Getting to some of Colombia’s most remote destinations has gotten easier as security concerns have lessened, and commercial flights on small planes now fly to many places that could once only be reached by driving for days down bumpy roads. There are red rivers, indigenous villages, and long-lost colonial cities in the jungle that seem straight out of a García Márquez novel.
Days 1 & 2: Caño Cristales
From Bogotá, catch a flight to the town of La Macarena, the jumping off point for exploring Caño Cristales, a river in the Serrania de la Macarena. From September through November, plants in the river turn a bright red, sticking out of yellow and green sand and various shades of mineral in the rocks. Guided tours from La Macarena will lead you to different parts of the river on foot and horseback. Open to tourists only since 2009, few Colombians even realize this exists.
Days 3–6: The Amazon
Fly back to Bogotá and immediately hop on another flight to Leticia, Colombia’s outpost on the Amazon River near the borders of Peru and Brazil. You can check into the cushy jungle resort with a pool, the Decameron Decalodge Ticuna, or a rustic ecolodge far from the city like Yoi. While there, go on day trips and hikes with guides from your hotel, using the river as your highway. You can fish for piranhas, go on jungle walks in search of monkeys and native plants, or visit indigenous Bora and Ticuna villages. While in town, have a meal at Tierras Amazónicas for grilled pirarucu and mojojoy (palm weevil grubs).
Days 7–9: Mompós
From Cartagena, catch an early morning bus—and later a ferry—south into the interior, where the tropical grasslands dance with the Magdalena River. Mompós, a beautifully preserved colonial city, was once one of the most important in Colombia. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and over the past decade tourists have been rediscovering it, as security issues that once prevented travel there have subsided. Check into the cozy La Casa Amarilla, right on Plaza Santa Barbara facing the river, and spend the intensely hot days ducking in and out of colonial buildings and drinking limonada sweetened with panela. You can also visit rural fishing and agricultural villages by canoe. Have pizza from a wood-fired oven at El Fuerte then hang out with a cold beer on Plaza de la Concepción, watching for bats. When ready, return to Cartagena for your flight home.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.