Relaxing at Hotels in Galapagos National Park

Undiscovered Colombia: Culture, Food And Walking Journey, 11 Days

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Hands-On Cultural Immersion

Your journey starts with a cultural, artistic and gastronomic exploration of Bogota.

Itinerary

DAY 1: WELCOME TO BOGOTA

International flight arrival in Bogota, the third-highest capital city in South America (after La Paz and Quito) at 8,612 ft. above sea level.

DAY 2: LA CANDELARIA WALKING TOUR. TRANSFER TO VILLA DE LEYVA

This morning we walk in the heart of old, historic Bogota, known as La Candelaria, and hosting a great number of restored 300-year old homes and public buildings. Our tour includes Plaza Bolivar, San Francisco Church, the lively pedestrian street “Calle 11” bursting with local restaurants (some family-owned for eight generations) and perhaps the 17th-century Santa Clara Convent.
The day’s highlight is a visit to the famous Gold Museum, which houses some 33,400 gold pieces from Colombia’s most relevant pre-Hispanic cultures. We learn about how they used gold in political and social occasions, their metallurgical techniques, and as expressions of their Cosmovision, myths, and offerings.
This is our first introduction to the vast amount of gold belonging to pre-Hispanic cultures, and the Spanish lust for it, following the 1502 landing party led by Vasco Nunez de Balboa.
After lunch, we take a four-hour drive to the lovely colonial town of Villa de Leyva, passing lush, green cattle farms and pastoral scenes. We stop briefly at Boyaca Bridge, site of the decisive battle of August 7, 1819, that secured independence for Colombia from the Spanish monarchy. We have our welcome dinner this evening, enjoying the spacious Plaza de Armas and its beautifully lit Cathedral. (B, L, D)

DAY 3: IGUAQUE NATIONAL PARK CLOUD FOREST HIKE AND VISIT TO THE “EL FOSSIL” MUSEUM

We leave Leyva and drive north for about 30 minutes on the main road, and 20 minutes on an unpaved road, arriving at Iguaque National Park. Here we hike through the Andean cloud forest, a unique eco-system found in only 28% percent of the world. Of the 1780 species of birds in Colombia, we hopefully spot some of the more exotic ones like the Toucan barbette, mountain tanagers, cinnamon flycatchers, and colorful hummingbirds. We see a variety of cloud forest plants, such as giant tree ferns, large bromeliads, aricacia flowers, various types of orchids, and endemic Andean bamboo.
After our hike, we return to Villa de Leyva for lunch, and in the afternoon visit the Ecce Homo Monastery, built by Dominican friars in 1620, and unique for the number of fossils incorporated into its floor design.
Next, we visit the “El Fossil” Museum, hosting the second-largest kronosaurus discovery in the world, a prehistoric aquatic lizard from the Mesozoic Era, or “Age of Dinosaurs, about 65-140 million years ago.
The Kronosaurus at Villa de Leyva is approximately 7 meters long. Discovered in 1977, it was left in situ.
We also see a vast amount of ammonite fossils and have a chance to buy some for ourselves. (B, L, D)

DAY 4: TRAVEL TO BARICHARA WITH AN AFTERNOON STROLL THROUGH TOWN

This morning we take a 5-hour drive through the pastoral green countryside, cattle farms, and small family homes.
After passing the steep canyon walls and cloud forest we arrive at the region called Santander, known as the adventure capital of Colombia. Next is the stunningly well-conserved colonial town of Barichara, known for its preservation of 18th-century homes and public buildings. Our hotel, “La Nube”, is located near the quaint Plaza and Church of Santa Barbara.
This afternoon we stroll Barichara, starting at a park near our hotel with a stunning view of the Suarez river gorge in the distance. Walking through colonial streets, we make our way to a family-run paper factory and witness the papermaking process from local plant fiber extraction to a finished product. As we walk along the streets of this quaint town, we find three types of traditional architecture the town is famous for Rammed earth (tapia pisada), mud and cane (bahareque), and mud adobe brick. We also visit the elaborate and large Cathedral of Barichara, notable for its architecture in Yellowstone from the Santander region. (B, L, D)

DAY 5: GUANE ROYAL ROADS HIKE. HANDS-ON WORKSHOP AT TERRARIUM CREATIVE ORGANIZATION

This morning we hike on the famous 18th-century cobblestone Royal Road, starting near our hotel in Barichara, and ending at the small village of Guane. This trail is originally called Camino Suamuxi” – in Chibcha language of the indigenous Muisca people that lived in this region during pre-Hispanic times. Our
3-hour hike on this excellent old road is a birdwatcher’s delight. We start with bosque Seco (dry forest) and hopefully see parakeets, tanagers, Smooth-billed Anis, sparrows, finches, vermilion flycatchers, red-capped cardinals, and motmots. Overall we descend about 1,000 feet to Guane, a lovely and quaint rural town.
After our hike, we drive to “Finka Color de Hormiga” for lunch. This family restaurant is located in the Barichara countryside, where the owner raises the regional Santander delicacy of “hormigas culonas”, or fat-bottom ants. We can try local dishes with sauces made of this expensive delicacy (Atta species ants go for $40 a pound!), or try some as a salty snack.
After lunch, we have the privilege of meeting Santiago Rivero, a local civil engineer from San Gil that works to rescue, preserve, and promote traditional architectural techniques no longer practiced or in danger of disappearing. With his colleagues at the newly founded Terrarium Creative Organization, Santiago designs and promotes the architectural cultural patrimony of the region, designing ecologically efficient homes for the well-to-do, using local materials and techniques. We will literally have a hands-on workshop, trying our best to recreate the Tapia pisada, bahareque, and mud adobe brick walls. (B, L, D)

