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Colombia Highlights + Panama Canal


GRC12B
12 NIGHTS
FROM £2,795
International flights quoted separately
Combine the highlights of Colombia & Panama on this 2-country holiday. Visit Bogota & its surrounding colonial towns, including the Salt Cathedral, the Coffee Region and historic port city of Cartagena - a World Heritage site. Then fly to Panama City for a tour of the Panama Canal & the old town. Also visit an indigenous Indian community. All transfers & English speaking guides included.
Photo Colombia Panama Canal Tours Cartagena Bogota Tribes
• 
Bogota
• 
Salt Cathedral
• 
Villa de Leyva
• 
Coffee Region
• 
Otun Quimbaya Reserve
• 
Cocora Valley
• 
Cartagena
• 
Panama City
• 
Panama Canal
• 
Wounaan Community
• 
Bogota
• 
Salt Cathedral
• 
Villa de Leyva
• 
Coffee Region
• 
Otun Quimbaya Reserve
• 
Cocora Valley
• 
Cartagena
• 
Panama City
• 
Panama Canal
• 
Wounaan Community
Day 1
You will be met at Bogota Airport and transferred to your hotel in this sprawling high altitude city.
 
Check in and relax in this capital city of Colombia.
Day 2
Today enjoy a full day city tour of Bogotá, including a walking tour through the cobbled alleys of La Candelaria, the historic Old Town.
 
Starting from the church of El Carmen, you will see many beautifully preserved Spanish colonial houses and churches that date back centuries, such as the church of Santa Clara that today contains the Museum of Colonial Art. View the library of Luis Angel Arango as we head for the main square - Plaza Bolívar - where you can see a statue honouring Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan military leader who played a key role in the revolution against Spanish rule.
 
Enjoy views of the Cathedral, Teatro Colón (the neoclassical performance hall) and the 17th-century Church of San Francisco. View the presidential residence, Casa del Nariño, which has an observatory in its gardens, the Congress Palace, the Palace of Justice and the Cardinal's Palace.
 
We then visit the Museo del Oro, the most important gold museum in the world, with a splendid collection of over 36,000 pre-Colombian gold and emerald pieces. Galleries on three levels display exquisitely crafted pieces dating back nearly 2,500 years. Visit the vault-like room on the top floor where the most treasured pieces are displayed, as well as the Offering Room, where you enter a black circular area that is gradually illuminated, with indigenous music playing in the background.
 
Our tour ends with a visit to the Museo de Botero. Housed in a renovated colonial mansion, this museum showcases the art of Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous contemporary artist renowned for his proportionally exaggerated fat figures. Around 120 pieces of his work are display, including sculptures, paintings and drawings. In addition to his own work, his personal collection by Picasso, Renoir, Dalí, Degas, Chagall, Matisse, Monet and Giacometti are also on show.
 
Note: When visiting churches and monasteries, women must not wear shorts or miniskirts and men must not wear shorts. The Gold Museum is closed Mondays and Museo de Botero is closed Tuesdays.
Day 3
Today we leave Bogotá and travel 4-hours to the beautiful town of Villa de Leyva, considered one of the most beautiful villages in Colombia.
 
Our first stop is at the small town of Zipaquirá, which was founded on 1600 and still conserves its colonial heritage. Here we visit the amazing Salt Cathedral - a Roman Catholic church built in the tunnels of a salt mine 200 metres underground. Here you will find 14 small chapels, that represent the Stations of the Cross and Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, a sanctuary and a main cathedral. The icons, ornaments and architectural details are all hand carved in the halite rock, with some marble sculptures.
 
We continue to the colonial town of Ráquira (meaning 'City of Pots'), probably the most colorful town in Colombia, with its vividly coloured facades and attractive buildings. This town specialises in fine handmade ceramics and here you will find many different craft shops and artisans selling their artwork and pottery. In the colourful shops around the main square, you will find everything from ceramic bowls, vases, pitchers, children’s toys, piggy banks and dwarfs to Christmas decorations. You will also have the opportunity to observe the process of making traditional pottery.  
 
