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9 Day Cycling Holiday from Medllín to Salento in Colombia

Hotel Acqua, Medellin, Colombia

Colombia Cycling Holiday

Colombia has opened up to be a haven for the intrepid traveler. Boasting incredible cycling roads and off-the-beaten-tracks for adventure lovers, unforgettable rhythms and beats for music aficionados, and insight into coffee from the bean to the cup, Colombia is emerging as the next biggest tourist destination on the planet.

Key Information

  • Trip type: Guided
  • Lodging: Point to Point
  • Terrain: Mixed, bitumen, and some hills
  • Starts in: Medellin
  • Ends in: Salento
  • Difficulty level: Challenging (Cyclist needs to have a high level of fitness, must be an active rider, the terrain includes really challenging climbs/or 46-80 or more miles per day)
  • Total Distance: 387 Miles / 624 Kilometers
  • Type of bike: Mountain bike
  • Minimum of 6 participants

Meet the instructors

Brett & Ashley
Read more

Highlights

  • Full bicycle hire
  • 8 nights accommodation
  • Full support vehicle for the ride with water and fruit
  • Multiple field trips to villages and entry to various cathedrals and museums
  • Minimum two NGO presentations with local staff across Colombia
  • Local guides, support van driver, and mechanic
  • Three meals daily

Skill level

  • Intermediate

Styles


8 cycling days in English
The organizer also speaks: Spanish
Group size: Maximum of 12 participants
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Accommodation

Check-in Time:
16:00
Check-out Time:
10:00

The starting hotel is Hotel Acqua in Medellin. Social Cycles understand how important it is to take rest in a place that’s clean and comfortable, especially after a hard slog on the bikes; that’s why they always make an effort to get you settled in somewhere in town suited to that description. Where they can, they will organize boutique style accommodation for everyone because quite frankly, you deserve it. All accommodation will be clean, comfortable, and secure. Each room will have air conditioning, a private bathroom, and amenities. Accommodation is based on twin share but a single supplement is available.

The hotels

Social Cycles choose hotels that are clean and comfortable. The rooms are clean and secure. They will usually (but not always) have a fridge and a safe for you to put your belongings. All rooms have private bathrooms and will come with amenities and fresh towels. The tour is based on twin share accommodation, however, a single supplement is available if you would like your own room for the duration of the tour.

Bathrooms

There are very few public toilets in Colombia. In their absence, use a restaurant’s toilet. Museums and large shopping malls usually have public toilets, as do bus and airport terminals and some supermarkets. You’ll often (but not always) find toilet paper in toilets; it’s wise to carry some with you. Never flush toilet paper. The pipes are narrow and the water pressure is weak, so toilets can’t cope with paper. A wastebasket is normally provided.

The most common word for toilet is baño. Men’s toilets will usually bear a label saying señores, hombres, or caballeros, while the women’s toilets will be marked señoras, mujeres, or damas. Bus station restrooms will usually charge 800 COP to 1000 COP plus 200 COP to 300 COP for toilet paper.

Toilets On The Road

If the group is on the road and you suddenly need to use a toilet, just let the local guide know and they’ll find a family home that can host you for a few moments. The community lifestyle in rural villages makes this incredibly easy but the local assistance from the SC team is essential. Bring toilet paper or tissues with you but use a bin instead of flushing it down the toilet, as the system cannot take it and you may end up blocking their drains.

Program

This journey goes far beyond Colombia’s coffee regions, live music scene, and majestic mountain scenery as you’ll connect with former gang members now working towards peace and urban renewal via local organizations. Get firsthand insight into the problems of yesterday, the challenges that still stand, and what the solutions for tomorrow look like.

Social Cycles will take you on a journey to interact and connect with local grassroots Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and the beneficiaries of a funded project of your choosing. Research what really happens on the ground and out in the villages with Social Cycles in a holiday that carefully balances ethical research and local impact with cycling and site seeing.

