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.

Day 3: Cocora Valley & Las Acacias Coffee Farm

I had a great sleep despite waking up in the middle of the night a couple of times because I kept hearing bugs and mosquitoes flying around me. For majority of the night I submerged myself into my blanket but I had to come up for air and the breeze.

Aside from getting a misquote bite, I had a great sleep. I liked waking up to the sounds of nature. The sound of leaves, birds and bugs. It was perfectly tranquil.

We had free breakfast at the hostel and decided to walk to Salento instead of taking the Jeep since it was early.

Once we got to the plaza, there was a huge line of people queuing for the Jeep service to Cocora Valley. We were packed in the back of the Jeep and had three people standing at the rear of the vehicle holding onto the roof.

The ride from Salento to Cocora Valley took around 30 mins. We got dropped off in an area with restaurants, basically where everyone who wants to hike Cocora Valley would start off and end.

We took the counter clock wise hike, which was recommended because there was less steep decline. I believe that was the main reason why it was recommended. The hike was going to be 5 hours, and we ended up finishing it in 3.

The beginning of the hike wasn’t too bad. It was mostly flat and we were surrounded by good views. It wasn’t until we got deeper in, scenery started to change.

Eventually the hike was mostly incline and I am so out of shape that it was honestly one of the hardest hikes I have done. It didn’t look hard, it physically was hard because I haven’t exercised in so long. The views were definitely worth it though.

I love the gigantic wax palm trees. I’d imagine it was the same feeling as being towered by dinosaurs.

We were exhausted and hungry but proud that we finished the hike 2 hours early. We got some refreshing cold drinks before we took the Jeep back into Salento.

We got lunch at some restaurant below Fika Cafe Salento and I ordered the Bandeja Piasa.

Bandeja Piasa is a big plate of rice, beans, shredded meat, chicharron, chorizo, fried egg, avocado and plantain. It’s A LOT of food but its delicious. I couldn’t finish it myself if I tried to. It’s an insane amount of food. Would definitely recommend this dish if you’re in Medellin.

After a good meal, we had time to kill before we took the bus to Pereira to spend the night before our flight to Medellin. Salento was known for coffee farms and we decided to go to Las Acacias Coffee Farm to do a tour.

I enjoyed learning about coffee, how it’s grown and all because I LOVE drinking coffee. The tour was very informative and I wish we had the time to do multiple coffee farm tours. If you’re in Salento, you have to do at least one coffee tour.

After the tour, we took a Jeep back to our hostel to pick up our bags and head to the bus terminal to Pereire. We caught the 5:50 bus out of Salento and the ride itself was around a hour long.

Pereire was way different from what we saw of the city when we were in the car heading to Salento. It didn’t feel exactly the safest, especially when the hotel we got was in a really bad neighborhood. We were lucky that our hotel was safe at least.

We only had to stay in Pereire for the night as we were flying out 6-7am in the morning. We only went out for dinner because we were starving and uber was the safest option. We got pasta at an Italian restaurant across the city which was actually pretty good.

There wasn’t really much for us to do in Pereira at night, so we went back to our hotel and just relaxed. We’re flying to Medellin the next day!

Day 2: Exploring the Gorgeous Town, Salento!

We checked out of our hostel around 7am and got breakfast at El Secreto del Amor. We just had to try ajicaco (chicken potato soup, top right on the pic below) popular dish in Bogota.

Ajicaco was good, but the Changua (Colombian egg and milk soup) was my favorite. It was creamy and hearty but the cilantro gives it a fresh taste.

We went straight to the airport after breakfast and flew to Pereira. We ended up Ubering to our hostel in Salento which took us about a hour.

Salento is a small town known for the coffee estates and the scenery. Our hostel was 20 minutes away from the city area, accessible by a Jeep service or a 30-40 minute walk.

We stayed at the La Serrana Eco and Hostel, which had a beautiful view.

