Cartagena to Quito on a Shoestring

Cartagena to Quito

21 days from 2,099 pp

Colombia is an underrated country for travellers, but with our safe, social, and budget-friendly group trips, we want to change that. After all, there’s so much culture and beauty to this region that it would be a shame to let it go unexplored – plus you can say you got here before everyone else. Over three weeks, you’ll go from Colombia to Ecuador, hiking to the Lost City of Teyuna, relaxing on warm beaches, camping under the stars in the Tatacoa Desert and visiting UNESCO World Heritage designated ruins. You’re sure to find something you love in these countries.
Need a flight to go with your holiday?  We can help with that too!  Just give us a call.

Cartagena, Columbia to Quito Equador

20 Days From 2,099 per person

Is this tour for me?

Travel Style: 18-to-Thirtysomethings

Fast, fresh, and fun adventures that never slow down, made for young, budget-minded travellers.

 

Service Level: Basic

Simple and clean hotels and hostels; affordable public and private transport; lots of optional activities.

 

Physical Rating: 4 – Demanding

Some high-altitude hikes or more strenuous activities, but accessible to most healthy travellers.

 

Trip Type: Small Group

Small group experience; Max 16, avg 14.

 

Age requirement: 18-39

Day 1: Cartagena

Arrive at any time.

Arrival Day and Welcome Meeting:
1h

The adventure begins tonight. Feel free to explore before your welcome meeting, but make sure you’re back in time to meet the group. After introductions, your CEO will review the details of your tour. Please note that normal check-in times apply at our start hotels, but you can usually store your luggage for the day if you arrive early.

 

Accommodation:
Hotel Villa Colonial (or similar)
Day 2: Cartagena

Free day to explore this coastal colonial city. Wander the historic old town, check out the San Felipe fortress, or get dirty with a mud bath and massage at Totumo Volcano.

 

Accommodation:
Hotel Villa Colonial (or similar)
Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 3: Cartagena/Santa Marta

Travel by public bus to this coastal port town. Free time to visit the Gold Museum with its collection of Lost City artifacts, chill out on the beach and pick up any last minute necessities for the upcoming trek.

Please note hot water is uncommon in the Caribbean region of Colombia. Showers are likely to only have cold water while visiting this area.

Local bus:
Cartagena – Santa Marta5h

Climb aboard, grab a seat, and enjoy the ride.

Free Time:
Santa Marta Afternoon

Start exploring this historic city.

 

Accommodation:

Hotel Tayromar (or similar)

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 4: Santa Marta/ Wiwa Camp

Transfer to Machete Pelao, where the trek to the Lost City of Teyuna begins. Trek through farmland, steamy jungle, and rural Kogi communities. Get a glimpse into the local way of life in the remote river valleys of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

4×4:
Santa Marta – Machete Pelao

Roads? Where this rough-and-ready vehicle’s going, we don’t need roads.

Lost City Trek – Day 1:
Machete Pelao – Wiwa Camp 6h-7h 12km

Leave Machete Pelao and start trekking through the jungle along the Buritaca River. Pass by farmland and get a glimpse into daily life in the small communities en route to the lunch stop. After lunch, trek alongside the Buritaca River and pass through more farmland used for growing coffee or raising cattle. Climbing on this part of the trek can be challenging as the route progresses uphill from the riverbed and through the humid jungle. Take a look at the unique, circular huts that make up some of the Kogi villages in the area. Once you make it to the camp, cool off with a swim in the river before dinner. Unwind at camp with a dip in the natural swimming pools or take a nap in a hammock.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

Day 5: Wiwa Camp /Teyuna Paraiso Camp

Continue trekking along the route to Ciudad Perdida. Today is a tough portion of the trek with a lot of steep inclines, make sure to rest and take in the beautiful views. Arrive at the campsite in the afternoon and relax by the river.

Lost City Trek – Day 2:
Wiwa Camp – Teyuna Paraiso Camp4h-5h 8km

In the morning the route continues along the river before moving into a steep incline. If the group wants a break, take the opportunity to jump in the river and cool off. Trekkers should drink a lot of water today, especially if the weather is hot and humid. There are some points where the hike passes narrow ledges that can present a challenge for anyone who is not too steady on their feet. Arrive at the Teyuna Paraiso campsite around mid-afternoon.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

Day 6: Teyuna Paraiso Camp/ Wiwa Camp

Get started early to climb the 1,200 steps up to the Lost City. The view of the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains makes it well worth the hike. Explore the Lost City and learn what is known of its origins from the indigenous guide, before making the descent back to Wiwa Camp for the night.

