Ah Medellin! The city of eternal spring! It has been my favourite place to live in Colombia thus far, with a pleasant temperature ranging between 20 to 25 degree Celsius throughout the year. I discovered the city in December last year when I travelled from Mumbai to Colombia. The city has a lovely balance of all aspects of life. As a nature lover, I marvelled at how the city is intertwined with nature. Streams flowing along the highways, trees blooming with flowers of various colours and fauna that lives amidst a bustling city.
Here, one of my favourite places is El Poblado, a neighbourhood peppered with bars and restaurants, intertwined with breath taking scenery. I was told that in pre-Covid times, the people would spontaneously salsa after a few shots of the traditional alcohol — Aguardiente. Nowadays, the city has social distancing restrictions in place, and while all bars and restaurants are fully functional and people still party in this neighbourhood, close contact dancing has taken a backseat.
While planning my itinerary of places to visit, I stay tuned to news for information on weekend lockdowns through which Colombia is tackling its Covid crisis.
So, in true Colombian fashion we escaped to a ‘pueblo’ — a traditional small town — to experience the local culture. These pueblos can be easily identified by a central square with the church at its heart, encircled by the town. They are very European in structure, but Colombian in feel. What is fascinating is how colourful the houses are. Creativity abounds as people paint the doors and walls in different colours, sometimes even decorating them with scenes from village life.
Among the many we visited; Villa de Leyva stood out for me. Known for its whitewashed colonial buildings, wine, and quaint streets, it is also ideal for those interested in palaeontology (meaning the study if life on earth through its fossils). The town has dinosaur bones and fossils displayed in the local museum, which also houses the most complete skeleton of the Kronosaurus in the world. Walking through the cobbled streets, it felt like we tripped into the past.
Additionally, to really get the local feel while travelling through the tiny towns, we used the tuk tuks — called motochivas. For us Indians, it is a little taste of home, but with a Latin flavour.
One of the highlights of my travels has been to explore everything the culinary scene has to offer. Colombian food varies depending on the region you visit, much like it does in India. For example, a bandeja paisa, native to Antioquia, is something I enjoyed most at Sancho Paisa, Medellin. We were seated at a table overlooking the highway, and proceeded to devour a range of snacks like arepas and empanadas of different types — local to each region.
While you’re at it, be sure to order an ‘aguapanela con queso’ or a chocolate caliente con queso for the experience. These perplexed me, because the drinks are essentially hot jaggery water with cheese, and hot chocolate with cheese. While this might sound odd, it surprisingly is quite enjoyable.
During my travels, I treated myself to a stay at Bosko, Guatape — a luxurious glamping (glamorous camping) resort. With stunning views of open showers, soft beds and a heated sky pool, it is one place that allowed me to forget all my worries in the cocoon of luxury.
They take all necessary precautions for the guests; the staff is always masked and every area is constantly sanitised to make for a very safe and relaxing experience.
With so much to offer, Colombia should be a must visit on every traveller’s list, for there is a whole other side to the country made famous thanks to Netflix — the Colombia of Pablo Escobar. But that is for another day. I, for now, am going to help my newfound Colombian friends lighten their load of aguardiente for the weekend. Chao and hasta luego! (Goodbye and see you soon).
(Mariette Valsan is an actor, model and an activist. When she’s not in front of the camera, she actively campaigns for children’s rights and speaks up against colourism)