Finally we arrive at Villa de Leyva, one of the most charming colonial villages in all of Colombia and steeped in atmosphere. Declared a national monument in 1954, this photogenic village has been preserved in its entirety, including its stone paved streets and whitewashed buildings, with terracotta tiled roofs, pine green doors and balconies decorated with flowers. In the evening enjoy a walking tour through the cobbled streets and vast main square.
 
 
Day 4
This morning we visit the El Fósil paleontological museum, where you can view the ancient remains of a marine reptile called Kronosaurus Boyecensis, which lived on earth over 120 million years ago and resembles a giant alligator.
 
Afterwards we visit the nearby Santo Ecce Homo Convent, founded by Dominican monks in 1620. This large stone-and-adobe building has a lovely courtyard and floors, paved with local stones that contain ammonites (extinct marine molluscs) and other fossils.
 
We also make a brief stop at the site of the Battle of Boyaca Bridge, where Simon Bolivar defeated the Spanish forces and assured the Independence of Colombia in 1819, as we drive 4-hours to Bogotá Airport for your onward flight.
 
Note: Airport departure tax of $8 per person is payable locally.

You will be met at Pereira Airport and transferred to your hotel.
 
Check in and relax in this gateway to Colombia's coffee-producing region.
Day 5
Today enjoy a full day jeep excursion to the Cocora Valley and Salento, high in the Colombian Andes.
 
We travel 1-hour to the striking landscapes of the Cocora Valley, where Colombia's national symbol - the gigantic wax palm - can be seen. These are the largest palm trees in the world, measuring up to 190 ft (58 m) tall and living for more than 120 years. After tasting a traditional local cocktail called a 'canelazo', take a guided walk in this magnificent cloud forest and wonder at the biodiversity of its flora and fauna.
 
After an included lunch at a local restaurant, we visit the sleepy little town of Salento, one of the first settlements in Quindío state that has preserved its colonial architecture. Here you can explore the Plaza de Bolivar with its colourful balconies and the main street, Calle Real, with its many craft workshops before we return to Pereira.
Day 6
This morning enjoy a Coffee Tour that will give you insight into the lifestyle of workers on a coffee farm and teach you more about the history of coffee growing in Colombia.
 
Follow the production process, as coffee beans are harvested and brought to the cooperative where they are pulped and dried. You will have the opportunity to sort, toast and grind the coffee before enjoying an excellent cup of Colombian coffee.
 
Afterwards transfer to Pereira Airport for your onward flight.
 
Note: Airport departure tax of $8 per person is payable locally.

You will be met at Cartagena Airport and transferred to this tropical port city, situated on the Caribbean coast.
 
Check into your hotel in this colourful city, whose magnificent 16th century walled Old Town is a World Heritage Site.
Day 7
Enjoy a guided walking tour of beautiful Cartagena today, starting with a visit to the Convento de la Popa, the highest point in the city with spectacular views over Cartagena Bay. This 17th century Augustinian monastery served as a fortress during colonial times.
 
We then visit the Castle of San Felipe located on San Lazaro Hill, the largest Spanish military building in the New World dating back to 1536. It was built to guard the city’s landward side from invasion and has a complex system of tunnels connected with strategic points, used to distribute provisions and for a possible evacuation. The tunnels were built so that any noise would echo along them, making internal communications easier and allowing the citizens to hear even the slightest sound of an enemy advance.
 
Afterwards we walk through Las Bóvedas, a series of 23 vaults built in the 18th century and considered the last major military colonial construction within the city walls. The vaults were used as storerooms for munitions and provisions by the Spaniards and later they became jail cells. Nowadays they are used as crafts markets where you can find handicrafts, antiques, galleries, jewellery, clothing and souvenirs.
 
Our last stop is the church and monastery of San Pedro Claver, built in the early 17th century by the Jesuits. Pedro Claver, a Jesuit priest, was a defender and protector of slaves and lived in this monastery until his death.
 
Note: Shorts and short skirts should not be worn when visiting churches, monasteries and religious shrines.
Day 8
Transfer to the pier today by 09.00 for a full day excursion to the Rosario Islands in the Bay of Cartagena.
 
