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Asha Ray – Latin American Diaries

Next Stop, Colombia

In part two of the series, Asha Ray documents her time in Colombia.

Medellin, Colombia


Former danger zone Santo Domingo, Medellin

El Poblado, Medellin

This is the best place to stay in Medellin, good burgers and a real pizza place which was difficult to find in Peru. Pizza Olivia Manila was my favourite. There are great transport links to other parts and you can take the cable car to Parque Arvi which is an amazing juxtaposition of city versus nature. As you ascend up the hill you begin to notice the distinction almost like a literal line separating man made communities and forest. A hustle and bustle kind of centre that turns suburban as soon as you regress a few roads back.


 Street vendors set against a backdrop of unsystematic housing structures. Santo Domingo, Medellin


Freshly made crisps under a rainbow umbrella contrast with the bleak backdrop. Santo Domingo, Medellin


Tin can structured houses on the hill Santo Domingo, Medellin


Cable car from Medellin El Poblado to Santo Domingo. View looking down on El Poblado, Medellin. Santo Domingo, Medellin.


 Pablo Escobar’s abandoned mansion Guatape, Colombia.

El Peñol, Guatapé

A two-hour bus journey and short boat ride across the lake surrounding Pablo Escobar’s abandoned mansion, you can paintball within the crumbling walls bombed by the Cali cartel in 1992.  Guatapé is known for El Peñol, a giant monolithic rock that resembles something that tumbled down from the sky, and the stunning view of the manmade lake and small islands surrounding it.

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena is small but beautifully filled with colourful antique buildings and little market stalls. It is an incredible place to take photographs but unfortunately I lost one roll of film from my time there.


Beach masseuse ladies in hammocks. Playa Blanca, Colombia

Playa Blanca, Colombia

A 4 hour drive away from Cartagena is the most isolated, tranquil stretch of white sand beach with only the locals who work on it around. We were coerced into massages from the Beach Masseuses on break (photographed). For about £2.50 we were given thirty minutes of relaxation with a stretch of crystal clear blue water ahead of us, and the most impressive sunset we’d seen so far on our trip. We slept one-story up, outdoors in hammocks at Hugo’s Place (photographed behind the Mango Lady. He served up tropical fruit filled pancakes for breakfast after we had a dip in the heavenly water below our bedrooms. The woman in the image below handed us exotic fruit cups for 20p.


The bringer of mangoes. Our hammock beds for the night in the background. Playa Blanca, Colombia


View from the rooftop. Blue skies and cactus. Santa Marta, Colombia

Santa Marta, Magdalena

This was the best area for cute cafes with amazingly good food. It had a similar vibe to Barranco, Lima. Cafe Lulo was impeccable, we went back three times. Try the shrimp arepa topped with avocado, red onions, tomatoes and slithers of mango. The smoothies are some of the best too, known for their subtle flavours. The Jamaiquino incorporated mango, passionfruit, mint and carambola. Great little promenades decorated with lanterns and live bands resonating Latin sounds filled the air. On top of all this we enjoyed the best mojitos we had so far, served in fat, authentic jars, generously crammed with lime, rum, mint and sugar.


Small town watchers in vehicles. Taganga, Colombia

Taganga, Colombia

Taganga is a tiny fishing town, yet we found this to be one of our favourite places in Colombia. Because it’s so minuscule, we developed friendships with locals there who were delightfully friendly and welcome. We found ourselves going back again multiple times. It became our base for the Northern coastal towns as we manoeuvred around. Additionally it was the only place we stayed which had cold AC on in the rooms of our accommodation all day — a god send in the +30C degree heat. There were really good, cheap arepas on the beachfront and stalls offering fresh smoothies and jewellery vendors. CAFE BONSAI was our absolute favourite here; the best cappuccino in the whole of South America with brunch that included bruschetta or garlic mushrooms on toast, started off with a vanilla yoghurt smoothie with berries.

Discovered our love for their national cerveza: Aguila, the most refreshing beer on the beach, easily best in the country.


Spotted outside the church. Taganga, Colombia


Bricklayer on our walk to the beach. Taganga, Colombia


A curve of palm trees along the cerulean waters. Parque Tayrona, Colombia

Parque Tayrona, Colombia

A sticky 2.5 hour hike through the national park turned out to be most rewarding. Coming to the half way point we were handed freshly squeezed orange juice by indigenous locals that of course made it easier. After enduring that heat and effort, arriving at a white sand beach surrounded by forest and palm trees, the inviting azure water called to us. We got the last hammock spots in the teepee on top of the hill looking out on to the sea —  The location was a god-send, a perfect cool breeze at night flowed over us from the water. Beautiful light shone through in the morning and afternoon, it was almost angelic.


Indigenous orange juicers Parque Tayrona, Colombia


Blue with rocks Parque Tayrona, Colombia 


View from the hammocks Parque Tayrona, Colombia

Minca, Colombia


A hammock that looks out on to a fiery plant, luscious hills and the sun setting. Casa Elemento, Minca, Colombia

We stayed in a very odd yet homely guesthouse on top of a hill called El Mirador. Huge, but only Chloe and I staying there at the time, along with the owner and the sweetest pitbull puppy I have ever met. Notable it’s called that, down to the incredible views on your doorstep. Shockingly the best wifi in the whole of South America in a town we were warned not to have any network connection… There were free roaming chickens too, with chicks going slightly mad.

Casa Elemento We took a mototaxi to reach the mountains overlooking Minca to experience the world’s largest hammock.

Buritaca Rancho Relaxo: A rather isolated ranch in between Taganga and Palomino, provided the most amazing home cooked food by the same darling lady each day, very authentic. Farm puppy, birds, expansive nature and a carrier bag of greenery.

We then returned to Taganga as we fell so in love with it. A day scuba-diving course is the cheapest in the world, and one of the highlights. You don’t realise how amazing life underwater is until you immerse yourself in it. Mind your ears, the pressure creeps up.

I think Colombian culture prospers in showing the world the sheer importance of family, its inviting atmosphere as well as having to offer some of the most beautiful encapsulations of nature I have seen by far on my trip.