In September 2016 the Colombian government and the leftist guerilla group the FARC signed a historic peace deal ending the longest running conflict in South America. After a shaky start the agreement is being implemented and the conflict has subsided. We look at the huge issues that remain five years on from the accords; from land reform to the disarming of the former rebels and the long hoped for peace-dividend for the economy.
|DESTINATION||Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena|
Led by Joe Parkin Daniels
Single supplement: £tbc
Our 10 day tour through this beautiful and varied country includes the capital Bogota, former drugs capital and now coffee mecca, Medellin and the colonial city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast.
Colombia has a huge amount to offer with rich natural resources and one of the most diverse ecologies on the planet. Remnants of organised crime, several million refugees as well landmines left over from the conflict are reminders of the challenges ahead.
The tour is led by Joe Parkin Daniels, a British journalist based in Bogota.
Like all our tours the itinerary is focused on current affairs. Events on the ground may change and the final schedule may be adjusted accordingly.
Morning flight to Bogota
(Please book your own flight, details to be advised). Overnight Bogota
Flight to Cartagena
(Please book your own flight, details to be advised).Overnight Cartagena
Book Your Tour
All of your accommodation and meals with water are included in the tour costs, as well as local transport (except on the free evening).
Flights are not included in the price and need to be arranged by customers themselves or with an agent.
This tour starts in Medellin and ends in Bogota.
Following the news
Like all our tours the itinerary is focused on current affairs. Events on the ground may change and the final schedule may be adjusted accordingly.
COVID-19: We won’t go to a country until it is safe to do so- we remain guided by the UK Foreign Office travel advice. For this reason some dates may change depending on the situation on the ground.
As on all our expert-led tours the groups are deliberately small and will not exceed 14 people. Limited spaces are available.
We can arrange bespoke tours for families and small groups of friends. Please contact us for tailor-made tour options.
Travelling on a British, US, Australian or most European Passport does not require a Visa if your stay is for 90 days or less. Other nationalities may require a visa, it is always good to check with the embassy in your country for latest advice regarding visa requirements. The Colombian Embassy will have the most up-to-date information for both Visa requirements and any travel restrictions/ entry requirements related to Covid-19.
The climate is warm and tropical on the coast and in the North, with a rainy season from May to November. The temperature varies little throughout the year due to the proximity to the equator, however it does vary greatly according to altitude. It is cooler in the upland area and cold in the mountains. So Medellin is best described as permanent spring, Bogota as mild winter and Cartagena as hot summer.
Sunblock is essential.
There are no specific dress requirements in Colombia. However, we suggest taking layers as the weather is different in the various regions. Medellin is hot during the day but cool at night, Bogota is cooler and Cartagena has a more tropical climate. Rain showers are not uncommon too so please ensure you pack a rain jacket. Most important is to have comfortable shoes.
Men: Will need a jacket and tie for some of the meetings.
Women: You will need some smarter attire for one or two meetings.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes regularly updated travel information on its website www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo which you are recommended to consult before booking and in good time before departure. Where it considers it appropriate to do so, the FCO may advise against all travel or all but essential travel to particular countries or parts of particular countries. Similarly, the FCO may withdraw any such previously given advice. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clause 10). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice. It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the FCO may have issued such advice in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. In this case, you will be asked to sign the above form before we confirm your booking.
Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travelers, or the Department of Health in the UK. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx
No vaccinations are required for entering Colombia, but some are recommended (Yellow Fever, Hep A). Below is a list of websites including the British FCO (which we follow) as well as the Australian and US websites.
Even though a Yellow Fever vaccination is not required to enter Colombia it is required by some countries if you wish to visit them after you have travelled within Colombia. Specifically Australia and South Africa require you to have had a Yellow Fever Vaccination and to show your yellow card/certificate in order to enter after travelling to Colombia.
Please check if any countries you may be visiting after Colombia require you to have this vaccination certificate, as it would then be necessary for you to have had the vaccination and produce proof of your vaccination.
Mosquito repellant is a good idea – Bogota is too high for mosquitoes, Medellin is also generally mosquito free, but there are mosquitoes in Cartagena.
It is also useful to travel with medications for traveller’s tummy– like immodium, probiotics and rehydrate sachets.
We suggest you visit your own doctor or local travel clinic who will have the most up-to-date travel advice, and be able to recommend any vaccinations prior to travel based on your medical history.
The Colombian Peso is the unit of currency (COP$). ATM’s are available at almost all major banks, but most banks have a maximum withdrawl of COP$300,000.00.
Credit cards are common in Colombia you may be asked how many payments you should say 1.
Electricity is the North American 2 flat pin and 110v
Wifi is available in all hotels as well as many coffee shops and restaurants.
