This five-day best of Colombia travel itinerary takes you through the archaeological sites at and near San Agustin, the historic White City of Popayán, and clues up on an easy-going day in Cali. Feel free to add on a day in either locale, especially Cali.

Travel map of Cali and Southwest Colombia

Cali and Southwest Colombia

Days 1-2

Fly into Neiva and immediately head south to San Agustín, the most important archaeological site in Colombia. It’s the country’s version of Easter Island, set amid lush countryside in the Cordillera Central of the Andes. Take your time visiting the park: Two days should do it.

Stay within walking distance of the park at one of the cute hotels dotting the countryside.

Pre-Columbian statue in San Agustín.

Pre-Columbian statue in San Agustín. Photo © jkraft5/123rf.

Day 3

Flag down a bus headed westward and check out the country’s other archaeological site. Tierradentro is a series of underground burial tombs spread atop hills in the lush Valle de Cauca countryside. It’s a scenic place, and you should take your time and walk the sites at a leisurely pace.

Stay in the village of San Andrés de Pisimbalá at the La Portada hotel.

Day 4

Take the four-hour scenic bus ride to the historic White City of Popayán. Wander the streets and linger in the beautiful Parque Caldas.

Stay at the Hostel Caracol, where friendly staff will let you take the hostel dog for a late-afternoon walk around town. Before retiring, settle into a booth at El Sotareño and listen to some tango music over a cold beer.

Travel map of Popayán, Colombia


Day 5

Take the easy two-hour bus ride to Cali. In the late afternoon, enjoy the atmosphere of the Parque San Antonio, the best place for people-watching or enjoying the sunset.

Have dinner in one of the cozy restaurants in the sloping San Antonio neighborhood, and stay there, too, at the Ruta Sur hostel or the San Antonio Hotel Boutique. Later, check out a salsateca (dance club) for a truly authentic Cali experience. Get a good night’s rest to prepare for your flight home tomorrow.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Colombia.