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COLOMBIAN HEARTLANDS

Gay and Lesbian Tours to Colombia
Beautiful scenery, charming hotels, authentic community experiences and cultural immersion are the cornerstone of this inspiring adventure, complemented with restaurant hopping, street food and chef signature gastronomy.

This marvelous itinerary combines the best of Bogota, the Coffee Triangle and an extension to Cartagena. Delight in urban art, history, culture, gastronomy, and rural agricultural experiences with local baristas in the coffee growing region. Scenic landscapes, colours and flavours and highly-qualified guides make this a one-of-a-kind travel experience.
ITINERARY
Day 1 • Arrival in Bogota
Today we arrive in Bogota and transfer to our hotel.

Also known as Santa Fe de Bogota, or the 'Athens of the Americas' (owing to Bogotanos' reputation for politeness and civility), Bogota is set at an altitude of over 2600m (8,600 feet) with high ranges of the Cordillera to the east. This captivating urban center has a rich cultural life and beautiful architecture. Like any self-respecting capital city, Bogotá is the country's capital of art, academia, history, culture and government. This is Colombia's beating heart.

Our hotel is strategically located in the heart of the ¨Zona Rosa,¨ a very popular district for restaurants and night life.

Overnight in Bogota.
Meal plan: Dinner
Day 2 • Bogota: Paloquemao Market, Gold Museum & Street Food Experience
We start our day with a visit to the food market of Paloquemao, well-recognized today as the Mecca of foodie hotspots in Bogota. We surround ourselves with the fresh aromas of just-harvested products, meat, fruits, vegetables, seafood, and the incredible colours of beautiful flower exhibitions.

We visit the best spots for street graffiti art in the city while we make our way to the Gold Museum, whose collection of more than 34,000 pieces of pre-Columbian gold show you the wealth of ancient tribes and the famous legend of "El Dorado".

We continue walking the old quarter of La Candelaria and stop for a “tinto” (local name given to black coffee) while our guide gives us a brief outline of the recent history of Colombia. Discover Bolivar Square, and delight in local food at La Bruja Typical Colombian restaurant featuring the best soups in town.

Afternoon finds us visiting the sanctuary of Monserrate and its amazing skyline at 10,000 ft. At the end of the day, chill out at our hotel before preparing for our drinks and dinner night at Andres Carne de Res DC, a very popular restaurant with a trendy and fiesta atmosphere.

Overnight in Bogota.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 3 • Bogota - Armenia - Salento
We get up early this morning and fly from Bogota to Armenia.

Since UNESCO added Colombia’s coffee region to its list of World Heritage sites, Armenia and the surrounding towns have opened up to travellers.

Today we will visit Salento, situated in the heart of the coffee region of Colombia. This is one of the oldest towns in the department of Quindio, and probably the smallest. Startlingly well preserved, Salento offers us an opportunity to enjoy a traditional coffee settlement. With it’s low slung timber houses, Salento almost has a wild-west feel to it. Set amid gorgeous green mountains, this small town survives on coffee production, trout farming and, increasingly, tourists, who are drawn by its quaint streets, typical paisa architecture and its proximity to the spectacular Valle de Cocora. It was founded in 1850, and is one of the oldest towns in Quindío.

This afternoon we will be sure to make a stop at the famous "Jesus Martin" coffee shop where we can enjoy some superb organic coffee. Located just half a block from Salento’s main square, one finds this little gem… with an interior that is something like a Parisian cafe with a distinctly South American flavour.

Overnight near Salento.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 4 • Cocora Valley & Coffee Tour
Today we visit Valle de Cocora located to the east of Salento. Here we will enjoy a walk in the valley and see the famous Palma de Cera (wax palm) growing abundantly along the hillsides. Towering high, this palm makes for the rather strange but beautiful scenery. The Valle de Cocora belongs to Colombia's coffee region, a destination known for its historical and ecological richness. Having shed years of isolation imposed by surrounding civil war and the central Andean range that marks its eastern limit, coffee country has become the heart of Colombia's nascent "rural tourism" industry that fuses history, ecology and know-your-roots national pride.

