14 DAY EASTERN MOUNTAIN RANGES
On-Road, off-road, low-cost and luxury, From the high altitude mountains to low lying valleys, this motorcycle trip has it all
This 14-day South America motorcycle tour explores Colombia’s Eastern Ranges (Cordillera Oriental), widely regarded as the wildest of the country’s three Andean ranges. Lesser-known, lesser-visited, and with an insane array of exhilarating roads that are tailor-made for motorcycle touring, the Eastern Ranges are home to some of our favorite motorcycle-playgrounds.
There’s something here for everyone – Short ride days leave us plenty of time to enjoy the more cultural and historic destinations whilst longer riding days, on winding mountain roads, place the emphasis on the riding experience and the sensational landscapes. This tour has something for everyone: fast riding on paved roads, rough roads to get the juices flowing, high-altitude passes and spectacular low-lying valleys.
The best of Colombia in 14 extraordinary riding days?
The Wild, Wild East – Ride your motorcycle from Medellin straight east to the Cordillera Oriental, home to some of the most exciting motorbiking routes in the country
Climb The Rock - Soak up “the most spectacular views in Colombia” from the top of famous Piedra de Peñol in Guatape, with its 740-step stairway to the heavens
Páramo - Fantastic high-altitude riding across the Colombian Páramo, one of the world’s rarest and most bio-diverse ecosystems – enjoy the country’s longest road ascent!
Antioquia – Colombia’s second-biggest agricultural powerhouse, the Antioquia region is primarily mountainous although it’s dotted with an array of verdant valleys – sensational landscapes that make for rewarding motorcycle riding
Bogota – Tick Colombia’s bustling capital off you must-visit list
Bocaya – Right at the heart of Colombia’s fight for independence, the Department of Bocaya flanks the Easter Mountains and is renowned for its exquisite towns, an abundance of wilderness, dramatic peaks, and densely forested valley – a biker’s absolute dream ride
Jaw-dropping Roads & Scenery– Enjoy the kind of sensory overload that can only be experienced when on a South America motorcycle tour through a kaleidoscope of landscapes, altitudes, and climates
Day 1 – Medellin to Guatapé (99km / 62mi)
We get a head start on this motorcycle tour and set off from Medellin early in the morning when there’s still a chill in the air and the city has yet to wake from its slumber. Heading straight east, we aim for Guatapé, a gorgeous colonial town that sits on the shores of a glistening blue reservoir – this is, by far, the most popular weekend getaway destination for paisas, folks who live in the surrounding valleys.
Before reaching the town center, we swing by the striking El Peñon de Guatape monolith, which we climb for an unforgettable 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape. The town itself is an absolute charm, with brightly coloured houses and streets bursting with cool cafés and restaurants. Fancy a piping hot empanada and refreshing cerveza michelada for dinner? You got it!
Recommended Hotel: Zocalo Campestre
Day 2 – Guatapé to Sonsón (140km / 87mi)
Sonsón is a picturesque town of barely 18,000 souls, nestled in the remote highlands of Antioquia, one of Colombia’s most fertile regions and one blessed with undulating verdant hills, cool nights, and deliciously warm days. Agriculture is, and always has been, at the very core of Sonsón’s essence and here you’ll find a landscape dotted with coffee, maize, beans, and tomato plantations.
The town suffered greatly during Colombia’s agonizingly long internal conflict and, unfortunately, still bears the scars of prolific land-mining. If you’re keen, we can visit the Halo Trust, one of several agencies that are busy de-mining the surrounding mountainous terrain.
Tonight, we’ll stay in a 200-year-old hotel that’s filled with eclectic antiques and boasts a balcony that overlooks the main square and offers sweeping countryside views.
Recommended Hotel: El Tesoro
Day 3 – Sonsón to Salamina (87km / 54mi)
Salamina is an enchanting town that received National Historic Heritage status in 1982. The town sits atop a hill and is defined by its narrow and steep streets and its distinctively colorful architecture, with grand homes boasting intricately carved window frames and doorways. Part of a cluster of historic towns known as Pueblos Patrimonios, Salamina holds immense cultural value. Standing right at the heart of Colombia’s Coffee Axis, this town was the original coffee-growing hub, the one that spearheaded the country’s most internationally renowned export.
With a super-cool historic center, a maze of shop-lined alleyways, and a main square that makes for ideal people-watching, Salamina is a Colombian pearl you won’t want to miss.
