Colombia is trending as a hot new travel destination now that peace prevails and the country has turned its back on past travails. There’s never been a better time to visit this scenically stunning, culturally diverse, and simply fascinating country. And few people know Colombia as well as trip leader Christopher P. Baker, who wrote and photographed the National Geographic Traveler Colombia guidebook.
We’ll begin in Bogotá, the vibrant capital, where we’ll explore the colonial-era and administrative heart of La Candelaria, plus the colorful Paloquemao fruit and flower market. Then we’ll we be wowed by a visit to a paso fino horse stable plus the world-famous Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. A highlight will be our two full days in Coffee Country—the Zona Cafetera—where we base ourselves in an antique coffee hacienda. Here our photographic excursions will include the exquisite colonial village of Salento, plus a photographic hike in the Valle de Cocora, known for the world’s tallest palm trees.
We’ll venture off the traditional tourist route as we drive a scenic mountain route to Medellín via colorful colonial pueblos. Our time in exciting Medellín includes a visit to Comuna 13—until recently a dangerous no-go zone, this impoverished barrio is now visitor-friendly and offers sensational photographic opportunities. Plus, we’ll visit a flower farm in advance of the world-renowned Fería de Flores (Flower Festival). This photo tour concludes in Cartagena, where the boundless photo ops include colorfully-dressed palenqueras and colonial houses adorned with bougainvillea and tropical ice cream pastels, plus the earthy and über-photogenic Bazurto market.
Day 1: (July 31) All participants arrive and settle into our hotel in Bogotá. Visit the Gold Museum this afternoon. Then meet with Christopher in the evening for orientation and welcome dinner at El Son de Los Grillos. Overnight in Bogota.
Day 2: (Aug 1) An early start this morning to visit the colorful market known as Paloquemao. Founded in 1947, the market offers one of the most authentic experiences you can have in Bogotá. The photo opportunities are endless, notably of its flower section. Then we’ll journey beyond Bogotá to a stable where we’ll lunch and photograph a show with Colombia’s unique Paso Fino horses. We’ll then visit the underground Roman Catholic church (unofficial) known as the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. Considered one of the most notable achievements of Colombian architecture, the Cathedral lies within the tunnels of a salt mine 200 meters underground. We’ll see and photograph icons, ornaments and architectural details hand carved in the halite rock. This evening enjoy a delicious three-course meal together at La Bruja. Overnight in Bogota.
Day 3: (Aug 2) Today, a full day in the historic colonial neighborhood of La Candelaria as we explore the political and artsy side of the city on a fascinating (and superbly photogenic) guided “Graffiti Tour,” focused on Bogotá’s amazing street art. We end at the Botero gallery, where we’ll lunch. The afternoon is at leisure to further explore La Candelaria on your own. In early evening, we’ll visit Monserrate hill for sunset photos, then dinner atop the mountain at Restaurante San Isidro. Overnight in Bogota.
Day 4: (Aug 3) Today we’ll fly from Bogotá to Armenia, in the heart of Coffee Country. After lunch, we’ll tour the Hacienda San Alberto coffee finca and learn the techniques of coffee-tasting while savoring samples and photographing the stupendous mountain vistas setting. Overnight in Pereira.
Day 5: (Aug 4) This morning head to two colorful coffee-growing towns—Filandia and Salento—known for their traditional (and colorful) Colombian architecture and laid-back lifestyle. Another highlight will be our drive into the Cocora Valley, a scenic stunner renowned as the last refuge of the critically endangered yellow-eared parrot and the Colombian wax palm—the world’s tallest palm species. Overnight in Pereira.
Day 6: (Aug 5) This morning is free to relax at our lovely boutique hotel. In the afternoon, we fly from Pereira to Medellín via Bogotá. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 7: (Aug 6) This morning we’ll take a guided tour of downtown, including Carro Nutibara and Plaza Botero, with its remarkable Botero statues. Then a true highlight this afternoon as we visit Comuna 13, a once-dangerous barrio and FARC (and, later, paramilitary) fiefdom brought back from the abyss by bold revitalization. We’ll engage with locals and achieve some astounding photography. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 8: (Aug 7) We begin with a fun Metro-Cable tram ride over the Santo Domingo shantytown to Parque Avri, from where we’’ll drive into the hills south of town to visit a flower farm in Santa Elena. The region will be full of energy as Colombian visitors flock to see farmers putting the finishing touches to their silletas—flower arrangements—for tomorrow’s festival. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 9: (Aug 8) The flower festival parade is sure to keep us (and our cameras) pleasantly occupied all day. The highlight will be the sillitero parade as the brilliant flower arrangements brought in from the countryside. Overnight in Medellín. This will be a long day as we take our seats early for the parade, but patience is richly rewarded once the astonishing parade begins. The balance of the afternoon is at leisure. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 10: (Aug 9) Our group will transfer to the airport to fly from Medellín to the coastal colonial city of Cartagena. After lunch, we will have a brief optional “get-your-bearings” guided tour around the historic walled city and vibrant street life. We end with a private photo shoot with one of the palenqueras—Afro-Colombia fruit-sellers dressed in traditional rainbow-hued costumes. The rest of the afternoon is free for exploring at leisure. Overnight in Cartagena.
Day 11: (Aug 10) This morning we’ll journey outside the walled city to visit the authentically untouristed and astonishing Bazurto open-air fruit, meat and fish market. Superb photography here! We’ll then make a short walking tour in Getsemani—a rapidly gentrifying historic district with vibrant street life. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy at your leisure. This evening we’ll close with a presentation of everyone’s favorite images, then enjoy a farewell dinner together at Club de Pesca. Overnight in Cartagena.
Day 12: (Aug 11) This morning everyone will be transferred to the airport to connect with flights home.