It’s been over a month since I sold everything to travel the world. If
you’ve been following my Instagram posts, you’d know my first stop was
Colombia. I thought I’d finally get back to you and share some of my
experiences and insights on traveling Colombia so far.
Having heard quite a lot about the culture, music, and most of all,
the diverse people, it was hard to pass on seeing what Colombia had to
offer. Plus, I scored a pretty sick deal on my one-way ticket here. At
$20, it was more than I would pay for a domestic flight to New York so
that was crazy…
My travels within Colombia began in Cartagena which is often referred
to as the crown jewel of the gorgeous Caribbean coastline here. It is
a well-preserved city that was founded in the 16th century. Filled
with colorful colonial buildings, the wall port city was also the main
point of entry throughout the country’s history. It was through
Cartagena that most African slaves were brought into the island on
ships. In the 1600s, some slaves ran off to a place about an hour’s
drive outside of Cartagena and settled in San Basilio de Palenque, a
town they fought for and made their own. Today, the residents of this
village are still very much in touch with their ancestry and it is
evident in the cultural dances you’d see on the street, the language
they speak which has a bit of Spanish, Portuguese and influences from
native West African languages with roots in mostly the Congo,
Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, and Senegal.
Most of Cartagena is now a city that caters to tourists, so you
wouldn’t really see any culture on display there. Don’t get me wrong,
there’s plenty to explore around the town and a decent variety of
restaurants to eat at. But if you visit Cartagena, you’d be amiss not
to head to Basilio de Palenque, a town which is historically the First
Free Town in the entire Americas. In other words, it is the first
place where black people lived free of slavery and that on its own
makes it worth the stop. About 10 years ago, in 2005 to be exact,
UNESCO named this village a Masterpiece of Oral & Intangible Heritage
For accommodation, if you want to be right in the middle of everything
then I would search around the area of Old Town San Diego. It’s easy
to find a lot of hostels and guest houses there. Although I’m a fan of
backpacking, I usually prefer to find home stays on Airbnb, as it
allows me to get away from the tourist crowd and meet some locals.
If you come here looking for nightlife, there’s no shortage of that. Most
travelers head down to Clock Tower Gate so you can mingle with other
tourists there in the plentiful bars, as well meet some hot Colombian
ladies. You should be warned though, it’s also a hotspot for
those looking for pay-for-play action. LOL. But there’s a good mix of
the regular locals that just want to party. Regardless everyone is
pretty cool, so you don’t have to worry or feel out of place whatever
your style is.
After spending 4 days in the scorching Cartagena sun, I moved on to
Medellin. It was a 1hr 30-minute plane ride and the ticket cost about
$35. Medellin is a mountainous city with high rise buildings,
So it felt like being back in the States only that it was 1st world living
with 3rd world pricing. Medellin felt very status-conscious and the
focus on the economy and finances didn’t appeal to me. There wasn’t much social life, and among the three main areas of the city, El Poblado,
was the most overrated area to me. Not much to see but inflated prices
on everything. It’s certainly the tourist hub and as such, with a few gringos and expats. Very much the part of Medellin that
caters to the upper class and most of its bars and restaurants are
full of a mix of locals and tourists. Parque Lleras, also in that area
is popular with backpackers if you’re looking for that crowd. But don’t get me wrong it is a nice place to live with the most beautiful views of the city and mountains.
Envigado would be the second area, and this part is more of a suburb
area, although it is not so far away from El Poblado. Here, you
certainly get a bit more of the Colombian culture. I mean, it is the
place that birthed Medellin’s most dangerous man in history, the
infamous Pablo Escobar. With more locals than tourists, prices are a
bit lower on this side. There are also a lot more local restaurants to
choose from and the main spot for nightlife was Parque Envigado, a
pretty chill place to just kick it with some of the locals.
Now, if you’re looking for most Authentic Colombian experience, I
would head over to Laureles. In this area, prices are a lot lower and
the food options and nightlife are plentiful. Just head down the main
road, past the futbol stadium and large skate boarding park. Salsa
lovers will love this area; it’s been one of my favorite areas to live
Since I arrived Colombia.
The last stop I made before heading back to Medellin again, was Cali,
one of Colombia’s most cheerful cities and its sports and salsa
capital. I don’t have much to say about Cali, because although I spent
3 days there, I didn’t get to explore it much. Why, you ask? Well, it
wasn’t the easiest place to get to know on your own and the few places
you’d like to sightsee or just tour, could get a bit sketchy at night.
So, the energy in Cali is great and so are the people but I wouldn’t
say it was a city you had to visit to see Colombian culture.
Initially, I planned to spend 3-4 months here in Colombia but being
here, my plans have changed quite a bit. To be honest, I think it’s a
worthy destination that gets a bit too much hype on blogs and travel
sites. Again, not to dissuade you, I do think there’s something for
everyone in all the cities here, it just depends on what you’re
looking for and maybe also on how good your Spanish is. The people are
very cool and welcoming, so it’s quite a nice, affordable country to
live in for a little while but when it comes to exploring there’s not
much to do. Also, I’ve found the food to be one of the biggest
disappointments and that as you know, is a big deal.
On May 22nd, I’ll be leaving Colombia but the journey must go on…
Where to? Well, you will find out sooner than later as I’d keep you
updated on my Instagram- Follow my page Vacayislife for more details.