14 DAY BACKCOUNTRY ADVENTURE RIDE
Rappelling, Canyoning, Emeralds, Waterfalls And A Hot Springs Resort. The Best Motorcycle Trip In South America!
Overview - For the guided tour, I put together an amazing route that you’re never going to forget. We will get to rappel down waterfalls, explore caves, mine for emeralds, take a boat ride through a jungle river, and relax at a hot springs resort.
We’ll ride through two Andes mountain ranges as well as the tropical Magdelena valley. 50% will be pavement with the other 50% being mild off-road between small villages.
Climbing out of warm tropical valleys at 28C into the high altitude tundra with temperatures of around 10C.
Not only are the trips adventurous, but they give us lots of time for unplanned stops to visit Colombian people along the way. This is easily one of the best motorcycle trips in South America.
Ride Time - The mountain roads of Colombia are known for their never-ending twists and turns. The total kilometers per day may seem small but given the winding roads are ascending or descending, our average speed can only be 40kph. On pavement, it will be a little bit more.
Once you include time for coffee and food, stopping for photographs, and the rough terrain, each day's ride will last a full 8 hours. Your group will be ready for a rest at the end of the day.
Eastern Andes - The first part of the trip will take us to the Eastern Andes mountain range. This hidden gem of Colombia has remained largely off the typical tourist track.
Waterfalls - Snake for miles through a narrow canyon surrounded by steep rock walls on both sides. Visit a remote three-tiered waterfall that plummets 1000 ft. down a sheer cliff-face from a high mountain cave. Spend the day exploring the cave and swimming in the pools below the waterfall.
Rappelling - A 1-hour hike through the jungle leads us to the top of a waterfall where we connect to rappelling gear and descend into a river canyon. Once we reach the bottom we disconnect the harnesses and wade through a crystal clear river while visiting a series of natural pools, waterfalls, and caves.
Emeralds - A visit to the world capital of emeralds. interact with local emerald miners. You can even buy emeralds directly from the miners in the field!
Central Andes - The second part of the trip will take us into Colombia's famous coffee region.
Volcanos and Wax Palm Forest - We will get to stay in small coffee farming villages, ride across an active volcano that is part of the national park system, and visit a wax palm forest and see the tallest palm trees in the world.
Hot Springs Resort - One of the hotels will be a hot springs resort with swimming pools that are heated by the nearby volcano. There are amazing views throughout the entire trip. You’re really going to enjoy it.
DAY 1 - Medellin - Landazuri
Leave Medellín we wind our way through the mountains outside of the city. The road is paved the entire way and features gentle sweeping curves that are easy to handle. This is an easy way to begin the trip and get used to driving in Colombia. Once we drop into the tropical Magdalena valley the terrain becomes flat for the next few hours. Towering in the distance we begin to close in on a totally new mountain range, the rugged Eastern Andes.
Here we begin to enter a tropical cloud forest where the temperature begins to cool off and is a welcome change compared to earlier in the day. Spending the night in the small town of Landázuri we can grab a bite to eat in the town square and prepare for the next day's ride.
Day 2 - Landazuri - Las Gachas
Popular with locals but still unknown to foreigners, Las Gachas is a series of natural "jacuzzi-like" pools along a shallow river bed. Your friends won't believe you when you tell them about this place. There are over a hundred pools along the creek where you can slide, swim, and immerse yourself in the pools. Some of the pools are small and only fit one person, while others are larger and can hold more than five people. The area is sometimes called the “rainbow river” since the color of the water appears to be red and green. These colors are due to the rocks and minerals in the river. There is an easy 10 to 15-minute walk to get there, but it's worth the effort, and the views are gorgeous.
Day 3 - Aguada - Florian
Florian is home to the Windows of Tisquizoque, a remote and rarely visited three-tiered waterfall that plummets from a mountain cave with fantastic views over the countryside.
Sealed off for decades due to its remote location and past guerrilla activity Florián is a town that hasn't yet been developed for tourism. Florián still feels new and authentic and you’ll be glad you visited before it becomes spoiled by mass tourism. Visiting the town square, talking to the locals, and eating home-cooked meals made by the restaurant owners give us a unique insight into small-town life in Colombia.
We’ll finish our journey on a road that snakes through a narrow canyon. Surrounded by steep rock walls on both sides we follow a winding river for miles before reaching our final destination, the town of Florián. The entire ride takes around five hours although stopping for photographs, coffee and food will turn it into an all-day ride.
