CARTAGENA + MEDELLÍN
Arrive: Touch down in coastal Cartagena. Spend the few hours before everyone meets up doing recon on the colonial city, or wash off the flight in its warm Caribbean waters.
Evening: Get to know your fellow travelers over drinks. We’ll head to a 1920’s shoe store-turned-rum bar, where the cocktails are modern shake ups of Colombian classics. The spirits are infused in-house, with endemic fruits like lulo and maracuya. Enjoy your drink on the rooftop, or roll your sleeves up and step behind the bar—the bartenders are happy to teach you how to mix your own. Later, two of Latin America’s most exciting young chefs will invite us into their just-opened restaurant for a special dinner. This renegade duo travels the country, cooks with indigenous communities, and brings their traditional ingredients back to Cartagena. The goal? To put these one-time staples back into modern kitchens, and expose travelers to ingredients they wouldn’t find otherwise. The result is a sensory culinary experience, with purpose.
Stay: We’re calling Tcherassi Hotel & Spa home for the next few days. Created by Colombian fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi, this breezy tropical space embodies the vibrant yet sophisticated aesthetic she’s known for. We love the wood-beamed ceilings and patterned bedspreads—but what really gets us out of the room is the walk-out balconies, terraces overlooking the cobblestoned streets outside, and not one but four sparkling pools to cool off in. Read more about Tcherassi Hotel and Spa here.
Meals included: Dinner
Morning: Expect an early wake up call today, and you’re going to want to bring a bathing suit. We’re heading to the iconic mud volcano just outside the city—but our insiders are letting us in early, before all the other travelers show up. We’ll get our hands dirty with this one, but trust us: it’s worth it.
Afternoon: Back in the city, we’ll spend Sunday afternoon as Cartageneros do over a home-cooked meal, with a side of salsa (dance, not sauce). First, we’ll head to a neighborhood home in Getsemani, for a home-cooked Sunday feast. Our meal will be chased with a crash-course in salsa dancing, and an evening spent hopping between watering holes to test out your new moves.
Evening: Our salsa tour will fade into the night, at the end of which most of us will flop onto our beds exhausted. But, if you’re up for a nightcap, the evening is yours to stay out at the salsa bar or back in the city.
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, snacks through the evening
Morning: Those Caribbean waters are calling—and we’re answering with a full day on a private catamaran. Our charter will pick us up bright and early, but don’t worry, all you have to do today is lounge on the deck.
Afternoon: We’ll cruise along the picturesque coast of Cartagena, with stops at two secluded beaches (brace yourself for brilliant white sand and bright blue water). Hop off to swim, lounge on the beach, or snorkel at your leisure. Our captain will come prepared with all the gear you need. For lunch, fresh seafood will be brought on board, and cooked right on the spot. Oh, and we’ll have some nice cold cervezas on deck all day long.
Evening: We’ll be back on dry land in time for sunset. Take the evening to relax on your own, or explore the city with new friends. Our editor-curated lists of the best places to eat, drink, and shop around town will make it easy for you to suss out the perfect places to round out your day.
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch
Morning: We’ll follow the coast north to a little fishing town with a strong Afro-Caribbean influence. An initiative started by local musicians works to teach the younger members of the community how to play traditional instruments. Today, they’re going to teach us as well. After class, we’ll have some time to explore the neighborhood and learn more about their lives outside the city.
Afternoon: Wear your stretchiest pants today, because we’re spending the afternoon eating our way through Old Cartagena. Our friend and expert foodie, Catalina, is a human encyclopedia of the city’s street food, and she’s going to take us to her favorite vendors. Prepare to eat a ton, and learn about the local food culture along the way.
Evening: Tonight is yours! Get in those last few hours of dancing in the streets of Getsemani—or one last bite of this city’s impossibly fresh ceviche (don’t worry, your guide and on-trip editor have countless recs to share with you).
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch (food tour)
Morning: Today we leave Cartagena, so we won’t blame you for spending your free morning stockpiling the city’s best Caribbean souvenirs. (Your guide and on-trip editor know a thing or two about where to find them.)
Afternoon: We’ll say adios to the Caribbean coast with a midday flight to our next destination: Medellín. Nicknamed “The City of the Eternal Spring,” this buzzing spot is always temperate, despite being in the heart of the Andes. Residents have taken the reins back post-Escobar, and given the city the Brooklyn treatment—pour-over coffee shops roast locally grown beans, Colombian designers fill hip boutiques with clothing and wares you’ll want to check a bag for, and fine dining establishments have that Latin oomph.
