis Angel Arango designed public library on your way to Plaza De Bolivar, Congress Palace, Cardinal’s Palace, and the church of El Sagrario. Explore the Gold Museum which houses an unsurpassed collection of over 30,000 indigenous gold objects and the Museao Botero which highlights the art of Fernando Botero as well works by Picasso, Dali and others. HOTEL CITE. (B,L)
A short drive from Bogota lies Chingaza National Park which sits in the river basin of the Orinoco River, high in the Andes. The Park shelters great expanses of “paramo” or high alpine ecosystems found above the timberline and below the permanent snow line. This often forbidding climate provides a home to deer, spectacled bear, tapir moor, puma, Andean Condor, Cock-of-the-rock, jaguar, turkey, woolly andnocturnal monkey, ocelot, and toucan, as well as approximately 383 species of plants. HOTEL CITE. (B,L)
Begin your day with a visit to the Jose Celestino Mutis Botanical Gardens, a special place that showcases Colombia’s treasure trove of exotic flora with over 19,000 live plants and around 2,346 taxons of cultivated plants. This is a working research center with labs and gardens painstakingly designed to reflect the native ecosystem of the featured specimens. Featuring flora from all over Colombia, the facility specializes in Andean and Páramo species. Later, fly to Pereira, where within the comfort of your hotel, you will luxuriate in a hosted tasting of Colombia’s exotic fruits which will be served in their natural state and as a part of sweet confections served with artisan ice cream. HOTEL SAZAGUA. (B,L,D)
Awake early and leave for the oft fog shrouded Cocora Valley, home of Colombia’s national tree, the wax palm. Able to reach heights of up to 200 feet, these majestic trees are the world’s tallest variety of palm. Partake in the “Ritual de la Palma” and plant your own wax palm in the park. From there, the quintessential Colombian mountain town of Salento awaits you with the colorful baroque balconies that surround its Plaza de Bolivar and craftsmen’s workshops along Calle Real. Next day, the sweet whirring of tiny wings welcome you as you visit the privately run bird sanctuary at Rio Blanco. Owned by the Manizales water company, it features 23 species of hummingbirds. Stop at La Casa Colibries (the house of hummingbirds) named for the diminutive and mercurial birds, which flitter about drinking from the many feeders placed about the reserve. Take a short nature hike to observe some of the other avian residents such as the Antpitta, Tourmaline Sunangel, and Long-tailed Sylph. Also visit Cine Café where scientists research Colombian coffee to ensure its longevity. HOTEL SAZAGUA. (B,L Daily)
A short flight takes you to the coastal town of Santa Marta and then on to Tayrona National Park. Enjoy the white sands and sunshine of coastal Colombia and walk to the scenic Arrecefes Beach, where giant boulders jut into the surf line and are caressed by the turquoise water of the southern Caribbean Sea. Take a dip at La Piscina beach, a place of unique beauty, where the blue Caribbean stretches out against a back drop of palm covered mountain slopes. Your accommodation is inside the park and you’ll enjoy bird watching and endless vistas from the balcony of your room. Next day, drive along the Pan American Highway to the River Don Diego, the location of the Taironaka private reserve, the seasonal home of the Tayronas and Koqui Indians who have been coming into the area for centuries. Observe the manmade terraces built by the indigenous tribes as a foundation for their traditional huts and meet some of them. After an informative trek, revitalize yourself with a river plunge. ECOHABS. (B,L,D Daily)
A full day of exquisite birding awaits you at Parque Los Flamingos. This wonderland of avuncular diversity incorporates a vast network of lagoons within its protected boundaries and is a sanctuary for pink flamingos, as well as spoonbill, egret, and Laughing Gulls. The surrounding scrub ecosystem provides a home for Buffy Hummingbird, White-whiskered Spine-tail, Tocuyo Sparrow and Vermilion Cardinal. Also enjoy a short boat ride on a traditional fishing boat to observe sea turtles and learn of conservation efforts to preserve their numbers. HOTEL BOUTIQUE DON PEPE. (B,L). Next day, transfer to the airport for your return flights home.
The Amazon River beckons, its languid serpentine course reflecting the emerald canopy of the dense rainforest. Navigate up the Amazon to Peru and the Marashá Nature Reserve. The air is alive with the flapping of wings and calls of the many birds that can be found here. In Puerto Nariño and the lakes of Tarapoto observe the iconic fresh water dolphin in its varying shades of pink and grey and visit with indigenous artisans trained in the “palo sangre” tradition of wood working.
Travel to Salamanca Island Road Park where the confluence of the Magdalena River and Caribbean Sea create a nutrient rich environment in which mangrove forests and a multitude of bird species thrive. Navigate by traditional dugout canoe through mangrove framed lagoons and visit a traditional fishing village. Tour the colonial era walled district of Getsemaní in Cartagena for a visual feast of Spanish baroque architecture and elegant public plazas. Continue the feast of Cartagena, with a gastronomic tour where the palate navigates its way through the savory variety of Colombian cuisine.
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