With its fascinating mix of nature, culture and birdlife, Colombia is one of Kevin’s favorite countries to explore.
Caño Cristales takes on a striking red color from June through November, as Macarenia clavígera, a rare flowering water plant, blankets the riverbed. © Metropolitan Touring
The low and guttural sound produced by Howler Monkeys is believed to be the loudest of all land animals and can be heard over two miles away. © Gary Krosin
In the heart of Bolívar Square is Catedral Primada, Bogotá’s first church, built in 1539 by Spanish conquistador, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada. © Metropolitan Touring
This colorful, male Clown Grasshopper Paramastax poecilosoma can be found in the cloud forests of northwest South America. @ Kevin Clement
Besides having the ideal climate and elevation, Colombia is one of the few countries that only grows Arabica beans, resulting in a rich, mild-flavored coffee. @ Metropolitan Touring
Found in high elevation forests, the male White-necked Jacobin has a blue head and chest, and sharply contrasting white abdomen and nape.
© Metropolitan Touring
Colombia Nature & Cultural Tour
Colombia, a country once torn by strife and long closed off from the outside world, is a study in contrasts—from pristine rainforests echoing with bird calls, to lively modern cities like Barranquilla and Bogotá; from snow-capped peaks to verdant coffee-growing valleys; golden beaches to rainbow-colored rivers flowing alongside vast Serengeti-like savannah. Join Apex on this 15-day Colombia tour, carefully crafted to showcase exquisite colonial architecture, ancient ruins and vibrant local culture, as well as stunning natural spaces and wildlife—with more bird species than any other country on Earth. Colombia travel reveals a diverse and friendly country. Now is the time to visit before the rest of the world catches on.
- Travel by Air
- Travel by Road
- Travel by Boat
- Travel by Bullet Train
- Travel by Rail
- Travel by Dog Sled
Friday, November 8: Arrive Bogotá, Colombia
Arrive in Bogotá, a vital and sophisticated capital city that sits at 8,660 feet, cradled by the magnificent Andes. Transfer to your hotel in the heart of the cobbled historic downtown. Overnight at Sofitel Victoria Regia.
Saturday, November 9: Bogotá
Meet your expedition leader and fellow explorers over breakfast at the hotel before heading out on a city tour, starting in the colonial quarter of La Candelaria. Amble past 300-year-old homes toward Plaza de Bolívar. Some of the city’s most significant buildings surround this square, including La Catedral Primada, the Presidential Palace and National Capitol, and the colonial churches of El Sagrario and San Agustin. Visit the Museo del Oro, containing more than 55,000 pieces of pre-Columbian gold. After lunch, round out the tour with a visit to Museo de Botero, named for Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous artist. Over 120 of his pieces are on display, as well as his personal collection by Picasso, Renoir, Dalí, Degas, Chagall, Matisse, Monet and Giacometti. Take the afternoon to explore at leisure. Gather again for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at Sofitel Victoria Regia.
Sunday, November 10: Bogotá – Chingaza National Park
Enjoy an early breakfast, then set off in vehicles for a trip to Chingaza National Park in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes. Climb up to 13,000 feet, entering the park’s fascinating páramo ecosystem, a kind of highland wetlands endemic to the Andes. Páramos are evolutionary hotspots, among the fastest evolving on Earth. Here, see over 1,000 plant species, many endemic. The park also has 186 documented species of bird, including Andean Condors and Cocks-of-the-rock, and a handful of native mammals like deer, monkeys, Spectacled Bears and Ocelots. Hike around Monteredondo, then continue on to Lago de Chingaza, which, along with the park’s 40 other glacial lakes, provides 80% of Bogotá’s drinking water. Return to Bogotá, stopping at a hummingbird observatory for hot chocolate and a stroll to spot some of the 14 species of hummingbird buzzing around. Dinner at a local restaurant, and overnight at Sofitel Victoria Regia
Monday, November 11: Bogotá / Serranía de la Macarena National Park
This morning, transfer to the airport for a flight south to La Macarena, deep in the Plains (or Llanos) region. Just across the Guayabero River from town stands the immense Serranía de la Macarena National Park, the unique meeting point for the flora and fauna of the Orinoco, Amazon and the Andes. Head straight to the park facilities for a briefing on local conservation efforts, then spend the afternoon visiting the Cristalito and Guayabero Rivers. The group may split up according to activity level for walks or hikes in the area. Enjoy lunch at a local outdoor kitchen. Dinner and overnight at the rustic Hotel Punto Verde.
