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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.
GALLERY
ITINERARY
Day 1 • Arrival in Bogota
Today we arrive in Bogota, Colombia 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.

Overnight in Bogota.
Meal plan: Dinner
Day 2 • Bogota: Paloquemao Market, Cerro Monserrate & Gold Museum
This morning we will visit the Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao, the most famous flower and food market in Bogota. This is the focal point where the produce of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, the fertile Andes and the tropical jungle meld together. The market is divided into sections: flowers; fruit, vegetables and aromatic herbs; and meat and fish. A visit here will engage all of your senses, and provides us with a great insight into Colombian customs and local living in Bogota.

Next we take a cable car to Cerro Monserrate. Some amazing views can be had from this great vantage point (weather dependant). Monserrate is crowned with its easily recognizable church and is a place of pilgrimage due to its statue of Senor Caido, the fallen Christ. Cerro de Monserrate is sometimes called the 'mountain-guardian' of Bogota, and has been a place of religious pilgrimage since colonial times.

Afterward we discover the best spots of street art in Bogota, where the most famous artist of the graffiti around the world have come to out their ideas in the walls of the city. Continue to the old quarter of La Candelaria and walk through the Plaza de Bolivar, stop at the well-known 200-year-old restaurant, La Puerta Falsa, to try the local typical sweets and desserts.

We finish our day at the world-famous Gold Museum, regarded as the finest collection of gold from pre-Hispanic times. This museum has some excellent, well laid out exhibitions with explanations in English.

Overnight in Bogota.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 3 • Bogota: Catedral de Sal & Paso Fino Horse Ranch
This morning we travel north to Zipaquira where we visit the Catedral de Sal. The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá (Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá) is an underground Roman Catholic Church built within the tunnels of a salt mine 200 meters underneath a mountain. This is not only a popular destination with travellers, but also an important place of pilgrimage in the country.

This cathedral is an engineering feat under the earth's surface, part of the salt mines that date back from the Muisca period. Curving and twisting tunnels descend into the Roman Catholic Church, passing 14 small chapels representing the Stations of the Cross, illustrating the events of Jesus' last journey. Each station has a cross and several kneeling platforms carved into the salt structure.

Upon leaving Zipaquirá, we’ll visit a traditional hacienda, one of the most traditional estates on the outskirts of Bogotá. Here you will enjoy the best of the local gastronomy by trying the typical ajiaco (chicken and potato soup) for lunch, and afterwards attend to private and exclusive exhibition of the famous Colombian creole "paso fino" horses.

We return to our hotel (due to our early departure tomorrow and included lunch today, dinner is on your own this evening).

Overnight in Bogotá.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Lunch
Day 4 • Bogota - Fly to Cafetera Region & Coffee Experience
Early this morning we transfer to Bogota's airport for our 30-minute flight to Pereira, one of the cities located near the Colombian Coffee Triangle, a UNESCO listed area known for its breathtaking deep green landscapes and the unique culture and traditions of the region. 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.

Once landed, we'll have a hands-on coffee experience covering the cultivation, harvesting, roasting, and tasting processes of coffee production, from the seed to the roasted bean. The rich volcanic soil together with the climate and the topography make this region ideal for the cultivation of quality coffee.

Our overnight point is Salento, situated in the heart of the coffee region. 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. 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.

Overnight near Salento.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 5 • Cocora Valley & Tejo Game
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. Back in the 80s, this place was declared a sanctuary for the protection of Colombia's national tree, also home of the endemic yellow-eared parrot.

This afternoon we'll get to experience Tejo, Colombia's national game. Usually accompanied by cold beer, participants can test their aim, tossing small balls into target area -- if your aim is true you'll be rewarded with an explosion of (harmless) gunpowder and the excitement of playing a truly local sport! This is a great way to get a feel for the local vibe and to participate in a very traditional passtime.

Overnight near Salento.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 6 • Salento - Sanctuary of Otun Quimbaya - Fly to Medellin
This morning we visit Otun Quimbaya, an easily-accessible nature reserve filled with hundreds of wild species, such as the howler monkey, butterflies, and myriad birds. Along our +/- 2 km leisurely walk, we'll explore the surrounding river, marshland, and forest ecosystems (your Tour Leader will provide more details on the nature of our excursion the night before).

