If you’re visiting Medellin, you’re sure to spend a lot of time in the hip neighborhood of Poblado. But Envigado, the neighborhood just south of Poblado, shouldn’t be missed. It’s been my home for five months now, and the lively streets, beautiful churches, green parks, and delicious restaurants are perfect for a day of exploring (and eating!).
It’s not just a residential neighborhood either… it has a lot of history. Did you know that Envigado was Pablo Escobar’s hometown? He grew up playing in the streets and attending the schools just down the street from my apartment. He invested a LOT of money into the barrio too, and I often find myself walking on a track or through a park that he financed himself.
Although his name is all but banned from being mentioned in Medellin anymore, Envigado is still a pivotal piece in Pablo’s, and therefore Colombia’s, history. You should check it out, and while you’re there, make sure you hit my list of the best restaurants in Envigado!
My Recommendation: The spring rolls are one of the most refreshing appetizers I’ve ever had, and the sauce is amazing too. For a main dish, the Pho (a noodle soup) is served as a huge portion and will only set set you back around $17,000 COP/$6 USD.
The Tom Kha Gai, a coconut curry with veggies, chicken, and rice, is also phenomenal. It comes as a side or a main dish, so you can try more than one dish per visit. Lemoncillo is perfect when you’re craving something new, or just need a light, healthy, refreshing meal choice.
Check them out here
My Recommendation: Visit Cocolatte when you have an afternoon to kill. It’s in the cute little area on Sur 30 in Envigado with quiet streets, shop fronts, greenery, and an almost European vibe to it. It’s the perfect place to chill on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and Cocolatte is a must visit when there. The frappes are piled high with ice cream, and the frozen chai tea with espresso is unreal.
They also serve a rotation of cakes and desserts to tempt your sweet tooth if the sweet coffee drinks aren’t enough. I usually take visitors here not only for the delicious drinks, but also because they have very nice quality “Medellin” shirts for $48,000 COP/$16 USD and packages of coffee beans that make for great souvenirs or gifts to take home.
Check them out here
EMPANADAS LA CATEDRAL
My recommendation: If you’re anything like my friends and family, the first Colombian food you want to try on your visit will be delicious, savory, meaty EMPANADAS! Mmm one of Colombia’s best gifts to the world.
You will see them in the fronts of almost every store or shop you pass, but you have to be picky because quality and flavor can vary wildly. My absolute favorite place to get Empanadas is right on the corner of Parque Envigado (which isn’t actually a park at all, but the main square featuring a beautiful Cathedral, hence the name Catedral Empanada).
There are only two choices, which is how you know it’s good. Desmechadas is pulled beef and potatoes, and Tradicional is ground beef and potatoes. While both are delicious, I prefer the Tradicional myself. They’s always hot and crispy, and not to mention, giant. Oh, and they’re only 50 cents each.
Enjoy them standing at the counter like a local with a shared bottle of sauce, or grab a seat in the square to people watch while you scarf it down. Trust me, you cant go wrong with these!
Check them out here
MAHALO ACTION SPORTS CAFE
Cuisine: Bar Food
My recommendation: Hit this place up during the day for an afternoon of day drinking in the sun, or visit to grab dinner at sunset. Why? Because it’s is up on the mountainside with a phenomenal panoramic view of Medellin.
It was built into an old home, so it has tons of outdoor space, porches, tables under the trees, a fire pit, and even a half pipe and paintball field! The food isn’t too bad either. I had a Serrano ham sandwich and fries that were delicious for around $22,000 COP/$7USD. They also have a happy hour for half price cocktails from 5 to 6. It’s a perfect place to relax with a view.
Check them out here
CONTENADORES FOOD PLACE
My Recommendation: Where to begin. This place is unlike anywhere you’ve ever been, I promise you that. It was built by stacking shipping containers on top of each other and draping the place in fairy lights, making a strange grown up version of a secret garden or maze… but with food.
