What To Do In Medellin

I lived in Medellin for 6 months, which means I had plenty of time to explore everything the city had to offer. If you’re only in town for a short time, make sure you don’t miss my top recommendations for what to do in Medellin!

 

Go Paragliding

The paragliding in Medellin is quickly becoming a top tour attraction. It’s pretty cheap and a great way to see the city. You don’t even need to sign up or prepay online, because all of the paragliding companies are in the same place. Take an uber or a taxi to San Felix and direct them to the paragliding – most will know where this is. You can choose between 20 minutes for $125,000 cop or 30 minutes for $165,000 cop. Now, take a deep breath, jump off the cliff, and enjoy your adrenaline rush (and the view of course!)

 

 

Spend a Night out in Poblado

There’s a reason why every backpacker leaves Medellin raving about the night life – it boasts one of the best on the continent! A night out in Poblado is a tourist destination in itself. Whether you like fine dining, hip bars, craft beers, or clubbing til the sun comes up, Poblado definitely has it all. Use my guide for the best DIY bar crawl in Poblado, then make sure you return for brunch as well and hit up the cute little shops on Via Primavera while you nurse that hangover.

 

Book the Medellin City Tour

We all know Medellin produced the infamous Pablo Escobar, but what else have you learned about it’s history? Take this three hour tour not only to see parts of downtown Medellin you wouldn’t otherwise explore, but also to learn about Medellin’s rich and interesting history, with the FARC, the Colombian cartels, and even, surprisingly, their metro system. Just make sure you book in advance because this popular tour fills up FAST.

 

Hike in Parque Arvi

Visiting Parque Arvi is one of my favorite things to do in Medellin. It’s great for two reasons. First, because It’s up and over the mountain from Medellin, creating a complete fresh escape from the crowds and into nature. The second reason why I love Parque Arvi is because of the way you get there. Taking the metro seems boring, but not in Medellin where their metro line is actually a cable car!

Enjoy spectacular views while swinging over the city – and only pay $2,400 cop for the ride. Once you reach Parque Arvi, take some time to explore the market and grab some Colombian eats, then hit the guide desk for a map. There are plenty of great options to hike, and you definitely can’t see them all in one trip.

 

Read more about hiking in Medellin

Catch a Soccer Game

The soccer season is long in Medellin and the games are really easy to get to. First, though, you have to decide which one of Medellin’s teams you support. National or Medellin? Once you got that down (aka once you figure out who is playing on the night you want to go), you can buy your tickets at the Happy Buddha Bar in Poblado, buy a jersey for $40,000 cop from a roadside vendor, and hit the stadium.  After the game, walk down Avenida Nutibara and enjoy the festive atmosphere along with a few drinks.

 

Take a Day Trip to Guatape

While not exactly something to do in Medellin, it’s certainly easily accessible from Medellin. Guatape is the polar opposite of the city. Where Medellin is huge and modern, Guatape is the quaintest, most colorful Colombian town you’ll ever see. Climb the large rock for an amazing view of the man made lakes, wander the cobbled city streets and enjoy lunch in the sun, and take a boat out on the water for a tour of Pablo Escobar’s bombed out mansion. Beauty, nature, and history collide in this perfect day trip from Medellin.

 

Read more about how to get to Guatape

 

Try the local food

South American food can be hit or miss, but in Colombia, it’s definitely hit. Make sure you eat a papa rellena (meat filled potatos), empanadas, torta negra, fresh fried potato chips, and of course the famous bandeja paisa. Wash it all down with a refreshing limonada de coco. Colombia’s street food game is definitely strong.

See my restaurant recommendations in Medellin

 

Visit Pueblito Paisa

If you can’t make it out to Guatape for a day, Pueblita Paisa is the next best thing. The small square is built on top of a hill so you get great views of Medellin. See how the locals once lived and enjoy the restaurants and lively square. It’s smack in the middle of the city, but still makes for a great escape from reality!

 

Check out a Festival

Medellin is known for some of their weeks long, wild festivals. Specifically the Feria de los Flores in July is a must see. If you haven’t planned your trip yet, check out this calendar of festivals in the city and see what’s coming up and which ones your interested in. Experience a little local culture and flair at these unique events!

 

Medellin is a beautiful, interesting, and must visit city when you’re traveling through Colombia. Whether you have one weekend or one year to spend exploring the city, don’t miss these attractions while in Medellin!

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Budget Breakdown: 6 Months in Colombia

Avid travelers can’t plan with out budget estimates, so here is my Colombia budget breakdown. Let me just start by saying that I didn’t backpack through Colombia like most people who travel the gringo trail in South America. I used Medellin as my home base, and took short trips to other cities. But still, even if you’re just passing through, a lot of the costs you have will be similar and you can find some useful estimates. For expats planning on living or working here, this post is definitely for you.

