- Visit the gorgeous flower fields of Santa Elena.
- Release river turtles in an effort to conserve and almost extinct species.
- Enjoy waterfall swimming and tubing down a warm, tropical river.
- Visit a raucous tropical bird sanctuary and see adorable capybaras up close.
- Go caving between marbled walls, learning about native birdlife.
- Boat along the Magdalena River in search of Escobar’s hippos and spot howler monkeys and iguanas in trees.
- Discover the history of Medellin’s slums through art, dance and music.
- Taste the crafts of Colombia’s finest chocolate makers and coffee producers.
- Wander down alleyways to see the street art in Cartagena’s bohemian neighborhoods.
- Volunteer with life-changing non-profits, enriching the lives of the locals.
DAY 1: ARRIVE INTO MEDELLIN
Welcome to the beautiful Andes Mountains in Colombia! Your guide will be waiting to greet you at the airport as you come through customs. They’ll transfer you into the city to rest for tomorrow’s adventure.
With three ranges of the Andes running through the country, start your trip in the western section near the “City of Eternal Spring.” It was once known as a notorious city, but Medellin now has a reputation of being one of the safest and most exciting in South America.
DAY 2: SANTA ELENA
A short drive away is the quiet town of Santa Elena, where you’ll find field after field of vibrant flowers! This region is where the majority of Valentine’s Day florals are grown, which are exported to the United States. Visit a flower farm to learn about the production and cultivation process of export-quality flowers. Look for birds of paradise, hortensias, heliconias, orchids, and various endemic trees. Also, keep a lookout for exotic birds like toucans and the beautiful split-tailed barrenquerro.
You’ll meet the workers of the farm and learn about their lives before eating lunch. At the farm, taste a variety of local and traditional foods like sancocho, tamales, champú, and exotic juices.
Depending on time, you may even get the special and rare treat of visiting the house of a family that has been participating in Medellín’s world-famous Flower Festival for 42 years.
After a colorful day, your guide will bring you to Cannúa, Colombia’s first luxury ecolodge. As the sun begins to set, sip on a deliciously sweet traditional drink, or sit by the fire with a glass of wine and watch the lights in the distant villages begin to illuminate for the evening.
DAY 3: ESTACIÓN CORCORNA
As Colombia has changed and become peaceful, several doors have opened to previously off-limit lands that have yet to be discovered by foreigners. In the small village of Estación Corcorna, you’ll find wonderful people living a life that is worlds away from the big cities. What you won’t find is another foreigner.
The area you’ll roam was once one of the areas that experienced some of the worst violence in the country during the 80s and 90s. Now that the region has changed, you’ll be among the first taking advantage of some hidden treasures.
After breakfast, head out on a long drive to a system of hidden caves. Put on your helmet and headlamp, then get ready to explore twisting rivers and cave walls made from marble. Learn about the bird species that live inside and how the caves support the local ecosystem.
Once you exit the caves, continue the drive toward Puerto Triunfo and to the private reserve of one of the region’s foremost experts in birds. Get up close and personal with several animals as you learn about the danger they face from habitat loss and the pet trade. Here you can also see capybara up close!
Afterward, finish your trip to Estación Corcorna, where there will be a special evening surprise for you!
DAY 4: MAGDALENA RIVER, ESCOBAR’S HIPPOS AND TURTLE HATCHLING RELEASE
Wake up and get ready for adventure! As howler monkeys growl from the other side of the river, you’ll be awake early to see a gorgeous sunrise. Board the boat and sip on your morning gourmet coffee as you head downriver towards the Magdalena River. Along the way, look out for wild blue macaws and green parakeets. Monkeys will fill the trees that line the riverbank, watching curiously as the boat passes.
Years ago, Pablo Escobar purchased an enormous property nearby where he built himself a private zoo. After his death, four hippos were left to wander the property. They have since escaped and procreated, making Colombia the only country outside of Africa with wild hippos. As the boat reaches the Magdalena, you’ll head on a search to try and find some of the hippos and see them in their new natural habitat.
After the search, head back to the home for a fresh breakfast. Nearby, one of the local women has started a foundation to reproduce and liberate a species of endangered turtle endemic to the area that was almost wiped out by local fishing. You’ll hear about her story and learn about the turtles before heading back to the river to liberate your own turtle.
Move further upriver to a protected cove for a beautiful lunch set on the riverbank. Continue to arrive at a waterfall where you’ll have time to cool down with a swim. You’ll be given an inner-tube to float on for one hour back downstream. There, the boat will greet you to head back to the private house to sip wine and relax as the sun goes down.
Later, pack up your things and head back to Cannúa for the evening.
DAY 5: SANTA ELENA
Today you’ll join True Graffiti to take you on a path through central areas to see the street art, and also through the rarely visited and extraordinary Comuna 1. The experience will be lead by the creator of this youth collective of artists.
The walk will begin in the living Urban Museum of Memories, a giant mural display that tells the history of the creation of the neighborhood and both the ancestral and modern history of the inhabitants.
