San Andres Island: 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 main land, can be pricy, but we did our best to keep it budget friendly. Read on to see photos, a budget breakdown, and my review of of our seven day stay in this gorgeous tropical paradise!

 

 

BUDGET

Flights: $100pp 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 basically in the centro, 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. Once we did, we just packed our bags and walked the 10 minutes to the airport for our flight home.

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 3 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 $20pp 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 Centro to save some money. The food 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.

 

 

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 your best bet for sunny beach days is to visit between December and May. Even during the wet season it’s still worth visiting though, as you can expect a rainstorm every day, but usually still have 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.

 

Beaches

While it’s mostly rocky coastline, San Andres Island also has three very large, beaches to choose from. Spratt Bright is in the center of town, while Rocky Cay is about a 10 minutes bus ride from the center, and San Luis closer to 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.

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.

 

 

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!

 

 

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.

 

 

Islands

San Andres Island is surrounded by five tiny islands that are popular day trip destinations for tourists to visit. For me, flying to San Andres was enough, 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 (pictured below) 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 $60pp, 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!

 

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 $5pp. 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 of laying at a beach, they 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!

 

 

La Piscinita: Kind of like West View, and just down the road from it. it 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 or 40 meters up and down.

Rent scooters/go carts: Always a must when visiting an island! There are tons of shops to choose from. 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 carts are a bit more expensive but are also probably more comfortable. Definitely recommend getting one 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.

 

 

Restaurants

We found the food on San Andres Island 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 better than the main restaurant on the beach there. 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 we’re a few clubs, Coco Loco in the centro 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!

All my love,
Di

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!

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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, save yourself some blisters and explore it here with me 🙂

 

FRIDAY

 

 

Our weekend in Bogota began on Friday evening and 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!

 

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.

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 is 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.

 

 

 

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 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 amazing 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.

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, and 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.

 

 

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 the beauty of traveling, a tough day can end with one of the most memorable nights.

 

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 him!) 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!

 

 

 

All my love,
Di

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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. 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!

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 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

COCOLATTE CAFE

Cuisine: Café

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

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’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

Cuisine: Variety

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

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

 

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, 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

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 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!

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Castle Finca in Guatapé: Lakehouse Stay

After taking two day trips out to Guatape, I knew that it was finally time to escape Medellin for a longer trip. Daniel and I landed a sponsored stay at the Castle Finca in Guatape, a gorgeous lake house located between El Penol and La Piedra, and we couldn’t be happier that we did!

 

 

 

This finca in Guatape is situated at the end of a small peninsula and boasts gorgeous lake views. In front of the house, though, was our own gated paradise. The courtyard features 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 the fresh clean country side air.

 

 

 

The Castle features 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.

 

 

 

The next morning, we 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 are dream come true for any house hunter enthusiast. They range from ultra modern to flowery cottages to everything in between. Time slipped away imagining 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, while Daniel lounged reading in the hammocks in the shade.

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 out here away from it all. The worst part about the stay was saying goodbye to our lakeside home to return to Medellin.

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

Check it out here, and plan your trip today!

All my love,

Di

 

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Jardin, Colombia: The Town That Time Forgot

Daniel and I visited the most wholesome place on earth this weekend – the small town of Jardin, Colombia. The little pueblo was founded in the lush valley in 1871 and hasn’t changed since.

The well preserved colonial architecture, colorful buildings, beautiful basilica, and lively town square make it the perfect peaceful getaway from Medellin. Jardín was a three and a half hour bus ride from the city, but the winding roads and vast mountain views made it thoroughly enjoyable.

 

 

Along with the architecture, the slow pace and quality of life hasn’t changed much in Jardín either. No matter what time of day it is, there will always be young parents spending quality time with their kids, families attending mass together, old men catching up over coffee, and of course, caballeros riding through town on their horses, tipping their hats in greeting as they pass by.

