This is a bicycle tour to appeal to road cycling lovers, and could make you one of the happiest cyclists ever.
Colombia cycling tours are designed to appeal to adventure seekers who live to ride and love to climb.
This tour includes Alto De Letras, which at 84km / 52 miles is reputed to be the longest climb in the cycling world.
It’s not all climbing and hard work though. The journey takes you from the capital of Bogota at 2,625m/8,612ft, to the gentle warm emerald waters of the Caribbean coast.
Along the way you’ll pass through some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes, entering the famous Zona Cafetera, one of Latin America’s primary coffee growing regions.
We also visit Medellin, the city of Eternal Spring bore the the final stage takes you to a coastal flatland.
This is a welcome rest after the challenges of the Andes, as you coast gently to the Caribbean and Cartagena, with its relaxed, colonial style.
Road cycling is Colombia’s national sport and during the course of our tour you will encounter local riders out training on the roads on a daily basis.
The country has produced many fine riders, and the annual Vuelta a Colombia is regarded as one of the toughest stage races in the world.
Exploring unspoiled Andean highlands.
Climb Alto De Letras - at 84km / 52 miles reputed to be the longest climb in the cycling world.
The hospitality of locals, so proud to show off their country.
The historic city of Cartagena.
Being amongst the first to ride in this emerging destination.
The challenges offered by Colombia’s dramatic mountains.
We had a fantastic trip with Camillo and Tatiana who both did a wonderful job of looking after us both with the cycling and with non cycling side events.
A. Hamilton, Cycling in Colombia
You will be met on arrival at El Nuevo Dorado International Airport, Bogotá (BOG), by your Tour Leader and transferred to our centrally-located hotel.
Depending on arrival times and after preparing the bikes, the remainder of the day will be set aside for an exploration of the city.
Bogotá, sitting at 2,625 metres above sea level and surrounded by towering Andean peaks, is a progressive and bustling city and well worth a visit. The city boasts 58 museums and over 70 art galleries and amongst the highlights are The National Museum of Colombia and The Gold Museum, with its 35,000 pieces of Tumbaga Gold.
If time allows, a visit to La Candelaria, the historic cobbled centre is highly recommended. We will enjoy an evening meal together in one of the city’s many fine restaurants and after the pre-tour briefing we will retire and rest up in anticipation of the adventure ahead.
Today is all about acclimatisation and is one of the easiest daysof the tour. It is not totally without challenges though and there are occasional small mountains to negotiate.
Our route is taking us along an old road, traditionally used to connect the local fincas, and although our first climb is only 4km to the summit, it is considerably steeper than the average Colombian climbs. As we’re stilla cclimatising to the altitude it might feel decidedly punchy.
From the summit we descend for a similar distance into Subachoque and even though we’re only a short distance from the capital we’ll already be starting to appreciate the beauty of rural Colombia.
After lunch, we arrive at another small rise before we get our first taste of real Colombian-style descending. 30km of downhill joy delivers us to our final challenge of the day, a minor climb with a 2km sting in the tail. After reaching the summit we find ourselves in a land that time forgot, where traditional life carries on without interruption from traffic and other trappings of modern life.
Eventually we arrive in the small town of Vianí.
We leave Vianí in a similar style to our arrival yesterday, climbing out of town into some of the most incredible scenery we’ll experience during the entire tour.
After a few kilometres of climbing the world opens up to reveal spectacular views of the magnificent Rio Magdalena, the most important river in Colombia.
The road seems to fall away and with views so breath-taking we have to work hard to keep our eyes on the road. But keep our eyes o nthe road we must as we‘re losing altitude for more than 40kms before eventually reaching the Magdalena plains.
We spend the afternoon ongently undulating tree-lined roads as we make our way through a region famous for rice and cotton plantations.
Along the way we pass through Armero, a ghost town left devastated by the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano which erupted in 1985, wiping out 23,000 of the 31,000 inhabitants and rendering it a virtual graveyard.
A final 50kms or so of gently rising riding delivers us to our beautiful rural retreat just on the outskirts of the Mariquita situated on the first slopes of the Central Cordillera.
