After checking in at Auckland Airport we board our LATAM flight to Santiago.
We arrive in the vibrant city of Santiago de Chile in the afternoon.
We will be met at the airport and transfer to our hotel, and have an opportunity to freshen up before dinner at the hotel.
Two exciting days in Chile are ahead of us, so early to bed to be full of energy for the next couple of days.
Santiago is the capital and largest city in Chile. Founded in 1541 by the Spanish conquistadors, today it has a city centre with a mix of architectural styles and a lively local culture. Situated in a valley it has the Andes Mountains on either side, and the Pacific Ocean is only an hours’ drive away.
After breakfast we will head south of Santiago towards the Maipo Valley, a region well known for producing some of the most prestigious Chilean wines and often referred to as the Bordeaux of South America. The most famous wine of the Maipo Valley is the Cabernet Sauvignon variety, which stands out as among the best in the country.
Our first stop along the valley is at Odifell Vineyard for a tour and wine tasting. What could be better than being in beautiful surroundings with a few nice wines to sample?
We continue to another outstanding winery, Las Araucarias boutique vineyard, for another tasting and an opportunity to relax in the sunshine.
Time for lunch at La Viluma restaurant where we will enjoy a gourmet lunch, paired with premium wines.
In the afternoon, when we are ready we will return to our hotel.
We can’t leave Santiago without a city tour so this morning we will explore the architecture and atmosphere of central Santiago. The tour will include iconic city sights such as the Moneda Presidential Palace, the Plaza de Armas, Cathedral and San Cristobal Hill.
The Plaza de Armas is the city’s most famous square, surrounded by important and beautiful buildings such as the Cathedral and Central Post Office. A few blocks away you’ll find the Pre-Columbian Museum with over 700 exhibits of pre-Hispanic artwork and relics from diverse cultures including the Mayans, Aztecs and the Mapuches from the south of Chile.
One of the most important parts of the city is San Cristobal Hill. The hill is recognised as one of the largest urban parks in Santiago, topped by a stunning 22 metre statue of the Virgin Mary.
Time for a busy traveller to have lunch and today it’s at Castillo Forestal.
Then we will be transferred to the airport for our flight to Bogota, Colombia. Once we have cleared passport control at Bogota airport we will be met and taken to our central city hotel.
Bogotá is situated high in the Andes, and as the capital of a diverse country, truly has something for everyone. As we are staying in the old area of the city there is lots to see and explore just outside our hotel. Bogota is a modern city and also a very colourful and artistic one.
We start the day with a walking tour of the local area, Candelaria. In this area Bogota was originally settled so we are going to find glimpses of the colonial past and pre-Colombian times. We will pass many murals and displays of local culture. Our local guide will talk about history, geography as well as the current social and political situation in Colombia.
There’s a break from 11.30am to 1pm for you to enjoy individual exploration or to have a rest. A must-visit museum is the Museo de Oro, which has an immense collection of pre-Colombian gold. (You may not need much for lunch as the afternoon is all about food.)
At 1pm we will gather together again to experience the Colombian Regional Cuisine. Colombia is the second most bio-diverse country in the world and this diversity is also expressed in the cuisine; thousands of varieties of vegetables, fruits, tubers, meats and flavours.
We will experience Colombia through our mouths by having eight different foods from the five Colombian different regions: Amazon, Andes, Caribbean coast, Pacific coast, and Orinoquia. Our informative guide will explain where the dishes come from and how they fit into Colombian daily life. All restaurants are in the Candelaria District.
Today we are going to explore Chapinero, an attractive area of Bogota with lots of restaurants, cafes and markets.
We visit the Farmers Market (Mercado de la Tierra), where we will enjoy a light traditional lunch.
After all that stimulus we will be heading off to the airport to fly to Armenia.
On arrival at Armenia airport we are met and transfer to our hotel.
Yes, its coffee tasting time as we visit Hacienda San Alberto. This coffee farm is the most awarded in Colombia and has been cultivated for more than forty years in the mountains of the Central Mountain Range. It’s famous for the quality of its coffee, and we hear how the farm was established, see how the coffee is grown and of course taste the coffee.
The tour ends with a coffee tasting in the farm’s laboratory, learning how to differentiate the quality of coffee like experts. The farm is on the side of a valley, so we get a huge vista of this area of Colombia. Picture Perfect.
