Colombia: Mountainside Cities and Mural-Lined Streets - September 7, 2019 - Atlas Obscura Trips


Colombia: Mountainside Cities and Mural-Lined Streets

Explore two of South America's most vibrant cities, Bogotá and Medellín, while spending time with the people who call them home.

Meet Colombian winemakers, restaurateurs, street artists, and many others as you trace the country's history from its pre-Columbian traditions to its current cultural resurgence.

Beyond the cities, discover two of the country's most fascinating colonial villages. The first is Villa de Leyva, whose white walls and cobblestone streets have remained largely unchanged over the past 400 years. To cap off the trip, peek inside the handsome churches and private homes of Santa Fe de Antioquia, where we have special access to one of the finest private libraries in Colombia. 


  • Highs and lows: We’ll zip up mountains in cable cars and descend below ground to visit a cathedral carved from salt.
  • Local specialties: Enjoy hearty, homegrown fare from soups to tropical fruit and coffee, and see Colombia through the eyes of local artists describing their changing communities.
  • Marvelous architecture: Be awed by freeform homes made from clay and picturesque villages dating back centuries.
Day 1
Welcome to Colombia
  • You’ll be picked up from the airport in Bogotá and transferred to the group's hotel. 
  • Start getting to know your travel companions during a welcome orientation, followed by drinks at the hotel. 
Day 2
Sensational Local Specialties
  • We’ll start the morning at Paloquemao, a sprawling food market, where a guide will help us navigate the stalls piled high with local produce and tropical delicacies. Colombia has more varieties of fruit than any country on Earth, and you'll taste tons of them.
  • Next, we’ll enjoy a walking tour through the historic Candelaria neighborhood. As we wind along a canal and through the historic city center, we’ll make our way to the Plaza Bolívar, the city’s civic heart.
  • For lunch, we'll head to La Puerta Falsa, one of the country's oldest restaurants. There we can savor ajiaco, a traditional, hearty soup made with chicken, potatoes, corn, and herbs.
  • Afterward, we’ll survey the rich history at the Museo del Oro, which holds the world's greatest collection of golden, pre-Columbian artifacts. An expert in indigenous art will reveal how these pieces, from masks to ritual objects, were crafted.
  • Then, we’ll board a rail- or cable-car to head up Monserrate, the mountain that soars over the city. More than 10,340 feet above sea level, we’ll have time to wander and sample the street food. Sip aguapanela, a drink made with blocks of dried sugarcane and a wedge of lemon, as you spy the spectacular sunset behind the Andes. 
  • After heading back down the mountain, you'll have the remainder of the evening free to get dinner and relax at the hotel or explore on your own. 
Day 3
Savannas & a Subterranean Salt Cathedral
  • This morning, we’ll board a train to Zipaquirá. Grab a quick breakfast at the hotel before we depart, or plan to eat on the train, where you’ll have the chance to purchase tamales or salty, buttery pan de queso as musicians play and the savanna on the outskirts of the city breezes past.
  • We’ll arrive in Zipaquirá and make our way to the Catedral de Sal, a Roman Catholic church hollowed out of a halite mountain. More than 650 feet underground, the church—adorned with elaborate sculptures hewn from marble and salt—is both a marvel and a pilgrimage site, where thousands of the faithful still congregate each weekend for services.
  • After a delicious lunch together in a nearby village, we’ll head to our new home base, in the colonial village of Villa de Leyva. 
Courtesy of Foturcolombia
Day 4
Whimsy & Wine
  • Once we finish breakfast at the hotel, we’ll tour the picturesque village of Villa de Leyva, whose white walls and cobblestone streets have remained largely unchanged over the past 400 years. Next, we’ll be awed by the sloping, Seussian Casa Terracota, an airy, two-story structure fashioned from clay, and filled with curious nooks and crannies.
  • Afterward, we’ll depart for a tour and tasting at the peaceful Marqués vineyard, where we’ll sample some surprisingly palatable tropical wine. Back in town, you’ll have time to stroll on the historic streets or pop in for a decadent chocolate.
  • Following some time to decompress at the hotel, we’ll regroup for dinner at Zarina, which marries Mediterranean and Colombian flavors. We’ll wind our way back to the hotel, pausing to poke our heads into galleries showcasing the work of local artists.
Day 5
Commemorating a Quest & Off to Medellín
  • After ducking in for breakfast and coffee in a cafe off the main square, we’ll be returning to Bogotá. Along the way, we’ll detour to the Puente de Boyacá, where a smattering of statues and monuments and a humble bridge commemorate Simón Bolívar’s battle for independence from Spain.
  • Then we’ll decamp to the airport to fly to Medellín, one of the most striking cities on earth, nestled in a steep mountain valley. Once we land, we’ll head to the hotel and begin to explore our lively surroundings together. We’ll gather for dinner, after which you’ll be able to choose between relaxing at the hotel or hitting the town for a night of salsa dancing.
Day 6
Art & Change
  • After breakfast in the hotel, we’ll travel to the University of Fine Arts, where we’ll meet a street artist fusing gritty creativity and academics.
  • Next, we’ll hop aboard the city’s gondola system to visit the Moravia neighborhood, where we’ll see works created for the remarkable street art festival Killart.
  • A local family will treat us to lunch inside their hillside home, after which we’ll wander through mural-lined streets and chat with some of the artists.
  • Afterward, we’ll enjoy a private concert and art show, touching on themes of violence, change, and development in the community. Before leaving, you'll have the chance to try your hand at stenciling, and create your own piece of art to bring home.
  • Once we return to the hotel, you’ll have an afternoon and evening free to discover the city on your own.
Courtesy of Jaime Hernando Duarte
Day 7
Uncovering a Troubled Past
  • Following breakfast in the hotel, we’ll travel to the village of Santa Fe de Antioquia. We’ll wander cobblestone roads and quaint parks, peeking inside handsome churches and private homes. As we appreciate the lush greenery and beautiful details, we’ll also discover the fraught history of the region, including its role in the slave trade.
  • We’ll gather for lunch at Mariscal Robledo, a stately hotel with a wondrous private library. With a borrowed book of poetry, we’ll sprawl out by the Cauca river, where we’ll revisit a painful episode in the region’s history and explore the Puente del Occidente, a suspension bridge that spans the water.
Courtesy of Joel Duncan
Day 8
Farewell & Departure
  • Our trip concludes this morning. After one final breakfast together, we'll transfer you to the airport to depart home or onto your next destination.
  • Until the next adventure!

