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2by2 for holidays that will change your life
2by2 for holidays that will change your life
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Colombia Tour: Rainbow River of Five Colours + San Agustin + Cartagena

Colombia: Macarena + San Agustin + Medellin + Cartagena
GPG18B
18 NIGHTS
FROM £3,995
Per person sharing
International flights quoted separately
Colombia Tour Rainbow River Five Colours San Agustin Cartagena

This Grand Colombia Tour covers this fascinating country in depth including Bogota & the Salt Cathedral, the fascinating Rainbow River of five colours in the Crystal Canyon, the archaeological site at San Agustin, Cocora Valley in the coffee region, Medellin, magnificent Cartagena & Tayrona National Park. All transfers, English speaking guides & specified sightseeing included.

Colombia Tour Rainbow River Five Colours San Agustin Cartagena
• 
Colombia Tour
• 
Bogota & Salt Cathedral
• 
Rainbow River, Five Colours
• 
San Agustin & Tatacoa Desert
• 
Coffee Region & Cocora Valley
• 
Botanical Gardens
• 
Medellin
• 
El Peñol + Guatape
• 
Cartagena
• 
Tayrona National Park
• 
Colombia Tour
• 
Bogota & Salt Cathedral
• 
Rainbow River, Five Colours
• 
San Agustin & Tatacoa Desert
• 
Coffee Region & Cocora Valley
• 
Botanical Gardens
• 
Medellin
• 
El Peñol + Guatape
• 
Cartagena
• 
Tayrona National Park
Day 1
You will be met at Bogotá Airport by your guide and transferred into this sprawling high altitude city, located in a valley between the eastern and central Andes mountain ranges at 8,660 ft (2,640 m).
 
On arrival enjoy a private tour of the city. We start with a visit to the Gold Museum, 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. Two large carved stones from the San Agustin archaeological site can also be seen here. Visit the vault-like room on the top floor where the most treasured pieces are displayed, including the famous miniature golden raft.
 
We then walk through the cobbled alleys of La Candelaria, the historic Old Town. Here 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 and the 17th century Church of San Francisco, the oldest surviving church in the city. 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 Spain. View the Metropolitan Cathedral, Colón Theatre, Casa de Nariño (the presidential residence, which has an observatory in its gardens), the Congress Palace, the Palace of Justice and the Cardinal's Palace.
 
Time permitting we can also visit the small Botero Museum. Housed in a beautiful colonial mansion, it showcases a collection of artwork donated to the city by Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous contemporary artist renowned for his proportionally exaggerated chubby figures. Around 120 pieces of his work are displayed here, including paintings, drawings and miniature sculptures. He also donated his personal collection of original artwork by Picasso, Renoir, Dalí, Degas, Chagall, Matisse, Monet and Giacometti which are also on display here.
 
Note: Let your guide know if you are suffering from jetlag and want a shorter tour. 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 Botero Museum is closed Tuesdays.
Day 2
This morning your guide will drive you 1.5-hours to the small town of Zipaquirá, which was founded in 1600 and still conserves its colonial heritage.
 
Here we visit the amazing underground Salt Cathedral, built in a cavernous series of tunnels in the worked-out section of a productive salt mine. In this darkened underground environment, you will walk past 14 small chapels, each representing one of the 'Stations of the Cross' that tells the story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Once you reach the main Roman Catholic cathedral, you can marvel at the workmanship that went into creating this remarkable church.
 
Afterwards we walk through the charming main square of Zipaquirá, which is the home of Tour de France winner, Egan Bernal. Here you can enjoy lunch (own account) and spend time exploring the town, before we return to Bogotá.
 
At the end of the day we ascend Monserrate Hill by funicular or cable car, for panoramic views. The chapel atop this hill can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.
 
Note: Please be aware that the Salt Cathedral will be extremely busy with local visitors over weekends.
Day 3
Arrive at Bogotá Airport and connect with your light aircraft flight to La Macarena.
 
