Travel to Colombia and discover a flourishing, vibrant country

Be a part of Columbia's revival on this exciting overland adventure. Travel through the Colombian countryside and discover quaint cities, coffee plantations, sleepy seaside towns and grand volcanic landscapes. With lots of opportunity to interact with outgoing, friendly locals, this is a great chance to have a genuine travel experience to talk about for years to come. Taking in the best spots and attractions of this fascinating country, this trip provides a unique insight into a nation that is rapidly evolving. Visit Colombia and be touched by the authenticity of this flourishing country before finishing the adventure in Ecuador's capital, Quito.

Start
Cartagena, Colombia
Finish
Quito, Ecuador
Countries
Colombia,
Ecuador
Themes
Overland
Code
GDOW
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4 Max 22
Carbon offset
548kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Wander through the fairytale city of Cartagena
  • Relax by the calm lake waters that lap at the town of Guatape
  • Travel to Medellin and learn about Colombia's chequered past
  • Get a caffeine-fix at a plantation in Manizales
  • Wonder at Santuario de Las Lajas, a hidden Colombian highlight
  • Walk through colourful textile markets
  • Join the cafe culture of Quito

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2015 to 20 November 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Border Information: if joining in Cartagena, you will most likely enter Colombia at Cartagena Rafael Núñez International Airport. There will be an important group meeting at 6:00pm at the joining hotel -
please look out at the hotel reception for a note from your leader with more details about this important meeting. In Cartagena we stay in a comfortable hotel just outside the historical centre. If you are continuing on from Panama, then your leader will have assisted you with airport transfers for your included flight to arrive in time for the joining meeting. Hotel for the night: Villa Colonial
Villa Colonial
Calle de Maravillas (C10)
No 30-60, Getsemani
Cartagena
Tel: 664 4996 / 664 5421

About Cartagena:
Cartagena is one of the most historic cities in South America. It is legendary both for its history and beauty and tends to be a favourite of all travellers who visit it. Having been the centre of many battles, the city is heavily fortified and huge defensive walls surround its narrow cobbled streets and colonial buildings. The city is made up of various districts, the new town with its high rise hotels, apartments and nightspots; and the older colonial parts of the city. The old city is the main attraction particularly the inner walled town, packed with churches, monasteries, plazas and mansions. Wandering through the streets you get a real feel of the sense of history of this amazing city. The waters of the Caribbean surround Cartagena on three sides. It is possible to take a day trip by boat to the idyllic coral islands of Rosario. This archipeligo of small coral islands is surrounded by the largest and most magnificent coral reefs on the Colombian Caribbean coastline. Marine life is abundant and the whole area is protected under National Park status.
Today we will have a full day in the beautiful coastal colonial city of Cartagena. In the morning we will have an included walking tour of the city, and then the afternoon will be free to explore the city further, enjoy the many optional activities on offer, or simply relax on the beach.

Activity Approximate Cost
Discover the brutal history of the Spanish Inquisition at their former headquarters in Cartagena, the Palace of the Inquistion COP 15000
Learn all about Cartagena's naval tradition and history at the Naval Museum of the Caribbean COP 15000
Visit the historic coastal Spanish fortress of Castillo SanFelipe COP 17000
Explore the mud volcano of Totumo, and take a rejuvenating mud bath in its crater USD 25
Explore the fascinating colonial city of Cartagena and learn all about its incredible history on a guided walking tour Included in Kitty
Head out by speedboat to the stunning beaches on the Islas del Rosario off the shores of Cartagena COP 60000
Head out for a day of scuba diving amongst the reefs surrounding the Islas del Rosario in the Caribbean Sea USD 60
Today we have a short drive to Tayrona, one of the most popular national parks in Colombia. Leaving our main luggage stored on the truck, we take a daypack/night-bag and go on a moderate walk in to the park to where we will stay. Mules to carry your luggage can be hired at an extra cost. Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is
essential on any overland trip!). The following day is a free day to explore this stunning coastal park. We have the opportunity to trek to El Pueblito, a pre-Hispanic settlement of the Tayrona people, do some snorkelling, or just relax on the beautiful beaches. In Tayrona National Park we will stay in rented hammocks. The hammocks are equipped with mosquito nets but please note that the nets are not treated with Permethrin or similar pesticides. There is also an option to bring tents if you prefer to stay in a tent rather than a hammock, but please note that mules will have to ber hired to carry your tent, at an extra cost.

