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                Colombia: From Summit to Sea   
February 26 – March 13, 2023

Colombia is a nation full of surprises. The natural beauty, the flora and fauna, the mountains and the jungles and the seacoasts, the gracious people, and the excellent cuisine combine to make this one of the most attractive destinations very close to home.  We will sample each of these on this wide-ranging journey into the heart of this re-emerging nation. There are 500 species of mammals in Colombia, and 1700 species of birds, more than any other country, almost 20% of all birds on earth. Accompanying us throughout will be my old friend Rodrigo Arias, a famous Colombian mountain guide with a deep love and understanding of his country.

February 26   Arrive Bogota, Colombia’s capital. We’ll meet you at the airport and transfer you to our hotel in the city’s cultural epicenter, La Candelaria. Dinner on your own at the hotel.

February 27  Bogota is an engaging and vibrant capital cradled by chilly Andean peaks and steeped in sophisticated urban cool. Well preserved colonial buildings house museums, hotels, restaurants and bars, peppered among 300-year-old houses and churches. Today we’ll visit the Gold Museum, stuffed with priceless items dating to the time of the Incas. We’ll visit the Museo Botero, the famous homage to all things chubby. We’ll summit 10,330’ Cerro de Monserrate, either by the 1500 steps or aboard the cable car from the bottom, for views out over the Andes and across the Bogota Valley.

February 28   With an early start we’ll drive six hours out of the valley to the west, over high passes, and into the heart of the Parque Nacional Los Nevados, a range of volcanos in the Central Andes. We’ll traverse forest and plain, and ultimately climb into the mountains. Overnight and dinner in Palomar at a comfortable mountain lodge.

March 1 We’ll drive 40 minutes to La Punta, at 10,000’, to start our trek. With pack animals carrying our gear, we’ll hike 4 hours across the Paramo, the fascinating alpine ecosystem unique to Colombia, and arrive at Laguna Vancouver at 11,500’, where we’ll spend the night in basic but clean farm rooms.

March 2   Hike five hours across the rolling terrain to the hot springs at Termales de Canon, at 12,800’. Here we’ll camp in tents at the foot of impressive peaks. The hot springs will help sooth aching muscles.

March 3   Hike six hours down into a forested valley and back up on the mountainside to Finca El Aguila, for camp at 12,200’. Today we’ll catch our first sight of Santa Isabel volcano, our ultimate destination.

March 4   Hike six hours to Santa Isabel Base-Camp, at 14,760’. The going is rough but very scenic as we approach the high peaks of the range. Cerro Tolima, over 17,000’, rises impressively across the valley. Our acclimatization will be enhanced by these days at higher altitudes.
March 5   With a pre-dawn start, those who wish will climb to the rocky summit of Cerro Santa Isabel, at 16,236’. This is a non-technical climb, actually a steep hike, to a dramatic summit with views for hundreds of miles in all directions. This summit is accessible to anyone in good physical shape and requires no special skills, other than a strong desire to reach a remote summit few others have achieved.  Then hike back down and continue to Laguna del Otun at 12,800’ for camp.

March 6   Hike four hours across the Paramo, with its unusual flora and fauna, and down to the park entrance at Potosi on a good trail through the thickening forest. Then drive four hours out of the mountains to the town of Salento in the coffee growing region, and check into our hotel. Dinner at a fine restaurant in town.

March 7   Salento is a colorful village with classic wooden architecture and the warm fresh air of the famous Colombian coffee region. This morning we have choices: we can take a guided coffee farm visit; we can ride horses through the valley; or ride bikes along the system of trails.  In the afternoon we’ll fly back to Bogota and check into our hotel there.

March 8-9-10   Fly an hour to San Jose del Guaviare. Guaviare is a region little known and little visited by outsiders. It occupies the divide between the Amazon and the Oronoco Rivers in the vast south-eastern lowlands, making it geographically important in historic and pre-historic times. The native old-growth tropical forest is rich in habitat for unique flora and fauna, which we will explore in detail. By river-boat, road and on foot we’ll explore this fascinating and little understood area.  Thousands of ancient pictographs were recently discovered in caves in this region, and we’ll hike up to several of them to ponder the past. The artists are still largely uncertain, lost in the fog of time and remoteness, although it’s thought that the indigenous Nukak Maku tribe are the descendants of the original artists. The wild array of mammals and birds whose still-intact habitat we will travel through will be thoroughly explored with local naturalists. At Laguna Nare we’ll locate the Amazonian manatee, and rare pink dolphins, and perhaps even swim with them.  This will be a deep immersion into one of the most significant ecosystems on earth.

March 11  We’ll fly back to Bogota this morning, then fly on to Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast in the north. Arriving later in the afternoon, we’ll check into our hotel in the middle of the Old Town. Cartagena, a beautiful and well-preserved colonial city and a World Heritage Site, was Spain’s primary port during the early years of the conquest. Evening on the town.

March 12   A full day to explore the sights and sounds of Old Town Cartagena. We’ll wander about the narrow streets. We’ll visit Las Murallas, the thick defensive walls constructed over two centuries by the Spanish. We’ll marvel at the well-preserved colonial architecture. We’ll sample street food and street music, museums and monasteries and mansions, palaces, plazas and cathedrals.

March 13  Morning flights back to Bogota, and on home to the USA.

                   Skip Horner Worldwide, Inc.; 2612 Dry Smith Road; Victor, Montana 59875; 406-642-6840

Colombia Details |