Recommended Hotel: Casa de Lola Garcia
Insider’s Tip: Google Maps is ingenious at getting motorbike adventure riders on the right road, except when it most definitely isn’t – the way to Salamina is one such example.
Google will probably insist you follow a path that’s barely big enough to be a hiking trail and, in this instance, feel free to ignore it and ask locals for directions instead. Ironically enough, you may meet people who live close to Salamina and who may not even know where the main road is – a rule of thumb when riding remote regions of Colombia? When in doubt, ask three people and go with the majority!
And remember that the road to Salamina, although no 4-lane highway, is no walking trail either: this is a wide unpaved road that accommodated both cars and trucks
Day 4 - Free Day in Salamina
Recommended Hotel: Casa de Lola Garcia
While staying in Salamina, we leave one day aside for a trip over to the hamlet of San Felix and the nearby Samaria Valley. Here we will find the national tree of Colombia, the Quindío Wax Palm. The wax palm (also known as Palma de Cera or Ceroxylon Quindiuense) is the tallest palm in the world, and was officially adopted as a national symbol of Colombia in 1985. Found along the central and eastern Andes of Colombia, the Cocora valley of Quindío department is a popular place for visitors to see these magnificent trees that can grow up to a height of 60m (~200 ft). The trip is filled with spectacular scenery and once you arrive you feel like you have somehow discovered a special place that hardly any other foreigner has set eyes upon.
Day 5 – Salamina to Mariquita (188km / 117mi)
The sensory overload of this South America motorcycle trip continues today as we take to the road for the long but beautiful ride to Mariquita, a town drenched in historic ruins and sensational natural surroundings that hide a bevy of waterfalls. We leave the high-altitude mountains behind to soak up the heat of the low-lying valleys.
Day 6 – Mariquita to Bogota (175km / 109mi)
Today, we tackle one of the most exciting rides of the entire trip: a 2,200m (7,200ft) ascent to reach Bogota, the capital of Colombia. You’ll need steely nerves to tackle traffic in the big smoke BUT you’ll be rewarded with an afternoon’s visit to the most prized landmarks in La Candelaria, a mouth-watering hot chocolate with side-serve of soft cheese (trust us, you’ll be a convert!) and, for dinner, a steaming bowl of ajiaco soup, a Bogota specialty that packs an insanely tasty punch.
Day 7– Bogota to Tauramena (305km / 190mi)
Dodging the morning peak-hour traffic out of Bogota will be our main priority today, and you’ll be mightily glad for the early start given this will be our longest riding day of the whole trip. Settle you rear-end into that saddle, polish that visor and settle in for a phenomenal ride.
The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Tauramena is our aim today but we’ll be passing several charming towns along the way that make for excellent leg-stretching breaks so we’ll take it easy and really soak up the scenery.
The region of Causanare is not usually on many tourist’s wish-lists but we think this is one of Colombia’s hidden gems: luscious plains home to wildlife, a fantastic array of dramatic landscapes along the foothills of the Eastern Andes and, if truth be told, some of the best coffee in all of Colombia.
Today is about wilderness, winding roads, and wonderful sights!
Day 8 – Tauramena to Socha (210km / 130mi)
Back up to the high-altitude Andes we ride today as we aim for Socha (2,700masl / 8,757ft) the gateway the spectacular snowy peaks of El Cocuy. This region holds a special place in the heart of all Colombians, as this was the site of the famous Battle of Bocoya’ in 1819, the final push that drove the Spaniards our and secured independence for New Granada, modern-day Colombia.
This land of eye-popping vistas is revered for its incredible nature and welcoming people and is considered one of the best hiking destinations in the country, that’s way off the beaten path. It might sound just a lil’ cheesy, but we feel immensely honored to be able to share this paradise on earth with fellow adventure riders.
This is a side of Colombia not many even know exists, let alone visit.
Day 9 – Socha to El Cocuy (113km / 70mi)
The New York Times named El Cocuy ‘The Secret Colombia Above the Clouds” and it’s indeed true that, at this breath-taking altitude, you’ll experience the country from a whole new perspective. On the bikes, it’ll feel as if we’re tickling the skies, riding dizzying altitudes (almost 5,000masl/16,404ft!) and being totally overwhelmed by the snow-capped peaks that surround us on all sides.
The El Cocuy National Park may be unknown outside dedicated hiking circles but, for those in the know, the peaks here represent Colombia’s last true untamed wilderness. Crazy guys with ropes and crampons (and anti-freeze in their veins) head here to tackle unbelievable trails, cross ancient glaciers and skirt iridescent lakes of a thousand shades of blue.
