Medellin-Based Colombia Adventure Travel Guide

hiking in mountains near the city of Medellin, Colombia

Dive into Colombia

When we arrived in Colombia, we didn’t think we’d stay long. It seemed sketchy, the food sucked, and there wasn’t much to do.

But eventually we discovered the opposite is true. It just takes work to penetrate into the core of Colombia’s awesomeness. This Colombia adventure travel guide compiles the best of it.

You’ll find this guide to be a goldmine if you’re:

  • Spending extended time in Medellin
  • A digital nomad or foreign expat like us
  • Unafraid of getting off the tourist trail and being the only foreigner in sight
  • Active. When Google maps says a place is a kilometer away your first instinct is to walk, not Uber
  • Not a high-rolling fancy pants or planning to get sh*tfaced 24/7
  • Able to get away from your computer and do cool stuff

If any of the above applies to you, read on. If not, read on anyways. It’s good for our site’s stats.

Contents

Preparing for Medellin

Super Guide of 50+ Blogger Tips
Things to Know Before Coming to Medellin

Eating and Drinking in Medellin

Medellin’s Best Lunch Restaurants
The Best Coffee, Beer, Aguardiente, Cheese, and More
A Food Pilgrimage to Jerico
Before You Drink that Stuff…

Medellin 1-2 Day Getaways

Medellin Hikes
Jerico
Jardin
Venecia

Other Colombian Getaways

Bogota
The Pacific Coast

Other Tips

Extending Your Visa

Preparing for Medellin

The Mega Super Compilation of Tips

When we moved here we read everything we could find online about things to do in Medellin. There’s a lot, and it’s overwhelming.

So we consolidated it all.

In this mega-super guide, you’ll find every tip from 50+ travel blogs written about things to do in Medellin, plus a handy-dandy map.

Super Medellin Travel Guide of Recommendations from 50+ Blog Posts

This Medellin travel guide isn’t just one bozo’s opinion. It’s a compilation of over 50 of the top blogs and guides on things to do in Medellin, including a handy-dandy map of everything you can download for offline use!

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Things to Know Before Coming to Medellin

Despite all our research, we were surprised and caught of guard by quite a few things about Medellin. Mostly they were positive surprises, but some were negative. Kim shared them all in her post of 22 things to know before visiting Medellin.

Things To Know Before Moving To Medellin

What to bring, how to stay safe, what to worry about, how best to feed yourself, how to work off all that avocado you’ll be eating, and 17 more tips for any expat or digital nomad thinking of moving to Medellin.

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Stuffing Your Face in Medellin

Colombia’s not famous for having delicious food. If anything it’s the opposite: infamous for its crappy food.

In general, the infamy is justified, but there’s so much out there that someone had to get it right, even if only by accident. Eventually we found some of these worthy places to stuff your face.

Medellin’s Best Lunch Specials

Most restaurants in Colombia offer a set lunch called a menu del dia. They’re inexpensive, hearty, and vary widely from one restaurant to the next, especially in cosmopolitan Medellin. No matter what dietary preference or craving, there’s a menu del dia for you.

Chris looooved menu del dias. He combed the city, interrogating chefs and knowledgable locals for leads, on a treasure hunt for the best menu del dia in Medellin. He ended up compiling an enormous list of close to 40 different restaurants’ lunch specials along with ratings, photos, descriptions, and a map of where to find them all. 

Best menu del dia lunch in Medellin, Colombia

The Best Menu del Dia Lunches in Medellin, Colombia

I’m on a hunt for the best menu del dia in Medellin. Menu del dias are affordable lunch menus including soup, a main course, a drink, and sometimes a dessert. Vegetarian, vegan, typical Colombian, and international, I’m trying as many as I can. Here’s what I’ve found so far, with ratings and photos.

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The Best Coffee, Beer, Cheese, Chocolate, Aguardiente, and More

Blind taste tests are the only way to truly know whether you prefer one brand of food or drink to another. Plus they’re fun excuses to gorge on something yummy, so we did a bunch of them.

In our Telltale Tongue series, we assembled friends and experts to blind taste test coffee, beer, aguardiente, chocolate, and Colombian cheeses. The results were always surprising and changed what products we decided to buy at supermarkets and restaurants.

Before you head out to a Medellin supermarket, bar, restaurant, or cafe, check out the taste test results. They may help you make a better decision.

