So you’ve finished watching Narcos on Netflix and settled on Colombia for your next vacation. Now what? Where do you go? What do you do? And, uh, is it safe?! We just spent three weeks in this beautiful country and are here to tell you all about it.

First off, we decided on visiting the more popular cities: Cartagena, Medellín, Guatapé, and Bogotá. We didn’t have a ton of time, so we opted to fly between the bigger cities vs. taking a bus. Flying was relatively cheap on the local airline, Viva Air, so it wasn’t too much of a price difference and we got to save ourselves from some day-long bus journeys.

Cartagena

To start off this South American leg of this trip, we flew from NYC to Cartagena with no real plans. We booked a beachfront Airbnb on the north side of the Boca Grande neighborhood. It was an easy 15-minute walk to the old walled city, where much of the restaurants and nightlife are. There are a few things not to be missed in Cartagena:

  • Go to the Totumo mud volcano

    • Side note: It was honestly so weird and not really a volcano at all…but we tend to like weird so we had a good time. We booked a tour through one of the operators in town and they brought us to this ‘volcano’ where you climb a set of steep and slippery stairs in your swimsuit, wait in line, climb into a mud pit with 30 other people where you just kind of float in the mud. You can’t sink even if you tried. It was an interesting experience. It’s also one of those places where everything there costs extra: the boy taking your photo with your phone/camera while you’re in the mud, the boy moving your shoes from the entrance to the exit, the women who come with buckets to help you wash off, etc. It was cheap, but just be aware. After that, we went to a spot for lunch and then the tour gave us an hour of free time at the beach.

  • The rooftops!

    • We have never been to a city with so many epic rooftops. We especially enjoyed our day at the Hyatt swimming in their infinity pool and having the perfect view of the sunset.

  • Take a boat to an island

    • We unfortunately ran out of sunny days to take advantage of this, but we heard many people rave about both Baru and the Rosario Islands. The photos we saw looked like a tropical paradise. We still managed some swimming time right on the shores in town, but it’s probably not nearly as picturesque.

  • Ride on a Chiva Party bus

    • You can’t miss these bright and colorful beauties. Every night of the week, these buses get decked out with neon lights, live music, booze and a communal party bus vibe. They will take you around the city bar hopping — it’s a great way to see the nightlife.

  • Eat out, obviously

    • Cartagena is known for its seafood and ceviche, but as vegetarians, we found some hidden gems. There is a pretty big Mediterranean influence here, which we didn’t expect, but we had some of the best falafel we’ve had since Tel Aviv in Cartagena. Who would have thought?!

Medellín

Medellín was one of those cities where we had no idea what to expect, so we were pleasantly surprised by the upscale jungle vibe of the Poblado neighborhood where we were staying. Our hostel, Los Patios, was in the perfect location for us — there were ample restaurants, cafes, bars, parks, and everything you could possibly desire. They even organized tours for us, along with wine & art night, a free Power Spanish class, pub crawls, and more. (If you are heading there in the next month, use our code TRISDAN to get 20% off your stay!) Here’s what we got up to:

  • Comuna 13

    • This is a must-do in Medellín, and you should absolutely go with a guide who can explain what you’re looking at. Comuna 13 is the name of the once most dangerous street in the entire world. It has a deep history in Colombia, and has now been transformed by local artists and their murals representing the stories of this area. It’s beautiful and educational and definitely something you need to see if you come here.