Day 4 - Florian - Muzo
Today we visit the emerald miners. In the 1980s drug dealers fought the country's leading emerald mining families for rights to the emeralds. The mine owners fought back, turning Muzo into the most dangerous place in Colombia, and by the end of the decade, more than 6,000 people had been killed. Inevitably - as is often the case in Colombia - many of them were civilians caught up in the gun battles between rival paramilitary forces.
Now Muzo is a peaceful and beautiful place where we will be able to watch informal emerald miners known as guaqueros scour the river beds along the Itoco river in the Muzo valley in search of the precious stones. This is a great opportunity for documentary photography as well as a chance to speak with emerald miners about life in the mining camps and surrounding areas.
Day 5 - Muzo - La Dorada
Today is an amazing day of off-road riding as we cut through the middle of the Eastern Andes Mountain range. We ride through the jungle on remote off-road tracks visiting isolated and rarely visited towns. The ride is truly breathtaking and takes us through spectacular cloud forest landscapes with panoramic vistas from the ridges of the mountains. We end the day in the tropical Magdelena river valley.
Day 6 - La Dorada - Norcasia
Back into the mountains. Today we cross the Magdalena River valley and head back into Colombia's Central Andes mountain range.
We leave from Norcasia in the morning and take a drive to a beautiful hotel located at the Embalse Amaní. In the heart of the forest, Los Mikos Ecohotel will delight all those who wish to recharge their batteries and regain strength far from any civilization. Besides, the only way to access this disconnection space is to go by boat.
As soon as you arrive you will discover a superb view of the river and the surrounding nature. The hotel is composed of several wooden bungalows so as not to visually impact the environment.
Day 7 - Rest Day - Norcasia
Spend a full day relaxing at the pool, taking a boat ride on the lake, and exploring waterfalls and taking. There is also a beautiful natural pool located near the hotel that is great for swimming. You can also rent a kayak and explore the lake as well.
Day 8 - Norcasia - Caldas
Instead of heading directly to Salamina today, we will drive from into the jungle. From there, we take the backroads across the mountains to the isolated villages located in the department of Caldas. One of the most beautiful roads I've ever seen!
Day 9 - Caldas - Salamina
Salamina is Colombia's best-kept secret. Tucked away in a far-off corner of the coffee region, the beauty of Salamina is a sight to behold. The town itself is situated on the peak of a mountain, with entire streets sometimes appearing as if they are about to slide off the side of the mountain. Once we enter the town, we see why it has earned national heritage status. Houses climb the sloping streets with each one seeming determined to outdo its neighbors. Elaborate woodworking takes the form of intricately decorated doors, windows, balconies, and zócalos (the distinct lower sections of the whitewashed facades). It's hard to walk the streets of Salamina without constantly looking upward at the flower-filled balconies.
Day 10 - Rest Day - San Felix Wax Palm Forest
Today we take a trip over to the hamlet of San Felix and the nearby Samaria Valley. Here, growing on the slopes of lush green mountains, we find the national tree of Colombia, the Quindío Wax Palm. The wax palm is the tallest palm in the world, reaching heights of over four stories. Not only are the palms themselves beautiful, but they are home to green and yellow parrots, which can be seen flying overhead. The views across the valley are picture-perfect, and once you arrive, feel like you have somehow discovered a special place that hardly any other foreigner has set eyes upon.
The ride to the valley is as spectacular as the destination itself. The road out of Salamina takes us across a ridge with yet again, spectacular views of the town and the surrounding cloud forests with fog spilling over the treetops. The road is almost completely paved and makes for some easy riding before arriving in the small town of San Felix. San Felix is a pretty quiet place, and we won't see much activity other than the occasional local farmer wandering around the plaza dressed in his poncho and cowboy hat. This area is still relatively undiscovered, and it wouldn't be surprising if we were the only foreigners in town. Heading from San Felix to the wax palm forest, the road becomes unpaved but well maintained with hard-packed gravel. The ride to the palm forest is only 15 minutes and takes us through tropical forest and farmland with cows and horses dotting the lush green hillsides.
The wax palms of the Samaria Valley isn't the only sight to see. The surrounding area is filled with isolated off-road tracks that are perfect for riders wanting to explore more of the area. Visiting isolated towns such as Marulanda and Manzanares make great day trips if you wake up early. Continuing the drive south from Manzanares to the Nevado del Ruiz volcano is a great trip. Better yet, it keeps us out of the city traffic in Manizales. The ride is truly breathtaking and takes us through spectacular cloud forest landscapes with rolling fog spilling over the treetops.
