Travel Colombia with Kat Friis

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Part three of our travel series brings us to Colombia, care of Kat Friis, Chief Production Officer at Phenomenon. Keep reading to learn about her tropical trip through Colombia, with pit stops in Medellin, Santa Marta, and Cartagena!

The Basics

We traveled to Colombia for a beautiful 10 day trip, stopping along the way in Medellin, Santa Marta, and Cartagena. This trip coincided with a milestone birthday for my boyfriend — 40! Colombia, Cuba, and Hawaii were all in consideration, but we have good friends that are Colombian, so we talked them into “working remotely” so they could travel with us.

They also hosted us in Medellin at their home in the Llano Grande neighborhood, and also at their family “finca” near the airport — it was amazing, with trees and a river and gorgeous vegetables everywhere!

Where to eat

In Medellin, you must go to Moshi. Fun atmosphere, delicious asian food with a Colombian twist — and crazy cocktails in weird glasses; I had one in a fish bowl and one in a waving cat vase! Worth it for the Instagram pics alone!

In Cartagena we kept going back to this incredible little spot called La Mulata. Amazing food — the ceviche, homemade guacamole, and plantain chips were to die for. They remembered us each time we came in and made us feel right at home.

Outside a little bar and restaurant in Medellin

Where to drink

We went to some pretty funny spots; we aren’t fancy so we tried to find places with personality. The weirdest bar in Cartagena was KGB. It was blasting punk rock music, made really strong drinks, and it was like stepping into a Russian pop time capsule. We also loved La Perla for drinks!

Drinks at Oshi

What to see

In Medellin you must take the cable car to the comunas (neighborhoods on the hills). The best thing to do is to go with a local if you can. The comunas used to be the most dangerous part of the city, and there are still some places you can’t go, but if you stay around comuna 13 you will see the real Colombia — lovely people living their lives with big smiles on their faces. If there’s a woman making some white gelatinous substance on a tree trunk, maybe try it! I hear the kids love this sweet treat made from cow bones. Ha!  

The cable car to the comunas in Medellin

In Cartagena you should go see some of the little islands, but also make sure you’re out walking around a lot. We saw so many things and met so many people. Incredible street art everywhere. We even got invited into someones house — their door was open when we were walking by and ended up staying there for drinks — it was magical!

Cartagena streets
Street art in Cartagena
Street art in Cartagena
Street art in Cartagena
Lots of colored doors in Cartagena

Where to stay

In Medellin we stayed with friends; it was awesome.

Delicious homemade tortillas and hot chocolate

In Cartagena we stayed at a really great place on the edge of the neighborhood of Getsamani called Hotel Allure Chocolat. The breakfast and rooftop pool were heavenly.

In Santa Marta you MUST stay at Cayena Beach Villa. We arrived and barely left. The rooms are up on stilts in the jungle. The food is amazing the pool is right on the sand. We walked for hours on the beach and climbed trees and picked coconuts. I’m not sure I can fully describe our experience at Cayena. 

Sunset in Santa Marta
On the hunt and capture of coconuts in Santa Marta

Where to shop

We liked shopping in the little street markets. Amazing art and beautiful mochila knit bags and even some fun vintage shops. 

What to experience

Cartagena came alive at night, so I would try and walk into as many restaurants and pubs and random places as possible. It’s best to experience the amazing music and culture of Colombia by walking as much as you can. Street art was also such a big part of the experience in Cartagena. Santa Marta was a jungle, so that was pretty amazing as well. 

Best coffee

This question is hard to answer because it’s Colombia. I would say the best coffee was at my friends house — they are 4th generation coffee growers and I’ve never had a better cup! 

What to pack

If you are going in the summer season, pack comfy shoes that you can walk in forever. Swimsuits and lots of light casual outfits that go from day to night because we often found ourselves out and about with no time or desire to go back to the hotel; we wanted to experience it all! Also, leave some space in your suitcase for the way back 🙂

What to bring home

OMG what didn’t I bring home?!  You must bring home some Colombian coffee and chocolate if you can. They also have these beautiful bags you can only find there — Mochila or Wayuu — you can bargain with the street vendors if you speak Spanish. Look around for the ones you want and then bargain! I also like to try and bring home a piece of art from everywhere I travel and Colombia has loads of little art galleries and street art vendors, so we brought home some really beautiful art that will always remind us of our trip!

The Extra Stuff

Do you recommend any day trips?

If you’re in Cartagena I recommend any of the little island day trips. You should definitely get on a boat and go somewhere while you’re there!

What were you listening to/reading while on the trip?

We listened to a lot of local music while we were there; there is live music everywhere. It’s amazing!

I was reading “The Soul of an Octopus” while on the trip — a lovely book! I was also reading a lot of Spanish translation and currency apps 🙂

Tips & Tricks

I can’t recommend enough that if you have the opportunity to travel with a local then that’s the way to go. Our friends really took care of us and it made for such a fun trip. I also recommend to keep an open mind and be respectful of the people there. You may have watched Narcos, but these people lived through it. Try and see things with fresh eyes.

Give us your #1 travel hack

I only pack a carry-on if at all possible. I’ve lost lots of luggage, so I’ve got a great bag that I’ve taken all over the world that works as a carry-on.

I also ALWAYS pack once, and then pack again — the first time I put all my stuff in my bag it’s always an overpacking situation, so I wake up fresh the next day and repack before I leave; this helps me really bring only what I need.