How Much Time Should I Spend In Medellin and Bogota?

TL;DR: Five days between both cities is more than enough time if you’re on a short trip.

When traveling to Colombia, you’re likely going to end up in Medellin, Bogota, or both at some point during your stay. They’re both interesting cities worth visiting, and there’s a lot to do both in the cities and the surrounding areas.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of amazing places that are farther away as well, so you have to decide how much city time you want during your stay.

However, rest assured that you can see much of what both cities and surrounding areas have to offer even if you’re limited on time.

 

How Much Time Should I Spend In Medellin?

We spent six months in Medellin, but we also had friends and family visit Colombia while we there.

Some of our friends stayed in Medellin for five days, and our family stayed in the city for three days. Based on our long-term experience and their shorter experiences, it seemed that three days was plenty for those on a shorter trip.

In those three days, you can:

Although there’s more to see and do around the city, those are the highlights that you really need to see as a tourist.

Once you’ve done that, it’s easy to get to get a flight to Cartagena or a bus to Jardin. If you only have 10-15 days in Colombia, there isn’t much reason to stay longer than those three full days.

 

Medellin day trip to Guatape

 

How Much Time Should I Spend In Bogota?

During our time in Colombia, we spent a weekend in Bogota (arrived late Thursday and left Monday afternoon) and found it to be more than enough time to explore the city, see the sights, and enjoy the nightlife.

Bogota is a big, crowded city and doesn’t have the nicest weather because the high altitude makes it chilly and rainy year round. 

Although it’s interesting and definitely worth seeing, I wouldn’t recommend spending more than two days here if you’re on a time limit.

In that time, you can:

  • Visit the colorful La Candelaria district
  • See the imposing government buildings
  • Enjoy the sweeping views from Monserrate
  • Have a wild night out in Zona Rosa
  • Visit Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá

Unless you really like crowded streets and crazy nights out, you’ll soon be ready to move on to the jungles, beaches, and more the Colombia has to offer.

 

View from Monserrate in Bogota

 

Wait, What Else Can I Do In Colombia?

If you’re on a 10-15 day trip to Colombia, that still leaves you with 5-10 days to visit other parts of the country. You could easily fit in the chilled out coffee districts of Salento and Jardin if you want to be out in an authentic small town with plenty of nature, or you could go spend time in Cartagena (or even San Andres Island) if you want a sunny beach and colorful old town.

Although it really comes down to you and your own preferences, I definitely wouldn’t spend more than five days between Medellin and Bogota if you’re on a shorter trip in Colombia.

There are just too many other amazing things to see throughout the country.

 

If you have any questions or opinions, let me know in the comments section below!

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Mexico vs. Colombia: Which Should You Visit?

I love Latin America.

The people, the culture, the nature, the language; all of it is amazing.  

We spent almost all of 2017 (and the beginning of 2018) traveling in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico, and I hope that we can return someday to see even more of both South and Central America.

Unfortunately, what many people have to base their opinion on when deciding where to travel in Latin America is what they see in the media.

While there certainly are places that you probably shouldn’t visit in both Mexico and Colombia if you value your life, the reality for both countries is much different than what you might expect.

So, let’s take a look at traveling in Mexico vs. Colombia to see which option might be better for you.

 

Tourist Attractions

Although I don’t feel the need to seek out every tourist attraction that a city or country has to offer, I do enjoy seeing the sites as time allows.

If there’s one thing missing for tourists in Colombia, it’s probably a wide range of true tourist attractions as compared to other countries in Latin America. Some of the most popular are…

While there are certainly other things to do, these are the ones I found that most people tend to visit.

 

 

If tourist attractions are your thing, you won’t be disappointed in Mexico.

Some of the most popular are…

  • The beaches and islands of Quintana Roo (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, etc.)
  • Mayan ruins like Coba, Chichen Itza, and more
  • Underground Cenotes
  • Colonial cities like Taxco, Puebla, and San Miguel de Allende
  • Laguna Bacalar
  • Boat cruises and scuba diving
  • Many national parks

I had to really limit myself on the Mexico one just because there’s so much to see. For me, their list of tourist attractions beats Colombia’s any day. 

