Step Back in Time With This Two Week Itinerary Through Colombia’s Colonial Towns

Step Back in Time With This Two Week Itinerary Through Colombia's Colonial Towns

From charming whitewashed plazas and stately cathedrals to brightly-painted artisan villages tucked into rugged canyon landscapes, Colombia’s colonial towns and pueblos are like stepping into a living postcard from the past which you can experience on your Colombia travel itinerary. These incredibly preserved communities offer a delightful glimpse into the country’s rich Spanish heritage and allow you to experience the warm hospitality and relaxed pace of small-town life.

On this 14-day journey curated by Kuoda Travel, you’ll have the privilege of exploring some of Colombia’s most captivating and authentic colonial destinations. From the cobblestoned streets of iconic Villa de Leyva to the bougainvillea-draped lanes of Barichara and the seaside fortresses of Cartagena, this itinerary is a step back in time to when these Andean towns were thriving outposts of the Spanish Empire. If exploring colorful streets, cobblestone alleys and understanding the rich Spanish and Colombian culture and history sounds appealing to you – send us a message and we’ll get started planning your bespoke itinerary to the colonial towns in Colombia.

What to Know Before You Go:

What to Know Before You Go

While safety has dramatically improved in recent decades, there are still some areas of caution when traveling through inland Colombia. Kuoda provides private transportation and expert local guides in each destination to ensure a seamless and secure experience.

Roads between towns can feature winding mountain switchbacks, so those prone to motion sickness should prepare accordingly. Having some Spanish language skills, even just basic phrases, goes a long way with interacting with locals.

The Andes region features varied microclimates, so pack layers for both cool highlands and humid lowlands. Most hotels offer laundry service. Staying hydrated at higher elevations is important to avoid altitude sickness. US dollars are widely accepted, but it’s smart to have some Colombian pesos on hand as well.

The Journey Begins: Bogota & Villa de Leyva

The Journey Begins_ Bogota & Villa de Leyva

Day 1: Arrival in Bogota

Upon landing in Bogota, the vibrant capital of Colombia, you’ll be greeted at the airport and transferred to the charming and luxurious Casa Legado, a boutique hotel in the upscale neighborhood of Quinta Camacho. Casa Legado is known for its unique design, personalized service, and homey atmosphere, making it an ideal retreat after your travels.

As evening approaches, you might opt for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, where you can explore Bogota’s rich cultural heritage. For dinner, consider dining at Leo, one of Latin America’s top restaurants, where Chef Leonor Espinosa’s innovative dishes celebrate Colombia’s diverse culinary traditions with locally sourced ingredients and unique flavors.

Day 2: Exploring Bogota

Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Casa Legado before embarking on a private tour of Bogota. Your first stop is the Gold Museum, home to an astonishing collection of pre-Hispanic gold artifacts that offer a glimpse into Colombia’s ancient civilizations. Next, visit the Botero Museum, where you’ll marvel at the works of Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most famous artist, known for his distinctive style of exaggerated figures.

Continue your exploration with a walking tour of La Candelaria, Bogota’s historic heart, with its cobblestone streets, colorful colonial buildings, and lively atmosphere. Take a cable car ride up to Cerro de Monserrate for breathtaking views of the city. Conclude your day with a coffee tasting at Cafe San Alberto, where you’ll learn about the coffee-making process and sample some of Colombia’s finest brews.

For dinner, head to Andrés Carne de Res, a lively and eclectic restaurant offering delicious Colombian fare and an unforgettable dining experience. Enjoy the vibrant ambiance, live music, and playful decor as you savor dishes like grilled meats, arepas, and empanadas.

Day 3: Bogota to Villa de Leyva

Depart Bogota for Villa de Leyva, a charming colonial town nestled in the Andes. En route, stop at the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, an awe-inspiring underground church built within a salt mine. Explore its intricate salt carvings, impressive naves, and the Via Crucis tunnels that make it one of Colombia’s most unique attractions.

Next, visit Raquira, a picturesque artisan village known for its vibrant facades and ceramic crafts. Stroll through its colorful streets and browse the local shops for handmade pottery, textiles, and souvenirs.

Arrive in Villa de Leyva and check into Hotel Casa Terra, located 350 meters from the Main Square in the Historic and Colonial Center of Villa de Leyva, on Los Virreyes Street, a very quiet and peaceful area of the town.

