I am going to Colombia, what to explore – got any tips Nessy?
You can travel pretty cheaply in Colombia. Hostels will set you back around $10 USD. Buses are a great way to get around. You can also mainly use Uber to get around in cities like Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Pereira, and Barranquilla but bear in mind Uber is illegal in Colombia so to avoid any problems, hop on the front seat.
– The old town of Cartagena.
– The walled city consists of the historic districts of El Centro and San Diego. It is bustling with activity day and night with colorful buildings, shaded plazas, and historic churches great seafood; positively charming and picture perfect. There are also “free” walking tours that are conducted from La Plaza de los Coches in both the mornings and afternoons. Lodging in this historic colonial area is primarily made up of boutique, locally owned and operated “casas”.
– Old homes, mansions really, that have been renovated and converted into boutique hotels with just a handful of rooms.
– Located just south of Old Town, Getsemani is an up-and-coming area of Cartagena that still has historic charm similar to Old Town Cartagena, it also has a hip, urban feel to it with beautiful street murals, food carts, and an exciting nightlife. Popular among backpackers and younger travelers due to a budget-friendly lodging options and youth hostels like the charming Casa del Pozo.
– Convento de la Popa
– Perched atop the highest hill in Cartagena, this 17th-century convent offers spectacular views of the city.
– Ábaco Libros y Café is a cozy bookstore and coffee shop in the heart of Cartagena’s Old City.
– Look out for the colonial city’s social history is reflected in its fanciful door knockers.
– In the middle of the historic walled cities lies a whacky bar, called KGB, with an enormous collection of Soviet memorabilia.
– Banana Beach is fun but avoid the pushy sales people on the beach.
Trips near Cartagena: Islas del Rosario
– 27 small coral islands, including some tiny islets. The islands are surrounded by coral reefs, where the color of the sea is an incredible combination of cerulean and turquoise. Pablo Escobar’s party hideaway is there too on Isla Grande, The location of the villa is shrouded in secrecy. Your best bet is to arrive on the island and ask around, the easiest route is by speedboat if you can find someone. There are companies that do a snorkel to one of his wrecked drug planes in the water. The islands can be visited in a day trip from Cartagena, although to really appreciate them and to avoid the crowds, consider spending a night or two here or a little fancier here.
Casa en el Agua – a floating hostel 2 hours by boat south from Cartagena. You get there and you just relax, drink, play games. It’s like an adult summer camp.
Hopping up the coast from Cartagena…
– Santa Marta, an abandoned ancient city hidden in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains built some 650 years before Machu Picchu in Peru. Dreamer is a great hostel spot.
– Go inland to the mountains in Minca – It’s a really awesome place up in the mountains, a nice break from the heat of the coast and so much to do. Stay in a hammock at Casa Elemento
– Tayrona : Stay in a hammock on a huge rock facing the ocean ($15-20). If you go to Tayrona, which you should, hike all the way to the bottom to the end of the trail. basically Colombian glamping. Theres a restaraunt at the bottom but there’s also a random artisan bread store on the way down the mountain. Get the chocolate one trust us! Also buy a ticket to enter the park online, you’ll thank us later.
– A tour of Comuna 13, outdoor escalators and art have helped change what was once a notoriously dangerous part of Medellín, turning this poor district into one of the most colorful communes in the city.
– Antioqua Museum – the art museum
– Catch a soccer match at Atletico Nacional
– Casa Museo Pablo Escobar – an unofficial museum details the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar.
– Shopping and bar hopping in El Poblado
– Take a cooking class
– Try the famous mondongo at Mondongo’s
– The botanic gardens in Medellin is very cool.
– Try out the Gondolas of Medellín, an unusual and beautiful form of mass transit serves the city’s steepest neighborhoods.
Trips from Medellin:
Trains in Medellin are also useful if you are nearby the stations.
– Hike to the top of El Penon, visit the town, get lunch and do a beautiful waterfall hike. Don’t need to stay the night, just hop on a bus back after.
– Day trip to Guatape, the Andean town where every single building is decorated with a brightly colored frieze, in the shadow of El Penol, one of the largest rocks in the world, climbable on an astonishing staircase. Stay at Hotel Zocalo Campestre or Hotel Mansión Guatapé. Visit the La Manuela Hacienda Ruins, ripped apart by a bomb in 1993, the shell of Pablo Escobar’s infamous vacation house still stands. There are buses from Medellin to Guatapé and back.
– A few hours south of Medellin is an amazing working coffee finca/plantation called Hacienda Venecia – it’s paradise. Still owned and operated by the Venecia family. The Hacienda is surrounded by beautiful mountains, perfect for casual hiking. You can do the Coffee Tour, a tour of the Paramo Ecosystem, a bird watching tour.
– Another two hours south by bus is Salento, an incredible place not to be missed. Do the Valle de Cocora hike. The Coffee Tree Boutique is a great option. Somewhere to linger for 2-3 nights.
– Hacienda Nápoles in Puerto Triunfo, Escobar’s former manor, now a theme park. Visitors can feed baby hippos, tour the drug baron’s personal effects, and even see the Cessna that carried Escobar’s first load of cocaine to the USA. The hacienda is 100 miles east of Medellin on Route 60 but you can find a company that will take you there on a day trip.
– Cranky croc in Bogotá – cool vibe, rooftop, social, lots of people.
– Rosales, is known as a “gastronomical mecca”.
– La Puerta Falsa – This tiny shop has been serving traditional tamales for more than 200 years.
– Monserrate Hill
– The Botero Museum
– The Gold museum, Musee del Oro – Andrés Carne de Res, touristy and insane but fun.
– Canasto Picnic Bistró, a fresh reprieve from chicharrones and fried plantains.
– Mesa Franca – great meal
– Central Cevicheria, good seafood and open late on Sundays, which is rare in Colombia
– The stories crypts of the Central cemetery
Day trips around Bogota:
– San Antonio del Tequendama picturesque mansion has gone from opulent ruin to nature museum in the the Chicaque Natural Park, a stunning cloud-forest reserve just half an hour from southern Bogota and easily visited as a day trip or on a long weekend.
– Guatavita la Nueva: the entire town looks like a perfect replica of Spanish colonial town that was carted across the ocean and plunked in the Andes, with white façades, rustic stucco exteriors, traditional roofs made of clay tiles, and simple wooden doors and windows.
Hope this helps send you on an incredible trip!
Best, Nessy & the team