It felt like we were at some paradise getaway because the hostel was surrounded by nature and amazing scenery. The hostel had a main lounging area where reception and majority of the rooms were. They also had “glamping” tents which was a 5 minute walking distance from the lodge.

I’m putting “glamping” in quotations because they weren’t luxurious at all. Just two beds, a closet and a couple of chairs.

There was no wifi either which explains the lag time between each of my blog posts. Uploading pictures takes forever and most of the time, it would fail. I don’t blame anyone, it makes sense since we were in some “remote” area and a really small town.

After checking in, we decided to walk from our hostel to Salento. The Jeep would’ve taken us to the main plaza within 10 minutes but we wanted to get the best experience and walk.

It took us around 45 minutes probably and you can see the transition as we got closer to the city.

The city was pretty small and since we walked from our hostel, we actually explored a good amount of the town before we got to the main plaza.

For lunch, we want to a local spot called Saber Casero, where we had a hard time communicating with our waiter since none of us spoke Spanish. One bystander helped us get the rice dish, which was really good. It was tomato-ey and reminded me of another dish but I just can’t put my tongue on it.

The other two dishes we got was the porcion chicharron + patacon (fried pork + fried plantains) and the trucha con champinoes (trout with mushrooms in milk sauce).

The trucha dish was very creamy and reminded me of the changua. It seemed like trout was a popular dish in Salento because we kept seeing it everywhere.

Definitely recommend getting lunch at Saber Casero. It was really cheap for all the food we had and it seems like only locals eat there. One thing to keep in mind is that it takes a while for the food to come out because the kitchen is REALLY small and there’s only one cook.

After lunch, we walked around the main plaza of Salento. The town was alive and colorful. You can hear the music and smell the food. There was so much going on that it felt like we arrived in Salento at the right time.

I got a limonada de coco which is a drink with lemonade and coconut. The one I got from the fruit stand above, wasn’t exactly what I wanted. It was not limonada de coco at all, the vendor probably put his own spin on it.

After walking around the plaza, we decided to take a coffee break at Fika Cafe Salento. We got a nice seat on the second floor by the window, relaxed and people watched.

Right after our quick break, we walked on Carrera 6 where all of the stores and much of the people of Salento were. We stopped by a couple of stores, listened to street artists sing and hiked up the stairs to Mirador Alto De La Cruz.

We got a great view of the town at the viewpoint. It’s just crazy how small the town is. The other view was the view of the surrounding mountains.

From Mirador Alto De La Cruz, we hiked to Mirador de Salento and stopped by Frutal de Salento for some snacks. In the order of the pictures, we got cholao, obleas and limonada de coco.

Cholao is a beverage made with fresh fruit and condensed milk. Obleas was a thin wafer sandwich with jam filling in between. This time, the limonada de coco that we ordered was the right one and it is now my favorite drink in Colombia! There’s a good balance of flavors – the richness of the coconut and the acidity of the lime makes this a refreshing drink.

Right when we got our order, it started to pour. We got lucky that we had seats inside the small icecream stall. We sat in there until the rain passed.

We walked back to the main street with all the vendors. I tried really good cold brew at Cafe Jesus Martin Calle Real. Then we noticed people sitting on the patio and we were able to find that same restaurant (El Patio) to take pictures from the patio.

At this time, we were exhausted. Instead of walking back we decided to take the Jeep service back to our hostel and settle in. It was getting dark and I was able to get some nice snaps of the clouds before the sun was down.

We were physically exhausted at this point and decided to relax in the main building of the hostel. We watched half of Juno and made a friend.

It was around late 8ish, when we decided to get dinner before we called it an early night. We took the Jeep service back into Salento and at this time, most restaurants were closing. The only place we wanted to try that was open was all the way back near the stairs where you head up to the Mirador.

Dinner at Camino Real Parilla Bar was okay. We tried a sampling platter and steak and overall it was just too dry for us. The bacon chorizo however was delicious.