Kim not liking her taste of one of the best Colombian aguardientes

The Best Aguardiente in Colombia? A Taste Test Reveals if There Is Such a Thing

Is there really a best aguardiente, Colombia’s national firewater? Or is it all equally good (or horrible). We did a blind taste test to find out.

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Feature image Colombian beer blind taste test

Our Colombian Beer Blind Taste Test Was… Eye-Opening!

When the labels are off and nobody knows what they’re drinking, which lager would our panel crown as the “Best Beer in Colombia?” The results of our blind taste test were eye-opening.

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Kim staring at all the Colombian cheseses in the Medellin supermarket

Colombian Cheese Deep Dive and Blind Taste Test

What’s the difference between all these Colombian cheeses like cuajada, quesito, and campesino? To find the answers, we bought them 18 different types. Then a dozen of us sacrificed our stomachs to blind taste test them. Here’s what we discovered are the best Colombian cheeses.

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Cover image for taste test to find the best coffee in Medellin

Crowning The Best Coffee in Medellin with “The Coffee Hunter”

Pergamino? Velvet? Urbania? Revolucion? …. Starbucks??? To determine who really has the best coffee in Medellin we enlisted The Coffee Hunter to lead us through a professional blind taste test. In doing so we discovered an undisputed champion you may not have heard of…

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A Food Pilgrimage

Jericó is famous for being the birthplace of the only Colombian saint, Laura, and is a popular destination for religious pilgrimages.

Since we’re not religious, that didn’t interest us at all. Nevertheless, our trip to Jerico became a pilgrimage in its own right, but for food.

If you believe in Food, you’ll want to consider making your own pilgrimage to discover and devour the town’s surprising array of artisanal foods and good restaurants.

Display of our food and goodies from Jerico Colombia

Why You Should Consider A Food Pilgrimage to Jericó, Colombia

Cardamom marzipan, wine made by nuns in a convent, and the best cheese bread in Colombia—these and many more are among our guide to the best restaurants in Jericó, Antioquia, and its surprising (but hidden) array of artisanal treats.

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Before You Drink that Stuff…

Aguardiente is Colombia’s national drink. It has a licorice taste similar to ouzo, sambuca, pastis, and many other Mediterranean drinks. People drink a lot of it here.

But they know surprisingly little about it.

I did some research about aguardiente prior to our aforementioned blind taste test and uncovered some super surprising facts. Is sugar-free really healthier than regular? Does “salud” have an extra significance when cheers-ing with aguardiente? Is the stuff really Colombian?

All the answers are can be found in our post, 9 Facts about Colombian Aguardiente that Shouldn’t Stay Bottled Up.

Chugging from a bottle of Colombian aquardiente

9 Facts About Colombian Aguardiente that Shouldn’t Stay Bottled Up

Sobering facts about Colombian aguardiente you’ll want to share with your friends next time you crack open a bottle, including how “Colombian” it really is and whether “sugar-free” makes a difference.

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Medellin Getaways

Medellin Hikes

The quality and quantity of hikes near Medellin (many accessible by public transit!) was something we didn’t expect before coming here. From waterfalls to caves to natural pyramids to Escobar’s old prison, whenever we ventured into the hills we were always rewarded for doing so. And every single time the views are incredible.

If you want to get some fresh air and develop a tight round tush the old-fashioned way (instead of artificially, like many women do here), check out the list of our favorite hikes in and around Medellin. For each hike you’ll find a guide complete with directions, maps, and photos.

Hiking in medellin

The Best Medellin Hiking Trails: An Ever-Expanding List

From waterfalls, to caves, to prisons, to viewpoints, here’s a list of the best Medellin hiking trails we’ve explored (so far), along with downloadable maps and links to our more detailed guides. Keep coming back, because as we continue exploring, this list will continue expanding!

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Pueblos

Please, please, please don’t spend time in Medellin without visiting at least one of the nearby pueblos. It will completely change your understanding and perception of what Colombia and Antioquia is about.

And Guatape doesn’t count. It’s become closer to Pueblito Paisa than a real pueblo due to over-tourism.

We went to three and recommend them all highly.

Jerico

Jerico is the best for foodies, religious fanatics, and backpackers:

chris overlooking the valley at the coffee farm at the end of the world in jerico colombia

Unconventional Guide of Things to Do in Jericó, Colombia

From the “Coffee Farm at the End of the World,” to artisanal foods behind seemingly every one of the town’s colorful doors, to an eco treehouse for grownups, Jericó’s a tourism playground. So why does nobody rave about it? Well the secret’s out now. Here are the things to do in Jericó, Colombia.