The Experience

  • Connect with former gangland members, now working with local NGOs, and learn about Colombia's past and what the future looks like
  • Cycle over 300 kilometers from Medellin to Cali with a fully supported local team and van for the whole way
  • Explore the coffee axis and visit local coffee plantations along the way
  • Discover lost waterfalls en-route as you cycle off the beaten track
  • Enjoy delicious Colombian cuisine as suggested by local guides
  • Ride safe on Rockhopper 24-speed mountain bikes; great for all terrains
  • Discover the cities of Medellin and Cali, plus many small towns in between

Itinerary

Day 1 - Medellín: Arrival day and welcome dinner

This striking metropolis is yours to explore before the group meets up at the hotel in the late afternoon, have a quick "get to know you" drink and dive into your journey of Colombian cuisine for dinner. Depending on what time you get into the city, give yourself a chance to get to one of the many bustling cafes in the downtown region, or walk up to the viewpoint of Cerro Nutibara for a spectacular view of the city.

For dinner, the group will eat at a spectacular Colombian restaurant that sources local and presents traditional dishes with a modern twist, employing former rebel fighters and demobilized soldiers as staff and using the motto “Cooking for Peace.”

  • Meals: Dinner
  • Transit: Arrival transfer
  • Cycling: None
  • Hotel: Hotel Acqua

Day 2: Medellín: An NGO, Comuna 13 visit, and Ciclovia

You’ll start the day early in the morning with a visit to the first NGO of the adventure, getting firsthand insight into just some of the local social impact issues in Colombia. The next stop will be Comuna 13; amidst the vibrant color of the community are the outdoor escalators that provide access to homes in marginalized barrios that were formerly isolated from the city below. In the afternoon, you’ll get fitted for the bikes and test them out on the barricaded streets, set aside for Cyclovia, where the city shuts down to make way for runners, cyclists, rollerbladers, and anything else that’s people powered!

  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Transit: None
  • Cycling: Cyclovia (5 to 10 kilometers)
  • Hotel: Hotel Acqua

Day 3: Medellín to Jericó: Your first full cycle day

After a short van ride, you’ll jump on the bikes and make the most of the downhill ahead of you to get warmed up on the bikes! It’s a beautiful ride through small, quaint little villages. You’ll end up in Jerico but not before a few hills that will get the blood pumping, but with great hills come great views! You might get an idea to skip the final 20 kilometers as it’s all uphill. Jerico itself is a great little village. The accommodation overlooks the town, which is well worth the short stroll to enjoy a local feast at your leisure.

  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Transit: 45 minutes
  • Cycling: 79.8 kilometers (All bitumen)
  • Hotel: Hotel Cabañas y Flores

Day 4: Jericó to Jardín: Small town charm and coffee farms

You’ve got the day to get from Jericó to Jardín and you’re going to cycle all 48 kilometers of it. An early start along the compact gravel roads (30 kilometers) will see you mostly enjoying some slight downhill before arriving at a bitumen road for the final 18 kilometers (and a small climb). This is a great day on the bike with plenty of varied terrains, epic scenery, and quiet roads. An early(ish) arrival in Jardín will give you time to rest and relax.

  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Transit: None
  • Cycling: 48.9 kilometers (Mixed bitumen and gravel)
  • Hotel: Hotel Jardin

Day 5: Jardin to Riosucio: To great heights

There is only one road South out of Jardin and it is almost all gravel, most of it is quite compact. On this 51-kilometer ride, you’re either going to be cycling up or cycling down. It’s a slow grind today but the views are incredible. As is the epic feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere, among nature, with just your group and your bike. This is probably the most challenging day of the trip, but the van is always there the whole time to give you a break should you want it. There is also the option to skip the day completely and just enjoy the views from the van!