Once we were done, it was past 10pm and there was literally no Jeep service. We thought about calling a taxi but ultimately decided to walk all the way back to our hostel. It felt kinda sketchy at first because we were literally the only 3 tourist walking in the city at night. Then once we were out of the city it was just pitch black and we used our phones as flashlights. Good thing we walked to the city from our hostel in the morning or else we wouldn’t have been familiar with the path at all.

We got back to our hostel safe and sound. We’re hiking Cocora Valley early next morning!

Day 1: Bogota

We landed in Bogota around ~5am-ish and got to our hostel around 6am. It was too early for us to check in and get our rooms so we just freshen up and left our backpacks at the hostel’s storage room. The first thing we needed was coffee but there wasn’t one open at 7am so we decided to get breakfast first at La Puerto False.

We got tamales, huevos con jamon, chocolate completa and almojabana. We definitely over ordered as we didn’t know that the tamales was going to be THAT big and that almost every dish came with a bread.

The chocolate completa is a traditional drink that Colombians love and they get it for breakfast, lunch and even as a snack. It’s hot chocolate with cheese. You’re suppose to cut up the cheese into tiny bits and drop it into the hot chocolate, let it melt and eat it when it’s melted onto the bottom of your cup. Maybe we didn’t do it or it could’ve been better elsewhere, but we didn’t like it. Our cheese didn’t melt well and the chocolate was a bit bland. The star of our meal was the tamales – it was flavorful and I loved the texture of it.

After fueling up, we explored Bogota with no real plan in mind. We went to the Bolivar Square, saw the National Capitol building and the Cathedral of Colombia.

The square was pretty empty since it was fairly early so it was a perfect time for pictures. It almost felt like a wasteland if it wasn’t for all the pigeons walking around.

We walked around the city for half a hour, just admiring the architecture and the colorful walls with graffiti art. Since no one was really out yet, it gave us a different experience of the city that what we had later on the day.

We couldn’t believe it was only 9am after all that. Our 3 hours in Bogota already felt like it would be noon. With some time to kill before our free walking tour, we want to get our first cup of coffee at Azahar Cafe.

Azahar Cafe looked like a hipster cafe you would find in Williamsburg. We chilled with our cup of coffee for almost a hour before we went to meet our walking tour guide in front of the Gold Museum.

The free walking tour was with Beyond Colombia and here’s our tour guide Juan!

Our group was largest walking tour group I ever been on. There was probably more than 30 people and it was 3 hours long. It was a great way to see most of the city and learn about the history of Bogota.

  • Parque de Santander
  • Gaitan’s corner
  • Casa Galeria
  • Miguel Urrutia Art Museum
  • Bolivar Square
  • Teatro Colon Bogota

When we were on the walking tour, we started to notice the city getting more alive and robust. The streets were fill with people, music, and aromas of food.

We got to try chicha (fermented drink) which tasted like kombucha… probably because the one we tried had was only 4-5%. At the same cafe, we also got chucula which is a drink you can only find in Colombia. Chucula contains coco, cinnamon and a couple of other spices. It reminds me of chai but a little more unique.

Fun fact: did you know that Justin Bieber was the reason why Bogota legalized graffiti? (That’s what the tour guide told us and I’m taking his word for it.)

Juan was a great tour guide and we learned a lot about Bogota from him. I highly recommend it if you visit: Beyond Colombia

It was 1pm-ish when we were done with the tour. We had a lunch reservation at Mesa Franca which was half a hour away from the city. We were starving and there was so much traffic that we ended up being late for a couple of minutes but it was fine. The food was AMAZING, we got 3 entrees, 2 appetizers, drinks and 2 deserts to share.

Honestly one of the best meals I ever had and it didn’t break the wallet. It was around ~$60 total. HIGHLY recommend Mesa Franca.

The last activity we had before settling in back in our hostel was taking the tram up to Mount Monserrate and get the view of Bogota. Unfortunately the cable car was closed but the tram still worked so we took that up.

It whole ride up took around 5 minutes. You get a pretty nice view of Bogota on the first half of the ride up and the rest was mostly just the tram in the tunnel.