My husband and I lived in Medellin for almost 6 months exactly, from January 2017 to July 2017. I’m going to break our costs down by category, so if you’re only interested in food, or travel, you can check those out and move on with your day 🙂

 

 

Travel

Flights: You’ll quickly learn in South America that while international flights will empty your bank account, domestic flights are dirt cheap. Colombia is no exception. Our Colombia budget wasn’t high, but we still we’re able to afford plenty of weekend trips.

Compare flight prices on Skyscanner to find the best deals. The cheapest budget airline is VivaColombia, but for just a little more legroom and less risk of cancellation, you can grab Avianca tickets for a great price as well. During our stay, we flew to Bogota, Cartagena, and San Andres. All flights listed below are round trip from Medellin

  • Bogota $48 roundtrip per person – $96 total
  • San Andres $66 roundtrip per person – $133 total
  • Cali $32 roundtrip per person – $64 total
  • Cartagena $60 roundtrip per person – $180 total for 3 roundtrip flights

Buses: So, Colombia is HUGE. You can take buses to most of the destinations listed above, but a lot of them are 10 to 12 hour rides as opposed to a 1 hour flight… to me, that’s not worth it, so you’ll have to google those prices on your own. However, we did take buses to some destinations that were close to Medellin, like Guatape, Santa Fe, and Jardin. The trips ranged between 1 to 4 hours each and the buses were pretty comfortable. One the longer trips they stopped for a bathroom break, and often let vendors on to sell us snacks and drinks. Only one of my trips out of about 12 had a crazy driver and the rest honestly seemed pretty safe. All the prices listed below are round trip from Medellin

  • Guatape $4 roundtrip per person – $8 total x 4 trips
  • Santa Fe $6.50 round trip per person – $13 total
  • Jardin $16 round trip per person (I think…) – $32 total

Taxis/Uber/Metro: We mostly used Uber’s to get around when we first arrived, but hten switched to taxi’s about a month or two into our stay because Daniel was sick of being stuck sitting in the front seat (a precaution taken by Uber drivers to disguise their controversial occupation). Taxis tend to be the same prices as Uber, and when Uber is surging taxis are certainly a cheaper choice. I read a lot that some may be dangerous and rob you, but we’ve taken a lot throughout our months here and I never once felt unsafe or on edge. Finally, the metro is another choice for getting around the city.It costs less than a dollar a ride and runs mostly in a straight line through the city.

We live in Envigado, the very south of the city, and to get to Poblado by taxi the cost usually about $4, and to get to the city center it’s closer to $7. These numbers below are complete estimates.

  • Day to day taxis I have no idea. Maybe $60 per month?
  • Airport Transport Envigado to the Airport (and back) is a set tariff of $24. This adds up to $300 for our 4 trips plus arriving and leaving the country

Accommodation: You can spend as much or as little as you want on accommodation during your travels here, it honestly just depends on your budget and your standards (but usually your budget). We stayed in hostels in almost every city we visited, and in one Airbnb here in Medellin. The stays ranged from 1 to 7 nights each, and ranged in quality as well.

  • Bogota $67 total/per couple for a private room & breakfast for 3 nights
  • Cartagena $51pp for a dorm bed for 3 nights (Getsemani neighborhood)
  • Medellin $70 total/per couple for a private apartment in the mountains for 2 nights
  • Jardin $86 total/per couple for a private room & bath and breakfast for 3 nights
  • Guatape $8pp for a dorm bed for one night
  • San Andres $217 total/per couple for a private room for 6 nights (3 without aircon, and 3 with)
  • Cali (booked, but trip was ultimately cancelled) $20pp for a dorm for 2 nights ($40 total)

 

 

Living Expenses

Furnished apartment rental: When we showed up in Medellin, we had an Airbnb prebooked for a month, to give us enough time to get our bearings and find a 5 month long term lease. The Airbnb was in Itagui, a neighborhood I wouldn’t personally recommend after staying there. Although our gated complex felt very safe, an alarming amount of Uber drivers told us we were going to get mugged. Our longterm lease is in Envigado, which is cleaner, more walkable, and safer. Both were furnished, two bed/two bath apartments with pools. Our long term lease also has a gym, two balconies, and is extremely modern. So while it was more expensive than than the Airbnb, I believe it is also a better value. In Colombia budget $600 to $1000 month for rent in a single apartment, but you can cut that drastically for a shared or unfurnished home.

