There is so much I could say about Colombia. Before my adventure, I had no idea what the country would be like. As I said, this trip was to meet my biological family, however I wanted to spend a decent amount of time there to explore and really get a better understanding of the country. The 22 days would include at least 3 days in Cartagena, Tayrona, Medellin and Guatapé, on top of the 11 days total I would be spending in Bogota.
Each city had it’s own personality from mountain ranges, deserts, beaches and jungles. Bogota, Medellin and Guatapé were located in the mountains where the climate was a bit cooler and rain was common. As soon as we landed in Bogota I could feel the change in the air. Sitting in between beautiful green mountains, 8,660 ft. above sea level is a city full of color and busy streets. Traffic is hectic during rush hours (8am-11am and 4pm-7pm). Public transportation is also jam-packed during those times and many people ride motorcycles to make their commute easier.
Chapinero Alto is where we first stayed and I must say, it was pretty amazing. Our Air BnB was located on the 13th floor of a new complex and had 24-hour security and an abundance of coffee shops, restaurants and bars to go to. My boyfriend, Paul and I were able to walk wherever we needed to go and also get a good workout as our apartment was located on top of a giant hill. The hill was tough to walk up however it made for a beautiful view from our place. We could see all of Bogota and let me tell you, after a rain shower the clouds were so spectacular. It was truly an amazing sight to see.
I enjoyed Chapinero Alto because it was easy to get around to other parts of Bogota. Uber is common in Colombia and that was our primary choice for transportation. We were 25 minutes from the airport, 15 minutes from Downtown Bogota and about 20 minutes from Candelaria (the historical district of Bogota).
We walked to get groceries and stopped for coffee at numerous shops while in Chapinero. One of our favorite places was Tostado for café tinto (black coffee with a bit of sugar). We realized early on that Colombians take their coffee very seriously. In fact, they drink coffee all day long and I don’t blame them, as it’s some of the best I’ve ever had. The coffee in Medellin was even better (if that’s even possible) and we bought 17 bags of coffee at our favorite spot, Pergamino Café, to bring home with us for our families and friends. Yes, it was that good.
Candelaria was one of my favorite spots in Bogota, as it’s artsy and colorful. Street art fills the neighborhood and many artists travel from around the world to showcase their art in Bogota (and Medellin). Hand crafted jewelry is in every store and chicha (a traditional Colombian corn drink) can be found at many bars that fill the streets. Monserrate is a short walk away and if you hike to the top you can see all of Colombia. We could see the top of Monserrate from our apartment in Candelaria (we stayed there for our last 4 days in Bogota).
Just a few blocks away in Plaza de Bolivar you can walk through and see all the historical buildings of Bogota. Street performers fill the area and when the clouds clear the blue sky makes a beautiful backdrop for all the architecture. If you happen to find yourself in Plaza de Bolivar, walk up the street a few blocks to La Puerta Falsa for a tamale and Ajiaco (traditional Colombia soup). By far one of the best meals I have ever had (we went there twice!).
If you feel like buying souvenirs you can walk toward Downtown Bogota and go into the marketplace, which is filled with small shops. We were able to negotiate and do all our shopping, as there was so much to chose from. Everything is in walking distance from Candelaria.
Like Bogota, Medellin has a Plaza de Bolivar located near their Candelaria. My main goal was to eat as much traditional food as possible and we stopped for lunch at Hacienda and ate bandeja de paisa pretty much every other day.
I loved Medellin, maybe even a bit more than I loved Bogota. Medellin is known for its “eternal spring” however it was warm with less rain than Bogota. Still, the city was surrounded by an amazing view of mountains and beautiful clouds that popped when the sun would set. The air was a bit fresher however the streets were still busy and traffic was also very intense.
Medellin also had quite the nightlife. Our apartment was in El Poblado and like Chapinero had a variety of restaurants, bars and coffee shops we could walk to. We spent a weekend in Medellin and let me tell you, the streets were packed with people drinking, dancing and enjoying their weekend.
Music from the bars/discotecas (which usually were wide open to the public) would blast through the streets. There was Salsa, 90’s America Rock, Reggae or Electronica music that you could dance to and if you walked around Parque Lleras you would find a place to go. In both Bogota and Medellin it was easy to walk in and out of bars and explore the nightlife. Medellin was bit more lively but both cities were equally entertaining.
About 2 hours outside of Medellin was a small town called Guatapé. Guatapé is a beautiful, bright place surrounded by beautiful green mountains, coffee and vegetable plantations and a giant rock called “El Penon de Guatapé” you could hike up to (a 657 stair hike). Once you got to the top of El Penon, you could see all of Guatapé. It was one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen and worth every step.
Guatapé is one of my favorite places mostly because of the tranquil vibe and beautiful scenery. The air was fresh and people were friendly. Our apartment was right near a small lake where we could see horses grazing every morning outside our door. The center of town had a few restaurants and tucked between the narrow colorful streets were markets and a few bars where you could go shop and grab a drink.
You could rent a scooter or motorcycle and ride through the mountains, see beautiful waterfalls and go swimming in the lake. Paul and I rented a motorcycle for an afternoon and drove on the windy roads for a few hours enjoying the beautiful landscapes. Cows and horses roamed through the streets and the lifestyle seemed more laid back. Temperatures were perfect which made it a beautiful place to detox a bit after spending so much time in the bigger cities.
Being surrounded by the mountains seeing the country from up high overlooking the cities and landscapes was more amazing than I could imagine. Bogota, Medellin and Guatapé made me feel alive. Hiking, exploring and being surrounded by such beauty was indescribable. Colombia has so much to offer and the climates make it unique and wonderful place to visit. Leaving the mountains was tough, however, we were on to our next adventure in Cartagena and Tayrona. Located along the coast, I was now going to get a taste of the tropical parts of Colombia. We packed our things and got ready to once again start the next part of our journey.