Today is most challenging day of our journey. We are tackling the notorious Alto de Letras, one of the so called Mythical Mountains of Colombia.
The mountain pass is one of the highest in Colombia and at 84km / 52 miles is reputed to be the longest climb in the world.
The road rises from just over 400m to just shy of 3,700m/12,139ft and it is little wonder that Lucho Herrara, the Colombian climbing hero of the 1980s, once complained that European mountains such as Alpe d‘Huez were “far too short for Colombians“.
We’ll be encouraging everyone to begin today with a gentle pace so as to save energy for when we reach the rarefied air of the higher slopes. The majority of the climb the gradient is very manageable with numerous opportunities for rest and respite as the road winds gradually upwards.
Anyone who does not feel that they can complete the entire climb will be able to transfer over some of the more challenging sections. For all the challenges that Letras can throw at us, the ride is truly amazing. If the weather is kind to us the views will take what is left of our breath away.
The 25km descent from the summit delivers us to Manizales.
We are still at 2,300m/7,546ft and our day begins with a very welcome and lengthy descent to warmer climes.
The beauty of the coffee region presents us with an extremely pleasant and picturesque start.
Once we reach the valley the road inevitably and predictably begins to rise againand the rest of the day is generally in an upward direction.
On any other day, in any other country, 45km of ascending would seem to be a serious prospect however with yesterday still firmly in our memories we’ll readily rise to the challenge as we head for Anserma, a small coffee-producing town surrounded by mountains in a region famed for its pleasant and welcoming climate.
Today’s stage will offer some respite and an opportunity torecover as the route we take is mainly descending.
We head into a region considered by many to be one of the most beautiful in the Zona Cafetera. La Pintada, meaning literally the painted one, is a bustling town on the bank of Rio Cauca nestled at the foot of the Cordillera Central, amidst lush vegetation and is so called because of its beautiful setting.
The town is a popular retreat for hard-working city folks and at weekends and holiday periods bursts into life as the populations wells with partying, music-loving Paisas.
Another day in Colombia and, as we’ve come to expect, another challenge.
Climbing almost as soon as we leave the town we begin the ascent of the very first part of Altode Minas, according to cycling folklore the third most mythical climb in Colombia behind Alto de Letras and Alto de la Lineaand an almost permanent fixture in the Vuelta a Colombia.
It’s one of the mountains which forged the legend of “Los Escarabajos” (The Beetles), the nickname given to Colombia’s climbing specialists by sports commentators during their heydayin the 1980s.
Another 45km and we reach the summit at 2,400m/7,874ft from where we get clear views of a distant Medellin, the seductive “City of Eternal Spring“, which will be our home for the next two nights.
Medellin is located in the Aburrá valley and is surrounded by huge mountains, it is a perfect place for cyclists who love to climb.
But it is also an exciting city with many attractions and much to do so to allow us to make the most of the city and to absorb some culture, soak up some atmosphere and to leave us with enough energy to enjoy some nightlife, the ride today is both optional and quite short.
Your Tour Leaders will discuss all of the option, both on and off the bikes, with you and you will be free to choose. Anyone wishing to relax completely today can opt out entirely but we expect that most will join us for a morning ride and return for to the city for the afternoon
Back on the bikes today for another full day in the saddle and back into the hills.
The Andes still have some beautiful surprises in store and the Cordillera has one last big challenge for us, taking us once again to the clouded summits that generations of Colombians have tried to dominate and make home.
The people here have a tenacious attitude which typifies a nation that has never surrendered even when the odds seemed against them or when the road seemed, as it does for much of today, to be always climbing upwards.
After making our way carefully through Medellin’s busy city streets we begin the last big ascent of our tour which rises to just under 2,600m/8,530ft.
It isn’t long before we’re back on quiet rural roads where we can relax and take in the views as we pass through numerous small villages and towns. Our destination today is the town of Santa Rosa de Osos, a largely overlooked yet fascinating mountain community which makes an interesting contrast to the glitzy high rise glamour of the Medellin.
After 8 days on the road we’re still high above sea level with plenty of thrilling descending to look forward to tomorrow.