Lost City Trek – Day 3:
Teyuna Paraiso Camp – Wiwa Camp 8h-9h 10km

The once-forgotten city is only an hour away and to get there you must climb the 1,200 steps built by the ancient Tayrona people. This is a very steep climb, but the rewards of the climb are more than worth it. Once at the site, the guide will explain the history of the Lost City and what is known of its origins. It is estimated that only 10% of the site has been discovered. Head back to the campsite for lunch and a swim before beginning the trek back the way you came to Wiwa Camp. Most of the trek today is downhill which can be hard on the knees, a walking stick might be useful.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

Day 7: Wiwa Camp /Ricardito Camp

Follow the path back through the deep jungle, wind through banana trees, cacao plants and small Kogi communities on the way to Ricardito Camp. The nickname for this camp is vista hermosa or beautiful views, sit back and soak them in.

Lost City Trek – Day 4:
Wiwa Camp – Ricardito Camp3h-4h 7km

Head back along the same path through dense green jungle, pass by banana trees, Kogi communities, and grasslands. Stop at Adán Camp for a dip in the cool river or a fresh fruit juice. If Adán himself is around, make sure to listen to his stories of looting and drug labs of days past. Continue uphill to reach Ricardito Camp, known locally as vista hermosa or beautiful view, sit back and soak them in. If the weather is right, sunsets and sunrises here are not to be missed.

 

Accommodation:

La Casa de Felipe (or similar)

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

Day 8: Gotsezhi Village/Taganga

Head across grassy hills and gentle streams to reach the Gotsezhi Wiwa indigenous community. Enjoy a G Adventures-supported community lunch cooked by women from the community with local ingredients. Learn about Wiwa customs on a village visit and then lounge in a hammock by the river. In the afternoon, return to Taganga for a well deserved night in a hotel.

Lost City Trek – Day 5:
Ricardito Camp – Gotsezhi Village4h-5h 10km

Get an early start to beat the heat and head out across undulating grassy hills. The terrain today is up and down, enjoy the last day of the trek meandering across the hills passing local homes and descending down to gentle streams on the way to Gotsezhi community.

G Adventures for Good: Wiwa Community Visit & Lunch:

Visit the Gotsezhi community and enjoy a meal cooked by women from the community with local ingredients. Visit the nearby village where youth from the four indigenous tribes in the region come to school to learn about their cultural customs and languages. Upon entry into the village, experience a soul-cleansing ceremony and learn about traditional customs, stories and handicraft methods from this region. After, jump in the river for a cool dip, visit nearby waterfalls and natural swimming pools, or rest in a hammock and reflect on your accomplishment before returning to Santa Marta.

4×4:
Gotsezhi Village – Taganga2h-2h30m

Roads? Where this rough-and-ready vehicle’s going, we don’t need roads.

 

Accommodation:

Ocean Taganga (or similar)

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch

Day 9: Taganga/Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

Head into Tayrona National Park for a moderate hike with a local guide. This is a perfect opportunity to experience nature and learn a little more about the rich, natural diversity of northern Colombia.

Please note that Tayrona National Park is usually closed during the month of February. The indigenous groups in the area believe that mother nature needs a month of rest, and maintenance to the park is done during this time. If your trip falls in February, you will visit the laid-back town of Minca. Enjoy a visit to a coffee plantation, a hike to a waterfall and learn about local cacao production.

Private Vehicle:
Taganga – Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona45m

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

Tayrona National Park Excursion:
Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

Get outside with a hike into this beautiful park! Learn more about the rich diversity of Tayrona’s natural heritage and explore Tayrona’s gorgeous scenery with a local guide.

 

Accommodation:

Ocean Taganga (or similar)

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch

Day 10: Taganga/Medellín

Fly inland to infamous Medellín, now one of Latin America’s safest cities. Enjoy an orientation walk upon arrival and an optional night out with the group.

Plane:
Taganga – Medellín1h30m

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… yup, it is a plane, actually.

Orientation Walk:
30m-1h

Enjoy a brief walk with your CEO. He/she will give you some tips on finding things like supermarkets, main squares, and ATMs. For more specific or in-depth information, an official guided tour is recommended.

 

Accommodation:

Hostal Tamarindo (or similar)

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 11: Medellín

Opt to go paragliding over the city or catch a ride on the cable car.

