The streets are alive with the urban hymn of eclectic discourse and the collective thud of foot to pavement. An array of colour and old world beauty permeate the soulful thoroughfare. In the distance, the worshippers’ refuge stands dominant, a graceful reminder of centuries past.
For all round efficient, safe touring, all well organised to interesting, and inaccessible or difficult places - Captain's Choice can't be bettered.
Joan Lawrence - Ancient & Holy Lands, 2016
Crossing the International Date Line on a Qantas flight to Los Angeles, we connect with our Avianca Airlines flight to Bogota, the fourth highest capital in the world. Arriving this evening, we’re thankful for the luxury of the JW Marriott Bogota Hotel, our home for the next three nights.
Almost all that glitters is actually gold at the Museo del Oro, which showcases some 55,000 pieces from Colombia’s pre Hispanic cultures.
The unique architectural styles and cobbled streets of the city’s historic downtown area, La Candelaria, await, before we set off on an evening pilgrimage to the top of Monserrate. Unlike the pilgrims though, we’ll ride a cable car rather than climb to the top.
Here, dinner is served at Restaurant San Isidro, as the lights of the city twinkle below.
Which element of this multi layered city will reveal itself to you today?
You may like to capitalise on the free time and return to La Candelaria, or perhaps explore one of the many museums.
When coffee lovers think of Colombia, their minds likely conjure the sharp fragrance of a fresh brew. With good reason, for Colombia’s Arabica beans are among the world’s finest.
After a leisurely morning, a short flight takes us to Pereira in an area known as the Zona Cafetera - Colombia’s coffee country. On touching down, we take a brief tour on the way to the lovely Hotel Sazagua, where we’ll enjoy two nights amid sprawling mountains.
The surreal cloud forest climate of the Valle de Cocora is the only known home of the world’s tallest palm, the Quindio wax palm, which can grow to as high as 60 metres.
During our time in the valley, a walk produces scenes of incredible Andean beauty, as well as a hunger that’s swiftly satisfied by a local speciality meal of freshly caught trucha (trout).
Before the day is out, we admire the colourful buildings and peruse the crafts in the many artesanias of Calle Real, Salento’s main street.
On a tour of a hacienda this morning, we follow the journey of the humble coffee bean from crop to cup, before the obligatory tastings deliver us an intense and aromatic understanding of quality coffee.
We’re wide awake for our flight via Bogota to Medellin. On touching down, we transfer straight to the Hotel Medellin Royal.
True to its sobriquet, we step out to explore the City of Eternal Spring. First stop is the city’s open plaza, Berrio Park, a gathering point for local Antioquenos. Next door in Botero Plaza, we’ll admire the sculptures of Colombia’s most respected artist, Medellin born Fernando Botero. You’ll then enjoy the chance to shape the remainder of your day as you choose.
From 500 year old coralstone forts to cobbled alleys; bright Spanish style villas to the Caribbean coast - the colonial grace and contemporary allure of Cartagena is undeniable.
After our flight from Medellin lands, we briefly skirt the coast on the way to our illustrious abode for the next two nights, the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena.
As night falls, we dine within the imposing walls of an 18th century fort.
From the convent atop Cartagena’s highest hill, La Popa, enchanting views extend over the city and across Cartagena Bay.
After admiring the sights from up high, we dive into them - starting at the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, built by the Spanish to protect the riches they had plundered. Continuing the discovery of the city’s UNESCO listed gems, it’s then time to hit the streets of the old walled city.
This morning, we fly to Panama City and transfer to the American Trade Hotel. How will you explore the capital this afternoon?
Bobbing on the waters of the Panama Canal in the town of Gamboa, a boat is ready to take us on a partial transit along the famous canal. Dwarfed by tankers and cargo ships, we glide towards the island of Flamenco at the entrance to the Pacific Ocean. As we slip through the locks, it’s easy to see why many consider this a great engineering feat.
Cuba is calling and we answer today with a flight via Havana to Santiago de Cuba, the second largest city of this Caribbean island nation. Set between the mountains of the Sierra Maestra and the Caribbean, the city boasts an Afro-Caribbean culture all of its own.
The sun is almost setting as we near the heart of the city and our hotel, the Hotel Casa Granda, comes into sight.
The best way to truly appreciate Santiago de Cuba, and to learn about the city’s storied and often bloody past, is by foot. So it’s off we go on a walking tour after breakfast.
