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Colombia Travel Itinerary 9 Days

Colombia Travel Map

Updated on 04/04/2024

Greetings,
I’m Frank, the proprietor of a premier tour operator based in Bogota, dedicated to crafting personalized and luxurious travel experiences throughout Colombia.

As you navigate through this guide, anticipate discovering a compilation of additional invaluable travel itineraries for your exploration of Colombia.

Colombia Trip Summary

Day 1 – Bogota
Day 2 – Bogota
Day 3 – Bogota – Medellin
Day 4 – Medellin
Day 5 – Medellin
Day 6 – Medellin – Guatape – Medellin
Day 7 – Cartagena
Day 8 – Cartagena – San Basilio de Palenque – Cartagena
Day 9 – Cartagena – Departure

Planned Places/Cities

Bogota

Bogotá is Colombia’s capital and has over 10 million inhabitants. It is Colombia’s political, economic, cultural, and tourist center, accounting for most of the national GDP. It is the third-highest capital city in South America as it sits on over 2.600 meters (8.600 feet) above sea level. With average temperatures of 7°C – 20°C (45°F – 60°F), the climate varies between cold to temperate. Bogotá has an area of 1.775 km2 (685 Square miles), which is more than twice the size of Singapore. It was founded in 1.538 by the Spaniards but was already inhabited by the Pre-Muiscas. Most of the tourist attractions are in the historic center “La Candelaria”. The city’s wide cultural offer represented in museums, theaters and libraries has granted it the name of “the South American Athens”. Some important places to visit in Bogotá are Monserrate Monastery, Gold and Botero Museums, “Paloquemao” and “La Perseverancia” food markets.

Guatavita

The municipality of Guatavita – Cundinamarca 53 km northeast of Bogota is recognized for giving rise to the most representative legend of Colombia, one of the most important in the world and Cultural Heritage of the Nation “The story of the Legend of El Dorado”. It is the religious, cultural and ancestral capital of the Muisca people. In Guatavita there is “Guatavita the Origin of the Legend” an area of 13.8 ha, consisting of a historic center with high heritage value and a cultural and tourist development polygon on the banks of the Tominé reservoir

Zipaquira

Zipaquirá is a historic and enchanting town located in the Cundinamarca Department of Colombia, approximately 49 kilometers (30 miles) north of Bogotá, the capital city. This charming town is famous for its awe-inspiring underground salt cathedral and well-preserved colonial architecture.

The Salt Cathedral is the primary attraction of Zipaquirá and a marvel of engineering and faith. Carved inside the tunnels of a salt mine, the cathedral is an underground sanctuary with impressive salt sculptures, religious artwork, and an ethereal atmosphere. It is a significant pilgrimage site and a masterpiece of Colombian architecture.

Zipaquirá’s historical center features well-preserved colonial buildings, cobblestone streets, and charming squares. Visitors can stroll through the town’s quaint streets and admire its colonial architecture, including the main square, Plaza de los Comuneros.

In addition to its colonial heritage, Zipaquirá has pre-Columbian archaeological sites, such as the ancient Muisca settlement of El Abra, which offers insights into the region’s indigenous history.

Medellin

Medellin is the most populated city after Bogotá. The city has a fortunate geographic location in the widest part of the natural region known as the Valley of Aburrá, located in the central Andes mountain range at 1.495 meters (4.905 feet) above sea level. This gives the city pleasant temperatures ranging between 14°C and 26°C (57°F to 79°F). This spring climate of the Eastern Antioquia grants the region the privilege of being the world’s second producer and exporter of flowers, that is why Medellin is known as the “city of the eternal spring” and “the mountain’s capital”.

