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Start by touring Colombia with an in-depth exploration of the capital, Bogota. Meander through the rolling fields of coffee bushes in the coffee region. Get to know Cartagena with its rich culinary scene and the sweet sound of salsa in the background. Take a Panama canal tour to stand in awe of this man-made marvel of the modern world. Set foot in several national parks, including Tayrona and Manuel Antonio National Parks. Relax in Costa Rica's blooming beach town, Jaco. Jungle, forest, coffee fields, islands, beach towns and capitals...experience it all on tour with Expat Explore.
We use a variety of hotels in each destination, so you may stay in a hotel different to that listed here. Hotels are selected closer to departure date; you will receive a confirmed list one week prior to your departure date.
Welcome to Bogota, the capital of cool in Colombia! If you arrive with free time, start exploring the city with its many fascinating sights. The tour leader will meet you at the hotel this afternoon. This evening, join your fellow travellers and tour leader for a short walk to a nearby restaurant. Dinner tonight is a special meet and greet affair that will introduce you to your tour mates.
Welcome to Bogota, the capital city of Colombia! Orient yourself on a walking tour with a local expert after breakfast. There’s just no better way to learn than following in the footsteps of a local Bogotano! On the tour, we’ll cover the most popular attractions: the colourful La Candelaria neighbourhood with its colonial architecture, the prominent Plaza de Bolivar, and the neoclassical Bogotá Cathedral. The rest of the day is free for your own exploration. We can recommend a visit to Montserrat Hill for picture-perfect views of the city. Or simply take a moment to pull up a chair in a local bakery and eat some almojábanas (cheese-flavored rolls) This is where you’ll find the local flavour! For dinner this evening you have the option of joining your tour leader for a local Bogotanian food experience, or go it alone.
Following breakfast, board your transfer to catch a flight to the Coffee country of Colombia. Armenia and Pereira are some of the gateway destination to Colombia’s world-renowned coffee region. Expect immense natural beauty - rolling fields of coffee plantations, mountain scenery and valleys declared UNESCO heritage sites. Waste no time after arrival and head straight for the rolling hills for a visit to a local coffee farm. Here you can learn about every facet of the Colombian coffee industry from a local coffee farmer. To top things off, smell and taste some award-winning local coffee after lunch. Caffeine kicks all around! The final stretch of the day takes you to the hotel for the next 2 nights, located right in the heart of Colombia’s Coffee Triangle.
Wake up in the coffee region of Colombia - a place where the rhythm of life has remained unchanged over the centuries. In the area you can see some of the best scenery in Colombia, including colourful colonial houses and the odd coffee farmer on a horse. Today you have the choice to join an optional excursion to the Cocora Valley located in the Los Nevados National Natural Park. Travel by four-wheel truck into a region that boasts incredible beauty and a diverse array of fauna and flora. Here you can spot Colombia’s national tree, the Wax Palm, standing tall in valleys and on mountains. Upon arrival you can choose to hike the valley or explore on horseback. Dig into a traditional lunch before leaving the valley behind. This afternoon, stop at a local spot to try your hand at Tejo - the national sport of Colombia. We return to the hotel this afternoon, with time to freshen up before an optional dinner this evening.
This morning takes you on a scenic drive through mountains and along river valleys to Medellin. Medellin has been nicknamed ‘City of Eternal Spring’ as it’s a destination that boasts pleasant weather year round! Take a tour of the city with the guidance of a local expert before spending the rest of the day at your leisure.
Spend a free day in Medellin today. There are loads to see in the area. On offer are two optional excursions - a Pablo Escobar tour that takes you to the main places interest that played a pivotal role in Colombian drug lord’s life, capture and death; or day trip to Guatepe and Piedra de Penol - a nearby lakeside village, famous for its huge monolithic rock. Climb the 750 steps to be greeted by incredible vistas of the region below.