We sail 1-hour to this spectacular archipelago of 27 coral islands, with their crystal clear turquoise waters. The whole archipelago is a marine park covering an area of around 500 square miles (1,300 sq km) and its coral reefs, mangroves and lagoons support over 1,300 different marine species
 
Enjoy an included typical fish lunch at a local resort and swimming in these warm Caribbean waters. Snorkelling, kayaking, diving and bicyle hire are also avaioable at a charge (pay locally). There is also an aquarium at San Martín de Pajarales and an open-sea oceanarium.
 
We depart from the islands between 14.30 and 15.30, depending on the tide, and arrive back in Cartagena in the mid afternoon.
 
Note: Towel hire is included today. Pregnant women are not allowed on this excursion, as the boat ride can be bumpy.
Day 9
Transfer to Cartagena Airport for your onward flight.
 
Note: Airport departure tax of $8 per person is payable locally.

You will be met at Panama City Airport and transferred to your hotel in this capital city, situated on the Pacific Coast at the entrance to the Panama Canal and surrounded by tropical rainforest.
 
Check into your hotel in this modern city that was the starting point for the Spanish expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru, and is today a centre for international banking and commerce.
Day 10
Today enjoy a small group tour of Panama City.
 
We start with a visit to the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal, including the Canal Museum (closed Mondays). At Miraflores lock we can stop and watch ships pass through this amazing canal that cuts through Central America, linking the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean.
 
We continue to the World Heritage site at Panama Viejo, the remaining part of old Panama City, for wonderful views of the city below (or Ancon Hill if closed). We then enjoy a walking tour of the old town - Casco Viejo (also known as Casco Antiguo).
 
Now a UNESCO world heritage site, the old Panama City was founded in 1519 but in 1671 it was burnt down on the orders of its governor, to prevent the city falling into the hands of the pirate Henry Morgan. Today it is an open air museum and you will find helpful descriptions in front of each ruin. Among the best preserved buildings are the Cathedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the former private residence Casa Alarcón, and the church and convent of Santo Domingo.
 
Lunch is included today. After your tour you will be dropped off at your hotel or at one of the many plazas in the city.
Day 11
Today enjoy a partial navigation through the Panama Canal, as this is the best way to admire this magnificent feat of engineering that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
 
You will be collected from your hotel early and transferred to your port of embarkation at the Amador Causeway. From here you will board your boat and navigate either southwards or northwards, passing through two systems of locks on the Pacific side of the canal.
 
The Miraflores Locks are the tallest on the canal, due to the extreme tidal variation of the Pacific Ocean. Your boat will be raised or lowered 55 ft (17 m) above sea level in two steps, as the canal joins Miraflores Lake which is nearly 1.2 miles (2 km) long. A transition from the salt water of the Pacific Ocean to the fresh water of the lake and canal takes place here.
 
At the Pedro Miguel Locks your boat will be raised or lowered by 30 ft (9 m) in one step. This is where the Gaillard Cut, the narrowest section of the Panama Canal, joins Gatun Lake. The Chagres River flows into the canal here, near the town of Gamboa that is the headquarters of the Panama Canal's dredging division.
 
We also sail under the Bridge of the Americas, which connects the land divided by the canal and allows the Pan-American Highway to cross it. Lunch is included today as well as soft drinks, but as the weather can be variable remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring rain gear, as well as a sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Afterwards disembark and transfer back to Panama City.
 
Note: Navigation is only guaranteed on a Saturday.
Day 12
Today  travel across Gatun Lake on a shared excursion to visit the indigenous Wounaan Community.
 
You will have the very special opportunity of observing their culture and way of life, including watching their artisans at work. You will learn about their extensive knowledge of botanical plants and their cultural dances and music will take you back in time. There is also the opportunity to paint your own body with jagua fruit, as they do.
 
Afterwards enjoy a walk in the dense jungle, where you can see a great variety of birds, and visit Monkey Island where you can watch many monkey species and other small animals.
Day 13
Transfer to Panama City Airport for your flight home

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