Not many people make it to this hidden Caribbean dream island, but more should and those that do will fall no doubt fall in love.
It’s full of wildlife, character and charm, as well as lovely snorkelling, beaches and people.
With its own culture and incredible history, Providencia is truly an adventure traveller’s dream, relaxation destination.
Our fully flexible tour is perfect on its own or as a beach extension to any South America tour.
Providencia is small enough to get around easily on a hired scooter.
You can visit beautiful coves and beaches, walk to its volcanic peak, enjoy traditional dancing and snorkel or dive among rays, sharks and corals.
Your only worry is if you can stay longer as the hammocks, coconut rice, cold beers and incredible seas soothe you into that relaxed Caribbean state.
Providencia is for people who really do want to get away from it all, to a place where there are no big hotel chains, no exploitation and who want to mingle with the 4,000-strong population.
And if you do visit, be sure to leave a little bit of your heart in this Caribbean paradise.
Discover one of the Caribbean's unspoiled and beautiful islands.
Friendly locals, wonderful beaches and some incredible snorkels.
Laid-back sea front cafes and bars in which to wile away the hours.
Hire scooters and nip around this small island, visiting different beaches every day.
Enjoy Bogota and see the highlights of Colombia's bustling capital.
Visit the famous Cartagena, one of the best preserved Colonial cities in South America.
This is the real Caribbean life.
I loved relaxing, snorkelling and lying in hammocks and lying on the beaches here.
The people were very friendly, relaxed and hospitable.
E. Sanchez, Providencia
Met on arrival and transfer in (30mins) to your hotel in the Candelaria district of Bogota.
Take it slowly on arrival, as Bogota sits at 2,640m/8,661ft above sea level.
La Candelaria is the main attraction for most, with its colourful winding streets, coffee shops and artisanal stores.
The Gold Museum (Muséo de Oro) houses one of the world’s most important and impressive collections of pre-Colombia work – a must-see among the many excellent museums here.
Bogotá’s culinary reputation is growing, too, as international cuisine and local chefs combine the spectacular varieties of fruits and vegetables Colombia offers.
Culturally you will find good live music, excellent exhibitions and very hospitable people.
Today, enjoy a tour of this amazing city.
We go up at the start – the mountain sanctuary of Cerro Monserrate (3,152m/10,341ft).
Monserrate peers over the sprawling metropolis that is Bogota from its Cordillera Oriental (East) perch. We use a cable car to journey up to the panoramic views.
We visit the Basilica of Our Fallen Lord Monserrate, then use the railways again to descend to La Candelaria. This is Bogota’s famous colonial centre, very well-preserved and full of life, sounds and smells.
The streets are narrow but cars, buses and occasional donkeys shimmy alongside pedestrians beneath beautifully ornate wooden balconies and some brightly painted houses.
We take in the Botero Museum which houses pieces by Picasso, Renoir, Dali, Monet, Matisse and Degas as well as Colombia’s incredible Botero.
Then, Bogota’s renowned Gold Museum. Those with a specific interest may wish to allocate a whole day to see this enormous collection of more than 35,000 pieces, the largest collection of pre-Columbian gold in the world.
There are themed rooms and much to read and see, plus some interactive rooms to bring the history to life.
We end the tour in Plaza de Bolivar, Bogota’s main square, named after Simón Boilvar, central to the revolution and liberation of the Southern Americas.
You can visit the house museum of the ‘Flower Seller’ and see a broken vase that sparked the revolution and the independence of Colombia from the Spanish crown.
The rest of the day you’re free to explore at leisure and pick from a wide variety of local restaurants for dinner.
After being taken to the airport by our rep, you fly to the remote Caribbean island of San Andres en route to Providencia.
San Andres (70,000 population) is some 800km from the Colombian coast and much closer to Nicaragua (150km) and is a hot spot for Colombians picking up tax-free shopping.
You land in the main town, also called San Andres, and have a few hours to wander around before your flight to Providencia.
We don’t include any services in San Andres (please ask if you would like us to provide a car/guide), but you can explore by yourselves in taxis / on foot.
The airport is very close to the centre, which is full of shops with duty free clothes, food and drinks, as well as some busy bars and restaurants.
It’s a good idea to stock up on some items as Providencias’ shops are more expensive and don’t always have much in stock.
People speak English and Spanish here.
Later that afternoon, it’s a quick 25-minute flight in a small aircraft to Providencia, where on arrival you are met taken to your hotel.
This is, for many, the true Caribbean dream holiday destination, for those looking for something authentic.
Few people live here on this 17km2 island (around 5,000 people).
The local history is the sad one of many Caribbean islands – slaves brought here from Africa by English and Irish traders, indigenous populations destroyed.
Now, the mix of English, Creolo and Spanish spoken, along with the various ethnic roots, means that the island is an effervescent place to be.
In Providencia you will find the crystal, turquoise sea waters, fantastic corals, excellent snorkeling and some lovely, quiet beaches on which to relax – but do keep an eye out for impromptu horse races on some!
In the evenings there are a few different restaurants that cook up local fish dishes, and if you head to the legendary Roland’s bar, you can dance the night away to a mix of reggae, dance and local tunes.
But then Providence seems to carve its own way forward as it slips off the main trading maps and so developed its very own sense of self.
Public transport is almost non-existent, although there is one bus that goes around the islands at random times, and so the one road around the island is home for scooters, bicycles and people.
The best way to get around is to hire scooters. It takes 45-minutes to round the island road by scooter, and the scooter means you can access all of the island’s beaches, some of which are too far to walk to.
There are small shops dotted around selling basic foods, but the main Santa Catalina / South West Bay areas have larger supermarkets with everything from booze to tinned food to (sporadic) fruit and veg.
Stock up on water especially, as small shops are very expensive for small bottles of water, and the tap water is not drinkable.