The city has a modern infrastructure – it is the only city in Colombia with a metro transport system- and is considered the country’s innovation center. Museums, interactive parks, churches, and urban tours are among the attractions in Medellín. Some must-do activities in Medellin are the Graffiti tour in Comuna 13, visiting the Arvi Park, taking pictures in Botero Square, and exploring the Botanical Garden

Guatape

Guatapé is a picturesque and colorful town located in the Antioquia Department of Colombia, approximately 79 kilometers (49 miles) northeast of Medellín. Nestled among rolling hills and surrounded by stunning landscapes, Guatapé is renowned for its vibrant streets, unique architecture, and a mesmerizing man-made wonder that draws visitors from all over the world.

One of the main attractions of Guatapé is “La Piedra del Peñol” or “El Peñol Rock.” This massive granite monolith stands at an impressive height of about 200 meters (656 feet). Visitors can climb a staircase of 740 steps to reach the top, where they are rewarded with awe-inspiring panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the labyrinthine waterways of Guatapé’s reservoir.

Guatapé is famous for its vibrant and artistic buildings adorned with colorful bas-reliefs, known as “zócalos.” These intricately designed decorations can be found on the lower part of the houses, depicting a wide range of subjects, from daily life scenes to geometric patterns and symbols. Strolling through the town’s streets becomes an enchanting experience as the zócalos create a lively and captivating atmosphere.

The Guatapé Reservoir is a vast body of water surrounded by green hills and scattered islands. Also known as Lake Guatapé, it offers numerous opportunities for water-based activities, such as boat rides, jet skiing, kayaking, and fishing. The reservoir’s tranquility and natural beauty make it an ideal spot for relaxation and enjoying the great outdoors.

Guatapé’s waterfront promenade, known as the Malecón, runs along the edge of the reservoir. It’s a popular spot for leisurely strolls, where visitors can enjoy views of the water and the colorful houses lining the streets. The Malecón is also home to several restaurants, cafes, and handicraft shops, making it a lively and charming area to explore.

Cartagena

Regarding tourism, Cartagena is probably the most important Colombian city after Bogota. It is the capital of the department Bolivar, on the northern coast of Colombia. It has an average temperature of 32°C (89°F), the climate is hot but breezy since it is located at sea level. There are over 500 years of history to be found here and Cartagena was also cataloged as UNESCO World Heritage in 1984. Its perfect location right on the Caribbean Sea and its beautiful colonial old town (Ciudad Amurallada) enchant national and international tourists, who also choose to arrive on cruise ships. In the historical part, you will find many sights, boutique hotels, and restaurants. The walled city is known to be a common honeymoon destination due to the romanticism of its streets and architecture. Cartagena is a city with a lot of history and fascinating places to visit, such as San Felipe de Barajas Castle and the historic center.

San Basilio de Palenque

San Basilio de Palenque is a historic and culturally significant town located in the Bolívar Department of Colombia. It holds the distinction of being the first free town in the Americas, founded by escaped African slaves in the 17th century. This unique heritage has resulted in San Basilio de Palenque being designated as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity site.

San Basilio de Palenque is deeply rooted in its African heritage, with its inhabitants being direct descendants of escaped slaves known as “palenqueros.” The town’s African influence is evident in its language, music, dance, and cultural traditions.

One of the most remarkable aspects of San Basilio de Palenque is the preservation of the Palenquero language, which is a Spanish-based Creole with strong African linguistic influences. This language has survived for centuries, reinforcing the community’s identity and heritage.

The town is known for its vibrant music and dance traditions, including traditional Afro-Colombian rhythms like “bullerengue” and “son palenquero.” These musical expressions play an essential role in preserving the community’s cultural heritage.

San Basilio de Palenque is a symbol of cultural resistance and emancipation. Its history as a place of refuge for escaped slaves highlights the resilience and bravery of the community’s ancestors.

The people of San Basilio de Palenque take great pride in their unique cultural heritage and actively work to preserve and promote their traditions for future generations.

The town has become a popular destination for cultural tourism, attracting visitors interested in learning about its rich history and experiencing its vibrant cultural expressions.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Bogota

Arrival to Bogota

You will be picked up at the airport in Bogota and driven to your hotel.

The bilingual guide will be waiting for you at the exit of the airport.

