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Colombia-Brazil-Chile-Bolivia-Peru (Dec'17-Jan'18)

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Oct 5th, 2017, 11:56 AM
  #1
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Colombia-Brazil-Chile-Bolivia-Peru (Dec'17-Jan'18)

Hey there, my husband and I will be traveling to South America from Singapore for the first time in December this year (Dec'17 - Jan'18). We have a super packed itinerary - not ideal but it’s not like we will get to visit South America again anytime soon. We are being super ambitious with the goal of touching the highlights of 5 countries in a little over 5 weeks. I got some really helpful direction for our itinerary from a luxury travel agency we were looking to work with but couldn’t because of pricing/budget. So I have drafted a rough itinerary for us based on the best possible international flights we can get in and out of the continent. We may just be able to extend by 1 day on either side but I am sharing a less optimistic view for now. The itinerary is a bit odd and not organised in the most logical order but this is because we are limited by dates and we absolutely want to spend NYE in Rio (despite the ridiculous costs)!

We are looking for a mix of nature, colorful cities, pristine beaches, nightlife and culture. We love being by the water, local markets, handicrafts, good wines, good chocolate, hanging at the beach, etc. Would like to experience the local dance scene (not through commercial shows but local bars/streets/etc.) Not super sporty; light walking and some basic treks are fine but definitely not keen to do any hardcore hiking. If there are any spots/destinations famous for pottery or ceramics, I'd love to add those too. Even higher on the list would be chocolate tours/cocoa farms/chocolate and wine pairing kind of experiences. Nothing makes me happier than good dark chocolate!

Would love to get some help and expert opinion from this forum on our itinerary -
1. By and large, given the tight timeline, are we allocating the bare minimum time to each place? Any places where we should cut down days and add to others? Where will we be too rushed?
2. Would you reorder any cities/destinations within a country? We don’t have much flexibility on changing the order of the countries itself (except that we can go from Brazil—>Peru—> Bolivia—>Chile instead of Brazil—> Chile—>Bolivia—>Peru if that’s recommended.
3. How should we make our way from Santiago/Valparaiso to Torres del Paine? Best transfer options?
4. Is there a way to go from Patagonia (Torres del Paine) in Chile to Uyuni in Bolivia without crossing the Atacama desert? We want to be price and time conscious so we’d love to get suggestions on the best transfer option. Do not need to include Atacama on its own if it’s not necessary for the transfer.
5. 2 days too little in Uyuni? Is the 3 day tour highly suggested? And should we be booking a tour - any recommendations? - or going free and easy here? What should be our base while exploring the salt flats?
6. What is the best way to go from La Paz to Lake Titicaca? And what’s the best way to cross over from there to Cusco while seeing the Rainbow Mountain somewhere along the way? Is that even possible?
7. I get altitude sick very easily. Are we giving ourselves enough time to acclimatise in Cusco? Would a different order of destinations be better for us?
8. If we had to omit one place to giving ourselves more breathing room, would it be La Paz or Lake Titicaca? Should we be omitting anything?

That’s a lot for now! Thanks a ton in advance. We are excited for what will be a trip of a lifetime for us coming from Asia!!

~~
16-Dec - Colombia, Bogota
17-Dec - Colombia, Bogota
18-Dec - Colombia, Cartagena (Flight from Bogota to Cartagena)
19-Dec - Colombia, Cartagena
20-Dec - Colombia, Cartagena
21-Dec - Colombia, Cartagena/Santa Marta Day Trip
22-Dec - Colombia, Medllin (Flight from Cartagena to Medellin)
23-Dec - Colombia, Medllin
24-Dec - Colombia, Medellin/Guatapé
25-Dec - Colombia, Bogota (Flight from Medellin to Salvador via Bogota)
26-Dec - Brazil, Salvador
27-Dec - Brazil, Salvador da Bahia
28-Dec - Brazil, Salvador da Bahia
29-Dec - Brazil, Rio (Flight from Salvador to Rio)
30-Dec - Brazil, Rio
31-Dec - Brazil, Rio
1-Jan - Brazil, Rio (Flight from Rio to Iguazu at 9pm)
2-Jan - Brazil, Iguacu Falls (can only visit the Brazilian side due to visa constraints)
3-Jan - Brazil, Iguacu Falls (Flight from Iguazu to Santiago via Sao Paulo)
4-Jan - Chile, Santiago
5-Jan - Chile, Valpariaso (Bus/land transfer from Santiago to Valpariaso)
6-Jan - Chile, Valpariaso
7-Jan - Chile, Valpariaso/Casablanca Wine Valley
8-Jan - Chile, Patagonia/Torres del Paine (Flight to Patagonia)
9-Jan - Chile, Patagonia/Torres del Paine
10-Jan - Chile, Patagonia/Torres del Paine
11-Jan - Chile, Atacama
12-Jan - Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni
13-Jan - Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni
14-Jan - Bolivia, La Paz (Flight fom Uyuni to La Paz)
15-Jan - Bolivia, La Paz/Moon Valley
16-Jan - Bolivia, Lake Titicaca/ Isla del Sol
17-Jan - Bolivia, Lake Titicaca/Uros Floating Islands
18-Jan - Peru, Cusco/Rainbow Mountain
19-Jan - Peru, Cusco
20-Jan - Peru, Cusco
21-Jan - Peru, Machu Picchu (By train)
22-Jan - Peru, Sacred Valley Flight from Cusco to Lima
23-Jan - Peru, Lima (Fly back from Lima to Singapore)
chimes0709 is offline  
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Oct 5th, 2017, 02:11 PM
  #2
 
