2014 Colombia Tour Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Bogota

Fly independently to Bogota, Colombia and overnight at Hotel Estelar Parque de la 93. (D)

Day 2

Bogota / Armenia / Pereira

Fly from Bogota to Armenia, high in the Coffee Triangle. Lunch is served at a local restaurant, where we enjoy some regional favorites. After lunch, visit Quindío Botanical Garden, a sanctuary with 3,000 butterflies from over 40 different native species. Plus, we climb a tower in the woods to watch for some of the sanctuary’s 110 bird species. Represented are the three most important botanical collections in Colombia: palms, ferns and heliconias. Continue to Pereira and check into Hotel Movich. (B,L,D)

Day 3

Otún Quimbaya / Manizales

Venture to Otún Quimbaya, the ideal location for observing birdlife such as Cauca guan, Monte toro and carriquí, along with howler monkeys, mountain tapir and guatín — though these mammals can be difficult to spot. Enjoy a picnic breakfast, surrounded by lush slopes where our naturalists points out ficus, yarumos, bromeliads, orchids and other flora native to the cloud forest. Drive to Manizales this afternoon and check into Hotel Termales el Otoño, our home for three nights, in the lush hills surrounding Manizales. Before or after dinner, be sure to take advantage of the hotel’s hot springs, which are fed by underground volcanic activity. (B,L,D)

Day 4

Los Nevados National Park

Spend a full day exploring the paramo and other high-altitude vegetation of Los Nevados National Park. Located in the Cordillera Central of the Colombian Andes, the landscapes of Los Nevados are dominated by the Nevado del Ruiz volcano. In addition to Nevado del Ruiz, seven other volcanoes are located in the area: Nevado del Tolima, Santa Isabel, Nevado del Quindío, Páramo de Santa Rosa, Cerro Bravo, Cerro Machín and Nevado El Cisne. This entire region was shaped by glacial activity, leaving U-shaped valleys and moraines behind. The park's hydrographic networks supply water to over 2,000,000 coffee-growers in the region and to most of the rice and cotton crops in the Tolima Department. Los Nevados is home to 1,250 species of vascular plants, 200 bryophytes, 300 lichens and 180 macroscopic fungi. On the lower slopes and in the valleys, we find the distinctive Andean wax palms along with rich birdlife. During our nature hikes, watch for blue-crowned motmot, yellow-eared parrot, Fuertes's parrot, rufous-fronted parakeet, Andean condor, brown-banded antpitta and ruddy duck. The bearded helmetcrest hummingbird is endemic to the region. A variety of mammals also call the area home, including mountain tapir, spectacled bear, Northern pudú, oncilla, cougar and white-eared opossum. (B,L,D)

Day 5

Rio Blanco Reserve

A "must see” for any birding enthusiast, today our Colombia tour takes in the varying altitudes of the Rio Blanco Reserve. A wide variety of flora and fauna can be found in the park. Three endemic bird species are found here: brown-banded antpitta, bicolored antpitta and rufous-fronted parakeet. But the area also boasts a number of other sought-after species. Our naturalist will be on the look-out for tyrannine woodcreeper, golden-faced redstart, dusky piha, black-billed and buff-breasted mountain-tanagers, grass-green and white-capped tanager, chestnut-naped antpitta, rusty-faced parrot and powerful woodpecker. Lucky and observant groups may even spot the hard to see ocellated, blakish and Spillman’s tapaculos, black-billed peppershrike, plushcap, mountain cacique and golden-plumed parakeet. The reserve boasts well-maintained hummingbird feeders that attract various species of hummingbirds, including tourmaline sunangel, buff-tailed coronet, speckled hummingbird, bronzy and collared Inca, mountain velvetbreast, white-bellied woodstar and long-tailed sylph. Plus, an ingeniously installed antpitta feeder attracts two endemic antpittas and two species of brush-finches. Spend our afternoon touring Hacienda Venecia and learning about the coffee process from bean to cup. (B,L,D)

Day 6

Manizales / Minca

An early morning flight brings us to Santa Marta and nearby Minca, where we spend two nights at Hotel Minca, where lush grounds, fruiting trees, and wide variety of plants attract dozens of species of birds on a daily basis. Over 300 species of birds are found in the area, including the endemic Santa Marta sabrewing and Santa Marta foliage-gleaner; many regional specialties like the black-backed antshrike and golden-winged sparrow; and the spectacular keel-billed toucans and whooping motmots that feed close to the hotel on a regular basis. Local naturalist guides will take you on guided explorations of the area, including an evening excursion to look for owls and other nocturnal wildlife. (B,L,D)

Day 7

Minca

With just 500 inhabitants in the small town of Minca, the town welcomes our small group with open arms! Local naturalists guide hiking and road excursions through the tropical humid forests of this region nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada; a quiet refuge of peace and tranquility. Toucans are common in this area, which is bursting with multiple species of lianas, palms, and ferns. Thousands of birds, insects and butterflies make concerts of song and buzzing while shy species such as armadillo hedgehog, ocelot and monkey are sometimes seen. (B,L,D)

Day 8

Minca / Parque Isla de Salamanca / Cartagena

Depart Minca, heading toward Cartagena, stopping first at Parque Isla de Salamanca, an UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The park has an extraordinary set of beaches, marshlands and forests occupying the former estuary of the Magdalena River. Salamanca is home to a variety of endemic birds, including the endangered sapphire-bellied hummingbird, which we’ll watch for during naturalist-guided hikes through the mangroves. From there, continue along the coastal highway to iconic Cartagena, where we check into the lovely Ananda Boutique Hotel, our home for two nights. Spend our afternoon on a guided walking tour of the charming streets of the Old Town, including the city walls. Dinner tonight is on your own. (B,L)

Day 9

Cartagena

On a private morning excursion, board local boats with local guides to explore the rich coastal life of the mangroves swamps of La Boquilla, just outside Cartagena, an important nesting and migratory spot for many birds. Local guides point out the many species as we make our way through the channels and canals of Cienega de la Virgen (Swamp of the Virgin). Water species such as kingfishers, white herons, common lauras, pink spatulas and pelicans are found in this fascinating ecosystem. After a wonderful lunch of local specialties, enjoy touring this atmospheric city, including the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas and la Popa, the town’s highest point. Tonight, say goodbye to your Colombia tour friends during a festive farewell dinner is in a local restaurant (B,L,D)

Day 10

Depart Cartagena

Transfer to the airport for your independent flights home. (B, Meals Aloft)