Guatape, Colombia
Colombia, Musings, South America

My Colombia Bucket List

I feel as though I just arrived in Colombia yesterday, yet I’m suddenly finding myself with limited time remaining in this beautiful country and feeling pressured to make the most of it.

In case you haven’t heard, I’ve been doing all kinds of planning for the future around here, including purchasing a flight back to the States for March 25th–that’s just 9 weeks from now!–which has led me to do a whole lot more, well, planning, so I don’t squander those precious weeks and leave Colombia with regrets. Planning begets more planning…who knew?

One of the many reasons I love Colombia so much is that there are so many beautiful destinations to discover and so many cultural nuances to experience.

I’ll admit, though, this bucket list is pretty brief.  The main reason?  I just love Medellín too damn much, and I’d prefer to enjoy the rest of my time here without too much running around like a headless chicken.

Even still, the likelihood that I’ll accomplish every item on this list is low, but hey, it never hurts to dream.


I first visited Guatapé and El Peñol last year during my first visit to Medellín.  My friends and I took a quick day trip to this charming, colorful little town (pictured above) and its famous monolith (appropriately named La Piedra–the rock) but I’d like to go back for a closer look, this time for a couple of chilled-out days.  By bus, it’s only a few hours away from Medellín.  The town sits on the edge of El Peñol, a most beautiful man-made reservoir that is best appreciated from the top of La Piedra.  Many nearby hostels offer a variety of water sports, like tubing and jetskiing, which would be a welcome change from the daily grind of city life in Medellín.  Hanging out in a hammock overlooking the reservoir wouldn’t be so bad, either.

View of the reservoir from the top of La Piedra, Guatape, Colombia

View of the reservoir from the top of La Piedra


I only learned of Jardín a few days ago but it sounds like absolute bliss.  Located a few hours to the southwest of Medellín in the coffee growing region, Jardín is a pretty little mountain town where visitors go to reconnect with nature, explore coffee farms, or ride on horseback to local caves and waterfalls.  It actually sounds quite similar to Salento, another quaint mountain town known for its coffee that’s a popular stop for backpackers, but much closer to Medellín and probably with far fewer…backpackers.  If I can locate accommodation with reliable WiFi (when did my life come to this?) then I’d love to see what Jardín has to offer.

Santa Fe de Antioquia

A trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia, the original capital of Antioquia (now Medellín) could easily be done in a day.  Of all these destinations, it’s the closest to Medellín–about an hour away by bus.  It could be quite relaxing, however, to go for a couple of nights and explore the cobblestone streets, the colonial buildings, and the surrounding area as well (think hikes and waterfalls).  It’s near the banks of the Cauca River, the second largest in Colombia; the city was founded as a gold mining town in the 1500s and the many local museums would be fun to explore.

Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia

My brief encounter with Santa Fe de Antioquia after my tour with Colombian Bike Junkies

Paragliding over Medellín

Remember that time I jumped out of an airplane in Argentina?  Well, that fateful day marked the beginning of an adrenaline addiction that’s only gotten worse since.  I’ve been wanting to take the leap (pun intended) and give paragliding a go ever since my first visit to this city when I saw how ridiculously cheap it was.  And since I’m heading to Europe next, where I’ll hardly be able to afford my daily croissant, let alone adventure tours like paragliding, I feel I should take advantage of the opportunity while I can.  Just $45 for a 15-minute flight over this gorgeous valley?  That’s, like, the price of one croissant in Europe, am I right?

Paragliding in Colombia

This could be me! (Photo: Erin Malecki)

Barranquilla for Carnival

Ok, so this one is already planned.  Surprise!  Carnaval de Barranquilla (Barranquilla being the fourth largest city in Colombia, located on the Caribbean coast) is a four-day event in February consisting of music, parades, and a non-stop street party; it’s Colombia’s most important folklore celebration and one of the largest carnivals in the world, second only to that of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  This year the celebration is taking place February 14th through 17th–a little over three weeks from now–and when I realized it would be foolhardy to miss out on such an opportunity when who knows when I’ll be back in Colombia, I hastily made a hostel reservation before prices became even more extortionate.  This is definitely a case of just do it and worry about the money later…never have I paid $80 for a night in a hostel dorm (and never will I again), but sometimes you’re in Colombia during the second largest carnival in the world and you just gotta say F*$% IT.

