Imagine walking into your Airbnb and having a hammock waiting for you looking out into the Caribbean Sea. Mouth dropped. Que music, drop the luggage. Quick! Hurry up and change out of those airport clothes, pop the bottle you got from duty free and just sit in peace for a moment. That’s how you start this journey.
Thank God for beauty that is created only by water and air. Just for kicks this journey begins inside the Walled City. Loads of private rentals or hotels in this quaint popular tourist hub. Prices for absolutely any budget. Currently the currency exchange is $1 US dollar to $4,400 Colombian Pesos. You can live like a prince or princess here. Colombia is all about geography hopping. Do not get comfortable. This is your chance to get to know different regions of Colombia. On this solo trip I visit: Cartagena, Medellin (pronounced Me-deen), and the enchanting Guatape. Everything is just a mini-flight or uber away.
WHERE TO REST YOUR SPIRIT
Usually I’m all about hotels but the Airbnb’s offer such a fun unique housing experience, I encourage you to live like locals. The hosts are friendly, speak English better than a lot of Americans and are very helpful. The Walled City is more helpful to solo travelers as everything you need and want to enjoy is right in this pleasant center and offers a reasonable sense of security. Medellin you will best enjoy in a Highrise hotel overlooking the most amazing mountain terrains. Imagine Christmas trees with lights and tropical weather but no snow. I stayed at the Novotel which is also connected to a mall that’s built for the God’s. Side note, if you’re interested in medical tourism- this hotel is connected to some of the best medical health centers hosting the best health care providers globally (PS- do your research). In Guatape which is perhaps my favorite location of my trip, it’s definitely about finding an Airbnb on the Embalse El Peñol-Guatapé which is one of the most scenic lakes you can imagine. This small historic paradise will not let you down.
WHERE TO FEED YOUR SOUL
I love Cartagena because if you want to pop bottles and buy everyone drinks, it will probably cost you $40 total (lol). But seriously food is serious to me. The historical meaning of the word restaurant comes from the French verb restaurer, meaning “to restore or refresh. I met some other beautiful sisters on their travel who introduced me to Candé Cocina, and man was I restored. First of all, make reservations in advance. This restaurant is in high demand and for good reasons, even the Obamas have been. The food is devilishly delicious. You will definitely feel like you have sinned. The live entertainment is joyous and the ambiance will make you never want to leave. Just be sure this spot is on your list. There wasn’t a restaurant or bar I didn’t enjoy in Cartagena; the food is flavorful and the drinks are popping. I had some drink from a conch shell and fell in love! Medellin, requires more exploration. There is a popular corridor with loads of bars and restaurants and I had some delicious eats at Florez.
I feel like the tourists have smothered out some of the spices I would expect in this region of Colombia, make sure you check out what others are ordering before you decide. Guatape is where the food seems to come to life. Original spices, organically grown veggies and delights. The chicken is just smothered in flavor and juices. The fish is so fresh. Try not to eat everything! Bring a girdle, or shorts with elastic bands don’t say I didn’t warn you. As you take the 2-hour ride from Medellin to Guatape don’t hesitate to stop at some of the road restaurants. Support the local community. When you arrive at the El Peñón you will be greeted by restaurant vendors, just smell the food and take your pick!
WHERE TO MAKE MEMORIES
There are loads of hidden gems throughout Cartagena. You can uber to the local beaches or take a ferry boat to some of the remote islands less traveled by tourists like Tintipan or Rosario Islands. One-two hours by ferry, enjoy the breeze. Be sure to bring water shoes to protect your feet and suntan lotion, this sun is serious. You will burn one way or another. If you’re not a germaphobe you’ll want to play at the Mud Volcano. Smush in and get cozy with your fellow mud folk, makes for a great picture, if you like mud in all of your crevices. Then just outside the walled city take a few steps over to the Getsemani, well known for its beautiful graffiti, bars and street food. Grab some dope art and support the local artists community (bring US cash, no credit cards accepted)for many artists. If you’re in Medellin, Pablo Escobar is a very known tourist event. Learn some unheard histories about Pablo Escobar.
If you’re adventurous you’ll definitely want to go paragliding over the Colombian Andes. I really enjoyed the El Castillo Museo y Jardines. Pose in front of castles and botanical gardens- you’ll love it! But wait, you are in Colombia, you have to go salsa dancing in the Poblado neighborhood, visit the Son Havana or El Eslabon Prenidido.
When you’re ready for breathtaking views you can uber or request a tour to Guatape. I prefer a uber driver who knows this area so you can take your time and take breaks and eat as you travel on this scenic journey. My hotel made arrangements for me and my driver used to live in the states and was very happy to chat with other Americans. He made my drive more personal, and I really loved that. The townships that you pass along the way to get to Guatape are beautiful and colorful, make sure you have lots of battery life in your camera. Along the way I grabbed souvenirs and that delicious Colombian coffee. As you get closer to the El Peñón a great smile will appear across your face. The lake will invite you to come in closer. The giant mountain will call your spirit.
The top of this mountain is magnanimous. If you count steps, your exercise and joy await you at the top. Take your time, these steps are not meant to rush. I noticed some kid just zooming past me, but I was not going to be outdone. I knew I would make it to the top and it was so worth the breathless sweating it took to get there. If you have challenges from covid, please DO NOT attempt to climb this mountain. It requires a healthy set of lungs. This mountain is not for the faint of hearts. You can hang out, eat, take pictures at the very top and make all your friends envious. If climbing steps is not for you, a few hundred bucks will get you a helicopter ride and you can fly and take in the panoramic views’ P-Diddy style. Don’t just stop with my suggestions, there is so much to do in these beautiful lands. I know you’ll enjoy this adventure as much as I. Vamos, get your ticket today!