“A sleeping giant… that was the nickname Colombia earned 10 years ago as it took the first step towards opening up to international tourism. That was the first time I visited that amazing country and I am proud to say that we were among the first to recognize its potential. Fast forward a decade and that giant is clearly no longer sleeping. Colombia has blossomed and has so much to offer. It still has its doubters, even among its own population, but that leaves Colombia for the rest of us to enjoy.”
Day By Day Itinerary
Day 1: Bogota, Colombia
Welcome to Colombia! On arrival in Bogota, you will clear immigration, collect your luggage, and proceed through customs. Then, continue to the arrivals hall where you are met by a representative from Big Five Tours & Expeditions, who will be holding a sign with your last name. You are greeted, assisted with your luggage, and escorted to the waiting vehicle for the transfer to your hotel.
Excellent museums dedicated to emeralds and gold are a few of the allures for tourists, as is the contemporary art museum named for Latin America's greatest living artist, the Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero. When it comes to gastronomy and nightlife, Bogota is a city that eats well and never sleeps. Multiple cosmopolitan food zones include the Zona T – an exclusive enclave in the Zona Rosa, the city's top destination for shopping and nightlife – and the Zona G, a center for international haute cuisine near the financial district. Amidst the vibe and energy of the Zona T, your luxury hotel offers a contemporary flare. Bogota is also a green city that boasts 5,200 parks, including large protected ecosystems amidst the urban bustle, with more eco-tourism destinations just a half-hour drive away. Four Seasons Bogota Casa Medina
Day 2: Bogota
Discover Colombia’s capital city on a delightful bicycle tour. Bogota has over 300 km/186 mi. of bicycle routes spread throughout the city. This is a great way to discover authentic Bogota. Ride through the most representative sites in "La Candelaria", an antiquated barrio of great architectural and cultural heritage. It is made up of large, old Spanish colonial buildings with iron windows, thick and sturdy wooden doors, balconies, and internal patios with beautiful hidden gardens.
The Bogota Graffiti tour was started by an Aussie street artist and a Canadian graffiti writer, who decided they wanted to share Bogota’s unique and prolific urban art scene and help promote local artists to a wider international audience. It made sense to share their love of the vibrant work that adorns the streets of Bogota with the world! Your guide will share a love for urban art as he is directly involved in the scene, either by actually painting on its walls, or explaining to you the meaning of the art. Four Seasons Bogota Casa Medina (B)
Day 3: Bogota – Chivor – Bogota
You are in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Colombia produces more than half the world's emeralds.
Very early this morning you are picked up at the hotel and travel through the countryside during a private four-hour drive to Chivor. On arrival, you first enjoy a delicious breakfast before you continue to the local museum for an introduction to the fabulous green gems – emeralds. You chat with experts in the mineral trade, who explain the mining industry. You also are given the necessary safety gear for your excursion. Mid-morning, you are transferred by jeep to an active mine. En route visit an Indian aqueduct, stop to learn about the different types of cuts made to extract emeralds. When you arrive at the tunnel entrance, you feel the heat, smell the dynamite and see what it is like in the life of a miner. See the different areas of the mine. You will be able to try your hand at carving out a stone of your own. Whether or not you take away a gemstone, you will most certainly come away having enjoyed a unique and memorable experience. Enjoy refreshments before you are driven back to Bogota, arriving early evening. Four Seasons Bogota Casa Medina (B)
Day 4: Bogota / Cartagena
This morning you are transferred to the airport to board your flight to Cartagena. Upon arrival, you will be met by your Big Five representative and transferred to your hotel. The city was one of the most important Spanish ports in America. It was one of the first cities to declare its independence, fighting for its freedom. It came to be known as “La Heróica” (The Heroic City). It is the capital city of the Department of Bolivar and features a perfect mix of colonial and modern influences.
