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Colombia

Emerald Mountains

Guided Road Cycling Holiday

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

13 days

Prices from

£3,155 P.P.
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If incredible scenery, dramatic Andean mountain passes and a Caribbean coastline, brought together by a network of well-surfaced roads tick your boxes, then this pioneering road cycling holiday in Colombia could be perfect for you! This tour, which includes Alto de Letras, at 52 miles reputed to be the longest climb in the world, is possibly our most ambitious and exciting road trip to date, designed to appeal to adventure seekers who live to ride and love to climb.
 
Colombia has been through massive changes over recent years. Politically stable and with a well-developed infrastructure, the country has opened up to tourists and is safe to visit.
 
Whilst the rural regions remain delightfully unspoiled, traditional and rich in culture, the country's cities and larger towns are highly sophisticated. Due to the country's history however international tourism is still in its infancy and vast areas of the country have been largely untouched by foreign visitors. Beaming smiles, open arms and unrivalled hospitality await those adventurous enough to make the journey.
 
Cycling has been Colombia's national sport for decades and during the course of our tour we will encounter locals training on the roads on a daily basis, the same roads that, in recent years, have given us world class riders and Grand Tour winners such as Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Urán and Egan Bernal. The annual Vuelta a Colombia is regarded as one of the toughest stage races in the world and a significant number of the country's top riders have gone on to do well on the international stage. Obviously we'll be taking things considerably gentler than the professionals, but we will get a taste of the magnificent Andean mountain roads which make those guys so strong.
 
It's not all climbing and hard work though as our journey takes us from the high mountain capital of Bogota at 2,625m above sea level to the warm waters of the Caribbean coast. Along the way we'll pass through some of the country's most beautiful landscapes, entering the famous Zona Cafetera, one of the world's primary coffee growing regions. 
 
We'll also spend a couple of nights in Medellin, the 'City of Eternal Spring', a seductive city which will appeal as much to culture lovers as it will to those in search of nightlife.
 
The final stages take us into a coastal flatland and present a welcome change of pace to contrast with the challenges of the Andes and delivers us gently to the world-famous Caribbean resort and historic walled city of Cartagena, where we can relax in classic colonial style and soak up the wonderful atmosphere.

Holiday Highlights

  • Exploring unspoiled Andean highlands
  • The historic city of Cartagena
  • The hospitality of locals, so proud to show off their country
  • The challenges offered by Colombia’s dramatic mountains
  • Cycling with the warm Caribbean breeze at your back
  • Being amongst the first to ride in this emerging destination

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The riding and the people were all fantastic. It was such an amazing two weeks! The service really was excellent. All we had to do was ride and everything else was taken care of for us.

Karen, USA

Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival: Bogota Airport
Non Riding Day

Arriving on the scheduled start day, you will be met on arrival at Bogotá airport by one of the Skedaddle team and transferred to our meet-up HQ in the Chapinero district of Bogota.

After a light lunch we will all transfer together to the small town of Cajicá, just a few kms north of the city in the Savanna of Bogotá. Cajicá sits at roughly the same altitude as Bogotá (2,625m above sea level) and since the rarefied air is impossible to ignore we’ll try not to exert ourselves too much while we build the bikes and gradually adjust to the conditions.

Chatting excitedly about the riding ahead of us we will enjoy an evening meal together before we retire to rest up in anticipation of the adventure ahead.

Day 2
Cajicá to Vianí
64 Miles / 102 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,300 Metres Approx.

Today is all about acclimatisation and is one of the easiest days of the tour. It is not totally without challenges though and despite the fact we are beginning our adventure on the Savanna of Bogotá, an enormous plateau, there are occasional small mountains to negotiate and we will encounter our first one just under 15km into our ride.

Our route is taking us along an old road, traditionally used to connect the local fincas, and although our first climb is only 4km to the summit, it is considerably steeper than the average Colombian climb and while we’re still acclimatising it might feel decidedly punchy.

From the summit we descend for a similar distance into Subachoque and even though we’re only a short distance from the capital we’ll already be starting to appreciate the beauty of rural Colombia. Rolling roads lead us from Subachoque to Factactiva, another important city of the ancient Muisca culture, where we will stop for lunch.

After a few more kms on the plateau we arrive at another small rise before we get our first taste of real Colombian style descending. 30km of joyful descending delivers us to our final challenge of the day, a minor climb with a 2km sting in the tail. After reaching the summit we find ourselves in a land that time forgot which seemingly has not changed in decades and where traditional life carries on without interruption from traffic and other trappings of modern life. Eventually we arrive in the small town of Vianí where we will spend our evening.

