In a previous post, I spoke about some fun things to do while you’re visiting Medellin. In this post I’m going to focus on a few things to see and do, as well as some restaurants to find good food in the beachy town of Cartagena.



Old Town, also known as Old Cartagena, is a historic, walled city with beautiful colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. The vibe is definitely more laid back here, than in Medellin. This area offers many museums and amazing restaurants. The museums of note in Old Town are the Zenu Gold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. You can even enjoy walks along the top of the walled city. During our visit, I often went out at night to stroll around on top of the wall.


If you choose to stay in this area make sure you stay in a hotel or AirBnB that has a back-up generator. The first few days we were there, there were blackouts three nights in a row that lasted from about 10pm until as late as early afternoon the next day. The whole area of Old Town was dark. One night we were sitting in a restaurant and thankfully had already finished dinner when the power went out, but the other two nights it was past 10pm when the power cut out. The bad thing about having the power go out at that hour is that you have to sleep without air conditioning in hot weather which is a miserable experience. We ended up moving to a hotel outside of Old Town for the last few days of our trip.




Tour guide, Alex Rocha offers a tour of what he considers real Cartagena. As someone, who grew up in one of the barrios and calls Cartagena home, Alex is an expert on the city. In this tour you discover more authentic locations of Cartagena and not just the tourist traps. You’ll also sample some of the local foods. During the tour, Alex also discusses the African influence on the culture and way of life in Cartagena.


Part of the tour included visiting the Mercado Bazurto, which is a food and marketplace where many locals shop. It is a hive of bustling activity with food and fruit stalls and other vendors selling all sorts of goods that range from souvenirs, to clothing and other household goods. (Note: There is an occurrence for theft so keep an eye on your purses, wallets and backpacks.)



You won’t find San Basilio de Palenque in too many guidebooks, but it has a very important history of being the first settlement for freed slaves in the Americas. In 2005, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today, about 4,000 people live in the village. It’s worth taking a day trip to visit the village and discover some of the rich history. The women in the colorful dresses, known as palenqueras, that you often see walking around Old Town with the baskets of fruit on their head originally come from San Basilio de Palenque. During the tour of the village, you learn about the people, culture, history and their way of life. We were able to see a dance troupe perform. For women, you can purchase a head wrap and pay the local women to affix the head wrap for you.

It takes slightly over an hour to get to San Basilio de Palenque from Cartagena. You can either book a tour with a local touring company (prices will vary, some will include lunch). The company I mentioned earlier in this article, Experience Real Cartagena offers San Basilio de Palenque tours. The other alternative is to either rent a car or take a bus or taxi on your own and then hire a local guide in the community to show you around.




La Mulata

Calle Quero 9 58 Sandiego, Cartagena De Indias, Bolívar, Colombia

Phone: +57 5 6646222


Located within Old Town La Mulata serves up some amazing seafood and the ceviche is some of the best I’ve ever had. The food is moderately priced.


Restaurante San Marino

12, Cl. 8 #8, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia

Phone: +57 5 6651140

This restaurant is located in the Bocagrande area so is bit more expensive. It overlooks the beach so you’ll have a nice view. The wait staff is friendly. The chicken dish I had the second night I went here was delicious. Also, another place that had great ceviche.


Restaurante La Perla Negra

Cl. 63 #21, La Boquilla, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia

Phone: +57 5 6560846

Situated on La Boquilla beach, this restaurant offers up simple seafood dishes that are quite tasty. The fish was succulent and well seasoned. If you’re looking for inexpensive dining, you’ve come to the right place.

Trip Highlight

Another highlight of my trip to Cartagena was being there during the World Cup. Most Colombians are very passionate about football (I know we call it soccer here in the U.S.). Everyone walked around wearing the bright, almost neon yellow shirts in support of the home team. Getting to watch the Colombian team play a game alongside their countrymen was a very fun experience.



So there you have it, a few things to do and places to eat if you only have a couple days to spend in Cartagena. This city has a lot to offer. I look forward to getting back soon to further explore this great city.

Many people think of Colombia and they think of all the violence that encapsulated the country decades ago, but the Colombia of today is a country that has undergone an amazing transformation. It’s a word you’ll hear many of the Colombian people use when you speak with them. During my visit to Colombia I had the pleasure of enjoying a few days in the vibrant city of Medellin, the second largest city in the country.

Medellin is a vibrant city that has spent a long time reinventing itself and you see the evidence all throughout the city. People from the city of Medellin and the surrounding areas call themselves Paisas. They are friendly and welcoming. The city offers a lot to see and do. Here are just a few gems that are a must when planning your trip.


Where To Stay

Two of the best neighborhoods to stay in are El Poblado and Laureles. El Poblado is the most popular neighborhoods to stay in. This is where you will find most of the city’s nightlife, such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs. This area is also great for shopping.

