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“Alto de Letras” is truly a “bucket list” climb for serious cyclists. As Colombia’s most challenging climb, it ranks next to Hawaii’s Mauna Loa as one of the longest mountains passes in the world, which can be done on a road bike.
Through its more than 3,800 meters of gained elevation over the course of 82 kilometers, you’ll discover beautiful landscapes, new scents, and typical villages.
We will stay 45 kilometers outside the city to pedal our first ride at 2,300 meters (8,202 feet) above sea level. This region is the second-largest flower producer in Colombia, and produces 20% of all the flowers that our country exports. After we’ve completed our big challenge, we will relax in natural hot springs. To finish the trip, we spend time enjoying the coffee region, riding around coffee plantations, learning about coffee, and closing with the best records in our cycling profile.
After much grit, dedication and passion, when you complete the challenge that is this climb, you will be left with incredible feelings of accomplishment.
Salento (Nearest airport PEI or AXM)
From your arrival, you only have to worry about enjoying yourself and pedaling. We will pick you up at the José María Córdova International Airport (MDE), or in Medellín if you arrived in the city a few days before.
Our transportation service will then take you to the hotel. Our mechanics will assemble and service your bike so that it is ready for adventure. At the end of the afternoon, we will present the trip, share recommendations for riding safely here, and outline in detail the itinerary. We will resolve any doubts to guarantee a pleasant and enjoyable trip for everyone.
This day includes dinner. If you arrive very early in the morning we will help you organize your time so that you can enjoy Colombia until the time of our meeting.
We start the ride at 2,200 meters above sea level, in a region that has been used in recent years by the greatest figures in international cycling (Julien Alaphilippe, Dumoulin, Jungels, Sagan, Froome, Sep Kuss, Annemiek, De La Part, Simon Pellaud) and the Colombian “escarabajos” Rigo Urán, Higuita, Martínez, Tejada, just to name a few. It will not be unusual to meet one of them in our first conditioning round.
On this day you will get to know some famous slopes and republican towns such as La Ceja and El Retiro. We will do this along previously chosen routes with less traffic and we will stop at the best places for a coffee, a juice or a delicious “buñuelo”.
It will be around 50 km and depending on the day we will stop at an artisan brewery and close the ride in the town with a delicious lunch. You will have a free afternoon to walk, drink coffee, and experience the Antioquian culture.
Approximate distance: 50 km / 31 mi, positive elevation gain: 1,000 m / 3,280 ft
Beginner cyclist option: 40 km/ 24 mi, positive elevation gain 780 m/2,560 ft
Advanced cyclists option: 80km / 50mi, positive elevation gain 1,300 m /4,270 ft
We ride towards the Alto de las Flores, well known because it was the origin of the Flower Fair in Medellín. Here, we will learn about the silletera culture. We will finish the ride in a beautiful hotel located on a nature reserve, there we will shower and enjoy lunch in Medellín in comfort.
On this day, we will also show you why Medellín was selected as the most innovative city in the world in 2013. From the hand of an expert, we will learn the history of Medellín and how we went from being the most violent city in the world to one of the cities with the greatest tourist projection and the best reception. We will visit the most important communes or “favelas” in the city, an example of transformation and social development.
We end the day celebrating with a coffee or a beer in the oldest bar in the city.
Distance: 47km/29.2 mi. +1,057 m/3,467 ft. Ascent: 7.4km/4.6 mi.
Expert cyclists option: 63.1 km/39.2 mi. Elevation: +1,430 m/4,690 ft.
We start with a transfer by car to take care of our legs and avoid traffic.
We ride towards a beautiful patrimonial town that takes its name from the Ondaimas, the indigenous people that inhabited the banks of the Magdalena River. This town is known as “the City of Bridges” with more than 40 of them over the Magdalena River. The tour through one of the flattest areas of Colombia will serve as preparation for the challenge that lies ahead. We are going to experience several climatic zones and a unique landscape. A grape juice in the main market of the town will be the reward upon arrival.
We will enjoy the afternoon in a hotel that belonged to the viceroys of the time, with a pool and beer. Here, we will talk about what will be our next stage, El Alto de Letras.
Distance: 45.2 km / 28 mi, elevation gain: 328 m /1,070 ft
Letras, The big challenge!
We are going to climb one of the longest mountain pass in the world.
Don’t worry about water, granolas, bananas, and assistance. Our experience along with escorts on bike, motorbike and car will be ready to help you with whatever you need.
The effort and sweat will be rewarded by the amazing landscapes of the route, the small towns and the people cheering you on throughout the ride. The smells, the change of vegetation, and the different crops will make the climb always varied and interesting.
Usually, we will make a stop at approximately kilometer 40, but feel free to continue if you don’t want to stop. At the end of the ride, you will get to enjoy the hot springs at our next hotel in the middle of nature. That night over a big dinner, we will celebrate!
