Day 10: A Full Day in the Beautiful Cartagena

We weren’t going to do anything too crazy on our last full day. It was mainly going to be eating and exploring the Cartagena. If we had more time, we would’ve probably visited more of the historical landmarks and maybe even done a walking tour.

We got into the main city around 11am and ate breakfast at Mila Postres.

After breakfast we walked around the city, admiring the beautiful streets of Cartagena. It was scorching hot, probably the hottest we ever felt in Colombia.

We stopped by a couple of shops to check out souvenirs and stopped by La Paleteria for some popsicles. A great way to stay cool was getting cold drinks which we got a lot of.

We had coffee at Cafe San Alberto and then went to Maria (restaurant) to get reservations for dinner since Alma was fully booked.

I loved seeing all the colorful buildings and streets everywhere we went. We took a nice long walk along the wall by the beach to get the nice cool breeze,

Afterwards we walked back up and got a refreshing juice at Marzola Parilla, which was a rock and roll themed Argentinian restaurant. We pretty much walked, drank and ate all day.

For lunch, we ate at Vera’s which was inside a hotel. The restaurant had a great ambiance and since it was very instagramable, we kept seeing tourists come in just to take pictures. I got the mushroom risotto, which was really good.

We took our time eating and talking since our dinner was pretty late, at 9:45pm. We went to get cocktails at El Baron again and then went to Cafe Del Mar, which was a bar on top of the wall. It was supposed to be a good spot to watch the sunset, but it was too late when we arrived.

We got another round of drinks and just chatted for a couple of hours before dinner. It was very chilly sitting there because of the wind and it was mostly electronic music playing.

When the time came, we went back to Maria for dinner and honestly we were pretty stuffed from all drinks and food we had throughout the day. It was probably the most food we had in a day on our trip.

The food was amazing, we ordered two appetizers – lobster ravioli and fish tacos, one entree each – the ribeye, pork chop and tenderloin. Stuffed and exhausted, it was a good end to the day. We still have a majority of the next day in Cartagena as we are flying back to NY at 8pm.

Day 9: From Minca to Cartagena

Our last few hours in Minca, consisted of eating breakfast at the hostel and then trekking down to the town to get a bus to bring us to another bus station near Santa Marta so we could get to Cartagena.

The bus ride to Cartagena was around 5 hours. When we got to the bus terminal, it was surprising that to us that we just couldn’t find an uber. I guess since Cartagena was such a big tourist spot, maybe taxis just get priority here. Our Airbnb was around 15 mins or so from the main tourist area where everything was. We were pretty much staying at a local neighborhood.

Once we dropped down our stuff and changed to clothes that were more suited for the hot humid weather of Cartagena, we took the taxi to the main area.

I can see why most people only visit Cartagena in Colombia. Cartagena is absolutely beautiful. The photogenic streets and and colorful buildings. There were so many restaurant options. It also seemed like a family friendly city to visit.

We walked around for a hour until we got to eat at La Cevicheria, a famous restaurant that Anthony Bourdian went ate at. Everyone we know was raving about it, but we actually thought it was just okay. Definitely overhyped.

After dinner, we just walked around some more. At this time it was pretty dark out. We decided to just grab drinks at El Baron which was known for cocktails and outside seating. There was a great view of the church as well. After two drinks and a lot of conversation we hopped to another bar/restaurant called El Baluarte San Francisco. It was situated on top of the wall and also outdoors. We got drinks and food and pretty much chilled there until we decided it was time to head back. I was excited to see Cartagena in the morning.

Day 8: A Day in Minca

We woke up to the sounds of nature, birds chirping, insect noises and dogs barking. Sleeping in a hammock was surprisingly comfortable and it felt great when there was a breeze of wind. We actually woke up around 9ish, which was the longest we ever slept in during our trip. Here are some pictures of the hammocks we slept in.

The bathroom was a short walk from us and there was a hut for massages.

We got breakfast in the morning at the main lodge area of our hostel. We saw guests doing yoga in the morning. Overall the hostel had a hippie vibe.

After breakfast, we trekked down from our hostel and explored the town a bit before hiking. Minca is a small backpacker village in the mountains behind Santa Marta. There were similar vibes as Salento, but Minca felt a lot smaller.

