Adventure travel to Colombia is a growing destination, but before I visited, I'll admit, I had my doubts. So many thoughts crossed my mind before my first trip to this fascinating country. In the past, every time I've had to 'stop-over' in Colombia I would get paranoid that someone might put something in my luggage or what if I end up in a Colombian jail? All of my concerns were about safety, but little did I know that it would be the safest place I've ever experienced, second only to Cuba. (Read Is it Safe to Travel to Colombia? for more info) I couldn't be more surprised when I arrived in Medellin and within the first day, I was blown away with all I got to see and do.
Medellin has so much to experience; nature parks, markets, street food, excellent biking, great coffee and much more. The capital city of Antioquia, one of the 32 departments of Colombia, Medellin has changed so much from its infamous past and many positive changes have transformed the country into a world class destination. Many young people who left the country during the dreadful years, like my guide Nicolas, returned bearing an international sophistication and an entrepreneurial energy which shows up everywhere you look in the amazing science and library parks dotted around the city. Nicolas explained that It all started with new public transportation systems, which have won the city many awards, including the World City Prize, Most Innovative City, City of the Year, and even a Harvard award for urban design. The metro cable cars now connect previously isolated neighborhoods and the city installed outdoor electric escalators in Comuna 13, a neighborhood that used to have a bad reputation. Experiencing all of this first-hand gave me a sense of joy. It was wonderful seeing its citizens bursting with a spirit of "we can do better" and they have done just that, turning Medellin into a great city.
I loved visiting Parque Arvi, a great place for walking and/or biking, just minutes away by metro cable car. Visiting Comuna 13 was truly insightful and I met really nice people and local kids who were very welcoming. I even met Yes Graff, a well-known graffiti artist.
Medellin had incredible street graffiti everywhere you look!
A great day trip from Medellin is to the nearby town of Guatape, one of the most colorful towns in Colombia and also to Peñol, which borders Guatape, where you find one of the biggest stones on the planet. It takes 725 steps to get to the top but the views are amazing.
Besides the tours, there were also many spontaneous moments I will treasure, like having a cappuccino with Diego Buitrago, the owner of Café con Mucho Amor. As a native Spanish speaker, I was pleasantly surprised to hear how people treat each other, with so much sweetness and genuine interest in each other. I thought for a moment, what if all people treated each other like this around the world? It was very zen like and joyful…and their accent! Ahhh, it was such a pleasure to hear them, I couldn't help to smile every time, it was like birds chirping, so beautiful!
Bogota is the modern heart of Colombia. In recent years, the city has seen a renaissance with innovative restaurants and a blossoming arts scene popping up to complement the beautifully preserved cobblestone streets, plazas, and colonial buildings. It's a city that delights connoisseurs of art, architecture, and ancient civilizations. (Read the New York Time's article about 5 things to do in Bogota)
Walking through La Candelaria neighborhood, the heart of old, historic Bogota, you are surrounded by restored 300-year old homes, Spanish colonial buildings, and some of the most creative and colorful graffiti murals you'll ever see. Visit the busy Plaza Bolivar, San Francisco Church, the lively pedestrian street "Calle 11" full of artisan shops and cafes, the Santa Clara Convent with its golden interior walls.
I loved walking through Paloquemao market, tasting the exotic fruit we don't have here in Costa Rica and learning about Bogota's exciting gastronomy scene. The Gold Museum was the best I've seen and the Botero Museum was worth a whole afternoon. If you happen to be in Bogota on a Sunday, you can't miss riding the cyclovia with the locals!
For more information on our trips to Colombia, feel free to give us a call at 800-345-4453 or check out more photos from my trip below.
Keeping it wild,