Colombia's Caribbean Coast - 7 Days
Day 1: Arrive in Cartagena (optional city tour)
Cartagena blue hour
Welcome to Cartagena! This picturesque colonial city on the Caribbean Sea is rich in culture, architecture, romance -- and, yes, even pirate history. Head to your hotel from the airport, and depending on the time of your arrival, consider a few options. You can relax and enjoy the hotel amenities, or jump into action with a walking tour, either by yourself or with an English-speaking guide. Here are some things that you should see:
• Wander the narrow, winding streets of the inner-walled city with a camera to photograph colorful houses and lively squares overflowing with bougainvillea.
• Visit the Palace of Inquisition, which despite its original use, is one of the finest buildings in the city
• Tour Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards.
• Pay respects at Santo Domingo, reputedly the oldest church in the city.
• Walk along the original fortress wall and see panoramic views of the city.
• Check out La Vitrola -- the city's most famous restaurant in a 400-year-old colonial home.
Finish the day on your own with mojitos and fresh ceviche in one of the city’s hip restaurants or rooftop bars.
Day 2: Travel to Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Iguana on a rock in Tayrona National Park
This morning, you'll depart for Tayrona at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The picturesque national park sits between the Piedras River and the Caribbean Sea and is quite a sight to behold. Here, you will encounter a wide range of landscapes from tropical rainforests, white-sand beaches, mangrove swamps, and one of the few coral reefs in Colombia. With this diverse array of landscapes comes a huge variety of plants, birds, mammals, and marine life.
When you arrive, spend some free time exploring the area and enjoy the scenery.
Day 3: Tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
View of the jungle in Tayrona national park
Today, you'll experience some of South America's loveliest coastline with a guided tour to the stunning beaches and rainforests of Tayrona -- one of three national parks on Colombia's Caribbean coast. The trip starts with a hike in the tropical foothills near Cañaveral, the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. You'll then visit the exotic beaches of Arrecifes and stop at La Piscina, an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling.
Continue to Cabo San Juan del Guia and see a wonderful bay of white sand surrounded by huge volcanic rocks. On the way here, you can observe several species of local fauna and flora pointed out by your knowledgeable guide. The afternoon is your free time to enjoy lunch and relax on the shore.
Day 4: Overnight in Minca: Coffee Farm & Village Tour
Purple mountain landscape in Minca
After breakfast, depart for Minca, a delightful mountain village located in the scenic Colombian hillside that's starting to attract in-the-know backpackers. Minca is seemingly a world away from the bustling city of Santa Marta down on the Caribbean coast — and remember to bring a layer as the temperature above sea level is cooler than other parts of the country.
You'll start the day touring (and tasting!) one of the area's organic coffee farms, of which Minca is known for. After learning about the production process, there’s a visit to the natural swimming hole of Pozo Azul for a refreshing dip. Have a traditional Colombian lunch, before you embark on an afternoon walking tour of the town center. Alternatively, visit the hummingbird balcony at Hotel Minca where you can relax and observe hundreds of hummingbirds that feed there.
Day 5: Sunrise Birdwatching -> Transfer to Cartagena
Today, experience the awesome nature and diversity of Minca's surroundings with a unique birdwatching excursion. The area's dry scrub is great for colorful viewing, so you won't want to miss this.
You will leave from Minca at dawn! It is not a difficult hike, and the results are worth it. Your guide will be able to show you a wide variety of rare species such as the golden-winged sparrow, the black-backed antshrike, and the rosy thrush-tanager.
After lunch in Minca's pleasant village, bid farewell and drive back to Cartagena.
Day 6: Rosario Islands Day-Trip
Blue waters of the Rosario Islands
Rise and shine! Today, you will be picked up from your hotel bright and early and transferred to the pier for a speedboat transfer towards the Baru Peninsula. Along the way, you will see Tierra Bomba Island and Boca Chica, an ancient fort that once protected Cartagena.
Once you arrive to the Rosario Islands, change into your swimwear before you head to Playa Azul, a stunning white-sand beach on the bright turquoise Caribbean Sea. After lunch is served, you will have time to relax and sunbathe or do some kayaking in the sea before returning to Cartagena in the late afternoon. A car will pick you up at the pier to take you back to your hotel.
Day 7: Depart Cartagena
Cartagena Old Town
It's time to say farewell to Colombia! Enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a relaxing café, or (if you have not done so yet) take a walk around the city with an English-speaking guide to gain a new perspective of the city from a local.
This optional tour covers Cartagena's enchanting maze of colorful houses and lively squares from the 16th century. Meander through the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo while learning about main sites like the Popa Monastery, Saint Philip's Castle, and el Museo del Oro.
A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home.