It was blazing hot, honestly one of the first times we felt the sun this strong. We stopped by a cafe for some coffee and then we decided to take a motorbike up El Campano and hike east looping back into Minca.

The motorbike ride up the mountain was pretty rough. It was my first time sitting on back of a motorbike and the road was not smooth at all. It didn’t help that my driver was pretty young and he was fast. We were the last bike to go, but ended up being the first one to make it to the destination. It was bumpy and there were times when I thought I would’ve bounced off. I was literally holding on for my dear life.

The hike from El Campano started uphill for us. Our first viewpoint was Los Pines but we kind of missed it as we didn’t know what we were looking at. There weren’t many signs despite the person who helped us with the trail said there were.

Casa Elemento was the next view point and we didn’t go to see it. It was like a giant hammock you can lay on, on the edge of a mountain. It was one of those things you have to see in Minca. Since we wanted to just chill and take it easy, we didn’t do that or the other big tourist attraction called the Pozo Azul. These were two spots that are often crowded with tourists and we just didn’t want to experience the madness.

The main attraction we did see was the La Cascada, which was a waterfall with a pool of water that you can jump in.

We should’ve took a dip in the pool when we first arrived but ended up eating at a restaurant near it because we were hungry.

I didn’t even want to go in afterwards aside from dipping and cleaning the dust off my legs.

The hike back to town felt forever. It felt like we were just hiking a never ending trail.

We got back to the town at 5pm, got some coffee and trekked back up the mountain to our hostel. We got back at the perfect time, put in an order for dinner at the hostel and went to shower.

Our day was pretty much just relaxing and taking advantage of our tranquil hostel.

It was the most relaxation we had on the trip. The only bad thing during dinner was that we got attacked by mosquitoes. Wish we had another full day in Minca, but it was good enough time for this trip. We’ll be heading to Cartagena the next day!

Day 7: Goodbye Medellin, Time to Head to Minca!

Our morning was hectic. We had reservations for paragliding and lunch plans at Carmen. The first thing we did when we woke up was responding to our Airbnb host to use his spare key to get back into our place. There were three things happening at once. Lily was fixing that situation, I was running off to an atm to get cash for paragliding and paying off the hostel that let us stay the night and Ellen was picking up our laundry. We also had to pack most of our stuff so we can get ready to checkout after paragliding.

We took an uber pretty far up north for paragliding. It was the middle of nowhere at the very top of Medellin. We made an agreement with our driver to pick us up and drive us back down afterwards.

It was my first time paragliding and I was very nervous since I am a tad bit afraid of heights. Both Ellen and Lily had done it before in Turkey. When we took off, there was an adrenaline rush but it was smooth once we got into the air.

The person I was flying with was very nice and passionate about what his job. In the beginning it was nice feeling the wind and seeing the view of the city. We were only suppose to be in the air for 15 mins, but after the first 5 minutes I felt really nauseous. It might have been a mix of spinning and the altitude. I felt bad since I couldn’t really hold a conversation with the guy anymore. 15 minutes felt like hours and I had to tell the guy I wasn’t feeling well and we went down afterwards. I think it was pretty much the entire 15 minutes anyway.

Wish I had more pictures to share but I likely will once I get the chance to see what pictures I have bought.

I pretty much had to sleep off my nausea on the car ride back. There was LOTS of traffic and we pretty much got back to our Airbnb at 12:45, 15 minutes before checkout. We all showered and packed within that time period and stored our luggage at the hostel next door.

We had a reservation for lunch at Carmen’s, which was a popular restaurant in Colombia. Originally we were going to do the tasting menu but opted to get different dishes to try.

Lunch was filling but it still can’t compare to Mesa Flanca in Bogota. We had a lot of time to kill after lunch so we just walked around found a cute store and then sat at Pergamino Coffee and chatted for a hour or two.

Afterwards we went back to the hostel picked up our stuff and took an uber to the airport. We were flying to Santa Marta and then taking a taxi to Minca.

The flight was around a hour and the drive to Minca was roughly the same. The drive at night was kinda scary since it was pretty much pitch black and there were a lot of turns. Minca at night was looking sketch as well. Once we got there, we had to hike a good 10 minutes to get to our hostel, Casa Loma. The hostel was beautifully on top of a hill on the corner of Minca.