You will be met at La Macarana Airport and walked to your hotel in this town that is the gateway to the magnificent Crystal Channel (Cano Cristales) - also known as the Rainbow River of Five Colours.
 
After checking into your hotel, we drive 30-minutes along a bumpy road to visit a typical local farm. Here you can see their turkeys, chickens and geese as well as a couple of peacocks, tame parrots and scarlet macaws. Enjoy a short walk to learn about local medicinal plants, followed by the opportunity to swim in a lovely shallow clear river (so bring swimwear and a towel - water shoes are useful when swimming in these rocky pools, but not essential). Afterwards you can admire Peidra stream, which has a small number of the macarena plants that vary in colour from green to pink and red, depending on the amount of sunlight they receive.
 
Note: From June to December there are direct flights between Bogotá and La Macarena three times a week (Wednesday, Friday & Sunday). Baggage is restricted to 10 kg in a small cabin-sized suitcase or backpack. Your main luggage can be stored with our representative in Bogota, as large suitcases will not fit in the light aircraft and will be left behind.
 
Be aware that your guide will only speak Spanish & ensure you take sufficient cash, as there are no cash machines in this remote region. Also none of the hotels in this tropical region have hot water (showers are cold water only). Access to the Crystal Canyon is closed during the dry season (January to May).
Day 4
This morning walk to the nearby Guayabero River for a 15-minute boat ride to Cajuche Spring.
 
From here we take a 30-minute drive in a 4x4 vehicle, travelling along a very rough road to the starting point of our 4.5-mile (7-km) hike through the Crystal Channel - home to one of the most beautiful fast-flowing rivers in the world.
 
From June until November each year (i.e. during the rainy season), this Rainbow River of Five Colours has striking shades of red, yellow, green, blue and black due to its unique geology and an aquatic plant called Macarena Clavijera, that changes colour from green to pink and red, according to the amount of sunlight it receives and the depth of the water. This beautiful river has numerous colourful pools, several small waterfalls and many large ’kettles' - small circular pits formed by erosion, as pebbles rotate in the swirling waters. Depending upon the permit allocated, we will hike to either the central, left or right arm of the river, with picnic lunch included. There is also the opportunity to swim in a natural pool, so don’t forget your swimsuit, towel and water shoes.
 
In the evening enjoy the local music, dance and food of the region.
 
Note: This hike has a moderate level of difficulty with some uneven terrain, but you will be walking in temperatures of over 30 degrees celsius with a 50% chance of a tropical thundershower. So be sure to wear good walking shoes that can get wet, a sunhat that will protect your neck and sunglasses. As you are not allowed to take sunscreen or insect repellent into the park, we recommend applying bio-degradable sunscreen before leaving your hotel and wearing a light long-sleeved shirt that will protect you from the sun and light safari trousers that will dry quickly (not jeans). Pack rain gear and plenty of water in your backpack.
 
The best time to visit the Rainbow River is in July and August, when the rains have started but the water is not yet very deep. The trails are closed from December to May. A yellow fever certificate is mandatory for travel to this region, but malaria tablets are not usually advised. An even more strenous 14-km hike is available if booked in advance. Be aware your walking guide will only speak Spanish.
Day 5
This morning enjoy a 40-minute boat ride up the Guayabero River.
 
Here you can see turtles sunbathing on tree trunks in the river and a variety of bird species. These include the Hoatzin (also known as the ’stink bird’), Cocoi heron, White-winged swallow, Buff-necked ibis and maybe even a gorgeous Blue-and-yellow macaw. You can also hope to see howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys and possibly even pink dolphins.
 
After returning to town by boat, we walk to La Macarena Airport for your flight to Bogotá, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel situated near the airport.
 
Note: From June to December there are direct flights between Bogotá and La Macarena three times a week (Wednesday, Friday & Sunday). From January to June there are daily flights via Villavicencio.
Day 6
Transfer to Bogota Airport for your onward flight.