I’ve got my work cut out for me…wish me luck!
Do you make bucket lists for each place you go?

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  • Reply Amanda January 22, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    I’ve been stalking your blog recently (as you do) and I think you’ve convinced me to move to Medellin…

    Anyway, Baranquilla sounds sick. Totally worth the $80 dorm bed for something like that. Enjoy!
    Amanda recently posted…Where I’m Going in 2015My Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera January 23, 2015 at 9:59 am

      Haha, awesome! Medellin is an amazing place to be an expat (I’m actually writing about that soon!) so I’d totally support that decision. I hope Carnaval turns out to be worth the splurge, once in a lifetime, right!? 🙂

  • Reply Jason January 23, 2015 at 8:21 am

    At that price, I think paragliding is definitely worth a go. But I would caution you not to expect a thrill similar to the rush of adrenaline you might have experienced while skydiving. I psyched myself up for something new and exciting before I went in Nepal last year, and ended up being unpleasantly surprised at how smooth and (uneventful? unexciting? glideful?) the ride was.

    Good luck crossing these items off your bucket list! I’ve made bucket lists a few times (only when I’ve spent a good chunk of time in a place), but I’ve kind of sucked at crossing items off of them.

    As for European prices, I read the other day that parity between the dollar and euro is actually plausible this year for the first time since the euro was introduced in 1999. Where exchange rates are concerned, you may have picked a very good time to explore the continent 😉

    Enjoy your last weeks in Colombia!

    • Reply La Mochilera January 25, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Hahaha okay duly noted, I won’t expect a crazy adrenaline rush from paragliding. I still think it’ll be pretty spectacular to see the city from that vantage point, so hopefully I actually get around to it.

      And you’re totally right about Europe, I’ve been reading all about how the euro is tanking and guiltily feeling really happy about it. I seriously can’t wait to explore that continent, it’s been a long time coming!! 🙂
      La Mochilera recently posted…The 12 Best Things About Being an Expat in MedellínMy Profile

  • Reply Phyll January 23, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Ahh.. this is just psyching me up even more for Colombia in a few weeks!!

    Have fun in Baranquilla! xx
    Phyll recently posted…How to get Artists to think you’re an Artist tooMy Profile

  • Reply Justine January 24, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Gautape is one of those major regrets I have of not doing in Colombia… it seems like I have a lot of those! Your list seems great – short but doable. Enjoy your time! And enjoy those South America prices!
    Justine recently posted…8 Random Things to Know Before Traveling to JakartaMy Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera January 25, 2015 at 10:36 am

      I recently remembered another thing I would have liked to do while in Colombia, the salt cathedral of Zipaquira! But I think I have to accept the fact that these things will be hard enough to accomplish already and adding more to my list will surely just lead to disappointment (or too much stress from running around like crazy). Asi es la vida!
      La Mochilera recently posted…The 12 Best Things About Being an Expat in MedellínMy Profile

  • Reply Camels & Chocolate January 31, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    That top photo with the colorful wall just reinforces why I think I’d LOVE Colombia =)
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted…Bluebird Days in BreckenridgeMy Profile

    • Reply La Mochilera February 3, 2015 at 9:04 am

      There are so many beautiful little towns like this one! Especially great if you love photography 🙂

  • Reply laura February 3, 2015 at 9:15 am

    I’ve heard really great things about Colombia and these look amazing!

    • Reply La Mochilera February 3, 2015 at 10:38 am

      It’s a pretty wonderful place, if you ask me! 🙂

  • Reply Frank May 6, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Very nice. I’ve been to Colombia a couple of time but never to the Medellin area. Love the Zona Cafetera (I spent a few days in Manizales) and was very impressed by Cartagena…will make it to Medellin one of these days…don’t know if I’m up for paragliding though 😉
    Frank (bbqboy)
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    • Reply La Mochilera May 7, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Thanks, Frank! I hope you do make it to Medellin. It’s a very different experience to the rest of Colombia. I was a huge fan of the Zona Cafetera also, so lush and green!! Cheers!

  • Reply Cydney Thomas May 11, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Loved reading your bucket list! I am heading to Colombia at the beginning of June and now I am even more excited. 🙂 One place I will be going is Tayrona National Park and it looks amazing. Have you been there?

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