Activity Approximate Cost
Relax and unwind on the stunning unspoilt beaches of Colombia's Tayrona National Park ARS
Discover some of Tayrona's abundant species of fish and aquatic plants by snorkeling in the calmer areas of the ocean along the coast USD
Explore some of Tayrona National Park's scenic walking trails, including a hike to the mysterious ancient ruins of Pueblito hidden in the jungles high above the coastline

About Tayrona National Park:
Tayrona National Park is a protected site and an excellent example of ecotourism. Tayrona Natonal Park shows a huge diversity of animal and plant species. This is due to the variation in geology of the area. At sea level the climate is arid, making for perfect beach conditions. Further biodiversity is
present offshore, in the warm water of the many coral reefs, which offer an excellent opportunity for snorkeling and swimming. As you travel away from the beach you travel upwards, into the sub tropical climate of the cloud forests, on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In total in the park there are over 2000 species of animal and almost 800 species of plant. This can all be explored on foot by designated paths, an attempt to minimize human impact on the habitat
Today we will have an early morning start to walk back to the park entrance, rejoin our truck, and drive to the peaceful and rarely-visited colonial town of Mompós, where we will stay 2 nights. Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours. The following day we go on an included short boat trip down Rio Magdalena to
observe the riverside life and do some wildlife spotting. There will also be plenty of free time to explore this historical colonial town, the first town in Colombia to declare independence from Spain, wander the beautiful streets and soak up the atmosphere of the architecture. In Mompós we stay in a lovely local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore the beautiful and serene colonial town of Mompos USD
Explore the area of Mompos by boat, on a beautiful short trip out on the Magdelena River Included in Kitty
Today we will drive south, stopping for the night in the town of Aguachica. In Aguachica we stay in a hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours.
Today we will drive to San Gil, the outdoor capital of Colombia and a mecca for extreme-sports enthusiasts! Tonight we will enjoy a vegetarian Indian buffet from the campsite's in-house restaurant.
Estimated Drive Time - 7 hours. The following day is free to enjoy some of the myriad of adrenaline activities on offer in the area, or to spend the day relaxing on the farm. In San Gil we camp in a coffee and cattle farm outside town.

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore the beautiful scenery around San Gil on one of the area's many walking trails, perhaps to the colonial town of Barichala or on the old road to Guane village Discover the scenery of the San Gil region on a horse riding trip through the surrounding hills USD 40
Head out on an exhilarating white water rafting trip - the area has options for all levels, from beginner-level rapids on the nearby River Fonce, through the aweinspiring canyon scenery on the fast rapids of the River Chicamocha, or the crazy Grade 5 rapids of the River Suarez! COP 50000
Explore the incredible underground caves of Cueva del Indio or Cueva de Vaca underneath the area of San Gil on a fully-equipped caving tour USD 20
Head out to the natural swimming and diving pools of Pescaderito, an area very popular with San Gil's locals and visitors Get your adrenline flowing on a downhill mountain-biking ride through the spectacular scenery of the down the nearby Suarez Valley or the Chicamocha Canyon USD 90
Explore the atmospheric old town of Barilacha, and discover its cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings, and red-tiled roofs that look almost as new as the day they were created some 300 years ago
USD
Take a pleasant stroll and a swim in San Gil's Parque El Gallineral, getting lost amongst the magical forests of trees covered in wispy climbing shrubs COP 6000
Take a short trek to the base of the Juan Curi waterfall, a dramatic 180m-high cascade where you can swim in the natural pool beneath or even abseil down part of the cliff! COP 7000
This morning we will continue our journey with a drive to Villa de Leyva, one of the country's most beautiful colonial villages. Nestled high in the arid semidesert away from any trade routes, the town has escaped development and modernisation for centuries and is one of the most authentic old-towns in South America. We will take an included walking tour of the main sights of the city in the afternoon.
In Villa de Leyva we will camp in the grounds of a hacienda. Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the nearby mysterious ancient religious site and observatory of the Muisca people, dramatically named 'El Infiernito' ("The Little Hell") by the conquistadors (if time allows) COP 3000
Discover the delightful Spanish colonial town of Villa de Leyva on a guided walking tour, and explore its cobblestoned streets, huge original plaza, and 16thCentury buildings Included in Kitty
See the gigantic near-complete 120-million-year-old fossil of a Kronosaurus (a huge aquatic reptile from the Early Cretaceous Period), still in the spot where it was discovered in 1977 (if time allows)
COP 6000
Today we will drive south to Honda, a historic river town where we meet the Rio Magdalena again.
In Honda we will stay in a local hotel. Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.
Today we will head to the town of Manizales, where we stay for 2 nights on a coffee plantation.
Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours. During our time in Manizales we will enjoy a night of traditional music and dancing, take a fascinating tour of the coffee plantations, and visit the Sagrada Familia charity - a local Dragoman-supported charity that provides education, nutrition, and psychological support to poor children in the area. In Manizales we will camp with facilities within the grounds of the finca.


