Colombia is rich in music, dance, food, culture and adventure and that’s why it sits at the top of my favourite places I have visited. It has everything from the coast (sun, sea, beaches), to mountains and the infamous Amazon jungle. Colombia is super ethnically diverse and every town you visit is different from the last, making each corner of Colombia a unique and exciting experience. I only managed to visit a few places as I made my way down to Ecuador, so there is so much I still need to see and am desperate to return! 

What to do in Colombia?

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I started in Cartagena, at the very top the Caribbean side of the country. It was extremely hot so I was thankful for all the street vendors selling fresh orange juice and mango slices. A walk around the town involved trying to find every bit of shade but it is so pretty that you can’t help but to keep going. A local tour guide, and now friend, Jorge took me off the tourist route and to experience the side of Cartagena that the locals live daily. I went to the barrios of Cartagena and saw the food markets where the locals shop and eat. I tried chicken feet soup, not a favourite personally!

I ended up staying with a few Colombian friends who lived in one of the most dangerous barrios, I was not allowed to walk around alone unless I was with one of them due to the area being infamous for muggins, shootings and stabbings. It was quite an experience and not something I would recommend to the average tourist.

You can’t miss following the art walk of Cartagena. Hidden in all over, the town boasts numerous gorgeous art pieces and landscapes! An absolute gram magnet! 

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After Cartagena I got myself a job in Medellin working in a hostel as I knew I would be staying for a few weeks covering Christmas and New Years. Here, I met some amazing friends and we spent most of our time partying and enjoying what Medellin had to offer. You can take the free cable car (used by the locals as their daily commute) giving you a perfect view of the city (I recommend going at night and seeing a landscape of lights). Medellin is my favourite city in Colombia, filled with bars and clubs as well as a rich history, no wonder it’s a hub for backpackers.

Around Christmas time, Medellin holds a light festival where the whole Parque Norte is lit up with stunning lights and rides. There are food stalls, drink stalls and music throughout. A real calming ambience which gave me a slice of Christmas spirit, especially being so far away from home. A must try are Colombia’s Christmas special, Buñuelos. Little donut balls made with local cheese, we couldn’t get enough!

A highlight of my time in Medellin was our day trip to Comuna 13. It has been completely transformed from an area famous for gang violence and drug cartels to an area filled with street performers, graffiti and tourists. Its advised to go with a local tour guide, but a group of us went on our own and managed to get ourselves around no problem. The views from the top are incredible, a sea of houses and each corner is filled with colours. A must do!

For all those asking, yes notorious drug dealer Pablo Escobar is of course a big name in the city. From speaking to the locals there is a clear difference in opinion on Escobar, with older generations choosing to ignore his name and existence whilst amongst younger and often poorer locals he is still an idol. His violent past, undoubtedly, brings in a lot of interest and with this tourism. Apart from countless Escobar tours you can actually play paintball in one of his many mansions located in Guatape. A short bus ride from Medellin will take you to Guatape where you will find the ‘Piedra del Peñol’. A really steep boulder, 740 steps later and you will see a stunning (yet man-made) view. You can also take a kayak or a boat tour on the lake to see other small islands or walk around the town and check out the artwork.

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Our last stop before crossing the border to Ecuador. Walking tours take you around Cali’s history, also filled with art work, sculptures and lots of artisan markets. Know for it’s salsa, Cali’s evenings consist of bars and salsa dancing with the locals. I took a few salsa classes here and really learnt from the professionals!

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