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.

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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.