See La loma de San Juan, Antonio Maceo Revolution Square, Santa Ifigenia cemetery, the Moncada barracks and more.
Next up is the Casa del Habano and the Caney Rum Bar for a glimpse into the production of Cuba’s most famous exports - cigars and rum.
Built in the early 17th century to protect Santiago’s port, the UNESCO listed San Pedro de la Roca Castle is a stunning example of Spanish-American military architecture. It’s with justified awe that we explore this coastal fortress and absorb the expansive bay views.
Soon we’re on the water crossing the harbour on the way to the island of Cayo Granma, where the red rooftops of stilted houses cast a fishing village charm. Lunch is a relaxing affair, before we return to Santiago de Cuba later this afternoon.
While the road to Camaguey is direct, the city itself is akin to a labyrinthine puzzle. Some say it was designed to befuddle invaders while Camagueyans argue it’s the result of development without planning. Regardless, a beautiful surprise awaits around every bend.
We arrive in the city’s Old Quarter and recharge over lunch. Then it’s time to conquer the maze. With an expert driver at the helm of your tricycle, we’ll discover the architectural diversity of the city’s UNESCO listed centre.
We return to the coast and reach the city of Trinidad, where it appears time has stood still since the 19th century. We check in to the Iberostar Grand Hotel, which will serve as our base for the next two nights.
After admiring the peace of the city’s centrepiece, the Plaza Mayor, a visit to the Romantic Museum and the Museum of Archaeology makes sense of the city’s title as the Museum City of Cuba.
We continue northwest this morning, bound for the city known as La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South) - Cienfuegos.
Settled by French immigrants in 1819, the fusion of French elegance and Cuban energy is apparent throughout this bayside city, but particularly in its UNESCO listed historic centre, where La Union Hotel awaits.
Eclectic architecture is the focus as we cruise the palm lined streets of the exclusive Punta Gorda neighbourhood, which stretches into the Bahia de Cienfuegos. We’ve already seen many grand 20th century palaces by the time lunch is served at Palacio de Valle.
A cross island afternoon journey takes us to the city of Havana, where the splendid Hotel Parque Central welcomes us for the coming three nights.
From mural swathed colonial buildings and classic cars to street drummers beating out the rumba, Havana may not be a typical beauty but each scene is full of character.
A tour of UNESCO listed Old Havana eases us into the rhythm of the city, while lunch by the sparkling Caribbean waters at Club Havana casts us in our own 1950s film.
We feel the echoes of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara at the Plaza de la Revolucion before ending the day amid a swirl of colour at the Tropicana Nightclub.
There are many directions today might take.
A special Farewell Dinner tonight serves us one final taste of Latin America.
It’s time to make the move back to reality as we farewell Havana and fly via Panama City to Los Angeles for our connecting Qantas flight to Australia.
Our feet might be firmly back on land at home, but our thoughts remain awash with the colours and cultures of Latin America for some time.
Imagine a trip where you won’t have to lift a finger, or worry about bringing your wallet.
Sightseeing in each destination is included. Select Options even allow you to tailor aspects of the touring to your individual tastes when there are multiple touring options.
You have come so far, so why settle for second best when you get there? Captain’s Choice carefully researches and selects the best hotels to ensure you’re staying at the most enviable locations in town. We partner with the finest hotels to deliver our gilt edged service, seeking out the region’s top rating five star – or best available – residences. All our accommodation has been assessed for quality – we believe that a superior standard of service is just as important as five star facilities. Location and accessibility are also key factors – we endeavour to seek hotels that are in close proximity to the sites, that boast stunning views or offer a special something that makes them sparkle. It’s important to us that the hotels we select deliver the complete package and aren’t just trading on their reputation.
Sofitel Legend Santa Clara
Offering unparalleled access to Cartagena’s old town, the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara is a jewel of 17th century colonial architecture.
Hotel Boutique Sazagua
Sazagua is a boutique hotel set in the lush Colombian rainforest amid World Heritage listed coffee plantations.
Iberostar Parque Central Hotel
Offering unsurpassed service and luxury, Hotel Parque Central generates a cosmopolitan, elegant, and comfortable atmosphere in the heart of Havana.
Based on twin share, per person from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane ﬂying with Qantas. Prices from other cities are available on request.
All other flights are in Economy Class. Limited Business Class upgrades may be available at a surcharge.
Land Only guests join in Bogota after dinner on Day 1 and depart Havana after breakfast on Day 22.