…And Then Colombia Happened

If you would have told me that I would spend 25 days in Colombia cutting practically 80% of my time I wanted to spend in Guatemala during my Girl Takes Mundo trip I would tell you that was crazy, impractical and even unnecessary but here I am beginning to write this on day 25 in Colombia and after paying for a change fee then canceling said ticket I’d say look at you now Chris.

In Colombia you can surly spend months just visiting the many beautiful and vastly different places this country has to offer and while I took my time compared to other fellow travelers who I met, it allowed me to discover for myself that a once unappealing country for tourists due to its violence and past cocaine history, now has so much to offer tourists and is surly on its way to becoming a top destination in South America.

As I mentioned, during my time in Colombia I certainly took my time and allowed myself to not be driven by seeing sights but rather spending time in the cities I was in while enjoying the people I was with. I’m sure that for the 25 days I was here I may not have visited as many places as one would expect but things like unexpected day long bus rides and YouTube music battles on a rainy night still lend itself for only some of the many reasons why this part of my Girl Takes Mundo trip was one for the books.

Check out the cities I visit with tips, places to check out, etc.
Bogota – This is a typical metropolis city with less “tourist” attractions so spending 2 full days will certainly suffice. Check out the Chapinero and Candelaria area as this is where most things you would care to do are (FYI, only 30 minutes apart by car and uber is available here). If it’s a clear day I would suggest heading up to Monserrat early and riding  the cable car to save you time. The top of Monserrat I personally believe is worth it if it’s a clear day. You can follow that by heading to the Candelaria area as it’s very close to the main entrance of Monserrat and grabbing lunch at Puerta Falsa (false door), it’s a small cash only spot where locals and tourists alike will be found. AKA, it’s local approved. Order the tamale and hot chocolate and if you want to get real local, break the cheese they give you with your hot chocolate and drop it into said hot chocolate and eating said cheese after you finish your chocolaty drink. You really can’t get anymore local than that. Additionally, in Candelaria I would also highly suggest the 2.5-3 hour walking tour (see below picture). It not only shows you the top sights of Candelaria but has you try local fruit, teach you about graffiti, try cocoa tea, chicha, etc. I also did the food tour and this was an amazing way to be introduced to Colombian food and have me navigate the rest of my time in Colombia like a foodie pro. (Tip: Both tours are tip based tours with the food tour expecting you to pay for the food you consume along the tour. On food I spent around $24,000 pesos or $8 USD without tip and well worth it. The walking tour was probably one of the best tours I’ve done while traveling.) At night I would suggest checking out the Chapinero area by grabbing dinner and enjoying a night out as this is what that area is known for.

Medellin – I’ll admit that given the weekend I came I did quite a bit of partying as we were celebrating Halloween after all and after my birthday this is my favorite holiday back home. Ironically enough, one night I celebrated both when my costume was “birthday girl” with a Hawaiian theme birthday party. Very creative and original I know. 😉 While yours truly’s costume wasn’t at Halloween pasts standards, the nights didn’t disappoint but this did mean waking up later than I would have wished. Regardless, I was still able to cover some of the day sites including Medellin’s walking tour. (FYI: The tour must be booked online and in advance and while people rage about the tour, I and my other mates who went on this tour together admitted it’s still just a regular tour. The one in Bogota in my personal opinion was better.) Don’t miss out Botero Plaza with its collection of Botero statues. The museum next door also is worth a visit as it houses more of artist Botero’s work and other pieces from artists around the world. At $20,000 pesos or $6.50 USD it’s a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon. If there is a futbol game at the stadium while you are here, be sure to check it out! The vibe and futbol culture is one not to be missed and hopefully the game is just as entertaining. I went via a tour that included the transportation to and from my hostel but this can easily be done by getting to the stadium via public transportation or a cab and buying a ticket at the stadium. The tour was $70,000 pesos or $23 USD which in hindsight was a bit overpriced. Of course as I always stress, walk around the neighborhoods, try different restaurants and if you have or make a group of friends don’t miss out on Medellin’s nightlife as it’s notorious for it’s never ending party. The best place for this I would say is the neighborhood, El Poblado. It truly has everything and it’s very safe. If I would return, which is quite likely, I would certainly do the graffiti tour in Comuna 13, the area that used to be one of the most dangerous areas in Medellin as well as going on the outside escalators throughout the city.

