6 days 5 nights
Explore one of Colombia’s lesser-known regions – Valle del Cauca. Visitors will enjoy a truly immersive and authentic experience while discovering the unique gastronomy, musical culture, and biodiversity of Popayan, Guapi, and the island of Gorgona in the Pacific.
This adventure features carefully curated and exclusive activities. You will spend time alongside local musicians, instrument makers, dancers, and chefs as you learn about their cultural heritage and contributions. This is the perfect tour for anyone who wants to get off-the-beaten-path, and under the skin of Colombia.
From the gleaming white walls of the UNESCO Gastronomic City of Popayan in the Colombian Andes, to the mangrove swamps and Afro-Pacific culture of Guapi. There won’t be a moment during this tour when you won’t be surprised and amazed at the remarkable diversity of Colombia. We will throw in a day of whale-watching and jungle adventures on the mysterious island of Gorgona. By traveling with us, you’ve got the recipe for a once-in-a-lifetime Colombian experience.
Valle del Cauca awaits your participation!
This morning we will fly from Bogota to the southern Andean city of Popayan. Known as the “white city” due to the colour of the myriad colonial buildings in the old city, Popayan is also an important gastronomic city in Colombia. UNESCO declared Popayan the first city of gastronomy in 2005 - due to the variety and cultural importance of its unique traditional dishes. Over the next few days we will enjoy a unique window onto that culinary culture.
The tour begins with a traditional Popayan lunch, featuring dishes made of some of the most typical local ingredients, including peanut-chicken and tortilla soup. After lunch, we will enjoy the first of many cultural exchanges. Local musicians from the band La Jagua join us for a lesson in Colombian musical genres: it’s a laid-back lesson, as these talented musicians take us through the principal rhythms of Colombia, from cumbia to currulao.
Once this introduction is complete, we will get more hands-on with a workshop on how to make a marimba – the most important local instrument in this region – from the wood of the chonta palm. You won’t just be sitting back and watching though – you'll be getting involved and helping to make a marimba with a local expert.
This evening we will enjoy a fusion dinner, prepared by a local chef, and featuring a mixture of the best ingredients and typical dishes from throughout the region of Cauca. A ceviche of fresh trout from the town of Silvia, and empanadas made of Chontaduro palm fruit are just some of the unusual dishes on the menu!
After breakfast in our comfortable city centre hotel, you will take a city tour through the “White City,” during which you will learn all about the fascinating history of Popayan. We will visit a popular local eatery where you will get to try your hand at making (and eating, of course) the local delicacy empanadas de pipian.
After another traditional local lunch, it’s time for an afternoon of music and culture. Firstly, we will pay a visit to the workshop of a local man who makes local flutes known as Cauca Chirimias, as well as traditional Pacific drums. After learning how these instruments are made and their important connection to local culture, we will enjoy a special live presentation of Chirimia music and dance from a collective of young musicians and dancers.
Following this presentation, there will be an interactive demonstration of Pacific music dances. You will be able to learn first-hand from the dancers and get involved by learning some steps for yourself. A fun day of music and culture doesn’t end there: now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the dances and rhythms of the region, La Jagua are back for an exclusive and private live show – we'll all be getting involved with the band, and you will be able to dance with them and even take over some instruments and play with the band!
This morning we will head to the Popayan airport at mid-morning. You will be given a special snack box containing local fruits. After we board a short flight to the Pacific coast town of Guapi. Upon arrival, there will be a traditional lunch of Pacific coast delicacies. Once sated, we head out on our first exploration of the region – you won’t believe the contrast from the Andean mountain culture and landscapes of Popayan!
In the afternoon we will take a boat trip around some important sites surrounding Guapi. There will be stops for a walk along the ecological trail of Las Parcelas, where we will visit plantations of the local aromatic herb chiyangua, which features heavily in Guapi’s gastronomy. We’ll also stop by the home of Pacho Torres, a local legend who fashions instruments that are key to the musical genres of Pacific Cauca – marimbas, cununos, and bombos, among others.
There will be time to rest up in our Guapi hotel before the first of our Pacific cultural activities this evening. Get your dancing shoes on tonight, as we enjoy an exclusive local party. Prepare for live music, dancing, and sample of local food and ancestral drinks (some with a fairly high alcohol percentage!). You will be able to spend time and learn from a local musical collective and dancers, while enjoying delicious Pacific food and drink.
Hopefully you didn't partake too much of the local alcohol (or at the very least packed some aspirin!). This morning we’ll be up bright and early to take a boat trip to Gorgona Island. This mysterious island in the Colombian Pacific was once the country’s most notorious prison. It has been a National Park since 1984 on account of its unique and endemic biodiversity.
Upon arrival on the island we will first have a talk from the National Park staff. They will give us a window into Gorgonas history and biodiversity. Next, we take a guided walk through the crumbling ruins of the prison, which are being taken over by the lush jungle. Keep an eye out for capuchin monkeys, bats, basilisk lizards, and snakes, all of which are common on the island.
At 10:45am, we will head out on a whale-watching trip (only available between June and October), hoping to get up-close-and-personal with the giant humpback whales which come to Gorgona annually to give birth and raise their calves. During off-season this activity will be a snorkelling trip to a local beach, followed by a jungle walk back to the Gorgona hotel, where lunch will be served.
Post-lunch there will be free time to enjoy the natural freshwater swimming pool. We depart back to Guapi at 3:30pm. Tonight, we will have a quiet evening with a local dinner and turn in early.
Breakfast will be served at a local eatery in La Pampa neighbourhood. After, we set out on a boat trip for the morning. Todays tour will include stops at local villages and points of interest. You will be able to purchase and learn about local Afro-Pacific and Indigenous artisan crafts in the village of Temuey, as well as collecting local shellfish in Quiroga, and some time to enjoy a swim at a freshwater beach.
We will enjoy an open-air lunch during the tour, before returning to Guapi in the late afternoon. This evening there will be a special end-of-tour event: we will enjoy a special tasting menu of local seafood, as well as live music and a local storyteller who will regale us with local myths and legends.
For the final morning, you will have time to purchase local artisan crafts from a women’s collective before we depart for Popayan, where we will arrive around midday. From there we will transfer for our internal flight back to Bogota. There our tour ends.