Mexico vs. Colombia Tourist Attraction Winner: Mexico

 

Ease of Tourism

Because of the sheer volume of tourist attractions in Mexico, there are a ton of different choices for all types of travelers. Whether you want to do everything on your own or do an organized/prepaid tour, there are always options available to you.

Since Colombia is still in the earlier stages of its tourism industry, everything can be just a little bit more difficult to figure out. There isn’t always a ton of information about what to do, and there aren’t many of easy options for organized tours if that’s what you’re looking for.

Mexico vs. Colombia Ease of Tourism Winner: Mexico

 

Infrastructure

Latin America isn’t exactly known for having the easiest infrastructure to navigate, but I found Colombia and Mexico to both have pretty good infrastructure for whatever you need.

In the bigger cities, you can almost always find nice grocery stores, access to public transportation (Mexico City and Medellin both have metros), modern highways, shopping malls, taxis, Uber, and options for quality healthcare.

Mexico vs. Colombia Infrastructure Winner: Tie

 

Nature and Hiking

Both Mexico and Colombia are beautiful countries with a lot of nature to see.

However, what I found in Colombia (at least in Medellin) was that the nature was a bit difficult to access if you didn’t have a car. With that said, there are plenty of really nice places around the country for you to enjoy. Whether you visit Santa Marta, Jardin, or Salento, there’s a lot of beautiful scenery.

The main advantage that Mexico has is that the country is significantly bigger than Colombia, so there are just more options. We swam in cenotes in Tulum, spent days on the beaches of Playa del Carmen, relaxed at Laguna Bacalar, and hiked near active volcanoes in Izta-Popo National Park. Overall, the nature in Mexico is way more varied, interesting, and accessible than it is in Colombia.

Mexico vs. Colombia Nature and Hiking Winner: Mexico

 

girl on water swings in laguna bacalar

 

Nightlife

Colombia is famous for their nightlife scene. No matter what city you’re in, you can find wild bars, clubs, or parties to go to. This is especially true in the cities that tourists tend to go to, Medellin and Bogota.

Poblado has the best nightlife in Colombia, but you can find one just as good in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Additionally, Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world, so you can find whatever you’re looking for there as well. They also have a much better rising craft beer scene in Mexico City, which I enjoyed taste testing during our trip.

Both countries have great nightlife, but Mexico just comes out ahead on this round. 

Mexico vs. Colombia Nightlife Winner: Mexico

 

Safety

Both countries have been plagued by drug violence over the years.

However, Colombia has managed to reduce it significantly (at least anywhere that you will likely see), and there’s no question that it’s an incredibly safe country for you to visit as long as you’re smart.

On the other hand, Mexico is still fighting its war on drugs. With that said, the violence tends to be concentrated in specific areas of the country that you can easily avoid. We never felt the least bit unsafe at any point during our two months in Mexico, even while visiting a city (Taxco) in one of the states (Guerrero) that the United States has on its no travel list.

In both countries, common sense prevails. If you’re seeking drugs, prostitutes, or any other nefarious activities, all bets are off.

Mexico vs. Colombia Safety Winner: Colombia

 

Food

I love food, and it’s one of the most important things to me when I’m traveling.

There’s a lot of good Colombian food (bandeja paisa, anyone?), and there’s also quite a few different international options for you if you’re in the bigger cities. Even in the less touristy neighborhood of Envigado in Medellin, there were definitely some really good restaurants.

However, for me, Colombian food doesn’t come close to Mexican food. Being from the United States, I’ve always enjoyed Mexican food, so it was pretty great to be able to get really amazing and cheap Mexican food wherever I went. There’s also a ton of really great options for international food as well in Mexico City, which sealed the deal.

Mexico vs. Colombia Winner: Mexico

 

shrimp tacos in playa esmeralda

 

Overall Winner of Mexico vs. Colombia

There’s really no question for me when it comes down to which country I would recommend visiting. Although I loved the time that I spent in Colombia, Mexico is the clear winner for me.

Whether you’re a long-term traveler or someone looking for an easy 10-day trip, Mexico has it all.

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m an imbecile?

Let me know in the comments!

