JOIN ACCLAIMED TRAVEL JOURNALIST CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER—AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER COLOMBIA GUIDEBOOK—ON THIS EXCITING COLOMBIA PHOTO TOUR & WORKSHOP FOCUSED ON AFRO-CARIBBEAN & INDIGENOUS CULTURES

Colombia is well-known for its many indigenous groups—87 in total—comprising almost four percent of the population. Most live in isolated pockets of the Amazon, and/or in resguardos (autonomous reserves) inaccessible to visitation. However, the Caribbean zone has several distinct groups that are easy to encounter and photograph.

This one-of-a-kind itinerary will immerse you in the Wayúu culture of La Guajira desert, at the northernmost tip of South America. We’ll then journey into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to visit the autonomous lands of the Arhuaco/Kogi people (profiled in Christopher’s article for BBC Travel). Plus, we’ll visit Atanquez to photograph the Wiwa indigenous people during the Corpus Christi “Dance of the Devil’s” festivities.

Plus, in Cartagena and Barranquilla, we’ll explore the Afro-Caribbean culture, including photographing Cartagena’s famed palenqueras (fruit-sellers) and, in Barranquilla, the traditional mask-makers who supply many of the outrageous masks for Colombia’s world-class carnival. We also plan on photographing carnival dancers… as well as traditional filigree silversmiths in the landlocked time-warp city of Mompox… plus the fishers who occupy an out-of-the-way palafito (stilt-house) village in the midst of Colombia’s largest lagoon.

ITINERARY

Day 1, THURSDAY: ARRIVE CARTAGENA
Arrive Cartagena, with its fabulously preserved and restored colonial quarter still tucked behind fortified walls. The city was memorably portrayed by Nobel Prize-winning Colombia novelist Gabriel García Márquez as a place of “amethyst afternoons and nights of antic breezes.” We meet this evening for a welcome reception and dinner together at El Santísimo, one of the city’s best restaurants.
Overnight: HOTEL BOVEDA

Day 2, FRIDAY: CARTAGENA
This morning we'll explore the historic walled city, with its fabulous architecture and maze of narrow colonial streets teeming with colorful street life and horse-drawn carriages. The afternoon is free for a siesta and for exploring at leisure before a private "golden hour" photo shoot with palenqueras–Cartagena’s quintessential Afro-Caribbean fruit-basket women dressed in traditional rainbow-hued costumes in the style of Carmen Miranda. We’ll dine at another of Chris' favorite restaurants. In late evening... and perhaps even take time to photograph the floodlit city at night.
Overnight: HOTEL BOVEDA

Day 3, SATURDAY: BARRANQUILLA – SANTA MARTA
This morning we journey to Barranquilla, the port city renowned for its February carnaval—second in size only to that or Rio de Janeiro. We’ll stop in the Galapa neighborhood on the city outskirts to visit some of the craft workshops that specialize in making hand-carved carnival masks. We’ll also have a private photo session with a carnival dance troupe before departing for Santa Marta, where we’ll overnight.
Overnight: CASA DE LEDA or CASA DE ISABELLA (or similar)

Day 4, SUNDAY: NUEVA VENECIA – SANTA MARTA
Today we journey the short distance to Ciénaga or the nearby fishing village of Tasajera, gateway to the vast Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta wetlands and lagoon complex. Here we’ll take a fast boat trip across the lagoon to Nueva Venecia, a remarkable village of some 300 palofitos (wooden houses on stilts) rising from the lagoon. This fisher community offers sensational photography, in addition to the chance for tremendous birding (keep your fingers crossed for flamingos). We’ll linger as long as possible for the best late afternoon sunlight before returning to Santa Marta. The evening is free to dine at leisure.
Overnight: CASA DE LEDA or CASA DE ISABELLA (or similar)

Day 5, MONDAY: LA GUAJIRA
Today we continue east along the Caribbean shoreline via Riohacha to arrive in La Guajira--the vast cactus-studded desert home of the Wayúu indigenous peoples. Here we’ll visit the colorful crossroads market at Cuatro Caminos as well as Sainn Wayúu, or similar, ranchería (traditional reed-hut community), where we'll photograph such ceremonial dances as Yonna, performed by Wayúu women in colorful traditional garb. We continue a short distance to our lovely hotel.
Overnight: HOTEL WAYA GUAJIRA