Distance: 100 km / 62 mi, elevation gain: 4,150 m / 13,600 ft
Short option: 80 km / 50 mi, elevation gain: 3800 m / 12,460 ft
Long option: 120 km / 75mi, elevation gain: 4,250 m / 13,950 ft
Colombia produces a lot of very good coffee. Annual production is estimated at 14 million bags (60 kg). In this second part of the tour, we are going to visit one of the most renowned areas, the “Coffee Cultural Landscape”, declared in 2011 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The area made up of the departments of Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío, will be our destination in the coming days. We will ride among coffee plantations, will visit typical towns, experience excellent gastronomy and, of course, we will ride on the famous ¨willys¨ jeep.
Today will not be a “coffee ride”, or rest day, after Letras, and the legs will surely feel it! At the beginning of the day, we will transfer by car to avoid the city traffic and then we will complete a ride with a couple of mountain passes of 3 km and 6 km. We will enjoy a good coffee in a square and then finish at the hotel with a pool, lunch, and a very pleasant climate.
Distance: 63.7 km, Elevation Gain: 1,567 m.
This town has some of the best-preserved architecture in the region, a panoramic viewpoint, fine handicrafts, and exuberant natural reserves full of wildlife.
Located in the highlands of Quindío, surrounded by coffee, with colors that spread from the houses to its main square. This picturesque town is also known as El Cerro Iluminado de los Andes. There, we will travel in a jeep, a ¨Willy¨ (a representative icon of the coffee region) and will eat in one of the best restaurants in the coffee region. Then, we will enjoy an agua diente while listening to salsa at night.
The ride this day begins with a small transfer of 20 minutes after breakfast, where we can change and have a coffee to start the ride. At the beginning, we may encounter some traffic, then will face our first climb of 5 km. When we arrive at Quimbaya we will make a stop and then finish with a ¨false flat climb and some ramps of around 10 km. Get ready to enjoy one of the best hotels designed for cyclists in Colombia, good food, rest, a jacuzzi, and the possibility of a massage and laundry upon arrival.*
Distance: 54.2km/33.8 mi. Elevation +1,336 m/ 4,480 ft.
*Additional costs apply
Located in the middle of beautiful green mountains in the department of Armenia, Salento has become the image of the coffee region. Good coffees, handicrafts, impressive nature, trout with patacón, and an incredible view over the Cocora Valley make visitors “enchanted”.
Its architecture from the paisa colonization, reflected in its brightly colored and beautifully carved wooden doors and windows, will transport us to another era. At the end of royal street, after visiting the handicrafts, we can go up the stairs that lead to Alto de la Cruz, from where we can see the green Valley and the mountains that surround it.
We start the ride from the hotel. This will be our last stage. We will ride to Salento (we will have two options depending on the legs) and the plan will be to go up to the wonderful Valle de Cocora, 10km, surrounded by nature that will help us make the climb more enjoyable. Before we reach Salento, we will have a 3km climb that will be the prelude to our last challenge of this wonderful trip.
In Salento we will bathe, have lunch and enjoy the afternoon and then close with dinner and celebrate.
Note: people who have to travel that same can do it at the end of the afternoon to make their international connection will have no problem, but it is recommended to spend the night there and fly the next day.
Distance: 42.1 km / 26.1 mi. Elevation + 1,217 m /3,993 ft
Challenging option: 78.9 km / 49 mi. Elevation +1,856 m / 6,089 ft
Airport transfer. Homecoming.
We love having groups of mixed-ability cyclists. That being said, though, we want all riders to enjoy their experience; we understand the need for some cyclists to take a break now and again. We always cycle with a support car, so any cyclist may ride in the car in any moment.
If your body is not used to high altitudes, the first few days can be slightly more challenging than expected. The first rides of our tours are “easy going” to get use. We offer also an option to arrive early! For many people, the body adjusts to the altitude within 24-48 hours.
Training in high altitudes is one way many athletes improve their overall potential. Colombia is full of varying elevations, so you will sleep, ride, and live in altitudes much higher than most people are used to. Doing so will increase your red blood cell counts, which can improve your athleticism.
The bike is our favorite way to get to know a country and its culture. We recommend that you be in good shape to maximize your enjoyment. Also you will enjoy your experience the most if you choose a plan that best matches your cycling level. Please ask for our Cycling Level taste to calculate your level and to determine which plan is the best fit for you.
It’s likely that we will get wet at some point during the trip, as rain isn’t uncommon, especially during certain times throughout the year. Fortunately, though, we do most of our rides during the morning and the rain usually occurs in the late afternoons and evenings. Either way, you won’t freeze in Colombia!
Our average, our cycling groups have between 7 and 12 people, and the planned tours max out at 22 people (not including our staff). Our logistics team will evaluate these situations according to your needs and how we can best accommodate your group.
All of our lodging accommodations are double occupancy. We want you to experience the unique culture of each area we ride, so the specific types of accommodations vary by region. All accommodations will be comfortable, welcoming, and conveniently located.
Yes, Colombia is safe. All the regions that we will visit to shoot are “recommended areas” to travel to and have been marked as safe areas. (https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/colombia). At Colombia Cycling we are in constant contact with the authorities and we are updated on any eventuality that may arise in these areas.
If you want to talk to a cyclist who has already ridden with us to find out about their experience, tell us and we will put you in touch with someone who can be close to you.