Multi-Day Tour | Private

President's Pick- Crystal Canyons of Colombia (13 days)

Big Five Tours & Expeditions, Inc.

Bogotá, Colombia To Cartagena, Colombia

Valid for Departures Now Through: 30 Apr 2018


Day 1
Bogotá, Colombia
Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota None

Welcome to Colombia. You are met on arrival and escorted to your hotel. This afternoon, begin your exploration of this dynamic capital city with the historic center known as La Candelaria, which has great architectural merit with its stately old homes, Spanish colonial buildings with wrought iron windows, balconies and internal patios with beautiful gardens. The Plaza de Bolivar, with the statue of Simon Bolivar, was used for civil and military purposes as well as serving as a marketplace, a bullring and the site of a gallows. The cathedral, on the eastern side of the plaza, is constructed on the ruins of the first church built in Bogotá in 1539, and houses an important collection of religious artifacts including textiles and artwork from the last four centuries. The Capilla del Sagrario, next to the cathedral, is a gem of religious architecture and also holds valuable pieces of colonial religious art by Gregorio Vasquez de Arce y Ceballos. The plaza is also where the Palacio de Justicia and the oldest school in the country are found. The capitol, built between 1847 and 1926, reveals renaissance and neoclassical influences with its carved stonework and tall columns. The central area of the capitol, known as the Salon Eliptico, is home to government buildings.

Day 2
Bogotá, Colombia
Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota Breakfast

Today you discover the world of graffiti art in the capital. This unusual focus began when an Australian street artist and a Canadian graffiti writer decided to team up to share Bogota’s unique and prolific urban art scene, and help promote local artists to a wider international audience. This vibrant artwork adorns the streets of Bogota and is, in fact, considered one of the best things to do in the city. Your specialist guide is directly involved, either as an artist or as one who studies this art form.

Then, you visit Monserrate Mountain by funicular cable car for incredible panoramas of the city on one side and the Andes on the other. Explore the shopping and entertainment districts that feature cafes, fashionable boutiques and jewelry stores as well as supporting an active nightlife. You day ends in Usaquén, a colonial district, once a separate town. Enjoy the colonial-style atmosphere that is, at the same time, modern. Wander its narrow streets and investigate small boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. Sundays are busier here with a bustling flea market.

Day 3
Bogotá, Colombia
Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota Breakfast, Lunch
Bogota – Zipaquirá – Bogota:

After breakfast, set out north past fields and greenhouses of carnations and roses. Flower production is an important industry in this region. You reach the impressive Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral, a distinctive feat of engineering. The name Zipaquirá refers to Zipa, the leader of the ancient Muisca tribe and the overlord of these rich salt mines. As one out of four advanced civilizations of the Americas (that included the Aztec, Mayas and Incas), they were overcome by the Spanish Empire in 1537. Over time, the mines have been carved out to include the fourteen Stations of the Cross, a dome, an enormous cross carved into the rock and finally the three naves of the cathedral that represent the birth, life and death of Christ. In the central nave is the main altar, above which is a cross measuring 16 meters/52 feet tall and 10 meters/33 feet wide, made by the Colombian artist Carlos Enrique Rodriguez. The salt mine excursion ends at a mirror of water, where you experience the amazing visual effects of water on carved saline rock. You return to the city where the remainder of the day is free for you to pursue your own interests.

Day 4
Bogotá, Colombia
Hostal Punto Verde Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Bogotá / La Macarena – Caño Cristales – La Macarena

This morning, you enjoy a private transfer from the hotel to Bogota’s Eldorado Airport to board you plane for the approximately one-hour flight to the village of La Macarena. Upon arrival, a local guide and expert on the region will welcome you and transfer you to your hotel. Along the way, the guide will give a brief overview about the importance of the national park, and how to explore this delicate environment while protecting it.

