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Thrifty Traveler’s Guide to Colombia: Bogotá, Medellín and More

Colombia Travel

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Colombia is making an attempt its hardest to maneuver past its troubled previous. And if my two-week journey all through this South American nation was any indication, it’s working.

Most individuals’s information of Colombia begins and stops with notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, or the 50-year civil conflict between guerrilla teams, drug cartels, and the federal government of Colombia. Foreigners nonetheless consider Colombia as a violent and unsafe place, tainted by the automotive bombs, assassinations, and kidnappings of the ’80s and ’90s.  However in at the moment’s Colombia, that couldn’t be farther from the reality.

It hasn’t occurred in a single day, however even the once-most harmful neighborhoods of Medellin like Comuna 13 have reworked – Comuna 13 is now a hub for hip hop artists and delightful road artwork. There’s a way of rejuvenation hovering all through Colombia, and the journey group isn’t ignoring it.

So, throw out what you thought you knew about Colombia and embrace this loopy lovely fact: Colombia deserves your time. After two weeks touring by way of Colombia, I knew I’d made a mistake: It wasn’t sufficient time.


Getting There and Getting Round

It’s turning into simpler and cheaper to get to Colombia from most main cities within the U.S. With flights at $300 or much less, Colombia could be the last word budget-friendly vacation spot. Monitor these flights on Google Flights or subscribe to Thrifty Traveler Premium to catch these flight offers.

When in nation, yellow cabs are protected and cheap, and Uber is obtainable, too. Touring to and from Bogotá, Medellin, and Cartagena takes time by street (12+ hours), however there are in a single day and day buses out there. If time is restricted, one-way flights between every main Colombian metropolis with Avianca and LATAM are $40 to $60, making them an incredible choice.

Thrifty Tip: Have a layover in Bogotá (BOG)? Use your Precedence Cross membership to get into the excellent El Dorado Lounge.



Bogotá is Colombia’s capital metropolis nestled excessive within the mountains. With a inhabitants just like New York Metropolis, this bustling metropolis is house not solely eight million-plus individuals, however excellent museums, historic squares and neighborhoods, and a vibrant espresso, restaurant, and a buzzing bar scene.

La Candelaria neighborhood is Bogotá’s cultural and touristic hub that’s the precise birthplace of the town. Right here you’ll discover a mixture of 300-year-old houses in addition to hostels, bars, and eating places. La Candelaria is the preferred space to remain on account of its shut proximity to Plaza de Bolivar: a picturesque sq. with authorities buildings, monuments, and numerous pigeons. There’s Museo Botero, residence to collections of Latin American artwork akin to Fernando Botero’s bigger than life figures. Or take a look at Museo del Oro, with the most important assortment of gold on the earth. The neighborhoods of Zona Rosa, Zona G, Macarena, and Chapinero proceed to realize in reputation with newer motels and energetic nightlife.



Bogotá is the primary place that I ever willingly signed up for a free metropolis strolling tour. And I’ll now do that at each new metropolis I’m going to. It’s THE greatest introduction to the town, and though you are feeling like that foolish vacationer strolling in a gaggle and listening to your bilingual information for 4 hours, it’s extremely informative. I signed up for a tour by means of my hostel referred to as Bogotá Free Strolling Tour.

We toured the La Candelaria district, tried chica (an area fermented drink), espresso at Azahar, arepas, and unique fruits from road distributors – don’t miss lulo juice and the fruits guanabana, mangosteen, maracuya, guava, and tomate de arbol. We additionally discovered a bit concerning the historical past of the coca leaf and its use by indigenous teams. There are additionally graffiti excursions and biking excursions provided.

For those who can’t get sufficient of unique fruits, head to Paloquemao Market to seek out some extra of probably the most numerous fruits on the earth. Hike the 1,500 stairs or take the cable automotive to Cerro de Monserrate for superb mountainous and metropolis views, then cease in on the extensively admired La Puerto Falsa for a bowl of ajiaco (soup containing hen and potatoes and served with avocado) or chocolate con queso (scorching chocolate served with a cheese just like mozzarella and candy bread). Open since 1816, La Puerto Falsa brings in vacationers and locals alike.