The rich volcanic soil together with the climate and the topography make this region ideal for the cultivation of quality coffee. For much of the last century coffee was one of the mainstays of the Colombian economy but over the last 20 years the importance of coffee to the Colombian economy has reduced. There are a number of working coffee farms around the Salento area, and we will explore one of them today. To fully experience the Zona Cafetera you must visit a working coffee farm (Finca) and walk amongst the coffee plants. This lush, green region not only has a temperate climate for travellers but is also home to the snow capped peaks of the Parque National Los Nevados. This region's terraced slopes provide the perfect environment for the coffee to grow with the climate and precipitation levels being ideal.

Overnight near Salento.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 5 • Salento - Jardin
Today we head north from the Cafetera ('Coffee Zone') and travel to Jardin, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful pueblos in all of Colombia. The town of Jardin has remained virtually unchanged for more than a century, and is famous for its preserved and colonial appearance as well as its striking mountain views and lush green, garden filled landscapes. In 1985 the main square of Jardin was declared as a national monument by the Ministry of Tourism.

We will enjoy a walk around the center of town, taking time to explore the main plaze. Here visitors are drawn by its kaleidescope of colours, as Jardín vies for the crown of Colombia's most colourful town with its brightly painted tables, cowhide chairs and colourwashed façades. During our afternoon of touring we will ride a cable car to the top of a mountain overlooking Jardín. Completed just 10 years ago, this 5-minute gondola ride provides the best views of Jardin and the encompassing central valley.

Overnight in Jardin.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 6 • Jardin - Santa Elena & Medellin
Today we travel north from Jardin towards Medellin.

Before heading into Medellin we will drive out to the small town of Santa Elena, located just east of Medellin and situated high in the mountainside. The weather here is normally cooler due to the elevation, and the soil is rich with nutrients that local farmers enjoy for growing an abundance of tropical and local varieties of flowers. Many of these flowers are exported to international markets abroad. Santa Elena is also the birthplace of the ornate flower arrangements called silletas that are the cornerstone of the Flower Festival or Feria de Las Flores in Medellin.

After our visit to the town of Santa Elena, we drive down into the city of Medellin at the end of our day. This is Colombia's 'second city' and the capital of 'Paisa' culture. Medellín is a forward-thinking city, which has reinvented itself over the past decade. Medellin is rightly proud of its status as being Colombia's second largest but also possible most progressive city. With Colombia's most extensive integrated public transport system, this city is a 'pioneer' in terms of social reform and offers a slick uptown district with an international feel.

Overnight in Medellin.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 7 • Medellin: City Tour
Today we will enjoy a guided tour through Medellin, the "City of Eternal Spring". We walk through the historical and cultural centers where we learn about Colombia's controversial yet fascinating history.

We will stroll through the hustle and bustle of downtown. We will see the famous Botero Plaza with its exhibition of the Colombian artist Fernando Botero, whose sculptures have become a landmark of the city. We will take the Metro Cable up to Santo Domingo, which was once a notorious area of gang violence in Medellin. The cable car was constructed to make the inner city more accessible to people from the outskirts, and allows visitors a glimpse into the lives of the marginalized population. While enjoying the spectacular view you will learn more about the transformation of Medellin from the most dangerous city in the world into a fascinating melting pot of cultures with possibly the friendliest and warmest people in the world. We will be sure to visit Parque Lleras, one of Medellín's must-see quarters as well as the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Overnight in Medellin.
Meal plan: Breakfast
Day 8 • Medellin - Cartagena: Old Town Walking Tour
This morning we fly to Cartagena.

Located on Colombia's northern coast, and facing the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena de Indias is the undisputed queen of the Caribbean coast. Founded in 1533 by Spaniard Don Pedro de Heredia, and named after the port of Cartagena in Spain's Murcia region, Cartagena de Indias was a major center of early Spanish settlement in the Americas, which had impressive development in the 18th century as the de facto capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. Today Cartagena beautifully preserves its colonial character with the assistance of UNESCO as a listed World Heritage Site.