Day 11 - Salamina - Termales del Otoño
Leaving Salamina we ride to the beautiful Termales del Otoño hotel located at the base of the Nevado Ruiz Volcano in Manizales. The hotel features a spa, restaurant, and 3 thermal pools heated by the nearby volcano. The water of the pools comes from a depth of almost 2,000 meters, and when it reaches the surface it can reach a temperature between 50 ° C and 68 ° C. The perfect place to relax after a week of riding.
Day 12 - Rest Day - Termales del Otoño
Spend the day relaxing in the hot springs of the hotel. The water of the pools comes from a depth of almost 2,000 meters, and when it reaches the surface it can reach a temperature between 50 ° C and 68 ° C. The perfect place to relax after a week of riding.
If you would like to go for a ride the famous Nevado Ruiz volcano is located nearby. Rides around the Nevado del Ruiz are often touted as “The best rides in Colombia.” You’ll ride up through the clouds until arriving in a high-altitude tundra known as Paramo. Sitting at 13,000ft you will be surrounded by ancient plants that look a lot like cactus. Called frailejones these plants are actually related to sunflowers and are over 150 years old. Although you are at a high altitude the temperatures aren’t freezing and the cool air feels more like a sunny day in the Swiss Alps than sitting on a stratovolcano on the equator.
Day 13 - Manizales - Sonson
The ride to Sonson is great. One of the best things about this ride is the miles and miles of exciting twists and turns. Ups, downs, ascending curves, descending curves, increasing radius curves, decreasing radius curves. You’re going to get a ton of riding experience on just this one road. The pavement here is in good shape and as is the case in lots of areas in the countryside, there is very little traffic.
Day 14 - Sonson - Medellin
The ride back to Medellín takes around 4 hours on a paved road and is fairly uneventful if there isn't any traffic. As you get closer to Medellin you will notice that the traffic begins to get heavier. Highway congestion from busses and people returning to Medellín can make the highway more challenging. The last leg of the trip dropping into Medellín's valley is a bit steeper so be sure to watch your speed and increase your following distance.
$3,485USD per person based on shared occupancy
+Add Pillion/Passenger $400USD ($25USD/Day)
+ Upgrade Single Room: +$800USD
Motorcycle Rental + Route Map Only -
$840USD - Honda XRE300/Kawasaki Versys 300
$980USD - Suzuki DR650
+Add Pillion/Passenger $400USD ($25USD/Day)
Hotels Not Included - Hotels are easily booked via booking.com or similar. This gives you the flexibility to make changes to your route as well as book hotels that fit your budget.
Gas Not Included - Gas isn't included but the bikes are fuel-efficient and gas isn't that expensive.
Some Skill Required - Do you know how to change a flat tire? If you’re a confident rider then maybe a self-guided tour is for you.
We aim to provide you with the best value for your money. Our trips and rentals include great bike, all riding gear, clean, budget-friendly hotels, and off-the-beaten-path locations for an authentic experience in Colombia:
Bilingual Guide / Photographer
Fuel and Road Tolls
Hotels - Clean, budget-friendly hotels
Cell Phone Holder with Wireless and USB Charging
SOAT - Colombia's mandatory liability insurance
Medical Insurance - (Just in case)
High-quality 50 Liter dry bags
Emergency Tool Kit and Spares
High-Quality Rain Jackets
GPS Tracking Device
Luggage Storage - While you’re out riding we can store your luggage at our office
Optional Motorcycle Lowering Kit
Pants and boots not included
Flexible Refund Policy - Cancellations 31 days or more will be allowed to reschedule or given a full refund. Cancellations 30 days or less prior to rental will be allowed to reschedule their trip at no cost. If rescheduling isn't possible you will be refunded the full price of the trip excluding the price of the hotels.
ALL GEAR INCLUDED
For maximum comfort and convenience, we recommend that you bring your own riding gear but if you need something we have quality gear available for you at no extra charge.
IS COLOMBIA SAFE?
Now it is. Gone are the days of kidnappings, drug lords, and guerrillas. We routinely encounter Colombian military checkpoints that ensure safe travel throughout the country. We've led hundreds of tours around the country and have never had any problems with security.
Anthony Bourdain summed it up perfectly:
"If you want to find bad people in Colombia, you can surely find them, as you could in New York or Los Angeles. But nowhere have my crew and I been treated better or with more kindness and generosity. I'd bring my family on vacation there in a heartbeat. And hope to soon. As I said before: Colombians are proud. Let them show you what they are proud of."