Cartagena’s Doors

phyllthis in Cartagena Colombia

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since I was here… living life’s been getting in the way of writing about life… but, c’est la vie.

phyllthis fruitstands in Cartagena Colombia

phyllthis walls of Cartagena, Colombia

Anyways, Cartagena – located on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is better told through photos anyways. It’s mainly an old colonial city, the Walled City, that is probably the most touristy city of Colombia. Next to the Walled City lays Getsemani – a grungier sort of more hipster area of town.

phyllthis murals of Getsemani in Cartagena Colombia

Getsemani street art

phyllthis street art in Getsemani, Cartagena Colombia

Don’t expect to lounge around any beaches in Cartagena… they’re all pretty crummy, but luckily there are many tiny boats that will take you out to the islands (main one being Isla de Rosario). Of course, you should head over to Santa Marta & trek out into Tayrona National Park to beach it up properly (longer post on that later.. plenty of logistics there).

phyllthis in Walled City of Cartagena, Colombia

But mostly Cartagena is full of beautiful chalk-colored buildings, local ladies selling fruit, so much humidity & THE best door knockers ever! Seriously guys, I should’ve taken more photos of them & just made a coffee table book out of them or something haha.

doorknockers in Cartagena, Colombia phyllthis

phyllthis walls of Cartagena, Colombia Continue reading

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Guatape & La Piedra: Living up to the (3000m) Hype

Okay so you’re obviously having the best weekend ever in Medellin, but peel your tired butt out of bed (if you ever made it there) and hop on a bus for a day trip out to Guatape. This little lakeside town is 100% “It’s a Small World” IRL (all the cute & none of the creepy).

phyllthis Guatape streets in Colombia

phyllthis Guatape lake

Actually, if you have the extra day, or are just better at planning, try to stay here a bit longer. I regret not sticking around for an overnight trip. Everything moves at a slower pace in this little village ..it is so so relaxing.

phyllthis Guatape colonial building

Buses leave every hour from the North Terminal in Medellin and cost about 10-15k COP. You can have them drop you off at the base of the rock, or take it in further into the town center of Guatape.

phyllthis streets of Guatape, Colombia

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Bogotá Streets Tell a Story

Step into La Candelaria of Bogota & your visual senses are immediately oversaturated.

phyllthis bogota graffiti street art

Bold colors dart across the streets. Street sculptures, stamps & more each mark an individual artist’s style & message. Masterful murals commissioned by the people, for the people, fill entire walls.

phyllthis bogota street art graffiti tour

You could wander around the city & easily feast your eyes on the many street art pieces (graffiti is legal here), but sign up for the Bogota Graffiti tour for an amazing, super informative tour. Tours are in English & the guides are fantastic – they are all street artists themselves & know many of the other grafeteros personally, so they can speak to each artist’s style, technique, message & more. The tour is free (donation based) and happens every morning; more info here.

phyllthis bogota street art graffiti by guache

This mural was by far my favorite – it was done by Guache, the only freestyle spray painter in Bogota. He’s from the rural parts of Colombia & this fantastic piece capture the patterns, the maize – elements of his indigenous home.

phyllthis bogota street art graffiti by crisp, roche and kilo

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Practical Tips: Hiking Valle de Cocora & Salento

Google search Valle de Cocora & you’ll be flooded with stunning images of Colombia’s national tree, wax palms stretching 60 meters up into the sky. Like this one.

valle de cocora palm trees salento colombia

Ta-Da! so worth it

wax palms at Valle de Cocora, Salento Colombia

I found it surprising tricky, however, to dig up logistical info in one consolidated place (which of course, makes the journey more rewarding in the end). But for those who might find it helpful, here’s a brain dump of practical information, tips and resources for hiking Valle de Cocora & traveling to Salento.

Getting there by bus:
I took the bus from Bogota to Armenia. Most people, local Colombians included, had recommended booking on Bolivariano – I believe it’s just slightly more expensive than smaller companies, but is the most reliable & comes with TV, wifi, bathroom, AC and all your first world amenities.

traveling Colombia in Bolivariano bus

The bus ride takes about 6-7 hrs, with a 30 min lunch break in the middle, and cost about $48k COP (~$15 USD). They drop you off at the main bus terminal, and from there you’ll need to take a local bus out to Salento. Buses fill up & leave fairly quickly so no need to book ahead. It’s an hour ride and will cost around $5k COP (~$4 USD).

Getting there by plane:
Fly into either Armenia or Pereira airports (both part of Zona Cafetera), and from there take a bus or cab to the Terminale in order to take the smaller bus to Salento. Then it’s the same as above!

bus Salento to Pereira, Colombia

hopping on the local bus at Salento, heading back to Pereira.

If you book on VivaColombia, tickets are usually only slightly more than the long bus ride. My flight out of Pereira ended up getting cancelled though, due to weather conditions (fog?? I still don’t even know) and I ended up taking the bus back. Just something to keep in mind – though I guess you can say that for all travel in general 🙂

La Serrana hostel in Salento, Colombia

Where to stay:
La Serrana eco-farm & hostel. It’s a little out of the way – about 15 min walk from El Centro, but it’s chilled out vibe and lush scenery make it worth it. You can either bring your own supplies and “glamp” or stay in their dormitories. Breakfast is included (best hostel breakfast I had in Colombia) and there are communal dinners & fire pit hangouts every night. This spot fills up fast so if you’re able to, definitely book ahead!

La Serrana hostel in Salento, Colombia

wine bottle decorations at La Serrana hostel in Salento, Colombia

wine bottle decorations in the La Serrana living room

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5 Steps to Having a Perfect Weekend in Medellin

I spent almost half my entire trip in Medellin – it was hands down my favorite city in Colombia, and definitely lived up to what everybody else had hyped it up to be. There’s a plethora of activities to do, an entire city to explore – on bike, on foot, or on their efficient Metro system, friendly locals to meet -and all in perfect sunny weather, this is after all “The City of Eternal Spring”

More to come on that later though… this post is just my attempt at framing words around the warm fuzzy’s I now have for Medellin. An effort to articulate the essence of the city.

El Poblado Medellin Colombia graffiti Rodez

street art by Colombia artist, Rodez, on the side of Eco-Bar, right next to Poblado Park

Musica Tremenda Medellin Colombia club

The bar inside Musica Tremenda

So, here they are: My 5 steps to having a perfect weekend in Medellin.

1. Talk to everybody.
This area of town is teaming with expats and travelers, and everyone is open and excited to meet new people. Talk to all these gringos 😉  Locals from this area, called “paisa’s”, are also the friendliest Colombians. If you’re chatting with a local ask them if they are a paisa & the biggest smile will come across their face – they take so much pride in their beautiful city.

Medellin El Poblado Colombia street art graffiti

People from all over the world ❤ Medellin

2. Enjoy fast & reliable wifi (almost) everywhere.
There’s a reason why so many expats and digital nomads settle here. Easy access to strong wifi is available at practically every restaurant, bar, hostel, you name it. Makes it easy to keep up with your life at home, plan your next jaunt, and communicate with other Medellin travelers.

La Octava bar El Poblado Medellin Colombia Continue reading