When we asked some locals at the bar if Colombia’s violence and drug problems had reached the town in the 80’s and 90’s, they looked at me confused. Of course not, they said. When I asked why, they simply said, it’s Jardín. And honestly, I understood. The outside world has never, and probably will never, break into the shell of this charming town.

It’s a breath of fresh air away from the long work hours, the stress, and the constant screen time the rest of the world seems to revolve around now, and Daniel and I were more than ready for our long weekend of relaxation here.

 

 

Our Friday night started (and ended) with dinner and drinks in the lively town square. Get ready to practice your Spanish because the locals are the most friendly people we’ve ever met.

We passed the time wandering the street venders and sharing a few beers with a local bar owner and his friends (and occasionally sneaking treats to the friendly stray dogs as well).

Our night ended with some local food from the street vendors and our cozy bed at the beautiful Kantarrana Hostel, one block outside of the main square.

 

 

On Saturday, we woke up ready to explore. The weather was warm and sunny, and we had a rough map of the nearby hiking trails and waterfalls. The lush surrounding areas are green as far as the eye can see, and walking down the dirt paths with the pups who joined us was idyllic.

We hiked seven miles to two different waterfalls on Friday and enjoyed a picnic on the rocks by the river before heading home. We took an afternoon snooze during a quick rain shower, and then we headed out for coffee, dinner, and a night back in the square.

Jardín is in the coffee region in Colombia, so the cafes are plentiful, and the drinks are cheap.

 

 

Sunday was more of the same… wandering, eating, drinking, and relaxing. We took the cable car up to the Cristo Rey viewpoint for a stunning vista of the tiny town tucked away between the jagged mountain peaks. A restaurant and a quick lunch awaited us at the top, as well as a new hiking trail to explore.

We ended the afternoon in town catching the end of a local fútbol match and, of course, with a few more cups of coffee in the square.

 

There is nowhere on earth more peaceful than Jardin, Colombia. I’m convinced time forgot it was there and has continued to pass by without it. If you want to decompress, destress, and get away from it all, Jardín is certainly the place to do it.

Now I’m back in rainy Medellin, and our time spent in the colonial town is staring to feel just like a dream. Adios, Jardín. Te amo mucho.

All my love,

Di

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Day Trips From Medellin

This city is a fantastic base for your travels in Colombia because there are so many amazing day trips from Medellin. I’ve done them all (some more than once!) in my six months living here in Medellin, and these are my top three favorite excursions from the city.

Guatapé

Guatapé is the most popular of the day trips from Medellin and for good reason. It’s only a two hour bus ride away, but it boasts an incredibly unique and breathtaking landscape.

To get to Guatapé, you have to catch a bus at the Terminal del Norte bus station. You can either take the metro to the Caribe stop and walk over to it, or call one of many Ubers or taxis in Medellin. Once there, you can get a ticket from the many different booths for the next bus out.

 

 

The buses leave fairly regularly, at least every hour, so there’s no need to book ahead. We had three ticket choices when we got to the counter: El Peñol, La Piedra, and Guatapé. It costs $4 to get to El Peñol, and the others are each about 30 cents more than the last.

El Peñol is a small town and not worth stopping at. Instead, we bought our tickets to La Piedra (the rock) and hopped on the bus to continue our journey. The driver stopped at a small cluster of shops near the rock, and we bought a few snacks before climbing up to the base.

There’s a staircase and a road that both lead to the bottom of the rock, and either one will work. Once we got to La Piedra, there were plenty of restaurants and a small marketplace to explore before gearing up for the hike to the top.

 

La Piedra has 740 steps to reach the top, and is actually believed to be a meteorite by some. It’s a plausible explanation, because the rest of the land around it is flat lakes, and the monstrous rock rising out of them is very out of place. Whatever it is, we were determined to make it to the top!

The climb actually only took about 25 minutes (with a few rest breaks of course), and once we were at the top the view was absolutely phenomenal. You won’t believe you are still in Colombia. The surrounding blue green lakes are so vibrant and breathtaking that no photo will ever do it justice (I will certainly take 100 just in case though).

