We got a taxi from the bus station (Terminal de Sur) to our hostel called Selina in El Poblado. It only cost us 10k and should have only been 8k so make sure you don’t pay any more than that. Most travellers stay in El Poblado as it’s a little bit richer and safer than other parts of Medellin.
We had high hopes for Selina as it looked really cool online but were left quite disappointed. It’s huge and despite having a cool bar there is absolutely no atmosphere at all. We also paid to stay in a private room which honestly was the size of the bed, it had no aircon or a fan and faced the road so when you opened the window it was obnoxiously loud. Other private rooms seemed to have aircon so maybe we just got the short straw, but we were less than impressed, especially for the price. At least the guy at the cafe downstairs did do good iced coffee.
That night we went out for a casual drink at El Social. El Poblado has so many nice places to eat and drink so if you just wander around the streets and an area called Parque Lleras, you’ll find something. We spent most of the evening just getting our bearings as it was a Tuesday and not too busy. We also got a taco from a taco stall called Criminal Taqueria they were pretty good and a great bit of drink munch!
We were woken up the next morning at 7am by the traffic and absolutely sweating. As we were up we decided we might as well get breakfast and had nice food, albeit very slow service (get used to it, you’re in South America) at a place near the hostel called Commo pez en el Agua. In the afternoon we got a taxi to Museo Casa de la Memoria (House of Memory Museum). It was free and had information on Medellin and it’s dark and violent past. A lot of it was in Spanish however, they had some bits in English but really try to learn some before you go! By the time we got back from the museum I was ravenous and we had lunch at a place called Bastardo, it was pretty good! That evening we found a bar called 37 Park which actually ended up being one of our favourite places. It has the cutest outside area, decent drinks and good nibbles. The pisco sour was decent and the barrata delicious!
The next day we had booked an early free walking tour so just grabbed a coffee and pastry from the hostel and headed to the metro. I would recommend going on one of these tours, it was super interesting and showed you around the city centre! We booked ours through ‘Real City Tours’ – they have a number of free tours on their website, you just need to book a day in advance.
The metro system in Medellin is super easy to operate. You say how many trips you would like on your card and they load it up for you. The people are very proud of the metro and therefore it’s very clean and very nice way to move around the city.
While you’re in Colombia you have to try and Empanada. I personally like the ‘carne’ (meat) ones with a bit of hot sauce! That’s what we got for lunch this day during the tour.
Once the tour ended, we got back on the metro and headed for a cable car. Medellin has four different cable cars that take you up the mountains at the edge of the city where the majority of the slums are. We went on the ‘West’ one because it runs very close to the houses and the slums and gives you great views of them. The other one recommended to us was the one in the ‘North’. I think you can get off that one and walk around some form of park.
For dinner that night we headed to Marcado el Rio which is basically a huge hall filled with different restaurants and bars. We stupidly walked there from the hostel and found ourselves down some street that was a little bit too dark and too empty – I would advise a taxi! The food there is great though and with so many options everyone will be happy.
After dinner, we headed back to El Poblado and tried out a number of different bars. Finally, we ended up in La Octava which is a bar with an outside courtyard in the back and a ball pit! We stayed there for quite a while, it’s full of travellers and we really enjoyed it.
We were so glad that our final night in Medellin was a Friday! We had heard it’s a mental night out during the weekends, so we made sure we weren’t hungover for it. We went to D’Andre Gourmet for breakfast, we had wanted to go to Burdo on recommendation from friends but it doesn’t open till 12pm on a Friday and we were starving. We had a pretty chilled day – had a long breakfast, did some washing, had a couple iced coffees, read our books etc.
We went to Gusto for dinner and it wasn’t great, there are so many places in the area I would advise just doing some research! After that, we went back to 37 Park for a giant margarita with 2 coronas in it and then headed to La Octava where we met a lovely group of Dutch girls and an Irish guy. Finally, we went to a very Colombian bar called Buena Vista. It had salsa music and dancing and was the perfect way to end our time in Medellin!
The next morning, I died. The journey to Cartagena felt like it lasted years. That taxi was the longest and most horrible drive of my life. It was only an hour but it was winding and uphill. By some miracle I made we made it to the airport intact and managed to board our flight to Cartagena.
The first thing we noticed when we landed was the heat. Jesus Christ. It was at least 10 degrees hotter than Medellin (which is described as the enteral spring). Preempting the fact we’d be hungover we had booked ourselves into a fancy hotel called Estelar in the almost Miami-looking part of – Bocagrande). The hotel was so nice and the room not only big but cool, the AC was amazing with a big, comfy bed. It was exactly what we needed. We were starving by the time we landed, so went to the hotel restaurant – Lewis’s pasta was alright, my pizza was not. It was SO disappointing but by this point, I really didn’t care! That night we both had the best and longest sleep we’d had since leaving the UK.