This afternoon, you savor a private rum tasting. The most treasured prize for any good pirate during those seafaring days of the Caribbean wasn't a treasure chest of gold, but a good bottle of rum. This caramel-colored liquid, ron in Spanish, is the national liquor of Colombia. You will enjoy a special rum tasting at some of Cartagena's leading bars. During the tasting of four special rums, you will learn about the history, ingredients used, and distillery process that creates this popular drink. Casa San Agustin Hotel Boutique (B)
Day 5: Cartagena
This morning, you are in for a four-wheel treat – a ride in a classic Chevrolet Ballet Model 55 inside the walled city. In old Cartagena, inside the walled city, both sides of the narrow streets are adorned with striking antique doorways, flower-filled balconies, restaurants and hotels. The Walled City was declared a Colombian National Heritage Site in 1959 by UNESCO as well as a Mankind’s Heritage Site. In the afternoon, you relax aboard a private yacht that sails the waterways around the city as you sip champagne, watching the sun set. Casa San Agustin Hotel Boutique (B)
Day 6: Cartagena – San Basilio de Palenque – Cartagena
In the morning, you set out by road to San Basilio de Palenque, a town located 60 km/37 mi., about an hour’s drive along the “Vía de la Cordialidad” on the way to Barranquilla. Recognized by UNESCO, the town’s name comes from the Palenques, the original fugitive and escaped slaves from the colonial period of the 17th century. Their descendants continue to survive in San Basilio with their practices, customs and traditions intact. They retain heavy African influences in their daily routines, including their palanquera tongue, which blends elements of Spanish with the Bantu dialects of Africa. Explore the town and to listen to tales of religious beliefs and customs. Try some traditional sweets. See the rhythm of the residents’ daily lives. The women teach you how to carry fruit in a head basket while walking. In general, the men take care of the children while the women work. Later, return to Cartagena. Casa San Agustin Hotel Boutique (B)
Day 7: Cartagena / Medellin
Today you fly to Medellin. On arrival, join your guide for an afternoon private city tour of Medellín, including the barrios of Pablo Escobar, the infamous drug cartel leader. He was born in 1949, the son of a peasant farmer and a school teacher. As a small-time hustler in Medellin, he was always trying to make money by running petty street scams, selling contraband cigarettes and fake lottery tickets. By the 1960s, he was working as a small-time dealer but with America's new-found obsession with coca, he eventually moved into drug trafficking, where he built an enormous illegal empire, and with that he became the most powerful man in Colombia. This unusual tour takes you inside Pablo Escobar’s world, including to the Monaco building, bombed by the Cali cartel, the house where he was killed in a shootout with the national police, and a grotto, said to have been built by Escobar for the Virgen de la Rosa (Rose’s Virgin).
Medellin has made many successful efforts to move past the dark history of the drug trade and the disturbingly violent career of Escobar, and has emerged today as an innovative, forward-thinking metropolis. But in Barrio Pablo Escobar, the locals regard the notorious drug kingpin as a hero with a “good heart”. Barrio Pablo Escobar is located high up on the eastern slope of Medellin’s valley and seems very similar to many of the other poorer neighborhoods in the city. The big difference is the shared sense of inherited affiliation and gratitude that the locals have towards Colombia’s most violent criminal, who was personally responsible for more than 4,000 deaths including three Colombian presidential candidates, a justice minister, more than 200 judges, dozens of journalists and more than 1,000 police officers. In this sense, Barrio Pablo Escobar, a name ignored by the government, is one of a kind. It is a small pocket of roughly 15,000 people in a city of 2.5 million, where Escobar continues to be highly esteemed by all those who felt abandoned by the government. The tour also includes visit with Pablo's brother, Roberto Escobar, author of “The Accountant’s Story.” Roberto has many fascinating stories to share regarding his famous brother, the Medellín Cartel, and life on the run from the Colombian government. Guests in Roberto's home will be able to ask questions as well as take photos with one of the last original members of the infamous Medellín Cartel. The Charlee Lifestyle Hotel (B)
Day 8: Medellin
Hacienda Nápoles, named after the Italian city, is the once-luxurious estate built and owned by Escobar in Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia east of Medellin. The estate covers about 20 square kilometers/8 square miles. From your hotel, you are privately transferred to the airport to board a private helicopter excursion to this infamous site. The estate included a Spanish colonial house, a sculpture park and a complete zoo that included many kinds of animals from different continents such as antelope, elephants, exotic birds, giraffes, hippopotami, ostriches and ponies. The ranch also boasted a large collection of old and luxury cars and bikes, a private airport, and even a go-kart racing track. Mounted atop the hacienda's entrance gate is a replica of the Piper airplane, which transported Escobar's first shipment of cocaine to the United States. Following Escobar's death in 1993, his family entered a legal struggle with the Colombian government over the property. The government prevailed, and the neglected property is now managed by the Municipality of Puerto Triunfo. The cost of maintenance for the zoo animals was too expensive for the government, so most of the animals were donated to Colombian and international zoos. But it still houses bison, a rare goat, one ostrich and zebras. It also had hippopotami but they have since escaped and are now feral, living in at least four lakes in the area and neighboring rivers. In 2011, there were an estimated 30 hippos living in the wild and the government has had difficulty finding zoos to place them. Return by Medellin. The Charlee Lifestyle Hotel (B)
Day 9: Medellin – Pereira – Medellin
Early in the morning, travel about four hours to Pereira where you will take an overflight on the coffee landscape and the snow-capped Nevado del Ruiz Mountain with its active volcano, which along with seven other volcanoes, is part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park. The summit of Nevado del Ruiz is covered by large glaciers, but these have retreated significantly since 1985.
