Colombia is one of South America's most beautiful but least-visited countries. The Colombian passion for cycling is on a par with their love for football, making it a fantastic destination for the intrepid cyclist.
Now that Columbia is opening up as a travel destination, you have the chance to explore this hidden South American gem. The tour from Medellin to Bogota combines challenging long mountain climbs and dramatic Andean scenery.
We journey through an amazing variety of landscapes, sights and cultures characterised by the lush verdant hillsides of the coffee district. The tour begins in Medellin and ends in Bogota, two of Colombia’s most vibrant cities; between these lively contrasting destinations we cycle right off the beaten track. With a history of European colonialism and a troubled era of political struggles and drug wars, modern Colombia has moved on from the past, striving for a new future and now welcomes visitors.
Claiming to be ‘one of the happiest places on the planet’ and with cycling not just a past time but a national sport, what better destination for an adventure cycling holiday? After a few days to acclimatise in Medellin, we head north west to Santa fe de Antioquia, a colonial former gold mining town. Then it’s southwest to La Pintada, and Salamina along mountain ridges and through spectacular coffee regions.
We cycle through the Caldas region, home of the Paisas people and one of the main coffee growing areas, and on towards Bogotá. At 2625 m above sea level amongst towering Andean peaks Colombia’s vibrant capital city is rich with history. There are no less than 58 museums and over 70 art galleries.
Day to Day Itinerary:
Day 1: Medellin
Flights usually depart in the morning from Europe arriving in the early evening (same day) and are available at around £950 - £1000. You'll be arriving in Colombia at an altitude of approximately 1500m. You will be met at the airport and transferred to our joining hotel.
Day 2: Medellin
Sunday in Colombia is cycle day. Each Sunday and on public holidays from 8 am until 2 pm certain main streets of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and other municipalities are closed to cars and designated as ' ciclovia' : available for the exclusive use of runners, skaters, and bicyclists. At the same time, stages are set up in city parks for music, yoga and other recreational events. This morning we will sort our bikes out in good time then join the locals in a bike ride around city.
This afternoon we take a guided city tour, including a Cable Car ride over the barrios. Medellin the 'city of eternal Spring' is set in the narrow Aburrá valley surrounded by dramatic mountains. The city's towering buildings reach for the skies. Now known for textiles and flower exports the city has had a colourful past. It is well set up for the visitor to explore with a modern metro. Attractions include art galleries museums, churches and beautiful open spaces, and a vibrant night life.
Day 3: Medellin to Santa Fe De Antioquia
Now we've had time to sight see and acclimatise, our cycling journey begins. Colombia is a terrain ideally suited to cyclists who love hills and we set off on the bikes with an upward climb for the first 15km. The rest of our day will be a downhill journey all the way to Santa Fe De Antioquia as we drop to 509m over a distance of aproximately 46 km. Santa Fe De Antioquia, a former gold mining town, is the capital of Antioquia within the Central Cordillera of the Andes; the town is built along the banks of the Rio Cauca.
Its narrow streets are characterised by colonial architecture: the whitewashed buildings are often built around courtyards with intricately carved woodwork framing the windows and doorways. There are artisan crafts and jewellery on sale and the local specialty 'pulpo de tamarindo'; a sweet/sour confectionary made from locally grown tamarind.
Day 4: Santa Fe De Antioquia to La Pintada
We drop south today towards La Pintada along the beautiful 'ruta cafetera' coffee route as we continue our adventure into the heart of Columbia. The morning begins with a steep drop of approximately 8km. For the remainder of the day we cycle through a picturesque rural landscape where agriculture and livestock are the predominant local economic forces. We travel gradually upward over undulating road along mountain ridge with a number of rises and falls. La Pintada now depends heavily on cattle production. In the past, before extensive deforestation, the surrounding area was a tropical dry forest ideal for Howler Monkeys.
Day 5: La Pintada to Aguadas
We continue along mountain ridges through the lush green mountains that characterise the Colombian countryside. The first 12km of today's route are a relatively flat stretch of road. We then begin a steady upward climb for the next 15km followed by a short 2km drop before we climb again for the rest of the day along the road that takes us to Aguadas. Set on the edge of the Caldas mountains at the Northern end of the Caldas region, Aguadas is a 19th C town known as the 'city of mists'. It is a typical traditional village, preserving the customs of the Paisa people in the landscape, architecture and folklore. You will receive a traditional warm welcome.
Day 6: Aguadas to Salamina
Continuing south to Salamina we have a series of ascents and descents today, dropping downhill out of Aguadas for the first 12 km. Then it's a fairly steep uphill for 8km followed by a 15km downhill. To end today we have a final climb up to Salamina of 15km. We need to take care along this rolling, winding road as it snakes its way towards Salamina.
Day 7: Salamina - Rest Day
We have a day off the bikes today to recover from the challenges of our journey so far. Salamina is perched high up in the mountains the town's European architectural influences include an English designed cathedral and a Parisian fountain in the plaza. Salamina's museum, the Casa Cultura, houses a collection of photographs and other local artefacts. Salamina is known as the "city of light" because it has produced many of Caldas' poets, musicians, actors and writers. It is also known as "Mother of Nations" because it was one of the centres from which the founders and first settlers of Neira, Aranzazu, Manizales, Santa Rosa de Cabal, Pereira, Armenia migrated. Its economy is based on coffee, livestock and dairy.