Colombia Travel


The “Metropolis of Everlasting Spring” is Colombia’s second-largest metropolis. It’s youthful, entrepreneurial, and wealthy in tradition. If you consider Medellín, assume artwork, espresso, and fantastic eating.

Get snug in your lodge or hostel within the El Poblado neighborhood then hop on the metro. Paisas (individuals native to the Antioquia area of Colombia) are extraordinarily pleased with their glowing clear and environment friendly public transportation system — it truly is the cleanest metro I’ve ever been on. Enroll on-line for the Actual Metropolis Strolling Tour to see Medellín’s Metropolis Middle together with Botero Sq., the Sq. of Lights, and Palacio Nacional.

Interested by studying extra concerning the current historical past of Colombia? As an alternative of heading on a Pablo Escobar themed tour now termed “narcotourism” for followers of the Netflix present Narcos, spend time within the Museo Casa de la Memoria for an correct and vital lesson in Colombia’s darkish previous. The museum pays tribute to the various victims of the drug cartels and paramilitary teams. Don’t miss a tour of La Comuna 13 and check out the espresso lemonade whereas overlooking the neighborhood. Belief me.


Colombia Travel


A private favourite of mine was the Museo de Arte Moderno, a contemporary artwork museum that’s architecturally beautiful and holds numerous installations, pictures, work, and sculptures by each native and worldwide artists. The artistic endeavors depict present and ongoing social and political points all through Colombia and Latin America. Don’t miss the museum’s balcony degree, both.

Head excessive into the mountains by cable automotive to Parque Arvi. Spend a while in nature and hike round. Deliver a jacket! For extra nature, however within the metropolis take a look at the Joaquín Antonio Uribe Botanical Backyard.

Two fashionable locations simply outdoors of Medellín are Guatape and Salento. For round $60 for a guided tour with transportation included, Guatape is superb for a day-trip: go to the colourful small city and take within the views after climbing 700-plus stairs of Piedra del Penol. Salento is additional – take a bus and keep for a pair of days to hike the Valle de Cocora, a “cloud forest” house to the world’s largest palm timber (as much as 60 meters tall). This space can also be widespread for its espresso excursions.



Finish your journey with some warmth and sunshine on the Caribbean coast in Colombia’s magical port metropolis.

Get misplaced in Cartagena’s Previous City: a photographer’s paradise with cobblestone streets, colourful terraced buildings, and colonial structure. Run into the gorgeous plazas and buildings of Covento de Santo Domingo, Santa Catalina de Alejandria Cathedral, and Torre del Reloj when strolling round. Take your decide of one of many dozen popsicle-like paletas at La Palettería to chill off. Consider me, this gained’t be your final time wandering the streets of Cartagena with a paleta melting down your arm.


Colombia Travel


For espresso and pastries, head to the gorgeous Epoca Espresso Bar and get welcomed by their smiley employees.

Seize lunch or dinner at my favorites La Cevicheria (made fashionable by Anthony Bourdain), La Boliche, or La Mulata. For pizza, sushi, or Colombian meals, Cartagena actually is a foodie metropolis. I don’t know if I ever stopped consuming.

Seize drinks on the rooftop of Alquimico and don’t miss sundown at Café del Mar. Go early! Cafe del Mar opens at 5 p.m. and will get packed each night time of the week.

Spend time in the course of the day testing the graffiti and in addition when the solar goes down in Cartagena’s hipster neighborhood of Getsamani. Plaza de la Trinidad is a energetic gathering place, and excellent for sipping on ice chilly Membership Colombia’s whereas individuals watching. Time in Cartagena wouldn’t be full with out dancing the night time away. For a bit of champeta, head to Bazuto Social Membership or the favored spot for locals, Media Luna.


Colombia Travel


Take a day-trip to one of many Islas del Rosario and be a seashore bum for a day. Many vacationers head to Santa Marta to go to Tayrona Nationwide Park for its lovely hikes and white-sand seashores. Tayrona was sadly closed for the month once I was there, so I didn’t make the trek up the coast.


Backside Line

Brush up in your Spanish and head to Colombia for ocean, mountains, tradition, and journey. This as soon as harmful and feared vacation spot is now a traveler’s paradise, and the cities of Bogotá, Medellín, and Cartagena are just the start. You’ll be surrounded by vibrant and colourful locations, and glad and welcoming individuals.


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