After breakfast, transfer to Medellin airport and board a flight to Santa Marta. Situated on the Caribbean coast, this was the first Spanish settlement in South America (1525). Check into your hotel, freshen up and take a walking tour of Santa Marta’s impressive Old Town. Led by a local, as always, you’ll see major attractions like Cathedral of Santa Marta, Simon Bolivar Park and El Camellon. Santa Maria is flanked by the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and overlooks the Caribbean Sea - stunning views all around! The rest of the day is yours to do whatever your heart desires.
Drive along the Caribbean coast today to make it to one of Colombia’s finest national parks, Tayrona National Park. This is a true tropical paradise that is home to wildlife like birds, monkeys, crocodiles and even jaguars. A local guide will join us on a hike to the best part of the park where the most beautiful beaches are located. Spend the afternoon there and dig into a traditional lunch before heading out of the park in the late afternoon. Our accommodation for this evening is located near the park entrance and the evening consists of free time.
Enjoy a relaxed morning in the area of Tayrona National Park this morning. You can kick back and rest or choose one of the optional excursions on offer. These include a local village visit or something a bit more adventurous like river tubing. Later this afternoon we’ll return to Santa Marta, where you’ll have free time to relax, or explore the city further.
Leave Santa Marta this morning and take a drive (4 hours), making for Cartagena! Cartagena was founded in the 16th century and is situated right on the Caribbean Sea. Arrive at lunchtime and look for something local to enjoy. After lunch it’s time for a locally-led walking tour to orient yourself. See the most iconic main sights in the old town like Plaza Bolivar, The Old City walls, Plaza de la Aduana and Church of Santo Domingo. The rest of the day can be spent at your leisure. This evening you have the option to join your tour leader for a local meal and experience. Live music and salsa dancing, anyone?
Spend a full day in the Colombian city of Cartagena. Choose from a list of optional activities for the day, or spend the whole day soaking up this city and surrounds in your preferred way. Do a self-guided tour of the city, saunter about, mingle with the locals or head into the vibey Cartagena food markets for a gastronomic experience like no other. Optional experiences for the day include a trip to one of Colombia’s smallest volcanoes for a dip in mineral-rich mud, a speed-boat trip to the Rosario islands, salsa lessons and more! Whatever you choose, you’re sure to experience the vibrancy of the city and meet the happiest of people. This evening, dinner is included and on the menu are traditional dishes prepared from fresh, local ingredients.
Journey across borders this morning as you catch a flight* to Panama City, the capital city of Panama and one of the capitals of Central America. As you arrive in Panama City, catch incredible views of coastal vistas and skyscrapers as the aircraft descends over the city, weather permitting. There is no set schedule after arriving at the hotel; spend time at your leisure in Panama city for the rest of the day. A traditional Panamanian dinner is included this evening.
*Please note this flight is not included as part of your tour package and must be organised independently. Our team can provide advice on the best airlines and times to fly - please contact us for more information
After breakfast, take a tour of Panama city, its top sights and the Panama Canal. Panama city is an important link between North America and South America and is home to influences from both continents. Lasting more than 4 hours, you can expect to see the best of what Panama city has to offer. These sights include Panama Canal, Miraflores Lock (with a tour of the visitor centre), Amador Causeway, Flamenco Island, the Biomuseum and Panama Old Town. Finish the tour in the Old Town part of the city, after which the rest of the day is yours to go wherever you please.
Indulge in a full day at leisure in Panama City. Continue explorations of the charming old-town, journey along its tranquil shores or savour Panamanian food with influences from Africa, Spain and Mexico. Stroll through art or history museums, including Afro-Antillean Museum, Biomuseo and the Natural Science Museum. Perhaps join an optional excursion to San Blas islands?
Take an early morning departure and get ready for another a day filled with experiences! Take an hour-long flight to Bocas del Toro. This archipelago of tropical islands is located in the Caribbean Sea, just off the northeastern coastline of Panama. Check in at your hotel upon arrival and stretch your legs on a quick orientation tour of Bocas del Toro town. The colourful seaside villages and untamed beauty is sure to leave you speechless. Your tour leader will point out the best local places to eat and shop. Tuck into a traditional lunch before spending the rest of the day at your leisure. Hop on a boat to a nearby island, do birdwatching or take it easy and curl up in a hammock for the afternoon.
