The Mansions and Rivers of Colombia

I’ve been exploring Colombia for 15 years, frequently enough to call it a second home. This program showcases the areas I grew fond of beyond Bogota and Cartagena, where the unknown history nature, and culture exist.

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COUNTRIES VISITED

Colombia

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Price starts at 750.00 Land per person, per day, double occupancy.

TOUR LENGTH

11

Tour Highlights/Full Description

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  • Stroll along the world’s largest cobblestoned plaza. Ringed by old mansions from the 17th-century, the most prominent building in the plaza is the Igelisia Parroquial.
  • In a friendly class with a local chef, you will learn about all the techniques and ingredients used in Santander cuisine.
  • Take a 20-minute thrilling tandem flight over the Chicamocha Canyo accompanied by the majesty of its landscape. Gliding After landing on the beaches of the Chicamocha River.
  • Raft the Chicamocha River for an experience that you will never forget, taking on sights along the canyon that are only seen thru this 90-minute adventure.
  • Enjoy the day at Getsemani the Old Walled City of Cartagena’s bright Caribbean colors, narrow streets, and friendly locals. The blocks are lined with beautiful graffiti by a slew of artists.

 

DAY 1: BOGOTA COLOMBIA
Welcome to Colombia! On arrival in Bogota, clear immigration, collect luggage and proceed through customs. Continue to the arrivals hall where you are met by a representative from Big Five Tours & Expeditions holding a sign with your last name. You are greeted, assisted with your luggage, and escorted to the waiting vehicle for transfer to your hotel for a one-night stay. SOFITEL BOGOTA VICTORIA REGIA

 

DAY 2: BOGOTA / VILLA DE LEYVA

After breakfast, commence the 1.5-hour drive north, past fields and greenhouses of carnations and roses towards the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, a true feat of engineering. The name Zipaquira refers to Zipa, the leader of the ancient Muisca tribe and the overlord of these rich salt mines. As one out of four advanced civilizations of the Americas (that included the Aztec, Maya, and Inca), they were overcome by the Spanish empire in 1537. Over time, the mines have been carved out to include the 14 Stations of the Cross, a dome, an enormous crossed 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 crossing measuring 52 ft. tall and 33 ft. wide, made by the Colombian artist, Carlos Enrique Rodriguez. You will end at a mirror of water with amazing visual effects of water on carved saline rock. After a stop for lunch, continue 2 hours, 45 minutes to your hotel in Villa de Leyva for a two-night stay.

This evening, join your guide for a 2-hour walking tour of Villa de Leyva, a colonial gem and a national monument that has exquisitely preserved part of Colombia’s past. Nestled in a mountain valley, the low, white-washed adobe buildings of the town harken back to the time in the 1600s when Colombia was trying to break free from Spain. The focal point of the town is the Plaza Major, a huge open space that claims the title of the world’s largest cobblestoned plaza. Ringed by old mansions from the 17th-century, the most prominent building in the plaza is the Igelisia Parroquial (Church of our Lady of the Rosary), a simple white church with a prominent bell tower. The town’s Catholic Church reigned supreme for centuries so religious buildings abound in and around the town. As you walk along the streets take notice of the spiral forms of ammonites, fossilized shellfish, which decorate the town’s buildings. The fossils abound in the surrounding countryside, so masons incorporated the shapes in the rocks into their work making it common to see fossils embedded in door frames, walls, flagstones and many other architectural elements. CASA TERRA (B,L)

 

DAY 3: VILLA DE LEYVA

After breakfast, join your guide for the 30-minute drive to the Iguaque Flora and Fauna Sanctuary for a 3-hour one-way hike to Iguaque Lake. The hike starts at approximately 8,500 ft. and increases in altitude to 12,400 ft. It is mostly uphill – slow and steady. This sanctuary is the habitat for a variety of animals that are only present in the Colombian Andes. After learning about this majestic site, continue 3 hours on foot back to the main entrance of the sanctuary where you will join your vehicle for the transfer back to your hotel in Villa de Leyva. Lunch in the park. CASA TERRA (B,L)