Tuesday, November 12: Serranía de la Macarena National Park
After breakfast, embark on a many-tiered journey to the famed Caño Cristales, known affectionately as the “Liquid Rainbow” or “River of Five Colors” for the brilliant yellows, greens, blues, blacks, and especially reds (from the endemic Macarenia clavígera plant) that blanket the riverbed at this time of year. To get there, head to the dock by your hotel and take a boat down the Guayabero River. Look for monkeys—there are 8 species present here—as well as Hoatzín and caimans. About 20 minutes in, board four-wheel drive vehicles and head over the mountains to the spring of Cajuche, the starting point for a moderate hike that takes you along the river, climbing over driftwood, then through the forest toward Caño Cristales. Swim in the many natural pools along the river. Notice the hollowed-out riverbed rocks, or “giant’s kettles,” along the way. Late this afternoon, return to La Macarena for dinner and overnight at Hotel Punto Verde.
Wednesday, November 13: La Macarena / Pereira
This morning, head back onto the Guayabero in search of Pink River Dolphins, fewer in number here than on the Amazon, but still present. Also look for turtles, anteaters, deer, parrots, toucans, the rare Gray Tinamou and over 500 more birds. Have lunch at the hotel, then transfer to the airport for a flight west, via Bogotá, to Pereira, in the “Zona Cafetera,” Colombia’s principal coffee-growing area. Overnight at Casa San Carlos Lodge.
Thursday, November 14: Pereira – Valle de Cocora
After breakfast, head south, stopping for a visit in the sleepy, colonial town of Filandia. After lunch, depart for the Cocora Valley. Hike among the towering Quindío Wax Palms, Colombia’s national tree and the tallest palm in the world, reaching up to 200 feet. Continue into the cloud forest, looking for the endemic Yellow-eared Parrot, Chestnut Wood Quail and Masked Trogon, among many other birds. Join in the “Ritual de la Palma,” or planting of a wax palm as part of restoration efforts. This afternoon, transfer via World War II “Willys Jeep” to neighboring Salento, a shining example of local colonial bahareque architecture. Tour Salento’s colorful, centuries-old buildings along Calle Real, the main street lined with restaurants and shops. Return to Pereira for dinner and overnight at Casa San Carlos Lodge.
Friday, November 15: Pereira – Otún Quimbaya Wildlife Sanctuary
Early this morning, head east, stopping in La Florida for “buñuelos,” or cheese fritters. Transfer to four-wheel drive vehicles, and continue up the mountain to Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary. This reserve is considered one of the best in Colombia for birding. Upon arrival, hike along the river trail looking for Cauca Guans, Torrent Ducks, Multicolored Tanagers, Green Jays and Red-ruffed Fruitcrows,along with Howler Monkeys, Mountain Tapir and Central American Agoutis, or Guatín.Enjoy lunch at the visitor center, then depart for a tour of nearby Finca del Café. Walk the plantation trail and learn about the coffee-making process, from bean to cup. This evening, return to Pereira for dinner and overnight at Casa San Carlos Lodge.
Saturday, November 16: Pereira / Tayrona National Park
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for a flight north (via Bogotá) to Santa Marta, the “Pearl of America,” nestled between the sparkling Caribbean Sea and the dramatic Sierra Nevada, the world’s highest coastal mountain range. Santa Marta is South America’s oldest European-founded town, dating back to 1525, and its historic center has been meticulously restored.Eat lunch in town, before heading to Tayrona, possibly the best-known national park in Colombia, covering over 50 miles of golden beaches and montane rainforest. Check in to your hotel, located on Cañaveral beach beside the park’s entrance. Dinner and overnight at Ecohabs Tayrona.
Sunday, November 17: Tayrona National Park
Apart from the park’s natural beauty, it’s also rich in cultural history, as it was home to thriving pre-Columbian tribes. After breakfast at the hotel, takea guided tour of ancient Taironaka ruins. See remnants of their intricate drainage systems, terraces, stairs and houses, as well as a small museum housing more than 300 pieces of pottery found on site. Enjoy lunch at the reserve and the chance to meet with the descendants of the Tayrona people, the Kogis, and visit with a Kogi shaman, or Mamo. Afterwards, head to the adjacent Rio Don Diego and climb into inner tubes for a relaxing float down the river. Return to the hotel, and take the afternoon at leisure, or join in a hike to Arrecifes Beach, with views over the jungle-clad mountains. Dinner and overnight at Ecohabs Tayrona.