Day 10 – El Cocuy to Soata (88km / 55mi)
After a spectacular sunrise over the Sierra Nevada of El Cocuy, we’ll hop on our saddles and head back down the western slopes of the Andes to Soata (1,950masl/6,397ft), a charming town framed by forested hills that are home to some of Colombia’s rarest and most endangered birds.
Soata boasts an interesting history that dates back over 550 years. Nowadays, locals still lead a predominantly subsistent farming life and you’ll find the surroundings dotted with ranches and farms. The cultivation of dates is huge business here and the town is considered the date palm capital of Colombia.
Day 11 – Soata to San Gil (145km / 90mi)
If you’re a lover of extreme sports, then San Gil is the one town on our motorcycle tour itinerary that you may have heard about.
If you prefer to get your thrills on a bike instead, enjoy the magnificent ride to San Gil and, once there, head up to El Penon Guane viewpoint and restaurant, where you can sip a cold cerveza and soak up the resplendent views. The town is a gem of wonderful colonial-era architecture, brimming with steep roads and friendly locals – somehow, the extreme sport tourism has left its laid-back mark on San Gil, making it a very enjoyable place to spend the night.
The awesome empanadas don’t hurt one bit 😉
Day 12 – Free Day in San Gil (220km / 136mi) - White Water Rafting
San Gil straddles the Rio Fonce (a very popular whitewater rafting destination) and is strategically located near some of the country’s most impressive canyons (like Chichamocha) where adrenalin-addicts get their canyoning, bungee-jumping, extreme kayaking, rafting and paragliding fix. Use today to enjoy some extreme sports or just chill out and enjoy the town.
Day 13 – San Gil to Duitama (220km / 136mi)
Lining the shores of the Chichamocha River at an altitude of 2,522masl (8,274ft), Duitama is yet another adventure-sport and cultural gem of the Cordillera Oriental. Right nearby is where you’ll find Pueblito Boyacense, a kind of ‘condensed’ representation of Boyaca Department’s eclectic mix of architecture, customs and cultures. This all-in-one village reproduction may sound like a kitschy tourist-trap but is, in fact, a fascinating and immensely relaxing place to visit – even though you may by now have seen enough Eastern Mountain towns to get the gist of the fusion of cultures here.
Duitama is a charming mountain town, famous for being a pit-stop on the Tour Colombia professional cycling race, so you know those ascents and hairpin turns are gonna be epic! The town’s colonial core is home to a gorgeous cathedral and a vibrant main plaza (Plaza de los Libertadores) that’s a hive of social activity, especially on sunny weekends.
Day 14 – Duitama to Villa de Leyva (92km / 57mi)
The colonial village of Villa de Leyva is revered for boasting the biggest cobblestone plaza in the whole continent and, although the square is impressive enough, the town’s authentic vibe is the real highlight. Set on an arid plateau in the high Bocaya mountains, Villa has been left almost completely unperturbed by mining or commercialization of any kind and is a 400-year-old town that’s seemingly stuck in a time-warp of sorts.
Enchanting to the max, this is probably the one town we’d recommend visiting in the Eastern Mountain Ranges if you were ever pressed for time and could only visit one. Given its proximity to Bogota, Valle de Leyva is one of the most touristed towns in this region but, trust us, it remains an unmissable destination on our tour.
Day 15 – Villa de Leyva to Otanche (136km / 84mi)
Often dubbed “The Forgotten Paradise”, the area around small and unassuming Otanche is an expensive region of dense forests that hide a stunning cache of natural wonders. This is a land of hidden canyons dotted with multi-tiered waterfalls, emerald-hued lakes and rivers, and an abundance of caves, inhabited by an array of colorful, exotic birds. The ride down towards the Magdalena Valley, and Otanche, is extraordinary.
Eastern Carib tribes were the first to settle in this area (and also the first to mine for emeralds) but they were almost totally wiped out by the Spanish in the late 16th century. Nowadays, the area around Otanche is recognized for its prime biodiversity and much of it is set aside as a protected reserve.
Day 16 – Otanche to Medellin (300km / 186mi)
The day no-one ever looks forward to! This morning, after an early breakfast, we’ll set off on the long ride home, soaking up the last of the superlative scenery.
It’s time to bring this unforgettable adventure to an end.
Itching for more?
As you may already know, the best way to tackle the post-trip blues is to get stuck into the planning of the next one!
$3,485USD per person based on shared occupancy
+Add Pillion/Passenger $490USD ($35USD/Day)