Free Time:
Medellín Full Day

Get out and explore this vibrant city.

 

Accommodation:

Hostal Tamarindo (or similar)
Day 12: Medellín/Salento

Drive through beautiful landscapes to Salento.

Local bus
Medellín – Salento8h-9h

Climb aboard, grab a seat, and enjoy the ride.

Day 13: Salento

Opt to take a morning hike through the towering palms of the Cocora Valley, or choose from a variety of other optional activities in the coffee region of Quindío.

Free Time:
Salento

Enjoy this beautiful area, get out and explore!

Day 14: Salento/Tatacoa Desert

Enjoy the ride to the Tatacoa Desert to spend the night under the stars.

Private Vehicle:
Salento – Tatacoa Desert7h

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

Observatory Visit:
Tatacoa Desert

Look at the stars unobstructed by city lights at the Tatacoa Observatory.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 15: Tatacoa Desert/San Agustín

Head out into the impressive Tatacoa desert and hike to a swimming pool to cool off amidst the rocky canyons. After, drive to San Agustin.

Private Vehicle
Tatacoa Desert – San Agustín5h30m

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 16: San Agustín

Visit the San Agustin Archaeological Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site with more than 500 sculptures scattered through the hillside.

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 17: San Agustín/Popayán

In the morning travel to Popayán and explore this beautiful colonial town.

Private Vehicle:
San Agustín – Popayán4h30m-5h

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

Free Time:
Popayán

Wander the streets of this picturesque town known for its colonial architecture, or take your pick of cafés and restaurants to hang out in.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 18: Popayán/Pasto

Head further south to Pasto, wander around and keep an eye out for local ice cream makers out in the streets.

Private Vehicle:
Popayán – Pasto6h-7h

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

Free Time:
Pasto

Pasto is cool (literally). Make sure to bring a sweater and try a “helado de paíla” the local ice cream made outside in copper tubs.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 19: Pasto/Otavalo

Visit the striking Lajas Sanctuary, built on a bridge in a lush gorge, this neo-Gothic church is sure to impress. After, cross the border into Ecuador and continue on to Otavalo for the night.

Private Vehicle:
Pasto – Ipiales2h

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

Lajas Sanctuary:
Las Lajas

Get your camera ready to capture this stunning church. Built on a bridge in the middle of a rocky gorge, this neo-Gothic piece of architecture is an impressive sight.

Border Crossing (Colombia – Ecuador):
Ipiales – Tulcán

Ready for a little more ink in your passport? Grab your bags and get ready to check another country off your bucket list.

Private Vehicle:
Tulcán – Otavalo3h

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

 

Accommodation:

Hotel Santa Fe (or similar)
Hotel

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 20: Otavalo/Quito

Visit the famous Otavalo artisan market for a morning perusing colourful textiles, art, carvings, and jewelry made by people from nearby communities. In the afternoon, drive back to Quito.

Otavalo Market Visit:
Otavalo

Discover some amazing local art, tapestries, and textiles at Otavalo’s famous artisan market. Wander the stalls to meet local artists, and find one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Try to arrive early for the best bargains and try your hand at haggling – it’s expected for every purchase.

Private Vehicle:
Otavalo – Quito2h

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

 

Accommodation:

Casa CarpeDM (or similar)
Day 21: Quito

Depart at any time.

Consider booking additional nights in Quito for further exploration of Ecuador’s capital city.

Departure Day:

Not ready to leave? Your CEO can help with travel arrangements to extend your adventure.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast

What’s Included:

  • G Adventures for Good: Wiwa Community Visit & Lunch, Gotsezhi Village
  • Lost City of Teyuna trek (5 days)
  • Guided tour of the Lost City
  • Tayrona NP Excursion (excluding February departures)
  • Beach time in Taganga
  • Overnight desert excursion (Tatacoa)
  • Visit to San Agustin ruins
  • Visit to Otavalo Market
  • Orientation walks in Medellín and Quito
  • Internal flights
  • All transport between destinations and to/from included activities

 

Accommodations:

Simple hotels (15 nts, some multi-share), camping (4 nts in hammocks or rustic bunks), desert camping (1 nt).

 

Meals:

16 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 4 dinners
Allow USD395-515 for meals not included.

 

Transportation:

Local bus, 4x4, hiking, plane, minibus.

 

Staff & experts:

Chief Experience Officer (CEO) throughout, indigenous local guides.

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