Columbia has a mystic that I have craved for some time. On this trip we discovered earthly treasures, swept across stunning Caribbean landscapes, enabled our sense of adventure and captured Colombia’s beating heart. What an amazing ride.
We started our trip in Medellin. Well, outside Medellin in a town called Guatapé. This town had me at “fresco.” Most of the colorful buildings have bas-relief depictions of people, animals, etc on the lower halves of the many dwellings. I was totally blown away by these artistic gifts.
We stayed in a small resort called Bosko, overlooking the Embalse Guatapé, a beautiful man-made lake. This 8 room hotel has luxury tents, called Mush-Rooms. (Because they sprout from the ground;) A sort of Geo dome with balconies and outdoor showers. Terrific service and a nice restaurant for snacks and morning (included in rate) breakie.
You could walk around Guatapé for days. But, if walking gets old, the Tuk-Tuk rides are the way to go. So creatively colorful. They seemed in contest with each other on how intricately they could design them.
We checked out the very famous Piedra del Peñol, the granite monolith you can hike up to. It has a staircase with 659 steps. We did not climb it, (too crowded and a hot day) but it was spectacular to see.
We made our way to Medellin through a travel service I found by googling Medellin+community+service+tourist. The company, Bloom Travel, was started by a Columbian women. Isabel Londono wanted to help fellow women in her city. Colombia was starting to really break through in the travel industry and she saw a need for tourism and service. Our itinerary included- 1) Market tour (where we picked out foods we wanted to cook at her house for New Years Eve dinner)
2) La Comuna 13 neighborhood, once one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellin is part of the rebirth of this beautiful city. This cliffside area in accessed by 6 escalators where we saw amazing street art and had lunch up top at the lookout at one of the cooperative, women-owned restaurants that Bloom Travel includes in her tour.
So much to see at Comuna 13. I was totally inspired and grateful.
Our trip to Medellin corresponded with a National holiday so we were limited to our outings and shopping excursions. We checked into The Click Clack Hotel in the El Pablado neighborhood. Pretty swanky hood. Very lush and friendly.
Isabel took us to see Botero Plaza, (the museum was closed). I have always been a big fan of Botero, so it was very cool to see the 20 or so sculptures in this outdoor plaza.
The service part of the tour with Bloom Travel included 3) making a family fund donation to about 12 single women households in Medellin that Isabel thought needed help. We handed out these boxes filled with food, potatoes, toiletries etc, before we headed to Isabel’s home to spend New Years Eve cooking, toasting and feasting with her family. This was a highlight for us all. Dancing and barbecue and giving back to help the warm people of Medellin.
The Contemporary Museum of Medellin has a wonderful permanent collection on view. Nice visit.
Medellin is s beautiful city and it was great to see how it is changing in positive ways. The Metro system is kept spotless and runs on perfect time. On New Years day we took the gondola up to the Parc Arvi. This ride has an amazing view of Medellin. Highly recommended.
I like to plan my trips with some big and small adventures. City life, quiet times and if possible, beaches. Columbia has all of this and more. Our next stop was the peninsula off of Catagena called Baru.
I splurged here guys. This luxury resort called Las Islas has tree top bungalows set among trails to beaches and restaurants. A spa (which Josh frequented) and a menu of excursions (we went on the bioluminescent and snorkeling tours). Yoga in the mornings and free flowing views and drinks.
And last, but definitely, not least. Cartagena. The whole trip was basically built around Cartagena. It’s easy to get to (Delta) and on the coast, with great weather, charm and history. A very similar vibe to our home town of New Orleans.
We had a few issues with the accommodations in Cartagena. First, the hotel I wanted to stay in was too expensive for the four of us. (San Agustin) The hotel I booked had a glitch in it’s system and cancelled our reservation a week before our trip. So I had to scramble to find something for 4 adults. I found the Amarla.
Second, the room I booked was a two bedroom, one bath. But once we got in it, Josh decided we needed another room just for us. (it was a little cramped for 4 adults) I love my husband.
Cartagena is a UWH site. A maze of cobbled alleys, bougainvillea dripping balconies, churches and leafy plazas. Set within the old colonial stone walls, this city is magical. Unfortunately, we were there over a holiday (vacationing Colombians) and our hotel was right in the center of the tourist mecca. So a lot of noise and sellers hawking. I didn’t mind it as much as others in my family. (Josh;)
In Cartagena we hired a guide recommended by Josh’s brother, Eric. Elkin Hernandez was a great guide. He showed us the old neighborhood of Getsamani. Cool, emerging, authentically charming and on the cusp of commercial explosion. The street art alley in Getsamani was awesome.
Elkin introduced us to local street food and we learned a little salsa too,
Our favorite place we dined was called El Boliche. A tiny cerviceria in the quieter San Diego neighborhood. It was under renovation at the time we visited, but we somehow got into the 7 table restaurant. Grilled octopus, crab empanadas and ceviche were delights. Highly recommended family run restaurant.
We also did a little shopping in Catragena. St. Dom the concept shop, a huge highlight of the Cartagena trip for me, without a doubt. Many Columbian designers. I bought a sick pair of sandals. words cannot describe.
Our last day in Cartagena we decided to enlist Elkin again to take us on a tour of the nearby village of Palenque. The first ‘free town’ in the Americas, Palenque was founded by those who fled slavery in colonial times, and has been preserved intact in Colombia. In the early 1600’s they opposed oppression and due to that, the Town of San Basilio represents the African emancipation from servitude in America until today. It’s a unique place, famous for its culture, language, gastronomy and, of course, its history.
About 3500 people live in Palenque. There are no police and no crime.
We were invited to share in the cooking and feasting for a late lunch. A local Palenquerian women shows us her recipes for fresh fish and coconut rice.
We were able to visit the popular musician Rafael Cassiani at his home. A great artist of the traditional Son Palenquero genre playing Maríbula (a typical instrument).
Columbia was an amazing trip. Highly recommended for the culture, the price, the adventure and the friendly people.
- Bosko– Luxury clamping in Guatapé
- The Click Clack Hotel Leafy, modern elegance in Medellin
- Las Islas High-end, service oriented tree top bungalows on Baru
- Amarla Center of everything retreat in Cartagena