Joe Parkin Daniels is The Guardian’s correspondent in Colombia and Venezuela, based in Bogotá. Joe has also contributed to: The New York Times, The Economist, and The Lancet. His work has been published in English, Spanish, French, Italian and German.
Tom Feiling helped devise the itinerary. Tom spent a year living and working in Colombia before making Resistencia: Hip-Hop in Colombia, which won numerous awards at film festivals around the world. In 2003 he became Campaigns Director for the TUC’s Justice for Colombia campaign, which organises for labour rights in Colombia. In 2009, Penguin published his first book, The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over the World, which was based on over 60 interviews with those involved in all aspects of the cocaine business. In 2012, Allen Lane/ Penguin published Short Walks from Bogota: Journeys in the New Colombia, a travelogue exploring that country’s culture, history and politics. His third book is The Island that Disappeared: Old Providence and the Making of the Western World (Explore Books, 2017), which looks at 400 years of British imperial history, as seen from a little known former British colony in the Caribbean.
“The tours are well prepared and researched, but retain the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities e.g the FARC leader. Also Nick is good at spotting the gaps mid tour and sourcing new angles of attack.” DT, 2017
“Best was the group: wonderful smart and interesting people.” MH, Colombia 2017
“The tour educated me to a part of the world and its recent history that I had read about but not understood. I can’t say I understand it fully, not even close, but a very good start… A great way to learn!” MH, Colombia 2017
I thought the PT team were amazing. Not only were they knowledgeable, they were very good at making me feel welcome, at managing the group, keeping the focus on the topic at hand and encouraging questions and follow up discussions. Colombia 2017
“the reading list very good and I’m still working on it.” Colombia 2017
“Good quality throughout” Colombia 2017
“Emotional high was the children’s home, Entertainment high was El Cielo restaurant, Educational highs were numerous.” Colombia 2017
Colombia Reading List
We have compiled an extensive reading list with a wide range of books. Our expert Laura Dixon has recommended her top six, and there are many more political, historical, non-fiction and fiction books as well as travel guides to choose from.
Political Tours expert Laura Dixon recommends:
Tom Feiling – Short Walks from Bogota
Garry Leech – The FARC: The Longest Insurgency
Ingrid Betancourt – Even Silence Has An End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle
Gabriel García Márquez – News of a kidnapping
Gabriel García Márquez – Love in the time of Cholera
Michael Jacobs – A river journey through Colombia
Laura’s Top 6
1. The FARC: The Longest Insurgency
by Garry Leech
Paperback: 176 pages, Publisher: Zed Books (12 May 2011), Language: English, ISBN-10: 1848134924, ISBN-13: 978-1848134928
“Using original sources and key interviews, this book serves as an invaluable guide that places the FARC, Latin America’s oldest and largest insurgency movement, in its political, economic and strategic context.” — Dr. Doug Stokes, University of Kent at Canterbury “You may disagree with this book. But whether you believe that the FARC are terrorists, drug traffickers, the armed poor, freedom fighters, or just a group that has lost its way, Garry Leech’s history of the guerrillas will make you view them differently – and may change your view of Colombia’s long conflict and how it can be brought to an end. “The FARC” acknowledges and addresses the many deserved criticisms leveled at Latin America’s oldest insurgent group, and seeks to explain what continues to motivate it today. Whether you think the FARC should be fought, negotiated with, or both, Leech’s book is an essential text. There’s nothing like it in English.” – Adam Isacson, Director of the Regional Security Policy Program at the Washington Office on Latin America
About the Author
Garry Leech is a British born American independent journalist and editor of the online publication Colombia Journal, which analyses U.S. foreign policy in Colombia. He also teaches international politics at Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.
2. Even Silence Has An End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle
Paperback: 608 pages, Publisher: Virago (2 Jun. 2011), Language: English, ISBN-10: 1844086135, ISBN-13: 978-1844086139
Ingrid Betancourt’s astonishing, powerful and deeply moving account of her six-year ordeal in the Colombian jungle as a hostage of the terrorist organisation FARC
About the Author
Ingrid Betancourt lived in France and New Zealand before returning to Colombia to campaign for the presidency, when she was kidnapped.
3. News of a Kidnapping
Format: Kindle Edition File Size: 1699 KB Print Length: 293 pages Publisher: Penguin (6 Mar. 2014)Language: English ASIN: B00HVPSXMO
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s News of a Kidnapping is a powerful retelling of actual events from a turbulent period of Colombian history. In 1990, fearing extradition to the United States, Pablo Escobar — head of the Medellin drug cartel — kidnapped ten notable Colombians to use as bargaining chips. With the eye of a poet, Garcia Marquez describes the survivors’ perilous ordeal, depicting the keening ache of Colombia after nearly forty years of turmoil. ‘She looked over her shoulder before getting into the car to be sure no one was following her”Reads with an urgency which belongs to the finest fiction. I have never read anything which gave a better sense of the way Colombia was in worst times’ Daily Telegraph Compellingly readable. A book with all the panache of Marquez’s fiction, hitting home rather harder’ Sunday Time ‘A piece of remarkable investigative journalism made all the more brilliant by the author’s talent for magical storytelling’ Financial Times.
