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When I made a decision to take a 2.5-week solo trip to Colombia, I wanted to pack in as much variety as possible. Cities and rural areas, destinations for both locals and international travelers. and I wanted to do it on a budget — not a shoestring, but enough of a budget to save money while still staying in private rooms, going on tours, and taking occasional flights to save hours of travel.
My first trip took me from Cartagena to Medellín, Salento, and Bogotá, with side trips to Guatapé, El Peñol, the Valle del Cocora, and Zipaquirá. This wasn’t quite what I originally imagined — I had hopes of exploring a lot more of the Caribbean coast, but August’s storms and humidity had me scrap the rest of the Caribbean coast and head to the mountains instead.
Even so, I feel like I got the best first-timer’s introduction of Colombia. I’d love to kick off my Colombia coverage by sharing my favorite moments with you.
Learning about All the Colombian Fruits in Medellín
Colombia has some of the greatest fruit diversity in the world — who knew? here you’ll soon discover carts piled with tons of fruits you won’t recognize. On my trip to Guatapé, I stared at the odd brown produce our motorist gave us until I tore one apart and discovered the lightest, sweetest passionfruit: my first granadilla.
The best way to get to know these fruits? Take a fruit tour! real City excursions in Medellín has a terrific fruit excursion in the Miraflores market, a place where very few gringos venture (and where taxi motorist may refuse to take you, saying the neighborhood is un poquito peligroso. have them take you anyway; it’s fine because you’re with a local guide).
This excursion was one of the best things I did in Colombia because I used my newfound knowledge on every remaining day of the trip. soon I was at fruit stands picking out my own tomates de arbol (tree tomatoes), bringing home dark green feijoas for breakfast the next morning, and drinking sweet and sour lulo juice every day.
Real City excursions uses their exotic fruits excursion for 40,000 cop ($14 USD). sign up online in advance. remember to idea your guide. I recommend going downstairs in the market for some sancocho de pescado (fish soup) with avocado afterward.
Hiking through the Valle del Cocora
All I knew about the Valle del Cocora was that it was full of super-tall palm trees. There wasn’t much a lot more information than that in my guidebook or online, so I made a decision to wing it, hopping into a jeep on Salento’s plaza and hoping there would at least be a toilet there.
Turns out I didn’t need to worry — there were plenty of facilities there, including restaurants. I spent the day exploring the hiking trails and marveling at those otherworldly palms. In true Colombian style, there were no maps or even signs on the trail — people just asked each other where things were and how the trail was.
Sometimes the views left me speechless. The Valle del Cocora was easily my favorite natural wonder in Colombia.
Jeeps on Salento’s plaza leave for the Valle del Cocora every half hour for 3500 cop ($1) each way. The journey takes 35 minutes. a lot of trails are complimentary to hike, but the palms trail, the best one, is on private property and costs 3,000 cop ($1).
Enjoying Salsa at cafe Havana in Cartagena
It was great to make friends with a fellow Manhattanite on a food excursion in Cartagena; it was even better when he invited me to check out a salsa club with him that night. Nightlife is something I rarely explore solo, especially in Latin America when solo women are often hounded by men constantly, even when just walking down the street.
How good was the club? It was outstanding. The band was one of the best live acts I’ve seen recently, huge and passionate and in best harmony. The crowd was loving every minute of it. and the mojitos? maybe the best mojitos I’ve tasted. I’m so happy I went!
Admission to Cafe Havana is 20,000 cop ($6).
Relaxing in the early evening in Salento
Salento was my favorite place in Colombia. This small colonial town is the best antidote from big cities like Bogotá and Medellín and popular vacationer zones like Cartagena. The tourists here tend to be Colombian tourists (though there is a backpacking presence) and because of that, it’s much a lot more chilled out.nullnull