After your hotel check in, you board a boat for a 20-minute ride on the Guayabero River, where you may spot a variety of indigenous species including turkey, heron and turtle. Then, you set out by jeep that takes you the 10 kilometers/6.2 miles to Caño Cajuche, where you set out on a walk of about 25 minutes (approx. 2 km/1.3 miles). It covers easy terrain with almost no ascent or descent. As you reach Caño Cristales, a tributary of the Guayabero, you may see why it is often called the “river of five colors” or the "liquid rainbow." The water is bright with yellow, green, blue, black and especially red. Caño Cristales has aquatic plants but no fish. The water of the river is extremely clean due to the lack of nutrients and small particles. The bright colors, especially the red-pink colors of river bottom after the rainy season are caused by great quantities of endemic plant species Macarenia clavígera. This plant is found in some more local rivers, such as the Caño Siete Machos. These red plants adhere tightly to rocks in places where the river has faster currents. This is a fast river with rapids, waterfalls and curious small circular pits. Called giant's kettles, these pits are formed by pebbles or chunks of harder rocks. Once one of these harder fragments falls into a small cavity, it is rotated by the current and begins to carve at the wall until the small cavity becomes a pit. Explore with your guide all the natural wonders found along this river before returning in late afternoon to the village.

Day 5
Bogotá, Colombia
Hostal Punto Verde Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

La Macarena – Caño Cristales – La Macarena

After breakfast, you return to Caño Cristales along an alternate route, exploring different features on the river, enjoying opportunities to swim and discover more striking waterfalls. In each of your visits, you will take in the most representative sites in the area. You will see the quartz waterfalls, the Stone of the Virgin, the Pianos, and the love waterfall. It is hard not to be impressed by the river’s show, where the water mixes in capricious forms and sculpts the river bottom and banks as it has done over thousands of years. Enjoy a serene picnic lunch in this pristine landscape and look for turtles, snakes and small caimans and, in the treetops, you may spot primate troops. This river is part of a larger biome that is rich in biodiversity with some 420 species of birds, 10 species of amphibians, 43 species of reptiles, and 69 primate species. After a day of exploration, return to the hotel where you will enjoy performance of folkloric music.

Day 6
Bogotá, Colombia
Hostal Punto Verde Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

La Macarena – Caño Cristales – La Macarena

Today, you continue your discovery of this unique ecosystem, exploring the on the right bank of Caño Cristales with incredible viewing spots that include the Buddha armchair, square well, staircase and eagle jump that you reach by trekking along trails of virgin mountainous jungle. You encounter spectacular landscapes of tepuyes – a series of large flat rock formations or mesas, some of the oldest in the mountain range. In this wild area, there are numerous rock paintings that remain largely unexplored. The erosion of the rock that forms the mountain range has for millennia shaped the waterfalls, plateaus, tunnels and natural pools. The combination of water, plants and light create an almost stained glass affect is some places. You have the chance to swim in natural pools and picnic on the river bank. The hike, including stops for lunch and swims, takes between four and six hours each way. The exact length of the hike and the stops may vary depending on the water level at the time.

Day 7
Bogotá, Colombia
Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina Bogota Breakfast

La Macarena – Caño Piedra – Bogota

After breakfast, you will be transferred by car a short distance to a local family’s home, where you get in some birdwatching that may include hoatzin, herons, parrots, vultures, sparrow hawks and more. A short walk of some 500 meters/1,640 feet brings you to “caño piedra,” surrounded by Moriche palm trees. The water is crystal clear and you have time for a refreshing dip before you are transferred to the airport to board your flight to Bogota. Upon your arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel

Day 8
Neiva, Colombia
Hotel Monasterio del San Agustin Breakfast

Bogota / Neiva/ San Agustin

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flight to Neiva. From there, you venture out on a four-hour scenic drive to San Agustin. You glimpse views of the extensive floodplains of the Magdalena River Valley, pass plantations of fruit, maize and, of course, coffee as well as rice paddies, cotton and wheat fields.