Day 8: Salamina to Neira
We tackle another series of up and down stretches of road today over 52km to Neira. After a brief incline out of Salamina we drop for 9km, before a 12km uphill to the highest point of the day at over 2000m. We then drop down to 1400m over the next 12km. Then its 8km up over the next peak and down before the final uphill cycle broken by a brief drop before the last 10km steep stretch to Neira.
Neira is a quiet rural town with views of the curving mountains as far as the eye can see, thick forestation and the odd dwelling dotted here and there. There are many cattle ranches in the surrounding area. It is characterised by nostalgic guadua bamboo architecture. Guadua groves have been growing in Colombia for centuries, the wood is a natural construction resource used in a variety of buildings and bridges and known as 'vegetable steel'.
Day 9: Neira to Manizales
This is an easy day in preparation for tomorrows monster climb. You have time this afternoon to explore Manizales. Attractions include the gold museum and the Cathedral which is the third tallest in Latin America, at 113 meters. Manizales, the principal city of the Caldas region, is known as the 'city of the open door' because of its friendly inhabitants. The area enjoys great climactic diversity with 8 microclimates.
Day 10: Manizales to Padua
From the heart of Columbia's coffee producing area, we set off this morning with steely determination to cycle the Altro de Letras; reputedly the world's longest road! As our momentous mountain climb begins remember the support vehicle is nearby should you need it. We have a 27km uphill, with the briefest of drops at around 9km before the challenge continues, with the Los Nevados National Park a short distance south of us we are in beautiful terrain.
Our highpoint of the day is 3679m, from here we drop for 3km before another climb 2km. You've now made it up the toughest stretch of today's route so the rest will seem a push over! We drop for around 16km before another short 2km climb. Then it's around 2km downhill, a further 5km of up and down and finally for those still on the bikes we can take it easy downhill for 8km into Padua. Padua is a picturesque town and a popular holiday destination. The second challenge of the day is that we have limited options available for accommodation and our quarters this evening will be of a simple standard.
Day 11: Padua - Manzanares
Riding uphill out of Padua for about 1km we can then enjoy a downhill dramatic cycle for the next 10km. For the rest of the day we follow undulating road that take us gradually uphill. We have a gentle 5km climb followed by a further relatively flat stretch of 5km. Then it's up over a peak and downhill for 5km, before a fairly steep 6km up again. After a 2km gentle incline its uphill one last time today for the final ride of the day 6km into Manzanares.
Day 12: Manzanares - Marquetalia - Victoria
Leaving Manzanares we cycle uphill for a few km before our first descent of the day of around 3km. Then it's a short burst up again before another drop of around 9km. We then have 5km of fairly flat terrain before we take a gentle climb for the last few km to Marquetalia. We continue this afternoon with a steady downhill to Victoria with some fairly gentle climbs compared to the cycling challenges you've faced in past days. Victoria has an ancient history and is a pretty town with a strong equine culture. This evening we will have a final celebratory meal to mark the end of our cycling adventures.
Day 13: Victoria to Bogotá
This morning with the bikes packed up, we transfer to Bogota. Once we've checked into our hotel you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the highlights of Colombia's popular, vibrant capital city. There's so much to choose from, with numerous art galleries and museums, the botanical garden José Celestino Mutis, La Quinta de Bolivar, the national observatory, the planetarium, and La Candelaria (the historical district of the city). The city has numerous green parks and a short distance away is the salt cathedral. For those wishing to extend their stay we can assist with arranging extra nights for you
Day 14:Bogotá / Home
The tour officially ends this morning. We will arrange a free transfer from the hotel to the airport for your international flight home.
Airfare is not included in the tour price.
All accommodation will be in hotels or guest houses. We choose accommodation on the basis of comfort rather than luxury. Our prices are based on sharing a twin room.
- Own Room: From £275
- Bike Hire from Colombia: From £185
Most of the food is provided on your 17 day tour. We provide 16 breakfasts, 13 lunches and 10 evening meals (see trip notes for details) along with snacks and mineral water during cycling days. All transportation and local guides within Colombia are included. International flights are not included in the tour costs.
Spending money depends on your taste for souvenirs, drinks etc. We estimate that £250 will be more than enough to cover the 17 day tour. You can expect to pay around £3 - £10 for a 3 course meal in a restaurant.
Tipping is an accepted part of everyday life, and although it is always at your discretion, you will be expected to tip to reward service. £25 for the guide and team at the end of the tour is recommended.
About This Supplier
Joined InfoHub: Mar 2011
M20818 is a specialist company taking small groups of cyclists to spectacular, remote areas of the world. We offer a unique blend of physical challenges, cultural experiences and cycling camaraderie, at highly competitive prices. M20818 guides are experienced cyclists and tour leaders. Destinations include Laos,...
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