(some) Things to do in Colombia
Things to do in Colombia
Here is my attempt to write a more "classic" travel post since I love reading them myself when I go to anew place.
So read along to to know more about all the things I loved doing, seeing, hiking or eating in Colombia and also about the things it’s worth (or not worth) risking your life for (like doing a yoga pose on top of a cliff or surf the caribbean ocean).
It took me a long time coming up with something as I really fell in love with this country and I feel the list is still very incomplete and my experience is hard to put in words. I don't want to wash it down into a touristy to-do list but this is kind of what happens with these kind of posts sometimes.
so, first of all, go, see for yourself, create your own adventures and make your own friends. and second of all, if you enjoyed any of the things I mentioned below too - let me know!
Medellin is way more than narcos and poblado’s party streets … I would really recommend to visit other areas too !
Is a nice and more residencial area that has still a lot going on at Calle 70 (if you want to learn dancing salsa for example). I would highly recommend to go to the estadio on Sunday morning and have a run, workout or a yoga class there – all the streets of the city are closed on Sunday mornings and everyone meets up there to work out.
Just walking by yourself, you might not see a lot but I can highly recommend realcitytours.com, the offer walking tours based on tips and done by locals and you can learn a lot of interesting things about the history of the city, it's history, culuture and transformation. It will let you walk home with a different view on things.
Have a menu del dia somewhere
At lunch time, you can go to any restaurant there is and ask for a menu del dia. It is usually a drink, a starter, a main and sometimes even a desert for about 8000 pesos (4 US $) that is changing every day. My favourite place to eat in Medellin was Naturalia Café in Laureles, but you can find nice and authentic deals everywhere.
While this was one of the most dangerous places in Medellin back in the days, today you can really see how people wants to make a change and how they transformed this neighbourhood. There is beautiful street art everywhere and you can learn about the history too going there with some local guides (they will explain the meanings of the graffiti too, which is touching and interesting.)
You can find them everywhere on the streets – the perfect snack if you’re tired of exploring the city!
Cero Tres Cruces
If you need a workout – this trail is for you ! Locals run up there sometimes, I hiked and it was fine too 😉 you get a nice view over the whole city once you’re up there too !
While the village itself is a bit overrated, the site is still very unique and if you do not stay directly at the centre but at one of the lakes a little bit outside of it, it’s really worth going !
We biked up there from medellin (as my friends are crazy people and everyone can take a bus, no?) and rented a little cabana at one of the lakes before el penol (we literally found it the night we arrived, so don't worry about accomodation to much). If you are up for the challenge, I can recommend to do it that way since the road (once you got out of medellin) is beautiful and you will see a lot of things too – plus the reward arriving there is priceless!
You'll just need a basic fitness level (since it's 75 km, partly uphill) and a basic understanding of google maps ;-)
Salento is a beautiful village located on the mountains and was one of my favourite places! I can highly recommend the Coffee Tree hostel. They make you feel like home and they have the cutest dog (I mean, do I have to say more?) and an awesome included breakfast with vegan options as well. The whole Area is perfect for hiking or biking and has a unique lush and green landscape. If you love nature - you'll love this one ! The village is very cute too.
Is a little lodge in the cloud forest near Salento. The whole lodge is completely sustainable and in perfect harmony with the nature it’s located in. After talking to Carlos and staying there, I never looked at Colombia’s messy forests (and life 😉) the same again.
Valle de Cocora
I would recommend to start with the palm tree valley and then hike up the mountain, as it is easier this way. The hike is about 5 hours and you get all from jungle trails, a lushy green valley, rivers, some adventurous bridges, beautiful flowers and of course, the epic wax palms.
The ride up there from Salento on an open jeep is a fun and unique experience too! You can catch the jeeps on the main square of the village, just go there and ask for them.
I only got lost once, so once you're on the right path, the hike is easy to handle !
Tejo is a traditional Colombian game – have some Cervezas give it a try while in Salento !
You will get the chance to go to coffee farms everywhere and they are all pretty much the same, but I think it’s really interesting to see how coffee is grown and to learn a little more about the process at least once during your time in Colombia.
Drink agua de panela
This drink made out of sugar cane is served pretty much everywhere in the antioquia region and is very tasty. Locals sometimes put cheese in it (not my favourite), other put coffee in it (this was definitely my favourite). This drink provides you a lot of energy and warmth and is perfect after hiking all day or before an adventure.