We then return to our hotel, check out, and catch our flight to Medellin, transferring to our hotel located in the modern neighborhood of El Poblado.

This is Colombia's 'second city' and the capital of 'Paisa' culture. Medellín is a forward-thinking city, which has reinvented itself since the dark days of the drug cartels. 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 & Area Touring
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.

Having gone through several periods of significant transformation, the Medellin of today is an inclusive city, where every inhabitant has the space to express themselves and participate in social change. Much of this is due to the efforts made to improve the quality of life of Medellin's inhabitants following the difficult decades of the 80s and 90s. On our visit, you’ll have the chance to learn more about this city and the art, music, and food culture that has developed during its gradual transformation.

We enjoy the urban street art in the comunas of San Javier, the typical and avant-garde street food on the boulevard of Parque del Rio, and the massive sculptures by Fernando Botero in the heart of Medellin’s city center. We continue to the Medellin Memorial Center, a blast from the past, displaying the dramatic history of cartels and gangs that struggled for control of the city.

After a break for lunch we head to Parque Arvi, a large natural reserve located above the city that has several paths. After arriving by cable car from Medellín, we will explore trails that weave their way through magical forests and amazing landscapes of the Andes Central Mountain Range.

Nearby is the village of Santa Elena, best known for its large, ornate flower arrangements displayed annually at Medellin’s Flower Festival. The people of Santa Elena have learned how to create colourful shapes, figures and even faces out of flowers – a tradition that has been handed down to them over many years. On this visit, you'll even get a chance to chat with a flower farmer, or silletero, and stroll through a flower producing farm, taking in all the lovely fragrances.

Overnight in Medellin.
Meal plan: Breakfast
Day 8 • Medellin & Guatape
Today we get away from the hustle and bustle of Medellin with an excursion to the nearby (2- hour drive, each way) village of Guatape.

Guatape was relocated to its present spot after the construction of the Guatape hydroelectric dam. Since its foundation, all the inhabitants of the town began the tradition of decorating their houses with the unique stories of their families, their livelihoods, and the events that have marked their lives. As we explore the streets of Guatape, you’ll be impressed with the amazing, colourful walls and original art. You’ll also have the chance to visit the big rock of El Peñol, a huge monolith that faces a picturesque lake, the perfect postcard shot of the day.

We return to Medellin.

Overnght in Medellin.
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 9 • Medellin - Fly to 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. Today Cartagena beautifully preserves its colonial character with the assistance of UNESCO as a listed World Heritage Site.

This afternoon we'll discover Cartagena's rich history and beautiful colonial architecture. You will learn about the culture of Cartagena and its interesting architecture, 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 10 • Cartagena: San Fernando Fortress & La Popa Monastery
Cartagena is built on several islands located at the end of a bay; the marshes that originally surrounded these islands were filled in order to link the land to the coast. Several bridges provide access to and from the island, and one of these leads directly to the old city. A number of lagoons separate the suburban areas from the old city, whose centre is surrounded by magnificent ramparts.

Today we visit San Fernando Fortress, located on Cartagena's island of Tierra Bomba at a strategic location for Spaniards to defend the city from corsairs. The most representative sight here is the Fortress of San Rafael, a well-preserved gem that endured many battles in its time.

We'll also visit the fortress of San Felipe, a masterpiece of military strategy, before heading up to la Popa Monastery, located on the highest spot of Cartagena, where we can have a 360° view of both modern and historic Cartagena.

Overnight in Cartagena (dinner on your own this evening).
Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 11 • Cartagena: Palenque & Leisure Time
This morning we travel two hours to San Basilio de Palenque, a centuries old village and the first place registered as a free town for the slaves in all of the Americas, over 100 years before slavery was abolished. With the insight of a local guide, we are able to enter rustic homes, try local foods and drinks, hear traditional music, learn about a UNESCO recognized language and culture, and rub shoulders with some of the friendliest people in the country.
After about a 90-minute visit, we return to Cartagena by way of Bocagrande and Manga.

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 12 • 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
Maximum 18 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 (2400-3300m / 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 November 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