Arrive in the afternoon at San Agustin. Later, visit San Agustín Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its enormous stone statues. The area is rich with archaeological evidence, including ancient tracks, field boundaries and artificial platforms as well as funerary monuments. This was a sacred land of pilgrimage and worship. Walk on to the ceremonial fountain, Fuente de Lavapatas, before heading up the hill to the Lavapatas Terrace, where you enjoy remarkable views over the surrounding countryside. Visit the small Museo Arqueológico.

Day 9
Neiva, Colombia
Hotel Monasterio del San Agustin Breakfast

San Agustín – Isnos – San Agustin

Today you set off for the rural town of Isnos to further explore archaeological sites such as the Alto de los Ídolos and the Alto de las Piedras, where well-preserved tombs still show some of the original paint and feature some of the largest stone figures to be found. These hieratic guards, some more than four meters/13 feet high and weigh several tons, are carved in blocks of tuff and volcanic rock. They protected the funeral rooms, the monolithic sarcophagus and the burial sites. Moving between these sights gives you the breathtaking view of the Macizo Colombiano, Colombian Massif, a group of Andean mountains, and the incredible waterfalls of Salto del Mortiño and Salto de Bordones.

Day 10
Cartagena, Colombia
Hotel Casa San Agustin Cartagena Breakfast

San Agustín / Cartagena

After breakfast, transfer to local airport for flight to Cartagena via Bogota. Upon arrival, you are met and transferred to your luxury hotel in a restored 16th-century colonial house. The remainder of the day is at leisure.

Day 11
Cartagena, Colombia
Hotel Casa San Agustin Cartagena Breakfast

In the morning, start with panoramic views of the city from the Monasterio and Iglesia de La Popa. Constructed in 1606, this church and monastery offers expansive views of the city and the port, one of the busiest in the Caribbean. Discover the fortress of San Felipe, built on San Lázaro Hill to defend the city from pirate attacks. Explore this fascinating fortress with its tunnels, underground galleries and passageways. Then, travel into the old section of the city to visit the Convert and Church of the San Pedro Claver compound, which was built in the mid-1600s. Enjoy the lively handicrafts and artisan area of the Bovedas, a collection of archways built into the city wall that were used to house armaments until the end of the 1700s. In the 19th century, they served as a prison. After lunch, visit the city’s colonial district, starting in Parque Bolivar with its large shade trees and four fountains in the center. Around the plaza is the Museo del Oro, which exhibits a fine collection of archaeological objects dating back to the pre-Hispanic period. The Palacio de la Inquisicion, recognizable for its large Baroque door, is where the Inquisition held its meetings. It was also the site of the prison and torture chambers used for presumed heretics, opponents of the Catholic Church, and many others. Continue to the Santo Domingo Church, the cathedral and the Museum of the City’s Fortifications.

Day 12
Cartagena, Colombia
Hotel Casa San Agustin Cartagena Breakfast

Cartagena / Palenque / Cartagena

In the morning, depart for San Basilio de Palenque, a town located 60km/37 mi, about an hour’s drive along the Vía de la Cordialidad on the way to Barranquilla. The town’s name comes from the Palenques, communities of fugitive and escaped slaves from the colonial period of the 17th century. In 2005, the village was declared Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Palenque is also considered the first free town in America. This community has survived in San Basilio with their practices, customs and traditions intact. They retain heavy African influences in their daily routines, including in their Palanquera language, which blends elements of Spanish with the Bantu dialects of Africa. Upon arrival in Palenque, meet a family who teaches visitors about the local customs and way of life here. Palanquera women demonstrate how to carry fruit in a head basket while walking. Palanquera men routinely take care of the children while the women go off to work. Also, take a walk around the community to listen to tales of religious beliefs and customs, and sample traditional sweets. Return to Cartagena.

Day 13
Cartagena, Colombia
None Breakfast

Cartagena / Depart

Today you are transferred to the airport for your flight to Bogota and onward connections.