We then head to the village of Pijao for a light lunch. This small village preserves its culture and 19th century republican architecture. There will be free time to take pictures and enjoy the village.
When we are ready we will travel back to our hotel and have dinner at the hotel.
We are off to Casa Riviera del Cacao this morning for a unique cocao experience.
Cocao in Colombia is the fruit of a tree called “Cacaotero” which is cultivated in the regions of Antioquia, Arauca, Cauca, Chocó, Quindío, Santander, Huila, Nariño and Tolima. Thanks to the agro-ecological conditions and the country’s location, the cocoa grown in Colombia is characterised by its fine flavour and aroma.
Once you arrive at Casa Rivera del Cacao you will find the beauty and magic of a typical house of the region and hundreds of different varieties of cocao trees.
The tour starts with learning how to evaluate dry beans and so know which makes the best quality chocolate. Next comes the roasting process; from there you will go to the first grinding, then proceed to the shelling and the second grinding to cocoa liquor. With this liquor a 60% chocolate formulation is made to proceed to the assembly of the refining. We need a break to let the grinding do its work so why not lunch.
In fact we have planned a traditional lunch of the region made with local produce and served under the vines. Delicious.
After lunch, we will take a tour of the crops in which all the biological and agronomic aspects of cocoa are explained, as well as the history of chocolate.
Then we will taste chocolate that we prepared in the morning. The paste is now liquid and we have the joy of a chocolate fountain, accompanied by fresh fruits (strawberries, bananas, and pineapple).
However the day is not over yet as its time to taste Colombian spirits. A highly educational activity on national liquors with our entertaining local host. So hold onto your hat for several Premium rums and spirits from Colombia.
We depart Casa Rivera del Cacao late this afternoon and travel back to our hotel.
This morning we travel to Finlandia by private transport. This interesting journey will take us across country and we get views of the mountains, valleys and small villages of this area.
Finlandia is a traditional little coffee town with particular charm due to its colours and the decorations of the frames of its doors and windows. We have a morning coffee and cake at a local café and visit the basketry museum. Baskets were very important in the harvesting of produce from the farms: large and small, for animals to use, for humans to carry (different baskets for men and women) and of course for coffee.
Then we travel to our hotel in Salento. Salento is the oldest municipality in the department of Quindío, therefore its traditional architecture and craft workshops make it an unforgettable place. Here we can see colonial houses painted in colours, balconies full of flowers and even better, we will enjoy the warmth of its people that will make your visit a great experience.
The afternoon is at leisure; there are lots of small shops in Salento so a few pleasant hours can be spent visiting the village plaza, having a coffee or checking out those numerous shops nearby.
Time for some gentle exercise when we take a walk in the Cocora Valley. The valley is home to the wax palm, the national tree of Colombia. These palms are one of the tallest in the world (up to 70m high) and are now protected. The walk is at a slow pace and takes about two hours as we stroll up for amazing views and the chance to see a Condor in flight and then come down to the park entrance once again.
It’s lunch time and then time to play traditional games such as the “Tejo” or the “Rana”, accompanied by a Colombian beer.
This morning we transfer to Pereira airport for out flight to Medellin. We will be met and start out exploration of the area with a visit to the small village of Santa Elena. Here in the village we are expecting flowers! Santa Elena is the home to a great variety of traditional flower farmers. The flower arrangements of the Flower Festival (“Feria de Flores”), called “silletas”, have an impressive history and are today a cultural symbol of Medellín.
The village is a nice place for lunch and the opportunity to observe the traditional local culture.
After lunch we will be taken to our hotel and there is time to walk in the local area and find a delicious place for an independent dinner.
Medellín – the “City of Eternal Spring” – located in the Andean highlands of Antioquia, is nowadays the most innovative city of Latin America. Its recent past was strongly related to the life of Pablo Escobar and violent gang fights. During the last twenty years Medellín went through some drastic changes. An innovative program of urban development that combines modern means of public transport and the construction of public parks and areas of recreation for the local people turned Medellín from the most dangerous city in the world into a modern example of urban transformation.
