Colombia

Colombia

From our headquarters in Bogota, we explore a wide range of programmatic themes within the land of ‘magical realism’.

With Colombia’s turbulent past rapidly receding, the nation is in the midst of a tourism boom. Economic growth, safety, and stability are on the rise in all corners of the country, and international visitors are joyously rediscovering the remarkable diversity and warmth of this traditional gateway to South America. Envoys programs bring you close to the reality of the Colombian people, from indigenous rainforest tribes to coffee plantation workers.

Envoys partner organization Off Bound Adventures has taken thousands of students throughout Colombia, developing strong connections with local communities and allowing us to explore the full range of destinations within the birthplace of “magical realism.”

Potential Project Themes

The implications of being in a “Post-Conflict Era”
The impact of violence on Colombian identity and foreign relations
The contrasts between rural and urban Colombians
International trade and coffee plantations in Colombia
The development of eco-tourism

Sample Itinerary

Envoys students pursue rigorous research projects during their time in Colombia. Project themes and research questions are identified during the pre-trip online courses through a process of consultation with school leaders, academic experts, development practitioners, and business professionals.

We arrive in Bogota, Colombia’s modern and inviting capital. Following a thorough health and safety briefing, Envoys students and staff work together to review the content covered and learning goals set during our online courses. Students set out goals for learning about Latin American culture, interacting with local citizens, exploring the wildlife, and sharing the adventure with their families and classmates. This process empowers students to take responsibility for their own development during the trip, both for their research outputs as well as their individual growth.

We then set out on a tour of this fascinating city, moving from the colonial architecture of the historic La Candelaria district, to the quirky Botero Museum. We end with a tour of the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum), home of the world’s largest pre-Hispanic gold work collection.

We begin our day with an early-morning cable car ride to the Monserrate Sanctuary, rising 3,152 meters above sea level. This lofty setting gives us a great way to view the expansive municipality of Bogota.

We then head to the airport for a short flight to Leticia, Colombia’s southernmost town, and one of the major ports on the Amazon River. After checking into our hotel, Envoys staff discuss the significance of Leticia in international law as the site of a border decision by the fledgling League of Nations. We then embark on a leisurely tour of Leticia, letting the ambience slowly engulf our senses.

We rise early to head to the spectacular Marasha Nature Reserve, situated in the midst of the Amazon River Basin. We work together to organize our expedition into the reserve, thereby building confidence in students’ ability to navigate foreign terrain.

As we move through the reserve during the next three days, we encounter a wide array of wildlife, both in the jungle canopy and alongside us. Envoys staff and local guides provide detailed lessons and activities to allow students to engage with the natural environment around them and learn about the unique challenges of building a tourist-based economy while preserving the environment. On the evening of the fifth day, we return by plane to Bogota.

We take a short flight to the coastal city of Cartagena. This remarkable city has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, with mazes of cobbled alleyways, enormous balconies shrouded in bougainvillea, and a series of doors that have to been seen to be believed. We move through the city at a relaxed pace, pausing at cafes and shops and reflecting on the remarkably different environments we have experienced in our short week in Colombia.

We take a short flight to Santa Marta and then a private bus into the magnificent Tayrona National Park. This 37,000-acre ecotourism park includes reefs, beaches, mangroves, and Indian ruins. We move through the park slowly, learning about the unique biosystems at work around us.

We visit the EcoLodges of Tayrona and learn about the challenges and opportunities of running an eco-tourist business within a national park. Envoys staff support students in considering how adaptable the EcoLodge model would be for other settings.

We spend the afternoon on Tayrona’s magnificent sandy beach, where students work to compose the first of their “stories for home,” creating a video-based story about their trip for a specific relative at home.

We hike into the rainforest, noting the exceptional diversity of wildlife and foliage around us. Our journey ends with a rare opportunity to visit an indigenous community of the Kogi people. Envoys adopts a learning philosophy towards the Kogi’s traditions and customs. In respect for their wish for privacy, the extent of our interactions is dependent on the comfort level of the individuals within the respective community.

We leave Tayrona and travel by private bus to the lovely port city of Rioacha, our base of operations for the next three days. We learn about the economy of this coastal region, visiting a sugarcane farm, wind farm, and salt extraction plant. Students are supported to make connections between the lives of the workers they meet and their own communities back home.

Envoys students also discover the ways of life of the Wayuu ethnic group. Envoys students learn farming, harvesting, and weaving methods as well as traditional dances from the Wayuu people.

Following our pedagogical principles, Envoys staff work with students, individually and in groups, to reflect on their interactions and develop an empathic viewpoint towards the communities that we have encountered.

We return by plane to Bogota, and then take a private bus to the remarkable Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. This fully functioning Roman Catholic church has been built within the tunnels of a salt mine, providing a uniquely spiritual ambiance.

Students revisit their learning goals, considering the gains that they have made and the areas where improvement is needed. We discuss the outputs of the student research projects, ensuring that the experience will continue after we return home.

During the evening, we head to the world-famous Andres Carne de Res DC, a personal favorite of the Envoys co-founders. This quirky restaurant provides exceptional food, providing the perfect ending to our Colombian adventure.

International flights home.