Accommodation

Here you will find the best hotel recommendations in Bogota.

Day 2: Bogota

Full day City tour Paloquemao, Monserrate, Museums and La Candelaria

Your first stop will be Paloquemao, an emblematic place for supplying families and businesses in Bogota. It offers with the highest quality a great variety of flowers, fruits, vegetables, meat, groceries, dairy products, herbs and much more. There, our Colombian tradition and culture is preserved and proudly represented by offering a unique sensory experience with all the colors, smells and most delicious flavors that come from all regions of Colombia. Then you will visit ‘La Candelaria’ neighborhood and the historic center of Bogotá, full of colorful colonial buildings and stone streets. During the tour you will visit The Gold Museum and the Botero Museum, both in La Candelaria. The Gold Museum is the place to discover the largest collection of pre-Hispanic goldsmithing in the world, with approximately 34,000 pieces of gold and about 25,000 objects in ceramics, stone, bone and textiles made by several Colombian indigenous cultures, this Museum close on Tuesdays. In the Botero Museum, you will find a large art collection donated by the famous local artist Fernando Botero, including 87 pieces of universal art and 123 works made by Botero himself. Pieces from international artists such as Renoir, Monet, Degas, Dalí, Pissarro, Bonnard, among others, are present in the museum.

Finally, you will visit the Sanctuary of Monserrate, which is the most iconic point of the city and the main tourist attraction. It sits at 3,150 meters (10,334 feet) above the sea level, therefore, it offers spectacular views of the city. To climb the mountain, you can take the cable car or walk along the trail.

Day 3: Bogota – Guatavita – Zipaquira – Bogota – Medellin

Full day tour Guatavita Lagoon and Salt Cathedral

The Guatavita Lagoon is located approximately 90 minutes from Bogotá. This lagoon is the setting for the authentic “El Dorado Legend”. It was a sacred place for the Muiscas indigenous people and it is still used as such today. Guatavita has an altitude of 3.100 meters above sea level (10.170 feet) and an average temperature of 5 °C to 11 °C (41° F to 52 °F). To get to the lagoon you must walk a path and due to the rainfall, we recommend wearing comfortable clothes and keeping a raincoat on hand. After the visit to Guatavita you will go to the Salt Cathedral in Zipaquirá – the first wonder of Colombia, which is located in a salt mine 180 meters underground. It is a place regularly visited by Catholics, but its architecture and history leave all visitors astonished.

Travel Day

You will travel from Bogota to Medellin.

Accommodation

Here you will find the best hotel recommendations in Medellin.

Day 4: Medellin

Full Day City Tour Medellin and Comuna 13

Your guide and driver will pick you up at your hotel to discover the charm of a city in constant evolution and development. A tour of the main sites of interest that reflects the daily life of the inhabitants, the stories of hope and change, the contrast of neighborhoods, the style of old and modern buildings, the use of new spaces, the style of churches and the artistic works of world-renowned masters.

  • Museo de Antioquia: The most important museum in Medellín, it houses paintings, drawings and sculptures by Fernando Botero.
  • Museum of Modern Art: Art and contemporary artistic practices.
  • Pueblito Paisa: definition of the Antioquian tradition that is reflected in the handicrafts gastronomy and architecture of the place; the majestic view of Medellín and the mountains that run through the Aburrá Valley.
  • Comuna 13: Comuna 13, also known as San Javier, is a historically significant neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia. Situated on the western slopes of the Aburra Valley, it was once one of the most dangerous and violence-ridden areas in the city during the 1980s and 1990s, primarily due to the influence of drug cartels and guerrilla groups. However, in recent years, Comuna 13 has undergone a remarkable transformation and is now hailed as a symbol of urban renewal and positive change. The neighborhood’s turnaround can be largely attributed to various social and infrastructural initiatives implemented by the local government, community organizations, and residents themselves.
    The installation of the city’s innovative Metrocable system in 2004 played a crucial role in the revitalization of Comuna 13. This cable car system connected the neighborhood to the city’s metro network, vastly improving transportation access and connectivity for its residents. Additionally, the Metrocable opened up economic opportunities by attracting tourists to the area. Comuna 13’s transformation was further supported by various urban development projects, including the construction of public escalators, brightly painted street art, and recreational spaces. These initiatives not only enhanced the neighborhood’s aesthetics but also improved safety and accessibility for residents.
    Residents, along with local organizations, worked together to create spaces for cultural expression, education, and skill development. These efforts have helped foster a sense of pride and ownership among the community members. The neighborhood has become an important hub for street art and graffiti, with colorful murals adorning the walls, depicting stories of its tumultuous past and hopeful future.

