Colombia Travel Blog
Published: October 18th, 2019
Colombia is a country of exceptional beauty. From the coffee plantations of the Zona Cafetera to the colorful streets of Cartagena’s Ciudad Vieja to the fashion scene in Medellin, this once violence-ridden country is now considered one of the top destinations for travelers.
Matter’s Partner, Nicole Stewart, recently had an opportunity to travel to this South American enigma. She returned buzzing with inspiration and talking nonstop about the Technicolor palette of the country, the exceptional craftsmanship found around every corner, and the vibrant palette of local food.
Below are her recommendations for restaurants, shops and cultural to do’s in two of Colombia’s most celebrated cities: Cartagena and Medellin.
The colors of Cartagena are breathtaking. Inside the walls of the ancient city (which is a UNESCO World Heritage site), ice-cream colored colonial buildings line cobbled streets.
In stark contrast, the neighboring Bocagrande district looks like a scene out of Miami Vice with tall, shiny new buildings and colorful cabanas that look out upon a teal blue ocean and dark volcanic sand. The combination of the two is a thrilling example of old meets new, and somehow it doesn’t seem strange to have both styles coexisting in the same place.
Image via lurecartagena.com
With coral stone walls and 300-year-old frescoes, the Hotel Casa San Agustin is by far the most charming hotel inside the walled city. The hotel is made up of three colonial-era buildings that have been reimagined as an urban retreat with jewel-box rooms capped with shuttered windows and exposed timber beams. The bathrooms, dressed with marble and Moorish tiles, are a highlight, as is the central outdoor pool.
When you are looking for a break from the hum of the city, head to the Rosario Islands, an archipelago located about an hour from Cartagena. Turquoise waters surrounded by white sand beaches, it’s a classic Caribbean beauty and a lovely retreat from the hustle of Cartagena.
Twenty-five years ago, Medellin was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world due to the drug trade. However, the city has transformed itself in the last decade, earning the award as “the most innovative city in the world” by the Urban Land Institute in 2013. The setting is majestic as the city lies in a long valley between two Andean mountain ridges surrounded by coffee plantations and flower farms.
Getting around the city is best on foot, winding through the alleys where you encounter local art and culture at every turn.
Image via cafecielotostado.com
You can’t go to Medellin without tasting single-estate coffees. Cafe Cielo Tostado, a local farmer and roaster, is considered one of the top producers in the country. On site you can learn about the roasting process and, of course, buy as many bags as you can fit in your suitcase to bring home for gifts.
Image via us.pergamino.co
Image via museocasadelamemoria.gov.co/en/
You can’t visit Medellin without gravitating towards Plaza Botero. This central square is an ideal mix of art, culture and nature flanked by the Museum of Antioquia and Uribe Palace of Culture. It’s the ideal space to sip coffee and take in the sights of this diverse city.
Located in the central square, the Museo houses an incredible number of pieces spanning multiple eras in Colombian history. Most of the art was donated by Fernando Botero, a world-famous artist born and raised in Medellin. More than 500 works of art from 19th and 20th century Colombia sit alongside objects from pre-Hispanic cultures and religious art from the Colonial period.
Image via Trip Advisor
For a day trip outside of Medellin, head to Guatapé, a beautiful little town with cobbled streets and brightly colored buildings. A steep climb to the top of El Peñol Rock (740 stairs to be exact) provides one of the best views in Colombia.
This ecological nature preserve and pre-Hispanic archaeological site is a short 15-minute ride from downtown Medellin via one of the cable cars that run up and down the steep hillsides outside of town.
About Nicole Stewart,
Partner + Project Manager
A seasoned communicator and project manager, Nicole champions the project vision and client experience. She specializes in the selection of finish materials, furniture and lighting fixtures, plumbing, accessories and space planning. She brings a fresh perspective on concept development and a breadth of industry knowledge on the latest trends and products.