Each container holds a different restaurant, so you can take your pick from burgers, pizza, Mediterranean, sushi, Asian, and more. It’s all here. I’ve only been once and got the salmon salad at Mezza Luna, but the choices really are endless.
Check them out here
My Recommendation: I never thought when I moved to Colombia that I’d be in walking distance to an amazing sushi restaurant. The Sushi Service Barra is a little hole in the wall with an attentive staff and great ambiance.
Visit on a Tuesday for the two for one roll special. The rolls are HUGE, and one each is more than enough for a full meal. I always get the shrimp ceviche to start as well. It’s super fresh and served with avocado and crispy patacones.
Wash it all down with their can’t-miss limonada de coco, and you’ll be leaving satisfied with a meal for two that will only set you back $50,000 COP/$17 USD. Not bad for a sushi and seafood feast!
Check them out here
My Recommendation: Ok, so I actually ate here twice and while it was fine, it never crossed my mind to include it on the list. Imagine my surprise when I found out Anthony Bourdain featured this little hole in the wall restaurant, 5 minutes from my apartment, on No Reservations! What?!?!?
Of course, he ordered the classic, and most famous, dish of Medellin: the Bandeja Paisa. This thing is HUGE and will probably knock at least a year off of your life (doesn’t stop me from eating it about once a month though!).
If the three giant portions of meat aren’t enough (chorizo, beef, and fried pork), it also comes with plantains, rice, a fried egg, avocado, beans, a bowl of soup and juice. Whew. If there ever was a perfect hangover cure, this is it. I haven’t gotten this dish at Brasarepa yet, but now it’s on my must try list.
Check them out here
Cuisine: Pizza and Pasta
My Recommendation: CRAFT BEER IN MEDELLIN. Not only is Ragazzi run by an adorable husband and wife duo, they are also (finally!) bringing the craft beer scene into Envigado! Their choices vary depending on a cycle with the local breweries and what’s available, but trust me, you’ll find something you like.
Last time Daniel and I ate there, he had an IPA and a chocolate porter, and I had a Marijuana brew from Hakuna Brewery… with 9% ABV. After drinking Club Colombia and Aquila for months (Colombia’s version of Budweiser), trying some new brews was a welcome change.
On top of all of this, the pizza and pasta are both amazing, and the desserts (especially the lemon cheesecake!) are to die for. Daniel and I even stop by on our walk home sometimes to chat with the owner and grab a few beers to take home and try for the night. Ragazzi is a total gem of Envigado, and if you’ve been dying for a craft beer in Medellin or a delicious Italian meal, this is the place for you.
Check them out here
Photo credit: Ragazzi Pizza and Pasta
There you have it, my personal run down of the, in my opinion, best restaurants in Envigado. Which ones have you been to, and which ones have I missed on the list? Comment below!
Right now, my greatest goal in life is to make the 30 under 30 list. Not the list on Forbes, but the one that matters – visiting 30 countries before I turn 30. I’m currently sitting pretty at 25, and because I’ve visited 25 countries, I’ve learned a LOT of travel lessons along the way.
Still, the same few stories seem to always come up when sharing a beer or two with old friends, and they always revolve around my biggest travel mistakes. While they were hard at the time, looking back, they’re now some of the funniest and most formative experiences of my life, and some that I’ll always remember.
So, here’s a list of my top five travel tips and the stories behind how I learned them the hard way. Enjoy!
1. Always check your visa status well before traveling – even for countries you only have a layover in.
Ok, this one hurts. Daniel and I booked tickets for our spring break to Nepal. I opted not to spend the extra money for direct flights and instead bought them with two layovers in India. Here’s a fun fact; India is one of the few countries where Americans cannot buy a visa upon arrival and instead have to get them in advance at an Indian embassy.
A second fun fact; if you have two layovers in India, you will have to leave the international terminal and enter the domestic terminal to fly to the second city. That means that you need an Indian visa. We found all of this out while being denied boarding for our flight at the gate. At midnight.