We stayed in the Laureles neighborhood, an upper-middle class residential area of the city, in a highly rated, 4-bedroom AirBnB property.


Getting Around

There is a great metro you can use to get around or you can use Uber, if you don’t plan to rent a car.


Fun Things To Do

Real City Tours 

The tour of downtown Medellin offered by Real City Tours is a free tour led by a local. It lasts between 3 ½-4 hours. Put your walking shoes on and be prepared for a good walk. This tour is great because you learn a lot about the city itself, its history you walk through some of the squares and parks. Our tour guide was very colorful and made the tour fun. Even though the tour is free it does require you to make a reservation on the site where you can choose the date and time of day you’d like for the tour. The tour guides do work on tips so make sure to have money ready at the end of your tour to tip your guide.


The Rock of Guatape (Stone of El Penol or El Penol) & Guatape

El Penol is located in the town of Guatape and rises about 650ft. It is one of the largest . If you’re up for the climb, there are 740 steps to the top of the rock. Yellow numbers mark each step so you don’t have to keep track of how many steps you’ve climbed. I was unable to climb when we visited because I have a knee injury so I took pictures and explored the food stalls and vendors that surround the base of the rock. The surrounding area is beautiful and offers many picturesque views.

After you climb El Penol, head back into Guatape and visit the colorful little town. The Catholic church in the little village, Parroquia Nuestra Senora Del Carmen Guatape, has a beautiful interior that’s worth checking out. There are some good restaurants around the city where you can grab lunch. We ate at La Fogata and were even serenaded by a local during our meal. Afterwards, roam around and even shop for souvenirs.

You’ll either need to rent a vehicle or hire a driver to get to El Penol because it is about an 1 ½ drive from Medellin. You must purchase a ticket to climb El Penol. Ticket costs are around 18000 Colombian pesos. You purchase tickets once you arrive.


Cooking class and dinner at a local’s home

One of the things I always want to do when I travel is attend a cooking class and/or eat in a local’s home. This allows me to get the authentic experience I love to have when I travel because I get to go to a local’s home and have a meal, but more importantly good conversation where I can learn about them, their life and more about the culture.

A site that’s great for helping you find people that have been vetted is a great site called Traveling Spoon. You can check out profiles of home cooks in the area and then book with them. You can choose to do a cooking class and an in-home meal, throw in a market visit if they offer it or you can simply just go and enjoy the meal. Normally, I like to do it all. This particular visit we did the cooking class and in-home meal.

Our hosts were Daniela and her mother, Beatriz. They were wonderful. Step-by-step they took us through making yummy Colombian dishes. For the appetizer we made Papa rellena (potato stuffed with ground beef, tomato, onion and hard-boiled egg). The main dish was Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken and vegetables) and the beverage that we made from scratch was called Lulada (Colombian lemonade made with the fruit lulo. I wish I could find lulo in the U.S. because this drink was so refreshing. Towards the end of the meal they also made Colombian coffee for us as we sat around and continued talking. Everything was delicious and Daniela and I plan to keep in touch.

The experiences on the site, depending on what exactly you want to do (cooking class, market visit, and/or in-home meal) in Medellin will range from about $35-$140.


Graffiti Free Zippy Walking Tour Comuna 13

This was by far one of the highlights of my visit to Medellin. During the tour you learn that Medellin is broken up into sixteen communities (comunas) and Comuna 13 was once one of the most violent and dangerous neighborhoods in the world. The people here have worked hard to transform their community. Their story and reinvention is written on the walls of the community in stunning graffiti and street art. As you walk through the community and listen to the history, you’ll get lost in the artwork and murals that seem to decorate every surface.

Years ago, escalators were put into the neighborhood to make getting around on foot a little easier. You’ll ride up the escalators to get to the top of Comuna 13. Along the way you’ll find a small art gallery of local artists and you’ll even see some street performers.

Toward the end of the tour our guide, Laura, took us to her home, where we sat on her porch and listened to her talk about what life was like when the neighborhood was dangerous and you either were making choices to join the guerillas or a gang. It really is an amazing tour. This is something not to be missed if you’re going to be in Medellin.

This tour is also free and requires a reservation. They offer a day tour and a night tour and the tours last about 2 ½ hours. Again, even though the tour is free the tour guides do work for tips so please have money handy so you can tip your guides because they do an awesome job. Wear comfortable shoes because you will be walking a lot and up some inclines, hills and steps.



I enjoyed my time in Medellin very much and lamented that I was only able to spend five days here. I plan to go back very soon and spend more time. There was something electric about the city that just pulled me in and made me feel at home. I hope when you visit you have a great experience like I did.


Quick Facts:
Currency: Colombian peso
Language: Spanish
Weather: temperate weather all year long
Well known dish: Bandeja Paisa
Visa: No Visa required for US citizens