Medellin is a city with lots of unexpected delights, so we start the day with a tour of its history and culture by exploring the Botero Plaza downtown and the surrounding area. No visit to Medellin can avoid the artworks of Colombian artist Fernando Botero, so time to get close and personal with some oversized birds, people and objects.
Part of the tour will be taking the Metro Cable up to Santo Domingo, which was once a notorious area of gang violence in Medellín. The cable car was constructed to make the inner city more accessible to people from the outskirts and allows visitors a glimpse into the lives of the marginalized population.
The City of Medellin offers a great variety of urban arts due to the city’s transformation of the last 20 years. Nowadays, the city is so full of countless artistic expressions of street art that the local authorities declared urban art a cultural landmark of Medellin.
Graffiti is not only about strong artistic and cultural elements, but also a way of political expression. So we are off to see the graffiti of the Comuna 13, guided by a local artist. The history of this area helps us understand how Medellin and Colombia have changed over the last few decades. The street art is and was used for social communication and identity and we will get some of the back story of what the images mean and why they were painted.
We have lunch at Bonhomia Restaurant and then it’s back to the airport for our flight to Cartagena. When we arrive we are met and taken to our hotel in the old town.
We start a bit later this morning, so we have time to explore the streets nearby before the official tour. Cartagena is colourful and the city walls are something else.
The vibrant streets of Cartagena are made for a walk and so we will explore the walled city to learn about its past and present. Did you know Sir Francis Drake stayed here for over two years? We get to hear about his story and also the slave trade and the colonial settlers.
Some of this history is not pretty but its all part and parcel of the town today. Some of the sites we will pass through include Parque Bolivar, the Palace of the Inquisition and San Pedro Claver Square. The square is dedicated to the Spanish-born monk known as “Slave of the Slaves” for his life spent ministering to African slaves brought to the Spanish colonies.
During the walk, we may notice many influences – Romanesque, Moorish, colonial, military, Arabic, Spanish and North American that have given shape to Cartagena.
Lastly we will visit the Getsemani district, named by Forbes Magazine as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world, a place which just delights the eye with its art and vitality.
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure so we have time to revisit some of the interesting places we saw in the morning. There are lots of places to eat in Cartagena so dinner will also be an opportunity to explore the tasty food of the area.
Today its time to don the kitchen apron and try your hand at cooking local Colombian cuisine. We start the day with a visit to the Bazurto market. It is a very traditional market, rarely visited by tourists. We’ll let this “underground” part of Cartagena enchant us; it is ideal for an adventure. We will walk through a maze of alleys, where the tour guide will introduce you to all kinds of fruit, herbs, vegetables, fish, seafood, and meat. There is also a spice market and natural healing pharmacies.
Gastronomy is an important part of the local culture and the Cartageneros are proud of their Caribbean cuisine. Apart from tasting it, what would be better than learning how to prepare seafood, coconut rice and other specialties of Cartagena´s cuisine? The cooking class takes place in a colonial house in the city centre or in Getsemaní. The Chef will give us a presentation about the ingredients before showing us how to prepare typical dishes. The class takes about three hours. Afterwards, we will eat together.
Time for a break before our Cocktail Making Lesson. We are off to meet a professional bartender and mixologist, who is going to teach us how to prepare three different cocktails in a simple and fun way. The cocktails are made from regional ingredients, which give the drinks a real taste of the Colombian Caribbean flavour… and of course we get to drink them alongside some snacks to keep us sober.
All over Cartagena are reminders of the slave trade which was once here and also the slaves that escaped or were freed; so today we have a Drum Workshop.
La Boquilla is an afro descendant fishermen village that for more than 200 years has looked to preserve ancestral traditions, where drums play a leading role. Today we get to observe and play these Afro Colombian wild drums. As they say: Play it even if you don´t play, dance even if you don´t dance, sing even if you don’t sing.
This afternoon is at leisure.
As the sun sets, we walk to the beautiful Baluarte de Francisco Javier Restaurant, which sits atop the old city walls, to enjoy our farewell dinner.
This morning after an early breakfast and check out we have a private transfer to Cartagena airport and fly to Bogota. We transit through Bogota airport and fly to Santiago.
Very early Friday morning we fly back to New Zealand.
We cross the international dateline… and arrive home on Saturday morning with a wealth of stories to tell about colourful and vibrant South America.