  • Airbnb (1 month) $473
  • Leased Rental (5 months) $575 per month

Grocery budget: Because we work from home, we eat out less and our grocery budget may be a bit higher than most. I try to eat out only once a work week, and then we usually don’t cook much on weekends. So this budget encapsulates about 17 of 22 weekly meals for two. One of the two is large hungry man. In total, we spend about $350/month.

Eating out: It’s such a waste of money, but I love it. We usually eat out about 5 meals a week together. Just like anything else, meals can be as cheap or expensive as you want. It’s easy to grab 2 empanadas for a dollar, or drop $100 on a four course meal. It all depends on you neighborhood, preference, and budget (bust mostly budget). In total, we spend about $400/month

Drinking: Alcohol is pretty cheap in Colombia. Club Colombia, my favorite beer brand here, it usually only a dollar or two at the bars, and even cheaper if you buy it in a 6 pack and pregame at home. There are also wine choices starting around $5 that I think are pretty ok, (but then again I will drink anything). If you play your happy hours right you can get mixed drinks from $2 each even in neighborhoods like Poblado, but it’s also common to pay $8 or more. Daniel and I would usually budget about $150 to $200 total a weekend for food, drink, and activities and found it sufficient. If you’re just passing through, though, I definitely suggest budgeting more. In total, we spend about $200 month.

Utilities: Our utility payments in our leased apartment include internet, cable (why), telephone (seriously, why), water, and gas. Heat and air are pretty unheard of here because the climate is so temperate, and weren’t needed. In total, we pay $25/month

US phone plan: I payed my phone off before I left the US and joined a Sprint month to month international plan. Honestly, it’s been great and I really recommend it. The total cost is about $30/month, but I got to keep my US phone number (necessary for business) and can call any country for free, so moving from Colombia to Peru will be a breeze in that regard. Most importantly, I get 1gb of international data. It’s not a lot, but it will definitely get you by if you stay off snapchat, and has been extremely helpful to have at times.

 

 

Miscellaneous

Laundry: I find this fact hilarious: Laundromats are expensive and rare here in Medellin, so it’s common for Colombians to rent washing machines and have them delivered to their homes for the day for use instead. Seriously amazing. Luckily our furnished apartment came with a machine so this cost was zero for us, but if you’re passing through you can find people to pick up, weigh, wash, dry, and deliver your clothes back to you if necessary. Idk why I wrote this because I don’t know how much it costs, but I wanted to share my washing machine fun fact 🙂

Health Care: Luckily my parents love me so I’m still on their health insurance until my 26th birthday (in October yikes). However, Daniel is a year older than me and is on an international health insurance plan that covers him in any country except the US (of course). The total cost is $500/year split into two payments. Neither of us have had to use a doctor or hospital here, but just like in most places, I’ve read it’s infinitely cheaper than getting healthcare at home. I’ve also found that a lot of medications, even antibiotics (I think) are over the counter and super easy to buy here in the pharmacies. In total, we paid $250 for 6 months of health insurance for Daniel.

Visa: 90 day visas are free upon arrival for Americans, but we had to pay $30 each to extend our visa for another 90 days. It was super easy to get started and make an appointment on the Migracion Colombia website – they even had a chat feature and answered my questions in English. We got started with the process about a month before our deadline just to be safe. After that, it only took a couple hours to complete the process downtown.

Electronic Repairs: Don’t even get me started. First, Daniel left his laptop on the balcony in the rain. Then, I left my phone in a taxi and had to buy a new one. ONE WEEK LATER I dropped my laptop and it wouldn’t turn on, and I had to pay for those repairs as well. A used iPhone 6 from Craigslist (in the US, my parents brought it down for me) was $275. It seems like Apple products here are less plentiful and more expensive than they sell for at home, but luckily repairs are cheaper. The total cost for our laptop repairs was $300 from IHouse Medellin and so far so good. In total we paid $575 in 6 months (because we’re dumbasses.)

 

 

Grand Total

$11,650 for one couple / $1940 per month

As fun as it was to add that all up, I’m kind of freaked out to see that we spent that much money in 6 months! This is why I let Daniel be in charge of all our finances. PS if any sponsors wanna contact me so I can up my standard of living and quit my day job, I’ll be here waiting…

Hope this Colombia budget breakdown helped some of you travelers, backpackers, and expats planning and budgeting your South American trips! If there’s anything I missed please feel free to comment below or shoot me and email 🙂

All my love,

Di

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San Andres Island Guide: What to Do in Colombia’s Caribbean Paradise

If you love white sand beaches, clear blue waters, and sunny days… this is the destination for you. San Andres Island is one of three Colombian islands in the Caribbean, near the coast of Nicaragua.

