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 acclaimed birding site at Reserva Forestal Nacional Río Blanco, plus Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados, with its dramatic scenery and frailejones plants.
We’ll venture off the traditional tourist route as we drive a scenic mountain route to Medellín via such colorful colonial pueblos as Salamina and Aguadas. 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.
We end in Cartagena, where the boundless photo ops include colorfully-dressed palenqueras and colonial houses adorned with bougainvillea and tropical ice cream pastels.
Day 1: (Aug 3)
All participants arrive and settle into our hotel in Bogota. Meet with Christopher in the evening for orientation and dinner.
Day 2: (Aug 4)
This morning begins with a tour of the historic and colorful market known as Paloquemao. Founded in 1947, the market offers one of the most authentic experiences you can have in Colombia. The photo opportunities are endless. Afterward, we will then walk through the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria is filled with some of the most popular museums and attractions in Bogota. Our stops will include a Gold Museum, Botero gallery, Plaza de Bolivar and Plazoleta del Chorro de Quevedo. La Candelaria is both old and new, historic and modern, Spanish colonial architecture and unique graffiti murals. At sunset, we’ll visit Monserrate hill for photos. Afterward, we’ll enjoy a delicious three-course meal together. Overnight in Bogota.
Day 3: (Aug 5)
Today our group visits 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. Once back above ground, we will experience and photograph a show with Colombia’s unique Paso Fino horses, followed by lunch at the stables. Overnight in Bogota.
Day 4: (Aug 6)
Today we’ll fly from Bogotá to Manizales, in the heart of Coffee Country. We’ll tour the coffee finca and learn the techniques of coffee-tasting while savoring samples and photographing the stupendous mountain vistas setting. Overnight in Manizales.
Day 5: (Aug 7)
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 Manizales.
Day 6: (Aug 8)
Up with the dawn today for an early departure for Medellin. Our half-day drive to this sensational city takes us through the remarkably scenic countryside, with stops en route to photograph as the best opportunities arise. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 7: (Aug 9)
Today we will take a half-day city tour, taking in the visual highlights such as Plaza Botero, studded with massive bronze statues and La Alpujarra. We’ll also enjoy cable-car ride to Santo Domingo, a once-dangerous barrio and Pablo Escobar fiefdom brought back from the abyss by bold revitalization. Your afternoon will be at leisure. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 8 : (Aug 10)
This morning we’ll drive into the hills south of town to visit a flower farm in Santa Elena. The region should be full of energy as locals put the finishing touches to their silletas—flower arrangements—for tomorrow’s festival. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 9 : (Aug 11)
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 Medellin.
Day 10 : (Aug 12)
Our group will be transferred to the airport to fly from Medellin to the coastal colonial city of Cartagena. After checking into our hotel, we will have a guided tour around the historic walled city, with its horse-drawn carriages and vibrant street life such as the colorful palenqueras—Afro-Colombia fruit-sellers dressed in rainbow-hued costumes. Other highlights include inquisition palace and San Pedro Claver convent. Overnight in Cartagena.
Day 11 : (Aug 13)
This morning we’ll journey outside the walled city to visit the bustling Bazurto open-air fruit market, followed by a short walking tour in Getsemani—a rapidly gentrifying historic district with vibrant street life. The afternoon is open for you to enjoy at your leisure. Overnight in Cartagena.
Day 12 : (Aug 14)
This morning we’ll transfer participants to airport to connect with their flights home.