A full day on the road today as you meet your guide at Neiva Airport and travel 5-hours along rough gravel roads to San Agustin.
 
Along the way we detour 1.5-hours visit the spectacular Tatacoa Desert (meaning 'rattlesnake'). Known by the local people as the Valley of Sorrows, this region of dry clay canyons has amazing ochre and grey sandstone formations and is today a dry tropical forest that is rich is fossils. Here we can admire the canyons and desert landscapes and visit the paleontological museum in Villavieja.
  
Afterwards your guide will introduce you to more of the beauty of western Colombia as we continue to the town of San Agustin. Situated in the Andes Mountains, at the intersection of the western and central Cordillera ranges at over 5,500 ft (1,700 m), this is the birthplace of the Magdalena River and home to an astonishing pre-Colombian archaeological site.
Day 7
Today we explore San Agustin Archaeological Park, the most important pre-Colombian historic site in Colombia.
 
This UNESCO World Heritage site contains the largest collection of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America and is considered the world's largest ancient cemetery. Two indigenous cultures lived in the adjacent valleys of the Magdalena and Cauca Rivers. Divided by uncrossable peaks, the rivers were their highways and it was here at the headwaters of both rivers that they met to trade, worship and to bury their dead. The result is more than 500 elaborate stone sculptures and tombs, mostly carved between AD 100 and 1200 by a northern Andean culture that pre-dated the Incas. Gods, animals, warriors and human faces were skilfully carved out of volcanic rock, in styles ranging from abstract to realistic, with the largest being over 23 ft (7 m) tall and weighing several tons.
 
Within the archaeological park there are several ceremonial sites, such as the Mesitas (small tables) A, B, C and D with their strange statues guarding the tombs; the Lavaplatas spring (a set of carved rocks on the bed of a creek) and the Alto del Lavaplatas megaliths at the top of the hill. At the entrance to the park you can walk through the beautiful Forest of Statues (El Bosque de las Estatuas). There is also a small archaeological museum.
 
There is also the option to hike (4 to 5-hours) or horse ride (2 to 3-hours) to the El Tablón and La Chaquira sites, where you can see more examples of these pre-Columbian statues and enjoy spectacular views of the Magdalena River.
 
Note: The Archaeological Park is closed every Tuesday. For the horse riding option you need to be a competent rider, as it is not suitable for beginners.
Day 8
At leisure to explore more of San Agustin independently.
Day 9
After a morning at leisure in San Agustin, transfer 5-hours to Neiva.
 
Check into your hotel in this town situated in the beautiful Magdalena River Valley.
Day 10
Transfer to Neiva Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met by your guide at Pereira Airport and transferred to your hotel in the extremely fertile Coffee Region, with its year-round greenery, over-sized palm trees and magnificent bamboo forests.
 
Situated in a high valley between the central and western Andes mountain ranges, this verdant region receives a high rainfall and is an abundant producer of coffee, bananas, plantains, papaya, avocados and many other agricultural products. Farmers from this region are known as Paisas and have a reputation for hard work and getting things done.
Day 11
Today enjoy a full day excursion to the cloud forests of the Cocora Valley and the colourful colonial towns of Filandia and Salento, high in the Andes.
 
Our first stop is at the charming village of Filandia, where you can climb an observation tower for 360 degree views over the whole valley. Enjoy wandering through the cobbled streets to the town square, which is surrounded by brightly painted houses and has a beautiful church. The film ’One Hundred Years of Solitude’ based on the book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was filmed here, as well as a popular soap opera called ’Coffee, with the Scent of a Woman’.
 
We then continue 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 200 ft (60 m) and living for more than 120 years, making for spectacular scenery. Enjoy a 2-hour hike through this magnificent reserve to a view site where, if you are fortunate, you may see Bolivia’s national bird - the enormous Andean condor - soaring on the thermals. The critically endangered yellow-eared parrot is also found here.
 