We booked hammocks to sleep in and it was actually pretty comfortable. Thank god there was a net covering the top so bugs wouldn’t get to you. I’m actually surprised I got a good night sleep in a hammock.

Day 6: Our Last Night in Medellin

We took it pretty easy in the morning as we didn’t wake up too early, around 8-9am or so. Our day was pretty flexible aside from a free salsa class that were going to take at night from DanceFree.

Originally we wanted to do a exotic fruit tour with Real City Tours in the morning however there was no spots left so we explored the fruit market ourselves. We took an uber to Plaza Minorista Jose Maria Villa, which was basically a giant warehouse with fruit vendors. The only fruit that we tried was mangosteen. There were a lot of potatoes, bananas and plantains.

In the market, we found a restaurant tucked in an area where there weren’t many fruit vendors. We decided to get breakfast here since we see a bunch of locals eating and it looked delicious. We got a whole meal which was heavy for breakfast but delicious. The crazy part was that everything we got (a plate each with soup and 2 juices) was less than $10 USD.

We also found out that Guanabana juice was really good. It looked like a jackfruit our the outside and was white and creamy in the inside.

After the market, we walked to the nearest train station to take the Metro and experience Medellin’s public transportation system. The walk turned out to be a bad idea since we were walking in a pretty bad neighborhood. We were lucky that everyone was just doing their own thing and that we only got heckled two or three times.

We took the train all the way up north as we wanted to take the cable car to Arvi Park. The train station was extremely clean and it kind of feels similar to trains in Japan. The only thing that these trains didn’t have was AC.

We transferred from the train to the cable cars to go up to Arvi Park in San Domingo and that was where we saw the Medellin that we envisioned in or head. Homes and buildings in the mountainside, basically how people and Netflix have described Medellin.

Up at the top of Arvi Park, we were going to do a short hike to see a waterfall without a tour guide. We were following a map and we just kept walking along a dirt road. There wasn’t many tourist or even people on the road. Two police on a motorcycle stopped in front of us told us that we were actually heading to an area where theft was common and recommended us to take another route to a hike with a picnic area.

We turned around and took their recommended path. There wasn’t much tourist around the hiking path and it was pretty long. Eventually we finished the hiking path and found ourselves in an area full of tourists. The funny thing is that we ran into the same police again and we chatted more and even took a picture together!

After a long hike back to the cable cars, we took it back down and took an uber to a cafe called Rumah-Soul Up. It was a quaint cafe with a nice outdoor seating area perfect for a nice coffee.

For dinner we went to Cafe Zorba for dinner. The pizza and hummus was amazing. It made sense why the line the night before was so long. Cafe Zorba makes it as the top 5 restaurants we went to in Colombia.

After dinner we went back to our Airbnb and went to drop off laundry to pick up the next day. We headed to DanceFree for our free salsa class and unfortunately the venue was closed. Disappointed, we went to 37 Park for cocktails and got a couple of drinks before we went to another bar and then a club. We were out for a couple of hours before we headed back.

We realized that we forgot the keys to our Airbnb as we all rushed out earlier. We were locked out of our Airbnb and our host was probably asleep. We tried to break into our own Airbnb but we couldn’t get the last door to open. Instead of just spending the night locked out, we ended up finding a hostel nearby to stay in. It was a horrible end to our night but it’s a story that we would never forget.

Day 5: Day Trip to Guatape

We had an early morning since we were going on a day trip to Guatape, which was 2 hours away on a bus. We made sandwiches in the morning, ate that, hopped on an uber to the bus station.

I was knocked out the entire bus ride to Gutatape. Once we arrived, we were at the bottom of the staircases that led to the base of La Piedra Del Penol. We put on some sunscreen and hiked up. It was nothing but incline up which was tough. We did get some decent views as we hiked up.

What was crazy was that we didn’t know that most people just took the bus up to the base of La Piedra Del Penol which was the main attraction and hike. It’s this big rock below:

It took a little over 700 steps and buckets of sweat and pain to get to the top. Incline is just not my friend. The view from the top was nice and we chilled at the top, getting the nice cool breeze.

Hiking back down was easy. There was a separate flight of stairs for people going down so there wasn’t much foot traffic.

