Colombia’s Indigenous Trails

Historic Spanish colonial cities and local mountain villages are cultural gems to explore. Take in the Tierradentro Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its archaeological treasures that include incredible subterranean galleries and tombs. Explore Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city with its colonial-era architecture and the impressive underground Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral.

Country Information


Colombia's Indigenous Trails Enrichment Series

(Countries Visited)


(Interest Type(s))

Sustainable Travel


Adventure Travel

(Tour Length)

16 Days

Tour Highlights

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  • Explore Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city with its colonial era architecture, the impressive Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral, and museums such as the remarkable Museo del Oro with its exhibition of some 32,000 pieces of gold as well as 20,000 stones, ceramics and textiles from early cultures
  • Experience the market day (every Tues) in the small town of Silvia, when the indigenous Guambiano community in mountain villages nearby come to town sell their fruit, vegetables and handicrafts
  • Enjoy bird’s eye views of the Amacayacu National Park as you travel through the Amazon rainforest tree tops along zip wires located 80 meters/262 feet apart
  • Travel into the Tierradentro Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its archaeological treasures that include incredible subterranean galleries and tombs
  • Take in the enchanting old Walled City of Cartagena, which is both a UNESCO Mankind’s Heritage Site and a Colombian National Heritage Site

Day 1:  Arrive Bogotá, Colombia
Welcome to Colombia.  You are met on arrival and escorted to your hotel.  The remainder of the day is at leisure.  Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota

Day 2:  Bogotá
Begin your exploration of this dynamic capital city at the historic center known as La Candelaria.  The section is of great architectural merit with stately old homes, Spanish colonial buildings with wrought iron windows, balconies and internal patios with beautiful gardens.  The Plaza de Bolivar, with the statue of Simon Bolivar, was used for civil and military purposes, as well as serving as a marketplace, a bullring and the site of a gallows.  The cathedral, on the eastern side of the plaza, is constructed on the ruins of the first church built in Bogotá in 1539, and houses an important collection of religious artifacts including textiles and artwork from the last four centuries.  The Capilla del Sagrario, next to the cathedral, is a gem of religious architecture.  It, too, holds valuable pieces of colonial religious art by Gregorio Vasquez de Arce y Ceballos.  The capitol, built between 1847 and 1926, reveals renaissance and neoclassical influences with its carved stonework and tall columns.  The central area of the capitol, known as the Salon Eliptico, is home to government buildings.  The Plaza de Bolivar is where the Palacio de Justicia and the oldest school in the country are found.  Explore the Museo Botero, a colonial house filled with work of Colombia’s noted artist, Fernando Botero, as well as the late artist’s personal collection that includes pieces by Picasso, Renoir, Dalí Matisse, Monet and Giacometti.  The Museo del Oro has a remarkable exhibition of some 32,000 pieces of gold, 20,000 stones, ceramics and textiles from earlier cultures including: Quimbaya, Calima, Tayrona, Sinu, Muisca, Tolima, Tumaco and Magdalena.  Visit Monserrate mountain by cable car, funicular, for incredible panoramas of the city on one side and the Andes on the other.  Shopping and entertainment districts boast shopping centers, cafes, fashionable boutiques and jewelry stores as well as an active nightlife.  The trip ends in Usaquén, a colonial district, once a separate town, now part of the city.  Enjoy the atmosphere that is colonial in style and, at the same time, modern.  Walk around the colonial plaza and wander through its narrow streets and find small boutiques, art galleries and restaurants.  Sundays are busier here with a bustling flea market.  NOTE:  The Museo del Oro is closed on Mondays and the Museo Botero is closed on Tuesday.  Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota (B,L)