After an included restaurant lunch we drive back to Salento, one of the first settlements in Quindío state. Here you can explore the Plaza de Bolivar with its church and colourful balconies and the main street, Calle Real, with its many handicraft shops. This town is famous for its annual Yipao festival, when farmers parade and perform acrobatic tricks in their iconic (and hugely overloaded) Willys Jeeps.
 
Note: Wear good walking shoes today, as the descent from the view site is down a steep hill. If you do not wish to do the hike, you can still view the palm trees along the first part of the trail. Alternatively you can ride most of the way to the viewpoint, if requested in advance. A full day 7-hour hike is also available, including three viewpoints and seven hanging bridges, but this needs to be booked in advance and you will not have time to visit Filandia. Try and avoid weekends, when the park is very busy with local visitors.
Day 12
This morning we drive 1-hour to the Quindio Botanical Gardens in Calarca. In addition to its wonderful array of orchids, palms, ferns, guadua (bamboo) and other flora, you can visit the wonderful butterfly house that is shaped like a giant butterfly, climb the lookout tower and watch hummingbirds at the bird feeders.
 
Afterwards we visit a Coffee Farm to give you more insight into how coffee is grown and the lifestyle of the workers. Colombia prides itself on producing the finest Arabica coffee in the world, all of which is hand-picked. Learn how the plants are cultivated and how the beans are harvested, processed, sorted, dried and ultimately roasted before enjoying an excellent cup of Colombian coffee.
 
Note: The coffee fields are located on a mountain slope, so let us know in advance if you have any walking difficulties and we will arrange for you to be driven in a vehicle. Your driver today will only speak Spanish.
Day 13
Transfer to Pereira Airport for your onward flight.

You will be met at Medellin Airport and transferred to your hotel in this cosmopolitan city that is the second largest in Colombia and has a pleasant climate all year round.
 
Once known for the notorious drug cartels that controlled the city, today Medellin is transformed and is a major centre for art, fashion and culture. It is also a significant international flower-producing region.
Day 14
Today enjoy a full day private tour of Medellín - the 'City of Eternal Spring' situated in a valley between the central and western Andes mountain ranges, at an altitude of 4,900 ft (1,495 m).
 
Our tour starts with a visit to Nutibara Hill, which offers panoramic views over the city and a replica of a colourful traditional Colombian village.
 
Our next stop is the Comuna 13 neighbourhood, one of the poorest areas in the city and once a notorious area of gang and urban guerrilla violence. Here you will see the results of one of the most successful city regeneration projects in the world, with the introduction of motor cycle paths, elevators and cable cars, combined with various community projects. You can admire the marvellous street graffiti and watch young people performing break dancing. While enjoying spectacular views of the city, you will learn more about the transformation of Medellín from one of the most dangerous cities in the world, known for its political violence, drug lords and narco trade, into a fascinating melting pot of cultures with wonderfully warm and friendly people.
 
We then head into the city for a walking tour around Berrío Park where local musicians play traditional 'guasca' music. This was the historic heart of the city during Spanish colonial times but sadly none of these buildings have survived and today it is an urban plaza that is a meeting point for local residents. We stroll through street markets and past the lovely Gomez murals that portray the history of Medellin to the Botero Plaza. Here you can admire an amazing display of 23 famous sculptures of ’fat’ men, women and animals donated by Fernando Botero to his home town. About 100 examples of his work can be seen in the Antioquia Art Museum opposite this plaza, so ask your guide if you would like to see these (pay entrance fee locally).
 
We also visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria, the oldest church in Medellin, the Park of Lights, City Hall and old Railway Station.
 
After an included lunch at a local restaurant, we visit the Botanical Gardens with their wonderful display of orchids and over 1,000 different plant species. Here you can spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the lake, tropical forest, orchid garden, palm garden, desert garden and butterfly house. There is also wonderful birdlife.
 
