A few months ago I published a post on Cartagena. Then I got busy actually traveling through much of the rest of Colombia, and well, you know how it goes.
Anywho, I did see a number of other places, and take a fair number of photos of Colombia, so here you go…
Ah, the “City of Eternal Spring.” At 5000 feet above sea level, Medellin is apparently almost always about 75 degrees and sunny. That was mostly my experience anyway. It’s a lovely city in the mountains of the Antioquia province; modern, sophisticated, has a great Metro and is all in all a very pleasant place to hang out.
Medellin attracts a lot of digital nomads and expats for this very reason. It’s inexpensive to live there, easy to get around and actually quite safe. I think the past troubles with Pablo Escobar, the near civil war and his subsequent assassination by police may have had something to do with the progressive urban planning that followed.
I mean, check this out. That’s a nice library in a Metro station. How cool is that?
One of the most popular sights in town is Botero Plaza, named for the famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero, who apparently was a bit of a chubby chaser. He specialized in bronze sculptures of various chubby people, animals, things, etc. Check it out…
The plaza is a popular spot to hang out, chat with friends, enjoy an helado and what have you.
How can you not love a good botanical gardens? I guess you could not be a plant nerd. That would probably do it. In any event, the one in Medellin is pretty cool. Lots of cats and iguanas!
The Entomology Museum
Speaking of nerds, guess who spent a few hours trying to find and then checking out the entomology museum at a local university? That’s right.
In the heart of the coffee growing region, Salento is a quaint little town nestle amongst beautiful mountains. It’s pretty popular with tourists and on the backpacker circuit. For good reason, as there’s lots to do, good restaurants and bars, and great weather.
Don’t go to Salento without checking out a great bar called Donde Mi Apá. It’s funky and the owner is cool as hell.
I say that partly because he hooked me up with several free shots of rum, but also because he has a truly epic collection of 20,000 vinyl records from all over Latin America. He plays awesome music constantly and his bar is adorned with cool antiques and random stuff.
Touring a local coffee farm is a popular thing to do while in the area. It’s worth the time, and the couple mile walk out there is very pleasant as well.
And, of course, there are lots of dogs around town.
The light was pretty amazing one rainy night.
Taganga is something of a cautionary tale about the overdevelopment of small towns. What was once a tiny fishing village set in a beautiful, deep, horseshoe-shaped bay 5km northeast of Santa Marta, seemed to have hit the jackpot when it became a big backpacker destination a decade ago. It drew a diverse crowd of locals and travelers, and lead to the creation of a new middle-class of hostel, restaurant and other small-business owners. Business was booming, but many locals found it hard to get a slice of the pie; as a result, drugs began to be sold to the backpackers, and this further socially fragmented the tiny place.
While I didn’t personally find it quite that dismal, there is a lot of truth to this description. But it’s a sad and not uncommon story for towns like Taganga that get a sudden influx of tourism.
Down the coast east of Taganga lies Palomino, a small and dusty town that is in the early stages of tourist influx. Hopefully it won’t go down the same path, but at this point it’s all dirt roads, backpackers and motor bikes.
The Palomino River, which runs down from the high peaks of the Sierra Madre de Santa Marta, flows into the sea here. You can rent an inner tube, catch a motor bike up to the trailhead and enjoy a couple hour float down the delightfully chilly river.
I recommend bringing a few beers, smoking a joint before hand and kicking back. It’s a beautiful trip through the jungle.
Speaking of the Sierra Madre de Santa Marta, the local indigenous people believe these peaks are a kind of lynch pin for the Earth. It’s their job to protect the area in order to ensure the survival of the planet.
If you look at the area on Google Earth, you can kind of understand why. These peaks are 14,000 – 15,000 feet (with glaciers no less) at the north tip of the Andes.
Up in the Sierra Madre de Santa Marta lies the small town of Minca. Come here to enjoy the cooler temperatures, do some hiking and chill out. I stayed at the Emerald Green Guest House, which is a cool place if you like cats (which I clearly do). There were eleven of them (including kittens) when I was there.
And back to charming and romantic Cartagena before I flew home. This city has much to recommend it, including history, architecture and killer ceviche.
That’s it, folks. I hope you enjoyed.