Day 3:  Bogotá / Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral / Villa de Leyva
After breakfast, set out north past fields and greenhouses of carnations and roses.  Flower production is an important industry in this region. The impressive Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral is a feat of engineering.  The name Zipaquirá refers to Zipa, the leader of the Muisca tribe and the overlord of these rich salt mines.  The mines have been carved out to include the fourteen Stations of the Cross, a dome, an enormous cross carved into the rock and finally the three naves of the cathedral that represent the birth, life and death of Christ.  In the central nave is the main altar, above which is a cross measuring 16 meters/52 feet tall and 10 meters/33 feet wide, made by the Colombian artist Carlos Enrique Rodriguez.  The salt mine excursion ends at a mirror of water, where you experience the amazing visual effects of water on carved saline rock.  In the afternoon visit Villa de Leyva, one of the area’s most beautiful towns.  Founded in 1572, Villa de Leyva played a central role the colonial era as the viceroy and his entourage spent much time here.  Today, the city is a colonial jewel with an enormous plaza surrounded by Spanish- style houses, small alleys, cobblestone streets and the 17th-century parochial church.  Hotel Posada de San Antonio (B)

Day 4:  Villa de Leyva
Visit Museo El Fósil, founded in 1977.  The museum was built on the site where a kronosaurus, an extinct marine reptile, was discovered.  It was among the largest pliosaurs found and likely dates back more than 120 million years.  The Convento del Santo Ecce Homo was established by the Dominicans in 1620.  This afternoon it is yours to use as you wish.  Hotel Posada de San Antonio (B)

Day 5:  Villa de Leyva /Bogotá / Leticia
Enjoy a private transfer from the hotel to Bogota’s Eldorado Airport for the flight to Leticia.  Upon arrival in Leticia, you are greeted and transferred to the hotel.  This afternoon, enjoy a walking city tour of Leticia, the capital of Colombian Amazonas department.  Discover the Museo Etnográfico del Hombre Amazónico, with its collection of pre-Columbian objects and utensils used by the indigenous cultures of the region.  Browse the town’s handicrafts shops.  Decalodge Ticuna (B, D)

Day 6:  Leticia – Amacayacu National Park
Set out this morning to Amacayacu National Park, via boat trip up the Amazon River.  From here, you explore the natural canopy of the rainforest that reaches up to 35 meters/115 feet.  Here, you strap into a safe harness and travel through the treetops along zip wires located 80 meters/262 feet apart.  You experience the rainforest along aerial pathways and view the thick vegetation and biodiversity that includes amazing birdlife. If you are adventurous, you can also opt for an excursion to swim in the Amazon River with piranhas, one of the most famous or infamous fish in South America.  There are some 20 different species of piranhas in the Amazon River system alone, close to 60 species throughout South  America from  Argentina to Colombia.  Return to Leticia for a free afternoon.  Decalodge Ticuna (B,L,D)

Day 7:  Leticia – Marasha Reserve
This morning, travel by boat to Marasha Natural Reserve, some 45 minutes upstream on the Amazon River.  At the reserve, enjoy a guided nature walk that brings you close to nature.  Visit some malokas, ceremonial cabañas constructed in the local fashion.  The adventure continues as you explore by canoe, which takes you out onto the lake to see the largest lily pads in the world, the Victoria regia, as well as various birds and fish species.  Return by boat to Leticia.  Decalodge Ticuna (B,D)

Day 8:  Leticia/ Bogotá / Neiva
After breakfast, transfer to the local airport for flight to Neiva, via Bogotá.  You are met and transferred to your hotel.  Hotel Chicalá (B)

Day 9:  Neiva / San Agustin
In the morning, enjoy a scenic ride to San Agustín with views of the extensive floodplains of the Magdalena River Valley, past plantations of fruit, maize and, of course, coffee as well as rice paddies, cotton and wheat fields.  Arrive in the afternoon at San Agustin, and check into the hotel.  Later, visit San Agustín Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its enormous stone statues.  The area is rich with archaeological evidence, including ancient tracks, field boundaries and artificial platforms, as well as funerary monuments.  This was a sacred land of pilgrimage and worship.  Walk on to the ceremonial fountain, Fuente de Lavapatas before heading up the hill to the Lavapatas terrace from which you can enjoy a remarkable view over the surrounding countryside.  Visit the small Museo Arqueológico.  Return to the hotel.  Hotel Chicalá (B)

