Colours of Colombia - Overland Trip
1 ½ weeks: to (IMT-GSCO)
IntroColombia is one of South America\'s best kept secrets and there has never been a better time than now to enjoy the highlights of this colourful and vibrant country. On our 11-day Colombian adventure you will discover the delights of such colonial gems as Villa de Leyva and the ancient walled city of Cartagena. There\'s time to explore the Tayrona National Park, set on the jungle-covered coast and you can soak up the sun on one of the palm-fringed beaches of the Caribbean. Further south lies the cosmopolitan capital of Bogota with its rich museums, colourful markets and lively nightlife.
IncludedAn experienced local leader in Colombia, all transport, accommodation, entrance fees and meals as indicated.
ItinerariesDay 1 - Cartagena
Your trip starts in Cartagena today. No activities are planned; however there is a meeting in the evening with your Gecko's tour leader, where you will be briefed on the arrangements for your Colombian adventure.Day 2 - Cartagena
After breakfast we begin our morning tour of the city. During our tour we'll visit the walled 'Old City' that maintains all the charm of the spanish colonial era, with its narrow streets flanked by charming balconies and heavy wooden doors. Our entry to the city is through the Clock Gate, the main entrance to the old town. We visit the church of San Pedro Claver, the oldest church in the city, built with bricks and rocks from the ocean. Later we explore the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas Fortress, an imposing stone structure, regarded as the master piece of Spanish military engineering in the Americas. Finally, we stop at the Convent of La Popa, a cloister built on top of a hill that dominates the entire city. The panoramic views of the surrounds are spectacular.
In the afternoon our time is our own to enjoy the beaches or we can visit some of the many sites in the city.
After a morning at leisure we farewell Cartagena and head the 245 km along the coast to the Tayrona National Park. Our journey should take us approximately 3 1/2 hours by bus. The Tayrona National Park is located within the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain in the world, reaching a height of 5775 metres. The park offers a rich and diverse eco system and boasts fascinating wildlife including black howler and titi monkeys, red woodpeckers, iguanas, jaguars, a wide variety of lizards and abundant tropical marine life. The area was a cradle of one of the most important indigenous cultures of the Americas - the 'Tayronas'. Today, this beautiful place is inhabited by the Koguis, Arzarios, Kankuamos and Arawaks, who continue supporting Teyuna's spirit, watching over what they believe to be 'the heart of the world'.
There's time to swim at the beautiful beaches and to take in the indigenous culture of the Tayronas. There is also some great walking opportunities to be enjoyed.
We have the morning free at Tayrona before heading back in the afternoon to Santa Marta for an overnight stay before flying south.
Santa Marta, founded in 1525 is one of the oldest cities in the America's and second only to Cartagena as Colombia's most popular Caribbean destination.
We have a city tour of Santa Marta this morning before taking an afternoon flight to the capital. The city tour will include the beach area of Rodadero and the small fishing village of Taganga on the shores of a beautiful bay. We also visit the 'Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino' the old hacienda that belonged to the great Liberator - Simon Bolivar.Day 7-8 - Bogota
Today we embark on our 1/2 day city tour of the capital. Our excursion visits the colonial area of 'La Candelaria', the historical centre of the city. It is the oldest part of the capital where there are fine museums and cultural institutions and some fantastic restaurants. Later we continue to Bolivar Square, surrounded by buildings of differing styles and periods, among them the Cathedral, the Chapel of El Sagrario, the Cardinal's Palace, the Congress Building and the Presidential Palace.
Next we ascend by cable car to Monserrate, an exceptional spot offering great views of the city below. During 1650, a clerk and his apprentice, both from Spain, built a chapel on the top of this hill which today is a major place of Catholic pilgrimage.
Our final stop is the Gold Museum with its collection of over 25000 pieces of hand made gold crafts.
During our stay in Bogota you also have time for your own discoveries.
Following breakfast we depart to the village of Villa de Leyva some 170km by road from Bogota. On the way we stop off at Zipaquira, one of the oldest towns in the country. In past years it was best known for its ancient salt mines, exploited by the Muisca culture in the eras before the Spanish came to the Americas.Today the town is most famous for its unique salt cathedral located deep inside the mines.
As you enter this Catholic cathedral you will pass 14 small chapels representing the 'stations of the cross', which illustrate the events of Jesus' last journey. Each station has a cross and several kneeling platforms carved into the salt structure. The temple at the bottom has three sections, representing the birth, life, and death of Jesus.
Continuing our drive we arrive at Villa de Leyva. This small town of about 4000 inhabitants is considered one of the nation's finest colonial villages, and was declared a National Monument in 1954 to preserve its architecture. It is located in a high altitude valley at 2145m where fossils from the Mesozoic and the Cretaceous periods abound.
Many of the main areas of interests are located around the Plaza Mayor (Principal Square) where you will find the main church, many fine restaurants and stores selling handcrafted art pieces. Most of the streets around the downtown are made of stones, similar to colonial times. This village is a delight to wander through.
We have the morning at leisure in Villa de Leyva before heading back to Bogota. Along the way we will make a stop in the village of Raquira where you can find a wide variety of handicrafts and souvenirs including hammocks, purses, paintings and pottery. The name of the town literally means 'city of pots' and the village has become famous for its huge set of cermanic ovens. Later we visint the Candelaria Monastery, a convent founded in the 17th Century by the Augustinian monk Father Mateo Delgado Today the convent also works as a museum of antiques and paintings.
We arrive back in Bogota in the early evening. Once we have checked into our hotel there's an opportunity for one last night out on the town before our Colombian adventure comes to an end.
Our holiday in Colombia comes to an end today after breakfast today.