This itinerary combines the highlights of Colombia and Panama. Visit the ruins left in Panama Viejo by Pirate Henry Morgan who sacked the town in 1671 and explore Casco Viejo which was built in 1673 and presents fine architecture including French, Italian and Spanish styles. Journey along the canal transit aboard the Pacific Queen and experience something truly unique, taking in the canal and its operation. Catch a flight to Pereira in the heart of the Colombian coffee triangle and learn about the coffee making process in Hacienda Venecia, before spending some time sightseeing in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cartagena. Take a tour of this colonial city and San Felipe Fortress built on San Lazaro hill and then soak up the culture with a tour of the artisan market. Next, escape to the relaxing and beautiful Archipelago del Islas Rosario National Park where the clear blue waters are perfect for snorkelling. Top off this journey with an overland trip along the Caribbean coast to Tayrona National Park, with beautiful beaches, deeply contoured bays and lush forest all waiting to be explored by foot or horseback.
Day 1 Depart the UK for your daytime flight to Panama City. On arrival transfer to Las Clementinas a small boutique hotel situated in the historic Casco Viejo district.
Day 2 The canal transit is number five on the National Geographic's 100 Journeys of a lifetime. It took 250,000 people more than 10 years to build this engineering wonder. This partial canal transit starts at Gamboa where you will board the Pacific Queen to start the cruising part of the excursion. Enter the canal at Gaillard Cut (which is also known as Culebra Cut because its curves resemble a snake) and cruise for 13.7km to Pedro Miguel locks. You will also be able to see the ongoing work for the Canal expansion. Once at the southern end of the cut you will pass under the Centennial Bridge before reaching Pedro Miguel where you will be lowered 9 metres to the Miraflores Lake. An artificial body of water, this lake separates the canal from the Pacific ocean which is a further 18 metre drop. The partial canal transit takes around 5 hours and finishes at Flamenco Marina.
Day 3 Morning half day city tour - At the beginning of colonization the first city to be founded by the Spanish conquerors was Panama Viejo and this will be the first point to explore on the city tour. The ruins which remain were left by Pirate Henry Morgan who sacked the town in 1671.The second colonial city, Casco Viejo, built in 1673 displays exquisite architecture including French, Italian and Spanish styles. This part of the trip will be a walking tour around the French Plaza and the surrounding monuments and points of interest. Take a late afternoon transfer to the airport for the short flight to Pereira in the heart of the Colombian coffee triangle. Stay three nights at the boutique Casa de Huespedes Sazagua which is only one kilometre from town.
Day 4 Enjoy a half day tour to Hacienda Venecia where you will learn about the coffee processing. Your English speaking guide with talk you through the production system incorporating details of the harvest, drying in the sun and treatment of the land. Starting at the Hacienda you will learn about the coffee – preparation, toasting and the characteristics of the quality which make each variety different. Continue for a walk in the grounds and through the plantation.
Day 5 Today you will have a free day to relax. Perhaps visit the town of Pereira, the largest in the Zona Cafetera or for the more adventurous Parque Nacional Los Nevados. Trek through striking terrain, from humid thickets, cool highland scrubland and upwards to the crisp white snow terrain at higher altitudes. For many Colombians this is their only experience of snow!
Day 6 Transfer to the airport for your flight to Cartagena, via Bogota. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, Cartagena is Colombia's jewel of the Caribbean. Ananda boutique hotel is located in the heart of the historic district within the city walls. The hotel is a restored XVI century colonial house with many original features.
Day 7 In Cartagena take a half day orientation tour of this colonial city and San Felipe Fortress built on San Lazaro hill. The fortress was once used to defend the city from pirates. End the tour at the artisan market to appreciate the local handicrafts. Spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 8 Enjoy free days in and around Cartagena. Escape the city to the beautiful Archipelago del Islas Rosario National Park ringed by coral reefs. The clear blue waters are ideal for snorkelling and scuba diving, perfect for discovering the myriad of underwater life.
Day 10 Transfer by land along the Caribbean coast to Tayrona National Park. One of the country's most popular national parks and understandably so, with beautiful beaches, deeply contoured bays and lush forest all waiting to be explored by foot or horseback. Stay at the Ecohabs, hillside thatch-roofed cabanas which enjoy magnificent sea views. Feast on local seafood including lobster and grilled fish.
Day 11 Free days to relax or explore the national park. Please note most of the beaches are not suitable for swimming. The only safe one is La Piscina, 'the pool' in Spanish.
Day 13 Transfer from the national park to the town of Santa Marta for the flight back to the UK via Bogota and Madrid.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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