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I just visited Iguacu Falls--amazing.
I can tell you that one day is sufficient to walk along the walkways on the Brazilian side. You can also take a boat ride into the spray of some of the falls, but we didn't do that, so I am unsure how much time required/price/whether to reserve in advance. There are other boat trips and a few trails, but looking at the falls is the highlight. It gets very busy 10am-3pm (it was single file, waiting in line on parts of the walkway), so if you can afford a night at the Belmond hotel, you get early access and/or late access. Otherwise, you can enter at 9am, I think, and last bus out at 6:30pm--enough time. Hotels outside the park are up to half the cost of the Belmond, so you may want to save on hotel. Friends stayed at San Martin hotel just outside gate (walking distance), but I haven't heard what their experience was like.

The park is close to airport, so I would suggest staying near there rather than in the town because you would waste limited time on riding bus or taxi back and forth to town.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 02:22 PM
  #3
 
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Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) elevation. You will be at high elevation before Cusco and for about 9 days in Bolivia and Peru. This could be a problem if you are sensitive.

I have headaches, trouble sleeping, and nosebleeds starting at 5,000 feet, but I love the mountains. I visited Cusco, Machu Picchu and Lake T. for 4-5 days, drinking lots of water and drinking the local coca tea. I didn't get very ill, but I definitely didn't feel 100%. I had to take some medicine for headaches and I did get nosebleeds. Unfortunately, my husband became very ill, vomiting, and losing consciousness. However, we believe it was something he ate and not just the elevation.
We saw several people who had hiked to MP vomiting and lying down upon reaching the end of the trail. Of course, all rest were not, so the majority did not feel ill effects.

I'm not trying to discourage you--I enjoyed seeing MP and Lake T., but it was not easy nor a relaxing trip.
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Oct 5th, 2017, 08:33 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: May 2004
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Your itinerary looks a little rushed in places but basically, pretty good.

A few specific comments:

I would probably lose a day in Cartagena and possibly Medellin and add time in the zona cafetera, perhaps Jardin or Salento. Some info and photos of our time there last year in the Colombian section of our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/colombia/

Loved Bogota and a side trip to Zipiquira is worth considering. The only chocolate place I can th8nk of is on the main plaza in Villa de Leyva, another possible Sid trip from Bogota.

Salar de Uyuni and te surrounding altiplano is amazing and deserves a day more. 3 nights would be perfect. Presumably you are flying on to LP? There are plenty of tours leaving from San Pedro de Atacama covering all the sights. SP de A is nice enough but mega expensive compared with Bolivia and I would just use it as a staging point. I think you will need to book a tour from there. It is easy to turn up in Uyuni or Tupiza and get a tour straigh away but I doubt tha5 would be the case there. You could try Tupiza Tours or Red Planet but I don’t know of any specific operators there.

Rather than moon valley, there is enough to keep you busy in La Paz. Banjo Tours do a number of day trips in LP and El Alto which would cover the main sites, possibly Moon Valley could be incorporated. Details of our time with them are in the Bolivia section of our blog.

Isla Del Sol is a great trip from Copacabana, much nicer that the Uros islands IMO.

If you cut Uros, you could perhaps add a day in te sacred valley which seems a little short changed or even a day in Lima, an oft neglected city with a lot to see and some amazing food.

