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Weaverbird: Spirit of Colombia 2017

16 days from £2,268pp

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Weaverbird: Spirit of Colombia 2017:
Trip Dossier

Colombia is one of Latin America's most distinctive and oft misunderstood countries. Many visitors consider it to be the continent's most beautiful. This trail-blazing journey allows you to explore its natural highlights, including the golden beaches and dense tropical vegetation of the Tayrona National Park, the fertile rolling hills of the coffee country and the culturally rich, historic city of Cartagena.

Off the beaten track, you’ll explore the picture-perfect colonial town of Mompós, on the banks of the River Magdalena and the intriguing ancient sculptures and burial chambers set in the lush countryside around San Agustín.

Colombia's distinct and heady mixture of Hispanic, colonial, indigenous and African heritage influences its food, music, architecture and culture. Its vibrancy, welcoming people and extraordinary natural and architectural features make it an engaging country, and this an unusual and captivating journey.

This is a new route for 2017. Details on the 2016 Weaverbird can be found here.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart Friday, arriving Bogotá, Colombia, the following morning.

Day 1

City tour, including a visit to the Gold Museum.

Day 2

Optional excursions in and around Bogotá.

Day 3

Fly to Neiva, by road to San Agustín.

Day 4

Archaeological park visit.

Day 5

Optional Jeep tour of Magdalena Gorge.

Day 6

Fly to the coffee country.

Days 7-8

Visit Salento and Valle de Cocora.

Days 9-10

Fly to Santa Marta and travel onto Tayrona National Park.

Days 11-12

By private bus to Aracataca, birthplace of Gabriel García Máquez. Continue to Mompos.

Day 13

Travel by boat and bus to Cartagena.

Days 14-15

Explore one of Latin America's most interesting and famous cities - Cartagena.

Day 16

Drive to Cartagena airport, fly to Bogotá. Depart for international flight.

UK clients arrive home the following day, Monday.

Detailed itinerary

UK clients depart Friday, arriving Bogotá, Colombia, the following morning.

Day 1

City tour, including a visit to the Gold Museum.
 

Those passengers arriving on an international flight will be met at the airport by the tour leader or a local representative and escorted to your hotel. Bogotá is a city of sparkling prosperity, oppressive poverty, and everything in between. Its centre is awash with splendid colonial churches, fascinating museums, futuristic architecture and lively universities. Its population is diverse and engaging and its cultural life vibrant.

There is a guided tour of the city, including the fascinating colonial area of Candelaria with its fine historic buildings lining cobbled streets, including numerous churches and the presendential palace. You will stop to look at the art and sculptures in the Botero museum and the tour culminates with a visit to the excellent Gold Museum, housing more than 34,000 gold pieces and arguably the most impressive museum of its kind in the world. 

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Day 2

Optional excursions in and around Bogotá.
 

You have the option to head into the attractive La Sabana countryside, dotted with greenhouses that assist the region's lucrative cut-flower industry. Zipaquirá is home to a still functioning, centuries-old salt mine. Nearly 200m beneath the earth is an extraordinary, mysterious salt cathedral, its vast pillars and walls made from glistening salt. There are 14 stations of the cross sculpted by different Colombian artists.

The excursion continues across some beautiful countryside to the Guatavita Lagoon. There is a hike to the crater-lake's 3,100m rim, offering wonderful views. Legend has it that this was the site of legendary El Dorado. The ancient Chibcha king was thought to have been doused in sap and gold dust and pushed out onto the lake's calm waters in a ceremonial raft, from which he would submerge himself, rinsing off this valuable body paint. Other precious objects were believed to have been thrown into the lake as offerings, and a number have been recovered and are housed in the gold museum in Bogotá.

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Bogota

Day 3

Fly to Neiva, by road to San Agustín.
 

Transfer to the airport for a flight to Neiva (1 hour), then there’s a pleasant 4 hour drive past coffee plantations and undulating green hills to San Agustín. This pretty little town is your base for the next 3 nights, and has a smattering of attractive colonial houses and churches, cobbled streets and shady plazas.