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Arequipa vs. Huaraz: Which Should You Visit?

If you’re planning a trip to Peru, the first step is deciding which places to visit and how much time to spend in each. You’ll probably end up in Lima for a day or two when you’re flying in and out, and obviously spend time in Cusco when visiting Machu Picchu. But, what about the rest of your trip? If you’re debating between visiting Arequipa vs. Huaraz, I have everything you need to know to make a decision. I spent one month in each, so I’m ready for the showdown!

 

Hiking

If you’re big into nature and hiking, Huaraz is a no brainer. It’s the access point for Huascaran National Park, which contains one of National Geographic’s best treks in the world: Santa Cruz. Daniel and I solo hiked the Santa Cruz trek over 4 days and it was an awesome experience.

Huaraz also boasts Laguna 69, an absolutely stunning and surreal day hike from the city, mountain climbing like our one day climb of Nevado Mateo (which was one of my FAVORITE experiences from my entire 4.5 month trip through Peru), and other common trips to visit lakes and glaciers in the area.

 

 

Arequipa’s most popular attraction is Colca Canyon, a weekend trek through the second deepest canyon in the world. While in the city, Daniel and I also foolishly tackled the climb up Misti Volcano (and almost died, but thats another story) but it’s really not a hike I would recommend unless you’re an experienced mountain climber. I enjoyed the Colca Canyon hike, but thought it was less beautiful than pretty much everything we saw in Huaraz. For me, the answer is clear.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Hiking Winner: Huaraz

 

Nightlife

Huaraz is a small mountain town of 100,000 people, and Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru with a population of more than 700,000. I think you can probably guess who is going to win this round. Arequipa is a beautiful colonial city built with all white buildings, and has much more restaurant and bar options than Huaraz. It has party hostels and plenty of places to drink the night away.

Huaraz, on the other hand had only one small area that was really built for backpackers to “go-out” in, and it’s about two blocks big. The nightlife is really lacking here, but they do have the Sierra Andina tap house and a new brewery opening up as well, so if you’re into craft beer in Peru and a relaxed vibe, this town may be for you. On the whole, though, it doesn’t compare to a weekend in Arequipa.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Nightlife Winner: Arequipa 

 

Accommodation and Daily Life

When Daniel and I travel, we usually stay in each city we visit for a month at a time. That means we become well acquainted with the less glamorous parts of the towns like  grocery stores and pharmacies. When it comes to accommodation and daily life for long term travel in Huaraz and Arequipa, which is better?

Like I said, Arequipa is a big city. That means it has malls, giant grocery stores, American chains and fast food restaurants, and cuisines of all varieties. Wifi is fast(ish) and there are coworking spaces to join.

In Huaraz, not so much. We stopped by a small corner store to buy some essentials, and asked where the bigger grocery stores were to visit the next day. After some confusion, we understood what the cashiers were saying… there aren’t any. Most people only shop at the large market in the center of town. We basically lived off premade foods like mac n’ cheese, hot dogs, granola bars, etc. because the options at the small store were so limited.

Also, even though we were staying in a nice Airbnb our wifi also had plenty of issues that I think were due to the limited access the town as a whole has to the internet. I have a Sprint International phone plan, and the whole month we were in Huaraz my data just… didn’t work. In the past year, it’s the ONLY place I’ve had that issue before. Since Huaraz is smaller, Airbnb options and hostel choices are more limited as well. The beauty of Huaraz is stunning, but living in the city for a month wasn’t easy.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Accommodation and Daily Life Winner: Arequipa 

 

Day Trips and Things to Do

In Arequipa, there were tour shops on every corner selling excursions. Downhill biking, climbing Misti Volcano or Chachani, trips to Lake Titicaca, rafting, rock climbing, and more were all on offer. They prices were pretty cheap too. However, a lot of the things to do were far away and took all weekend. Our weekend in Lake Titicaca required a 12 hour round trip, and our trip to Colca Canyon was still around 3 hours away. The downhill biking we did was a total disaster as well. The surrounding area just isn’t that beautiful, and the city doesn’t lend itself well to day trips and excursions to escape the pollution and crowded streets.

