Spanish colonial-style architecture, jungle wildlife and postcard perfect beaches combine to make Colombia and Panama some of South America’s most enticing travel destinations. Look out for pink river dolphins, caiman and anacondas on an Amazon River cruise, visit Indigenous communities and swim in the clear, turquoise waters of the Rosario Islands in Colombia’s Caribbean region. Then explore the Panama Canal by boat, stay in an eco-lodge and visit chocolate and coffee plantations in Panama.
Often overlooked by more established neighbouring tourist destinations Brazil, Ecuador and Peru, Colombia has finally made it onto travellers’ radars. Since the government signed a peace deal ending more than 50 years of conflict with communist guerrilla group FARC in late 2016, the country has become more attractive for visitors.
Our small group tours begin in Bogotá, where guests can wander the old part of the city, La Candelaria, the Plaza Bolivar and its surrounds. One of Colombia’s most interesting sites, the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, lies around 45 minutes’ drive from the capital. The Roman Catholic church was carved within the tunnels of a salt mine, which is still operating.
But the Amazon is Colombia’s biggest drawcard. Spanning seven countries, the rainforest is home to the greatest concentration of plant and animal species on the planet, as well as 250 Indigenous and ethnic groups. From the gateway port city of Leticia, guests on our private tours will take a boat ride down the Amazon River, the world’s longest waterway, stopping to visit the Indigenous community Macedonia, Monkey Island and the car-free town of Puerto Nariño, where humans co-exist with the jungle. Keep an eye out for pink Amazon river dolphins, caiman and anacondas in Lake Tarapoto before visiting Brazil’s westernmost Amazonian town, Tabatinga, on the way back.
Guests will also marvel at colourful butterflies in Quindío’s botanical garden, meander the narrow streets and squares to see some of the continent’s best-preserved colonial architecture in the fortified city of Cartagena and visit the fishing village La Boquilla, where villagers of African descent will perform a welcome dance. One of the highlights of the journey is a boat trip to the Rosario Islands – an archipelago of 27 islands with pristine white sand beaches surrounded by clear turquoise water and coral reefs.
Our unique tours then move on to Panama, starting with a tour of the capital Panama City, a visit to the brightly coloured biodiversity museum designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and Casa Esperanza - an organisation that educates poor children at risk of exploitation.
Then travel across the country from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic on the Panama Canal Railway, which was built during California’s gold rush and runs parallel to the famous waterway. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Fort San Lorenzo and look out for monkeys, sloths and toucans in San Lorenzo National Park. Then board the 300-passenger Pacific Queen to tour the Panama Canal, an engineering wonder and major trade route that opened in 1914. Transit through its locks and see work on the Panama Canal expansion project in progress.
Guests visiting this unique travel destination will also search for exotic birds on a hike during a stay at an eco-lodge at Mt Totumas, tour chocolate and coffee plantations, see the Dracula-esque flowers at an orchid farm at Cerro Punta, snorkel in Bastimentos Marine National Park and visit the Iguana Island wildlife refuge.
- The Panama Canal, one of the great engineering feats of the modern era
- Old Panama City with its wonderful Spanish colonial architecture, bars, restaurants and cafes
- Fort San Lorenzo near Colon on the Atlantic Coast
- Cartagena wonderfully restored Spanish colonial old town – perhaps one of the best in South America
- The rustic charm of Bogota with it’s street art, cafes and galleries
- Bogota’s spectacular and informative gold museum