Day 10:  San Agustín – Isnos
After breakfast, set off for the rural town of Isnos to see further archaeological sites such as the Alto de los Ídolos and the Alto de las Piedras, where well-preserved tombs still show some of the original paint and some of the largest stone figures found.  These hieratic guards, some more than four meters/13 feet high and weigh several tons, are carved in blocks of tuff and volcanic rock.  They protected the funeral rooms, the monolithic sarcophagus and the burial sites.  Moving between these sights gives you the breathtaking view of the Macizo Colombiano and the incredible waterfalls of Salto del Mortiño and Salto de Bordones.  Hotel Chicalá (B)

Day 11:  San Agustín / La Plata / Tierradentro
After breakfast, set off to Tierradentro archaeological zone, following the Central Andes and the banks of the River Paez.  Pass through the town of La Plata, from where the road is unpaved.  Late this afternoon, arrive at the small town of Tierradentro and check in to your simple but comfortable hotel, which is near the archaeological park in San Andres de Pisimbalá area.  Albergue El Refugio (B)

Day 12:  Tierradentro / Popayán
Explore the Tierradentro Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The region is world famous for its archaeological treasures that include underground graves and stone statues similar to those of San Agustin.  See these incredible subterranean galleries and tombs, called “hypogeum” in the areas of Alto de Segovia and the Alto del Duende.  Then, visit the Archaeological and Anthropological museums.  Meet the people of San Andrés de Pisimbalá and learn about the historic, political and economic structure of the traditional Paeces community who inhabited this region.  This afternoon, drive along unpaved road to Popayán, the capital of the department of Cauca.  Enjoy the journey through the Andean mountains and high altitude plains.  Arrive at Popayán and your hotel.  Hotel Dann Monasterio (B)

Day 13:  Popayán - Silvia
Explore the small town of Silvia, located in a temperate mountainous area of houses surrounded by vast sugar cane plantations.  The Indigenous Guambiano community, with a population of 12,000 inhabitants, lives in small mountain villages nearby.  Every Tuesday, the village of Silvia is transformed into a colorful, bustling market as the Guambiano community comes into town, dressed in their traditional “anacos”, a blue knee-length skirt-like wraparound, to sell their fruit, vegetables and handicrafts.  Return to Popayan and enjoy a free afternoon.  Hotel Dann Monasterio (B)

Day 14:  Popayan / Bogota / Cartagena
After breakfast, transfer to local airport for flight to Cartagena via Bogota.  Upon arrival, you are met and transferred to your luxury hotel in a restored 16th-century colonial house.  The remainder of the day is at leisure.  Hotel Boutique Ananda (B)

Day 15:  Cartagena
In the morning, start with panoramic views of the city from the Monasterio and Iglesia de La Popa.  Constructed in 1606, this church and monastery offers expansive views of the city and the port, one of the busiest in the Caribbean.  Discover the fortress of San Felipe, built on San Lázaro hill to defend the city from pirate attacks.  Explore the fortress, its tunnels, underground galleries and passageways.  Then, travel into the old section of the city to visit the Convert and Church of the San Pedro Claver compound, which was built in the mid 1600s.  Enjoy the lively handicrafts area of the Bovedas, a collection of archways built into the city wall of Cartagena that were used until the end of the 1700s to house armaments.  In the 19th century, they were used as a prison.  Now, it is an artisan center.  After lunch, visit the city’s colonial district, starting in Parque Bolivar with its large shade trees and four fountains in the center.  Around the plaza is the Museo del Oro, which exhibits its fine collection of archaeological objects dating back to the pre-Hispanic period.  The Palacio de la Inquisicion is recognizable for its large Baroque door.  The Inquisition held its meetings in the palace here.  It was also the site of the prison and torture chambers used for presumed heretics, opponents of the Catholic Church and many others.  Continue to the Santo Domingo Church, the cathedral and the Museum of the City’s Fortifications . Hotel Boutique Ananda (B)

Day 16:  Cartagena / Depart
Transfer to the local airport for your flight to Bogota and onward connections.  (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy:  From US$450 per person per day

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