 

DAY 4: VILLA DE LEYVA / BARICHARA
After breakfast, you are transferred 4.5 hours to your hotel in Barichara. You will have the opportunity to make stops to stretch, take pictures, or just admire the beautiful views along the way. Stop for lunch en route or lunch on arrival at Casa Yahri. Do you dare to know the incredible work of Esperanza Rodríguez? Seven years ago, she dreamt of having her own coffee farm, and she finally did it! The most incredible thing about this adventure is that she transformed the arid lands of her farm into a prosperous coffee farm. Your tour will begin with a walk through the forest where you will learn about the particularity of the cultivation of coffee under shade. You will then visit the place where the best coffee beans are carefully selected and roasted. At the end, enjoy a delicious cup of coffee along with some seasonal fruits. Comfortable clothes and shoes are recommended. One of the best ways to get to know a country or a region and understand its culture is through its food. In a friendly class with a local chef, you will learn about all the techniques and ingredients used in Santander cuisine. This is more than a cooking class as you will have a warm encounter with the culinary traditions of the region. You will see how local chefs express, with deep devotion, their gastronomic memories as you prepare “cabrito”, “arepas”, or the famous “mute Santandereano. Dinner at Casa del Presidente. CASA YAHRI (B,L,D)

 

DAY 5: BARICHARA
After an early breakfast, you are transferred approximately 90-minutes to the Chicamocha National Park in the municipality of Aratoca. With more than 270,000 acres, Chicamocha Canyon is one of the largest in the world. It was formed 46 million years ago where there was once a huge lake, allowing the formation of caverns that housed marine animals. Fossils are still found today. The Chicamocha Canyon is an excellent site for flight, accompanied by the majesty of its landscape. Gliding for a 20-minute thrilling tandem flight. Takeoff begins at the top of this majestic canyon where flight conditions are ideal for soaring on hot air currents. After landing on the beaches of the Chicamocha River, you will transfer to the rafting put in where you will receive the guide’s safety debrief. Rafting in the Chicamocha is an experience that you will never forget. The Chicamocha River has rapids of class IV and is classified as advanced so you must know how to swim. During the 90-minute rafting adventure, you will see parts of the Chicamocha Canyon that are not accessible by car. At the end of the rafting, join your vehicle for the 20-minute transfer to Jordan where you will stop for a traditional lunch. CASA YAHRI – (B,L,D)

 

DAY 6: BARICHARA / BUCARAMANGA / BOGOTA / MEDELLIN
Early this morning, join your guide for the 3.5-hour transfer to the Bucaramanga airport where you are assisted with check-in procedures for your flight to Bogota with an ongoing connection to Medellin. On arrival in Medellin, collect luggage and proceed to the arrivals hall where you are met, assisted with your luggage, and escorted to the waiting vehicle for transfer to your hotel for a three-night stay. PATIO DEL MUNDO (B)

 

DAY 7: MEDELLIN
At a pre-arranged time, join your guide for a visit to the Casa de Memoria, dedicated to the victims of Colombia’s long and brutal civil conflict. This museum offers a space to the victims and their families to dignify, collect their memories, and disseminate their views on the violent cycle of town and country. Continue to a local comuna to understand how it has changed direction and has become an example of the new social transformation. The construction of a public transportation system to include the metro and cable cars as well as meeting centers with libraries were the starting points for this amazing change. This comuna, built on a steep mountain slope, is only accessible by cable car. During the ascent, you will notice the government’s initiative … “techos una historia”… roofs and houses painted with huge graffiti. after having suffered the horrors of the war, the residents of the area are proud of their district. Your guide will explain this transformation and how the urban art represented has rescued hundreds of young people from an armed conflict. You will end with a culinary tour of Medellin, exploring several areas of the city such as Envigadó and Sabaneta where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and learn about the gastronomic customs of this wonderful region. Delight with empanadas, fried food, and exotic fruit juices. PATIO DEL MUNDO (B)