One of the most endearing qualities of Colombia’s ever changing terrain is its ability to throw up surprises on a daily basis and today is no exception.
It feels like our route has been turned upside down as for the first time since our first couple of days on the bikes we lose more altitude than we gain – much more.
With approximately 2,100m/6,890ft of climbing today it wouldn’t be accurate to describe it as ‘all downhill from here‘.
Indeed the day begins with a climb to 2,450m/8,038ft, but overall we’re definitely on the way down…We bypass Yarumal, the last town of any significant size in the mountains, before we begin our descent.
Just over the summit we encounter numerous tiny communities where hundreds of Colombia’s displaced people, a legacy of the country’s troubled past, scrape an existence by the roadside.
Another major change today is the climate and we leave the cool fresh temperatures of the hills in favour of Colombia’s warm Caribbean flatlands. It’s a day of contrasts and forgotten places of astonishing beauty and we will experience them all from the highest point in La Cordillera to the lowest points in the coastal savannahs in a single ride.
Upon reaching the small town of Taraza we load up the vehicles and make a transfer to our hotel in Planeta Rica.
With the big mountains behind us, quite literally, the pace will change quite dramatically from here on.
Planeta Rica is almost 200km /124 miles from our destination and the roads through the rolling terrain are dry and hot.
To avoid excessive exposure to the elements we transfer part of the way this morning.
Where we actually begin the ride depends to a large extent on the weather conditions and the average pace of our party but it’s likely that we’ll be on the bikes by the time we reach the small town of Chinú in the department of Córdoba.
Whilst not a high ranking tourist destination the region is diverse and culturally rich, as famous for its high quality beef cattle as it is for its hammocks (hamacas) and sombreros, all of which can be purchased from the seemingly endless rows of stalls which line the roads.
After lunch we begin our penultimate stage which will deliver us to Colombia’s Caribbean shoreline.
Colombia doesn’t really boast what most people consider to be typical Caribbean beaches with golden sands and leaning palm trees but that’s not to say that Tolu, our seaside destination, doesn’t pack a punch.
What this bustling little town lacks in glamour and tranquility it makes up for in energy, vibrancy and character and it is difficult not to be taken in by its charm.
We’ve reached our final day on the bikes and its a long one.
Due to the distance and the heat anyone wishing to ride the entire stage will rise early for an early breakfast aiming to get on the road and eat some miles before the sun is at its most intense.
Alternatively a partial transfer to eat into some miles is an option for anyone not wishing to ride the entire stage.
Whatever option you take, rolling roads and a warm Caribbean breeze will deliver us to our final destination of Cartagena, a magnificent and almost perfectly preserved colonial city brimming with history, romance and legends of pirates.
Cartagena’s beauty is unrivalled by any other Colombian city and is deservedly reputed to be the most beautiful in the Americas.
We may feel a little sad to be packing the bikes this evening but even though the ride is completed, the holiday is far from over.
Arrival here in Cartagena, where we will stay for our final evening – a celebratory drink on the ancient city perimeter wall is a fantastic finale to our incredible Colombian adventure.
After another relaxing morning in Cartagena we transfer from the city centre the airport from where we will fly back to Bogotá where the tour ends.
Note: We always do our best to stick to this itinerary but please be aware that we can’t guarantee to follow this schedule exactly. Very occasionally events that are out of our control mean we have to make some changes.
Prices From $4,554 / £3,862 per person
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Accommodation, all meals as per the itinerary, full tour service including guides, back up vehicle(s), unless stated at least one Western leader qualified in First Aid procedures, airport transfers from and to El Nuevo Dorado International Bogota.
International and domestic flights (we can look into these for you), cost of visas (if necessary), medical check up and inoculations, tips for guides, travel insurance, bar bills, hotel refreshments, laundry, telephone calls, souvenirs, entrance fees to historical sites and museums, airport tax on departure, personal clothing and equipment, bike hire (if required).
We aim to use accommodation which showcases the style and hospitality of the area you are visiting.
Accommodation is on a twin/shared basis in a combination of small hotels, lodges, and fincas, chosen for their location and hospitality.