There’s a church at the top and a pretty damn good view. It would’ve been nice if it was less cloudy so you could see more of the city but it was breathtaking nonetheless. The only thing to keep in mind is that walking around takes a lot of energy because of the attitude.

We were on the top of Mount Monserrate for a good amount of time just taking in our environment and the view. We went back to the hostel to check in and shower afterwards.

We were going to go to a popular night life restaurant for dinner but we were exhausted from being active for 14 hours. We opted in to make a food run at McDonalds for dinner because we all love to try country exclusive menu items.

We went to bed around 10pm. I was the last one to pass out as I was trying to finish this post, but couldn’t. We had to wake up at 6:45am in the morning so we can checkout, get breakfast and fly to Pereira.

(P.S. uploading this post without WiFi and it’s taking forever… even with WiFi it’s pretty slow. It’s just the slow upload of pictures that’s taking forever so I need to come back and caption them :(. )

Day 4 – Last day in LA

It’s our last full day in LA and we’re not staying another night in our Airbnb since Emily and Kevin are flying out around 7ish. We didn’t want to get charged another night for 5 people when it was just 3 of us. Our original plan was to stay at our friend’s spot before we fly out at 8am the next day, but we decided to just stay at a hotel near LAX (for comfort reasons).

Our morning consisted of cleaning up and packing. I’m going to miss the views from this Airbnb.

I’m going to miss waking up to this view.

The view as the sun is setting.

The view after the sunset.

Even the buildings next to us are photogenic.

One of my friends wanted to get something from the dispensary, so we all took a trip to one with a license. Visiting one is definitely an experience – there was a lobby with an armed guard and a window where thy checked our ID. After we were vetted, there was an entrance with two doors we had to get through (one door had to be closed and locked before the next door could be opened). Once we got to the actual room where they sold products, it was very much like a pharmacy. I enjoyed window shopping since I had no idea that they basically sold marijuana in almost every form possible – from edibles (chips, gummies, mints, brownies cookies, etc.) to lotion. Of course, pictures weren’t allowed and there was an armed guard that would enforce that rule.

Our last breakfast/lunch was at Blu Jam Cafe, a popular brunch spot known for their French Toast.

I got the Eggwich and we got the French Toast to share.

We all enjoyed our food, it was delicious. If this was in NY, it would definitely be one of the brunch spots that I would often go to. What makes the French Toast great, is the crunchy texture from the cornflakes.

After brunch, we had to take advantage of the beautiful weather on our last day. We took a Lyft to Venice Beach. I had to show everyone my favorite spot before the actual beach which was Venice Canals. I LOVE how walking around the Canals felt like you were in some special exclusive part of the world. Oh how I wished I lived here or at least had the chance the stay in one of these homes.

I love this view of Venice Canals.

Can’t keep myself from drooling over these homes.

Ugh these houses would not be possible NYC.

Next up, Venice beach but we didn’t go actually do anything beach’in since the weather was a bit to nippy for that.

Venice beach vibes.

We took a long stroll on the boardwalk, stopping by a skating park watching skaters do tricks and a couple of view points. Our plan was to walk all the way to Santa Monica pier, but we didn’t have time for that since two of us had to catch a flight soon. We ended up getting drinks and bar food at The Brixton on the corner of where Brandy lives before chilling at his place as he drives Emily and Kevin to the airport.

We got to meet his roommate as he was hanging out in the living room with his dog. After a couple of hours, we all got pretty exhausted and we didn’t think it was the best idea to just crash at his place. We wanted to shower and feel refreshed for our early flight, which led us to staying at Holiday Inn near the airport.

I feel like every time I come back to visit LA, it starts growing on me. Originally the first time I came to LA, I hated it. Maybe it was a mixture of the company I was with and the situation (our flight got delayed a day because of a snowstorm in NY). The second time I went to LA was two years ago, and that was a road trip from San Fran to LA with great company. We also drove down the Big Sur. This trip was with some of my closest friends since High School. To my surprised, as a group we haven’t done much traveling together. The last two trips was to Disney World (~7 years ago?) and a cruise to the Caribbean (~5 years ago?). Hate to say it, I think I’m starting to like LA and I will miss it.

