Setting sail from Cartagena
Cartagena de Indias, to give the city its full name, was founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1533, and the beautifully preserved centre is a real highlight of Colombia's Caribbean coast. The walled old town, the Ciudad Amurallada, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a camera-friendly collection of cobbled streets and colourful, colonial-era buildings. It's not all about the old town though; the Bocagrande peninsula, fringed by a long stretch of beach, is where many of Cartagena's hotels are situated, and it's a trendy district that's home to chic restaurants and a thriving café culture.
Don’t even think of changing money on the street – you will find plenty of banks and exchanges in the historic centre.
Panama: San Blas Islands
Situated just off the coast of Panama, the idyllic San Blas islands are home to the Kuna Indians, who enjoy political autonomy from the mainland and have an unusual degree of control over tourism to their homeland. Visiting these simple island communities is a privilege, and an insight into an indigenous way of life unsullied by mass tourism.
Panama: Darién Jungle
The Darién Gap is the only break in the Pan-American Highway that runs from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, a wild and untamed region of thick jungle. Although the region has a reputation for lawlessness, tourism is making inroads thanks to the jungle’s staggering biodiversity and the fascinating culture of the indigenous Emberá people.
Colombia: Utria National Park
Peru: Trujillo (Salaverry)
Salaverry is the nearest port to Trujillo, northern Peru’s most important city. Located amongst the verdant Andean foothills, Trujillo is home to a host of beautiful colonial buildings, and is also known for the spectacular nearby ruins of Chan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian city in South America.
Peru: Isla Guanape
Arriving in Lima (Callao)
Peru's underrated capital enjoys a fine setting on the Pacific coast, and the handsome colonial-era buildings surrounding the Plaza de Armas give clues to Lima's distinguished history. For three centuries this was the capital of the Spanish Americas, when the city grew rich on the back of plundered Inca gold. Modern Lima can be a little hectic, the roads often clogged with traffic, but the historic centre has an undeniable charm to it, and in recent years a clutch of innovative restaurants have helped to put Peruvian cuisine on the map.
The pre-Columbian citadel of Pachacamac is a must see, just a few miles from the city and a key Inca site.
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Tailor-make your trip
Our favourite hotel in Cartagena
Casa San Agustin – authentic Colombian style, in the heart of the old town.
What to see in Cartagena
The Palace of the Inquisition - a fascinating museum you will enjoy even more with a guide to tell you the history.
Where to stay in Lima
We like the Country Club Lima Hotel for a bit of colonial style.
See more of Peru
Travel south from Lima to Nazca to see the extraordinary Nazca Lines – well worth the journey, and stay on at the beach if you have time to spare.