We at the Clog are here to bring you on another trip around the world! Best thing is, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your bed. Here are some of the best things to do in Colombia!
1. Nightlife in Cartagena
As a big fan of nightlife, I can’t stress enough how lovely and lively Cartagena is at night. With its lively spirit and breezy vibe, it offers you a break from the gaudy and luxurious megaclubs in Las Vegas or New York. After arriving at Casa Mantilla — a super nice and cozy Airbnb house in the historic center district, we went down for a walk.
There are lots of dance performances, street artists, carriage rides and peddlers along the streets. The streets remained crowded with a mix of tourists and locals even after midnight. My friends and I went to an outdoor bar last. There was always live music, most likely a guitarist playing and singing nearby. When one of them was playing English-language songs such as “Hey Jude,” “Hotel California” and “Let It Be,” everybody sitting outside the bar sang along, laughed and then cheered together for a beautiful night. The weather was warm, but occasional breeze sprinkled the air with a salty flavor that came from the sea nearby.
2. Take the Metrocable in Medellín
Metrocable is a gondola lift system that functions as the metro system. It is designed to reach the top of steep hills that mark the topography of the Aburrá Valley. We took the Metrocable all the way up to Parque Arví (the Arví park). The Metrocable ascended us to a great height that showed the breathtaking panorama view of the city sprayed with the golden light of sunset.
During the first part of the ride, you will see red-bricked, dilapidated houses or walls with colorful murals painted on the sides. You will see children who manage to play soccer barefoot despite the narrow and steep streets. During the second part, you will be surprised by how quickly the urban view disappears at the natural geographical boundaries of the Andes mountains, with woodland stretching over the mountains as far as you can see. It is truly an innovative example of urban development that connects the city’s poorest residents with the main city below them. Be sure to have cash with you to buy tickets, as they don’t accept card. And don’t be intimidated by the long line — it usually moves pretty fast. The views are worth the wait!
3. Try local food
I have to say, local Colombian food is truly AMAZING. Arepa is among the most popular food in Colombia and one of my favorites. It is usually made of ground maize dough topped or filled with hot melted cheese. Chicharrón is a traditional Colombian dish consisted of deep-fried pig skin with pork — very crisp and tasty, even though it’s a little bit greasy. Empanadas are huge fritters with shredded pork and beef or small ones with potato filling. They are great snack options between meals. Chicha is a sour-tasting, traditional fermented corn drink with a low amount of alcohol. We didn’t get to try this, but it was highly recommended by the local staff at restaurants. Here are a few cafes or restaurants we tried and loved:
Pescaderia Mar y Tierra in Zipaquirá, right next to Catedral de Sal (Cathedral of Salt), offers the tastiest arroz a la marinera (seafood rice) and the tenderest grilled salmon. Café Para Dos in Bogotá has amazing salty crepes, such as seafood curry crepes and beef tenderloin and mushroom crepes. SPQR is a hippie café in Bogotá serving delicious salmon bagels and French toasts. Mondongo’s in Medellín is famous and expensive, offering traditional dishes and steaks. But we thought it wasn’t as good as we expected given the price.
4. Bike tours in Bogotá
Be sure to go early or make reservations, as the half-day bike tours (some are free) in the historic city center are extremely popular. Most tours will take you to museums, the nation’s main square — Plaza Bolívar, street mural sites and some traditional fruit markets or coffee factories. During our stay, however, we had to rent bikes and DIY our own bike tours since the guided tours were full.
Since the historic city center area was very crowded, we decided to ride all the way to the National University, which is about 3 miles away, with the help of Google Maps. This impromptu self-guided bike tour was actually one of the coolest experience we had in Colombia! We rode by hippie artists painting graffiti on street walls, as well as huge, heart-touching murals on tall buildings. The real treasure of art in Bogotá is outside of the walls, if not literally on the street walls. Listening to music while immersing yourself in the beautiful street views and liberated atmosphere, all your troubles will be lost in the wind blowing past your side.
5. Stay in a hostel
We lived in a hostel called Masaya in Centro Histórico, or the historic city center of Bogotá. Hidden among the narrow and steep streets are many photography-themed boutique hostels with beautiful murals. It’s a great place to stay if you’re hoping for cool Instagram posts. Hostels such as Masaya in the Candelaria neighborhood are very cheap and convenient. They’re all very close to amazing, must-go museums such as Museo del Oro (the Gold Museum), Museo Botero (Botero Museum), and the Museo Internacional de la Esmeralda (International Emerald Museum).
But personally, I think the best part of hostels is the interesting people you’re going to meet there. On the night we stayed in Masaya, my friends and I got to know some young Canadian filmmakers and a Korean solo-traveler. We drank and talked together for several hours! (But do take care of your personal items in the district, or Bogotá in general. My camera got stolen right in front of the hostel!)
So there you have it, folks. Time to pack your bags and take a trip to Colombia!
Contact Raina Yang at [email protected].