Activity Approximate Cost
Enjoy a night of traditional live Colombian music with a delicious BBQ dinner at our coffee finca nea Manizales Included in Kitty
Stay for 3 nights on a coffee finca near Manizales, and learn all about coffee production on an informative tour of the plantations Included in Kitty
Visit the Dragoman-supported Sagrada Familia project in Manizales, who work to provide education, nutrition, and psychological support to young children from poor backgrounds in the area
Included in Kitty

About Manizales:
Manizales is a friendly city right in the heart of Colombia's coffee region with a comfortable climate and plenty to see and do. Although still opening up to international tourism, Manizales has a lot to offer the visitor in the way of outdoor activities and ecological attractions. The town itself is a relaxed and friendly place centred around the magnificent cathedral with attractions such as the botanical gardens, thermal springs and eco-parks all easily access able from the centre of town. Venturing a little further, you will find coffee haciendas and plantations in the surrounding area as well as some beautiful
country landscapes perfect for trekking or just taking a relaxing break in the great outdoors. In Manizales we stay on one of these working coffee plantations covering approximately 480 acres which provides people from around the world a taste of the finest Manizales fair trade coffee. The plantation employs around 100 people all throughout the year and about 400 people during the peak picking
season.
This morning we have a short drive to the small town of Salento, the gateway to the spectacular Valle de Cocora. In the afternoon we will have an included guided trek through the Cocora Valley to see the Quindio wax palm trees, the largest palms in the world and the national tree of Colombia. In Salento we will camp in a well-equipped campsite, 15 minutes drive out of town. Estimated Drive Time - 3 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Head out on a half-day guided trek through the spectacular Cocora Valley, and see the incredible 50mtall Quindio wax palms, the tallest plam trees in the world! Included in Kitty
Today we will drive to the beautiful town and former colonial capital of Popayan. In Popayan we stay in dormitory accommodation in a local hostel. Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.
Today we will have a full day drive to the border town of Ipiales.
In Ipiales we will stay in a local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours.
Today we will have an early start to visit the famous Santuario de las Lajas church outside of Ipiales. We will then head south and cross the border into Ecuador and to the market town of Otavalo.
In Otavalo we will camp in the grounds of a rural guesthouse overlooking the town.
Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

Activities Approximate Cost

Visit the jaw-dropping church of Santuario de las Lajas on the outskirts of Ipiales, built on a bridge spanning a 45m-deep river gorge. Included in Kitty

Freely explore the famous Andean handicrafts markets of Otavalo at the Plaza de los Ponchos. Free
Today we will stop quickly at the markets of Otavalo (if time allows) before driving to Mitad del Mundo, the monument that marks the Equator. After this we will complete our drive to the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. In Quito we will stay in a friendly local hotel in the 'New Town'. Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the monument to mark the Equator at Mitad del Mundo Included in Kitty

About Quito:
Quito has a more relaxed atmosphere than most Latin American capitals. Lying in a hollow at the base of Volcano Pichincha, the old town is a maze of steep, cobbled streets with intricately carved, overhanging balconies. Its mixture of old colonial and modern architecture and the mix of European and Indian cultures make this a really fascinating city. Wandering around, you will come across stalls displaying Indian textiles, colourful wall hangings, jewellery, pottery and woodcarvings - and the old town has some of the best examples of Spanish colonial art and churches anywhere in the Americas.With so much to see and do, it is well worth extending your time in South America to ensure you experience all that Quito has to offer.
Border information: if you are finishing in Quito, you will most likely exit Ecuador at Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport. Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Quito. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight.

Activity Approximate Cost
Visit one of the countless art galleries in Quito, such as the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana or the Museo Guayasamín USD 6
Take a trip on Quito's Telerifico to the top of the Cruz Loma mountain, getting breathtaking views over the city from a height of 4,270m USD 8.5
Visit the excellent Museo de la Ciudad, housed in Quito's oldest building, which explores the history of everyday life from pre-Colombian times all the way up until the present day USD 3
Take a walk around Quito's incredible Botanical Gardens, which showcases all of Ecuador's various ecosystems and their flora USD 3.5
Visit the Museo Mindalae, the extremely original project showcasing Ecuador's rich cultural diversity
USD 3
Freely explore the stunning historical Old Town of Quito, and wander its ancient streets marvelling at the outstanding architecture and wonderful atmosphere USD
Enjoy the fantastic view over Quito's Old Town from the statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the nearby Cerro Panecillo USD
Get away from the busy city with a stroll around one of Quito's numerous parks, all of which are very beautiful and popular with the locals USD
Visit the Museo Nacional del Banco Central, showcasing the country’s largest collection of Ecuadorian art and housing an impressive gold collection USD 2
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Overland vehicle
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (9 nights), Hostel & Hotel (9 nights)
Included activities
  • Guided tour of Cartagena
  • Coffee Plantation Tour, Manizales
  • City tour
  • Visit to Santuario la Lajas
  • Village Tour Otavalo
  • Mitad del Mundo

Dates

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Important notes

1. This trip is run by our experienced overland partner Dragoman.
2. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Cartagena to Quito trips score an average of 4.5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews in the last year.

Cartagena to Quito , October 2013

Cartagena to Quito , November 2012