 

 

Huaraz also had an abundance of tour agencies on every corner. Here, the rock climbing and rafting are in the Cordillera Blanca, one of the country’s most beautiful mountain ranges. You can also ice climb a mountain on a half day excursion, and hike to so many nearby lakes and valleys. We even did a one dollar day trip to Wilcacocha Lake. In Huaraz, the day trips were closer and better (in my opinion) but as far as things to do, there wasn’t much inside the city. During the week we worked at coffee shops, ate dinner out, or enjoyed some drinks on our balcony. In Arequipa, theres a lot more to do in the city like visit the Monastery de Santa Catalina, the Cathedral and main square, markets, museums, scenic overlooks, and endless shopping and restaurant options.

So, this one is split. If you’re a city dweller, you will prefer Arequipa. If you’re a nature lover, Huaraz wins.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Day Trip Winner: Tied

 

Cost of Living

I spent four and a half months in Peru, split between four different cities (Cusco, Arequipa, Huaraz, and Lima). The cost of living was similar between all of them. The only major difference I found was that the cost of food in Huaraz was pretty high. Because the market was so small and options were limited, I’d compare it to buying your groceries every week at a Walgreens. We got less food for more money. In Arequipa, the grocery stores were bigger and cheaper.

For weekend costs, in Huaraz we could do day trips for as little as one dollar, and even a trip to Laguna 69 will only run you around $10 or $12. In Arequipa, you will spend more on longer outings or just eating and drinking in the city.

In both, you can find hostels for any price range in your backpacking budget. Because most people who travel in Peru don’t get apartments and cook regularly, the weekend trip costs in Arequipa slightly edge out Huaraz and make it a bit more expensive. But honestly, unless you’re running VERY low on cash, there isn’t much difference at all between the two.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Cost of Living Winner: Huaraz

 

Location

Huaraz is only an 8 hour bus ride from Lima. That makes it easy to visit when you fly into the country or before you leave. Peru is HUGE and the distances are often deceiving.

Arequipa requires a flight from Lima if you don’t have the patience for a 18 hour bus ride, and even requires a 10 hour bus ride from Cusco. Clearly, Arequipa farther and more difficult to get to. As someone who hates traveling (like the actual act of getting from one place to the other) because I can never sleep or read on the buses or cars, the relatively easy to access location of Huaraz is a big plus in my book.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Location Winner: Huaraz

 

 

Arequipa vs. Huaraz: Which One Is Right For You?

I’m a bit surprised to learn that the two countries almost tied in my break down, because I personally have such a strong preference for Huaraz. But now that I look at it, it’s pretty clear that the city you choose just depends on your own travel preferences. If you like ease of living, city life, nightlife, and better food and restaurants, visit Arequipa. If you love hiking, getting outdoors, beautiful scenery, and small(er) town life, then choose Huaraz. Or better yet, just extend your trip to Peru and spend time in both!

If you have any questions about the two cities, comment below and I’ll get back to you. Otherwise, enjoy your trip to this amazing country!

All my love,
Di

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18 Travel Photos from 2017 That’ll Make You Book a Flight Right Now

2017 is coming to a close, and I can’t believe it. In the past year, I have…

Lived in 3 Countries
Visited 9 New Cities
Spent 6 Months in Colombia
Spent 4.5 Months in Peru
Took 17 Flights (and countless more busses)
And started my travel blog, Slight North!

This blog was started based on two principles… to showcase gorgeous photos, and write simple, helpful, and honest travel articles. This past year has been a dream, working for myself, exploring the world, and documenting it all. Now, looking back, I can’t believe all the beautiful places I was able to visit!

It was a hard choice, but here are my top 18 travel photos from 2017… I guarantee they are all the inspiration you need to book your next flight today!