Once we got down, we took a tuk-tuk to the main town.

I fell in love with the town as it was reminded me of Salento a little bit with the colorful architecture and small town vibes. There’s something about being in a small town in the middle of nowhere that gives me the feeling that I’m truly on vacation.

We walked around the town, got lunch and snacks. It pretty much took a hour to see most of the town. The plaza was very much like Salento’s plaza where there were a bunch of tuk-tuks instead of jeeps. After we got coffee, we got our bus tickets back to Medellin. There was half a hour to kill so we stopped by a place with billiards and played some pool.

Exhausted from the hike, we all took naps on the way back to Medellin. For the rest of the day, we were going to take it easy.

We freshened up a bit at our Airbnb and rested until it was time for dinner. We originally wanted to go to Cafe Zorba to try some Medellin Pizza, but the line was huge and there was no way we were going to spend a hour or more waiting. Instead, we walked around and found an area that was pretty lively at night. It was right by a city park Parque Lleras, the restaurant was called Basilica. Basilica had a pretty diverse menu of Colombian, Peruvian food and even Sushi. I got steak with mushrooms and limonada de coco. It was the first time our steak was cooked medium rare which was great. The limonada de coco was one of my favorites. After our long dinner, we called it an early night as the next day, Thursday was going to be the day we explore Medellin’s night life.

Day 4: First Day in Medellin

We arrived in Medellin early in the morning and took an Uber to our Airbnb. As we were driving into the city, Medellin was not at all how I expected. Medellin was a huge city, it looked bigger than Bogota and was much more city-like than I imagined. I hate to say it but Narcos (the Netflix show) had a lot to do with how I imagined Medellin.

Our Airbnb was in El Poblado, which was the area where most backpackers and tourist stay in and often don’t really venture out unless it’s for touristy things. On our block, there were cafes, restaurants and bars which made it pretty lively. It didn’t really feel like we were in Medellin at all.

After showering and freshening up, we went to get breakfast at Cafe Macanas Medellin.

We had a couple of hours to kill after breakfast since we wanted to go on a free walking tour. We decided to walk from our Airbnb all the way up to the city center which took over a hour and allowed us to see different neighbors.

Once we got to the main area of Medellin, it was pretty hard to explore the area since there was a bike race, Tour Colombia that was happening and it was impossible to cross over to certain streets. Finding a spot to relax was almost impossible since majority of the coffee shops were on the other side of street.

A long walk later we were able to find a nice spot with a couple of restaurants and a cafe.

When the time came, we met at the meeting point for Real City Tours. We didn’t make reservations but fortunately we were able to do the tour with Pablo.

Pablo was an amazing tour guide. I thought Juan from our Bogota tour was good, Pablo was in a whole other level. He was knowledgeable about the history of Medellin and great at presenting. He was funny, charismatic and would answer any question we had.

In our tour we went to the following places:

  • Medellin city center
  • Old railway station
  • Alpujarra administrative center
  • Square of lights
  • Vasquez and Carre buildings
  • Palacio Nacional
  • Veracruz Church
  • Botero Square
  • Murals and Berrio Park
  • Shopping arcades/labyrinth
  • Coltejer Building
  • San Antonio Park

The tour itself took 3ish hours and the most interesting part was when we went to the city center. It was definitely an area where we wouldn’t have wandered in ourselves. We had to be very cautious and aware of our surroundings even in a big group.

We ended the tour in San Antonio park and got some good recommendations from Pablo on where to go out at night. We stopped by one of the oldest bars in the city called Salon Malaga before we went back. The bar had a good ambiance and antique decorations. We only had a beer each before we left.

For dinner we went to Mondongo’s which was a popular restaurant. We got their signature dish the Mondongo and two other dishes to share.

We wanted to see the local night life after dinner and Pablo, our tour guide recommended an underground salsa bar that only opens on Tuesdays. It was called La Papayera – Eslabon Prendido. Pablo gave us the heads up that the area is going to look very sketchy but safe. When we went got off the uber, it was very sketchy. There were a of shady things going on but once we found the venue it was pretty safe inside.

It seemed like everyone knew how to salsa even the tourists who went. For us, we just grabbed beers and watched. It amazes me how good at salsa some people are.