The island, and its nearby partners Providencia and Santa Catalina, are culturally very different from the rest of Colombia. They were historically tied to Great Britain, changed hands a bit, and were officially recognized as a Colombian department in 1928. Due to this, English is actually one of the official languages of San Andres Island along with Spanish and Creole.

The trip to San Andres Island from Medellin, or any part of the Colombian mainland, can definitely be pricey but we did our best to keep it budget friendly.

Read my complete San Andres Island guide to see photos, a budget breakdown, and my review of of our seven day stay in this gorgeous tropical paradise!

 

The San Andres Island Guide to Budgeting

Flights: $100 pp roundtrip from Medellin to San Andres Island, compare flight prices on Skyscanner to find the best deals.

Pro tip: The airport on the island is in the center and walkable to almost all hotels and hostels in the area. We paid for a taxi to our hostel because we didn’t realize this. On the way home, though, we just packed our bags and walked the 10 minutes to the airport for our flight.

Hostel: $190 total for 6 nights in a private double room. This is relatively cheap for the island, because it was a very basic room and a pretty far walk off the main strip. We also definitely did not realize our room didn’t have air conditioning until we were in it. PAY FOR AIR CONDITIONING PEOPLE. This is non-negotiable. We stuck it out for three nights before we caved and upgraded to pay for the air because it was just that miserable. It was only about $8 more a night and soooo so worth it.

Tourist Tariff: $35 pp. This was a fun surprise at the airport! When boarding we were turned away from the gate (major Nepal flashbacks) and sent to another to buy our necessary “Tourist Tariff Card”. Everyone needs one to enter San Andres island, and it’s no problem to grab them at the airport before your flight. Just be ready for the extra cost!

Food & Drink: $10 to $20 pp for a nice, sit down seafood meal. We decided to stretch our stay to 6 nights, so our budget was pretty thin on the food & drink front. We mostly grabbed cheap meals like Subway to bring to the beach or sought out Colombian restaurants outside of the center to save some money. The food on San Andres Island is definitely more expensive than it is in Medellin, and the variety isn’t too great either. Alcohol, though, was surprisingly cheap and had more options (because San Andres is closer to Central and North America?) than we were used too. We drank small bottles for rum for $1, and there were plenty of wine choices in the $5 to $10 range as well.

Transport: $50 Buses can take you to any destination on the island for 80 cents each. We usually took the bus only two or three times per day, so it’s an insignificant cost. We also rented a scooter for one day of island exploring, which was $20 for the day.

 

san andres island guide: walking by the ocean

 

San Andres Island Guide: Weather

Rainy/Dry Season: The wet season in San Andres Island kicks in around June, so luckily we just missed it. It runs until November, so the best time to visit San Andres Island is between December and May. Even during the wet season it’s still worth visiting though because even though you can expect a rainstorm everyday there’s usually still plenty of beach friendly weather as well. A common San Andres saying is “every day is a beach day”, so no matter what time of year it is, you shouldn’t miss it!

Average Temperature: When we visited in late May, it was HOT. Temps ranged from about mid 80’s to low 90’s Fahrenheit every day. We had one cloudy gray day without rain, and one 10 minute rain shower, and the rest of the time the weather was sunny and perfect.  Because the island is so close to the equator, this temperature really doesn’t fluctuate at all throughout the year.

 

San Andres Island Guide: Beaches

While it has a mostly rocky coastline, San Andres Island also has three large beaches to choose from. Spratt Bright is in the center of town, while Rocky Cay is a 10 minute bus ride from the center and San Luis is 15 or 20 minutes away. We spent days on all three beaches and they each have their pros and cons depending on what you prefer.

San Luis: San Luis beach is a popular choice for those who like less crowded and more serene beach vacations. This beach stretched the longest down the coastline. Some areas were just sand on the side of the road, and others were more built up around restaurants and hotels. Some patches we walked down were completely deserted, so it’s definitely a secluded choice and perfect for a packed lunch or picnic on the water. We also noticed the waves were stronger and larger on these beaches for the adventurous types who want to surf or boogie board.

 

san andres island guide: san luis beach

 

Rocky Cay: Rocky Cay was my favorite beach! It was less crowded than Spratt Bright, but still had restaurants and vendors around. The main draw of Rocky Cay is the island it’s named after. The small island is about a quarter mile offshore (major guess here, I’m terrible at distances). The coolest part about it, though, is that the water is so shallow that you can walk all the way out from the beach to the island and the sunken ship next to it. It was a very unique experience. We also loved Rocky Cay because its the only one of the three beaches that’s set off the roads. The barrier of palms made it feel much more secluded and relaxing.

