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Best of Colombia, including Tayrona National Park


GPA12B
12 NIGHTS
FROM £2,995
International flights quoted separately
Experience the best of Colombia, starting in Bogota. Visit the Salt Cathedral & the colonial town of Villa de Leyva, before flying to the Coffee Region, where you will see the giant wax palms of the Cocora Valley. Continue to the photogenic Spanish port at Cartagena & visit Tayrona National Park. All transfers, English speaking guides and specified sightseeing included.
Photo Tayrona National Park Colombia Cartagena Santa Marta Bogota
• 
Bogota
• 
Monserrate Mountain
• 
Salt Cathedral
• 
Villa de Leyva
• 
Otun Quimbaya Reserve
• 
Coffee Region
• 
Salento
• 
Cocora Valley
• 
Cartagena
• 
Tayrone National Park
• 
Bogota
• 
Monserrate Mountain
• 
Salt Cathedral
• 
Villa de Leyva
• 
Otun Quimbaya Reserve
• 
Coffee Region
• 
Salento
• 
Cocora Valley
• 
Cartagena
• 
Tayrone National Park
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
This morning we travel 4.5-hours to Santa Marta, the oldest city in Colombia, founded by the Spanish in 1525 when the country was known as New Granada.
 
As we leave Cartagena we will see El Totumo Mud Volcano, whose small crater contains a pool of therapeutic mud. We continue along the coast, travelling through a variety of Caribbean coastal landscapes and small local villages to Santa Marta.
 
On arrival in Santa Marta check into your hotel in this busy Caribbean port, that is today the gateway to Tayrona National Park.
 
Day 10
This morning enjoy a half day tour of Santa Marta, overlooked by the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta - at 5,775 m the highest coastal mountains in the world.
 
Santa Marta's history dates back to the pre-Columbian indigenous communities that inhabited this area. The Tayrona people, renowned for their goldsmith skills, were the largest group that lived here and some of their legacy can be seen in the Gold Museum, which displays original pieces of their jewellery.
 
When Don Rodrigo de Bastidas arrived, this city became the first settlement of the conquistadors in Colombia and a Spanish stronghold during the 16th and 17th centuries.
 
We visit the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, a beautiful 17th century hacienda where the liberator Simon Bolivar lived before he died. We also visit the Bolivarian Museum of Contemporary Art, the Altar of the Fatherland and the Botanical Garden. Our tour ends with panoramic views of the main beaches in the city - the Rodadero and Taganga.
 
Your afternoon is free for independently exploring the cobbled streets and lovely colonial buildings of the historic centre.
Day 11
This morning you will be driven 1.5-hours to Tayrona National Park, covering an area of over 15,000 hectares and one of the most famous parks in Colombia - spectacularly situated on the Caribbean coast, where a dense rainforest plunges into the Atlantic Ocean.
 
Here we walk for 4-hours along miles and miles of magnificent black, yellow and white sandy beaches, including famous Cañaveral and Arrecifes, all the way to glorious Cape San Juan. In these rainforests you will see many different species of birds, monkeys, squirrels, peccary and other wildlife in their natural habitat.
 
You may not swim at Arrecifes (Reefs) beach due to its strong currents, but you can swim at Piscina Natural (Natural Pool) beach. A picnic lunch is included today.
 
Note: Wear good walking shoes and wear a small backpack with water, sandals, swimming costume, insect repellent and sunscreen.
Day 12
At leisure to relax and enjoy the beaches of Santa Marta.
Day 13
Transfer to Cartagena Airport for your flight home.
 
Note: Airport departure tax of $38 pp (international) is payable locally.

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