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Day 4

Archaeological park visit.
 
Today there is a full day excursion to the archaeological park, about 3km from the town. Here more than 100 statues, some of which are thought to date back to 3,300BC, stand amid the forested countryside. Alongside them are circular burial houses, only about a third of which have been excavated, into which human sacrifices and offerings to the gods were made.

Little is known about the culture which produced these stone figures, but it is an impressive site in beautiful countryside and there are hiking opportunities into the surrounding area, including to the Fuente de Lavapatas, where stream water runs through channels carved into the stone.

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San Augustin

Day 5

Optional Jeep tour of Magdalena Gorge.
 

An optional day trip takes you by Jeep through sugar plantations and up and down steep gorges to the Magdalena Canyon. Here you can see huge figures carved into rocks midway up the canyon wall, with the river crashing below, and some free-standing stones sculpted into rudimentary animal shapes.

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Day 6

Fly to the coffee country.
 
Drive back to Neiva for the flight to Armenia, via Bogotá (3.5 hours). Continue by road to a coffee farm in the heart of the coffee growing region, surrounded by the hills of the Cordillera Central.

You spend 3 days in this beautiful, relaxing region, with walking trails, colourful flora and fauna and fresh coffee at your fingertips.

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Days 7-8

Visit Salento and Valle de Cocora.
 
Time will be spent at a coffee ranch and there is a guided tour of a local farm, where you gain an insight into subsistence agriculture in the region. Learn about fruit production and tropical flower cultivation as well as the intricacies of the coffee production process, including the picking, de-pulping, washing, drying and roasting of the beans. There are opportunities to sample the final product. There is also the chance to drive out to traditional village Salento, its houses adorned with balconies bursting with flowers, and with wonderful views of the Cordillera Central emerging from behind elegant colonial buildings.

Continue to Valle de la Cocora, a beautiful nature reserve which is home to the wax palm, Colombia's national tree and the only palm which grows above 3,000m. Follow a well-marked path up the valley and look out over the mountains’ verdant foothills, and the cultivated patchwork of fields made up of a dozen shades of green.

On the last day in the region there is the opportunity to visit the Botanical Gardens at Calarca. A series of nature trails pass abundant tropical flowers and there is an excellent insect museum and enclosed butterfly garden. Alternatively, you may prefer to take a horse-riding excursion from a nearby farm to explore the surrounding countryside.

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Coffee country

Days 9-10

Fly to Santa Marta and travel onto Tayrona National Park.
 

Travel back to Armenia before boarding a flight via Bogota to the Caribbean coast and the city of Santa Marta. From here it is a short 1 hour drive to the edge of the incredible Parque Nacional Tayrona where your posada is located. This dazzling region is one of thick, humid jungle and exquisite unspoiled beaches fringed by coconut palms and peppered with vast, smooth boulders. It was once home to the indigenous Tayrona indians. Jungle paths follow tree-covered trails surrounded by tropical dry forest, with monkeys swinging in the trees overhead and the atmosphere heavy with heat. You emerge, blinking in the sunlight, at the sparkling water and the wild beach of Arrecifes. There are a number of restaurants and bars in the park where you can stop for lunch in the shade and take in your exotic surroundings.

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Cartagena

Days 11-12

By private bus to Aracataca, birthplace of Gabriel García Máquez. Continue to Mompos.
 

A private bus then takes you back past Santa Marta and then inland to the small provincial town of Aracataca (2.5 hours). The town is famous as the birth place of Gabriel García Márquez, and provides a good place to stop for lunch. Márquez is arguably Latin America’s most famous writer and his works; (including ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’) often feature in lists of the greatest novels ever written. He was born in Aracataca in 1927, and his birthplace features in some of his stories as the fictional town of Macondo. Today the family house he was raised in is a museum, and you will have time to visit the home of the Nobel Prize winning author.