3. Pretty sure you would have to get a bus to Santiago and fly from there. Bus is abou5 2 hours as I recall

4. The only flights to Uyuni are from LP. Flying to Calamaand bus to SPdeA is likely your best option.

5. See comments above

6. To get to Titicaca you get a bus from LP main station to Copacabana. 4-5 hours and a very scenic trip. Copa is nice and a half day to Isla Del Sol was enough for me. As suggested above, I would skip Uros. One of the tour buses from Puno to Cusco covers a lot of sights along the way Inka Express is well known and pretty good.

7.your problems with altitude will be in Salar de Uyuni not Cusco. A night in SPDe A will help a little. Most people suffer on the altiplano, it is just a question of how much. I can’t really see anyway of avoiding this unless you turn the whole Itinerary around and somehow put Peru towa4ds the beginning and spend a couple of nights in the Sacred Valley before Cusco which is the generally accepted way of dealing with altitude. You could also consult your docto to see if Diamox is suitable for you. It helped me a lot last year when, due to my bad planning, we had to go straight to 3800m in te Cordillera Blanca. I coped fine.

Sorry if this is a little convoluted, but I hope it helps rather than hinders. Happy to answer any other qu3stions that may arise.
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Oct 6th, 2017, 07:48 AM
  #5
 
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We used Inka Express from Cusco to Lake T. It wasn't a pleasant ride due to strikes disrupting the schedule when we were there plus malfunctioning ventilation system.
We bought the tickets via Paypal credit card and my card was later used on a fake website to purchase goods/charge my credit card via Paypal.
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Oct 6th, 2017, 01:21 PM
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I have done the Inka Express twice, once in each direction and found them to be very good. Good guides, on time and working air conditioning. Strikes are a regular occurrence in Peru and disrupting traffic is the activity of choice for most industrial action.

Never had any problems with cc fraud but then I always use a VPN when transacting anything financial or private online, especially on public WiFi such as hotels. Your problems could have stemmed from anywhere not just Inka Express. PayPal don’t have the greatest track record for these things!

Worth noting that you can book seats via email with IE and they will deliver te tickets to your hotel and you can pay in cash.
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Oct 7th, 2017, 09:58 AM
  #7
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Thank you all for the very useful comments. Digesting them all, re-working some details in our itinerary and I'll report back with updates and more questions in a day or two. Thanks again!
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Oct 7th, 2017, 01:28 PM
  #8
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As promised, I am back with new questions. I am really concerned about altitude sickness after reading some of the comments here. Read up some more on other blogs and forums and the idea of going straight to Uyuni definitely sounds awful. So I am trying to reroute the plan. Does this make more sense and is this feasible? @Kay2 and @crellston, I'd love to get your opinions. Thanks!

No major changes in the itinerary until Patagonia on 10 Jan.
11-Jan - Chile, Flight to Cusco (via Santiago and Lima)
12-Jan - Peru, Cusco/Sacred Valley
13-Jan - Peru, Cusco/Rainbow Mountain
14-Jan - Peru, Machu Picchu
15-Jan - Peru, Cusco/Rainbow Mountain
16-Jan - Bolivia, Lake Titicaca/ Isla del Sol
17-Jan - Bolivia, Lake Titicaca/ Isla del Sol
18-Jan - Bolivia, La Paz
19-Jan - Bolivia, La Paz
20-Jan - Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni
21-Jan - Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni
22-Jan - Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni
23-Jan - Peru, Flight to Lima
24-Jan- Peru, Fly back from Lima to Singapore
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Oct 7th, 2017, 06:03 PM
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As far as AMS is concerned, the revised route looks much better and allows for more gradual acclimatisation. To assist the process further I would suggest going straight to the Sacred Valley from Cusco airport and spendin* the night in Ollantaytambo which is at a lower altitude than Cusco and is a wonderful place with some amazing ruins of its own. Trains to Agua Calientes for MO are much more frequent from there. MP itself is at a similar height and this will prepare you for the higher altitude of Cusco which should be your last and highest stop in the area.

I would get a car and driver like taxidatumto collect you from Ollantaytambo and spend 4-5 hours visiting the major sights along the SV like Moray, Maras, Chinchero etc.