Day 3
Vianí to Mariquita
62 Miles / 100 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 800 Metres Approx.

We leave Vianí in a similar style to our arrival yesterday, climbing out of town into some of the most incredible scenery we’ll experience during the entire tour. If the absence of human presence and activity surprised us yesterday we’ll be amazed at the feeling of solitude presented to us today, particularly in the earlier stages.

After a few kms of climbing, the world opens up to reveal spectacular views of the magnificent Rio Magdalena, the most important river in Colombia. The road seems to fall away and with views so breathtaking we have to work hard to keep our eyes on the road. But keep our eyes on the road we must as we‘re losing altitude for more than 40km before eventually reaching the Magdalena plains.

We’ll take lunch close to the banks of the river and spend the afternoon on gently undulating treelined roads as we make our way through a region famous for rice and cotton plantations. Along the way we pass through Armero, a ghost town left devastated by the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano which erupted in 1985 wiping out 23,000 of the 31,000 inhabitants and rendering it a virtual graveyard.

A final 50km or so of gently rising riding delivers us to our beautiful rural retreat just on the outskirts of the Mariquita situated on the first slopes of the Central Cordillera.

Day 4
Mariquita to Manizales
75 Miles / 120 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 4,200 Metres Approx.

After the last 2 days of relatively ‘gentle’ introduction to Andean road riding, we are confronted by what will be for many of us the most challenging day of our journey. Today we are tackling the notorious Alto de Letras one of the so called Mythical Mountains of Colombia. The mountain pass is one of the highest in Colombia and at 52 miles is reputed to be the longest climb in the world. The road rises from just over 400m to just shy of 3,700m and it is little wonder that Lucho Herrara, the Colombian climbing hero of the 1980s, once complained that European mountains such as Alpe d‘Huez were “far too short for Colombians“.

With only a couple of kms to warm up before the road ramps upwards we’ll be encouraging everyone to begin today with a gentle pace so as to save energy for when we reach the rarefied air of the higher slopes. There is however nothing to fear as for the majority of the climb the gradient is very manageable with numerous opportunities for rest and respite as the road winds gradually upwards. In addition we will make provision for anyone who does not feel that they can complete the entire climb and will be able to transfer tired riders over some of the more challenging sections.

For all the challenges that Letras can throw at us, the ride is truly amazing. The mountain will reveal many surprises and rewards and if the weather is kind to us the views will take what is left of our breath away. The 25km descent from the summit delivers us to Manizales, a busy and important town in the heart of one of Colombia’s main coffee producing regions.

Day 5
Manizales to Anserma
45 Miles / 72 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,600 Metres Approx.

Even though we descended into Manizales yesterday we are still at 2,300m above sea level and our day begins with a very welcome and lengthy descent to warmer climes. The beauty of the coffee region presents us with an extremely pleasant and picturesque start and upon completion of our 30km descent we will roll joyfully towards Rio Cauca, another of Colombia’s major and most important rivers. Once we reach the valley the road inevitably and predictably begins to rise again and the rest of the day is generally in an upward direction.

On any other day, in any other country, 45km of ascending would seem to be a serious prospect however with yesterday still firmly in our memories we’ll readily rise to the challenge as we head for Anserma, a small coffee-producing town surrounded by mountains in a region famed for its pleasant and welcoming climate.

Day 6
Anserma to La Pintada
67 Miles / 108 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,600 Metres Approx.

Although definitely not an easy stage, today offers some respite and an opportunity to recover as the route we take is mainly gentle climbing, dramatic descending or flat and undulating, as we make our way from the mountains back down to the banks of Rio Cauca.

We begin with two gentle climbs as we leave Anserma by following a road along a fantastically scenic mountain ridge. At approximately 25km we’ll break for a coffee and admire the stunning views before commencing what feels like a never-ending descent into the valleys bellow via the towns of Riosucio and Supía.

Having experienced a dramatic rise in temperature with the loss of altitude, we spend the rest of the day following the course of the Cauca until we reach La Pintada, a bustling community on the banks of the Cauca nestled at the foot of the Cordillera Central amidst lush vegetation. The town’s name translates literally as “the painted one” and is so called because of its beautiful setting and the local tradition brightly painted colourful buildings and, in the right season, an abundance of floral displays.

Due to its proximity with Medellin the town is a popular retreat for hard-working city folks and at weekends and holiday periods bursts into life as the population swells with partying, music-loving paisas.

We finish with one final, short climb to a stunningly located hotel overlooking the vast swathes of the Caucua Valley.