4. Love in the Time of Cholera
Paperback: 432 pages Publisher: Penguin Classics (6 Sept. 2007) Language: English ISBN-10: 0141189207 ISBN-13: 978-0141189208
A poignant meditation on the nature of desire, and the enduring power of love, Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera is translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman in Penguin Modern Classics.
Florentino Ariza is a hopeless romantic who falls passionately for the beautiful Fermina Daza, but finds his love tragically rejected. Instead Fermina marriesdistinguished doctor Juvenal Urbino, while Florentino can only wait silently for her. He can never forget his first and only true love. Then, fifty-one years, nine months and four days later, Fermina’s husband dies unexpectedly. At last Florentino has another chance to declare his feelings and discover if a passion that has endured for half a century will remain unrequited, in a rich, fantastical and humane celebration of love in all its many forms.
About the author- Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel García Márquez was born in Aracataca, Colombia, in 1928. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. He now lives in Mexico City.
Márquez studied at the University of Bogotá and later worked as a reporter for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador and as a foreign correspondent in Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Caracas and New York. His first full-length work, One Hundred Years of Solitude, was published in 1967 to immediate worldwide success.
5. Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the new Colombia
by Tom Feiling
Paperback: 288 pages Publisher: Penguin (29 Aug. 2013) Language: English ISBN-10: 024195990X ISBN-13: 978-0241959909
Writer and journalist Tom Feiling travels throughout Colombia, talking to people from former guerrilla fighters to nomadic tribesmen and millionaires. “A portrait of Colombia that is perceptive, un-sensational, and full of humanity… one of the most consistently intelligent and compelling books to have appeared on any South American country in recent years”, Michael Jacobs, The Independent.
A deeply political account of one man’s journey to the violent heart of modern, rural, Colombia … a must read (Kevin Howlett Colombia Politics) Feiling… venture[s] into areas that have been off limits for decades … the sense of a vibrant nation worth discovering peeks out (Siobhan Murphy Metro) Elegantly written and knowledgeable. Feiling writes with the eye of a seasoned journalist and the style of a travel writer (Carl Wilkinson Financial Times)
About the Author
Tom Feiling spent a year living and working in Colombia before making Resistencia: Hip-Hop in Colombia, which won numerous awards at film festivals around the world, and was broadcast in four countries. In 2003 he became Campaigns Director for the TUC’s Justice for Colombia campaign, which organizes for human rights in Colombia. His first book was The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over The World, which was based on over sixty interviews with people involved in all aspects of the cocaine business and the ‘war on drugs,’ and was published by Penguin in 2009.
6. Michael Jacobs – A river journey through Colombia
Paperback: 256 pages Publisher: Granta (1 Aug. 2013) Language: English ISBN-10: 1847084087 ISBN-13: 978-1847084088
Jacobs writing deploys a poetic ear and painterly eye to achieve ruminations akin to those of Coleridge wandering Lakeland… we reach the point that no travel book is supposed to reach, whereby the snake eats its tail: instead of breaking free into the wild he adores and does often find, Jacobs gives the lie to travel writing in this shrunken world conquered by mobile phones, contempt for nature and the plague of tourism –Observer
Jacobs’ literary skill and passion for all things Latin makes this a must-read for anyone contemplating a trip to one of South America’s most neglected yet enthralling destinations. –Lonely Planet guide
About the Author
MICHAEL JACOBS was born in Italy and studied Art History at the Courtauld Institute in London. He is the author of several travel books, including Andes (Granta, 2010) and was shortlisted for the 2004 Thomas Cook prize. He lives in Spain and London.
History & Politics
Colombia: A Concise Contemporary History Mejia, German R., Michael LaRosa
2013, PAPER, 288 PAGES, This refreshing history of Colombia showcases the country’s political, social and cultural accomplishments over the past two centuries — a welcome break from all the focus on Colombia’s failures and disappointments.
Beyond Bogota, Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia Gary Leech
2010, PAPER, 260 PAGES, Part memoir, part history, this is the tale of journalist Leech’s 11-month captivity in Colombia at the hands of FARC, a guerilla group. Leech is very critical of the drug war, and uses his ordeal as a frame for exploring the history, culture and current politics of Colombia.
The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself David Bushnell
334 PAGES, A leading historian of the region, Bushnell traces the political history of Colombia from before the arrival of the Spaniards through independence and reform in the 19th century, then through to the 1980s in this thoroughly enjoyable, incisive portrait of a nation.
Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the Richest, Most Powerful Criminal in History Mark Bowden
2012, PAPER, 400 PAGES, No trip to Colombia is complete without giving mention to the drug baron Pablo Escobar. This is a gripping biography that gives a good background to the violent history of Colombia while describing Escobar’s extraordinary rise to power and the manhunt that led to his assassination.
Looking For History, Dispatches From Latin America Alma Guillermoprieto
2002, PAPER, 303 PAGES, A beautifully written, incisive collection of essays on contemporary Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Peru and Mexico.
Travel Writing & Memoirs
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life
A well-researched biography of the Nobel Prize winning author: “This first biography in English helps readers to ground his exceptional fiction in history”, Jason Wilson, Independent Book of the Week
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Living to Tell the Tale
2004, PAPER, 496 PAGES, Garcia’s celebrated memoir, as captivating, warm and spirited as any of his fictional tales, covers his youth in Aracataca, memorably recast as fictional Macondo on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
Silvana Paternostro: My Colombian War, A Journey Through the Country I Left Behind
2008, PAPER, 323 PAGES, Now a journalist living in New York, Paternostro travels back to her homeland in a search for the roots of Colombia’s bloody civil war.
Hector Abad: Oblivion, A Memoir
2013, PAPER, 263 PAGES, Written by his son, this searing memoir celebrates the life of a Colombian doctor who fought against oppression and inequality and who was murdered by paramilitaries in 1987.
Charles Nicholl: The Fruit Palace
1998, 336 PAGES, Charles Nicholl’s search for the story behind the cocaine trade of Colombia takes him from a café on the Caribbean Sea to shanty towns, barrios and the jungle. A thrilling piece of travel writing.
Silvana Paternostro: My Colombian War: A Journey Through the Country I Left Behind
2007, HARDCOVER, 336 PAGES, Acclaimed journalist Silvana Paternostro skilfully weaves her own childhood experiences into a history of the civil war in Colombia.
The Informers, Juan Gabriel Vasquez
A story of personal and political betrayal in Colombia in the years following the Second World War. “Vasquez is one of the most original new voices of Latin American literature. His first novel is testimony to the richness of his imagination as well as the subtlety and elegance of his prose”, Mario Vargas Llosa.
Sound of Things Falling Apart, Juan Gabriel Vasquez
“This terrific novel draws on Colombia’s tragic history and cycles of violence to tell the story of a troubled man trying to come to grips with the distant forces and events that have shaped his life”, Khaled Hosseini, Books of the Year 2013.
The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts, Louis de Bernieres
The first in Louis de Bernieres’ enchanting, funny and moving trilogy set in a fictional Colombia.
Tales from the Town of Widows, James Canon
A beautifully told story about a group of women in a Colombian village who find their lives changed while their husbands and sons are away fighting a deadly civil war.
Delirium, Laura Restrepo
Returning home from a business trip, Aguliar finds that his wife has gone insane; a Colombian story of money, power and corruption described by Jose Saramago as one of the finest novels written in recent memory.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
2006, PAPER, 417 PAGES, The breathtaking, life-altering, much-celebrated tale of life and love is on most everyone’s list of the greatest books of all time, ours included. Its setting and themes are universal.
Our Lady of the Assassins, Fernando Vallejo, Paul Hammond
2001, PAPER, 144 PAGES, A vivid, cynical portrait of Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city and the stronghold of ruthless drug lord Pablo Escobar. The narrator returns to the town after a long absence to find it beset by horrific violence and a chilling indifference to death.
Lonely Planet Colombia
2015, PAPER, 352 PAGES, A practical guide to Colombia featuring maps and detailed information on excursions, accommodations and sightseeing. With a few color photographs and excellent travel information.
Colombia Green Guide, Michelin
A new guide for Michelin containing good maps, and thorough historical and cultural background.
Colombia, Footprint An excellent guide to Colombia, including detailed background information on history and culture as well as the usual range of hotel and restaurant recommendations.
Colombia, Bradt Less historical and cultural information than the Footprint Guide, but includes a good section on Colombian wildlife. Strong on practical information and ideal for travel planning. With detailed sketch maps.
National Geographic Traveler Colombia
2016, PAPER, 320 PAGES, The intrepid Christopher Baker, author of National Geographic Cuba and other titles, penned this guide to exploring the cities, beaches and towns of Colombia, noteworthy for its attention to detail, maps and striking color photographs.
Rough Guide to Colombia Stephen Keeling
2015, PAPER, 416 PAGES, A comprehensive guide to Colombia in the hip, literate and very infomative Rough Guide style. It’s divided cleanly between practical information and illuminating background on culture and history.
Wallpaper City Guide Bogota Rachael Moloney
2012, PAPER, 103 PAGES, A stylish, thin (it fits in your back pocket) city guide compiled by the design magazine Wallpaper’s local reporters. Well-organized, with chapter tabs, many photographs and of-the-moment recommendations.