Spratt Bright: If you stay in the center of town, you’ll certainly end up on this beach a couple times. It is by far the most crowded beach on the island, but as a reward for dealing with the crowds you also get the best amenities here. Tons of markets, shops, and restaurants line the beach, and you can rent a chair for a day for only $1.50. Vendors regularly pass by with fresh fruit and other snacks, making this the easiest beach to relax on for sure. We even set up shop next to the Juan Valdez coffee shop so we could access their wifi all day as well! For the most part, Daniel and I spent our days on Rocky Cay and San Luis, and then would enjoy Spratt Bright during sunset on the boardwalk or laying in the sand sharing a bottle of wine.

 

san andres island guide: spratt bright beach at sunset

 

San Andres Island Guide: Nearby Islands

San Andres Island is surrounded by five tiny islands that are popular day trip destinations for tourists to visit. For me, though, flying to San Andres was enoug, and I didn’t feel the need to spend the money or time on a boat trip visiting the surrounding islands. However, I’ll give you a breakdown of what I read & learned about each one while on our trip.

All the boats leave from the Portofino Marina in the Centro, and have varying amounts of daily departures based on which island you choose and how close/popular it is. Make sure you check a day or two ahead of time on the trip you want to take at the marina, though, because the government systematically shuts down the islands for a few days or weeks at a time to protect the environment from over use by tourists. Usually only one is closed at a time and others are always accessible.

Johnny Cay: The closest and most popular island can be seen from Spratt Bright beach. The round trip boat ride costs about $8. Most reviews stated that the beaches were super crowded from tourists and everything sold on the island was overpriced, which is why we decided to give it a miss.

Acuario and Haynes Cay: I know nothing about these islands, except that they’re a little farther out and more expensive to reach than Johnny Cay. It’s common to book a boat that hits Johnny Cay, Acuario and Haynes Cay all in one day.

Rocky Cay: Teeny, tiny, little guy off the Rocky Cay beach. No need to pay for a boat to this one, as you can just walk from the coast line to reach it. Once there, you can grab a drink on the rock or rent a snorkel to explore the wildlife and sunken ship around the island.

Cayo Bolivar: This was the island I had my heart set on visiting! It’s the farthest out from San Andres Island and requires a 50 minute boat ride. The cost is $60 pp and includes lunch and a snorkel to visit the family of sharks that lives near the island. Because of the cost and distance, this island has hardly any visitors and seems like a serene day trip. Unfortunately the price was a bit too steep so we had to give it a miss. Next time!

 

San Andres Island Guide: What to Do & See

Morgans Cove: So, apparently this pirate stashed tons of his gold in a cave on San Andres Island back in the day, and now it’s a museum of sorts that you can visit for $5 pp. We skipped it, but it could definitely be good to see for an hour or two, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

Hoya Soplador: This is a blow hole. Some water comes through a hole in the rocks. I don’t know why it’s so popular.

West View: One of my favorite places on San Andres island, and a must see! Entrance is only $1.50 and comes with bread to feed the fish 🙂  This is an area on the rocky side of the island, so instead creating a beach resort the owners built a high dive to jump off the rocks into the water. Kind of scary at first, but very fun! The water is also crystal clear here, so we rented snorkels for $1.50 and had a blast watching all the schools of fish pass by. We swam out further than most and were even lucky enough to see a stingray!

Another popular activity here is the Aquanaut, which is an astronaut type helmet connected to an air tube. Groups would put them on and then walk along the bottom of the ocean with a guide for 30 or 40 minutes. It looked like an awesome time, and cost about $30 each. Additionally, West View has a questionable water slide, a restaurant, lockers and a bar selling drinks in freshly cut coconuts. Yum!

 

san andres island guide: diving board in the ocean

 

La Piscinita: Kind of like West View, and just down the road from it. La Piscinita also has a diving board but no water slide. I’m not sure about the snorkel rental either or abundance of fish. This seems to be less of a destination and more of a relaxed and uncrowded restaurant.

Scuba Diving: So bummed we missed out on this! My friend got her advanced certification of the island, though, and recommends San Andres Diving or Sharkeys. She paid about $200 for 5 dives and her certification, and said her favorite was the Blue Wall, an underwater cliff that you can dive along and see for 30 meters up and down.