Hotel Casa Terra has 10 exclusive rooms designed with a rustic and traditional style mixed with contemporary and designer furniture. Casa Terra is surrounded by extensive gardens making it an ideal place to rest; here you will feel like you are in a country hotel in the heart of the historic sector of Villa de Leyva.

Spend the evening wandering the town’s cobblestone streets, admiring its whitewashed buildings and terracotta roofs. For dinner, dine at Restaurante La Waffleria De La Villa, known for its delicious waffles and varied menu featuring both sweet and savory options.

Day 4: Discovering Villa de Leyva

Immerse yourself in Villa de Leyva’s rich traditions and history. Start your day with a visit to local farms to learn about the cultivation of corn and sugarcane, essential staples of the region. Participate in a hands-on cooking class where you’ll learn to make traditional cornbread arepas, a delicious Colombian staple.

Spend the afternoon exploring the town’s expansive main plaza, one of the largest in South America, and visit the Fossil Museum, showcasing prehistoric marine fossils discovered in the area. Don’t miss the Convento del Santo Ecce Homo, a beautiful 17th-century monastery adorned with fossils embedded in its stone walls.

For dinner, head to El Solar de la Guaca, a charming restaurant set in a colonial-era house, offering a menu of traditional Colombian dishes with a modern twist. Enjoy the warm ambiance and friendly service as you savor local specialties.

The Colonial Towns of Barichara and Guane

The Colonial Towns of Barichara and Guane

Day 5: Villa de Leyva to Barichara

Begin your day with a scenic hike along a portion of the ancient Camino Real trail, carved through the Andes by indigenous people centuries ago. Afterward, set off for Barichara, often referred to as Colombia’s most beautiful town.

Upon arrival, check into Hotel Boutique Venturi, the rooms here are cozy but luxurious with a blend of modern sensibility and antique, rustic style decor, some even with old-school bathtubs. There is a gorgeous pool on-site, and you can also enjoy the bar and restaurant while taking in views of the surrounding hills.

Spend the evening wandering the town’s cobblestone streets, admiring its rustic stone architecture, carved-wood balconies, and serene plazas. For dinner, dine at Restaurante Color de Hormiga, known for its creative dishes and use of local ingredients. The menu features traditional Santander cuisine with a contemporary twist, ensuring a memorable dining experience.

Day 6: Exploring Barichara

Today, immerse yourself in Barichara’s cultural heritage. Begin with a visit to the town’s sandstone Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, a stunning example of colonial architecture. Stroll through the sunny plazas and browse local boutiques and artisan shops, where you can find handcrafted goods ranging from pottery to textiles.

In the afternoon, participate in a hands-on workshop where you’ll learn about the region’s building traditions and artisan crafts. Engage with local artisans and try your hand at traditional techniques.

For dinner, visit La Nube Restaurante, a cozy eatery offering a fusion of Colombian and international flavors. The restaurant’s intimate setting and inventive menu make for a delightful dining experience.

Day 7: Hiking to Guane

Embark on a scenic half-day hike along the Camino Real trail to the indigenous town of Guane. This picturesque hike offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Upon arrival in Guane, explore the town’s charming streets and visit its small but fascinating archaeological museum.

Return to Barichara in the evening, where you can relax and unwind at your hotel. For dinner, try El Comedor de Barichara, a restaurant set in a beautifully restored colonial house, offering a menu of traditional dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.

Forging Ahead to Zapatoca and Bucaramanga

Forging Ahead to Zapatoca and Bucaramanga

Day 8: Barichara to Zapatoca

Continue your journey through the Santander region, stopping in quaint villages like Galán and Fuente en route to Zapatoca. This colonial town, set amidst a dramatic canyon landscape, feels frozen in time with its preserved streets and plazas.

Check into Hotel Sindamanoy, a luxurious spa resort nestled in nature. The resort offers a range of wellness treatments, pools, and serene surroundings, providing the perfect retreat after a day of exploring.

Spend the afternoon wandering Zapatoca’s cobblestone streets and squares, admiring the colonial architecture and tranquil atmosphere. For dinner, dine at Restaurante La Casona, located within the hotel, offering a menu of gourmet dishes made with fresh, local ingredients.

