Colombia Volcano Trek & Discovery

A 4-day full-service trekking adventure in Los Nevados National Park with Bogota, the Coffee Region and Cartagena for
10D/9N Starting at $2673 per person

High up above the clouds that cloak the folds, valleys, mountains and forests of the Central Andes of Colombia is one of the country's most stunning national parks.

Los Nevados Natural National Park is home to over 8 volcanic structures - a mixture of active, dormant, extinct volcanoes, 3 of which are glacier capped at over 16,500 feet and all of which provide the dramatic backdrop to a trekking adventure like no other. For before you can reach the pristine high-altitude 'paramos' (tundra) of Colombia's Coffee Region, you must ascend through a number of ecosystems, each one more beautiful and other-worldly than the last, characteristic of the tropical Andes, where mountains make species.

Cocora Valley

The diversity here is remarkable. A 4-day full-service trekking adventure will take you through this unforgettable landscape, and when mixed with the coffee farming process from seed to cup and experiencing hot thermal springs, your coffee region experience will feel very complete. Bogota, Colombia's bohemian and lively capital, will greet you upon arrival and entice you with great museums and historical sectors, great restaurants and an even better nightlife.

After your mountain adventure in the Coffee Region, you'll finish in what is without doubt one of Latin America's great cities - the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cartagena, a walled city of architecture dating back to the 16th century, full of plazas, historical buildings, important spots and dates from Spanish colonial history and of course hotels, restaurants and bars - all located on the Caribbean sea front with stunning sunsets to boot.

Lost World Adventures itineraries can be tailor-made according to your plans and preferences: budget, hotel selections, travel dates, optional excursions, length of trip, etc.

Day 1: Bogota

You will be met upon arrival at the Bogota El Dorado Airport and transfer to you hotel. Overnight at a Bogota hotel, daily breakfast included - 2 nights. 

Depending on your arrival time you'll either be able to rest up at the hotel with an early check-in or just drop your bags off and then head out to one of Bogota's most famous landmarks - Cerro Monseratte or 'Monserrate Hill', ascending by either funicular railway or cable car to the top.

The hill and its Basilica of Our Fallen Lord lies some 600 meters above the Bogota savanna, allowing for panoramic views at sunset over one of Latin America's largest cities. The rest of the evening will be at your leisure.  

Day 2: Bogota

Today you'll head off early to Bogota's largest and busiest market, the Paloquemao Market. Here you'll be in among the non-stop movement, trade and purchasing of goods that come from all corners of Colombia - fish from the Pacific, fresh flowers directly from the savanna of Bogota, potatoes from the altiplano, fresh, colorful and varied fruits from the tropical lowlands and valleys and much much more. Local foods will be sampled, an excellent way to get a true insight into the everyday comings and goings that keep the city fed with fresh produce.

After leaving the market you'll head to the historical neighborhood of La Candelaria in the center of Bogota. You'll delve into Bogota's Spanish colonial center that has 16th and 17th century architecture lining the streets with ornate wooden balconies and timeless stone doorways.

A visit will be paid to the Gold Museum, considered to be one of the world's leading museums that houses the largest collection of Tumbaga gold (a gold-copper alloy) in the world. You'll walk through and marvel at Colombia's rich and diverse pre-Hispanic past and have the chance to learn about the famed Legend of El Dorado, and the ornate golden raft that represents this doomed centuries-long search.

After leaving the museum you'll visit the Plaza de Bolivar, surrounded by Bogota's 1st Cathedral (rebuilt numerous times), the Justice Palace, Mayor's office and Capitol building - the square itself being named after Colombia's independence hero Simon Bolivar, immortalized by a statue in the center of the plaza.

Colombia's most famous master Fernando Botero - famous for his enlarged, big boned paintings - will be the next point of interest as you visit his largest collection in the Botero museum that also houses his personal collection of works by artists such as Gustav Klimt, Picasso, Matisse among many others.

After completing the tour you'll drive back to the hotel to freshen up before heading off to the up-market township of Usaquen in the north of the city - a mixture of unique restaurants, historic architecture and boutique shops. If on a Sunday Usaquen's flea market will be open where local artisans come together to sell their handiwork.

Dinner will be at a typical restaurant in Usaquen.   

Day 3:  Pereira - Salento

Transfer to the airport for a morning flight to Pereira, the largest city in the Colombian Coffee Region. Airport reception and transfer to Finca del Café in Santa Rosa de Cabal for a morning coffee tour. You'll learn about Santa Rosa through a short walking tour.

The main square, the ornate church and the coming and going of Willy's Jeeps (the old but powerful US Army surplus work horses that largely replaced the use of mules along the region's main country lanes and roads) will all be looked at during the walkabout. Santa Rosa is known as having the best chorizo (Spanish sausage) in Colombia and there'll be the chance to sample some.

Then, you'll head to a nearby working coffee farm to begin a tour focused on one of Colombia's main exports - being the 4th largest producer in the world - and learn about the entire process from seed to cup. Colombia's coffee is considered by many to be the best in the world and here you'll gain an insight as to why.