Day 5: Medellin – Santa Fe de Antioquia – Medellin

Full Day Tour Santa Fe de Antioquia

The Santa Fe de Antioquia Tour contrasts the thriving present of Antioquia and the memorable past of its ancestors. It is a colonial town of cobblestone streets and large houses with large doors. There you can visit its churches, parks and the imposing Puente de Occidente, declared a national monument of Colombia. Constructions that attest to a prosperous and successful past.

Day 6: Medellin – Guatape – Cartagena

Full day tour to Guatapé and El Peñol

Approximately two hours away from Medellin is Guatapé, one of the most colorful villages in the country. The town is located on the shore of an artificial water reservoir built in the 70s. One of the main attractions in the area is the big rock called “El Peñol” because it offers a beautiful view of the reservoir. However, if you want to get to the top you must climb the 740 steps. The best reward after climbing down the rock is a typical “bandeja paisa”, served in the local restaurants. Visitors in Guatapé can practice water sports, such as jet skiing, fishing, among others.

Travel Day

You will travel from Medellin to Cartagena.

Accommodation

Here you will find the best hotel recommendations in Cartagena

Day 7: Cartagena

Half Day City Tour

You will have a 4 hour tour of the city of Cartagena, visiting the residential neighborhoods that border the Bay of Cartagena. You will visit the Monastery of San Pedro Claver and its church, built in honor of the patron saint of slaves – Pedro Claver. The church is considered a national monument and, because of its history and charm, is one of the favorite churches for weddings in Cartagena. You can also visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the most important work of military engineering in the New World. This fortress was built by the Spanish during the colonial era (from 1536) to protect the city from pirates and invaders. Today it is one of the 7 wonders of Colombia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day 8: Cartagena – San Basilio de Palenque

Full Day Route Of Liberty – San Basilio de Palenque

San Basilio de Palenque is a place where music, language, medicine and other daily traditions permanently remind us of the continent that five centuries ago became the main source of slaves in the world. It is known for its mark in the history of the eighteenth century, as it was the first black slave town in America to free itself from the Spanish crown.

55 km from Cartagena, in Palenque, one of the first free towns of the continent and cradle of important boxers like Antonio Cervantes ‘Kid Pambelé’. Learn about the Afro-Caribbean history, the past, present and future of Palenque and enjoy its typical food, guided by young people from the community.

Day 9: Cartagena – Departure

Departure Cartagena

You will be picked up at the hotel and driven to the airport Rafael Nuñez in Cartagena.

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About Author

Frank

Frank

Hello! I'm Frank Spitzer, the founder and the heart behind Pelecanus, a specialized tour operator for Colombia travel. My journey in travel is vast and rich – I've explored over 60 countries, absorbing cultures, experiences, and stories along the way. Since 2017, I've been channeling this wealth of global experience into creating unforgettable travel experiences in Colombia.I'm recognized as a leading authority in Colombian tourism, with a deep-seated passion for sharing this beautiful country with the world. You can catch glimpses of my travel adventures and insights around Colombia on my YouTube channel. I'm also active on social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, where I share the vibrant culture and stunning landscapes of Colombia.For professional networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Join me on this incredible journey, and let's explore the wonders of Colombia together!

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