A further 5 hour journey past banana and oil palm plantations leads to the small provincial town of Mompos. Situated on the eastern banks of the Magdalena River, this 16th-century town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one feels as if transported into a Gabriel García Marquez novel, wandering streets fronted by whitewashed colonial buildings and mansions which were once home to powerful Spanish merchants (for whom the town was an important stopping-off point on the trade route to Cartagena). Spend 2 days in these beautiful surroundings, relaxing in the shady plazas, lapping up the atmosphere, and enjoy the natural scenery on the river banks on an included boat trip.

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Mompos

Day 13

Travel by boat and bus to Cartagena.
 

Starting your journey by private bus we travel to a small port and board a ferry (1-2 hours) to Magangué. The last section of the journey is also by bus, as you continue 3 hours back to the Caribbean coast and the famous city of Cartagena.

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Days 14-15

Explore one of Latin America's most interesting and famous cities - Cartagena.
 
Caribbean's most exotic and romantic colonial city, Cartagena was founded in 1533, quickly blossoming to become the main Spanish port in the Caribbean, and a gateway to the north of the continent. Treasure plundered from native inhabitants was stored here until the galleons could ship it back to Spain, and it therefore became a tempting target for pirates. In order to protect their booty, the Spanish constructed an elaborate system of ramparts, which still encircle the town.

Today, while Cartagena has expanded dramatically, the walled centre has changed very little, allowing a glimpse of 16th and 17th-century Spanish architecture and town planning. Enjoy the shade provided by the buildings in these labyrinthine, cobbled streets, and explore the monasteries, palaces, churches, plazas and imposing mansions where the overhanging balconies are heavy with flowers.

Beyond this, the city opens up: an eclectic and seductive mix of Caribbean and African influences produces a vibrant street life, with fruit stalls lining the roads and pulsating rhythms emerging from cars and houses. A guided tour will help you soak up the atmosphere of this unique city. There is also a free day to further explore the streets, visit the famous fort, relax in one of the many fantastic local restaurants or even travel further afield to spend the day in the nearby Rosario Islands.


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Cartagena

Day 16

Drive to Cartagena airport, fly to Bogotá. Depart for international flight.

UK clients arrive home the following day, Monday.

Essential information

Transport

4 flights (longest 3.5 hours), 7 road journeys (longest 8 hours), 1 boat journey (2 hours).

Accommodation

On our Discovery Journeys the standard of accommodation varies. We aim to keep the price competitive while ensuring the basic comforts. Hotels/guesthouses are comfortable and attractive in most places, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Where these do not exist, accommodation is necessarily purely functional. All properties are well maintained and almost all will have a private bathroom. In Mompos, Tayrona and Cartagena there may well not be hot water. This is due to the local climate and the perceived needs for it and the fact that many properties/areas may not have the infrastructure. (If you prefer greater comfort please see the Classic Journeys or Private Journeys on their respective pages on our website).

On this journey we stay in simple hotels and guesthouses with private facilities; farmhouse accommodation in coffee country and cabins in the Tayrona National Park (bathroom facilities may be shared between 1 or 2 cabins).

Examples of hotels used on this journey include:
• Bogotá: Casa Deco
• San Agustín: Hacienda Akawanka
• Coffee region: Finca La Cabana
• Parque Tayrona: Ecoturisticas San Rafael
• Mompós: Casa Amarilla
• Cartagena: Don Pedro de Heredia

These hotels are subject to change and are dependent on availability. Address and contact details will be sent out with your final documents.

Meals

Breakfast daily.

Included excursions

• Bogotá: city tour and Gold Museum
• San Agustín: Archaeological Park
• Coffee region: tour of coffee farm
• Tayrona: walks in the national park
• Aracataca: Marquez museum
• Mompós: boat trip
• Cartagena: city tour
• Mompós: boat trip

Summary of nights

16 days, 15 nights: Bogotá 2; San Agustín 3; Coffee farm 3; Tayrona 2; Mompós 2; Cartagena 3.