Tour Features


Experiences have not been selected at this time


Tour Highlights

*Explore two of Colombia’s dynamic and historic cities – Bogota with its historic center and reputions for premier graffiti art; and Cartagena with its ancient walled city

*Take in the impressive Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral, a distinctive feat of engineering, carved over time in the mines that include the fourteen Stations of the Cross, a dome, an enormous cross carved into the rock and finally the three naves of the cathedral that represent the birth, life and death of Christ

*Investigate in depth a tributary of the Guayabero River called Caño Cristales, and witness why it is called the “river of five colors” or the “liquid rainbow”

*Delve into the San Agustín Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, rich in archaeological evidence, including enormous stone statues, ancient tracks, field boundaries and artificial platforms as well as funerary monuments

*Go off the beaten path to San Basilio de Palenque, named for the Palenques, communities of fugitive and escaped slaves from the colonial period of the 17th century; and considered the first free town in America

Included In The Tour Cost:

*Hotel and lodge accommodations as proposed, including taxes and fees

*Meals as indicated (B-breakfast, L-lunch, D-dinner)

*Services of an English speaking guide during all included excursions on a shared basis

*All transfers in an air conditioned vehicle

*Entrances at parks, sites, and monuments

*Comprehensive assortment of pre-tour materials and amenities

*Big Five’s 24-hour White Glove Service® guest assistance

*Complimentary one-year membership to One More Generation, including adoption of an endangered species

About Us

Since 1973, Big Five has created life-affirming journeys to some 44 destinations worldwide. Our Destination Specialists, award-winning adventures and premier 24-hour White Glove Service® guest assistance combine to present the journey of a lifetime to individuals, families and small groups. Sustainable travel is at the heart of Big Five. We have seen how the power of travel can change the world for the better. Sustainability benefits both the traveler and the places visited. Whether the focus is cultural, wildlife or adventure, we tailor each journey to the interests of guests traveling in Africa, Asia, Latin America and South Pacific.

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Contact your Virtuoso Travel Advisor for insider knowledge to help enhance your experience.

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Reviews and Recommendations for Big Five Tours & Expeditions, Inc.


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Highly recommend

By: Jsquared

Reviewed on: 15 Oct 2013

In Chengdu our guide, Amanda, went above and beyond her responsibilities and made our stay there the highlight of the tour. We did not go through the locks on the Three Gorges Dam. Apparently the locks were shut down because of wind. However, when we reached the locks there was not even a breath of wind. We will be obliged if you could confirm the reason for the locks being closed,and in future pick a cruise ship that goes through the locks in daylight.
Travel Advisor:  Jodi Fox
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highly recommend

By: Sandy Z

Reviewed on: 02 Nov 2013

We used them for our most recent trip. The arrangements they made were very good. We had a few problems with flight time changes, but each time I emailed them and they were able to confirm the changes and reassure me that we would be picked up at the appropriate time at the other end. THey made good choices for hotels, and the cruise boat down the Amazon was fabulous!!
Travel Advisor:  Birgit Navarre
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Hardworking and experienced tour group

By: Not provided

Reviewed on: 20 Nov 2013

We've used Big Five Tours twice. The first experience had one or two bumps in the outcome but they corrected what could be done at the time and were attentive. We had doubts about their competency and experience but spent time going over the issues with them after the trip. After detailed discussions, we found them to be truly interested and they took our comments seriously. We decided to give them a 2nd chance with another large trip and they did a fabulous job!
Travel Advisor:  Sharon Cooper
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Very Accommodating

By: TGC and MJC

Reviewed on: 24 Nov 2013

Our trip to the the Galapagos Islands and Machi Picchu was fine tuned to our personal needs and time restrictions. The local tour companies in Ecuador (Klein Tours) and Peru (Fiesta Tours) were outstanding. Their staff and guides could not have been better. It was a trip of a lifetime.