This crop and the associated culture borne from it has sustained and defined the region for well over 120 years, a culture so unique and intertwined with its surroundings that it was named as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011.

After looking at all things coffee you'll transfer on to the picturesque mountain town of Salento, smaller than Santa Rosa but no less important. Apart from being located along the ancient 'Royal Road' or Camino Real which was used for centuries by both the local indigenous groups and subsequent Spanish colonizers to cross the Central Cordillera (Andean range), it is also home to a great collection of coffee-colonial architecture - a fusion of Spanish influenced buildings, complete with terracota roof tiles and wooden balconies, and 'guadua' structures, an immense native bamboo used extensively for building throughout the region.

There'll be a chance for a walk around Salento to marvel at its colloquial atmosphere before having dinner at one of its many great restaurants. Being firmly on the tourist map Salento has benefited with its culinary offering. A meeting will be held with your trek leader to go over the basics about the next few days before you'll head out to play a game of 'Tejo' - an explosive disc-throwing game that is unique to Colombia.

Overnight at a Salento hotel, breakfast included.   

Day 4: Cocora Valley - Los Nevados National Park, Quindio

Today you'll transfer early to the trailhead in the stunning Cocora Valley. The valley, named after the local 'Quindio' chieftain's daughter, meaning 'Star of Water', was created some 5,000 years ago by an immense eruption from one of the volcanoes that lie above in Los Nevados National Park.

There'll be time to take in the gargantuan landscape, dotted all around by the Colombian Wax Palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense) - the national tree and tallest palm in the world, that measures up to 60 meters in height but that has been forced to the edge of local extinction through deforestation and the use of the palm leaves for Palm Sunday Easter celebrations.

You'll set out on trek today and begin an ascent via the Cardenas River Valley, starting out in dense cloud forest before passing through old timber plantations and then quickly moving up to high-Andean forest, towards pristine habitat. The trail is steep with switch backs as altitude is gained quickly. Eventually the trail runs along the side of the valley, following the course of the Cardenas River far below.

Soon you'll be surrounded by high-Andean forest on all sides where you'll make a brief stop at a stunning look-out point that gives you an idea of how much trail is left before the day's trek is ended. This small grassy plateau gives a stunning panorama of the untouched forests on the other side of the valley and the wilderness that lies ahead. The birds here are outstanding and an eye should be kept out for quick movements on the trail as these are all Andean cloud forest specialties and are not to be missed!

You'll eventually arrive at La Argentina farm where camp will be set up and waiting. Lunch will be had and there'll be time to have a look around this typical high-Andean milk producing farm before settling in for the night.

Dinner at camp. All meals included.

Today's hike: approximately 11 km, 4-5 hours, medium level.

Day 5: La Argentina to El Bosque - National Park Los Nevados, Risaralda

Today's hike will be the longest and crosses the highest point on the overall trek. The morning will be taken up by a steep climb through the unique and mystical landscape of the sub-Páramo - a world of gnarled tree-lined grottoes, small bushes and water that wouldn't seem out of place in a Lords of The Rings book.

Eventually the landscape goes through a final metamorphosis into the 'Páramo' proper where long grasses, bright flowers and the peculiar 'frailejones' - symbols of evolution in this high-altitude tropical tundra - dominate. Up ahead lies the golden-orange volcanic sands and crater of the extinct Paramillo del Quindio volcano, source of the Cardenas River.

The climb will eventually finish at the 'High of Bitterness' - a windswept pass at over 13,700 feet that leads on down through to the Berlin valley, a glacial 'U' fringed by sheer rock faces. The descent will take you down through the valley where the flatter parts have been converted to pastures, pockmarked by the odd tree, bonsai-like and potentially centuries old. This postcard vista eventually leads on to Berlin Farm where the locals will treat you to a hot 'agua panela', an unrefined sugar drink that is perfect for the climate and altitude.

The trail then climbs for the last time to El Bosque caldera rim, where a spectacular view (on a clear day) will greet you before you descend via the wall of the caldera down into the village of El Bosque. After a few km you'll again see camp come into view. That afternoon you'll have the chance to visit a local school and farm to gain an insight into how the only population within Los Nevados live. 

Dinner at the refuge. All meals included.

Today's hike: approximately 14.5 km, 850 m ascent, difficult grade walk across grassy paramo with steep switchbacks.

Day 6: El Bosque to Lake Otun - Los Nevados National Park, Risaralda

Today's trail will take you deep into the park with an ascent out of sub-páramo into the páramo, going through an entirely different landscape of broken hillocks, dips and rocks, all covered in a carpet of bunch grasses, brightly colored flowers and frailejones - distant relatives of the common daisy, evolved to such an extent that they are now seriously threatened by any small change in climate.

