Spoiler Alert: My take on Colombia is 10/10 highly recommended.
I’m sure I’m “supposed to” save the best for last but no sense in waiting to tell you the obvious. Colombia was a whole vibe. Below, I’ll share what my 30 days in Colombia looked like, why I was there, what I loved and highlights from the trip.
I only got to (mildly) explore three cities — Medellin, Guatape, and Santa Marta — but those three cities leave me wanting more! I can’t wait to go back, but for now, I’ll reminisce through this recap.
If you’re a part of my podcast community, you know this already, but for those that don’t, my adventures in Colombia stemmed from my decision to take on some work with a new remote work and travel program startup company, WiFi Artists. Outside of my love of travel, I’m equally a marketing/strategy/brand development nerd, so building businesses is the thing I’d be doing even if I could do anything in the world.
In a matter of 30 days at the beginning of this year, I went from Netflix and chilling on my couch – the spot that I was in when I actually applied for this opportunity – to touching down in my first South American country, Colombia, for what would also be my longest period out of the country, one whole, beautiful month.
Now, for the few who may be wondering, “how did she land this Marketing Manager” gig? Well, that’s a decade in the making after working (and learning) across the worlds of public relations, digital marketing, graphic design, and working with startups literally since I graduated college. But, truthfully I came into 2022 really open about what the year could bring. My therapist gave me the best advice in one of our sessions and, while I’m paraphrasing, here’s my take on the gems she wanted to impart to me:
Talk about a serious gem for those of us who are a team of 1 working to build a business… whew. Thanks, Cheri!
Anywho, back to Colombia…
So, I found myself packing up as many things as the airlines’ weight limit would allow between my two suitcases, and crossed my fingers that the due diligence I went through to vet the company, its founder, and the role before me was enough to proceed. The rest was truly me relying on my intuition and God. Either way, I’d figure it out.
Before diving into the best parts of this experience, I should also share that this won’t be a “how to travel solo as a black woman in…” perspective because I was in a group setting. There are pros and cons on both sides but having the group to lean on during my first time in Colombia gave me enough courage to know I could easily go back and navigate the country on my own. My Spanish is pretty decent (according to the locals, not me) so that would definitely be something to consider whether you’re traveling alone or with a group… either work on your Spanish or make sure you have cell service so your translation app works as many places as your signal will allow.
Below I share two of my favorite adventures along with a little snippet of why I enjoyed each so much.
A quick tip: If you’re more of a visual person, you can check out my Instagram reel recap here.
A two-hour bus ride from Medellin is all it takes to get to this popular destination. We found a private tour that met our group near where we were staying in the El Poblado area, which allowed us a little grace for a slightly late start and the ability to stop at a roadside market on the way for breakfast. Also, can I mention that this was my first experience with a bus that had reclining seats?! How have I missed this all my life?
The Rock of Guatapé (Spanish: El Peñól de Guatapé) is a giant rock that sits in the middle of man-made waters and takes 659 steps to climb to the top, 650+ feet from the base.
Even though I was determined to make it, don’t think I didn’t wonder at least once if I was going to be able to. In reality, it took less than 30 minutes to get to the top, even with catch-my-breath breaks along the way. It took longer to come down, mainly because of visitor jams in parts of the climb where there’s only one way up and one way down. Don’t sleep on the walk down either. My legs were shaky for at least the next hour from trying not to miss a step on the journey back to the bottom.
Either way, the views were epic. The micheladas were DELICIOUS. And having this butterfly land smack dab in the middle of my photo session was all the confirmation I needed to know a change of scenery is good for the soul.
After climbing the rock, we eventually wandered the streets of Guatape, had lunch at a local restaurant, took a 1-hour boat ride, and ended the day with Colombian cocktails and window shopping (I gave up the need for souvenir things from every destination I visit a while ago).
A perfect but very long day. If you want a challenge, or just love the idea of experiencing a colorful town, this should definitely be on your list when in/around Medellin.
I’m pretty sure a little piece of my heart was left behind in this beautiful beach town. After a few weeks in the valley city of Medellin, the group decided Santa Marta would be the destination for our weekend getaway.
A quick 1-hour flight, Santa Marta is on the northern coast of the country, a 4-hour drive northeast from Cartagena. We took an early morning flight from Medellin (MDE) to Santa Marta (SMR) and landed before most businesses were open, which was nice because it gave us a whole day to explore before checking in. I should also mention that my flight on Viva Airlines was only $48 RT! A one-hour direct flight to some of the most beautiful beaches for less than the cost of a dinner and drinks back home?! Sign me up over and over again.