DAY 6: CHICAMOCHA GORGE HIKE AND EL ROBLE COFFEE HACIENDA VISIT

This morning we take a 2.5-hour drive on a windy road to Parque Nacional del Chicamocha and the Chicamocha Canyon, enjoying a spectacular view of cliff walls and the Rio Chicamocha down below. Here we hike partly on the Caminos Reales that were part of a network connecting Santander to the coast, and eventually to outer regions to Venezuela.
1) We start at a small town known as “15 letras” and hike up about 500 feet to the Umpala ridgeline at 2900 feet with stunning views all around. We then hike zigzag down on well-maintained paved Camino real through the town of Umpalá. We walk through a green river valley to the village of Mensulí.
2) Starting at the small town of Jordan, we hike nearly 3,000 feet gradually making our way up on a beautiful Camino Real, used for crossing the river canyon to reach the ports in the north. We end at Los Santos, and take a 1-hour drive to the peaceful coffee hacienda of El Roble, for a late afternoon coffee
with the charming Señora Miriam, who was born at the Hacienda, has worked with the family for decades, and has many delightful stories to share about the place. If we have some time left, those who are interested could take a one-hour, afternoon horse ride through the coffee plantation. Dinner is in the old family dining room. (B, L, D)

DAY 7: ORGANIC COFFEE TOUR AND TRAVEL TO SANTA MARTA

We start our morning with a two-hour walking tour of the coffee hacienda. Of the 320 hectares (990 acres), about 280 (780 acres) are dedicated to coffee production. The organic shade-grown coffee includes 72 varieties of the 320 in existence. We end our coffee tour with barista Jose Antonio Martinez, a 30-year veteran coffee-tasting expert. Jose will teach us about coffee fragrances helping us discern between sweet, salty, bitter and smooth flavors.
We continue our day with a 1-hour drive through the lovely countryside known as the “cattle capital” of Colombia. From Bucaramanga, we fly to Santa Marta and move on to Tayrona National Park. (B, L, D)

DAY DAY 8: TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK HIKE TO “STONE CITY”

Today we hike all day through a variety of ecosystems. Beach and cove scenery, cloud forest with monkeys and colorful birds, and the reward of walking through the extensive ruins of an ancient Tayrona city dating from 300 A.D. The first half of the hike is a 3.5 to 4-hour long excursion of Tayrona’s famous and paradisiac beaches.
This undulating section shows us pristine blue water coves and cliffs lined with vivid green wooded areas, sometimes along the beach. We pass by the beaches of Canaveral, Piscinita, Arrecife, and La Piscina and finish our mid-day hike at, Cabo San Juan.
After a refreshing drink, we leave the beach and begin a steep, challenging uphill climb of 900 feet on an ancient stone-paved road through a beautiful cloud forest, with monkeys and exotic birds and bird calls. After 2 hours uphill, we are rewarded with the extensive Tayrona ruins called “El Pueblito,” with an incredible vast system of stone terraces, aqueducts, and round platforms where round stone homes were built. On this latter section of the hike, we may see some Kogis, the indigenous group still living in this area, known for their white woven clothing and caps. After we explore this extensive ruin site, we continue up another 600 feet. Return by car to our hotel to spend the evening and night. (B, L, D)

DAY 9: TRAVEL TO CARTAGENA. DAY STREET TOUR

Today we drive on one of Colombia’s main coastal roads for about 4-5 hours to the city of Cartagena de Indias, a city that combines within its walls centuries of history, culture and flavors product of Spanish miscegenation. The landing of thousands of slaves from West Africa and migrations late nineteenth century make this a very diverse region. Walk with us through “Seven Paradises” street food, unnoticed by tourists and worshipped by locals. Tempt yourself at every stop with the original recipes that inspire the new Colombian cuisine, and enjoy the product of this unhurried life in a tête - à - tête with Caribbean Cartagena
cuisine. (B, L, D)

DAY 10: SAN FELIPE FORTRESS AND THE MAGIC REALISM FOODIE EXPERIENCE

Start the day with a visit to the fortress of San Felipe, a masterpiece of the military strategy against pirates and corsairs, and immersing you in a world of Magical Realism. The literary foodie experience called the “Gabriel García Marquez Menu” is a Cartagena gastronomic tour serving dishes and drinks consumed
by the characters of Gabriel García Márquez´s novels, praising the traditional cuisine of this caribbean town. (B, L, D)

DAY 11: DEPART CARTAGENA

We transfer you to the Cartagena airport for your flight. (B)

Quick Facts

Destination
Bogota, Villa de Leyva,  Barichara, Guane, Tayrona National Park, and Cartagena

Dates & Prices
11 Days from $3990

Category
Premium

Expedition Type
Culture

 

Expedition Level
Easy hikes

Accommodations
Comfort Hotels 

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