After breakfast today, travellers have the choice to explore the island at their own pace, or take their pick of a bunch of optional activities on offer. Visit Bastimentos Island and Red Frog Beach - both popular destinations in the Bastimentos National Marine Park. Or even take a Zipline canopy tour. Whatever you do, you’ll experience pure bliss in Bocas town!
Continue the journey and travel by boat, coach and on foot to make it to the next destination. First thing in the morning, transfer to the marina and board a boat for a short ride from Bocas del Toro to the mainland. Then take a trip to Sixaola, a tiny border town located between Panama and Costa Rica. Do things the old school way and walk across the border (the views are worth it, promise). Then travel onwards and see how the landscapes change as we travel deeper into a new country - Costa Rica. Head for the town of La Fortuna, gateway to the Arenal volcano. Check into the hotel and sit down for dinner and you first taste of Costa Rican cuisine.
Today is a full free day for a leisurely exploration of La Fortuna, situated at the base of Arenal Volcano. The Arenal Volcano is a natural wonder that offers many exciting adventures in the surrounding area. Soar between treetops as you zipline over the rainforest, hike around Arenal Volcano National Park, explore hanging bridges in the area or kayak around Lake Arenal. In short: any adventure-seekers dream! In the afternoon you have the option of joining the most relaxing experience of all - a trip to the hot springs of Baldi. Here you can soak in the naturally heated pools at the base of Arenal volcano and experience the rejuvenating effects of the mineral-rich water on your body. The experience includes dinner with full view of the volcano.
We leave after breakfast today for a 4-hour journey to Monteverde and the rainforest in Costa Rica. This is a bucket list destination for many. After arrival, have lunch and settle into the hotel - this paradise is home for the next two nights! Then head out to the Monteverde Cloud Forest for the afternoon. There are a number of tropical cloud forests in Costa Rica; Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve is by far the most famous. This magical forest in the clouds stretches over more than 10,000 hectares and has been dubbed the ‘Crown Jewel’ of cloud forests in the world. It’s the ideal place for hiking and birding. You’re bound to see exotic birds like hummingbirds, toucans, trogons and bellbirds.
Your schedule is free for the day and you can explore the Monteverde Cloud Forest area to heart’s content. If you’re interested in a guided experience, there are some optional excursions lined up. Visit a local butterfly farm or go on a Costa Rican coffee tour. Have a chat with your tour leader about the options and plan your day accordingly.
After breakfast, depart on a short journey heading for Costa Rica's central Pacific coast. Make a stop at the Tárcoles river on the way to spot huge crocodiles sunbathing in their natural environment (weather permitting). Travel onwards to make it to the surfing capital of Costa Rica, Jaco. Upon arrival, head out for an intro walking tour of the town with your tour leader. Jaco is a sleepy surf town with quirky cafes, restaurants and shops. It’s one of the best spots in Costa Rica to surf or to learn how to surf! Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Your tour leader will recommend optional activities if you’re looking for something interesting to do.
Today you can spend time in Jaco or join a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. Even though it’s the smallest in Costa Rica, it’s the most celebrated and was rated as one of the Top 10 national parks in the world! It’s popularity is largely due to the location tucked into the coast offering visitors sandy beaches with a backdrop of the lush forest. And it’s not only naturally beautiful, it’s also one of the world’s most biodiverse parks. In your time here there’s a chance that you can spot animals like the endangered red-backed squirrel monkey, sloths, capuchin monkeys, iguanas, dolphins, even migrating whales! Arrive back in Jaco later this afternoon. As the last night on tour, tonight will be a feast of feasts as we celebrate the end of our Ultimate South America tour.
After spending your final night in Jaco, sit down for one last breakfast at the hotel in Jaco. You can choose to take the coach ride to San Jose, or stay put in Jaco. On arrival in San Jose an orientation driving tour marks the end of the tour. As for the rest of the day there are no activities planned, so it’s adiós in San Jose. Have a safe onward journey! Transfers to San Jose International airport is available on request.
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