Colombia – Vestiges of the Past
Arrive at El Dorado International Airport, Bogotá. Met and greeted by tour guide and transferred to the selected hotel for checking-in.
Bogotá is a modern fast growing city and one of Latin America's urban highlights with a thriving nightlife, superb dining and al fresco café and bar culture; yet none of the traditions are lost from its graceful churches, excellent museums to its plazas and urban parks.
Breakfast and transfer to the well preserved historical colonial quarter of La Candelaria. There will be an opportunity for photographs at Plaza de Bolivar, the main square of Bogotá. The Cathedral, the Congress Palace, the Cardinal's Palace, the colonial church of El Sagrario, the House of Independence, the Palace of Justice and the City Hall are located here.
After visit the famous and 'must see' Gold Museum, where the world's greatest collection of pre-Hispanic Indian gold crafts is displayed. Next visit the FERNANDO BOTERO Museum which contains paintings and sculptures of this famous contemporary Colombian artist.
NOTE: The Gold Museum is closed on Mondays and the Botero Museum is closed on Tuesdays.
Later, driven through the northern residential area of the city and through the fertile plateau to the small colonial town of Cajicá, where a short stop will be made at the main plaza. Lunch included. After a hearty lunch the tour continues to the town of Zipaquirá famous for its underground salt cathedral. Experience this extraordinary architecture where the Stations of the Cross and three naves are eerily illuminated along with other sculptures and cavernous pools; all hewn from the salt mine tunnels under the Halite Mountains. Though a popular tourist destination it is still a place of pilgrimage for the local community.
Return and overnight in Bogotá.
Breakfast at the hotel and depart BOGOTÁ, driving north and taking the Pan-American Highway towards the legendary Sacred Lake of Guatavita. This is where the legendary ancient Muiscas Indian ritual of the Golden Man, "El Dorado" was born. Covered in gold dust, the chief of the tribe would leap from the ceremonial raft into the sacred lake as masked shamans chanted and sprinkled the waters with gold and emerald offerings to their gods. This ritual disappeared long before the arrival of the Spanish, but the legend enticed hordes of conquistadors and looters to this lake in the Colombian Andes. They reasoned; a gold-covered man must surely be from a city of gold.
There will be an hour and a half to walk around the lagoon and reflect on the myth which Colombia can claim as a credible source of El Dorado above any other South American country. The tour will then continue to the town of Guatavita Nueva, built completely in 1967 in colonial style architecture when the old town was submerged by Tomine reservoir, constructed to contain water for Bogotá. After a comprehensive visit return to Bogotá; and on the way, a typical regional lunch which is included in the tour.
NOTE: The Natural Park where the lake is located is closed on Mondays
Return and overnight in Bogotá
Breakfast and transfer to airport for flight to Neiva. Driven from Neiva for approximately four hours where the journey will follow the Magdalena Valley, and then arrival at the town of San Agustín. A number of stops will be made to observe tobacco, grape, rice and cacao plantations. The mountainous landscape, valleys and canyons like the Pericongo are marvellous attractions to ease the journey that goes from 400 metres (1,300 ft) above sea level to 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) where San Agustín is located. Arrival and transfer to selected hotel, overnight.
Breakfast included and then morning visits to San Agustín Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site of pre-Columbian archaeological significance and considered the largest such site in South America. The tour starts with a visit to the tombs, architecture and structures of Mesitas sites A, B and C; the Lavapatas Fountain which is a complex maze of canals and pools carved into the bedrock; the Forest of Statues where some of the finest sculptors are gathered and finally the Archaeological Museum. Afternoon transfer by bus to the "Alto de los Idolos", a far smaller site but no less impressive than the archaeological park, will be of special interest to researchers and visitors alike. Return to hotel and overnight in San Agustín.
Breakfast followed by a choice of one morning activity from three programmes:
- A gentle hike tracking the Magdalena River to take in the magnificent views
- Horseback riding to different archaeological points.
- Rafting along the Magdalena River.
- Free afternoon.
Breakfast followed by morning departure by road to Neiva and transfer to airport for return flight to Bogotá and connection to next destination.
NOTE: The tour in San Agustín will have local English speaking guide. If other languages are required please ask for a quotation. The accommodation in San Agustín will be HOTEL ANACAONA 3*. It is a beautiful colonial house with six bedrooms, ample corridors and colourful gardens. In case of larger groups, the HOTEL YALCONIA 3* will be used. This is a cosy hotel, with 36 comfortable rooms and a welcoming country-style ambience.