 

Guatape Medellin, Colombia
read more

 

Machu Picchu Cusco, Peru
read more

 

Girl in a waterfall

Arenales Waterfall Medellin, Colombia
read more

 

Misti Volcano Arequipa, Peru
read more

 

girl laughing on door step

Walled City Cartagena, Colombia
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Poblado Penthouse Medellin, Colombia
read more

 

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Jardin, Colombia
read more

 

Rainbow Mountain Cusco, Peru
read more

 

Humantay Lake Cusco, Peru
read more

 

Misti Volcano Arequipa, Peru
read more

 

Misti Volcano Arequipa, Peru
read more

 

sitting on terrace, grey goose, city view

Boutique Penthouse Medellin, Colombia
read more

 

Laguna 69 Huaraz, Peru
read more

 

Spratt Bight Beach San Andres Island, Colombia
read more

 

Santa Cruz Trek Huaraz, Peru
read more

 

boat and beach

Playa Blanca Cartagena, Colombia
read more

 

Huacachina Oasis Ica, Peru
read more

 

Nevado Mateo Huaraz, Peru
read more

 

Which one is your favorite? Stay tuned for more travel photos from 2018, from Mexico, the US, and many more countries TBD (I really need to get to that whole planning thing…) Thanks for reading, commenting, and coming along with me this year. It’s been a pleasure to share my travels with you and I can’t wait to see what’s next 🙂

All my love,
Di

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The Lima List: My Favorite Restaurants in Surco

I lived for one month in Surco, a suburban neighborhood in Lima. The neighborhood is near Miraflores and Barranco, and a great place to stay for a longer term trip to the city. Of course, while I was here I ate my way through Surco and found some amazing restaurants along the way. Next time you’re in town, don’t miss my favorite restaurants in Surco!

 

1. Guru Indian & Pakistani Cuisine

So, if you read any of my food posts here on Slight North, you know I’m in love with Indian food and have been on the hunt for a great Indian restaurant in South America. While trying restaurants in Surco, I’m happy to say I finally found one! I’m not really surprised, because Lima is one of the food capitals of the world, and luckily Guru Indian & Pakistani Cuisine definitely didn’t disappoint.

Best of all, the restaurant has a happy hour from 5 to 7 on weekdays where all their curries are half off, meaning we got a butter chicken curry for only $5. That’s an amazing deal. We also shared a large garlic naan (seriously it was huge) and a side of white rice. Sharing one meal was definitely enough for two.

Total cost for a dinner for two here during happy hour? Only $12 without drinks. Not too bad.

 

2. Shimaya Ramen

Ahh this place is so good! If you’re into Japanese cuisine, definitely add Shimaya Ramen to your to-do list. So far, we tried the sushi ($6 for a roll of 10 pieces) and two of their different ramen bowls. Both were amazing! The ramen is made with homemade noodles and comes as small, medium, or large. For me, the small was definitely enough for one serving, and only cost $4.50 per bowl.

The ambiance is also great and the place was packed when we went on a Sunday afternoon. The restaurant was so delicious, we ate there more than once during out month long stay. Oops 🙂

 

 

3. Quintessence Tea Shop

I don’t talk about tea too often, but in the past few years I’ve become a major tea lover. Coca tea is super common in Peru, especially on the treks and tours, but I personally prefer the sweeter, fruitier blends. That’s why I was so happy to discover the Quintessence Tea Shop!

First of all, the ambiance is amazing. The shop is small, cozy, and well lit, and best of all, smells amazing. They also have cute products and books lining the walls to browse, but personally I was distracted by the menu. It had a seriously extensive list of different tea types to try in every imaginable flavor, which you can get either by the cup or by the pot. Tea lovers in Lima, definitely don’t miss this unique shop!

 

My three favorite restaurants in Surco all have pretty much nothing to do with traditional Peruvian cuisine or seafood, but hey, it is what it is. If you’re only passing through Lima and want to try the most famous restaurants and dishes here, this list is probably not for you. However, if you’re planning to stick around for awhile and want to try something new in the neighborhood, check out my three favorite restaurants in Surco!

All my love,
Di

PS If you’re traveling through or planning a trip to Lima, check out what to do for a day in Barranco, and my perfect weekend trip from Lima!

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Islas Ballestas and Huacachina Oasis: A Photo Diary

The Islas Ballestas and Huacachina Oasis are both only a few hours away from Lima, and make for a perfect weekend trip from the city. Water, sun, and sand are very different from the mountain treks and high altitude hikes we are used to in Peru, but I’m definitely not complaining! Check out our photos from the weekend, and click here to get all the travel details!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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