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Jardin

Jardin is a bigger, lusher, and more tourist-friendly version of Jerico:

Medellín Weekend Getaway to Jardín, Colombia

Hidden waterfalls, birds and fruit galore, authentic coffee farm tours, and more. For those looking for a perfect getaway from Medellin, these are some of the unexpected highlights you’ll find in the beautiful, colorful town of Jardin, Colombia.

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Venecia

Venecia is for if you don’t want to see any other tourists and/or plan to hike Cerro Tusa (the world’s largest natural pyramid).

Venecia Antioquia guide cover photo

Guide to Venecia, Antioquia, an Undiscovered Gem Outside Medellin

If you want to be one of the rare few foreigners to visit Venecia, Antioquia here are the things to do and where to sleep, eat, and drink. (There’s more than Cerro Tusa!) It’s only 2 hours from Medellin, but you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different country and century.

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Other Colombia Getaways

A couple of times we really splurged and bought flights to get further from Medellín than a bus

Colombia’s Pacific Coast

Colombia’s Pacific Coast was a tourism no-go zone for many years. Only very recently has it started to appear on tourists’ radars and get the recognition it deserves. In other words, if you’re an adventure traveler now’s the time to go.

The Bahia Solano area we explored for close to a week is a jungle, waterfall, and deserted beach paradise. There’s so much to do that we couldn’t help but compile four different guides for the area:

el nativo at playa el tigre in bahia solano

How to Do the Cascada El Tigre Tour on Colombia’s Pacific Coast the Right Way

There’s a different way to do the Cascada El Tigre tour than how everyone tries to sell it to you. It involves five waterfalls, three beaches, a cave, an awesome meal, and a self-guided hike. It was the highlight of our trip to El Valle, Chocó, Colombia. Here’s how to do it.

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kim buying mango in el valle town bahia solano on colombia's pacific coast

15 Helpful Travel Tips for Bahía Solano and Colombia’s Pacific Coast

Since no roads connect it to the rest of the country, Colombia’s Pacific Coast is literally off the beaten path. Be prepared. Here are 15 things you should be aware of, including how worried you should be about bugs and rain, what tour not to miss, and how not to miss your flight home.

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Wherever you stay, enjoying a cold beverage tops the list of things to do in Bahia Solano

Things to Do in Bahía Solano, and Where to Stay

To get the most of all the things to do in Bahía Solano on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, you need to pick the right place to stay. This guide has the pros and cons of all the options: remote beaches like Playa Mecana and Playa Cuevita, popular spots like El Valle and Playe El Almejal, or places in between like Playa Huina.

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Kim in tuk-tuk on Playa El Almejal

Things to Do in El Valle, Chocó, Colombia

From waterfalls, to turtles, to beaches, to drinks, here’s an extensive guide of things to do in El Valle (plus a map!), a small town in the Chocó department of Colombia’s Pacific Coast that is so under-covered by tour guides and blogs that even Google Maps doesn’t show its streets.

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Bogota

Kim’s friends back in Canada surprised her with a visit. It was a great thought, but they didn’t think too hard when they bought their flights to Bogotá instead of Medellin, where we lived. Since her friends couldn’t change their flights, Kim went to Bogota to join them. Based on their experience, she put together a recommended itinerary for a girls’ trip to Colombia’s capital.

A Girls’ Trip Itinerary for a Perfect 24 Hours in Bogota

Chic neighborhoods, delicious and exotic food, some drinks and dancing, and just a bit of culture and exercise. Here’s a recommended itinerary for you and your friends to experience an unforgettable 24 hours in Bogota.

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Other Tips

Extending Your Visa

If you’re planning on staying in Medellin for more than 90 days, you’re going to have to apply for a visa extension. The good news is you can now do it online. The bad news is the online system isn’t that simple. As a result, we had a terrible time extending our visa.

So that your visa extension process can be a lot smoother than ours, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it online, or, if unavoidable, in person at the immigration offices.

visa extension colombia

How to Extend Your Colombia Tourist Visa Online or in Person

Don’t make the same mistakes we did. Follow these instructions, including tips we learned the hard way because nobody else mentions them online, to extend your Colombia tourist visa online or at the Medellin immigration office with ease.

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Stay On Top of Things

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