Rent a Scooter or Go-Kart: Always a must when visiting an island! There are tons of shops to choose from if you decide to explore the island on wheels for  say.. Our scooter rental was $20 for 8am – 6pm, which was more than enough time. We rode all around the island (a couple times!) explored into the palm forests, tried new restaurants off the beaten path, and even found a lookout with a view of the whole island. Go-karts are a bit more expensive but are also probably more comfortable. I definitely recommend getting a scooter of go-kart for at least a day. The cost also includes the helmet, but I’m not exaggerating when I say we were the ONLY people on the entire island wearing them. Oh well. Helmet hair may be unattractive but so are traumatic brain injuries.

 

san andres island guide: renting a scooter on san andres island

 

San Andres Island Guide: Restaurants

We found the food on San Andres to be average but expensive, which is usually the case on an island. Our favorite meal was definitely Rosa Del Mar on the main boardwalk in the Centro. We paid about $18 for a GIANT plate of coconut shrimp and chicken fajitas, both of which were amazing. Outside of that though, we mainly packed lunches for the beach or grabbed a meal at whichever restaurant was closest. Tamara’s Kitchen was a stand we ate at a bit down the road from Rocky Cay which was cheap and pretty goo as well, but all in all, nothing we ate really stood out.

As far as drinking and nightlife on San Andres Island, it doesn’t really exist. There were a few clubs, (Coco Loco in the center seemed to be the most popular) but for the most part most of the visitors and islanders just grabbed a bottle or a few beers and drank on the beach and boardwalk. Day or night, it didn’t matter. Cost effective, and a guaranteed beautiful view and ambiance. We didn’t visit any of the bars on the island because we preferred chilling on the beach instead.

 

In conclusion, San Andres Island is a wonderful, beautiful, tropical paradise. However, due to its location I found the people and culture to be very different from the rest of Colombia. If you want to lay on a beach, this is definitely the place for you. If you want the true Colombian experience, though, and are only visiting for a short time, I’d suggest giving San Andres a miss and hitting the beaches on Cartagena instead. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Six days, for me, wasn’t even close to enough on this tropical paradise, and I can’t wait to come back again soon!

PS if you’re prone to altitude sickness, don’t fly straight from the island to Bogota. We flew direct from San Andres Island to Medellin and I still had a pounding headache for a day or two from the altitude change!

Planning a trip to this gorgeous country? Learn the best way to spend a weekend in Bogota, what to do in Medellin, and how to plan a visit to Jardin!

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Collect memories, not things. 

How to Spend a Weekend in Bogota, Colombia

To be honest, spending a weekend in Bogota, a city of 8 million, was not at the top of my to do list when I moved to Colombia. However when I compared flight prices on Skyscanner and saw the VivaColombia flights were only $45 each for a round trip, Daniel and I decided we should see the capital city for a weekend.

I’m so glad we did! Bogota has a lot to offer, like an amazing nightlife, gorgeous parks, beautiful architecture and a phenomenal food scene. We walked over 30 miles through the city during the course of the weekend, so save yourself some blisters and explore it here with me 🙂

 

exploring candelaria during a weekend in Bogota

 

FRIDAY

Our weekend in Bogota began on Friday evening as we settled into the Hobu Hostel in Chapinero. When we searched for the best neighborhood to stay in in Bogota, La Candelaria in the historical center was mentioned a lot. However, while beautiful during the day, the barrio isn’t safe to stay in at night.

That’s why we chose the Chapinero neighborhood, a hipster up and coming area to the north of Candelaria. Our hostel was situated in a perfect location, so we could walk to Candelaria to explore in the day, and walk to Zona Rosa to hit the bars and clubs at night.

Be warned: A weekend in Bogota is much more expensive than Medellin. It was normal to see beer prices doubled from what we usually pay, and most bars and clubs had $8 or even $10 covers to enter. Because of this, we limited our night out to Friday only, and met up with some locals to experience the craft beer scene and dance the night away in Bogota’s famous bars!

 

exploring the monserrate view point during a weekend in bogota

 

SATURDAY

After a late start to our day and breakfast at the hostel, Daniel and I set out to explore Bogota. With one taxi ride, we hit three destinations at once. Universidad de Los Andes, a pretty campus with a bustling student life, Simon Bolivar’s house turned museum, and the cable car up to the Monserrate view point. Simon Bolivar’s old home is now a museum with a lush walled in garden, and for the $1 entrance fee it was certainly worth the visit. Afterwards, the weather was gray and cloudy (the usual in Bogota) so we decided to give the cable car a miss and wait for clearer skies.

We walked from the museum down through Candelaria. grabbing a sandwich at the quaint Quatro Mesas restaurant and exploring the winding streets and colorful graffiti of the city. Eventually, we made our way to Libreria Merlin, a must see during your weekend in Bogota.