By: jpriest

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2014

Travel Advisor:  Patty Calvert

Professional and timely

By: pelisons3

Reviewed on: 12 May 2015

Big Five provided a professional and individualized travel experience for us. Our guides were timely and informative and really seemed to want us to have a hassle free vacation while enjoying the beauty and culture of their country.
Travel Advisor:  Michele Vogel

Ditto previous comments

By: Jim

Reviewed on: 03 Nov 2015

See my other review that contains the same information -- altogether excellent!
Travel Advisor:  Honey Mistry

Thailand Myanmar

By: Been There

Reviewed on: 13 Mar 2016

Had a thoroughly enjoyable 17 day excursion to Bangkok, Amphawa, Chiang Mai, Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, and Inle Lake areas. Travel connections were made without complication. Transportation (buses, vans) were comfortable, drivers and assistants were up to the task, Guides were knowledgeable, helpful, flexible, personable and communicated effectively. Accommodations for the most part were in keeping with what we expected. The restaurant in the Baan Amphawa Resort accommodation should not have served us supper as their kitchen was closing. The breakfast meals were good and set one up for the day. The accommodation in the Inle Lake accommodation (Inle Princess Hotel) has very weak internet connection for those needing to receive email. A travel companion had her US dollar cash reserve eliminated as the internet failed and she could not pay by credit card. Their water system pulses and surges giving uneven pressure when washing/showering. Had restful sleep in all hotels.
Travel Advisor:  Nancy Ferragine
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Comprehensive trip planners

By: Pamela

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2016

This was our second trip with Big Five. We also travelled with them in Peru, where we had one guide for 10 days who was one of the most remarkable people we've ever met. This trip included safari, Victoria Falls, and a few days in Cape Town. Our trip had many logistical elements (we are a family of 5) and it went off pretty much without a hitch. We had multiple guides and drivers, all competent and timely, some more expert or personable than others. The safari camps chosen exceeded our needs and expectations. We would do the trip again in a heartbeat.
Travel Advisor:  Ken Neibaur
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Great tours

By: Jax

Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2016

Our vacation to Tanzania, Africa was fantastic. Big Five Tours did not disappoint. We did not know what to expect and they did a great job in every way. The tented camps were more than anyone could have imagined. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and friendly.
Travel Advisor:  Bill Beckett
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Amazing Company

By: Monica B

Reviewed on: 17 Aug 2016

Working with Ashish and Big Five Tours was a great experience. Every aspect our our tour was outstanding and we would not have changed anything with our itinerary. Ashish took the time to get to know what we wanted and expected and was bang on with everything on our trip.
Travel Advisor:  Sue Pechtel
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Great Tour Company!

By: Holly

Reviewed on: 06 Feb 2017

Everyone was on time and where they said they would be in our itinerary. We had amazing guides and drivers who took such great care of us. I would highly recommend Big Five to my friends and family!
Travel Advisor:  Courtney Regan
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By: Jimbo

Reviewed on: 24 Feb 2017

Very good. Almost everything went off as planned. When there was a problem, a call took care of it. The guide was great: pleasant, knowledgeable and punctual. I would definitely recommend Big Five Tours.
Travel Advisor:  Steve Kuriga
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By: Liz

Reviewed on: 06 Mar 2017

This is our second time using Big Five. We were faced with an emergency situation of coming up with a 10 day itinerary for Uruguay with 2 weeks notice. They came through with a great program at a price point we were comfortable with. The planning and fine tuning was done quickly and efficiently. A great company for a good travel experience.
Travel Advisor:  Natasha Rhodes
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A boundary pushing vacation

By: Jann DH

Reviewed on: 27 Mar 2017

Having never been to Central America, it was important for our family to work with an experienced operator with trusted connections. Our amazing travel advisor Sheila Gallant-Halloran recommended Big Five, and together, we experienced our best vacation ever. Our accommodations were fantastic. While living in the jungle without electricity, waking up to the sound of howler monkeys and rappelling down 100ft waterfalls definitely pushed our personal comfort zones, it was always done within the parameters of safety, fun and new experiences (in addition to push comfort!). Having Gisele and Asheesh thoroughly explain the uniqueness of our vacation choices only added to the excitement upon arriving. The finely-detailed itinerary made for no surprises. Logistically, it was great to have people waiting for to take us to our next destination. Their local contacts Jose and Jannie checked in with us throughout our vacation, making sure all was well. Top marks for another great family vacation.
Travel Advisor:  Sheila Gallant-Halloran
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By: Jimbo