The highlight of Santa Marta was hands down exploring Parque Tayrona. It was definitely a journey to get there on our own – I’d personally recommend going through a tour company – but after the hour-long drive, we made it and I’m so glad we did. Two and a half hours of walking and stopping along the way through an actual jungle were amazing. The best part of the hike was ending up at each beach stop on the trail. Monkey lovers, this place is definitely for you. Same for my nature lovers.
One of my Instagram friends, a friend in real life, said it looked like Jurassic Park lol. They’re kind of right though. The most beautiful, lush mountain-meets-ocean combination I’ve ever seen. The journey through the jungle isn’t easy, but if you’re looking for a challenge (and to hit your daily step goal x2), it’s more than worth it.
On the last of the 3-day trip, we booked spots on a sailboat for a boat and beach day. If Parque Tayrona was first on my list of must-do activities, this boat ride is a very close second. I didn’t make the arrangements (thanks Jord), but between the captain, amazing lunch (included with ticket), and private-ish beach vibes, it was an absolutely perfect day. Docking at the marina that afternoon just in time to head to the airport to fly back to Medellin… because I like to play the game of whether or not I’ll make my flight from time to time. 🙃 I made it with time to spare though.
I had several people ask me if I felt “safe” while in Medellin. I can wholeheartedly acknowledge the existence of an outdated narrative that Colombia, specifically a city like Medellin, is dangerous, has gang activity, and drugs everywhere. Now, I can’t confirm these things don’t exist but I can tell you with 100% certainty that I didn’t experience them. We stayed in the El Poblado area, an area that’s digital nomad-friendly, so there was more activity than in a rural barrio or an area with fewer travelers.
As with any city, I’d always recommend traveling with others if you can. If you can’t, take an Uber or taxi. Walking is, of course, the last resort but that’s my perspective on most cities. El Poblado is pretty lively 7 nights a week so there are only a few hours where the streets get super quiet, but depending on where you’re staying, it might be best to consider an alternative to walking late at night. After all, the average Uber ride was less than or around $3 so I’d say that’s a great deal to get home (or to your hotel) safely.
Otherwise, the city treated me well and I had zero issues with locals, visitors, or anyone. If anything, the most dangerous part of my trip was the sidewalk that took me out one day walking back to the apartment (lol)… but that’s a story for another day.
If you love rain, this is the perfect place to visit. If you don’t, well you have a decision to make. I’ve lived in many places and have yet to find a city that experiences daily rain like this. Granted, if you’re prepared with an umbrella, who cares, but if rain affects your mood and/or you’re not prepared for it, you can definitely get caught in a daily downpour. I complained about the rain more than I should have while I was there. After all, that’s part of the reason for the naturally lush greenery of Medellin. Forgive me, Mother Nature.
The silver lining about these brief rain sessions each day? The amazing rainbows that peek out of the mountains once the rain settles down. Absolutely gorgeous.
My foodie girl dreams were fulfilled in Colombia. I can’t quite pinpoint if it was the endless options in our area of stay – El Poblado – or the fact that I really did have a decent number of meals that I wished I had the time to go back and try again.
From upscale Peruvian dinners to tons of casual cafes perfect for the morning email inbox sweep, there were so many great foods, beverages, and nightlife options to choose from, and all the more reason to visit again. Fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of the most tender meat I’ve ever had, so effortless. The temptation to eat out daily was real but I eventually made my way to the grocery store and opted for a better balance between meals at home vs. dining out.
Full transparency, I’ve heard others say they didn’t enjoy their food experience in Medellin but I didn’t have a single terrible meal. Maybe a few decent meals, but overall the lover of all things eating, aka me, ate my little heart out in Colombia.
I could go on forever about my time in this beautiful country. Instead, I’ll close with a few other activities to consider in your planning that is worth noting:
Ugh, I miss this view already! The view from my bedroom, that is.
This recap only scratches the surface of all the lessons, experiences, and moments that I’m grateful for during my first visit to Colombia. So, expect a part two which I’ll share below once it goes live.
I loved Colombia so much I want to explore more of it and would love to invite YOU to join me. Well, not exactly. I’m building new ways to help black women overcome roadblocks in their life and business. One way I’ll be doing that in 2023 is through destination work/wellness retreats in creativity-sparking locations like this.
There are a few guidelines for who these upcoming events are designed to best serve. If you’ve been working on something and want to tap into a community of other women who are dedicated to their best selves and building solid businesses that feel good to them, we’d love to have you join us on our next upcoming retreat. Click the button below to learn more.