You’re probably thinking Colombia’s just about the coffee and cartel history, but believe me there’s so much more. This year I got the incredible opportunity to take off on a tour and journey to Medellin and the colourful town of Guatapé. So relax, grab your favourite brew, log out of your Netflix account and find out more about what I consider to be one of the best locations to head to when visiting Colombia.
Cable cars galore
When you visit the city of Medellin, you will immediately be struck by two things: mountainous backdrops and skyscraper buildings. As we set off towards the metro-cable station at the heart of the city, our tour guide Andrew explained that Medellin was once known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
What was once home to the country’s most notorious drug lord is now a city transformed with growing tourism (it’s also known as the City of Eternal Spring for its spring like climate), and a popular attraction for visitors is a ride on the cable cars.
Since 2004, visitors and residents have been hopping on and enjoying the picturesque panoramas across the city. What’s also great about this method of transportation is that it’s cheap as chips!
2km away from the city centre was a hidden gem and must-see for anyone visiting Medellin –‘Pueblito Paisa’. I had never visited before and was completely blown away by the traditional architecture, panoramic views and friendliness of the locals running their businesses for tourists who visit the area.
What is essentially a mini replica of a traditional Antioquian town, Pueblito Paisa’s quaint centre and local shops made me feel like I was a part of history even though there was a modern bustling city life just a stone’s throw away. Stop for a cup of coffee, or buy an ice-cream at one of the food stalls then head to the top of the hill for some of the most epic views of the city.
No trip to Colombia is complete without trying the local food. As a self proclaimed foodie, I was always up for trying food that even I wasn’t familiar with, so experiencing some of the tasty dishes on offer before we set off on our journey to Guatapé was right up my street.
The first and one of the most popular dishes in Colombia is known as ‘Arepa con queso’ which is cornbread with fresh cheese and is usually accompanied by a large cup of hot chocolate in its purest form. It’s traditionally eaten for breakfast but most Colombian’s eat it religiously at all hours of the day (I’m guilty of this!).
Next on the menu was fried ants (you read correct!). I had never tried fried insects before, nor was this something I associated with as being a Colombian delicacy but when on tour you’ve got to unleash the millennial in you and go full on YOLO.
These ants are usually roasted, packed in plastic packaging and sold in the city centre, so if you’re brave enough to get past the crunch and the salty taste, I’d give it a go… maybe pack a bottle of water with you first.
Rocks and Rainbows
On route to the town of Guatapé you’ll come across one of the most famous landmarks in the Antioquian region of Colombia.
Climb the 740 steps to the top of the rock aka El Penol and you’re a legend. No one knows for sure how the rock came to be, but according to our guide Luisa, there’s a myth about a gnome that had a small stone in his pocket and dropped it one day then it grew to the 220 metre height that you now see today. The other rumour from locals is that the rock was actually a meteorite that landed millions of years ago. I call it nature, but make of it what you will.
The record for the fastest time up the steep climb to the top was 8 minutes; sadly I only managed 13 but the views of the mountains and lakes at the top was worth every second of the climb!
Last but not least, my favourite part of the entire trip has to be exploring the colourful town of Guatapé. Step back into history and explore some of the most incredible buildings you’ll see northwest of Colombia. Each building has what’s known as ‘Zocalos’ which are engravings and paintings on the walls that tell a story, sometimes relating to the building.
It’s safe to say visiting this part of the country is something I’ll never forget, and the locals are some of the friendliest people you’ll come across, making Antioquia well worth exploring if you’re ever in the country.