Day 2 – LA

We all ended up waking up super early despite sleeping so late. It’s probably because our internal clocks were so used to EST time.We started off our day with breakfast at The Hart and The Hunter on Melrose near West Hollywood. I kind of wish I took my camera with me because I loved how photogenic the restaurant was – the decor, furniture and even the silverware.

Mushroom toast with soft scrambled eggs, creme fraiche, herbs and seeded bread.

I got the mushroom toast which was equally visually appealing as it was tasty. Definitely made it one of my favorite spots in LA for breakfast. (WARNING: I’m probably going use the word ‘favorite’ a lot in this post, just because of our activities this day.)

After breakfast, we drove to Runyon Canyon for a hike. Hiking Runyon Canyon is on my list of things that you HAVE to do if you’re in LA. It’s one of my favorite hikes and I’m jealous of how accessible this hike is compared to what we have in NY. (There’s no hiking trail that can beat Runyon Canyon within 20 minutes from NYC.)

Hiking the East trail.

We were surprised to find so many people hiking on a Thursday morning. It seems like everyone was just taking advantage of a beautiful day. Most are probably local since they were either running up or walking their dogs. Pretty much my ideal lifestyle if I lived in LA.

The first scenic spot of the hike.

The view of the Hollywood sign from Runyon Canyon.

I’m glad we got to hike Runyon since it was closed the last time I was in LA. Nothing better than a good hike with amazing views and beautiful weather.

Griffith Observatory was next on the list, but we decided to grab a quick lunch around the area first. We stopped by to check out Stamp Proper Foods and Little Dom’s first but ended up at Alcove. We sat outside and soaked up the beautiful LA weather.

I got a granola bowl and fries to share.

We got lucky getting to Griffith Observatory at what it seems to be off peak hours. There wasn’t much of a crowd so we were able to through the exhibits and take in the view at the top pretty quickly.

On the terrace of the Griffith Observatory

We were all pretty beat from hiking and exploring so before heading back to our Airbnb for a rest, we stopped by California Donuts for a dozen donuts and Trader Joe’s for a case of water and snacks.

So many options at California Donuts

The donuts we chose.

I had to get an unicorn donut.

California Donuts > Dough, that’s all I have to say. (I could be biased since I had enough of Dough donuts since vendors always bring them in at work!!!)

Back at the Airbnb, we ended up taking a 2 hour break before we headed out for dinner. Can’t come to LA without getting tacos. What better spot than Guisados in Downtown LA?

Kevin got the sampler which were 6 mini tacos.

I got the chicharron, chorizo and steak.

Guisados tacos are amazing, we’re probably going to come back here again. Tip for everyone who loves spicy food, ask for their spicy sauce and you won’t regret it!! (Unless you can’t handle it…)

Time to give LA nightlife another try, this time instead of a club, we went to Clifton’s Republic. I heard of it on VICE as they had an episode about Clifton’s being one of the oldest cafeterias, but I didn’t know it was a bar/speakeasy sort of deal. They had a rock burlesque sort of show go on when we were there, so that was interesting. The overall venue was amazing with multiple floors and taxidermy in display cases. It was very old school bourgeois type of place.

A giant redwood tree in the middle.

The coolest part about this place, is that there is a speakeasy aspect, where you get a coin like this one in the front desk.

Special coin

There’s a mirror on the second floor that you can push in as it’s a secret door and t leads to a secret flight of stairs where you drop the coin and head up to a hidden floor of Clifton’s. IT WAS BY FAR THE COOLEST THING EVER when we got up. There was some tropical themed party with a DJ on a boat.

DJ on a boat

Good drinks, good vibes and good company made it into a great night even though we were all tired AF. Our Lyft ride back was an adventure itself, wrapping up our day 2 in LA.