You can book tours up locally.
In the south west of the island, and probably the best.
Take snorkels, enjoy the sea, buy a beer from the shop or from the rocking Rolands bar (food served, too, from squid to fish to lobster) and sunbathe. The beach is narrow and long.
The next beach along, clockwise, from Manzanillo, and also among the top beaches. There are a few places to choose from to eat here, as more folk stay next to the shore here.
Lovely shoreline, calm seas and you can get everything from fish to conch to a massage.
This beach is wider and longer.
Highest point of the island, this is a half day hike and it’s good to take a guide (around USD 15-25pp) to the top to hear a bit of history about the island.
Head off early, as it gets very hot here and avoid the hot sun. Two hours up and 1.5 hours down. Keep an eye out for black crabs and blue
A short , 800m trail to see the mangroves and birds.
The island is surrounded by beautiful coral reef, a reef that forms part of the third largest in the world, after Australia and Belize.
The Old Providence McBean Lagoon National Natural park helps to protect the island and reef in the north east of the island, where most of the attractions are.
The two best sites are:
Margarita Island, Surprise and Paradise
Three different corals, with different attractions. Jump straight on and off a small boat into the sea. No real currents, visibility is good and the changes in colours make this look like an underwater garden.
You may see nurse sharks, spotted eagle rays, eagle rays, lion fish, puffer fish, trumpet fish, barracudas, squids, parrotfish, yellow grunts, chocolate chip starfish, hundreds more colourful fish too. Lots of very healthy coral to look at as well.
It takes 2-3 hours in total.
Other snorkels include around the Cays, and you may see turtles. You have to pay around USD 20pp as an entry fee to get there. There are stronger currents here.
Bareback horse racing
Usually held afternoons at weekends on Manzanillo beach, folk bet, and you’ll get a small crowd of 20-50 people watching.
It’s all over very quickly, but worth a watch as the locals get into supporting their favourite. Make sure you stay off the beach – they go fast.
Explore Providencia – and if you want to add on more time in this island, please ask and we can do that, no problem.
Enjoy the island, either at your hotel, on a scooter, in the sea, on the beach.
We can always add in more days – Providencia can bewitch you!
Make your own way (taxi) to the airport for your flight (we can help to book flights) to Cartagena.
Iconic Cartagena de la Indias, the famous and beautiful colonial town with a Spanish-built castle, whose walls were never breached.
You will be met at the airport and driven the short distance into this wonderful town to your hotel.
Cartagena de las Indias
Writers, painters and now travellers flock to Cartagena, a wonderful colonial port and symbolic of Colombia’s upturn in fortunes.
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 that is reflected in the colourful and famous literature of the area.
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. A trip to the dominating castle San Felipe de Barajas is well worthwhile, if you have time on the tour.
Getsemani, a former no-go area outside the city walls, has a more ‘barrio’ (neighbourhood) feel and is a great place to wander at night time, looking for a lovely bar in which to have a drink and look at its street art.
For those wanting a sense explosion, visit Bazurto market (take a taxi). Chaotic, enormous, frenetic and often smelly – this is the place for real travellers to see the underbelly of Cartagena, away from its glistening lights.
Around 09.00, our local, bilingual guide will pick you up for your tour around Cartagena.
We cover the following sites, both inside and outside of the walled city:
Your guide will recommend places for lunch and then you have the rest of the afternoon and evening free to explore.
Our transfer car will take you to the airport for your onward journey, or stay more days around Cartagena.
Prices From $1,823 / £1,546 per person
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Hotels (including early check-in on day 1), transfers, tours and meals as listed, bilingual guides as listed
International or domestic flights (we can look for these for you), laundry, personal expenses/items, tips, visa, alcoholic or soft drinks, meals not listed, insurance, trips on Providencia and San Andres
Hotels and guesthouse in towns with private, ensuite bathrooms. Based on 2-3* star hotels, with upgrades available at extra cost.
Local guides will accompany you on the various tours, with specialised local knowledge.
On Providencia, you are free to book your own local tours with guides. Most islanders speak English, Spanish and a (sometimes hard to follow for English speaker) Creole language.
We can cater for almost all dietary requirements – please enquire for more.
The food in Colombia is excellent and you will have the opportunity to sample a number of local dishes.
Breakfasts at hotels generally feature hot drinks, teas, coffees, juices, fruits, yoghurts, cereals, eggs etc.
In Providencia, it’s mainly fish, coconut rice and patacones (fried bananas) in most places, with some soups.
There a lot of conch (conk), and a black crab that lives up in the mountain. There are some chips and burgers. Rondon is a big fish soup the local like to eat, too, with a spicy sauce.
Rum and beer are the main drinks, and, being quite a Rastafarian orientated place, you’ll see folk smoking marijuana.
You don’t need to have a high level of fitness for the trip, but the more mobile you are, the more you will enjoy it.
You need to take it easy in Bogota because of the altitude.
The Caribbean can be very hot and so you need to drink a lot of water and move slowly – or jump in the sea! Always ask locals which areas are safe for swimming.
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.
Bogotá is a city high in the Andes Mountains (2,625 metres) and has a spring-like climate, when the weather is generally cool and variable. It can rain, the sun can shine and it can be foggy and chilly.
In the Caribbean, it’s hot and humid, so it’s shorts, swimwear, sun cream, head protection, t-shirts, sandals and cotton products are cooler.
Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.
Below is a more detailed guide.
Detailed kit list
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.
Guide 2022 price, per person, shared room basis
Based on two people
Shorter/longer stays possible
Single supplement applies
Price reduces for larger groups
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Prices From $1,192 / £1,011 per person
Dates: From September 2019 to December 2020
Capacity: 16 people
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Dates: From January 2022 to December 2022
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