Up ahead the snowy slopes of the Nevado de Santa Isabel will come into view as you head north. Eventually the trail will lead out to an old lake bed, called Lake Mosquito which only recently dried up and is now fertile pasture for roaming cows. After walking past the lake a small ascent will follow before the grand sight of Lake Otun opens out before you. This 4,000-meter-high lake which measures 2km by 1km wide feeds the water course that eventually forms the River Otun was formed by an old lava flow thousands of years ago.

By the lake you'll see the first park ranger presence in their cabin where camp will be set up waiting for you. After lunch time can be spent walking to an old sulphur mine, wandering the lake shores or with the park rangers whose tales make for great listening.

Dinner at camp. All meals included.

Day 7: Lake Otun to Hacienda Campoalegre - Los Nevados National Park, Risaralda

Today you'll leave the lake behind, walking its 2km length, slowly ascending via an old abandoned trail to one of Los Nevados' best-preserved sectors. The 'Garden of Eden' trail takes you through a nursery-like sea of bright yellows and greens, deep Arnica purples and towering browns before the trail continues on to the beginning of a long descent through a quite splendid landscape of various plants that find their home in the wetter valley floors of the paramos.

These plants form a garden that is full of water, serving their basic function of soaking up and withholding water during the rainy season to then slowly release it through the changes of atmospheric pressure in the dry season 'summer' months. Protecting the paramos of Colombia has become a strategic priority, to protect the paramos is to protect the water supply of over 70% of Colombians.

The trail and descent continues around several large bends in the road before finally reaching the cold, and normally cloudy landscape of Hacienda Campoalegre, a large farm located next to another park cabin and the point where the 4x4 transport will be waiting to take you down to a stunning hacienda for the evening.

Los Nevados and your trekking adventure will be left behind and some well-deserved R&R awaits. After arriving at the hacienda a late lunch will be provided and you'll have the rest of the afternoon and evening at your leisure, free to enjoy the private hot springs, the simply gorgeous cloud-forest canyon landscape, great, home-cooked food and wine. All meals included.

Day 8: Hacienda Termales La Quinta to Cartagena

Today you'll have the morning at leisure to explore the hacienda, possibly taking a short walk to the hot spring source to boil some eggs for breakfast, or take a longer walk around the forests and trails that wind their way through this beautiful coffee region countryside. After an early lunch you'll walk back to the vehicle pick up point, 1km away. You'll transfer to Manizales Airport for your flight to Cartagena, connecting through Bogota.

Upon arrival at this Caribbean city you'll be transferred to the hotel. After checking in you'll have the rest of the afternoon and evening at leisure in the Old Town. Restaurants will be recommended for dinner. 

Overnight at a Cartagena hotel, daily breakfast included - 2 nights. 

Day 9: Cartagena

Cartagena will be explored during this morning's tour of the city. With a rich colonial history dating back nearly 500 years, Cartagena de Indias, as it was once called, was a Spanish America's epicenter for gold exports, slave trading and a symbol of Spanish grandeur which was frequently attacked by the pirates of the Caribbean.

Among the most famous attacks was that lead by Sir Francis Drake, whose attack and taking of the city almost destroyed it. The walls and fortifications that now define the city were a result of the incessant attacks and were among the main reasons why Cartagena was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1980's.

Its 16th and 17th century architecture, tight streets, various plazas and lengthy history will be divulged today. A visit to the Popa Monastery will allow for panoramic views of the city both new and old, including the vast bay of Cartagena, reason why this particular site was chosen to build this once important port.

After La Popa you'll visit Saint Philip's Castle which is widely considered as the greatest fortress the Spanish ever built. After the castle you'll enter the Old Town once again, where the old mansions, plazas, churches and morbid site of the old Spanish Inquisition will be visited, before a walk along the coral stone walls and battalions, finishing in Las Bovedas or 'The Vaults' which have since been converted into small artisan shops, selling the best in local handicrafts and goods.

You'll have the rest of the afternoon to explore, with no end of great restaurants, bars, boutiques all topped off by an amazing sunset!  

Day 10: Int'l Departure

Transfer to airport for your departing flight. 

 

Price from $2,673.00 per person, based on double occupancy
Days 10
Nights 9
Includes:

Based on private services for 2 travelers. Reduced prices for parties of 3 or more.

  • All transfers and road transportation
  • All accommodations
  • All entrance fees to all museums, parks and reserves
  • Bilingual Colombian Project Trek Leader
  • Local bilingual guides in major cities
  • Bilingual guide during airport transfers
  • Tours as included in this itinerary
  • All meals as noted in itinerary 
  • All snacks and water on day tours
Excludes:
  • International and domestic airfare

"We spent over three months with Andrew from this travel company deciding on the itinerary for our South American trip."

He then spent the next few months putting together a  holiday was that was absoulutley fabulous and went exactly to plan. All the guides were extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic and it it was like we were their first ever customers. All the hotels  met or exceeded our expectations. We do not live in the USA, however this was no problem for Andrew. I have recommended this travel company to a number of friends both here and overseas.

 

- Wendy B, Nov 2015

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