11 Jan will be a VERY long days flying. Is there any way you could break the jjourney in Lima.

Overall it is looking better but I would qualify this by suggesting that you check out the flight timingsa and connections. In particular the Patagonia- Cusco leg and also the ending of your salt tour and the flight to Lima via La Paz.
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Oct 12th, 2017, 02:58 PM
  #10
 
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26-Dec - Brazil, Salvador
27-Dec - Brazil, Salvador da Bahia
28-Dec - Brazil, Salvador da Bahia
29-Dec - Brazil, Rio (Flight from Salvador to Rio)
30-Dec - Brazil, Rio
31-Dec - Brazil, Rio
1-Jan - Brazil, Rio (Flight from Rio to Iguazu at 9pm)

Are you able to find lodging for these dates in those locations? Normally Reveillon (NYE) lodging is sold in multi-night packages, particularly in Rio, but also in Salvador, often from Dec. 28 to Jan 1 or 2. Usually there is no need for the hotels to compromise on this for those who desire fewer nights. However, perhaps with the terrible economy, tourism may be down enough for this not to be the case. Do be aware though.
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Oct 25th, 2017, 11:10 AM
  #11
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Hey again, everyone! We have significantly revamped our itinerary and are feeling good about the changes, e.g. we removed Iguazzu and Lake Titicaca and added more time in Rio to relax + 2 nights in Arraial Do Cabo/Buzios. We've also managed to get the right order for acclimatisation in Peru/Bolivia starting with Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and then Cusco followed by La Paz and Salar de Uyuni. I would paste the full itinerary here but an excel spreadsheet doesn't transfer well.

Now onto some fine-tuning within our Colombian itinerary - @crellston, you mentioned some great suggestions for adding places like Jardin but here's the situation -
We will land in Bogota on 15 Dec past midnight (between 12 am to 2 am on 16 Dec) after having traveled for ~35-40 hours. Here's what we have for now -
16 Dec - Bogota
17 Dec - Bogota
18 Dec - Avianca AV9542 from Bogota to Cartagena at 9:00 AM, landing at 10.32 am (we have a way cheaper option using miles to arrive in Cartagena at 6.00 pm but we lose the whole day)
19 Dec - Cartagena
20 Dec - Cartagena
21 Dec - Cartagena (husband's birthday)
22 Dec - VivaColombia FC8077 from Cartagena to Medellin at 8:35 AM, landing at 9.50 am (we have a way cheaper option using miles to arrive in Medellin at 3.35 pm but we lose the day again)
23 Dec - Medellin
24 Dec - Medellin/Guatapé
25 Dec - Avianca + Avianca Brasil from Medellin to Salvador via Bogota at 06:03 am - insanely long day of travel

Bogota - 2ish days, Cartagena - 4 days, Medellin - 3 days

I think 16 Dec will be largely spent resting, at most with some super easy walks around town. We then have only a day to explore Bogota. We could extend our stay here if take the later flight to Cartagena on 18 Dec - is that recommended vs. cutting down time in Cartagena?

We could also stick to the current flight from Bogota to Cartagena but cut a whole day and fly earlier to Medellin to squeeze in a trip to Jardin. But it would mean flying on my husband's birthday and not sleeping in/having a relaxed start to the day.

We want to soak in the town and not rush sightseeing anywhere. It wouldn't even hurt if we just spent half a day with a bottle of wine/beers by the roadside somewhere rather than moving from one spot/museum to another.

Bogota-Cartagena-Medellin flights are not booked but everything else is. So what do you suggest we do with our time to soak in all the amazing suggestions you have and not make it super hectic (than it already is)? Any input will be super helpful!
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Oct 25th, 2017, 11:24 AM
  #12
 
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Just having a look at the Chile portion.

4-Jan - Chile, Santiago
5-Jan - Chile, Valpariaso (Bus/land transfer from Santiago to Valpariaso)
6-Jan - Chile, Valpariaso
7-Jan - Chile, Valpariaso/Casablanca Wine Valley
8-Jan - Chile, Patagonia/Torres del Paine (Flight to Patagonia)
9-Jan - Chile, Patagonia/Torres del Paine
10-Jan - Chile, Patagonia/Torres del Paine
11-Jan - Chile, Atacama

Santiago to Valparaiso is easy enough. Frequent buses during the day and takes about 2 hours.

To get from Santiago to Torres del Paine is, realistically, going to take a day or two. The park is 5 hours by road from Punta Arenas, the main access airport. It is 2.5 hours from Puerto Natales, which has a small airport.Latam has flights but not every day.