  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Transit: None (Optional)
  • Cycling: 51 kilometers (Optional)
  • Hotel: Real Plaza

Day 6: Riosucio to Hacienda La Venecia: Orchid farms, birds, and coffee

This 68-kilometer cycle day leaves early from Riosucio to make the most of the epic adventures that lay ahead! The all-bitumen road will take you to the tiny town of La Rochela for lunch, then you’ll transit to Finca La Romelia for a look around this incredible orchid farm. This is an unparalleled experience that opens the minds of travelers to show them how agricultural production can go hand-in-hand with the preservation and conservation of biodiversity. From here, you’ll be spending the evening at a coffee plantation.

  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
  • Transit: 2 x 30 minutes
  • Cycling: 68 kilometers
  • Hotel: Hacienda Venecia

Day 7: Coffee farm to Salento: Welcome to coffee country

After having spent the evening at a local, family-run coffee farm you’ll spend the morning on a coffee tour of the plantation, learning the process from bean to cup. This little bean keeps most people going on a daily basis but you’ll never look at coffee the same again after this experience!

You’ll jump on the bikes in the afternoon bound for your final destination in Colombia, Salento! A fantastic little town on the steps of the famous Cocora Valley!

  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Transit: 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • Cycling: 65 kilometers
  • Hotel: Balcones Del Ayer

Day 8: Salento: Hikes instead of bikes

You’ll dedicate the day entirely to exploring Cocora Valley by foot. A short 30-minute drive out of town takes you to the footsteps of this incredible nature reserve. The area is home to the tallest palms in the world and, although it might not sound like much, it is a region to be seen to be truly appreciated.

If you choose to take the extended walk (about 12 kilometers), you’ll find yourself walking along with some spectacular rainforest scenery. Salento itself, whilst more popular with tourists than other places you have been to, is a really quaint town with endless opportunities for gifts, souvenirs, great craft beers, and delicious food!

  • Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
  • Transit: To Cocora Valley and back
  • Cycling: None
  • Hotel: Balcones Del Ayer

Day 9: Salento: Departure Day

It’s time to say goodbye to your new-found adventure friends and the bikes. Salento is your last accompanied town and you will be left here to make your way to your next destination. The closest airport is Pereira, which has domestic connections to either Medellin or Bogota if you have connecting flights. Social Cycles can assist you in getting to Pereira as the van will be driving there at 10 a.m., should you be ready to leave Salento at that time.

  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Transit: To Pereira
  • Cycling: None
  • Hotel: None

Social Impact

For every Social Cycles tour, all riders are requested to contribute a nominal sum for the purpose of a donation; usually 200 AUD per rider. During the course of the tour, you are given the chance to engage with, and learn from, local NGOs. You will visit no less than three NGOs during the Colombia tour and spend some time learning about their projects, strategies, and challenges.

At the end of the tour, the riders are then empowered with newfound knowledge and have the opportunity to combine the allotted donation money and make an impact towards a project of their choosing. In addition to building a profile for the impact partners, Social Cycles also pays each NGO for their time and resources. You will spend one to two hours with each NGO.

You’ll meet with an NGO in both Medellin and Cali. The theme around this adventure is about the gangland community of yesterday, what it looks like today and what still needs to be done for tomorrow. You’ll speak to former gangland members who are now devoted to a community of peace and urban renewal. This is an incredible opportunity to learn about life in Colombia during the 80s and 90s.

Bikes

Social Cycles use Specialized Rockhopper 24-speed mountain bikes with front suspension and thinner tires (for better pavement traction) on this ride; it gives the flexibility to take the path less traveled and explore the scenic beauty of Colombia. All bikes are serviced regularly.

You are welcome to bring your own pedals, saddle, or even your own bike if you wish. However, Social Cycles cannot take responsibility for any scratches or damage that may be endured whilst the bikes are being transferred. If you have mechanical issues with your own bike, Social Cycles will do their best to assist you but you will need to be responsible for any spare parts that you may need.

Distances

Social Cycles do their best to cycle from point to point with minimal transfers, but it’s not the objective. The riding days vary from 50 kilometers to a touch over 100 kilometers but if the group can't make it that far then you can just jump in the van. They will always choose an impromptu cultural experience over an additional 10 kilometers on the bike.