Day 9: Wellness Day in Zapatoca

Indulge in a leisurely wellness day at Hotel Sindamanoy. Take advantage of the spa treatments, including massages, facials, and hydrotherapy. Relax by the pool and enjoy the peaceful natural surroundings.

In the afternoon, explore the nearby El Santísimo Ecological Park, a serene natural reserve offering hiking trails, birdwatching, and stunning viewpoints. Return to the hotel for a gourmet dinner, prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Day 10: Zapatoca to Bucaramanga to Cartagena

Depart Zapatoca and head to Bucaramanga, stopping along the way to visit the awe-inspiring Chicamocha Canyon. This natural wonder, spanning over 100 miles, is Colombia’s largest canyon system, carved by the Chicamocha River through the Andes over millions of years. Stop at viewpoints along the edge to appreciate its massive scale and rugged beauty.

Continue to Bucaramanga for a flight to Cartagena. Upon arrival, transfer to the luxurious Casa San Agustin and experience a luxuriously chic and relaxed atmosphere at this authentic boutique hotel, which was reimagined to maintain a colonial heritage intact within three beautiful white-washing houses that compose it. Its 20 guestrooms and 11 suites beautifully decorated preserve the authentic Colombian style, while seamlessly incorporating the modern services and amenities for travelers of today. From original frescoes at its Library to centuries-old wood-beamed ceilings in the guest rooms, Casa San Agustín’s architecture evoke the city’s rich history of the 17th century.

The Walled City of Cartagena

The Walled City of Cartagena

Day 11: Exploring Cartagena

Begin your exploration of Cartagena with a visit to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, an imposing fortress built in the 16th century to defend against pirate attacks. Wander through the maze of tunnels and ramparts, and learn about the fortress’s fascinating history.

Next, take a walking tour of Cartagena’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, vibrant streets, and charming plazas. Stroll through the bougainvillea-draped lanes, past baroque churches and Spanish Inquisition-era buildings adorned with breezy balconies and courtyards.

For lunch, head to La Cevicheria, a popular spot known for its fresh ceviche and seafood dishes. Enjoy the lively atmosphere and delicious flavors as you take in the sights and sounds of the Old Town.

In the evening, dine at Restaurante 1621, located within the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara. This elegant restaurant offers a menu of refined French and Colombian cuisine, served in a romantic setting within the hotel’s historic courtyard.

Day 12: Fishing with Locals

Today, experience the local culture with a visit to the fishing village of Boquilla. Join local fishermen for a boat excursion through the mangrove tunnels, learning to cast nets and set crab traps. Enjoy a fresh seafood lunch prepared beachside, offering a taste of the day’s catch.

Return to Cartagena in the afternoon, where you can explore more of the Old Town or relax at your hotel. For dinner, try Carmen, a contemporary restaurant offering innovative dishes inspired by Colombian flavors. The restaurant’s chic ambiance and creative menu make for a memorable dining experience.

Day 13: Free Day in Cartagena

Enjoy a final free day in Cartagena to further discover the Old Town, visit museums, and browse boutiques. Consider visiting the Palace of the Inquisition, which houses a museum detailing the city’s history, or the Museum of Modern Art, showcasing works by Colombian and Latin American artists.

For lunch, try El Boliche Cebichería, a cozy eatery known for its ceviche and fresh seafood dishes. Spend the afternoon exploring the city’s vibrant markets or relaxing at your historic hotel.

In the evening, dine at La Vitrola, a renowned restaurant offering a menu of Cuban and Caribbean-inspired dishes. The restaurant’s lively atmosphere, live music, and delicious cuisine make it a perfect spot for your final night in Cartagena.

Bid Colombia Adieu Until Next Time

Day 14: Departure from Cartagena

After breakfast at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara, you’ll be transported to the airport for your departing flight. As you bid farewell to Colombia, you’ll carry with you memories of its remarkably preserved colonial towns, stunning natural landscapes, and rich cultural heritage.

With Kuoda Travel’s seamless planning and local expertise, you were able to experience a side of Colombia few visitors get to see – the magical living history and proud cultural heritage passed down lovingly for generations. For a truly immersive experience through Colombia’s rich past, alluring present and vibrant future, send us a message to start planning your Colombia itinerary with Kuoda.

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