Day 7
La Pintada to Medellin
39 Miles / 62 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,900 Metres Approx.

Another day in Colombia and, even though we have a relatively short distance to cover, another challenge. We’ll begin by retracing the last few kms of yesterday’s ride as we drop down into and through La Pintada with a gentle 10km warm up on the flat as we ride to La Pintada,

We stay with the Cauca for the next 20km or so on an undulating road until we reach a small bridge that leads us over the river. Here we bid farewell to Rio Cauca and the lowlands and begin a series of climbs which may well be the most challenging of the entire tour. It’s a tough section but rewarding with absolutely stunning scenery and small communities that have not succumbed to foreign tourism in any way shape or form.

Eventually we will arrive in Amaga where we will enjoy a well-deserved lunch while the team load the bikes onto the vehicle before completing the journey in the support bus in order to avoid riding in heavy and unpleasant traffic. We’ll be spending the next two evenings and a much needed rest day in Medellin, the seductive ‘City of Eternal Spring‘.

Day 8
Rest Day: Medellin
Non Riding Day
  • Meals: Breakfast

Medellin is located in the Aburrá valley and is surrounded by huge mountains. It might be a perfect place for cyclists who love to climb but with a week of Andean riding in our legs our time here is best spent recuperating. Medellin is an exciting and interesting city with sophisticated modern quarter and fascinating down to earth downtown area. Don’t forget to pack your dancing shoes because, amongst its many attractions, Medellin boasts one of the most vibrant Zona Rosas in Latin America and can offer a great night out for everyone regardless of tastes and preferences.

Day 9
Medellin to Santa Rosa de Osos
52 Miles / 85 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 2,200 Metres Approx.

Back on the bikes today for another full day in the saddle and back into the hills! The Andes still have some beautiful surprises in store and the Cordillera has one last big challenge for us, taking us once again to the clouded summits that generations of Colombians have tried to dominate and make home. The people here have a tenacious attitude which typifies a nation that has never surrendered even when the odds seemed against them or when the road seemed, as it does for much of today, to be always climbing upwards.

After making our way carefully through Medellin’s busy city streets we begin the last big ascent of our tour which rises to just under 2,600m. It isn’t long before we’re back on quiet rural roads where we can relax and take in the views as we pass through numerous small villages and towns. Our destination today is the town of Santa Rosa de Osos, a largely overlooked yet fascinating mountain community which makes an interesting contrast to the glitzy high rise glamour of the Medellin.

After 8 days on the road we’re still high above sea level with plenty of thrilling descending to look forward to tomorrow.

Day 10
Santa Rosa de Osos to Taraza
93 Miles / 150 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 1,300 Metres Approx.

One of the most endearing qualities of Colombia’s ever changing terrain is its ability to throw up surprises on a daily basis and today is no exception. It feels like our route has been turned upside down as for the first time since our first couple of days on the bikes we lose more altitude than we gain – much more! With approximately 1,300m of climbing today it wouldn’t be accurate to describe it as ‘all downhill from here‘, indeed the day begins with a climb to 2,450m, but overall we’re definitely on the way down!

We bypass Yarumal, the last town of any significant size in the mountains, before we begin our descent. Just over the summit we encounter numerous tiny communities where hundreds of Colombia’s displaced people, a legacy of the country’s troubled past, scrape an existence by the roadside. It is difficult not to be moved, but also impressed by these people, many of whom, despite obvious poverty and difficult living conditions take pride in their humble homes.

Another major change today is the climate and we leave the cool fresh temperatures of the hills in favour of Colombia’s warm Caribbean flatlands. It’s a day of contrasts and forgotten places of astonishing beauty and we will experience them all from the highest point in La Cordillera to the lowest points in the coastal savannahs in a single ride. Upon reaching the small town of Taraza we load up the vehicles and make a transfer to our hotel in the city of Monteria.

Transfer: to Monteria

Day 11
Ciénaga De Oro to Tolu
62 Miles / 100 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 450 Metres Approx.

With the big mountains behind us, quite literally, the pace will change quite dramatically from here on. Monteria is a major city and in order to avoid negotiating heavy traffic, we start the day with a short transfer to Ciénaga de Oro in the suburbs.

Today’s stage is relatively long but the route that we take is very flat by comparison with what we’ve experienced so far and with change in the terrain, climate and pace of life, we’d be forgiven for thinking that we’d ridden into a completely different Colombia. We ride, for the main part, on very quiet roads through a region which, although could never be described as a high-ranking tourist destination, is diverse and culturally rich.

