Colombia is absolute magic. I spent waaaay more time there than I had originally planned on! The people are super friendly, warm and absolute sweethearts. Don’t listen to people who tell you it is “unsafe”. The cities like Bogota and Medellin can be dodgy, agreed, but the rest of Colombia is peaceful, loving and super welcoming. The country’s reputation has been ruined by its drug history and the ominous name of Pablo Escobar still looms over it. Unfortunately due to Narcos and the tourism surrounding it, Colombia has found it extremely difficult to shake off its drug image. I am here to tell you all the things that you can do that are NOT related to Pablo Escobar at all. So here goes…
The Lost City Trek
I won’t lie, this trek with Expotur was SUPER challenging. Though the sights were pretty, the hike was a really tough one, even more so because of the pouring rains. We trekked through the Sierra Nevada which is full of dense jungles, wild rivers and big mountains.
I have to say this is hands down the toughest trek I’ve done. The guides of my tour company Expotur were super adept at handling the situation. They were always ready to help with a big smile on their faces constantly encouraging us to trudge on even though at several points I had almost given up!! Enrique the main guide was super experienced and the little Myra who was our English translator was just the gutsiest woman I’ve met. She would just run up the mountains like it was no big deal while I would follow huffing and puffing! All in all it was a crazy experience and if you enjoy hiking you will love it. Check the weather forecast before you venture on the trek though.
2. Walk around in the most colourful town in Colombia
Guatape was one of my most favourite places in Colombia. The town was full of colourful houses painted with bas-reliefs. The main square has several steps that you can sit on and enjoy live music performances, juggling shows and a host of other fun stuff! I would definitely suggest grabbing a hot cuppa Colombian coffee and enjoying the show. The MAD colourful walls, the beautiful live music, and the spattering of old men with cigars perched between their wrinkled lips. I definitely left a teeny part of my soul in Guatape!
3. Spend a night at the coolest hostel in the world!!
Casa en al Agua which translates to House in the middle of the ocean (zero points for creativity!) is an eco friendly, super fun hostel that is bang in the middle of the ocean. Bring your chilling pants along when you come here cause chilling is all you can do here. There is no wifi, no network, nothing to distract you from all the peace-ing out! Make sure to go on a new moon night so you can do the bioluminescent plankton tour!! The hammocks and beds sell out soon so book well in advance. Carry enough cash with you and do NOT forget to sign up for meals or you won’t get any food. They are super conscious about the environment and are completely solar powered so don’t be surprised if there’s no electricity on a rainy day. A small price to pay for this epic-ness, don’t you think?
4. Enjoy the street art in Bogota
There is a rumour that soon all the street art in Bogota will be painted over on the instructions of the new mayor who thinks street art is vandalism. I agree with him that a lot of the street art in Bogota is by vandals but it also has some really stunning art that I hope to God he doesn’t paint over like this one here. Explore more such epic street art in the La Candelaria area of Bogota.
5. Soak in the cowboy vibe of Jardin
I had half a mind to not tell anyone ever about this place, but then I’d be a shit blogger won’t I? So here it is Colombia’s best kept secret- Jardin. Jardin is a little town tucked away in the coffee region of Colombia. You see horses trotting around the city square, old men in cowboy hats sipping away on coffee and of course the town houses are painted in bright colours with little potted plants hanging down the porches. Time seems to have taken a little break in Jardin. I would suggest buying a cup of coffee at the town square and just people watching! Not many backpackers know about this place and so it is much less touristy than the other towns in Colombia’s coffee region. I love this little cowboy hat I bought there!!
6. Go trekking in the Valley de Cocora
Salento is best known for Valley de Cocora. I had the option of either hiking it there or going on horseback. I chose the latter simply because I had to leave for Cali the same day. If not, please do the hike, it is supposed to be stunning! Here is a teeny glimpse of what it looks like.
7. Walk around the Communa 13 in Medellin
The street art in Medellin is slightly different from the ones in Bogota, especially in the Communa 13 area. The art here is not as visually stunning but has a string message as it depicts the violent, bloody history of Colombia. It is almost like a taking a walk through Colombia’s gruesome past. Do the graffiti tour if you can as they also explain a lot of the street art and it definitely makes the experience more enriching and beautiful! This one for instance talks about an old woman who waved a white bedsheet at the Black Hawk as a sign of peace and as a request for them to stop the bombing and shooting. The teddy bear is a symbol of lost innocence.
8. Do a lovely coffee tour
A Colombian coffee tour is definitely a must do in Colombia. Book a local tour in Salento through your hostel. They will take you to a coffee plantation and explain how the world- famous Arabica coffee is made!
9. How can we miss Salsa?
Colombians are insanely good dancers. Like really, it is unbelievable how amazing they are!! Head to Cali which is the capital of Salsa in Colombia and take a fun salsa lesson!
10. Check out some beautiful beaches
Enjoy the colourful Cartagena and then head to the beautiful Caribbean beaches of Colombia. I would suggest skipping the popular Tayrona beaches which are insanely touristy and heading instead by boat to some of the lesser known ones. Like this one here- Playa Cristal. This way you can skip paying the Tayrona National Park fees which is ridiculously expensive and still enjoy the Colombian Carribean!