 

book store in Bogota

 

The book store is in a four story house thats full of winding rooms and mazes of books. It featured walls of books in English that we spent hours pouring over, as well as hundreds of choices for any language you may be searching for. It’s beautiful, and the perfect cozy respite from the cold, rainy weather outside.

That afternoon, we got lucky and the sun came out just in time to take the cable car up to Monserrate. The cost was $14 for two round trips, but if you have the whole weekend in Bogota, go on a Sunday and you can get tickets for half price (but will have to deal with the crowds!)

The view point sits atop the mountains that form the eastern boundary of Bogota, and it showcases a church, market, and a couple restaurants and gardens. We spent hours up there, enjoying the sun, the view, and finally the sunset while all the lights slowly flickered on across the city. It was unforgettable, and my favorite part of our three day trip.

 

View from Monserrate during a weekend in Bogota

 

SUNDAY

On Sunday we woke up refreshed, ready to join the masses at Ciclovia. Whats that? Ciclovia is an amazing Colombian tradition, where every Sunday they shut down the main street in many cities (In Bogota, it’s Carrera 7, called Septima) from 7am to 2pm for bikers and joggers to enjoy.

We walked the entire stretch from Chapinero to Candelaria, enjoying the vendors, flea markets, and street performers that saturated the streets.

Our walk ended in Plaza Simon Bolivar, a massive square full of families (and so many pigeons… ew). One side features the dominating Cathedral of Bogota, but there is history on all sides in the surrounding capitol building and Palace of Justice.

Right around the corner from the church is a classic Bogota establishment, La Puearta Falsa. The tiny restaurant has been in business since 1816, and is officially known as the oldest restaurant in the country! We went for lunch and enjoyed Bogota’s famous dish: Ajiaco. The hearty soup was full of potatoes, chicken and even an ear of corn, and was the perfect filling comfort food for the weather.

After lunch we visited the Gold Museum (also free on Sundays) to see the carvings from the indigenous tribes of the country. Not only is it full of priceless and beautifully carved gold pieces, all of the exhibits are also in English, a rarity for the country. Definitely worth stopping in for an hour or two on your weekend in Bogota.

Unfortunately, we stepped out of the museum just as a MASSIVE storm hit the city. We jumped in a cab to head back to the hostel, and in all of the confusion trying to get my backpack together, keep my camera safe, and open my umbrella in the downpour, my phone fell out of my pocket and I left it in the taxi.

 

cathedral in bogota city center

 

I realized almost immediately and was calling it and tracking it within five minutes, but the driver must be an old pro, and had already snatched it and turned it off so it couldn’t be traced. It was such a shame that he chose to be dishonest, but luckily I only lost 24 hours worth of photos. Plus, my family can bring me a new one from the States when they come to visit next month, so I wont need to deal with hunting down an iPhone in a foreign language here.

While we’re on the subject of taxis, good luck figuring out your fare while you’re here. In Bogota, the number on the meter is not what you pay. Instead, that number corresponds to a price on a chart. Once you have that price, you need to look at the “special occasions” list on the bottom, like if it’s late at night or early in the morning, if it’s raining, etc, and then add on to the price for those as well.

However, most taxi drivers either don’t have those charts or refuse to let you see them, and will instead just tell you a random number they think they can get you to pay. Only one actually gave us the chart, but then conveniently had no change for our bills… Maybe I’m biased because of my phone, but I found the taxi drivers and system I experienced during our weekend in Bogota to be more dishonest and less straightforward than those here in Medellin.

Anyway…

The storm we were caught in was so powerful it knocked out our hostel’s power for the night, but we built a fire in the old fireplace and gathered around to order pizzas and share a few beers with the other guests. That’s definitely one of the most beautiful things about traveling, a tough day can end with one of the most memorable nights!

 

exploring monserrate during a weekend in bogota

 

MONDAY

Our final day in Bogota began with a trip to Simon Bolivar park (yes, everything in the country, actually the whole continent, is named after this man). The park has a lake with kayaks for rent, walking trails, an amusement park, and so much more. It’s even bigger than Central Park in NYC! While nice to see, I think it would have been more enjoyable if it had been sunny and dry (does that ever happen in Bogota??)

After a quick lunch at Taco Bell – yes you heard that right, expats, there are multiple Taco Bells in Bogota – our homesickness was satiated with a frito burrito and crunch wrap supreme and we were ready to end our weekend in Bogota and head back to Medellin.

The flight home was a short 50 minutes, and before we knew it it was back to work for another week – minus one cell phone of course. Ah well, we’re off to San Andres Island next Tuesday, so it’s not too bad!