If you’re not quite ready to depart just yet, stick around for an optional five-day extension into Colombia's  coffee country. We’ll uncover the fascinating history of the region’s coffee culture and production, exploring family-run farms that almost no one else has access to. You’ll visit forests, fields, and fincas with sweeping views of the mountain peaks, witness the process from seed to cup, and sample spectacular brews—sometimes with a chunk of cacao on the side. The cost of the extension is $2,125. Space is limited and subject to availability. Please email us at to learn more.

The Fine Print

 Your Colombia Trip Includes

  • Accommodations at four-star hotels or better in Bogotá and Medellín, and a simple but comfortable hotel in Villa de Leyva. (Private rooms are available for a single supplement of $775. Otherwise we’ll work to place singles of the same sex together.)
  • All breakfasts and lunches during your stay, welcome dinner (day 2) and farewell dinner (day 7) . The other dinners are yours to enjoy on your own (with expert recommendations from our local hosts). 
  • Internal flight from Bogotá to Medellín (economy class). 
  • An expert local guide, as well as special guests along the way. 
  • Admission to all proposed activities and events as listed in the itinerary. 
  • A full briefing packet for each explorer, including country information, logistical and contact information, recommended reading list, and packing list.
  • A curious group of fellow Atlas Obscura explorers, excited to discover all that Colombia has to offer!

Travelers are responsible for

  • Transportation and flights to and from Colombia. 
  • Individual travel insurance (recommended).
  • Baggage charges.
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.
  • Incidental expenses such as laundry and gift purchases. 
  • Expenses incurred during free time (such as a taxi to a dinner on your own), and any other services not listed above in the inclusions above. 


Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking 3 to 6 miles each day and remaining on their feet for long periods of time. We’ll be spending a good amount of time outside and in rural areas, sometimes at high altitudes, and walking up and down stairs. 


You will be charged a $500 deposit to hold your space. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The final payment of $3,265 will be due by June 7, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date, and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the trip’s Terms & Conditions.For those wishing to have a single room, a supplement of $775 will be included with the final payment. 

Feedback from Past Travelers

  • "An extraordinary, authentic, beautiful, and fascinating trip. My family and I had one of the best weeks of our lives, and our guides were incredible."--David Plotz


Please email us at or call us at (646) 961-4857 with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.

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