This is undoubtedly one of Latin America's most beautiful cities, lost somewhere in time between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the Caribbean Sea as a sparkling backdrop. Sir Francis Drake laid siege to the city but the fortress walls and cannons remain, making the area within the old walled city a living museum.

This afternoon we will discover Cartagena's rich history and beautiful colonial architecture. You will learn about the culture of Cartagena and its interesting architecture from our knowledgeable local guide, and visit such beautiful sites as Plaza de Bolívar, the Cathedral of Cartagena, San Pedro Claver Square and San Pedro Church.

We will stroll through the narrow shaded streets of the old walled city, where flowers cascade from overhanging wooden balconies. The Old City is nearly encircled by walls that stand 4m (12ft) tall and are as thick as 18m (60ft) in some places. Their strength has preserved some fascinating colonial structures.

Cartagena's historic center is flat and relatively small, making it the perfect city for walking. You'll find a photo opportunity at every corner. Peek into doorways to see the cool tiled patios hidden from other passersby.

Overnight in Cartagena.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 9 • Cartagena: Old Town & Free Afternoon
This morning in the Old City, we will see the Fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, the largest and strongest fortification the Spanish ever built in the colonies. We will visit the Palacio de la Inquisición; this building documents the darkest period in the city's history. A baroque limestone doorway off Plaza de Bolívar marks the entrance of the Palacio, the headquarters of the repressive arbiters of political and spiritual orthodoxy who once exercised jurisdiction over Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

We'll visit the Convento and Iglesia de San Pedro Claver was founded by Jesuits in the first half of the 17th century. Today this convent is a monumental three-story building surrounding a tree-filled courtyard and much of it is open as a museum. Exhibits include religious art and pre-Columbian ceramics, and a new section devoted to Afro-Caribbean contemporary pieces includes wonderful Haitian paintings and African masks.

You are then free to find lunch and enjoy an afternoon of exploration before we meet later this afternoon, when colonial carriages will take us for a ride around the city before our final dinner. This afternoon may want to visit the local Gold Museum with its amazing and priceless national collections, and interesting rooms that recreate the region's Amerindian ethnic groups. Though small, this museum offers a fascinating collection from the Zenu (also known as Sinu) people, who inhabited the region of the present-day departments of Bolívar, Córdoba, Sucre and northern Antioquia before the Spanish Conquest.

Overnight in Cartagena.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 10 • Departure
Departure from Cartagena.