Evening: We’ll kick off our time in the region of Paisa by learning how to cook the national dish, bandeja paisa, thanks to a local chef who will bring us into their kitchen in the young Laureles neighborhood for a cooking class. You can’t help but spot this dish on every menu in the city—and you’ll know more than the average traveler in the city.
Stay: We’re dropping our bags at the soon-to-open Click Clack. Click Clack is currently one of Bogota’s most popular hotels, known for being design-driven, and drawing a glossy, jetset crowd of guests (or just those hitting the bar for a couple of hours). For their second location in Medellin, we’ll be among the first to stay in the talked-about hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast, dinner
Morning: We’re going to get our blood pumping this morning with a guided bicycle ride through our favorite neighborhoods. We’ll cruise past must-sees like the Botero Park downtown, plus stop in under-the-radar gems, like an art gallery housed in an old warehouse. If you’re not up for a heavy workout, we’ve got your back (the bikes have batteries you can turn on when you need that little extra push).
Afternoon: We’ll bike until lunchtime, when we’ll stop at a lunch spot in the Laureles neighborhood. With a decidedly European flair, locals and expats alike come here for the wide range of food and drink offerings (and coffee—so much coffee) that you might not find elsewhere.
Evening: Enjoy a free evening exploring the city. In our immediate neighborhood, you’ll find streets filled with chic boutiques, cafes, and the city’s best restaurants. If you didn’t burn off enough energy biking, try to keep up with the city’s pulsing nightlife—or snag yourself a ticket to a local soccer game.
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch
Morning: You’ve seen photos of Guatapé before—the one 650-foot tall rock jutting up in the middle of a lake, surrounded by what looks like hundreds of little islands. For most travelers, a day trip to the region centers around an obligatory trek to a popular viewpoint; instead, we’re going to spend the day taking it all in from a private lakehouse. We’ll have the luxe outfittings all to ourselves, including a pool, hammocks, and nooks for hiding out with a book (or cocktail). Down on the private dock, you can also swim in the lake or take one of the house’s kayaks and stand up paddle boards out for a spin.
Afternoon: At lunchtime, a locally-based asador will come to the house to prepare a traditional Colombian barbecue. He’ll fire up the grill early, and a revolving door of meats and vegetables will be thrown on the grill, cooked, and laid out for us to feast on throughout the afternoon.
Evening: We’ll take a speedboat back to the mainland, where our driver will be waiting just before sundown to shuttle us back to the city. You’ll have plenty of time to snag a great dinner reservation back in the city, or check out the nightlife.
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch
Morning: In past couple decades, the city of MedellÍn has transformed itself out of Pablo Escobar’s shadow and into an innovative new city. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Comuna 13—which was, less than 20 years ago, the most dangerous neighborhood in the world. Now, it’s the city’s most-visited destination. A local activist is going to guide us around the streets she calls home, tapping us in to Comuna 13’s history, transformation, and the impact this tourist boom has had.
Afternoon: Comuna 13 is known for its social and politically charged street art, and one of the most famous graffiti artists in the neighborhood is inviting us over to his place for lunch. We’ll dig into comida casera (“home-cooked food”) made by one of his neighbors, and hear the stories behind his increasingly well-known artworks. Our friends at a local music collective will scoop us up afterward, and take us past the other travelers ogling at the murals to a side of the sprawling Comuna 13 that rarely gets foreign visitors. There, we’re going to get a MedellÍn send-off with a casual salsa choke dance class (or, as it often turns out, dance party) on an open roof with sweeping views of the city.
Evening: We’ll close the trip over an unforgettable dinner: prepare for a multicourse molecular gastronomy meal that will vividly highlight all that modern-day MedellÍn has to offer.
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
DEPART: We’ll say our final goodbyes over breakfast on the rooftop of our hotel, before our trusted drivers chauffeur everyone to the airport. And yes, you can grab a few final arepas to take with you.
Not ready to leave Colombia yet? We won’t blame you. If you have a few extra vacation days, consider tacking on a side trip to the fast-paced capital city of Bogota. Or, plot your detox in the mountainous coffee region of Armenia, or with an eco-lodge stay in the Caribbean Tayrona National Park. Either way, you’ll leave Medellín today with a heightened understanding of Colombian culture and social issues, a week’s worth of shared memories with a dozen new friends, and plenty of aguardiente (a local “firewater” spirit) under your belt. There’s a reason Colombians are known for their love of life—their sabrosura—and in nine days, you’ll get an addicting dose of it.
Meals included: Breakfast