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: (Aug 1)
All participants arrive and settle into our hotel in Bogota. Meet with Christopher in the evening for orientation and group dinner. Overnight in Bogota.
Day 2: (Aug 2)
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 visit the Gold Museum and then walk through the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria to visit the Botero gallery, where we’ll lunch. This afternoon we’ll explore the political and artsy side of the city on a fascinating (and superbly photogenic) private guided “Graffiti Tour” of Bogotá’s street art. Afterward, we’ll enjoy a delicious three-course meal together. Overnight in Bogota.
Day 3: (Aug 3)
Today we’ll 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. Back above ground, we will photograph a show with Colombia’s unique Paso Fino horses, followed by lunch at the stables. At sunset, we’ll visit Monserrate hill for photos. Overnight in Bogota.
Day 4: (Aug 4)
Today we’ll fly from Bogotá to Manizales, in the heart of Coffee Country. After lunch, we’ll tour the Hacienda Venecia 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 5)
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 6)
Up early today for our drive from Manizales to Medellín. 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 arrive with time this afternoon with time for you to relax and perhaps explore at leisure before dinner. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 7: (Aug 7)
This morning we’ll take a guided tour of downtown, including 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 and photograph locals. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 8: (Aug 8)
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 9)
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. 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. Overnight in Medellin.
Day 10: (Aug 10)
Our group will transfer to the airport to fly from Medellin to the coastal colonial city of Cartagena. After lunch, we will have a very brief optional “get-your-bearings” 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. The rest of the afternoon is free for exploring at leisure. Overnight in Cartagena.
Day 11: (Aug 11)
We’ll journey outside the walled city this morning to visit the bustling Bazurto fruit and fish market. We’ll spend 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 Getsemani 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 12)
This morning everyone will be transferred to the airport to connect with flights home.