“A Land of Contrasts“ is a phrase frequently employed to describe Caribbean Colombia. This vision, this variety of life unfolds before our very eyes on our intricately designed extension. Enhance your experience of Colombia as we explore vibrant Barranquilla, as well as historical Santa Marta. From here, we leave the city culture and step into the tropical forests and beaches of Tayrona before heading towards the tip of the South American continent and the coastal deserts of La Guajira. Our journey concludes in the dynamic culture of Cartagena with over two full days in this gem of a city.
Day 1 - Cartagena/Disembark
Disembark National Geographic Quest and begin our drive along the coast towards Barranquilla. On the way, we arrive to Galapa. Lying just southwest of Barranquilla itself, the small township is renowned for the masks created for Barranquilla’s celebration of Carnaval, the second largest in the world. These hand-crafted works of art are created specifically for the parades and festivals of Carnaval. Visit with the craftspeople and engage in a mask workshop. In the afternoon we make our way to Barranquilla and settle into our iconic hotel, El Prado. Dinner tonight is at La Cueva, a famed hangout of the so-called “Barranquilla Group” which included writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and journalist Alvaro Cepeda Samudio. It was here the Barranquilla Group met over drinks to discuss writing, art, politics and life. (B,L,D)
Day 2 - Barranquilla/Salamanca National Park/Santa Marta/Tayrona
Barranquilla almost boils over with culture and is home to the second largest Carnaval celebration in the world after Rio. Visting Casa Carnaval, we come to know the deep connection between Barranquilla and this yearly celebration. Going even deeper into the culture of this thriving city and region, we visit the Caribbean Anthropological Museum and enjoy a walking tour of the El Prado area.
Departing Barranquilla, our drive takes us through the coastal wetlands of Salamanca National Park where shorebirds and herons feed, wading in the shallows probing the mud or striking quickly into the waters of these alkaline lagoons.
Our next stop, Santa Marta, founded almost 500 years ago is one of the oldest cities in South America, and, as with all the settlements in this region of Colombia, comes with a fascinating history. We stop here for lunch and later visit the sprawling grounds of Quinta de San Pedro de Alejandrino, where Simón Bolívar took his last breath.
Soon, we arrive in the Tayrona area, in time to check into our lodge and set out for an evening walk as birds and primates vocalize in the dusky light before settling down for the night. (B,L,D)
Day 3 - Tayrona/La Guajira
Traveling a short distance, we leave the tangled tropical forests of Tayrona and emerge into open desert. The culture of the Wayuu, the “people of sun, wind and sky,” is opened up to us today as we meet with members of the community and learn about life on this seemingly barren peninsula, near where the northern mainland of South America reaches its terminus. The dances of the Wayuu, inspired by the local birds is a visual delight with women dressed in bright red robes set against white sand beaches and the Caribbean blue sea. La Guajira, is full of life and the bird watching here can be outstanding. We are on the lookout for vermilion cardinal, the elusive Tocuyo sparrow, the lovely buffy hummingbird and, if luck is on our side, American flamingoes. (B,L,D)
Day 4 - Tayrona/Tayronaka/Don Diego River
Early morning walks into the jungles and along the beach reveal the natural wonders of the humid Caribbean tropical forest. With binoculars at the ready, we will watch for crocodiles in brackish marshes and tropical birds including hummingbirds, wrens and flycatchers. Scanning the treetops may produce views of primates and with luck, we may even catch a glimpse of the critically endangered cotton-top tamarin.
After lunch at the lodge, we drive to the settlement of Tayronaka and then to the Don Diego river where a peaceful float to the mouth of the Caribbean Sea allows us the opportunity for red howler monkeys, keel-billed toucans, smooth-billed anis and amazon kingfishers. (B,L,D)
Day 5 - Tayrona/Cartagena
Making our way west, we arrive back to Cartagena. Check-in to Hotel Movich de Cartagena de Indias and enjoy lunch before setting out, spending the afternoon exploring the iconic Getsemani neighborhood, the artistic core of Cartagena which overflows with color and ambiance. Here, we see everyday life in the plazas and streets where food vendors offer up delicacies and kids laugh and play in pick-up soccer games. Here, flowers in a multitude of varieties drape classic, weathered wrought-iron balcony railings. The atmosphere is vibrant and dynamic, infused with modern-day Afro-Caribbean flair and set against the backdrop of Spanish colonial architecture. The legendary Walled City is next and just walking through the narrow streets feels like we are stepping back in time. Truly a feast for the eyes, the ears and the nose. (B,L,D)
Day 6 - Cartagena / Palenque
After breakfast drive to Palenque, where we dive into the lore and legend of this fascinating village as we learn of its important place in history, becoming a sanctuary city during the 1600’s. We also experience how the traditional culture is being kept alive in modern ways especially through music.
Returning to Cartagena, we enjoy a sumptuous lunch. We spend the afternoon and evening hours exploring the iconic Getsemani neighborhood, the artistic core of Cartagena which overflows with color and ambiance. Here, we see everyday life in the plazas and streets where food vendors offer up delicacies and kids laugh and play in pick-up soccer games. Here, flowers in a multitude of varieties drape weathered wrought-iron balcony railings. The atmosphere is vibrant and dynamic, infused with modern-day Afro-Caribbean flair and set against the backdrop of Spanish colonial architecture. Truly a feast for the eyes, the ears and the nose. (B,L,D)
Day 7 - Cartagena
This morning, we ascend to Convento de La Popa. From this high viewpoint above Cartagena, the city, unquestionably, one of the most picturesque in all of Latin America spreads out below. Our far-reaching view from the site, followed by our visits to the fortress, the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas and the Bazurto Market, with its frenetic, sometimes, chaotic atmosphere, provides us with rich and varied impressions of this delightful city. (B,L,D)
Day 8 - Cartagena/Home
Check-out this morning and transfer to Cartagena Airport for flights home. (B)
Costs & What's Included
7-nights hotel accommodations, meals indicated, transfers, sightseeing, and entrance fees.
All airfare, personal items, and immigration fees.