We’ll aim to reach our destination, on the Caribbean coast, in time for lunch, after which there is time to explore and enjoy the town. Colombia doesn’t really boast what most people consider to be typical Caribbean beaches with golden sands and leaning palm trees, but that’s not to say that this little seaside gem doesn’t pack a punch. What this bustling little town lacks in glamour and tranquillity it makes up for in energy, vibrancy and character and it is difficult not to be taken in by its charm.

Day 12
Tolu to Cartagena
75 Miles / 120 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch
  • Ascent: 400 Metres Approx.

We’ve reached our final day on the bikes and its a long hot one for which we will aim to make an early start in order to eat up some miles before the sun is at its most intense.

We tackle today in two stages, with a short transfer after lunch breaking the journey and eating into a section of hot flat riding into a strong prevailing headwind. Our first stage is a rolling 95kms which begins with almost 25kms of delightfully smooth freshly laid tarmac and, if we‘re lucky, a Caribbean breeze which delivers us to our lunch stop where we will load up the bikes for the transfer.

Saddling up once again for a 25km finale we’ll ride together along the coast to the magnificent and almost perfectly preserved colonial city of Cartagena, brimming with history, romance and legends of pirates. Cartagena’s beauty is unrivalled by any other Colombian city and is deservedly reputed to be the most beautiful in the Americas.

On arrival we’ll head to the ancient city walls overlooking the ocean where we will enjoy a celebratory drink before making our way to our hotel situated in the historical centre where we will spend our final evening together.

Day 13
Departure: Cartagena Airport
Non Riding Day
  • Meals: Breakfast

All good things must come to an end and after having rested at our hotel and taken our final Colombian breakfast we take a morning transfer to Cartagena’s airport for the short flight to El Nuevo Dorado International Airport, Bogotá, to connect to international flights home.

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The Cycling

Terrain

Colombia offers a breathtakingly diverse landscape and our trip passes through everything from steamy lowland plains to lush rainforest and cloud forest to high altitude Andean mountain passes. The tour starts in Bogota which stands at 2600m above sea level, high enough for even the most experienced cyclists to feel the effects of altitude. At it’s highest, and coolest, the tour reaches almost 3700m, contrasting starkly with a number of near sea-level stages where it isn’t unusual for temperatures to exceed 30°C.

Generally the gradients on the longer Andean passes are gradual and relatively gentle although there are occasional steeper sections. Altitude can affect ability and, especially until fully acclimatised, even gentle gradients may feel more challenging than normal to some riders.

Many of the ascents, and naturally, their corresponding descents, are much longer than those in more traditional cycling destinations such as the Alps and Pyrenees and both activities require high levels of stamina and concentration.

Road conditions throughout the tour are generally good but do vary widely, ranging from surprisingly good to rather rough. Mountain weather can take a toll on road surfaces and things can, and do, change between visits. As a consequence it is not unusual to encounter short sections of unsealed roads.

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Road Cycling Grade

1
2
3
4
5
Grade 4 : Challenging

45-80 miles / 80-130 kms per day

For cyclists with stamina & a good level of fitness

Long & challenging days with multiple tough or high altitude ascents, with steep sections over extended distances

Long & often technically demanding descents

Road riding for experienced riders

Our grading guidelines have been carefully created based on our many years of cycling experience, as well as customer feedback from our trips. Of course, if you're still struggling to figure out where you fit on the scale, do feel free to give us a quick call and we'll be more than happy to help!

For more information about our grading system click here.

Is this suitable for you?

You‘re an enthusiast. It’s probably your main hobby and possibly the only sport you take seriously. You‘re in pretty good shape and you ride as often as you possibly can. You might participate in the occasional cyclo-sportive and when you do, you probably opt for the longest distances. You love bikes and fantasise about the latest model or the joy of a new set of wheels. You love challenges and you‘re looking for a tour with plenty of climbing, preferably with an opportunity to tick off some famous Tour de France cols or the like. You‘re a competent descender, and you‘re not afraid of speed, but you ride safely and within your limits at all times. You understand road etiquette and you‘re comfortable riding in a bunch. You‘re happy to do your stint at the front of the pack if the need arises. You know you can ride a century and probably have done a few. It sounds like you are a Grade 4.

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Absolute brilliant! I am hoping to book again for next year and that probably says it all. I have been on cycling holidays for over 35 years and this really is one of the best.

Karen, Worcestershire

Dates & Prices

*

Late Availability

We want you to know which holidays are coming up soon, so you don’t miss out! If a trip has this symbol beside it, it means you don’t have long to snap up your place.