Day 6, TUESDAY: LA GUAJIRA
Our freewheeling day today sees up venturing into the heart of the rugged desert, with stops at humble off-the-beaten-track rancherías that offer impromptu photo ops for slice-of-life environmental and portrait photography. Eventually we'll arrive at Cabo de la Vela--a ramshackle beach resort and windsurf center whose white sands are lined with humble ranchería restaurants and hostels. This is as good a place as any for photographing Wayúu women slumbering in hammocks, with their faces blackened to guard against wrinkles during a lifetime spent under a searing sun. We should also be able to photograph such experts as María Concepción Espina weaving colorful mochilas (bags) and chinchorros (hammocks), . 
Overnight: HOTEL WAYA GUAJIRA

Day 7, WEDNESDAY –VALLEDUPAR
A relatively short journey today delivers us to Valledupar, the regional capital. One of Colombia's quintessential musical forms is vallenato, which comes from this region. This afternoon, we’ll photograph artisans making and playing traditional accordions--the mainstay of Colombia’s vallenato music--at Mileto Acordeones workshop and Casa Breto Murgas (Museo de Acordeones).
Overnight: HOTEL SONESTA OR HAMPTON BY HILTON VALLEDUPAR

Day 8, THURSDAY – ATANQUEZ “FESTIVAL OF CORPUS CHRISTI”
We'll want to make an early start this morning to arrive the small mountain community of Atanquez for the Corpus Christi festival. The community mostly comprises indigenous Kankuamos (or Wiwa), relatives of the Arhuaco and Kogi, who celebrate this day by donning colorful costumes and performing the “Dance of the Devils” and similarly photogenic processions through the cobbled streets. The festival reflects a syncretic mix of indigenous paganism, African animism, and Catholic beliefs. With luck, we'll thrill to an exclusive portraiture session with Danza de Negros del Corpus Christi dance troupe. We then journey the short distance to Pueblo Bello, a community with a large population of Arhuaco indigenous people, at the base of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta--the world’s tallest free-standing coastal mountain range. The range is sacred to the local Arahuaco and Kogi indigenous people who live here. Instantly recognizable by their remarkable dress of hand-woven white robes and hats, they are truly photogenic. They follow a traditional lifestyle based on a unique cosmovision and self-perception as guardians of Mother Earth. We hope to spend the night in the small town of Pueblo Bello, and to visit with such mamos (tribal leaders) as Luis Guillermo Izquierdo--an opportunity to photograph such traditional activities as weaving fique fiber, and the imbibing of coca and lime.
Overnight: CENTRO DE INTERPRETACIÓN DE LA CULTURAL ARHUACA, PUEBLO BELLO

DAY 9, FRIDAY – PUEBLO BELLO & NABUSIMAKE
In 2010, Chris was granted rare access to venture by 4WD into the resuargo (autonomous indigenous territory) and photograph within the sacred village of Nabusimake at a time when "foreigners" were rarely granted such permission. Today access is somewhat easier. We hope to spend a full day visiting this remote mountain village and spiritual center of the Arhuaco people, with its thatched bahareque (wattle and daub) houses and cobbled alleys enclosed by a stone wall. We’ll return to Pueblo Bello for overnight.
Overnight: CENTRO DE INTERPRETACIÓN DE LA CULTURAL ARHUACA, PUEBLO BELLO

DAY 10, SATURDAY – MOMPOX
Today journey south arrive at the once landlocked and formerly thriving bayou port town of Santa Cruz de Mompox, founded in 1537. The clock seems to have stopped a century or more ago in this sleepy place, which fell into desuetude in the late 19th century. Today a UNESCO World Heritage City, it's a photographer's dream with its quixotic charm. Those of you familiar with the 'magic realist' novels of Gabriel García Márquez may feel a sense of déjà-vu with good reason: he spent much of his youth here and used Mompox as a model for the fictional riverside town of “Macondo” in his landmark 1967 novel, One Hundred Years Of Solitude.
Overnight: BIOMA BOUTIQUE HOTEL or CASA AMARILLA

