Colombia: A Cultural Renaissance | 11 DAYS

  • Explore Colombia's transformation
  • Participate in rural projects
  • Prepare Sancocho with farmers
  • Stay in a Coffee Triangle community

Travel with an Andean Discovery Program Leader, a native Colombian, who will offer you an insider’s perspective as you journey from the Andes to the Caribbean. Examine Colombia’s tumultuous history and optimistic future through the eyes of locals as you explore authentic agricultural towns and modern cities alike.

Meet with community leaders, students, and teachers who will tell stories about the transformation that is playing out in every day life. Participate in projects that offer farmers in rural communities an alternative source of income, which was not possible just 10 years ago. Analyze ongoing challenges that the country is facing as it rebuilds in the post-conflict era and learn about the complexities of the peace process.

Walk in the Cocora Valley and contribute to a sustainable future for the native Wax Palm, the Colombian national tree. Cook a fresh pot of Sancocho with a family from the Coffee Triangle, all while relishing the unparalleled hospitality of the Colombian people.

Itinerary >>

Detailed Itinerary >>

Touch down in Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, where your Student Expeditions to Program Leader will meet you and transfer with you to your hotel.

Properly introduce yourself to Colombia on your first full day with a tour of La Candelaria, the colonial district and colorful neighborhood famous for its cafes and shops.   Visit La Catedral and the Palacio de Justicia to glimpse the country’s government and learn about how the new generation is leading Colombia into a brighter future. Stop at the renowned Museo del Oro to hear how gold has affected colonization and the development of Colombia. After a morning on the ground, elevate your Bogota experience with an aerial tram ride to Montserrate sanctuary where you will enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city.

Now that you are acquainted with Bogotá, broaden your understanding of Colombia by flying to the famous coffee-growing axis. The part of the country that contains Manizales, Armenia, and Pereira is known as The Coffee Triangle. The Arabica coffee beans grown here produce some of the finest coffee in the world. Visit a family-owned coffee plantation and learn how the beans are grown, harvested, dried, and exported across the globe. Discuss the supply chain and fair-trade practices as you contemplate how little of what you pay for a Starbucks coffee actually makes its way back into the pockets of local farmers. Continue on to a community of farmers in the foothills of Tatama National Park where you will spend the next two nights. This afternoon get oriented with a hike to a nearby waterfall and learn about the success of the community’s reforestation project, which has regenerated the surrounding cloud forest.

This morning visit the community’s primary school and engage in activities with teachers and students. Teach English through art and games and make a much-needed improvement to the school building.   Later this morning visit the home of a farmer and learn how to cook a fresh pot of Sancocho, a famous Colombian dish, using the freshest, locally grown ingredients. After a hearty lunch, stroll through small family farms and learn about the farmers’ blackberry cooperative, a sustainable microbusiness, and other fruits and vegetables native to the region.

Wake up to the smell the coffee and bid “adios” to your new farmer friends before venturing into the Cocora Valley, part of Los Nevados National Park. Here you will encounter the wax palm, Colombia’s national tree, and marvel at its dizzying height and its incredible ability to survive at such altitude. Join local indigenous Quimbaya people as they bless a new crop of seedlings before planting them in the rich Andean soil during a sacred Colombian ritual. Your efforts will ensure a sustainable future for this tree, which provides the only habitat for the endangered Yellow-eared parrot. This afternoon visit Salento, a colorful town known for the skillful artisanry of its locals.

This morning you will depart the Coffee Triangle and journey through the cloud forest to Medellin in the department of Antioquia. Known as the City of Eternal Spring, this refreshing mountain city enjoys a wonderfully temperate climate. Don’t be fooled by the city’s moderate size as Medellin boasts the amenities and attractions of a city twice as large. This city has earned a reputation for leading the country during its recent reinvention, while devoting itself to innovation and the arts. Spend the afternoon getting oriented during a City Tour exploring the downtown’s treasures. You’ll be delighted to find public works and urban art projects scattered around the city.

Analyze the transformation of Colombia from an urban perspective as you visit Comuna 13, a popular neighborhood in the outskirts of Medellin. Once dominated by drug cartels and gang violence, Comuna 13 is now one of the safest sectors in the city and home to budding artists and restoration projects. Meet with local Colombian hip-hop artists who are leading a powerful grassroots effort to provide youth with outlets for expression through music and art. Reflect on the dramatic graffiti that masks the city’s walls and observe roofs of homes that have been painted throughout the neighborhood. This afternoon familiarize yourself with the 23 distinct bronze statues donated by the legendary Colombian artist Fernando Botero at the Plaza de las Escultura (Botero Plaza).

Today visit Colombia’s famous port city and gateway to world. This attractive coastal city retains much of the colonial charm it cultivated during the Spanish colonial era.

Explore the 16th century San Felipe Fort and the archway shops of Las Bovedas, which have been repurposed from their past purpose as dungeons. This afternoon travel back in time as you walk through the Ciudad Amurallada, the UNESCO World Heritage site colonial center. Let your imagination run wild as you enter this area flanked by military walls from the days of pirates, cannonballs, and warfare by sea. This evening learn about the history of music and dance in Colombia and opt for a Salsa and Cumbia class with local dancers.

Leaving Cartagena, you will head for a small fishing village. You’ll be allowed to sleep in relative to the locals who awake at 4:00am to rush to the sea in an effort to catch enough fish to feed their families.

Upon arrival in the village, meet with fishermen who will explain the local fauna and fish of the nearby lagoon. Roll up your sleeves and help the fishermen assemble their fishing nets and crab boxes. Hop on kayaks and journey through the mangroves and lagoon to catch crabs, shrimp and fish using traditional and simple methods, including attempting to cast the traditional Atarraya fishing nets. This outing is truly an amazing experience and a chance to really get an understanding and appreciation of daily life in this vibrant Caribbean community.

Next, to take your catch, prepare it, and join community members in the preparation of lunch – the famous coconut rice, patacones, fried fish, garlic crabs served with the abundant agua panela. You will work in a very simple family kitchen but they pride themselves on cooking everything from scratch without preservatives and with a lot of amor. You will all share the table together to have lunch.

This evening fly to Bogota.

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Andean Discovery is a flexible, reliable, and affordable travel company that organizes authentic cultural experiences. They organized two life-changing Ecuador trips for our high school students. They follow through on every detail, which makes for a safe and well-planned adventure. Our guide, Antonio, was extremely knowledgeable, fun, and related well with the kids. Andean Discovery is not one of the large cookie-cutter travel companies that provides generic experiences for high prices. It is big enough to have the needed resources and support, but small enough to customize your experience to match your needs and goals. They don't try to provide trips in every country. They are specialists and experts on Ecuador and Peru. 
David Meissner, Director of International Programs, Alexander Dawson School