Everything in Torres del Paine has to be booked in advance, including camping. You want to visit at the busiest time of the year. It is not really practical to stay in Puerto Natales and drive to the park each day as it is 2-2.5 hrs just to an entrance, which does not include getting to locations inside the park. Make sure you have the lodging covered before booking flights.

Going between Punta Arenas to the Atacama means a change of flight in Santiago. The later you book flights the more expensive they are. You have to build in travel days.
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Oct 25th, 2017, 02:49 PM
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Yes, look for those flights direct to Puerto Natales.
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Oct 26th, 2017, 02:52 AM
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Thanks, Huentetu and mlgb.

On Chile, our itinerary has changed. We are transferring from Salar de Uyuni to Atacama on 14 Jan.

15 Jan - Transfer to Calama and flight from Calama + LATAM Airlines Group LA341 from Calama to Santiago at 2:51 PM, arriving at 4.52 pm
16 Jan - Flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas, landing at 9.35 am, transfer to Torres del Paine lodge
17 Jan - Torres del Paine
18 Jan - Torres del Paine
19 Jan - Torres del Paine
20 Jan - Transfer from Torres del Paine to Punta Arenas; Sky Airline H28 from Punta Arenas to Santiago at 1:10 PM, arriving at 4.30 pm
21 Jan - Bus to Valparaiso
22 Jan - Valparaiso
23 Jan - Valparaiso
24 Jan - Valparaiso, wine valley, back to Santiago
25 Jan - Departure from Santiago to Singapore via Melbourne at 12.30 pm

Flights to Puerto Natales are forbiddingly expensive so we'll stick to the longer transfer from Torres del Paine.

Still hoping to get input on the Colombian itinerary posted yesterday
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Oct 26th, 2017, 05:17 AM
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Understandable.
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Oct 26th, 2017, 05:36 AM
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I have only spent one day in Cartagena. An atmosphere right out of Pirates of the Caribbean in the old town. Coming from Singapore you should be able to handle the heat and humidity.

Several in Bogota, where there is a TON to see in addition to graffiti, the gold museum and the Botero (went twice). If you skip Medellin perhaps you have time for a trip to the Salt Cathedral and Villa de Leyva which is a lovely colonial town near Bogota, popular with Bogota elites so good dining options (good ice cream and a famous desert Milhoja (like a Napoleon covered in caramel). Very interesting house just outside town called Casa de Barro or Casa Terracota, reminds one of Gaudi a bit. Saturday market is good.

I will be in Medellin in December but can't offer any insights yet.

I wonder if you should cut Medellin entirely if that is still possible. Then you could do a side trip to the salt cathedral and Villa de Leyva instead of Medellin, and more time in Bogota and avoid that crazy days travel on the 25th
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Oct 26th, 2017, 05:56 AM
  #17
 
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Re Colombia. I am a fan of less is more. Jardin , is around 3-4 hours each way as I recall so I would forget about that, although, having said that one of the main attractions of Volombia for us were the small towns and th countryside. Didn’t make it to Guatapé so can’t really comment. For some reason it just didn’t appeal.

In both Bogota and Medellin we took half day "free" tours ( i.e. tips only) which were a great way to see some of each city, get some basic info and it set us up for wandering around on our own. In Medellin a cable car up into the hills was a great way to get a perspective on th city. In both cities te museums are excellent esp.bogotas Museo de Oro.

We both preferred Bogota to Medellin but that is a very subjective choice. I think I would add a day to Bogota if at all possible, I think I would lose one in Cartagena which is very compact and v. Easy to get around. That said, Cartagena is the best place to chill out with a glass of wine or a beer!
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Oct 26th, 2017, 05:59 AM
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One further thought! If the flights work out, maybe skip Medellin, and add in a couple of days in Villa de Leyva from Bogota, which would provide a taste of small town Colombia. Or maybe I am just complicating things??
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Oct 26th, 2017, 07:01 AM
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Great minds think alike.
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Oct 26th, 2017, 07:39 AM
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How I wish I had posted my questions before booking the outbound flight from Medellin. I am thinking of skipping Medellin too but our return out of Colombia is booked from Medellin (albeit on a miles reception so we don't lose a ton of money in cancelation - let me check).

Would we still have to fly to Medellin to go to Jardin though? Maybe we stick to Medellin and just go straight to Jardin for 1-2 nights and come back for our return?

Not sure why but Villa de Leyva just hasn't appealed to me. What am I missing? Let me do some more research. Cutting a day in Cartagena by adding one in Bogota is not a bad idea. I wouldn't add on the other side in Medellin though, right?
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