Monday, November 18: Tayrona National Park / El Dorado Reserve
Birders have deemed this area the “Northern Colombia Birding Trail.” This morning, visit the scrublands in Tayrona to look for Lance-tailed Manakin, Scrub Greenlet, Buff-breasted Wren, and, with a lot of luck, one of Colombia’s rarest endemics, the Blue-knobbed Curassow. Then, head south, up the foothills of the San Lorenzo ridge, stopping in Minca for lunch and a transfer to four-wheel drive vehicles. Continue straight up (to 6,500 feet) to El Dorado Reserve’s lodge, known worldwide for its magnificent endemic bird populations. Spend the rest of the day exploring the lodge grounds, looking for very rare Black-fronted Wood-Quails in the compost pile, and endemic Santa Marta Screech-owls and Santa Marta Antpittas at a feeder, as well as Black-backed Thornbills, Santa Marta Woodstars, Santa Marta Blossomcrowns and more. Enjoy dinner at the lodge, followed by the coaxing of Lemurine Night Monkeys and Kinkajous, down from the trees for a feeding. Overnight at El Dorado Lodge.
Tuesday, November 19: El Dorado Nature Reserve
Overall, twenty endemic bird species have been found at El Dorado, and exploring at various elevations is key to seeing as many of them as possible. Start very early this morning, heading up the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo to look for Santa Marta Parakeets, Rusty-headed and Streak-capped Spinetails, Santa Marta Bush-tyrants, Santa Marta Mountain Tanagers, Yellow-crowned Whitestarts, Santa Marta Warblers, White-tipped Quetzals and Santa Marta Foliage-gleaners, all endemic or near-endemic to this reserve. Drop down to the Experimental Station for an attempt to lure in the elusive Santa Marta Antipitta. Return to the lodge for lunch and the afternoon spent exploring the lodge trails. The views from the lodge are simply spectacular, with humid montane forest stretching in all directions and the Caribbean below. Dinner, Kinkajou feeding and overnight at El Dorado Lodge.
Wednesday, November 20: El Dorado / Cartagena
This morning, head back down the mountain, and down the Caribbean coast, stopping in the large port city of Barranquilla, known as the birthplace of Gabriel García Márquez and the site of Colombia’s largest Carnival celebration. Have lunch and explore the 1920s Viejo Prado neighborhood, the first planned urban development in the country. Take note of the republican architecture for which the city is known, at the Museo Romantico, Amira de la Rosa Theater, Fine Arts building, and Metropolitan Cathedral. Visit the Museo del Caribe, detailing the culture, history, nature and people of Colombia’s Caribbean. Continue down the coast to the romantic and superbly preserved Cartagena, standing behind an impressive eight miles of colonial stone walls. Check into your hotel, then head out for a sunset cocktail at one of the “baluarte” bars located on the city walls. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Bastión.
Thursday, November 21: Cartagena
This morning, start your city exploration from on high, visitingthe Augustinian “Convento de la Popa,” located at Cartagena’s highest point, followed by the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, considered the greatest fortress ever built by Spaniards. Travel through the upscale Bocagrande district, then head to old El Centro for a walking tour. Enter through the imposing Clock Tower Gate and walk through the Plaza de los Coches and Plaza de La Aduana. Head to Plaza de Bolívar, home to the Government Palace, newly restored Catedral, and Palacio de la Inquisición,one of the city’s finest buildings despite its grisly history. It is now a museum, displaying the Inquisitors’ instruments of torture, as well as pre-Columbian artifacts. End your tour at the baroque Convento de San Pedro de Claver, named for a Jesuit priest who spent his life ministering to slaves. Enjoy lunch at El Santísimo, and take the afternoon at leisure. This evening, toast the trip with fellow travelers at farewell dinner. Overnight at Hotel Bastíon.
Friday, November 22: Depart Cartagena
Transfer to the airport for your international flights home.
- November 8–22, 2019
- Leaders Kevin Clement
- $12,470 Per Person Rate
- $14,085 Solo Rate
- 15 days Trip Length
- 10 guests
- Bogotá Start
- Cartagena End
In addition to all tour services from arrival in Bogotá through departure from Cartagena, as described in the itinerary, the trip price includes all gratuities; air within Colombia, including the private charter flights to and from La Macarena, as noted in the itinerary; services of an Apex expedition leader and local guides throughout; plus local beer and wine with lunch and dinner daily.
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Andean Condors—the largest flying birds in the world
Andean Condors are enormous. With a wingspan of over 10 feet, they are considered the largest flying bird in the world. Even with their impressive wingspan, Andean Condors sometimes have a hard time staying aloft due to their hefty size—fully grown adults can reach up to 33 pounds. These birds prefer to live in windy areas where they can use warm air currents, to help them gain altitude. By gliding from thermal to thermal, a condor may need to flap its wings only once every hour. Andean Condors are vultures, using their sharp eyesight to spot a carcass from high in the air. Once their next meal is located, they can wait more than four days for the right moment to start feeding, slowly descending once they are sure they’re alone.