Happy Friday, friends! This blog post has been in the process for a while, but like always I never can seem to find the time to write them! My eternal summer starts today and my last official day of teaching-- so you can expect to see way more blog posts from now on.
I wanted to provide a quick guide to our 9 day trip in Colombia and show you all how AMAZING it was. We flew from Lexington to Atlanta (picked up our friend J.J. on this flight) and flew directly to Cartagena. It was LITERALLY the easiest flight of my life. I barely got comfortable before it was over... and on international flights you get drinks, movies, and food ( I actually really love long international flights).
Anyways, it took 3 hours and 45 minutes to get there from Atlanta. We left from Lex at 6:00am and we were exploring the perfect streets of Cartagena by 1:00pm. So crazy!! There is only a 1 hour time difference-- literally the easiest trip ever.
If you've never seen pictures of this place, just wait. You're going to fall in love with it! I will keep this guide short and sweet, but packed full of pictures, because every street and corner you turn is another picture worthy photo-op.
If you go anywhere in Colombia, my suggestion would be Cartagena. It is the cutest little town, full of vibrant colors, wonderful people, and amazing food. We stayed at this Airbnb here. It had everything we needed and was in the perfect location. It even had a beautiful rooftop area to hang out and watch the sunset. Definitely stay inside the old city wall, because everything is walking distance from there. We also felt super safe there too!
There is no shortage of things to do around Cartagena, my favorite being walking around and taking in the scenery. John an I are very casual travelers and find that we enjoy ourselves the most when we just immerse ourselves in the culture (basically we grab a drink in a pretty place and people watch!). Here are a few things we did in our 5 days in Cartagena-- I could have definitely stayed longer, and I know we will be back again in the future.
Things to do:
-Walk around and take in the sights + colorful buildings + flowers!
-Walk along the City Wall.
-Watch the sunset at Cafe del Mar.
-Explore the Castillo de San Felipe.
-Explore the art district of Getsemani.
-Head to Getsemani at night and eat street food, people watch, and listen to live music in the plaza.
-Get drinks and watch the sunset on the rooftop of the Movich Hotel-- it's the best view of the city!
-Drink all the coffee!!!
-Take a boat excursion to Isla Barú for the afternoon.
-Go to Townhouse Rooftop for drinks!
-Shop around the old town... tons of woven round purses everywhere!
-Meet a Palenqueras or a fruit lady and snap a photo with them!
After our stay in Cartagena, we decided to head to Medellín by flight. Our flights were pretty cheap-- I think they were around $120 per person and it was a super easy process. Upon arriving in the Medellín airport we negotiated a taxi driver to take us to Guatapé, a town an hour and a half away from the airport. It costed about 130,00 Colombian Pesos, which is about $45 USD. The drive was beautiful and I loved seeing the mountainous countryside of Colombia.
The main reason we went to Guatapé is to climb the "Peñon de Guatapé" also called "the Stone of El Peñol" or "La Piedra". It is a huge landmark in the Colombian backwoods that is comprised of 10-million tons of rock. It was first scaled in the 1950s by a group of friends using nothing but a wooden plank. Not long after someone decided to build a 700 step staircase leading to the top. The stairs are very steep at the beginning of the hike, but are closed in and not as scary as you would think! I am not in that great of shape, but I didn't find the hike to the top hard at all. Everything I had read leading up to it had made me super nervous, but I was fine-- not even out of breath! ((it didn't hold a candle to the Hawaii Stairway to Heaven hike that John and I did a few years ago-- literally nothing can compare to that one! Go google it! AHH!))
Anyways, the view from the top was INCREDIBLE! We were heading up to the top right as a huge thunderstorm was starting, so we had to wait out the clouds... but luckily it cleared up and we were able to see the view! It was breath-taking and not just from all the stairs!! I highly (pun intended) recommend this hike!
We stay at the Hotel Los Recuerdos at the bottom of the hill (another huge hill that we actually climbed BEFORE even reaching the steps to climb up the rock). Nowwww, I wouldn't recommend staying at the Recuerdos resort and that's another story for another day. If I were to do it again, I would definitely stay in the Guatapé town.
The next morning we took a personal cab to Medellín and paid $90 for hotel to hotel service and the 2 hour taxi drive!
Before heading to Colombia everyone asked if we'd watched the hit Netflix series, Narcos... and of course we hadn't. That being said, my knowledge of Medellín was little to none, but something intrigued me about this city! We decided to go there over Bogotá.
(Since being back we've watched all of the Narcos seasons!! lol)
Medellín is such an interesting city, chock full of history and sadly, a very explosive past. It was once the murder capitol of the world during the reign of Pablo Escobar in the 80s and 90s. The city has come such a long way and we could tell that the "Paisas," or local people of Medellín, were so happy to see tourists coming to and enjoying their city. They were such nice people, very accommodating and happy to show off their home to visitors. They are so proud of how far they've come and it is reflected in everything they do.
We stayed in the El Poblado district and loved it! There are tons of boutique hotels, fancy hotels and hostels in this area-- perfect for all budgets. It is also a really hip area with restaurants, shopping, and bars.
Everything is very spread out in Medellín because it's a big city, but the metrocable helps connect all places. The metro was a huge success for the people of Medellín, because it was built in a time of extreme violence. It has since been a way to connect each of the barrios with the city. The streets of Medellín are very steep, so much so, that a bus system would not work in some areas. The metro helped people who lived in these areas have a way of transportation in to town. Today, it is the main way people get around the city-- and provided us with an incredible view around Medellín. It's also free of charge!
We only spent a few days here, so I wish I could say we saw more, but we didn't have a ton of time. My favorite thing we did was the Real City Tour because I learned so much about the history of the city. We were shown around by a local who had lived through all of the ups and downs that Medellín went through. He was very passionate about the revival of Medellín and wanted us to have the best experience we could have.
Things to do:
-Ride the Metrocable all the way to the top-- incredible views!
-Take a walking tour with Real City Tours.
-See the street art.
-Go to the rooftop of The Charlee.
-Eat at a the hidden gem of a restaurant called Casa Comedor... you have to enter through a secret door next to a street side taco stand!
-Eat the traditional meal called "Bandeja Paisa". The restaurant Hacienda has a great plate of it!
Overall, our trip was INCREDIBLE!! I honestly wish we would have had another week to explore even more and actually maybe relax a little bit! If you're wanting a quick trip that is really cheap and not too far-- Colombia would be perfect! It looks and feels like you're in Europe or somewhere very exotic, but it's only a short flight away.
Please drop a comment or a question if you need help planning your trip! I'd love to help! Safe travels and happy summer!!