The reason you will ride is that Social Cycles truly believes it is an incredible way to experience the country. It is the tiny villages and interactions with local people that you come by when you travel by bike that makes the experience so unique and unforgettable. You will start riding just after breakfast, preferably around 8 a.m. and enjoy a casual day on the bike, enjoying everything the route has to offer. The aim is to get into the hotel by about 4 p.m., be it by van or bike.

Group size

Social Cycles take a minimum of six riders and a maximum of 12. They strongly believe that when you travel with a group beyond 12, there is a risk that voices and opinions may be drowned out when you have the rare opportunities to visit NGOs and ask questions to local leaders. Small group adventures with groups of 12 or less really create great bonds between riders and have a huge impact on the experience. %Lifelong friends are often made and reunion tours are common. Social Cycles like to think that their program has enough fluidity in it that it is more like traveling with a group of like-minded travelers that an organized militant tour. If you’d like to book a private tour with you and your friends, simply send Social Cycles an inquiry for more information.

Your expectations: From Brett and Ashley

This adventure is a joint collaboration between Social Cycles and Traverse Journeys; Brett and Ashley are the respective founders. The idea of a collaboration for Colombia Cycle Adventure between these two companies was a natural alignment, due to the alignment of ethical, community, and responsible travel value shared by both Social Cycles and Traverse Journeys. Travel is an opportunity to learn, expand, and grow and they think this adventure provides the perfect platform for you to do that.

This is a new adventure for the Social Cycles portfolio for 2019. Traverse Journeys have been running non-cycling-based Colombia tours previous to this venture. They have also teamed up with local Colombian cycling experts for the logistics, guides, equipment, and the value of local knowledge. This local knowledge, combined with the values, community focus, and social impact has created what is believed to be an all-around incredible adventure.

Brett's best advice is to come with an open mind. Be open to change in the itinerary as weather can play a part in the route. Be open to the food from the street, as it could be some of the best flavors you ever experience, and be open to the people; they’re friendly, welcoming, and genuine. You just might make some life long friends.

Cycling details

The distances between one hotel to the next can be extensive, so Social Cycles have cherry-picked the best part to cycle in between, but it may only be 40 to 60 kilometers of the route. Each Social Cycles tour is fully supported so there is an opportunity for riders to take a rest in the van. The goal is to exhibit the beauty of travelling to Colombia by bicycle, it is not to rack up thousands of kilometers. Therefore, the style is recreational and casual. They aim to cater for beginner to intermediate recreational cyclists, not professionals or Strava enthusiasts.

What to wear

The most important thing here is to be comfortable. Shorts, t-shirts, and singlets are all fine to wear for everyday use but please be aware of sun protection. There is no significant difference between what should be worn for men and women. Many people prefer padded shorts to make the ride more comfortable. You are recommended to wear a scarf for sun protection. Social Cycles jerseys that have pockets in the back are provided to help you carry your possessions (money, phone, etc.).

Colombia Cycling Stats

Cycle Day 3

  • Distance: 80 kilometers
  • Elevation: + 2565 / - 1999 meters

Cycle Day 4

  • Distance: 48 kilometers
  • Elevation: + 1151 / - 1348 meters

Cycle Day 5 (optional)

  • Distance: 51 kilometers
  • Elevation: + 1624 / - 1633 meters

Cycle Day 6

  • Distance: 69 kilometers
  • Elevation: + 1392 / - 2160 meters

Cycle Day 7

  • Distance: 64 kilometers
  • Elevation: + 1696 / - 1724 meters

Total Distance

312 kilometers

Total Elevation

+ 8428 / - 8864 meters

Difficulty

Challenging for beginners

Pace

10 to 15 kilometers per hour

Skill Level

Intermediate:

  • can cycle for 3-4 hours
  • average riding experience
  • little assistance required
  • comfortable with extreme curves and leans
  • average experience with unsurfaced roads
  • steep ascents and descents

Advanced:

  • can cycle for 5-6 hours
  • extensive riding experience
  • assistance on demand (if required)
  • experienced with riding a variety of bicycles
  • comfortable with any terrain and weather conditions

Instructors

Brett Seychell

Ashley Blake

Location

Food

Food gives such insight to culture and Colombia is no exception! With influences of Spain, Africa, and the Arab world, Colombia is a melting pot of flavor and your journey is a true treat for the senses. Think pork, chicken, fresh fish, exotic fruits; heavy on bread, rice and pulses, and a plethora of street food and snacks to keep you grazing all day, every day.