The smattering of shops and vendors at the top make it a perfect little place to grab a beer (you earned it!) and spend some time in the sun before making the long decent.

After the climb, we hopped into a tuk tuk and paid $2 to continue to the town of Guatapé, which is about a 10 minute ride away. I honestly don’t know what I enjoyed more, climbing the rock or exploring the small pueblo. Every home was decorated with ornate wood carvings and painted with the brightest colors.

Guatapé really has to be one of the most cheerful towns I’ve ever seen. The center is marked with a large square and a beautiful church, and it’s surrounded with lots of cobbled winding side streets to get lost on. We also enjoyed a walk along the lakefront, lunch, and a few cervezas in the sun.

 

 

You can also hop on one of many tour boats dotting the lakeside to take a trip out to Pablo Escobar’s home. His property is a 30 minute ride away, and the mansions built on the surrounding islands make for a beautiful trip.

Once we arrived, Pablo’s home included his own private discotech (which still runs today), as well as the bombed out shell of his favorite mansion, stables, private soccer field, and more.

The place was destroyed in 1993 by the Colombian Search Bloc just a few months before his death, and the eerie ruins are all that is left of his legacy in Guatapé today.

 

 

I am planning to return to Guatapé again soon because the pueblo is so relaxing and beautiful that I didn’t want to leave! Next time, I’ll get a room in a hostel so I can spend a night and enjoy the sunset and night life in the small town. I have to say, Guatapé just may be my favorite place in Colombia so far!

 

 

Santa Fe

If you spend any time talking to the locals in Medellin, you’ll be asked often if you’ve made the trip to visit Santa Fe. This weekend, Daniel and I decided to finally check it off our list. As far as day trips from Medellin go, it’s close and easy to get to. The small colonial pueblo is only an hour and a half outside of Medellin, and we’ve had so many Uber drivers in Medellin insist that we visit that we couldn’t put it off any longer.

 

 

To get to Santa Fe, we had to first go to the Terminal del Norte bus station. From there, it’s easy to find the Occidente ticket booth and buy tickets for the next bus. I’m not sure how often they leave, but we ended up getting ours 5 minutes before the noon departure, which was great. Also great – they only cost $3.25 each.

The bus ride was fairly uneventful, with some sweeping mountain views to help the time pass. Once we finally reached Santa Fe, it was only a quick walk down the street to the outskirts of the cobbled, colonial town.

Santa Fe was actually the capital of Antioquia until 1826 when it was moved to Medellin, and the town still holds an air of pride about it. To me, it felt like Santa Fe takes itself more seriously than the other pueblos in the country.

Unlike the colorful old towns of Guatapé and Cartagena, Santa Fe is starkly white all the way through. A few splashes of flowers here and there give the city some color, but the rest of the churches and homes are strictly white, giving the town a more formal feel than I’m used to in Colombia.

 

 

Santa Fe is one of the best day trips from Medellin because of the many gorgeous colonial churches scattered around the small pueblo. I counted four on our first walk through, and I’m sure there are many that I missed. If you don’t want to hit up a mass or two, however, there are other options to pass the time. Fortunately for me, those options include my three favorite things: eating, drinking, and exploring.

After a huge seafood lunch at the colorful and quirky Porton Del Parque, (washed down with coco locos of course) we hit the town. Because Santa Fe is at a lower elevation (almost 3,000 feet!) than Medellin, the temperature was much hotter, and we soaked up some much needed sun. Wandering through the little parks and plazas, up and down the hilly cobbled streets, and enjoying the surrounding mountain views was a perfect way to spend a day in my book.

 

 

Escaping to sunny Santa Fe was the perfect start to my weekend, and a much needed break from the early onset of the dreary rainy season in Medellin. If you want to do nothing for a day, Santa Fe is a beautiful place to do so!

If you find yourself yearning for some fresh mountain air, Guatapé and Santa Fe should definitely be added to your bucket list. Check out these day trips from Medellin, and let me know what you think of the quaint colonial towns 🙂

All my love,

Di

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