To visit all sites but Malpelo (only one operator goes there and I don't know if they are any good) I organized my trip as such:
Thanks for that Zoe.
You resumee raises a number of questions, the answers to which might be of interest to others who are thinking of doing a trip to Colombia in much the same way and can benefit from "on the ground" experience!
a. Your route implies a one way car hire from Bogota with drop off in Medellin, Your review of Tatacoa and elsewhere says that you hired a 4 x 4. We looked into such car hire. To us it was rather pricey in "world terms" even if one returned to Bogota and even more so with 1 way charges. All our budgets are different of course and what 1 person might regard as expensive another might regard as a "snip" - but it might be of interest to others to know which company you rented from and at what cost. For anyone thinking of renting for a similar route I would warn that the roads around Tierradentro and San Agustin are pretty bad (and we have experience with roads in most countries around the World - including self-drive)- locals used sedans but I am not sure I would! For us THE initial and core question to answer when planning a visit to Colombia is what the main mode of transport should be - public transport or rented car. .Both have their problems/downsides - public transport is slow and logistically awkward. Car rental is expensive and one has to cope with bad roads and some long journeys. So it is a fundamental issue to get right when planning for Colombia.
b. You mentioned that "insurance is highly recommended". Which insurance are you referring to PAI and or LDW - or some other? We personally never travel without LDW and usually prefer to cover the excess as well (you imply that you don't normally take it?). In some countries certain roads are excluded for any insurance (NZ !!!) - I assume you were fully covered for all your roads in Colombia?
c. 8 days from Bogota to Medellin via Tatacoa, San Agustin, Tierradentro and CCL would seem to divide out as
1. Bog - Tat (by the way, we too did the "tunnel" and "Temple of Doom" bridge route. Great!!)
2. Tat - SA
3. SA - TD
4. TD - CCL
5. CCL to Med
leaving 3 days to "see" the WHS - 1 each for TD, SA and CCL? I could imagine from your review that you didn't feel TD needed a lot of time and SA can certainly be done in a day - even though the "standard" route gives both longer (as did we). And what does CCL "need"? Well my current review is addressing this. I guess you could get by with merely a "pass through" if you chose the right route up from TD to around Armenia before going to Medellin?
d. Re the CCL - Where did you pick up your "Core area" visit? We discarded any visit to the "Parque del Cafe" right from the start. It has nothing to do with the WHS. It isn't within the CCL boundaries and is basically a commercial "theme park
" - did your experience differ? Nb However - The URBAN area of nearby Montenegro is, uniquely in the Department of Quindio, INSIDE the core zone
and represents an "easy" pick up for anyone travelling between Armenia and Medellin. (Though I suspect that direct public transport doesn't go through it). From what I have read
however it is not a particulrly attractive town with much in the way of tangible heritage remaining. It does give that "tick" however!c
e. How did you fill a 4 day "road trip" from Cart without Sta Marta? 1 day each way Cart -Mompox plus 1 in Mompox at max. So - 3 not 4 surely? Indeed, given your normal "rate" of travel I am surprised you didn't do it in 2 (1 day Cart - Mom, 2nd day - am in Mom and pm back to Cart?)!! You, possibly jokingly, said that reaching Mompox was "taxing". I would have thought it a "doddle" after you had coped with Tierradentro etc!! Any particular reason why??
f. You didn't mention the Museo de Oro in Bogota but do mention a half day on its 2 WHS. You have stated that museums are not that important to you unless in a WHS or very significant - we are very similar and rarely visit what I call "commercial" or "niche" musea. Maybe you did visit the Gold Museum but just didn't mention it or maybe it doesn't grab you. I would suggest to anyone visiting Bogota that the Gold museum is unmissable - both because of the quality of what is on show, because of the relevance of it to what you are going to see later and because it is a very well presented museum! We gave it 2 visits of 3 hours each - that may be overkill but it deserves 2 hours of anyone's time.