Travel to Colombia and discover a flourishing, vibrant country

Be a part of Colombia's revival on this exciting overland trip. Start the adventure in Ecuador's capital, Quito, and travel through the Colombian countryside to Cartagena. 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.

Start
Quito, Ecuador
Finish
Cartagena, Colombia
Countries
Colombia,
Ecuador
Themes
Overland
Code
GDOQ
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 12
Group size
Min 4 Max 22
Carbon offset
519kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Explore the old and new quarters of Quito
  • View dramatic volcanic landscapes in Purace National Park
  • Get a caffeine-fix at a plantation in Los Nevados National Park
  • Relax on the beach in tranquil Tolu
  • Tour the diverse landscapes of the San Bernardo Islands
  • Admire the colonial architecture in Cartagena

Itinerary

Border Information: if joining in Quito, you will most likely enter Ecuador at Quito Mariscal Sucre 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 Quito we will stay in a friendly local hotel in the 'New Town'. Hotel for the night: Alston Inn Hotel
Alston Inn Hotel
Juan Leon Mera N23-41 y
Ventimilla
Quito
Tel: 00 593 2 22 22721

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

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.
Today our journey begins with a short drive to Mitad del Mundo, the monument that marks the Equator. After this we will continue north to the small town of Otavalo, stopping in the centre to visit its famous markets. In Otavalo we will camp in the grounds of a rural guesthouse overlooking the town.
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!).

Activity Approximate Cost
Take a short walk to the beautiful Peguche Waterfalls near Otavalo (if time allows) USD
Explore the famous Andean handicrafts markets of Otavalo at the Plaza de los Ponchos USD
Visit the monument to mark the Equator at Mitad del Mundo Included in Kitty

About Otavalo:
Otavalo is a small town known for it's market, nestled in beautiful surroundings a short distance north of Quito. Many of the local indigenous communities in this area still wear their traditional clothing made from intricately woven and decorated fabrics, and the men tend to wear their hair in long ponytails. Infact, the Otovalan's weaving skills are quite renowned and they are rightly famous for their textiles, so rugs, wall hangings and knitwear are all well worth buying here. There are numerous other activities to do in the surrounding area, including horse-riding and trekking into the surrounding hillsides. If you have time, it may also be possible to visit the hot springs at Papallacta.
Border information: Exit Ecuador at Ipiales, enter Colombia at Ipiales Today we will have an early start to cross the border into Colombia and reach the border town of Ipiales. We will visit the famous Santuario de las Lajas church outside of Ipiales in the late afternoon. In Ipiales we will stay in a local hotel. Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the jaw-dropping church of Santuario de las Lajas on the outskirts of Ipiales, built on a bridge spanning a 45mdeep river gorge Included in Kitty

About Ipiales:
Ipiales is the border town on the Colombian side of the Colombia/Ecuador frontier. The town has some pleasant plazas squares and the sight of locals using a horse and cart gives it a quaint, countryside feel.
The star attraction of Ipiales, 7 km outside of town, is the famous Santuario de Las Lajas, the site of many a miracle and apparition over the years. Set amid breath-taking scenery, El Santuario is a spectacular gothic-style church straddling a dramatic gorge with rushing river below. It is one of the most impressive churches on the continent and its fantastic setting and quirky museum make it a highlight of any visit to Colombia.
Nicknamed the White City, Popayan is a beautiful colonial town of whitewashed houses and grand churches encircled by rolling green hills. Although the capital of the Cauca region and the former capital of Southern Colombia, Popayan somehow retains it's relaxed small town feel. The friendly locals can often be found sipping coffee in one of the city's excellent cafes or relaxing in one of the shaded parks, catching up with friends and watching the world go by. The cool and sunny climate of the lower Andes makes Popayan a very comfortable place to stay and as the main university town of the region, there's a young, sociable feel to the city. The leafy parks marked with elegant church
towers provide a sociable and relaxed location where you could easily spend an afternoon, while an evenings entertainment could be chatting with the friendly locals in a classy cafe bar or salsa club.
Whilst staying in the town there are some lovely walks offering excellent views of the Historic Centre, several worthwhile museums and galleries and many good cafes, bars and restaurants to make the most of. Another highlight of this area is the Silvia Indigenous Market. This beautiful Andean market town is absolutely bursting with colour and energy when the market opens on Tuesdays. Guambiano Indians from the surrounding communities make their way into Silvia to sell their produce and socialise with friends from neighbouring towns.
Today we will drive to the small town of Salento, the gateway to the spectacular Valle de Cocora. In Salento we will camp in a well-equipped campsite, 15 minutes drive out of town. Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.
This morning 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 the afternoon we will head to the town of Manizales, where we stay for 2 nights on a coffee plantation. Estimated Drive Time - 3 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
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
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 Included in Kitty
psychological support to young children from poor backgrounds in the area

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.
Today we have a final morning in our coffee finca near Manizales, and then drive to Honda, a historuc river town where we meet the Rio Magdalena. In Hinda we will stay in a local hotel. Estimate Drive Time - 4 hours
Today 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 semi-desert 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. In Villa de Leyva we will camp in the grounds of a hacienda. Estimated Drive Time - 8 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
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
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
Today we will take an included walking tour of the main sights of the colonial town of Villa de Leyva in the morning, before driving 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 - 5 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
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
Head out to the natural swimming and diving pools of Pescaderito, an area very popular with San Gil's locals and visitors 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
Today we will drive north, stopping for the night in the town of Aguachica. In Aguachica we stay in a hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 7 hours.
Today we will 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 a 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 drive north to Tayrona, one of the most popular national parks in Colombia. Leaving our main luggage stored on the truck, we take a day-pack/ 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 - 9 hours. 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.
We will have some more free time in Tayrona National Park in the morning, before we walk back to the park entrance and complete our epic journey with a drive to the beautiful coastal colonial city of Cartagena. In Cartagena we will stay in a comfortable hotel just outside the historical centre.
Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

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 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
Visit the historic coastal Spanish fortress of Castillo San Felipe COP 17000
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
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
Explore the fascinating colonial city of Cartagena and learn all about its incredible history on a guided walking tour Included in Kitty
Explore the mud volcano of Totumo, and take a rejuvenating mud bath in its crater USD 25
Border information: if you are finishing in Cartagena, you will most likely exit Colombia at Cartagena Rafael Núñez 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. If you are continuing on to Panama then your leader will assist you with airport transfers for your included flight. You will stay tonight in a comfortable hotel in either Panama City or Cartagena (depending on the flight times and
availability).
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

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

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.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Quito to Cartagena trips score an average of 3.5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews in the last year.

Quito to Cartagena , July 2015

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