Colombia was my first stop in my South American adventure and I arrived in Bogota to meet up with Kim (of!) and together we got our first taste of South American bus travel, heading to Medellin, Salento (coffee country!) and eventually made our way to visit friends, Emily and Bryan, in Cali! Before heading on to Ecuador, I headed back up to Bogota for a few more days, and had a great time getting familiar with various soups and street foods, thanks to my excellent AirBnB host!

>> Photo highlights can be found in my Colombia Photo Gallery

Things to do in Colombia

  • Bogota – capitol city, main point of entry; funicular to Mount Monserrate, Ciclovia Sunday Bike Tour (where streets close for bikes only), La Candelaria neighborhood, craft street markets, graffiti arts, cemetery, bullfight coliseum, red light district, and other cool historic places. There’s lots of free museums and artworks all around the city. For reference: Bogota Tourismo site
  • Medellin – Jay’s favorite city; lots of expats; side trip to Guatape (2 hrs). Nice climate, cool but lower elevation than Bogota. Great list of Things to do in Medellin by RTW Dave. Definitely sign up for the Real City Walking Tour (Mon-Fri, free, tips accepted)
  • Salento – “more country than city, very green” – day trip to visit Cocora Valley to see the world’s tallest palm trees; coffee farms; other things to do in Salento.
  • Cali – located in the south, famous for salsa dancing, country club culture (Campestre), the World Games and sports in general

>> For my next trip… Cartagena – “wall city” is beautiful with the colonial buildings, cobble stones, and old time charm feel. But can be a bit catered to tourists and pricey. You can do a day boat tour to see some nice islands/beaches nearby. Up North, on the Caribbean coast. Hot/humid climate. We also got quite a few recommendations for Santa Marta and Tayrona Nat’l Park, both are also up North and likely out for this time around. So much to see and do, even a full month feels like we are squeezing things in!

What to Eat in Colombia

    Arepa con queso
    Arepa con queso

  • Arepas (from street vendors) – plain or con queso or con chorizo
  • Coffee – tinto from street vendors or con leche (latte). Local chain is Juan Valdez.
  • Bandejas and bandeja paisa – national dish, hearty platter with rice, beans, chicharrones, chorizo, ground meat, fried egg & plantain slice, avocado.
  • Almojabanas – cheese-corn rolls, also made into a bread pudding for dessert, sometimes served with hot chocolate and cheese
  • Empanadas and Empanadas de Pipián – fried cornmeal stuffed with potato and served with a peanut sauce
  • Caldo de costilla
    Caldo de costilla
  • Tamale – Colombian version wrapped in banana or plantain leaves instead of corn
  • Potatoes (many variations)
  • Soups – ajiaco (creamy potato-chicken soup), caldo de costilla (rib soup – breakfast), changua (cilantro-egg soup)
  • Fruits – feijoa (guavasteen), guanábana (soursop), mora (a kind of tart berry, good for jam)
  • Seafood, especially in Cartagena – try Cazuela de Mariscos (seafood broth) and Piangua (rock mollusk from the Pacific coast region), seviche
  • Guarapo
  • Guarapo – sugar cane juice with lime
  • Aguardiente – sugar cane liquor

>> Anthony Bourdain’s Colombia – CNN Eatocracy blog
>> Colombia’s Culinary Comeback – Frank Bruni via Conde Nast Traveler

Where to Eat in Bogota

  • Andrés Carne de Res in Chia (40 min outside Bogota) or Andres DC (smaller version in Bogota)
  • Gordo – Brooklyn BBQ (Bogota) – get the pork belly “tater tots”
  • Burger Market – locavore chain, uses hydroponic lettuce from “living wall”
  • Club Colombia – weekend brunch
  • Abasto (Usaquén neighborhood, Bogota) – local produce, grains and meat
  • Mercado – famous for braised chicken, bison meat skewers
  • El Corral – Edwin’s favorite burgers

>> Bogota Eats & Drinks blog.
>> The City Paper – Bogota-based English language news
>> Bogota’s Bohemian Renaissance by Jeffrey Tayler

Where to Stay in Colombia

  • Bogota – we enjoyed our stay at an AirBnB in Cuidad Salitre (very close to airport, free pick up/drop off!) A bit far from the main areas of town, like La Candelaria, but super convenient to the Transmillenio. Jaime is a great host who speaks English well and is happy to share his tips about things to see and do in Bogota.
  • Medellin – again, AirBnB came through for us and we’d highly recommend staying with Lina, a wonderful host who loves her city! Rather than stay in the popular El Poblado area, Lina’s apartment is a great location in the Laurales-Estadio area. It’s immaculately clean, right off the Estadio metro stop, and a block from Calle 70 which is full of great places to eat, drink and dance!
  • Salento – There are actually quite a few hostels to choose from in Salento and we noticed quite a few backpackers just showing up and asking around for rooms since the town is quite small. We enjoyed our stay at Hostal Tralala – we booked a private double with shared bathroom for 55,000 COP (room 5), and our only gripe was that it was right next to the reception with its jarring doorbell. Though it’s not the management’s fault, there were two nights where guests forgot their keys and rang the bell at 3am, 5am, etc., so it wasn’t the most restful sleep on those nights.

>> If you’re new to AirBnB, sign up here using my code and get a $25 discount on your first stay.
>> Hostel Trail – great resource for hostels in Latin America

Colombia Resources

A special mahalo to friends who helped with tips:

Christy, Jay, Emily, Yen, Brenda, Angie & Jeremy, Erin

>> For recommendations for other cities and countries, visit my On The Road page.

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