We woke up feeling refreshed and the amazing buffet breakfast was all I could think about. Wanting to make the most of our only day in this hotel, we spent most of it lying by the pool although we did venture out for lunch and had some really good seafood at a local restaurant. That evening we walked into the walled city and went for dinner at a lovely restaurant called Montesacro Resto. We even shared a bottle of white wine! It was a bit expensive but after so many failed meals in the past couple of days, we thought we deserved it. We explored the city a little bit after dinner and then headed back for bed, the next day would be an early start!
Our alarms went off at 6:45am, we left our bags at the hotel and walked to the harbour. Today was one of the only things we had actually planned for our trip! Casa en el Agua. It’s a hut out the in middle of the Caribbean sea where you can swim, kayak, do little trips, eat the freshest seafood (we saw them taking the live crab and lobster to the kitchen) and drink! You have to book in advance as it gets full really quickly, you can book two months in advance.
Our boat was at 9am but you have to get there early to check-in, pay entrance to the park and get your return ticket. By the time we’d got to the harbour I was already melting. It was only 32 degrees but the humidity combined with the lack of wind had it feeling like 40. There was hardly any shade as you moved from queue to queue and I was absolutely dripping. I can honestly say I have never felt that hot or sweaty in my entire life! Eventually, we got on the boat and typical, I’m sat in a seat with my arm in direct sunlight. Thankfully, Lewis swapped seats with me after 20 mins but my arm and shoulder were already burnt.
The boat to Casa en el Agua was 2 hours long and we were greeted with the staff and guests doing a choreographed dance to ‘Welcome to my house’. It was equal parts cheesy and endearing.
Once we’d checked in and got sorted we got our first beer. It wasn’t even 12pm yet and that kind of set the tone for the day! We drank and swam, did some snorkelling and played games with other people in the hostel.
We even had a Casa en el Agua Olympics – you had to be in teams of four and one person in each team had to do one activity. I had to swim around the house with a life jacket on, Lewis had to a trick dive, Caroline (Irish girl we met) had to do a belly flop and her friend Megan (Scottish) had to dive for a weight that had been thrown into the sea. We ended up coming second which I was pretty impressed with, although Lewis did win us the majority of our points, including the paddleboard tiebreaker.
That night I had the most amazing mixed ceviche, we all played drinking games and had a bit of a party. By 11pm I was dead and crawled up to our room which was BOILING. It was quite windy outside so when a gust came through our window it helped a lot but at 2am the wind completely stopped. I woke up with beads of sweat running down every inch of my body – not the best sleep I’ve ever had in my life.
In the morning and feeling a little rough we boarded the boat back to Cartagena. Just as we expected, when we arrived it was roasting. The breakfast wasn’t very substantial on the Casa so we walked straight to the Burger King near our hotel – the thought of a fat burger and an AC room was the only thing keeping me going on the 25min walk in the raging mid-day heat. As bad as it sounds, that was probably one of the best meals we had! We were so hungry, the burger was so tasty and the chips so salty. After we’d be sufficiently fed we grabbed our bags from Estelar and got a taxi to our hostel, Makako Chill Out Hostel in the walled city. It wasn’t nicest looking hostel but it’s run by this lovely young couple and the atmosphere was great. In general, when in Cartagena you want to stay in the walled city. It’s beautiful and soaked in history, there are loads of great hostels and definitely something for everyone.
That night we went on a party bus called the Chiva bus which although super sweaty, was great fun. You drive around town for a while with a band in the back seats drinking beer and rum. Then we stopped at a local park to try some food, had a fab hot dog although the hot sauces combined with the heat and humidity meant I was a river personified. Lewis wiped the sweat off my back, turned around to put the tissues in the bin and it was back again. I actually had to buy a fan just to survive the night! We went to two clubs, our favourite was Eivissa because it played music other than reggaeton and it had proper AC.
The following morning, we went to a great place called Stepping Stone for breakfast. It’s run by some Australians and has your typical smashed avo and iced coffee but is also aimed at helping employ disadvantaged young people in the city. Definitely worth a visit! We spent the rest of the day wandering around the city with periodic rests in the AC. It really is so hot and being Scottish, my body couldn’t cope.
We chilled in the shade of the hostel in the afternoon and read our books. That evening we went to watch the sunset at Cafe del Mar (get there early to get a seat) and then for dinner, we finally found a good pizza! After that terrible one in Estelar, I’d been craving one for days. It was at a placed called La Diva Pizzeria and was the best pizza we’d had in Colombia. That night we did the salsa class in the hostel and had a few beers. We only had a chilled one as we were heading to Santa Marta the next day.