Note: Let your guide know if you would like to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest brick cathedral in the world, as it closes at 10.30 am (so you will need to visit this first).
Day 15
Today enjoy a scenic drive through the eastern highlands of Antioquia, as we drive 2-hours from Medellin through lush agricultural farmlands to the photogenic village of Guatapé.
 
Along the way we stop to view the enormous 656 ft (200 m) El Peñol Rock, a gigantic granite boulder with 740 steps that wind up to the top, offering sweeping views over the Peñol-Guatapé Reservoir. About half way up there is a shrine to the Virgin Mary and once you reach the top you can watch black vultures soaring on the thermals. If you do not wish to undertake this strenuous climb, which takes about 1-hour for the round trip if taken slowly, you can view the rock from the car park.
 
We then continue to Guatapé where you can wander around this small lakeside town viewing its lovely church on the main square and its many colourful houses, each with individually decorated ’zocalos’ - hand-crafted friezes representing something of importance to the owner. Some are simple such as sunflowers, lambs or doves; some represent businesses such as bread on a bakery, and others tell complicated stories. Afterwards relax on the lake shore and enjoy an included traditional ’bandeja paisa’ lunch - an interesting version of a fried breakfast that includes avocado and plantain. You can also try one of the refreshing local fruit juices.
 
In the afternoon enjoy a relaxing boat ride on this enormous man-made lake that was created as part of a major hydro-electric scheme, which now provides 30% of Colombia’s electricity. The dam flooded the original village of El Penol, which was relocated and you can see a recreation of this village. You can also see the remains of Pablo Escobar’s luxury lakeside mansion. We then return to Medellin.
Day 16
Transfer to Medellin International Airport for your onward flight.

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 17
This morning enjoy a half day private tour of the city of Cartagena de Indias, starting with a visit to the 17th century La Popa Monastery situated outside the Old Town on a hill that marks the highest point in the city, with spectacular views over Cartagena Bay and the modern high-rise city, as well as the Old Town. Dedicated to Our Lady of La Candelaria, this charming Augustinian monastery has a beautiful chapel with an ornate gold altar.
 
We then visit San Felipe Castle 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 to the Old City, 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 enter the old walled city and 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. The rest of your day is at leisure to explore the charming Old Town independently.
 
Note: Short skirts should not be worn when visiting churches, monasteries and religious shrines. Colombia is the world’s largest producer of emeralds, so let your guide know if you would like to buy one and he will take you to a reputable store.
Day 18
At leisure to explore the photogenic city of Cartagena independently.
 
We suggest walking through the old colonial streets of the historic centre, starting at the Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj) that was once the main gateway into the walled city. Walk across the Plaza de la Aduana, the largest  and oldest square in the Old Town that was used as a parade ground and is now surrounded by important government building. Here you will see a statue of Christopher Colombus.
 
You can walk through the Plaza Santo Domingo, known for its nightlife and spectacular church. Enjoy the pleasant shade of Simon Bolívar Park or visit the Palace of the Inquisition - one of the finest buildings in the city but with a shameful past, as it was here that the church sought to stamp our heresy through torture. The Emerald Museum and the Gold Museum are both worth a visit.
 
Many optional activities are available in the Old Town such as a gastronomy tour, rum and chocolate tasting or a salsa tour. You can take an optional day tour to San Basilio de Palenque, the first freed slave settlement in the Americas, where you can learn more about Cartagena's iconic 'Palenqueras' (Afro-Colombian women who wear brightly coloured dresses and expertly balance heavy bowls of tropical fruit on their heads). Alternatively you can take a 1-hour boat ride to the spectacular Rosario Islands.
 
Whatever you do, ensure you soak up the atmosphere of this vibrant city that inspired the novels of Noble prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Day 19
Transfer to Cartagena Airport for your flight home.