So what’d we do? Well a group of about 10 other people made the same mistake, and we were cruelly strung along by the airline thinking that they may be able to help us fix it. lol. Nope. We spend a few hours jumping from person to person, office to office, all to be told the same thing.
We didn’t read the fine print. We bought our tickets through a third party vendor (NEVER DO THIS. YOU WILL REGRET IT), and there was nothing that they could do.
So, defeated, we went back home for the night. It was late, I was tired, and we still had to rebook new international round trip flights for the next day.
The total hit to our budget was over $1,200 dollars. One of my most expensive travel lessons. The total hit to my stress levels was losing at least a year off of my life. All of this because I wanted to buy the cheapest flight and couldn’t be bothered to check the visa requirements for the countries it passed through. 0/10 I do not recommend this experience to anyone!
2. Never leave your belongings unattended.
Can I even count all of the different countries I’ve had items stolen in? Italy, Thailand, Germany, Sri Lanka… the list continues. However, by far the most traumatic experience Daniel and I have had happened on a public beach in Oman.
Daniel and I were so used to the safety and security of the United Arab Emirates, where we had been living for two years, that we let our guard down. Once in Dubai, I left my laptop on the public metro system and returned two hours later to pick it up from security without a problem.
On our weekend trip to neighboring Oman, we falsely assumed that the country was just as safe and left our camp site up on the public beach while we left for the day. Friday and Saturday went smoothly, but Sunday was a wake up call.
We left our site at 6am for our scuba trip and didn’t return until 10pm that night. As soon as we pulled into the lot, I could tell tht something wasn’t right. And that something was that EVERYTHING had been taken.
Our tent, blankets, chairs, cook stove, clothes, everything.
In a telling sign, all that was left in it’s place was a sad and empty case of Budweiser. Well, it was 10 at night and we now had nowhere to sleep. Of course, this was a long weekend trip because it was a national holiday in the Gulf states, so all of the hotels in the city were booked full or available for hundreds of dollars more than their usual price.
We decided to do what any dumb person would do in this situation and drive the 8 hours back to our apartment in Abu Dhabi overnight.
First, we wasted time hunting down the police station and reporting the theft… it was pointless and took over an hour. By the time we left the city, it was nearing midnight. Oh, and did I mention that we were too cheap to rent the GPS with the car? And neither of our phones had data plans?
What followed was one of the longest nights of our lives. I opened Google Maps and tried to follow along with our blue dot and point us in the right direction. We wasted almost another hour at the border between the two countries when we were first unable to find the crossing point and second when the guard couldn’t see the light entry stamps on our passports.
I couldn’t drive because I didn’t have a UAE license, so it was on Daniel to complete the trek from start to finish. We found ourselves on a deserted road with nothing but black desert on either side as far as the eye could see.
The speed limit was 45 mph, and we didn’t dare go over because it was radar enforced and we had already received $600 in speeding tickets (but thats a story (scam) for another day.)
Picture this: Daniel doing push ups on the side of the road at 4am and slapping his face to stay awake, me attempting to guide us home through the barren wasteland, and both of us going slightly insane from being up for 24 hours at this point.
We eventually made it home at 6am the next day, and our loss wasn’t terrible. Mostly retainers, glasses, and medicines that were a headache to replace. Luckily, we were bright enough to keep our passports and valuables in the car with us during the day.
However, the whole hilarious situation could have been avoided if we had just used a few brain cells and packed our tent and chairs up before we left the campsite for the day! Many travel lessons learned, and I will never leave anything I own unattended while traveling again!
3. Just take the loss – money is NEVER worth arguing over with locals.
When I studied abroad, money was tight, and I always traveled on a strict budget. I carried that mentality with me after I graduated and on my first big trip to Thailand over Christmas in 2014. Daniel and I decided to splurge and order a hookah to smoke in a beachside bar. The cost was only $14, but with the large discrepancy in cost of living in Thailand vs. the US, that was very expensive by the country’s terms.