BUEN VIAJE!
Meal plan: Breakfast

For detailed itinerary (PDF), click here
For hotel samples, click here
INCLUSIONS
  • Breakfast daily, other meals as per the tour itinerary (hotels and restaurants)
  • All accommodation, transport, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters (if available)
  • Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving/late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us
  • Most hotels provide wifi free of charge, though we cannot guarantee it
EXCLUSIONS
  • Tour Leader gratuity, some lunches and dinners, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), departure taxes, domestic and international air taxes (if applicable)
  • Airport transfers for Land Only customers
  • Optional trip cancellation insurance
  • Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs, shopping, and locally paid departure taxes and entrance fees (if applicable)
OUT FACTOR
LGBT rights in Colombia have progressed since consensual homosexual activity was decriminalized in 1980 with amendments to the Criminal Code, making it one of Latin America's most advanced countries in regard to LGBT rights legislation. On 28 April 2016, the Constitutional Court legalized same-sex marriage. Colombia is also a rising star in the gay travel world - with a thriving and excellent gay scene in the capital, Bogota. The government in Colombia is officially gay-friendly, and the Colombian people are open-minded, warm, and welcoming. Colombians are generally accommodating for foreigners and their idiosyncrasies, but it is possible that public displays of affection may cause a small scandal in some areas of the country. Despite the world-famous 'relaxedness' of Colombia, it is still a heavily Catholic country, after all.
PLEASE NOTE
This itinerary is correct at time of publishing. For a more detailed itinerary, download a PDF here. We reserve the right to make changes as necessary due to reasons beyond our control. For booking terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Terms.
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TRIP NOTES
Group size
10-16 plus Tour Leader
Staff & Support
Local English-speaking Tour Leader, driver/s, and local guides at some locations.
Accommodation
Well-located, heated/air-conditioned, mid-upper range (3-star) hotels with en suite toilet and bath throughout. Click on hotels link elsewhere on this page for more information.
Transport & travel conditions
Land transport throughout by private air-conditioned motor coach or minibus depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Though we will have some full bus days, road travel is not particularly arduous as there are plenty of stops of interest. Most roads are in good condition though winding on some stretches. Numerous walking tours on uneven surfaces. Most people are not seriously affected by altitude (2400-3300 m / 8,000-9,500 ft). Flights via scheduled local carrier. Our difficulty level "2" rating refers to the above-mentioned busy days, walking tours on uneven terrain, lack of handrails (public and elsewhere, ie shower stalls), and fatigue that can be caused by heat and humidity. Is Colombia safe? Unfortunately people still ask this question, despite the country making huge strides in recent years to reign in illegal drug-related activity. Visitors to Colombia encounter a highly-developed, prosperous society with excellent infrastructure, world-class service, and very low crime rates. And some of the friendliest and welcoming people you'll ever meet!
Weather/seasonality
Here the weather and climate are truly those of 'perpetual spring,' as understood in temperate latitudes. Nights are cool but never really cold, and at this height frost is unknown. The days feel warm in the sun but are never really hot. Rain and afternoon cloud are frequent. Sunshine averages from three to five hours a day throughout the year. Cartagena, however, is hot and humid-year round. Overall, the best time to visit is between December and April (we avoid the busy and expensive Christmas/New Year's period).

The following is a sampling of our preferred properties in some of the locations visited on this tour and is meant to be indicative only. Hotel properties are not confirmed until 30-60 days before trip date. You can click on the hotel photo to view the official hotel website (if available). For sample hotels in other locations on this tour, please contact us.

Hotel Boheme Royal


Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Bogota
Country: Colombia

Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and attractions of Bogotá, Colombia as a distinguished guest of the Bohème Royal Hotel . Perfectly located in the heart of Bogotá’s “Zona Rosa” dining and entertainment district, this refined destination represents the best of Bogotá’s hotels with an elite level of guest service and unmatched amenities. Encircled by eclectic boutiques and fashionable restaurants, minutes from the Andino, Retiro and Atlantis Plaza shopping centers, our dynamic hotel is equally suited for relaxing executive travel and stylish holidays in the Colombian capital.

Click here to visit hotel website

El Eden Country Inn


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Salento
Country: Colombia

This is a charming, colonial style country inn in a stunning rural setting. There is a pool, jacuzzi, and homey rooms with a cozy decor. The inn also boasts a charming restaurant featuring local specialties.


Click here to visit hotel website

Hacienda Castilla


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Salento
Country: Colombia

Hacienda Castilla has the doors open for you to enjoy an unforgettable stay, where you can effortlessly commune with nature and history.

Click here to visit hotel website

Nubian Guest House



Location: Jardin
Country: Colombia

The Nubian Rest House is a charming small hotel built in the typical Nubian style just at the foot of Jebel Barkal, the holy mountain of the old Egyptian and Nubian Pharaohs. It is surrounded by a large private enclosure, with a nice garden and leisure area. Each of the 22 A/C rooms is characterized by a peculiar Nubian door with its own private bathroom and a pleasant veranda.

Click here to visit hotel website

Don Pedro de Heredia


Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Cartagena
Country: Colombia

In a colonial-era building in the walled old town, this charming hotel is 6 minutes' walk from both Casa de Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the Museo de Arte Moderno de Cartagena de Indias.

Rustic rooms provide cable TV, free Wi-Fi, minibars, and tea and coffeemakers. Many have balconies.

A breakfast buffet is served in a restaurant that has a terrace. There's also an interior courtyard, a sundeck and an outdoor pool.

Click here to visit hotel website