Jardin was one of my favourite places in Colombia. 3 hours by bus from Medellin, you end up in this beautiful and typical village and even the ride through the country side up to there is beautiful (and I say that as someone that is not really into bus rides) !
It’s way less touristy than other places, as only people that have more time come here I guess. I just loved to be in nature and do all the hikes.
The most beautiful one was to Cueva del Esplendor, a cave with a waterfall in it. You access the cave by climbing your way down to a forest and you can even swim in there, so bring your stuff (the water is pretty cold but you could swim in a cave in a Colombian jungle so hey – you should do it!).
Jardin was one of my favourite places so I could write a lot about it but I ll stop right there.
The city itself is not really special, I would only go there because of the airport / bus terminal (ok, we had one or two pretty fun nights out down there too !) and to go an explore Tayrona National Park from there. You can do it in one day and hike around, but please notice that the park is closed in February.
Is a little coffee town in the mountains above santa marta and a beautiful place. Hike to casa elemento (or take a motor bike if you’re to lazy) to watch the sunset from the hammocks and go swimming in one of the many cascadas around there (bring a mosquito spray too…)
Is a relaxing and pretty wild beach where you can surf, enjoy life and do some yoga. The waves are quiet rough so I would not recommend it for beginners – but maybe some if you are braver or more talented than me 😉
Palomino is a little backpacker town further down the street from costeno and about 1.5 hours by bus from santa marta. It has a lovely hippie vibe and sometimes, crazy jungle raves 😉 even me being the most restless person ever, I could always relax and just do nothing in palomino. It's hard to explain why, but Palomino has a place in my heart forever and a very special vibe for sure. It has it’s own magic – hard to put in words !
I can recommend the dreamers hostel, with it’s pool, restaurant and the location that is directly on the beach, it’s almost a resort not a hostel ! For food, you can walk down the beach and you'll find plant based restaurants that serve amazing food in the middle of nowhere.
Cabo de la vela
If you’re up from some desert adventures, I would recommend going to cabo de la vela. We got up around 5 am to get a jeep from Palomino to there with a friend. You’re really leaving the touristic path here, so you'll get to see the not so pretty side of Colombia … I think it is still important to witness and to know but to be careful. Sometimes, kids would block the road, which is kind of sad to see … the will let you go your way for candy normally. Sometimes, other road blocks happen and you might have to wait longer or to turn back.
The sight itself is incredibly beautiful. If you are into windsurfing, cabo de la vela has the perfect conditions for that. It has some simple hostels or guest houses too where you usually sleep in hammocks but can rent a room too if you ask and pay a little more.
Lost city trek
Well.. I didn’t do it, but you should 😉
It’s a nice city with that typical “vacay mood” but to me it didn’t feel like what Colombia really is! It’s beautiful though and has very photogenic doors and nice restaurants.
Everyone there will heavily advertise the beautiful white sand beachesthat are located on isla baru or other islands around Cartagena. While we had a perfect day going to playa blanca (which was more because of the people than because of the place I think …) I would not necessarily recommend going to one of the other islands.
We went and they looks pretty much the same than playa blanca is (white sand but a lot of people trying to sell you literally whatever and reaggeaton blasting from everywhere 24/7. I mean, we’re in latin America so you’ll end up loving the vibe but still). also the boat ride is quiet rough to say the less…
If you spend the night there, you can enjoy a calmer time during sunset and sunrise and have the beach almost to yourself in the morning.
If you want to go to dreamy islands and feel like you just landed in a post card – I’d recommend Panama, you can even go there from Cartagena directly by boat ! Ask when private skippers are leaving. They take tourists with them most of the time to earn some money or sometimes also to get some help.The beautiful islands of san blas in panama are about 3 days away from Cartagena (by boat). As you cannot leave Colombia by land on that side, taking a boat and visit the islands might be a good option.
Walk on the city walls
The walled city is truly beautiful and drinking a club Colombia while listening to live music and watching the sunset from the old city walls is priceless. You can also go for a walk or run on them an explore the city this way.
Anyways, to me, it was way, way more than this and I could never pack it in one post (so maybe I'll do another one). All I can say is that I'll have to go back a 3rd time to see all I still couldn't see (it's a huge country).