THE SOUTHERN AMERICAN SERIES PT20
SANTA MARTA – SAN ANDRES – CARNIVAL – MEDELLÍN
There’s a reason I only visited Bogota in Colombia on my way into South America…I wanted to leave the best to last!
COLOMBIANS ARE BORN TO PARTY
I do this with a lot of my trips as it always gives me something to look forward and from what I heard Colombia doesn’t disappoint.
WHERE IS MEDELLÍN?
4 weeks and Carnival in Colombia
The country doesn’t have the best reputation and it’s obvious why – it was the biggest exporter of Cocaine in the world until recently and was famous for cartels running the country, not your ideal destinations. But a lot has changed since those years and although they still have a drug and cartel problem it’s one of the safest places I’ve been in South America. I’m not sure how it has made so much progress but coming here in the 90s just wouldn’t have been as easy.
Now the country has moved on and the backpacker trail is safe (within reason) and full of things to do and places to see. I was looking forward to visiting some beaches again so I headed straight for Santa Marta as recommend by my Dutch friend Roy. It might have been busy but it was all locals and not a high-rise hotel or cocktail bar to be seen.
From there it was of to San Andres, the gateway to one of my favourite places in Colombia, Johnny Cay (Cayo Sucre). I was given this recommendation by someone, but for whatever reason it just stuck with me. Another example to get talking to as many backpackers as possible!
This island is something else, again it might be busy but the colour of the water is like nothing else you will ever see. The island is only a few 100 metres around and everyone tends to hang around at the front so take a walk and find a quiet spot, stick your headphones and just sit and enjoy! It’s worth renting a bike on San Andres and checking out that island as well.
The biggest carnival in the world is held in Rio but with it being in February and me wanting to spend Christmas there instead it was never an option. However, the plan is to one day return and check it out.
The second biggest carnival is held in Barranquilla, Colombia. I got chatting to my buddies I met in Buenos Aires and we agreed to do it together. Max and I got an Air BnB just a few minutes from some of the street parties and it was insane. The Colombians know how to party and if you wish you could stay up for 3 days straight and not be disappointed! Everyone is in such good form and very friendly, I couldn’t say a bad word. However, the jury’s still out on Barranquilla, I wouldn’t visit unless it was carnival week.
Probably the most famous city in Colombia, usually for it’s association with Pablo Escobar.
It’s hard to believe but this place is like nothing “mums and dads” would expect. I couldn’t fault anyone for creating an opinion on this place, after all it was home to the most feared cartel in the world, The Medellín Cartel. But it offers so much, not only activities but also the amazing Colombian Culture that it still maintains.
I took a trip with the hostel (Purple Monkey Hostel) to Guatapé, a small resort town with stunning colourful buildings that sits within the huge Peñol-Guatapé Reservoir.
PABLO ESCOBAR HOLIDAY HOME
I hear a lot about these trips to mansions which used to be owned by Pablo Escobar and I’m not entirely sure if I buy it…but I went anyway. A lot of these sites have been bought from agents a transformed into activity centres for backpackers which is great. You won’t feel any closer to Pablo than playing paintball cops and robbers at his derelict mansion!
- PEOPLE – 9/10
- BACKPACKING – 8.5/10
- SAFETY – 8/10
- WEATHER – 8/10
- THINGS TO DO – 8/10
- FOOD – 7.5/10
- VALUE – 8/10
- HIGHLIGHT – San Andres & Medellín
- LOWLIGHT – It is beyond hot!
- MVP – Locals are great
- VISIT AGAIN – Absolutely
- RATING – 8/10
I had high expectations of Colombia and glad it delivered. Just can’t wait to return to spend more time back on the islands!
Off to Mexico City to check out the Pyramids! Click to read.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
- Have you been to Colombia?
- What was your highlight?
- Can you recommend me your favourite beach so I can visit next time?
Let me know in the comments below . . .