From there, walk with your guide through the spiraling alleyways and streets of the neighborhood hearing poetry, freestyle music, and stories of what has happened in this impactful neighborhood over the last 50 years.
Snaking through this hillside favela neighborhood, move on from the sector of Santo Domingo to Popular 1, where you’ll have a traditional lunch with the collective inside the local cultural center. After lunch, take a look at how art has changed the lives of the members of the collective. Afterward, head back to Cannúa.
DAY 6: MEDELLIN
In the morning, experience Medellín from a different perspective. Colombia is one of the most diverse countries with regards to fruits and vegetables. Get ready to experience Colombia through some of its gastronomic staples as you venture through one of Medellin’s best markets to find sumptuous raw ingredients that locals cook with every day.
Your guide will join you in the “Minorista” market, where you’ll find endless stands of local fruit, herbs, and meats produced in the area.
Visit the government center for a history lesson of Medellin, before walking through the brilliant Parque de las Luces to hear about the importance of education in urban development. Also, on this walk, you’ll see Parque Berrio and Plaza Botero to witness the world-famous sculptures of Fernando Botero in the plaza and walk through the Museum of Antioquia, full of sculptures, paintings, and drawings donated by Botero himself to his home city.
Browse traditional handicrafts and souvenirs at a local market as you pass flower-lined streets and parks, then head to lunch at one of Medellin’s top “hidden” local restaurants.
Afterward, return to Medellín and enjoy a real treat. Tilin Tilin is one of the finest (and vegan!) chocolate makers in the entire country, sourcing the highest quality cacao from different regions of Colombia and continuously experimenting with new and different flavors.
Learn about the history of chocolate, the mission of Tilin Tilin, and how they work their magic! Then, of course, you’ll have a private tasting of their various types, percentages, and styles. A truly sensational experience!
Dinner Recommendation: Cooking Lesson!
After walking the city, you’ll have the option to purchase ingredients and head to a private house for a cooking lesson with a professional chef. Enjoy a home-cooked, delicious, and gourmet Colombian meal and lend a hand in making it!
DAY 7: MEDELLIN
Today you’ll gain an understanding of how the people of Medellín used community action to reject violence and change the city. The members of Barrio Comparsa have specialized in interactive arts, dance, and music for over 40 years. During the years of heavy violence in the city, Barrio Comparsa was founded by local community members looking for a way to make local citizens smile, to preserve Colombian history and legends, and to create alternative activities to violence for local children.
Through a series of workshops and interactive activities, you’ll create all of the tools you need to put on your own “Carnaval” on the streets of Medellín with some of the most famous public performers in the history of the city!
In the afternoon, you’ll have an exclusive visit to one of the sites of the city’s music school network, created in the 1990s to teach classical music to children in the most dangerous parts of the city. The program was so successful that the children’s orchestra played a private concert for the Pope, and opened for music halls across Europe.
Afterward, go to the hotel to rest before this evening’s special event.
Dinner Recommendation: Private Concert and Chat
In the evening, we’ll rent out a private space where you can meet the visionary founder of the musical school network and listen to a trio of now adult-musicians trained from the very first class of students in the 90s. They are some of the finest musicians in Colombia and will play a private collection of pieces just for you!
DAY 8: CARTAGENA
As the sun rises on the beautiful and staggering Andes mountains, you’ll have a lovely breakfast before heading back toward the international airport for a short flight to the Caribbean Coast and your final destination, Cartagena.
You’ll be staying right in the heart of the “Ciudad Amurallada,” the old walled city of Cartagena. Here, you’ll encounter enchanting streets and plazas lined with gorgeous bright yellow and blue walls of buildings that define the colonial architecture of this 500-year-old city.
After getting settled, discover the history of Cartagena starting at the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, one of the largest Spanish colonial fortresses ever built.
After lunch, head out on foot to explore Getsemaní, one of Cartagena’s most exciting and changing neighborhoods. Walk down alleyways to see some of the famous street art in this bohemian neighborhood, before seeing some of the most important colonial homes on the coast in Manga.
DAY 9: BOCA CHICA
Once you’ve had breakfast, you’ll head off to the bay of Boca Chica. Explore both the fort as well as the island of Tierra Bomba, where the fort lies. Your guide in Cartagena runs a non-profit organization on the island to help teach water sports to children from single-mother households.
Although the island of Tierra Bomba only lies about 10 minutes by boat from Cartagena, the inhabitants live in abject poverty in comparison to their neighbors on the mainland. Local authorities more or less neglect the island, and you’ll have the chance to help out.
Amigos del Mar offers several workshops for volunteers with the local community, including helping out in local schools reading to children, teaching youth, offering classes on manual labor and recycling, helping with construction, and offering private tutoring.
Afterward, head back to the walled city for free time and dinner.
DEPARTURE: DAY 10
On your final day, wake up early to enjoy your last morning in Colombia. Walk around the neighborhood, explore the old city walls, and enjoy some final bites of local cuisine. Grab any last souvenirs before your transfer to the airport to catch your flight home.
Interested in booking this itinerary or customizing a trip to Colombia? Get in touch with a private travel designer!