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Colombia’s Magdalena River & Volcanic Ecuador

  • Overview
  • Accommodation
  • Itinerary
  • Fares

A journey overview

  • Cartagena
  • Magdalena River
  • Quito
  • Riobamba
  • Cuenca
  • Guayaquil

18 Days Exploration
  • Departing:
  • 23 Nov 2025 New release

Colombia and Ecuador invite us to discover their tropical charms. Cruising the rarely visited Magdalena River aboard the brand-new AmaMelodia, we experience the culture of indigenous peoples and glimpse fascinating flora and fauna. Along the way, we sample a range of appetising flavours, while Ecuador’s vast volcanic landscape leaves us in awe. Join our Tour Host Team and local guides for this breathtaking journey for just 30 guests.

Map

We begin our journey in the colourful city of Cartagena, with three nights at the striking Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena. Our hotel hosts us for dinner this evening. 

After breakfast, we take a walking tour of the city. Vibrantly coloured buildings line Cartagena’s streets, and a network of alleyways leads us to unassuming public squares and balconies brimming with verdant vines. 

Following lunch, you may choose to take your afternoon at leisure, or join us for another guided tour of the city’s historic sites. Beginning at Convento de la Popa, enjoy spectacular views from the city’s highest vantage point. Built by Augustinian monks, the convent began its life as a modest wooden chapel, before being remodelled as the prominent hilltop structure it presents as today. At Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, we stand before a grand fortress featuring a complex of small forts and a battery of cannons. A short distance away, the arresting yellow exterior of Las Bóvedas stands proud on the edge of the Caribbean. Its archways house 23 vaults once used as munitions storerooms and jail cells. Today, it serves as a craft market, offering colourful Colombian keepsakes. Our tour concludes at Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, a former convent. 

Enjoy the rest of your afternoon to discover other aspects of Cartagena at your own pace. Or simply relax at our hotel. This evening, we reconvene for a Welcome Dinner, where you will get to know your fellow guests and Tour Host Team.

After breakfast, take the opportunity to familiarise yourself with traditional Colombian cuisine during a cooking class. Our host takes us through the steps required to produce Colombian pastries, including Carimañolas and Arepa de Huevo, as well as a hearty main course. You may prefer to take the morning at leisure, relaxing at our hotel or heading out on explorations of your own. 

After lunch, a choice of Your World experiences offers a closer look at Colombian culture:

— Pay a visit to a local restaurant to enjoy a tasting of Colombian rum and chocolate. A mini welcome cocktail sets the scene, before you are invited to mix, sip and shoot a range of rum and rum-infused cocktails, paired with Colombia’s finest chocolate. Learn the history of rum, as well as the finer points of the distillation process. 

— Participate in a photography workshop within the Centro Histórico neighbourhood. Tailored to your current level of photography skills, this workshop will equip you with the knowledge necessary to aptly capture the architecture, fashion and landscapes of this intriguing part of Cartagena.

Alternatively, take the afternoon on your own schedule, before enjoying a final evening at the luxurious Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena.

This morning, we trace the Caribbean coast on our way to the city of Barranquilla. It’s here that we embark the brand-new river ship, AmaMelodia. Take time to settle into your stateroom ahead of our cruise of the seldom-travelled Magdalena River. This evening, enjoy all the colour of Carnival, without the crowds, during a performance arranged just for us and our fellow cruise guests.

Visit the Floating Village of Nueva Venecia today. The endearing town is populated with welcoming locals and can only be navigated by boat. Its colourful, and seemingly buoyant, houses make for a microcosm of Colombia’s vibrancy. See displays of traditional arts and crafts and learn about the locals’ reliable fishing techniques. Embrace the unique culture of the village and try a few of the regional delicacies.

We spend our morning in Santa Bárbara de Pinto, situated along the banks of the Mompox arm of the river. Take a walking tour through the town, observing landmarks, including the Santa Barbara Church. Handmade crafts, fashioned locally, are also available for us to peruse. Further along the river, we find the town of Mompox. Here, an exclusive jazz performance is held in our honour.

Mompox still resembles its former self; its brightly coloured buildings designed in the familiar Spanish-colonial style. The town is also known for its filigree jewellery, which we learn about during a tour this afternoon. An exploration of the Ciénaga de Pijiño region and its lake draws our attention to a range of native flora and fauna. This afternoon, a guided walking tour of Mompox also gives us the opportunity to try its delicious local delights, including capa cheese and butifarra.

Farewell Mompox and cruise the La Mojana, one of the river’s most breathtaking sections. At the confluence of the Magdalena and César rivers, we reach the town of El Banco, which was repeatedly razed during battles between the native inhabitants and Spanish colonists. A guided walking tour reveals more of its history, including its role in the development of cumbia, a distinctive regional dance. This evening, we witness a cumbia performance firsthand during an exclusive dinner.

Arrive in Magangué and absorb the area’s natural beauty during a birdwatching tour, scanning the skies and surrounds for bird species only seen in this region. A hiking tour then takes us across the spirited city of Ciénaga. At the entrance to the Canal del Dique sits the town of Calamar, which we also arrive at later today. See Calamar’s historic Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción and other sights while touring the city by paolo, a two-person bicycle taxi.

