Epic doesn’t quite do Colombia justice. Massive mountain passes, incredible landscapes and welcoming locals come together in this part of the Andes to produce the most exciting cycling destination on the planet.
Climb the incredible Alto de Letras - the longest climb in the world - 80km (50 miles) from bottom to top!
Not for the faint of heart, our Trans-Colombia Challenge trip features the best of Colombian cycling. The highlight of the trip is the 80km climb to Alto de Letras, known as the longest climb in the world. And in true Thomson style we’ll do Letras not once, but twice - from both sides!
Starting in Medellin, the mecca of Colombian cycling, our route takes us south over the Andes mountains. We’ll ride through the coffee plantations of the famous Eje Cafetero (Coffee Triangle) which claims to produce the worlds best coffee.
From the Coffee Triangle we head over to Los Nevados National Park where the Nevado del Ruiz volcano lies under its blanket of snow and glaciers. The National Park also hosts our final challenge - the 3660m Alto de Letras!
Bienvenido a Medellin!
Our trip starts at the 4-star Hotel Movich situated just 5 minutes from the José Maria Cordoba International Airport in Medellin. Meet our staff at the Hotel Movich at 10am for a brief Orientation Meeting followed by the bike build and lunch by the hotel pool.
After lunch we’ll head out on our first ride in Colombia. From the hotel we head south over a couple of “wee bumps” to La Ceja where we start the climb to the Los Enanos. Fastest time on Los Enanos is held by local rider Rigoberto Uran. Enjoy the descent from Los Enanos then the final 15km of rolling terrain through El Tablazo end eventually back to our hotel.
Meeting Time and Place
Our hotel is situated just 5 minutes from Medellin Airport and a free shuttle is available. Fly in any time and take the shuttle to the hotel. Our staff will meet you in the Hotel Movich Reception at 10:00am.
The start of the journey!
Our journey across Colombia starts today. Medellin is the mecca of cycling in Colombia and we’ll join the local pelotons through the centre of the city (on closed roads) and up the climb to Caldas. We’ve rarely seen so many cyclists out on the roads, even at stages of the Tour de France, and these 20 to 30km through Medellin really highlight the astonishing boom in Colombian cycling.
From Caldas we head high into the mountains above Medellin with the Cat 2 climb to La Fredonia. The high Andes mountain scenery around Fredonia is really special and a taste of what’s to come over the next week of riding. The long twisty descent takes us down to Puente Iglesias before a short, flat section along the Cauca river to our hotel in La Pintada.
Into Coffee Country
Our ride todays takes us into the famous Coffee Triangle region, famous for what many consider to be the best coffee in the world. We’ve planned a short 46km transfer in the morning - but those who don’t mind an almost 190km day are welcome to ride out from the hotel.
The first main town we reach is Supia and from there we start climbing the HC Alto del Tabor which rises to over 2100m. The views of the Andes from the Tabor and the subsequent descent are quite breathtaking. Eventually we reach the town of Anserma with its huge status of Jesus perched high on the mountain overlooking the town. From Anserma enjoy the descent to Viterbo where we start our next climb. The next 35km are simply stunning as we climb through coffee and banana plantations towards San Jose, followed by a magnificent ride along a ridge at 1600m with a spectacular descent to La Virginia closing off an incredible day on the bike.
After the last 2 tough rides we’ll have a shorter ride today to help us recover for the days ahead. Our ride takes us through the heart of Colombian Coffee country to the beautiful town of Salento.
Even though it’s a short ride we still have a couple of categorised climbs to contend with, the Cat 2 climb to Filandia and the final climb to our hotel in Salento. Today’s ride may be short but it is exceptionally beautiful with coffee, banana, and sugar cane plantations lining the route.
We’ll arrive in Salento for lunch at our hotel then in the afternoon we’ve arranged a tour to the Cocora Valley, famous for its wax palm trees.
Letras (from the easy side)
After yesterdays’ “easier” day it’s time to get back to some serious riding and we have the infamous Alto de Letras (from the easy side) on the agenda. After breakfast we’ll have a short van transfer to avoid the busy cities of Pereira and Manizales and start the ride at the Hotel Termales de Otono at the bottom of Letras.
At only 26km and with an elevation gain of just 1550m, this is the easy side of Letras! The climb itself is spectacular with the top of the climb reaching an elevation of 3660m. From the summit we’ll head down Letras to Mariquita, an incredible descent of over 80km! Of course, what goes down must come up - and this will be our challenge on the final day of the trip!
Only with Thomson!
We’ve discovered a hidden gem for you today - most of the locals don’t even know of this ride!
From the hotel we head east to Honda then up the Magdalena river valley to Cruce a la Victoria. From there the road runs along a beautiful river valley before eventually arriving in Victoria. Our first climb of the day starts in Victoria and from here we’ll be basically climbing for the next 50km. We reach the summit in El Recreo at the 101km. A long descent takes us to our final climb of the day, the Cat 2 climb to Petaqueros. From Victoria to Petaqueros the road winds through endless coffee and banana plantations with fantastic views of the valleys hundreds of metres below the road. Petaqueros is the final climb of the day and from there enjoy the 40km descent to our hotel in Mariquita.
An “easier” ride today after yesterdays’ big ride and keeping in mind what lies waiting for us tomorrow. Guaduas is one of the prettiest towns in the region with a beautiful town square surrounded by the typical Colombian bars and restaurants. The climb up to Guaduas is also beautiful with some stunning views of the Magdalena river valley. We’ll ride from the hotel and enjoy 20km of flat before arriving in Honda. Shortly after Honda we start the climb to the Alto de la Mona which tops out at 1250m.
We’ll stop in the town square for a quick Colombian lunch, then you can either ride the 50km back to the hotel (mostly downhill) or if you prefer to save your legs for tomorrow, you can jump in the support van for a transfer back to the hotel.
The Queen Stage and your opportunity to climb the longest climb in the world! You’ve done the downhill so you should have a good idea of what to expect. With a total distance of 80km and a elevation gain of 3800m, Letras is in a category of its own!
From our hotel in Mariquita we have a few km to warm up before the climb starts. The first 4km average out at about 8% then it eases up for a while with gradients mostly in the 5 to 6% range. After 63km you’ll hit the toughest part of the climb with a 14km section which has gradients from 8 to 12%. 6km before the summit you can enjoy a weclome break with a 2km descent before the final 4km climb to the top.
Pace yourself today - the fastest time up Letras is 3.5 hours but you’ll be looking at anywhere between 5 and 7 hours of climbing - so it’s really important to take it easy on the lower slopes. Weather is also a factor to consider - expect temperatures of +30 degrees at the bottom and between 6 and 10 degrees at the top. EPIC!
Unfortunately, our trip must come to an end. Our shuttle will take you to Manizales Airport, arriving at approximately 9:00am. From Manizales there are regular flight connections to Bogota.