 

DAY 8: MEDELLIN / GUATAPE / MEDELLIN
Join your guide for a full-day excursion to Guatape, located approximately two hours from Medellin in the eastern highlands of Antioquia. Your first stop is at the Peñol Boulder, a 660 ft. high monolith accessed via a climb up 740 steps. Enjoy breath-taking views over the stunning surroundings full of green mountains and blue lakes. Continue to the village of Guatape, famous for its church and its beautiful, colorful paintings that decorate the houses of the village. Transfer to Bosko for a barbeque lunch. PATIO DEL MUNDO (B,L)

 

DAY 9: MEDELLIN / CARTAGENA
After breakfast, you are transferred to the Medellin airport and assisted with check-in procedures for your flight to Cartagena. On arrival, collect luggage and proceed to the arrivals hall where you are met, assisted with your luggage, and escorted to the waiting vehicle for transfer to your hotel. After check-in, join your guide for a half-day street food tour. Cartagena de Indias is a blend of history, culture, and flavors culled from a combination of Spanish colonization, African slavery, and 19th-century migrations. You stroll the streets of Cartagena to sample a few of the original recipes that have inspired the new Colombian cuisine. This is one of the best ways to gain insight into the daily life and culture of the people. You will be accompanied by a food concierge who will introduce you to the ten must-see places in the historic center as well as take you to seven kitchens where you sample ten jewels (snacks and drinks), complemented with a refreshing local beer. This evening join your guide for a full immersion into the Caribbean’s salsa culture.

You will travel outside the historical center, beyond the walled city, to local venues where you will see the genuine passion Colombians have for salsa and the influence it has on society. Your salsa adventure begins in the city center at Donde Fidel, one of Cartagena’s most famous salsa bars. After some time to warm up, you will walk to the statue of Joe Arroyo, one of Colombia’s most famous salsa singers/composers, where you will join your vehicle for transfer outside of the city walls to local salsa venues to test your abilities. Local snacks and drinks are included. We suggest comfortable shoes and lightweight clothes. This tour is only available between 8:00 PM – 1:00 AM on Friday and Saturday evenings. BASTION LUXURY HOTEL (B)

 

DAY 10: CARTAGENA
After breakfast, join your guide for the walk to Getsemani for a ride on an electro bike. Getsemani is a fiercely traditional barrio offering a heady mix of bars, dancing, affordable diners, hostels, and hotels for backpackers and bohemian colonists looking to mix it up with the carefree locals. Getsemani shares the Old Walled City of Cartagena’s bright Caribbean colors, narrow streets, and friendly locals. The blocks are lined with beautiful graffiti by a slew of artists. The old Getsemaní offers a glimpse into the unrulier historic center of the past. Historically populated by merchants, smugglers, and freed slaves thriving from activity in the port and main marketplace, Getsemaní has always been more raucous than the city center with all its regal airs and graces. Afternoon at leisure.

Late this afternoon, join your guide for the 10-minute walk to Arsenal, located in the Getsemani neighborhood. Arsenal seduces with its lounge atmosphere, gourmet food with Caribbean ingredients, tropical fruits, and the choicest variety of first-class rums. The cocktail bar and menu were created by owner and host, Abraham Dau, known to be an excellent chef. He is one of Colombia’s best bartenders and an expert in rum. The tasting begins with a mini welcome cocktail, followed by a mixture of Colombian rum, aguardiente and rum infusions, some paired with different kinds of Colombian chocolate. You will shoot, sip, and mix rum into cocktails, ranging in age from 4 -27 years. During the tasting, you will discover the meaning of each rum flavor through its aroma while learning about the history of rum and its distilling process. BASTION LUXURY (B)

 

DAY 11: CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA / DEPART
At a pre-arranged time, you are transferred to the Cartagena airport and assisted with check-in procedures for your international flight. (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price starts from USD $750.00 per person per day, double occupancy.

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