DAY 11, SUNDAY MOMPOX
Up early today for dawn photography on the riverside, with its fish market. After breakfast, we'll explore the silversmiths, goldsmiths and ironsmiths’ workshops for which the town is famous: Mompox claims almost 200 filigree artists. We hope to photograph such maestros as Alejandro Villa Real and Daniel Alfonso Garrido at work crafting fine filigree jewelry. Colombia's most important national event is the annual Concurso Nacional de Belleza (Miss Colombia pageant), held every November in Cartagena. A tradition s for the winner to be gifted and photographed wearing Mompox jewelry. Perhaps we'll find our own “Miss Mompox” or another local beauty queen to photograph! 
Overnight: BIOMA BOUTIQUE HOTEL or CASA AMARILLA

DAY 12, MONDAY CARTAGENA 
We cross the mighty Río Magdalena to return to Cartagena, arriving in time for lunch. The afternoon is at leisure for you to relax and/or explore this magnificent Caribbean city at leisure.
Overnight: HOTEL BOVEDA, CARTAGENA

Day 13, TUESDAY – CARTAGENA
This morning we’ll venture beyond the colonial city walls to explore the untouristed and earthy Bazurto open-air fruit, meat and fish market. Market photography doesn’t get any better! We’ll then take a short walking tour of Getsemani—a historic district that has recently been gentrified and is adorned with street art. The afternoon is at your leisure. This evening we’ll enjoy a slide show of everyone’s favorite images, then savor a farewell dinner alfresco at Club de Pesca, in a former fortress overlooking the harbor.
Overnight: HOTEL BOVEDA

Day 14, WEDNESDAY – DEPART
This morning we’ll transfer participants to the airport to connect with their flights home.

Trip Details
Jun 1-14, 2023
Trip cost: $TBD
Limit: 10 participants
 
All participants are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid.

Highlights

  • Private street portraiture with Cartagena's colorfully-adorned Afro-Caribbean palenqueras
  • Visit the carnival mask-makers of Barranquilla and photograph a carnival dance troupe
  • Photograph the Wayúu peoples of La Guajira desert
  • Witness the colorful Corpus Christi festival in the indigenous hamlet of Atanquez, including the "Dance of the Devils"
  • A rare opportunity to visit the sacred village of Nabusimake to photograph the Aruhuaco indigenous people in the remote Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Tour Leader

National Geographic author, photographer, and Colombia expert Christopher P. Baker–the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year’--has written and illustrated some 30 travel books, including the National Geographic Traveler Colombia guidebook, for which he spent five months exploring Colombia tip to toe on assignment. He has written self-illustrated feature articles about Colombia and other destinations worldwide for more than 200 publications, from BBC Travel, CNN Travel, and Elle to National GeographicNew York Magazine, and Playboy . He frequently speaks about Colombia on behalf of the Colombia Tourist Board, and led photo tours of Colombia in 2018 and 2019 for Jim Cline Photo Tours, as well as for National Geographic Expeditions.

Testimonials

Chris was the perfect trip leader. His knowledge of the country and its history is vast and he enthusiastically wanted to share it with us along with his years of experience as a photographer… He’s talented, interesting, accessible, and fun to travel with. Plus, he really did seem to care about each of us — if we were okay, getting good images, too tired, too hot, etc. I would certainly travel with him again. He certainly kept up the high standards of a Jim Cline Photo Tour.”
JUDY B., JIM CLINE PHOTO TOURS, COLOMBIA 2018

Thanks for the master class in photography. I learned so very much from you, particularly about context, ambiance and milieu to create a riveting picture.
SARAH S., JIM CINE PHOTO TOURS, CUBA 2020

Chris, you are a one of a kind. Really enjoyed you as a photographer, a guide, and of course as a fabulous story teller. You have so much Cuba knowledge and I loved your positive energy
ASA M., JIM CLINE PHOTO TOURS, CUBA 2020

Molly Danner [Program Director & Director, Photography Trip Talent, National Geographic] came back with a rave review of your performance on our Eastern Cuba trip, along with the recommendation that I consider featuring you as NG photographer on future private jet trips—which I most definitely will do!
FORD COCHRAN, DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMING, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPEDITIONS

Local guide

We’ll be accompanied throughout by Alex, a professional tour guide and former policeman, and a fluent English speaker, with whom Chris has previously led several tours in Colombia.