Closing date: 05 Sep 2018
Filled with wildlife-rich national parks, colonial cities and sweeping beaches, Colombia has long drawn adventurers to spy its diverse array of landscapes. It’s this combination of wild, old and new that is seeing travellers once again return to this incredible land that has so much to offer.
With an ever-improving infrastructure, friendly locals and a rugged landscape, Colombia is also an ideal destination for those going it alone. An expert eye is needed, however, to really unearth the charms of this Latin American wonder, and that’s where tour operator Tucan Travel comes in. As experienced purveyors of solo travel and South American escapes, they’re offering you a chance to win a single spot on their Classic Colombia trip.
Your solo Colombia journey begins in the capital, Bogotá, a place where urban cool fuses with colonial grandeur. Cobbled lanes weave colonial facades in the historic La Candelaria district, with the central square, Plaza Bolívar, an ideal place for soaking up the buzzing city atmosphere. The neoclassical Primatial Cathedral looms nearby, while the former home of Simón Bolívar sheds light on the military hero who liberated many Latin countries from Spanish rule. Then drop by the city’s Gold Museum, which holds thousands of artefacts dating back to the pre-Columbian era, or hop on the funicular and soar up Monserrate peak for fine citywide views.
Leaving the heights of the capital, you’ll quickly discover how diverse Colombia really is. An hour’s drive north leads you to the salty masterpiece that is the subterranean Zipaquirá Cathedral, created inside a vast salt mine. Revel in its tunnels and caverns before heading for the charming plazas and courtyards of colonial Villa de Leyva. A quick flight transports you to Neiva, a gateway to Tatacoa Desert where rich red sands ripple across a landscape studded with rock formations – the ideal viewpoint for sunset.
From there, head west deep into the Andes to San Agustín. Bogotá may have offered a glimpse into the pre-Columbian precious metal collection, but spying the era’s UNESCO-listed statues in the town’s namesake Archaeological Park will provide one of the trip’s golden moments.
You leave the Andes for even more remote climes, venturing into the misty hills that surround Tierradentro. However, as gorgeous as the setting is, you need to head beneath the earth for the real treasure. Elaborate pre-Columbian paintings adorn underground burial chambers carved into volcanic rock, a network of tombs dripping with mystery and intrigue.
Away from the wilderness, Colombia’s mix of cities are a big lure for travellers, and the next part of your adventure is spent delving into a diverse pocket of urban delights. In the west, Cali harbours a vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture, where rhythmic beats throb from bars and locals dance with a passion that’s infectious. From there, fly north to Colombia’s Caribbean coastline. Your first stop is Santa Marta, reputedly South America’s oldest European-founded city, with a crumbling colonial heart that has been spruced up in recent years. More importantly, it’s a great base for exploring Tayrona National Natural Park, a slice of car-free Caribbean heaven, where golden beaches fringe thick, lush rainforest. A web of walking trails offer prime access to this magical wilderness and guided treks hike past remote villages clinging to mountainsides, vine-wrapped ancient ruins and a refreshing snorkel surrounded by tropical fish.
But perhaps the best city is saved until last. Cartagena is a UNESCO-listed walled gem more akin to an open-air museum than another colonial city. Fine architecture lurks behind every narrow street corner, pretty balconies seep with hanging plants and pastel-washed churches watch over airy plazas. Away from the walled wonder, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is perched on San Lázaro hill and is a well-preserved 17thcentury fortress built by the Spanish to protect the city’s burgeoning gold, silver and tobacco trades. The whitewashed convent that sits atop La Popa hill is another site of interest but also boasts an eye-bulging panorama of Cartagena – the perfect way to end your Colombia trip.
With over 31 years’ experience under their travel belts and a catalogue of over 450 trips across 70 countries, Tucan Travel are experts in worldly adventure. And for those travelling solo, rest assured that you’ll be joined by guides skilled at integrating like-minded travellers and instilling a family feel within the group. They care of all the nitty gritty, such as the accommodation and logistics, leaving you to delve deeper into this country in the company of newfound friends.
All this makes Tucan Travel the ideal company to help you achieve the ultimate Colombian solo adventure. Explore a land where eye-popping horizons, colonial wonders and a melting pot of culture meet in one glorious setting. It’s a true South American gem and one that’s waiting for you to discover its abundant charms.
Tucan Travel is offering one lucky Wanderlust reader the chance to win one spot on its Classic Colombia trip, including a contribution of up to £650 towards flights. To be in with a chance of winning, just answer the following question:
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