If you’ve ever smoked a hookah before, you know that it’s something to be enjoyed over the course of an hour or two. However, once we sat down and it was delivered, we were almost immediately told that the bar was closing, and we had to leave the beach front.
I asked politely for some of our money back since we hadn’t been able to smoke the hookah for more than 10 minutes at that point. I was (of course) met with a resounding NO. I was a few drinks in and decided to push it, asking (ok, insisting) again that some of our money was returned.
Well, you never know who you’re dealing with, and in this case, I was dealing with a waiter with a temper… who also happened to have many Thai friends. The beach cleared, and we found ourselves surrounded by ten young Thai men shouting, arguing, and escalating the matter. It was extremely lucky that the bar next door had a private security force who came over and diffused the situation.
Still, the waiter knew the name of our hotel, and our walk home required a long stretch of desolate beach. I laugh about it now, but at the time on that walk I carried a beer bottle with me as a form of protection because I was so afraid. I have no idea what would or would not have happened that night had the security not stepped in. All I know is I came closer than I would like to becoming just another foreign tourist in the headlines, for an arrest or worse.
Traveling isn’t dangerous, and the world is not a dark and scary place. However, muggings, murders, and more DO happen everywhere in the world, and it’s our responsibility to protect ourselves as much as possible. Being drunk or argumentative, wandering alone somewhere deserted at night, these are the first steps in making ourselves vulnerable to an attack.
No amount of money is worth your life. Be smart, drink smart, travel smart, and you can always avoid a scary situation like the one I put myself in on that Thai beach.
4. BACK UP YOUR PHOTOS.
Did you know that my husband has his own charity? It’s called the Daniel Constable Foundation, and no matter where we travel, he likes to “donate” his iPhone to those in need. Yes, the donation is unintentional, but still a regular occurrence. He has lost or had his phone stolen in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Germany. At this point, it doesn’t even faze me any more, but at the time, the first experience was pretty heartbreaking.
On our first trip together to Thailand, Dan had an iPhone 5, and I had my sister’s old 4. This was early in our relationship, and I naively took all, and I mean ALL, of our travel photos during the three week trip on his because the camera quality was so much better. Our first Christmas together, New Years Eve setting off lanterns, waterfall hikes, old temples, monkeys, this phone had it all.
Unfortunately, the only thing it didn’t have was the iCloud direct import feature. After three weeks traveling through the country, Daniel was pick pocketed and his iPhone was stolen at the bus station, 10 hours before we left Thailand to fly home.
Absolutely all of our photos and memories from that trip are lost because we didn’t spend a few minutes uploading his photos to a secure source. All that we had left were a few Instagram updates and hundreds of new Thai contacts in his iCloud account. Learn from our mistake, and make sure you ALWAYS back up your photos regularly because you never know when you may lose them all.
5. Eat the street food – but be mentally prepared for the consequences.
This one is not for the squeamish. I honestly don’t know which country is the culprit, but to put it mildly, Daniel and I became hosts to some other… life. Health standards vary wildly around the world, and when it comes to meat and seafood, it’s very easy to get sick in an unclean environment.
Anyways, one day in Sri Lanka Daniel and I discovered in the bathroom that a couple new friends had joined our little family! Basically, we had worms. It was more emotionally taxing than anything else, but we stopped at a medical center and had medicine ready to go by the end of the day.
It was quick and easy, physically, to get rid of them, but still disgusting beyond belief! I don’t have much advice for this one because I LOVE street food and will never stop eating it. But now at least I’m more mentally prepared for what may happen because of it! Yikes.
Ok, these are my top 5 (of many) travel lessons that I learned the hard way. Try to take something from this so that you don’t have to go through the same hilarious, messed up, crazy, depressing, and gross situations that I find myself in time and time again!
Just as I’m sure I’ll never stop traveling, I’m also sure that I’ll never stop adding more mistakes to this list. It’s all about our attitude and growing as we go. Keep learning, friends 🙂
All my love,
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