When I embarked on my mind blowing trip to Colombia... I couldn't hide my excitement nor my complete ignorance of the country. I was telling everyone on my Instagram page that I was going to COLUMBIA for Christ's sake.... yes, Columbia... like the university. And you don't even want to hear how I was pronouncing Medellín, and Cartagena. I sounded like a true American indeed. Thankfully no Colombians held it against me!
It seems that Colombia is trending now. I serendipitously met up with three friends while I was there. And I saw even more travel bloggers were arriving as I was departing. I'm mentioning to let you know... that you need to go now! Go before the streets are overrun with tourists. Go while you can still enjoy it like a local. And here is what you should do when you get there!
The perfect Itinerary goes a little something like this:
Rip through RioNegro
When you arrive in Medellín, spend at least one day in Rionegro. Most of the tourist activities are located in this neighborhood. In the morning, visit the main square to see Catedral de San Nicolas. In the afternoon take an ATV tour through the rolling hills. And if you want even better views at a slower pace, take a horseback riding tour.
If you need help finding the perfect tour contact Luis Perez via Whatsapp at +57.314.703.1496. Please allow at least a few days for him to reserve your tours and arrange transportation. (Also note that taxis in Cartagena are very small, so if you a have 4+ ppl you may want to book two cars for your transfer)
Cruise Guatapé and Climb El Peñol
Views from the Old Guatapé
From RioNegro head to Guatapé. This old town if full of vibrant colors and gorgeous façades. This place something out of an Instagram dream!
Parroquia Nuestra Señora Del Carmen Guatapé
Visit the church Parroquia Nuestra Señora Del Carmen Guatapé. Explore the town and grab beer in one of the little cafes that line the main plaza. There are many hidden gyms in Old Gautapé so make sure to walk the entire town (about 15 mins).
Next head to El Peñol. Hiking to the top of El Peñol is 675 steps, so be prepared! After your climb, walk down to Hotel Zocalo Campestre for lunch. The food is good and it comes with a great view.
After you tour the town, take a boat tour through the waterways of the old town. The town was flooded in 1970 to make hydropower for Medellín. While on your tour, you MUST stop off at Pablo Escobar's abandoned mansion. I've never seen a better place for a photoshoot! (Sadly our boat did not stop here so I suggest booking a private boat to take advantage visiting of the many islands in Gautape)
Spend the night in Guatape, there are dozens of great boutique hotels to choose from including Hotel Zocalo Campestre (if you would like to stay right by the rock).
To get to Guatape, you can take a public bus, a private car, Uber or rent a car. I like to use the website Rome2Rio.com to find the best forms of transportation in each city that I travel to. When you get to Guatape take time to explore the new town.
Explore Downtown Medellín
Photo of statue in Plaza Botero
In the morning take in the views of Guatapé one last time before checking out of your hotel and heading to downtown Medellín. I would suggest staying in the neighborhood El Pablado. This is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Medellín. It's the business district so there are lots of nice restaurants, shopping and nightlife.
Photo of Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture
After checking into your hotel, head to Plaza Botero. Here you will find the Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture, Antioquia Museum and Statues by the artist Fernando Botero. (photos above)
Views from La Aurora
From Plaza Botero, take a taxi or the metro to San Javier Metro station. From there take the Metrocable to La Aurora. The Metrocable is a Gongola ride that gives you 360 views of the city as your glide high into the hills of Medellin. The views of the city are spectacular. (photo above)
Tour Comuna 13
Comuna 13 was once the most dangerous neighborhood in Medellín. Now it's much safer and has become a major tourist attraction (read about the history of this neighborhood here). Graffiti artist such as John A. Serna aka @chota_13 have covered this neighborhood in beautiful murals. There are free tours every day to explain the history and guide you through the neighborhood. And for there's even a escalator to take you up to the top.
There are multiple free tours that run everyday from San Javier. If you go to San Javier Metro station, someone can point you in the direction of the buses that take you up to Comuna 13. You don't need to pay for a tour... unless you like throwing money way. It's very easy to find a tour thats happening and just join in. But the tours are long. I jumped in, and jumped out three minutes later and walked it alone.
And what would vacation be without a little fun in the club.
To start the night off right, head over to El Machetico for the best empanadas in Medellìn. This is not a restaurant, it's a walkup counter for something quick, cheap, greasy and delicious.
Once you've stuffed yourself on fried food, walk over to bar street for some good bar hopping. The best bar in El Poblado is La Octava... because it has a BALL PIT!!!!
If you aren't down for eating food that's been swimming in grease or you aren't up for drowning in a dive bar ball pit... There's a grown up alternative. First have a fancy dinner at Carmen's and then head to Envy Rooftop for some classy grown up libations. (fyi. no shorts or backpacks allowed)
If you've visited Medellín in the near future I hope this helps to guide you on your journey! Thanks for reading!