A single room option is normally available on payment of a single room supplement.
We work in conjunction with a local partner to provide this holiday.
Your holiday will be led by 1 or 2 riding guides, depending on the size of the group.
The guides focus on providing a great cycling experience and excellent customer service; from the very start to the very end of your holiday, you’ll be in safe hands. They take care of all of the daily planning and organisation, leaving you free to get on your bike and enjoy the ride.
Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please enquire for more.
Breakfast and lunch is included every day with the exception of your rest day when only breakfast is included.
Breakfast will typically be of a continental style; scrambled eggs, fresh bread, coffee and natural juice.
Lunches will be provided in local restaurants. Soups often feature as starters, and main courses feature rice, pasta, meats, fried plantain and vegetables, etc.
Colombia offers a breathtakingly diverse landscape and our trip passes through lush rainforest and cloud forest, and climbs across the cool Andean highlands before dipping down to finish by riding along the steamy flatlands of the Caribbean coast.
Generally the Andean passes are gradual and relatively shallow gradients although there are the occasional steeper sections. Road conditions whilst generally of a very good standard may contain short sections of unsealed roads.
This is a tour for cyclists with stamina & a good level of fitness. Long & challenging days with multiple tough or high altitude ascents, with steep sections over extended distances.
Long & often technically demanding descents. Road riding for experienced riders.
Distances are 45-80 miles / 80-130 kms per day.
Colombia is the country that has everything you could need from a South America holiday.
Diverse people and landscapes make this a country rich in wildlife, landscapes and culture.
Hikers can choose to trek to glaciers on snow-capped peaks, or through steamy forest to hidden ruins, or to unique Paramó plains.
Cyclists can pedal over and around the Andean peaks that dominate, and adventure seekers can try anything from paragliding to canyoning.
Beach lovers can enjoy surfing and relaxing with a Colombian twist, or head to islands for a more Caribbean vibe.
Prefer wildlife? Try the pacific coast and its whales and turtles, or perhaps the Amazon and its diverse flora and fauna.
The cities are cosmopolitan and cultured, replete with incredible museums with enormous collections.
Colombia is divided into five main geographical regions: Pacific, Llanos, Amazon, Caribbean and Andes.
The Andes dominate and have three main branches, all running roughly from south to north.
The Cordillera Occidental lies furthest to the west, running parallel to the Pacific coast; Furthest east lies The Cordillera Oriental running almost to the whole length of the country and incorporating Bogota; and in between these two, is the Cordillera Central.
Less than 3% of the population live in two lowland areas that comprise more than half of Colombia’s overall size.
The first lies to the east of the Andes called Llanos and is a savannah, and forms a part of the Orinoco river basin.
The second is Colombia’s steamy Amazon rainforest, which lies to the far south east of the country and covers almost one third of the entire country.
In the north is the hot and humid Caribbean coast, characterised by beautiful beaches and turquoise seas as well as fertile and low-lying plains and La Guarija Desert.
Colombia lays claim to two small islands, close to Nicaragua, called San Andres and Providencia, and islands in the Pacific and these are known as the insular area.
The narrow Pacific coastal lowlands are densely covered with vegetation, with very few people living here.
Colombia has warm to hot average temperatures all year round.
Cartagena on the Caribbean coast, for example, averages around 325 days of sunshine a year, even during its ‘winter’.
There are, however, two rainy and dry seasons that Colombians call summer and winter.
The severity and length of these seasons also depends on where you are in the country – the coast has slightly more severe and longer dry seasons than the Andean region, for example.
Dec-March and July-early Sept.
On the coast the rainfall stays low during the whole of September.
April to June and October to early December.
Much depends on where you are in the country. Up in the mountains one of the great attractions of Colombia is the fact that within half and hour of travel, either losing or gaining altitude, you can emerge in a totally different climate, substantially hotter and drier, or colder and more humid, depending on where you are.
On mountain treks the temperature will decrease around 6°C for every 1,000 metre (3,300 feet) increase in altitude.
In the Paramo, temperatures average around 5ºC and drop below freezing at nighttime.
Again, variations depend on geography.
Good kit is vital for every trip.
Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.
We provide everything except a bike, personal equipment and clothing. If you are taking your own bike it should preferably be a road bike or, alternatively, a mountain bike fitted with slick tyres.
Although we will be taking things at a relatively leisurely pace, the route is mountainous and challenging, therefore we recommend that you have either a triple or compact chainset or a 27 bottom sprocket to ease the climbing.
Please contact us if you are unsure whether your bike will be suitable.
During the day hopefully it will be generally sunny enough for shorts and T-shirts though having a fleece and rain gear handy is advisable. It can and will get cold, especially in the evenings so bring a warm fleece jacket, a good waterproof and some warm clothes including thermal underwear, gloves, scarf and woolly hat as well as one set of smarter clothes for cities.
Below is a more detailed guide.
Detailed kit list – clothing
Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
Covering almost a third of Colombia’s entire landmass, the Amazon is host to few people but a myriad of animals and plants.
You can wildlife watch on river trips, keeping an eye out for pink river dolphins, caiman, birds and reptiles, including the Anaconda.
Tours offer a real cultural interaction with the indigenous community, with handicraft workshops, myths and legends explained.
You will also get the chance to see local rituals and dances performed, local food prepared for you and more – Colombia’s rainforest offers an excellent tour.
Sip a cooling drink while lazing on warm, golden sands and listen to the crashing waves of the Caribbean.
The famous Parque Nacional de Tayrona, Santa Marta and the neighbouring Palomino are fabulous places from which to enjoy Colombia’s divine mainland coast.
For the more energetic, hike through lush forests replete with colourful birdlife to the enigmatic Cuidad Perdida – the Lost City.
For those with more time, fly to Providencia, truly the white-beached Caribbean dream island of dreams.
Brightly-painted Salento is one of the oldest coffee-producing towns in Colombia and maintains a captivating mix of tradition and new world bustle.
Trekking-clad tourists brush shoulders with local farmers who stroll around in their ‘Aguandeñan’ hats (predecessor to the Panama hat), wellington boots, machetes, moustaches and customary poncho folded over their shoulders.
Then travel by ‘Willy’ jeep to Cocora and the Las Nevadas mountain range.
From Cocora, you can enjoy hikes through cloud forest, visit a traditional coffee plantation and gaze up at the Gigantic Wax Palm trees that grow here, thrusting up to 60m/197ft from earth to skyline.
Nestled at 2,650m/8,694ft between Andean peaks, Bogotá enjoys a near year-round spring climate. This recurring energy permeates every aspect of life here.
Wander La Candelaria’s winding and colourful streets with its coffee shops, artisanal shops and dynamic nightlife.
Peruse the world’s most important and impressive collections of pre-Colombia gold work at the Muséo de Oro, one among many excellent museums.
Savour wonderful culinary treats and zesty fresh fruit juices on the streets.
This is Bogota, Colombia’s vibrant capital.
Writers, painters and now travellers flock to Cartagena, a wonderful colonial port.
Cartagena’s city wall wraps itself around historic churches, plazas and narrow streets. Fruit sellers, dancers, musicians and more all give the city a vibrancy.
The old ways runs alongside the modern as the very best in 5* hotels and top-end restaurants sit on streets whose taxis are horse-drawn carriages.
Visit castle San Felipe de Barajas for a tour, and the Getsemani neighbourhood for street art and drinks.
Bazurto market is chaotic, enormous, frenetic and often smelly – this is the real underbelly of Cartagena, away from its glistening lights.
Big and bustling, Medellín is becoming the city to visit in Colombia as it shakes off its Pablo Escobar past and emerges as a centre for art, culture and nightlife.
A visit to Plazoleta de las Esculturas to see 20 of Botero’s famous large bronze sculptures is essential, as is a look around the Museo d’Antioquia, showcasing his paintings and also fantastic Colombian modern art.
A good quality metro system makes Medellín very easy to move around, and telefericos can take you quickly up into the mountains for gorgeous views.
13th Jan 2024 - From $4556 / £3863.488
03rd Feb 2024 - From $4556 / £3863.488
25th May 2024 - From $4556 / £3863.488
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