Reviewed on: 30 Mar 2017

Most of our experience with Big Five was good. A couple of times drivers were not there but they recovered quickly. Guide was great. Trip through the canal went very well. Hi light of the trip.
Travel Advisor:  Steve Kuriga

Peru 2017

By: Mark B

Reviewed on: 10 Jun 2017

Another great trip with Big Five - every detail attended to, wonderful guides and destinantions.
Travel Advisor:  Ken Neibaur
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South America

By: Jay

Reviewed on: 03 Jun 2017

We could not fault the Big Five. We travelled to amazing places in Peru and Ecuador over 3 1/2 weeks and were looked after very well all the way. we had good accommodation, excellant guides and very good drivers with comfortable cars which all made for a good holiday.
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Extremely professional and knowledgeable

By: ConstantlyCurious

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2017

While I still get a bit confused about the role of Big Five vs. the local agencies in Peru (not to mention my personal agent), our overall trip was extremely well managed. The guides were all incredibly knowledgeable, to the point where they could have been professors! Everything was extremely efficient. We always felt like someone was watching out for us - which was important to us in a country where we don't speak the language. And most importantly, we were able to experience some truly amazing things. Thanks for a great trip!
Travel Advisor:  Tisha Neufville

Big Five Tours

By: Neal

Reviewed on: 29 Jun 2017

Excellent.....most impressive was the Tour Guides we experienced throughout the five different Camps we visited. The Camps were well managed and efficient.
Travel Advisor:  Toni Lanfrank
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Great tour provider

By: Neets

Reviewed on: 19 Sep 2017

Big Five made sure our experience was exceptional. Our first experience in Africa was made memorable by Big Five. We were met at the bush plane by Michael our guide and from the minute we left the airstrip we felt safe and secure in his presence. Over the next several days he demonstrated his knowledge of the wildlife and their habits and made our experience a true adventure. He is more than a guide, he is an ambassador for Tanzania and a dedicated conservator of the wildlife resource. We saw and photographed so many different animals and had so much fun with Michael as he has a very developed sense of humour. The rest of our tour with Big Five was to the Ngorongoro Conservation area and was also memorable. Words cannot truly express the experiences provided us by Big Five you have to go there yourself. Big Five live up to their name and reputation and are the professionals they say they are.
Travel Advisor:  Geordie McDonald
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A Little Bit of Heaven

By: bus driver

Reviewed on: 08 Aug 2017

We couldn't have asked for a better experience. We were looked after right off from the start. During the whole trip we felt safe. The staff couldn't have been more accommodating,friendly caring people. The bus driver and myself highly recommend the Big Five to all who want a trip of a lifetime. try them you will never go to another.
Travel Advisor:  Bill Beckett
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By: Liz

Reviewed on: 11 Nov 2017

Very good. Have used Big Five on three different occasions and they provide an excellent service and itinerary leading to a very satisfying experience.
Travel Advisor:  Natasha Rhodes
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South America

By: big blue

Reviewed on: 04 Dec 2017

Wonderful experience with Big Five. The guides were uniformly excellent, both knowledgeable and very friendly. I would recommend them to anyone thinking of going to South America.
Travel Advisor:  Beth Jenkins
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Reviewed on: 21 Jan 2018

The guides provided by the tour operator were amicable, yet professional. They were there for us all of the time from arrival to departure. Alvin was the best in Santiago. Joaquin was the best en El Cajon del Maipo. Remota Hotel provided great facilities with great guides. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience.
Travel Advisor:  Misty Jones
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