Given I lived in Colombia for 3.5 years, I often get asked what to do by people who are visiting. This is the email I send them. It's old and I plan to update it when I get a moment but it is a useful intro if you have never been before.
General tip: Download Maps.me on your phone and download the Colombia maps for offline use - helps a lot when you don’t have data (or even better buy a local sim card).
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La Candelaria is a fun historic area. Fun to walk around and soak up the hippie atmosphere. There is a small square which normally has live music in the nighttime. I did the "Heroes free walking tour" a while back which was great. Really interesting to hear the back story of Colombia.
Chapinero, Zona T and Zona G are the safer, more gastronomic areas. Loads of restaurants and bars. Calle 85 has lots of bars for going out - bit naff but the main party zone. Good clubs for house/techno are Baum and Video Club. Teatron is a huge old theatre with multiple rooms. El Coq is more expensive but meant to be good too.
There is a cool artesan market in Usaquen in the North on Sundays. There is also big hill you can go up called Montserrat to get a good view. Everyone raves about the Bike tour. Graffiti tour also meant to be good.
Again we really rushed here as we had no time. This is a big city like Bogota with a bit less charm. It is the salsa capital of Colombia if you fancy it. Tin Tin Deo is a cool salsa club. San Cayetano Park is great for drinks with a view. Avenida 6 is the main bar area.
Frickin loved this place and could have spent weeks here. Lots of trekking through the Cocora valley (largest palm trees in the world - google it). We swam in rivers, rented bikes, swam in waterfalls. Super fun outdoors place. You can go to coffee plantations etc. It was a very relaxed small town with a lot of charm and staggering landscape nearby.
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I was here for 2 months studying. It didn't love it as its quite a modern city and feels like you could be in America. That said, if you go, check out Comuna 13 which is an old ghetto that has loads of street art. Plaza Botero has loads of cool statues by Botero, a very famous sculptor. Museo Casa de la Memoria is a memorial about the crime of narco trafficking - its amazing, sad but breathtaking. Poblado is the main area for partying (what Medellin is most known for). Avenida Carabobo and Calle 53 have a markets on them at the weekend (follow the noise and the people). Hostel Rango is the best hostel (bit more expensive but it is like a boutique hotel and the staff are amazing)
Huge man made lakes near Medellin. You can get a cheap bus from the north bus terminal. Great place to visit - very beautiful. Get a boat tour out onto the lake (you can stop off at Pablo Escobars derelict mansion!). There is a huge rock you can climb for an amazing view. Guatape itself is a colourful town with nice bars etc. I stayed at Casa Encuentro Hostel Boutique which was amazing.
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- Los Indias Hostel (small but well located)
- Plaza Trinidad is great at night, get some beers and watch the dancing/music on the square most nights.
- Walk around the walled city, lots of colours and nice restaurants
- Playa Blanca is the famous one on an island a short boat ride away (meant to be pretty busy with Gringos though). We went to a beach along the north coast - not as nice but more locals
- Stayed at Fatima Beach hostel (no beach FYI, its in the middle of the city)
- Calle 19 and Parque Santander has lots of restaurants and bars on. Carrera 3 from the Park also has loads and there is a square at the top where they had a big dance troop performing.
- Walking along the sea wall is nice
- There is not loads to do here but it is the main hub to get to places in the north
- Rough round the edges but I loved it
- Eat at Babaganous (seafood Thai curry is out of this world and the owner is awesome)
- Stayed in Divanga Hostel (there are two I think, one has a pool which is the better one)
- Sundowners on the beach are fun. Normally lots of music in the street or the square
- The main beach isn’t very nice so walk around the headland (to the right if you are looking out to sea) and there is another beach called Playa Grande which is nicer and full of locals. Sun loungers are ~5k for the day
- Lots of diving shops in Tanganga if you fancy some diving
- I loved Minca, up in the hills. You can walk to waterfalls and swim in them. See monkeys in the trees if you're lucky and adopt some stray dogs who will do the hikes with you.
- You can hop in a 4x4 to get there for ~15k from the bus station on Calle 11a / Carrera 11
- We stayed at Oscars which is super basic but has the most ridiculous view and they have mango / avocado trees everywhere. They also have a plunge pool with fish that nibble your feet and a hammock area looking over the view
- The fat cat (or lazy cat…) is a great restaurant
- Walk to the waterfalls
- Casa Elemento has great views, lots of other travellers but it is a motorbike ride up the hill (we walked it and it took 3 hours!). Motorbikes are everywhere and will take you there if you need.
- Their is a lovely bakery with awesome bread and coffee and an Israeli dude sells the best humus in South America from his house opposite.
- Super relaxing place and some fun bars for the evenings
Tayrona National Park
(when we went north of Santa Marta, we left all of our stuff locked up at Drop Bear Hostel and rented a motorbike. Even if you don’t rent a motorbike, I would try to leave your stuff in a locker. Tayrona etc would be hell with a big backpack. They have lockers for valuables and a bag room for the rest of your stuff and let you use them if you stay a night on your return)
- Like something out of Jurassic Park
- People normally camp out for a night or two. The camping is uber basic though unless you splash out for a lodge. We stayed in Don Pedro but Cabo San Juan is good too.
- Arrecifes, la Piscina, Cabo San Juan are all good beaches (careful swimming, its super dangerous unless there are signs saying its ok)
- TAKE BUG SPRAY
Lost city trek
- I didn't have time for this but its meant to be awesome
- Bit of a party strip, we stayed at Brisa Tranquilo which was just down from Costeño beach. Costeño looked fun though
- There was a big full moon party when we were there at Casa Grande. Really fun but I got mauled by sandflies - take bug spray everywhere in the north!!
- We did a night at the Dreamer hostel which was fun but pricey
- Quite a quiet beach area (take cash with you, nearest bank is in the next town - same applies for Costeno)
- Tubing was really fun. Take some beers with you
- If you walk along the main road back towards Costeño there is a bridge where you can get down into the river and swim with all the locals
- Lots of restaurants on the main road and the road that leads to the beach