After breakfast, we disembark our river ship and transfer to the airport for a flight to Ecuador. Our late-afternoon arrival sees us heading straight to the distinguished residence, the Casa Gangotena Hotel, where we stay for the next three nights.

A drive this morning brings us to the lake province of Imbabura. Here, we taste the fruits of the pristine Guayllabamba Valley. Travelling further north, we reach the volcano, Cayambe. From here, we gaze across the tranquil waters of Lake San Pablo. Afterwards, we pay a visit to a local indigenous community. Observe local traditions and enjoy cultural encounters, including participating in healing rituals and making traditional beverages – all before a peaceful lakeside setting. Another drive takes us to the town of Otavalo, whose indigenous market is a vast palette of woven blankets, as well as ponchos, hats, and other articles of clothing. 

Upon our return to Quito, we visit the San Diego Convent, home to the area’s Franciscan friars. After learning of its fascinating history during a tour of its museum, we sit down for an exclusive dinner.

A tour of Quito’s downtown area this morning reveals a collection of its well-preserved historical buildings. Following an overview of the Plaza Grande, we arrive at Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, considered one of the most beautiful baroque-style churches in all South America. Other grand structures on our morning tour include The Basilica and Convent of San Francisco, as well as the Virgin of the Panecillo statue, which overlooks the city from its hilltop position. From here, we make our way to the former home of artist, Oswaldo Guayasamin. Following a tour of the on-site museum, which features art from pre-Columbian civilisations, as well as works by Guayasamin’s contemporaries, we indulge in a chocolate tasting with paired wines in the artist’s wine cellar. 

An afternoon of Your World experiences allows us to appreciate distinct aspects of Quito:

— Return to Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús for a guided tour, followed by a culinary experience to match the grandeur of your surroundings.

— Climb aboard a tethered hot air balloon, which will see you suspended over the equator. Enjoy a bird’s-eye perspective of the Middle of the World monument and see the city’s lights gradually come to life at sunset.

This evening, we choose our preferred dining venue from the city’s many fine offerings, or our hotel’s restaurant.

Travel through the Southern Highlands to Cotopaxi National Park and look upon colossal Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. Memorable views of the snow-capped giant are to be enjoyed from our position along the shores of Limpiopungo Lake. Enjoy lunch within these inspiring surroundings. Afterwards, the local community of San Felipe invites our group to discover the techniques behind grinding and roasting the barley used in its cooking and alcoholic beverages. Today’s eventual destination is the city of Riobamba. We take our rest at Hostería La Andaluza. 

After enjoying breakfast at our accommodation, we head further south toward the city of Cuenca. Along the way, admire views of Chimborazo, another massive volcano. The small district of Colta features Ecuador’s first Catholic Church, which we briefly investigate. We are then driven up the mountain, to 4,800 metres in elevation, before hiking the remaining 200 metres to admire the wintry views from the Chimborazo Refuge. Late this afternoon, we arrive in Cuenca, checking into the Mansion Alcazar. Dine within our hotel’s restaurant this evening or venture out to try other local options.

Explore the city with a local guide this morning. Pass through the areas of Cumbe, La Paz and Oña, then stop in at the Dobel tequila factory. Afterwards, visit the indigenous communities of Saraguro and Gera, from where we walk along a scenic trail to arrive at an archaeological site on the crest of a hill. Be ready for the chance of condor sightings; the graceful creatures are known to fly out this way. We toast our adventures thus far while sampling guarango, a local drink made from agave, courtesy of a hospitable local family. In Saraguro, lunch is enjoyed at a local restaurant, before we proceed to Ñamarin, where an artisanal workshop produces handcrafted garments using traditional looms. At Museo de las Madres Conceptas, we savour a unique dining experience amid the museum’s historic exhibits.

Today, our travels bring us to the city’s historic centre. The Iglesia San Sebastian, or Church of San Sebastian, serves as the starting point of our tour. The Modern Art Museum, Calderon Park, and the Flower Plaza all reflect Cuenca’s subtle blend of natural beauty and vibrant culture. Our tour concludes with visits to two more of Ecuador’s grand churches, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the El Sagrario Cathedral. A change of pace sees us admiring the fashionable Paja Toquilla, at the museum dedicated to the Panama Hat. Then, following the Tomebamba River, we soon appreciate El Barranco, where the natural environment envelops the eclectic architecture poised along its banks. Later, at the Turi viewpoint, we enjoy uninterrupted views across the countless red roofs spread across the valley below. 

A leisurely lunch leads into a free afternoon for you to explore Cuenca on your terms. Tonight, dine at our hotel or choose your preferred option from the restaurants nearby.

On our way to Guayaquil today, we pause in El Cajas National Park. Take a brief hike within this pristine environment, reaching Cerro de Las Tres Cruces, or Hill of Three Crosses, the park’s highest point. From here, we gaze across the region’s lakes and rivers, some of whose waters find their way to either the Pacific or the Amazon. We next visit the Cacao and Mango Hacienda. Follow trails through the plantation and learn the production processes behind some of the world’s most delightful chocolate. An afternoon drive brings us finally to Guayaquil. In this lively city, it would not be unusual for us to cross paths with an iguana or three, as they go about their daily business untroubled by passers-by. We savour our last evening within the luxurious Hotel del Parque.

Our fascinating, remote journey concludes this morning as we farewell our fellow guests and Tour Host Team in Guayaquil.

Brochure