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Quito to Cartagena
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Overlanding is the best way to see South America by far! Dragoman have been leading the way in South American overland expeditions since 1990, so take advantage of our years of experience and come with us as we include all the must-see attractions as well as heading to some unique hidden gems, well away from the usual tourist trail. Starting at the incredible colonial town of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, we make our way to the rugged and beautiful beaches of Tayrona National Park. Driving south, we will arrive in Colombia's outdoor capital of San Gil, where we will have plenty of time for some of the amazing optional activities on offer such as trekking, abseiling, caving, and white-water rafting! We will continue to the historic old town of Villa de Leyva and then head to our stay on a coffee plantation at Manizales. After travelling through the huge palm trees of Salento and the impressively-located Santuario de las Lajas in Ipiales, we will cross over into Ecudaor, where we first visit the market town of Otavalo and visit the Equator on our way to the buzzing capital of Quito. A fantastic holiday-length adventure through the fantastic country of Colombia!

Latin America

Duration: 19 Days Guaranteed Departure: Yes
For lovers of: Hiking, Road Cycling, Equestrian, Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites, Trekking, Boating Physical rating: Light
Accommodation standard:   Budget% Traveller Tour Rating: 80.0%  
Your Guide: English speaking Tour code: 158082
Starts: Quito, Ecuador Finishes: Cartagena, Colombia
You will visit
  • Quito
  • Otavalo
  • Ipiales
  • Popayán
  • Salento
  • Manizales
  • Honda
  • Villa de Leyva
  • San Gil
  • Aguachica
  • Mompós
  • Tayrona National Park
  • Cartagena

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Quito

Border Information: if joining in Quito, you will most likely enter Ecuador at Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport (IATA code: UIO).

There will be an important group meeting at 6:00pm at the joining hotel - please look out at the hotel reception for a note from your leader with more details about this important meeting.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Quito before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Quito.

In Quito we will stay in a friendly local hotel in the 'New Town'.

02

Day 2: Quito

Today our journey begins with a short drive to Mitad del Mundo, the monument that marks the Equator. After this we will continue north to the small town of Otavalo, stopping in the centre to visit its famous markets.

In Otavalo we will camp in the grounds of a rural guesthouse overlooking the town.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

03

Day 3: Ipiales

Border information: Exit Ecuador at Ipiales, enter Colombia at Ipiales.

Today we will have an early start to cross the border into Colombia and reach the border town of Ipiales. We will visit the famous Santuario de las Lajas church outside of Ipiales in the late afternoon.

In Ipiales we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

04

Day 4: Popayán

Today we have a full day drive to the beautiful town and former colonial capital of Popayán.

In Popayán we stay in dormitory accommodation in a local hostel.

Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours.

05

Day 5: Salento

Today we will drive to the small town of Salento, the gateway to the spectacular Valle de Cocora.

In Salento we will camp in a well-equipped campsite, 15 minutes drive out of town.

Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.

06

Days 6-7: Manizales

This morning we will have an included guided trek through the Cocora Valley to see the Quindio wax palm trees, the largest palms in the world and the national tree of Colombia. In the afternoon we will head to the town of Manizales, where we stay for 2 nights on a coffee plantation.

Estimated Drive Time - 3 hours.

During our time in Manizales we will enjoy a night of traditional music and dancing, take a fascinating tour of the coffee plantations, and visit the Sagrada Familia charity - a local Dragoman-supported charity that provides education, nutrition, and psychological support to poor children in the area.

In Manizales we will camp with facilities within the grounds of the finca.

07

Day 8: Honda

Today we have a final morning in our coffee finca near Manizales, and then drive to Honda, a historic river town where we meet the Rio Magdalena.

In Honda we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours

08

Day 9: Villa de Leyva

Today we will continue our journey with a drive to Villa de Leyva, one of the country's most beautiful colonial villages. Nestled high in the arid semi-desert away from any trade routes, the town has escaped development and modernisation for centuries and is one of the most authentic old-towns in South America.

In Villa de Leyva we will camp in the grounds of a hacienda.

Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.

09

Days 10-11: San Gil

Today we will take an included walking tour of the main sights of the colonial town of Villa de Leyva in the morning, before driving to San Gil, the outdoor capital of Colombia and a mecca for extreme-sports enthusiasts! Tonight we will enjoy a vegetarian Indian buffet from the campsite's in-house restaurant.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

The following day is free to enjoy some of the myriad of adrenaline activities on offer in the area, or to spend the day relaxing on the farm.

In San Gil we camp in a coffee and cattle farm outside town.

10

Day 12: Aguachica

Today we will drive north, stopping for the night in the town of Aguachica.

In Aguachica we stay in a hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7 hours.

11

Days 13-14: Mompós

Today we will drive to the peaceful and rarely-visited colonial town of Mompós, where we will stay 2 nights. 

Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours.

The following day we go on a short boat trip down Rio Magdalena to observe the riverside life and do some wildlife spotting. There will also be plenty of free time to explore this historical colonial town, the first town in Colombia to declare independence from Spain, wander the beautiful streets and soak up the atmosphere of the architecture.

In Mompós we stay in a lovely local hotel.

12

Days 15-16: Tayrona National Park

Today we drive north to Tayrona, one of the most popular national parks in Colombia. Leaving our main luggage stored on the truck, we take a day-pack/night-bag and go on a moderate walk in to the park to where we will stay. Mules to carry your luggage can be hired at an extra cost.

Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours.

The following day is a free day to explore this stunning coastal park. We have the opportunity to trek to El Pueblito, a pre-Hispanic settlement of the Tayrona people, do some snorkelling, or just relax on the beautiful beaches.  

In Tayrona National Park we will stay in rented hammocks. The hammocks are equipped with mosquito nets but please note that the nets are not treated with Permethrin or similar pesticides.

There is also an option to bring tents if you prefer to stay in a tent rather than a hammock, but please note that mules will have to ber hired to carry your tent, at an extra cost.

13

Day 17: Cartagena

We will have some more free time in Tayrona National Park in the morning, before we walk back to the park entrance and complete our epic journey with a drive to the beautiful coastal colonial city of Cartagena.

In Cartagena we will stay in a comfortable hotel just outside the historical centre.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

14

Day 18: Cartagena

Today we will have an included walking tour of the city, and then the afternoon will be free to explore the city further, enjoy the many optional activities on offer, or simply relax on the beach.

15

Day 19: Cartagena

Border information: if you are finishing in Cartagena, you will most likely exit Colombia at Cartagena Rafael Núñez International Airport (IATA code: CTG).

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Cartagena. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Dragoman Sales team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.

If you are continuing on to Panama then your leader will assist you with airport transfers for your included flight. You will stay tonight in a comfortable hotel in either Panama City or Cartagena (depending on the flight times and availability).

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Visit the monument to mark the Equator at Mitad del Mundo
    • Visit the jaw-dropping church of Santuario de las Lajas on the outskirts of Ipiales, built on a bridge spanning a 45m-deep river gorge
    • Head out on a half-day guided trek through the spectacular Cocora Valley, and see the incredible 50m-tall Quindio wax palms, the tallest plam trees in the world!
    • Enjoy a night of traditional live Colombian music with a delicious BBQ dinner at our coffee finca nea Manizales
    • Stay for 2 nights on a coffee finca near Manizales, and learn all about coffee production on an informative tour of the plantations
    • Visit the Dragoman-supported Sagrada Familia project in Manizales, who work to provide education, nutrition, and psychological support to young children from poor backgrounds in the area
    • Discover the delightful Spanish colonial town of Villa de Leyva on a guided walking tour, and explore its cobblestoned streets, huge original plaza, and 16th-Century buildings
    • Explore the area of Mompós by boat, on a beautiful short trip out on the Magdelena River
    • Freely explore the fascinating colonial city of Cartagena or learn all about its incredible history on a guided walking tour
    Tour Staff
    • 2 crew, local guides as necessary
    Accomodation
    • 50% Camping - 50% Hotels
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Tour Highlights:
  • Adventure Activities
  • Boating
  • Cycling
  • Hiking & Trekking
  • History & Culture
  • Horse Riding
  • Overland Journey


Reviews (7)
Patricia P Posted on: 

Local guides were all excellent and well chosen

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Michael B Posted on: 

I had a great time on the tour. I went to Guatape and Otavalo, places that I would not have visited had I travelled on my own, and I thought they were great. I liked Rachel and Jamie, I thought they did a great job. It is very well done for people who want this type of experience and I am happy to recommend Dragoman. Both crew were fabulous. There were several local guides and I thought they were all very good.

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Alexandra B Posted on: 

Rachel was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable and brought the whole group together well. Jaime was also enthusiastic and such a happy personality to have around.

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Søren Elleby A Posted on: 

The leaders did good! I like that Jamie always seems happy!

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Kathleen R Posted on: 

I think the style of the vehicle adds an extra quirk to the whole trip so for that reason I quite liked it. What we expected given the nature of this trip, happy customers! We had a great time! Everything was beyond expectations. Rachel has so much enthusiasm and drive, she definitely fits the true qualities required of this job. Her confidence in handling difficult situations shone and kept us at ease throughout the trip and she just made things great fun! Couldn't ask for more of her!

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Lauren B Posted on: 

I really enjoyed the trip! Both leaders were very helpful, and supported us well.

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Brett M Posted on: 

It was an amazing experience, exactly as described and good value for money. They were fantastic! It's a difficult job which they made look effortless…

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