Included in the journey price

• Services of Journey Latin America tour leader
• All land and domestic air transport
• Accommodation as specified
• Meals as specified
• Excursions as specified

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and insurance
• Meals other than specified
• Optional excursions
• Some domestic flight taxes

Optional excursions

There are optional excursions available throughout this tour, which are booked locally through your tour leader once you are in Latin America. Not all excursions available will suit everybody, whilst others only operate within certain seasons, with minimum numbers or may not be included due to time constraints. A budget of around $200 should cover participation in most of the following options, but prices can fluctuate depending on the size of the party and so cannot be provided accurately until travel commences.

• Bogotá: food tour, including visiting markets, buying traditional food and then taking it back to a local home to cook and eat it
• Bogotá: visit the Mint which houses the Botero Museum
• Bogotá: visit Zipaquira salt mine with a stop at the Guatavita Lagoon
• San Augustín: visit local fincas and waterfalls
• Coffee region: visit traditional Finlandia with its artisan shops and local markets
• Mompós: guided walking tour
• Cartagena: Rosario Islands day trip

Travelling alone

There is no extra cost for single travellers who are willing to share a room. You will be accommodated with a same-sex member of the group who is usually also travelling solo. For single travellers who wish to be sure of having their own room there are a limited number of single supplement places available, which carry a surcharge.

Currency

The unit of currency in Colombia is the Colombian peso.

Budget

A budget of around $45USD per day should cover the cost of meals, drinks and the odd souvenir.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so a debit or credit card with a PIN is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.

We recommend that you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. These bills should be in good condition as soiled or torn bills may be refused. Travellers’ cheques are increasingly less favoured by visitors who find them difficult to exchange as well as offering a poor rate of exchange. If you do decide to carry some with you they should be US dollar cheques only (American Express are by far the most accepted brand).

Tipping

Tips are normally welcomed and expected. Local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. We recommend approximately $3 USD(or local equivalent) per person per day for each of guides and drivers, depending on the size of the group.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

If you would like to show your appreciation to your Journey Latin America tour leader, who you may feel has exceeded your expectations, a discretionary gratuity would be gratefully received. As a guideline we recommend an amount of between $4 and $6USD per person, per day. You are obviously free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality.

Tipping guidelines can be found on our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

International airport tax is included in the cost of your ticket.

Journey grade

All walks on this journey are optional and you should discuss with your tour leader which are suitable for you. There are some long days spent travelling, in the heat, however many comfort stops are made to enjoy the scenery on route.

Climate

The dry season in Colombia is from December until March and then June to September and temperatures during this period average around 30°C, although are more or less consistent throughout the year. Bogotá, and towns in the coffee growing region have a spring like climate and can be chilly at night. Cartagena and the Caribbean coast are hot throughout the year, with rainy seasons typically in April, May, October and November.

Altitude

Several days are spent at high altitude (over 2.500m). You may notice the effect of high altitude; symptoms vary: most common are mild headaches and breathlessness. If you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol) in the first couple of days after arrival, you will minimise your chances of being adversely affected.

Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.


Clothing and special equipment

Bring plenty of light cotton clothing and good, comfortable walking shoes. Warm items and a good waterproof jacket are also necessary for all departures. We suggest that you plan to 'layer' your clothing; it is easier and more efficient to put on a couple of light layers than one thick jumper. Sandals are a good informal option for evenings.

Protection against the sun (sun block, sun hat) and mosquito repellent are essential and you should bring swimwear. A backpack or soft holdall is the most sensible and comfortable way to carry your belongings. Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements, including advice on yellow fever and malaria tablets. You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Cases of Zika virus have been reported in parts of Latin America. If you’re pregnant, or planning to be, you should follow the advice of the  National Travel Health Network and Centre

 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Clients with different nationalities should enquire with us or check with the Colombian consulate.

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online which costs $14USD per person. This must be done by you personally. Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the departure of flights. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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