The heart of the coffee-growing zone encompasses three Colombian departments: Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío, with their corresponding capital cities of Manizales, Pereira and Armenia. Although the departments have a common coffee culture, beautiful landscapes and friendly people, each city has its own personality. Manizales stands out for its cultural life and famous annual festival the first week of January, which includes bullfighting, Miss Coffee International, concerts and more. Armenia as in the heart of the region. Pereira offers commercial activity, gastronomy and famous nightlife.
Most coffee production in Colombia is based here and for that reason, the region is named the Coffee Axis or Coffee Triangle. The climate, the geographic characteristics, a tropical Andean forest and other factors yield exceptional coffee. You will appreciate observing the fertile valleys, with their seemingly endless coffee plantations, the traditional wooden houses, with brightly colored balconies, and constructions in ‘guadua’ (bamboo), and the Wax Tree Palms, Colombia’s national tree, blend together in the vibrant landscape of Cocora Valley. Fly back to Pereira, where you will be picked up in a jeep for a journey to enjoy a typical lunch in one of the coffee farms. Return to Medellin by road. The Charlee Lifestyle Hotel (B)
Day 10: Medellin / Depart
Transfer to the airport to board your flight back home. (B)
Included In The Tour Cost:
- Hotel and lodge accommodations as proposed, including taxes and fees
- Meals as indicated (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner);
- Private airport / hotel transfers as indicated on itinerary;
- All ground transportation by private vehicle as necessary and excursions as indicated, inclusive of
- entrance fees;
- Expert English-speaking guide services during included transfers and excursions;
- Baggage handling assistance and tips to porters at airports;
- Comprehensive assortment of pre-tour planning materials and amenities;
- Big Five’s 24-hour White Glove Service® guest assistance
- A complimentary one-year membership to the nonprofit One More Generation, includes the adoption
- of an engendered species in one of the areas of special concern
Not Included In The Tour Cost:
Any airfares unless specified under inclusions. Any airport taxes (Colombia - $19 per person International Departures Tax, usually included in the international ticket. All taxes are government imposed and subject to change without notice). Passport and visa fees. Travel insurance. Excess baggage or shipping charges. Items of personal nature such as gratuities, telephone / fax / internet charges, laundry, beverages, meals and services not specified in the itinerary
Price are for land only, double occupancy.
The Big Five Edge
At Big Five, you are working with one of the most experienced groups in the travel industry. Our Destination Specialists receive 900+ hours of in-destination and in-office training annually; and have a combined average 20 years’ experience in travel. Big Five is in the top one percent of luxury tour operators to place on Travel+Leisure magazine’s A-List. Our Destination Specialists have appeared on this distinguished list of top travel professionals from 2009 to 2015. This list validates the value of experience. This recognition is achieved by going through unbiased questioning and itinerary planning, and it is not based on voting by magazine subscribers.
White Glove Service® Guest Assistance
- Big Five provides a personal experience that begins with a live person answering each call promptly during business hours. Our 24-hour White Glove Service® guest assistance desk is manned by a team of specialists available 365 days from anywhere in the world. WGS® is your:
- Personal concierge service for anything from dinner reservations to hard-to-get special event tickets
- Assistant to relay messages to family and friends, to help arrange private air charters and other details
- Emergency specialist who is there to tackle any emergency situation from lost luggage to stolen passports to emergency medical assistance
- Information kiosk for all the latest news, weather, airline delays; whatever information you need to make your journey run more smoothly
- Organizer who can coordinate special events such as a birthday or anniversary dinner, flowers or gifts
- Our Destination Specialists combine creativity with their impressive knowledge to customize clients’ journeys to meet each guest’s interests, whether that is honeymoon couples, families or special interest groups.
- Big Five guests benefit from our partnerships with properties and suppliers who have strong sustainable ethics built into their operations, which assures each guest will experience the best a destination has to offer. As part of our commitment, we employ local professional guides and drivers in each destination; and we support local initiatives dedicated to cultural preservation and habitat conservation.