Private Departures

Private Departures

Are you keen to only travel with your family or friends? Struggling to find the right date? Well, we can organise a private departure for this tour and tailor aspects to suit your group's specific needs. Contact our friendly team and we'll help you turn your dream into reality.

Start Date
End Date
Duration
Price p.p.
Start Date
* 28/05/2022
Guaranteed
Return Date
09/06/2022
Duration
13 days
Price
£3,155.00
Start Date
14/01/2023
Return Date
26/01/2023
Duration
13 days
Price
£3,155.00
Start Date
04/02/2023
Return Date
16/02/2023
Duration
13 days
Price
£3,155.00
Start Date
27/05/2023
Return Date
08/06/2023
Duration
13 days
Price
£3,155.00

Whats Included Tick

A) Accommodation (shared twin / double en suite rooms)

B) Meals as per the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)

C) Full tour service, including Skedaddle guides

D) Unless stated, at least one leader qualified in first aid

E) Support vehicle and luggage transfers

F) Airport transfer on scheduled arrival day from Bogota airport (BOG)

G) Airport transfer on scheduled departure day to Cartagena airport (CTG)

What's not Included Cross

A) Bike hire (available if required)

B) Flights and charges for travelling with your bike (if applicable)

C) Meals not stated in the itinerary

D) Single room (available if required)

E) Travel insurance

F) Personal clothing and equipment

G) Personal expenditure (souvenirs, bar bills, hotel facilities etc)

H) Entrance fees to museums and other attractions en route

I) Internal flight from Cartagena airport (CTG) to Bogota airport (BOG)

J) Airport transfers on days other than the scheduled arrival / departure days

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The Essentials

Travel Options

Airport transfers are included in the cost of your holiday. To join the transfer on the scheduled arrival day you will need to arrive in Bogota airport (BOG).

At the end of the tour we will transfer you on the scheduled departure day to Cartagena airport (CTG) for your connecting flight home.

Direct flights from the UK are available with Avianca departing from London Heathrow airport (LHR). Alternative options are Air France via Paris from a number of regional airports, Iberia via Madrid from London Heathrow and Lufthansa via Madrid from Heathrow and Manchester.

The internal flight from Cartagena is with either Latam Airlines or Avianca.

Please contact us for more detailed information on the specific flight schedules that we recommend for your holiday and please check with us before booking your flights so that we can ensure they fit in with the scheduled transfers.

Important Arrivals Info

Many people choose to arrive in Bogotá a day or two prior to the start of the trip in order to acclimatise to the altitude and, if you have the time available, we think that’s a great idea. If you do choose to arrive early we suggest that you stay in the Chapinero neighbourhood of Bogotá, it is a pleasant district with a great selection of hotels, restaurants and bars to suit almost all tastes and budgets. If you opt to stay in Chapinero, meeting up with the Skedaddle team and other members of the party will be very straightforward as this is where our pre-trip HQ is located. We recommend Hotel Bioxury, a very pleasant and well-located hotel which also serves as the official meeting point on arrival day for anyone arriving into Bogotá before the start of the trip.

If you opt for an alternative hotel we do still strongly recommend that you stay in the same neighbourhood as this will significantly ease the logistics of meeting the rest of the party. Wherever you choose to stay, if you do choose to arrive early, we request that you make your way to Hotel Bioxury, by 10.30 on the official start day.

If you are arriving on the scheduled arrival day, on the overnight Avianca flight (AV121) from London Heathrow, we strongly advise booking a hotel room for a few hours so that you can get some rest and freshen up before we transfer out to Cajica in the afternoon.

Accommodation

Accommodation is on a twin/shared basis in a combination of small hotels, lodges, and fincas, chosen for their location and hospitality. A single room option is normally available on payment of a single room supplement.

Bike Hire

If you don’t own a suitable bike or would prefer to avoid bringing your own we have bikes available to hire. These bikes are Argon 18, Krypton, carbon bikes with Shimano 105 components. If you do decide to hire we can include a helmet and all necessary spares for the trip. Please request helmets when booking. If you ride with clip-in pedals you will need to bring your pedals along with you.

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News, Reviews & Stories

Travel with the seasons in 2022

Hear from our specialists! Your chance to marvel at the authentic experiences that that make these places so special...

The Story Behind: Colombia

Find out everything about the trip from how it all started to our favourite holiday highlights...

Meet the team: David Hall

We caught up with our chief road cycling connoisseur for a little Q&A...

Reviews

23

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