 

Have more time on your Colombia trip?  Visit Jardin to relax in a quiet coffee town or spend a weekend in Cartagena enjoying the Caribbean beaches!

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These are the 8 Best Restaurants in Envigado

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 either.

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 eating and exploring.

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!

 

LEMONCILLO

Cuisine: Vietnamese

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 main course or a small side, so you can try more than one dish per visit. Lemoncillo is one of the best restaurants in Envigado and perfect when you’re craving something new, or just need a light, healthy, refreshing meal choice.

Check them out here

 

COCOLATTE CAFE

Cuisine: Café

Frappe at Cocolatte, one of the best restaurants in Envigado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 whipped 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

Cuisine: Empanadas

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’re always hot, crispy, and super filling. 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

 

CONTENADORES FOOD PLACE

Cuisine: Variety

My Recommendation: Where to begin? This place is unlike anywhere you’ve ever been, I promise you that. Contenadores Food Place is one of the best restaurants in Envigado because it’s so unique. 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

 

SUSHI SERVICE BARRA

Cuisine: Sushi

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

 

MAHALO ACTION SPORTS CAFE

Cuisine: Bar Food

the view from Mahalo, one of the best restaurants in Envigado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My recommendation: Hit this place up for an afternoon of day drinking in the sun, or visit to grab dinner at sunset. Why? Because it’s up on the mountainside with a phenomenal panoramic view of Medellin.

Mahalo 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 $22,000 COP / $7USD. They also have a happy hour for half price cocktails from 5 to 6. Mahalo is definitely a perfect place to relax with a drink and a view!

Check them out here

 

BRASAREPA

Cuisine: Colombian

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, five minutes from my apartment, on No Reservations! What?!?!?

Anthony Bourdain thinks Brasarepa is one of the best restaurants in Envigado, and who am I to argue with him?

Of course, while there 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

 

RAGAZZI

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 definitely one of the best restaurants in 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

 

There you have it, my personal run down of the best restaurants in Envigado. If you’re exploring the food & drink scene in Medellin, don’t forget to check out our in-depth look at craft beer in Medellin, and a guide to create your own DIY Poblado bar crawl!

Which Envigado restaurants have you been to, and which ones have I missed on the list? Comment below and let me know!

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Collect memories, not things. 

Looking for a Relaxing Lake House in Guatape? End Your Search Here!

After taking two day trips to the charming traditional town of Guatape, I knew that it was finally time to escape Medellin for a longer break on the lake. Daniel and I booked a weekend at this gorgeous lake house in Guatape (located between El Penol and La Piedra) and we were so happy with our stay!

 

lake house in guatape

 

This lake house in Guatape is situated at the end of a small peninsula and boasts gorgeous view of both the lake and the famous rock.

In front of the house, though, was our own gated paradise. The courtyard featured a pool, jacuzzi, multiple hammocks, and a bar and grill that are all surrounded by lush green gardens. Medellin disappeared from my mind the second I took a deep breath of that fresh, clean, countryside air.

 

lake house in guatape

 

Inside, the lake house in Guatape has 5 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, so it took quite a bit of exploring to get our bearings around the unique home. It also has plenty of staircases, balconies, and deck spaces scattered on all sides, showcasing every possible view from the home.

One of my favorite areas to relax was the large two story dock on the water behind the house. It was the perfect place to lean back and relax with shisha, watch the sunset, and soak in the simple quietness that we forget that we need so badly sometimes.

 

lake house in guatape

 

On day two of our stay, Daniel and I woke up with the sun rising over the water right outside the master windows. After snapping a few shots of the colorful show, we headed down to the dock for an early morning kayak trip out on the water. Sean, the manager, provided everything that we needed at the home, so it was easy to grab them and get our adventure started.

Paddling along on the water was beyond serene. The multitude of houses built along the lake area was a dream come true for a “House Hunters” enthusiast like me. They ranged from ultra-modern homes to flowery cottages and everything in between, and time slipped away while we imagined the different lives we would lead in each one.

After our workout, it was time for a hard day’s work… laying out in the sun by the pool and lounging in the hammocks in the shade.

 

lake house in guatape

 

When we wanted to head in to Guatape for dinner or drinks, it was easy to catch a ride. We just walked out to the road and waited for, well, anything to pass by. Buses, taxis, jeeps, tuk tuks, they all know where we’re heading and will stop to make sure we get there.

I easily could have spent a week in this lake house in Guatape, away from it all. The worst part about our stay was definitely saying goodbye to the home to return to Medellin.

 

lake house in guatape

 

If you need to feel refreshed and rejuvenated, this quiet lakeside house in Guatapé is the place for you.

Check it out here and plan your trip today!

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