Guatape – This is a great day trip option just 2 hours outside of Medellin. A colorful small town and the ability to climbe up the second biggest rock in South America, La Pierda del Penol. Consider the 750ish steps a nice work out with a reward of a stunning view if the day is clear. Guatape was included in my paint ball day tour I did in one of Pablo Escobar’s former estates but many buses leave from Medellin and back so this can easily be done on your own. If you’re down for a little paint ball fun then definitely do the Pablo Escobar Paintball tour. The tour was $160,000 pesos or $53 USD and included a small breakfast, lunch, a boat ride, the paint ball experience with tour of Pablo Escobar’s former estate and entrance to La Pierda del Penol.

Cartagena – Cartagena itself is small but many tourists use it as a base to go to other areas such as Santa Marta, Minca, Taganga or to set sail to San Blas. While in Cartagena I would highly suggest doing a day trip to playa Blanca or isla Rosario to truly get some beach time. The other days can be spent walking through the old walled town both during the day and night (with my favorite being at night), checking out Castillo San Felipe and walking along the water toward Boca Grande which has the beach area in the city but not the best compared to the islands around Cartagena. If you are down to party and around on a Wednesday night the area to go is Media Luna. The hostel also named Media Luna owns the night so to speak and the whole street seems to be filled as a result with the other bars also being filled by the crowds. Additionally, grab drinks at Cafe Del Mar one night. Super chill spot and with hot nights in Cartagena this is a great outdoor spot on top of the walls overlooking the city. If you like hotels or want to treat yourself to a night of luxury in Cartagena I would suggest the Hyatt Regency Cartagena. It’s a beautiful 1 year old hotel in Boca Grande with beautiful infinity pools, a above average gym and great views of the port or beach so each room comes with a view. Big thanks to my Chicago mate and favorite pilot, Ben for letting me crash with him and sharing the luxury that was this hotel.

Isla Rosario – This beach island is outside of Cartagena via boat and makes for a nice day tour to lounge on the beach or use the many resorts on the island. My Chicago mate who joined me for a couple days and the 2 Brazilian girls we befriended went to Cocoliso. (Tip: When booking your boat to the island insure you are getting on a speed boat. We were told this was a 50 minute ride and discovered this was actually a 2 hour boat ride which cut quite a bit of time on the island.)

Minca – A place that was sold to me for its countryside, waterfalls and tranquility can easily be found only a 30 minute cab ride from Santa Marta which is considered a cheaper beach town compared to Cartagena. Santa Marta is only a 4ish hour bus ride from Cartagena if you book the right bus. We unfortunately found ourselves on a bus that wasn’t supposed to be a chicken bus that made multiple stops for what felt like the journey that would never end. Berlinas is the bus company we used for our return and I would highly recommend using. At $40,000 pesos or $13 USD each way with only one stop in Barranquilla it was worth every penny. Once in Minca I did get exactly what I was promised. From the main town area in Minca be sure to leverage the motor bike drivers to head up to Casa Elemento for the giant hammocks or if you decide to stay there during your stay in Minca. I personally am glad for staying in the main town area as this offered more restaurant options, accommodations, etc. A motorbike is necessary to head to Casa Elemento as the road or whatever they call this path has many holes, is usually muddy if it’s rainy season which is very likely and winding. The best way to describe this is comparing it to an exhilarating motorbike ride which could easily fall under an extreme activity, Especially if you have to do it under pouring rain which I can first hand say I experienced. The riders are beyond knowledgeable of these “roads” and while you may be freaking out as you speed down a winding path of running water and going through knee high water falls just thinking that if your mother knew she would kill you, these riders know exactly what they are doing. Thank goodness! (Tip: “Chiquin” and Jose were our drivers and if you find yourself in Minca certainly ask for them. Bad ass riders with a capital B.) A 40 minute walk from the main town you will find Pozo Azul (also can be done by motorbike but walking felt more doable to Pozo Azul than other locations and the road is 10 times better.). This is a great creek that if you are up for walking and exploring the creek itself you will be awarded to areas just for yourself. If you like nature, Minca will be a great getaway but keep in mind that rain is common here especially in the afternoons and during my stay it rained every day having my mate and I getting caught in it even as we walked back down to the main town from Pozo Azul in addition to our motorbike adventure. Minca, you’re still worth the visit.

Colombia was only supposed to be 15 days but this beautiful country held me hostage by my own choice. I expected nothing and of course the unexpected happened in Colombia including the emergency room visit in Cartagena after getting an allergic reaction which even with my first hospital visit during my Girl Takes Mundo trip and now having remaining marks on my body, I still feel positive about my time in Colombia. So to the moments I had here, the memories I made that now have me feeling like I left a part of me in Colombia and despite me struggling at times against living in the moment; you made me realize that happiness is everywhere…you just have to know what you are looking for.