There’s every variety of restaurant class throughout Colombia, from Michelin star-styled extravagance to corner street carts with a mobile deep fryer. You will be taken to what the local team considers to be the heart and soul of the culture; simple, honest, homecooked style of food that they eat.

You’ll go to their favorite restaurants, not what’s popular on other sites. Social Cycles is proud to cater for most dietary requirements, covering vegetarians, vegans, pescetarians, gluten and lactose intolerant, etc. Anything beyond these, please get in touch prior, particularly regarding nut allergies.

What’s the food like in Colombia?

Streetfood is king in Colombia! From loaded meaty feasts to delicious artisan cheese, some of the best Colombian street dishes include Picada Colombiana (a feast of chopped meats, topped with corn, plantain, and yuca), tamales (banana leaf wrapped maize dough with a meat or cheese filling), and arepas (fried dough with fillings).

Vegetarians and Vegans?

That’s no problem. There’s a huge variety of vegetarian local specialties available and there will always be vegetarian dishes on the table at every meal. If the majority of the group are vegetarians, it will be reflected in the food on the table.

Dietary requirements

If you have any dietary requirements or allergies, please include it on your inquiry. Social Cycles will cater to all dietary requirements as best as possible. Please get in touch with Social Cycles if you have life-threatening allergies.

What’s the deal with alcohol?

There’s plenty of beers around Colombia; quite moderately priced and a cold beer after a hard day on the bike is pretty inviting! They’re quite cheap too, with some places selling draft beers from as little as 50 cents. Just be wary that the weather can be a little warm and a couple of too many beers or cocktails will knock you about a bit more than usual the next day. Dehydration will have a huge effect and it doesn’t take much to have a hangover. To be honest, most of the time, you'll be in bed by 9 p.m.!

The following drinks are included:

  • Water

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
  • Pescatarian
  • Lactose Free
  • Other dietary requirements on request
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

Things to do (optional)

Shopping

Colombia is a haven for shopping enthusiasts. Social Cycles will recommend places for you along the way, depending on what it is you’re looking to purchase. Common gift ideas from the region include coffee (and coffee making items), handicrafts, hats, and clothes.

Photography

Colombia is an incredible place to photograph, and like anywhere else in the world, it should be carried out with respect to local culture. In essence, if you are going to take a photograph of a person, it is always polite to ask for their permission. They will tell you straight out if they do not want their photograph taken and it is important that you respect their decision.

You may well find though that many locals will approach you and ask to have their photograph taken with you. In some places that you will go, it feels like you are the attraction! Photographing children without the consent of the parents is against the Social Cycles Child Safety policy. As cute as local kids can be, don’t take photos of children without their parents around; it’s just creepy.

What's included

  • Full bicycle hire
  • Local guides, support van driver, and mechanic
  • Full support vehicle for the ride with water and fruit
  • Minimum of two NGO presentations with local staff across Colombia
  • Multiple field trips to villages
  • Entry to various cathedrals and museums
  • 8 nights accommodation
  • All breakfasts
  • Most dinners and lunches (as per the itinerary)

What's not included

  • Flights to and from Medellin
  • 150 USD donation to NGOs (optional)
  • Personal expenses
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Drinks with meals
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas (if required)
  • Other items of a personal nature
  • Some lunches and dinners

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Arrival by airplane

  • Airport transfers are not included in your tour package, due to a variety of different ways to get to Medellin and away from Cali.

