Let’s get one thing straight. Colombia is not what Netflix would have you believe. It’s a hugely diverse country with impressive biodiversity, slashed crime rates and stridently modern cities draped in culture and enriched with award-winning innovation. If you seek drug-related drama, stick to your box sets. To experience creative, contemporary Colombia join this epic FFX Colombian adventure.
Though Colombia may be famed for the narcotics trade and antics of Pablo Escobar (see ‘Narcos’ or ‘Blow’ – both to be taken with a pinch of the other white stuff – salt!), the reality on the ground is genuinely different. The capital, Bogotá, is the commercial and cultural heart of the country. It keeps watch from a lofty 2,645m (8,675ft) above sea level and is protected by the rugged northern Andes mountains. Classical architecture and contemporary crazes collide, and hip quarters fuse with cultural icons to create a bustling metropolis with endless adventure opportunities. Immerse yourself in historic architecture then crack out your nocturnal dancing diva in one of South America’s most colorful capitals
You will wake up in Bogotá for a not-so-sleepy. That’s right, it’s time to hit Ciclovía – the world’s most successful mass recreation event! Bogotá’s roads close to vehicles and bike riders, walkers and families swarm out into the colorful streets. Jump on two wheels courtesy of FFX to savor Colombia’s signature city from the saddle, while working up an appetite for a succulent street food tour of La Candelaria District. This will prepare your palate for dinner at Andres DC – more an experiential institution than a restaurant, Andres’ is a microcosm of the city itself. Live entertainment, glamorous hosts, tequila and a party vibe converge around first-class cuisine to give you a delicious (and highly Instagrammable!) dining experience.
After its vibrant music scene (think Shakira) and literary genius (think Gabriel García Márquez) Colombia is probably best known for its back gold, coffee, the silken soul of the country. Your caffeine-seeking adventure begins with a 30-minute flight to Pereira and the ‘Triángulo del Café’, the UNESCO celebrated heart of the coffee industry. There are plunging valleys, bold elevations and rolling fertile plantations where farmers harvest their precious crops as they have done for centuries. You’ll take you to the country’s coffee-making core to enjoy lunch with the owners of the prestigious Hacienda Guayabal followed by a Coffee Experience Tour. Epic landscapes and the snow-topped Andean peaks lend gravitas to an already unforgettable day. You’ll never wake up and smell the coffee in quite the same way again. (And yes, you can stop thinking about Shakira now. You’re welcome.)
You’ve been suitably stimulated by Colombian caffeine. Now it’s time to slow down as you explore the typical pueblos of Filandia and Salento up in the verdant hillsides of Los Nevados National Park. The lush Cocora valley is unique with semi-tropical echoes of an Alpine region. It’s protected as the home of Colombia’s national tree, the endangered wax palm, and hosts a phenomenal variety of flora and fauna including rare parrots. Charge your cameras and keep on high alert for sightings (the residual caffeine should help you there!).
To give you a high-quality encounter with a coffee town we head to Filandia. It doesn’t have any specific attractions as such – the whole place IS the attraction. It’s picture perfect. Look forward to culture without the crowds and colorful building facades without the frenetic. The characterful main square is great for people watching, and traditional old buildings and shops lead to uninterrupted lines of brightly painted houses. Salento is then a slightly slicker version of Filandia with exclusive boutiques, charming shops and heaving-with-hipsters coffee bars.
Columbians don’t generally like shows like ‘Narcos’ nor the glorification of criminals like Pablo Escobar. The accents are wrong, the stereotypes are dire and the ‘facts’ are often far from the truth. Experience Medellín for yourself with your expert FFX guide and you’ll quickly edit your opinion of the former murder capital of the world. Since 2002, things have been on the exponential up for the ‘City of Eternal Spring’. We know about its past. In 2013, it became a lauded Wall Street Journal ‘Innovative City of the Year’. As for Medellín’s present, that’s for you to discover. El Poblado neighborhood is a great place to start. On your second day based out of Medellín we’ll head out of the bustling city for a daytrip in the fresh mountain air. You’ll visit colorful Guatapé and climb the 740 steps to the summit of the famous Peñol Boulder for awesome mountain and lake panoramas.
The walled city of Cartagena is a UNESCO heritage site and the jewel in South America’s colonial crown. Strolling its streets with your new-found adventure buddies will conjure up images of life here in the tumultuous 16th and 17th centuries. That era’s architecture, evocative structures, cobbled streets and grand balconied homes still remain in their full glory. Pretend to be in Romancing the Stone if you must though, as locals will quickly tell you, it was mainly filmed in Mexico and isn’t pronounced Cartageña (it’s a normal ‘n’). In good news, what you’ve heard about the region’s rum is all 100% true. Enjoy a tantalizing taste of some of the country’s best barrel-aged examples on a Rum Tasting Experience then choose a great place to dine. On second thoughts, it might be safer to pick your restaurant first…
If scents and smells hold powerful holiday memories, this food-focused day in Cartagena will stay with you for a long time. Prepare your senses for a feast as you join our FFX experts for a tour of local cuisine and culture. Armed with your new culinary knowledge you’ll head off to the locals’ market – the Mercado de Bazurto – far from the hassle and haggling of the town’s more touristy shopping spots. Select your fresh ingredients to then create and enjoy a hands-on Caribbean Gastronomic cooking experience with a local chef. Later that day, work off your endeavors as you tour Cartagena’s old city by bike with a guide, taking notes of the best bars, sights and restaurants to return to later.
Cosmopolitan cities, rolling coffee plantations, colorful villages and walled towns, what more could Colombia offer? Ah yes, tropical islands dropped into the Caribbean sea like ice cubes into spiced rum. It truly is the country that keeps giving.
Jump aboard for an exhilarating boat trip across the cobalt Caribbean to spend your last full day out on the coral-encrusted Rosario Islands. With 27 of them spread over 120,000km2, this is one of Colombia’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Swap walled Cartagena for the waving palms of these pristine islands and enjoy white sands, rich marine life, cooling waters and an al fresco island-style lunch. Snap those final selfies and team shots or sneak off for some serenity as you snorkel over the color-packed coral reefs. Back on the mainland, brush off the sand for a farewell dinner back in the unique ambience of Cartagena.
That is how to get up close and personal with Colombia. Immerse in the epic Andean landscapes, sail the Caribbean coast, view the coffee plantations and make your own memories of Medellín – all in like-minded company. Enjoy action-packed days, down time and team-time as part of this small-group adventure experience for people in their 30s and 40s. As with all FFX adventures, this Colombian itinerary is crafted using only the highest quality ingredients. Expect comfortable accommodation, hand-picked restaurants and experiences, and safe, reliable and trained local guides drivers and guides. To book onto an FFX Adventures departure to Colombia, get in touch today.