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 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). We end 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: (Aug 3)
All participants arrive and settle into our hotel in Bogota. Meet with Christopher in the evening for orientation, plus a set-the-scene slide show and dinner. Overnight in Bogota.
Day 2: (Aug 4)
This morning begins with a tour of the historic and colorful market known as Paloquemao. The photo opportunities are endless. Afterward, we will then walk through the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria on an exploration of street art. After lunch we’ll explore the Botero gallery and nearby Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. At sunset, we’ll ride the funicular (or cable car) to the top of Monserrate hill for panoramic photos. Afterward, we’ll enjoy a delicious three-course meal together. Overnight in Bogota.
Day 3: (Aug 5)
Today our group visits the underground 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 enjoy a traditional bandeja paisa lunch at a Paso Fino horse breeding farm, followed by the opportunity to photograph a demonstration of Colombia’s favorite horses at the stables. Returning to Bogota, the rest of the afternoon is free to explore and photograph Plaza de Bolivar and La Candelaria, teeming with colorful Spanish colonial architecture. Dinner at leisure. 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 Hacienda Venecia coffee finca and learn the techniques of coffee-tasting while savoring samples and photographing the stupendous setting. Dinner and overnight in Manizales.
Day 5: (Aug 7)
This morning head to Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados—a high alpine volcanic zone where will marvel at, and photograph, the stupendous ice-capped landscapes and unusual endemic frailejones plants. 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 to photograph as the best opportunities arise. We’ll enjoy dinner and stay overnight in Medellin.
Day 7: (Aug 9)
This morning ride the cable car to Parque Nacional Natural Arvi, then 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 Sunday’s festival. After lunch at the farm, we’ll return to Medellin for a brief highlight city-tour ending in Plaza Botero, studded with massive bronze statues. Dinner at leisure. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 8 : (Aug 10)
This morning is free to relax or explore at leisure. In the afternoon, we’ll venture to Comuna 13, a once-dangerous barrio and FARC fiefdom brought back from the abyss by bold revitalization. A visit here will be a tour highlight, with heaps of exciting photographic opportunities. We’ll have dinner together and spend the night 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. We’ll have dinner together and spend the night in Medellin.
Day 10 : (Aug 12)
This morning we fly from Medellin to the coastal colonial city of Cartagena. After checking into our hotel and lunch nearby, we’ll have a brief guided walking 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. The balance of the afternoon is free to enjoy this magnificent city. Overnight in Cartagena.
Day 11 : (Aug 13)
This morning we’ll journey outside the walled city to visit the bustling Bazurto fruit and fish market. We’ll spent most of the morning in this vast market, which provides endlessly fascinating photo ops. Founded in 1947, the market offers one of the most authentic experiences you can have in Colombia. We’ll lunch and then explore narrow streets and lanes of this rapidly gentrifying historic district with colonial edifices painted in vibrant tropical pastels. The balance of the afternoon is open for you to enjoy at your leisure. Farewell dinner followed by a slideshow or our favorite images from the trip. Overnight in Cartagena.
Day 12 : (Aug 14)
This morning we’ll transfer participants to airport to connect with their flights home.