As this tour will have different arrival and departure points for different people, it is important that you book the right flights. If in doubt, get in touch. It is most likely that you will fly into the country’s capital, Bogota. The tour actually starts in Medellin and the easiest way to get there is to get an internal flight. They are inexpensive and often but make sure you allow time for it. Flights are operated by VivaColombia, Platam, and Avianca and range anywhere from 30 USD to 130 USD.

More common long haul flights look like this:

  • AUST/NZ: Flying into Bogota, it is easiest and cheapest to go via Chile, then connect to Bogota. There are direct flights from the east coast to Santiago (Chile) or even Buenos Aires (Argentina). Depending on the time of year, you can get return flights from Australia for 1200 USD to 2000 USD.
  • EUROPE: Coming from Europe and UK, there’s a range of options and prices. You can get direct flights to Bogota from Madrid, Frankfurt, Paris, and London. General flight time is 11 to 14 hours. Flight prices range from 1000 to 1400 USD for return flights, again depending on the time of year you’re going to travel. You can also fly direct to Medellin from Madrid.
  • USA/CAN: A huge variety of options depending on where you’re based. There are direct flights from Toronto, Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando, Houston, Dallas, Miami. You can fly direct to Medellin from Miami and New York.

Arrivals and Departures

On Arrival (Medellin): It’s most likely, assuming you’re an international visitor, you’ve flown into Bogota and have already been through immigration to get you into Colombia. Medellín actually has two airports, so you have to look at how to get to and from both of Medellín’s airports.

Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) is located in the city of Medellín. And it is easy to get to and from, but Olaya Herrera only has domestic flights in Colombia with three airlines serving the airport: ADA, EasyFly, and Satena. The easiest way to get to/from Olaya Herrera is via taxi. Depending on where you are located in the city, the fare should be 10,000 COP or less. Uber is another option for a similar price to taxis. In addition, there are some bus routes that go by this airport with fares between 2,000 to 2,100 COP. Also, the South Bus Terminal in Medellín is located only one block from the airport.

José María Córdova International Airport (MDE) is located in the municipality of Rionegro, which is about 21 miles (35 kilometers) east of Medellín at a higher elevation. It normally takes 40 minutes to over an hour on the windy road, depending on traffic, to go from this airport to Medellín or the reverse direction. There are six different ways to get to Medellín from the international airport ranging from inexpensive buses to taxis and private drivers. These options also have a wide range in price from 9,500 to over 97,000 COP (3 USD to 34 USD). The most common is the ‘white taxi’, in which you should be able to get a taxi for 70,000 pesos (22 USD).

On Departure (Cali): Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (CLO) is located between Cali and Palmira and it is actually in Palmira. Also, the airport is located only about 8.7 miles (14 kilometers) from Cali. It normally takes at least 30 to 40 minutes, depending on traffic, to go from this airport to the center of Cali or the reverse direction; and to get to other areas of Cali, it takes longer.

In Cali, the easiest way to get to/from the airport is using taxis; and there is a taxi stand at the airport. In addition, taxis tend to run between 50,000 to 60,000 COP to Cali from the airport depending on the destination. As an alternative to taxis, Uber is also available in Cali. Also, there are higher cost private driver services available like Colombia4u, which provides a Cali airport transfer service for 55 USD, which is nearly double the taxi fare.

There are rarely lines waiting for taxis at this airport and taxis are easy to use, as they are metered. So, there is not really a reason for using a higher cost private driver. Finally, buses are available for about 7,000 COP from this airport in front of the domestic part of the airport to the Cali bus terminal.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 20% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 30 days before arrival.
9 days / 8 nights
from --

Availability

Arrival: Saturday November 14, 2020
Departure: Sunday November 22, 2020

Special discount

If this is your second, third, or even fourth Social Cycles adventure, then you are welcomed back with a special Social Cycles Ambassadors rate of 3050 USD. Please send Social Cycles an inquiry for more information.

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