In love with Locombia, and more. Disfruta el mundo is a travel blog that will take you to the Caribbean - and make you want to stay there.
Pinned post - 18 April 2017
Hola! Welcome (back) to Disfruta el mundo! As a short introduction for new readers, here's a list of some things that me and my blog like: Avocados, adventures, airports (but we are terrified of flying), Coffee, champagne, Colombia. Dancing, day-dreaming, dolphins. Sea, sunsets, sushi (Ok, the list could go on and on, I'm not going to do the whole alphabet). We believe in doing things that make us happy, we make friends easily and we are curious to discover new places and cultures. We are brave, and work hard to follow our dreams. We try to keep a positive attitude to life, and are always willing to help others. And of course we sometimes go crazy, get lost and find ourselves in the weirdest situations. But hey, life is an adventure, right? So if you feel like we could get along, keep reading.
Scrolling through my blog the other day I noticed two things: 1) It is very long! (I really hadn't realized how much I wrote last year) and 2) If you don't know me or this blog as well as I do (possible), you may get lost. I created Disfruta el mundo in December 2015, when I was on Christmas holidays at my parents' place in Helsinki, and preparing to leave for Jamaica with my best friend J. I had just graduated from Uni, and was recovering from a car accident and the shock of the November 13 attacks. I had already decided that I needed some time off from Paris, and had booked a return ticket for July 14th 2016 (I still remember how I closed my eyes and randomly picked a date from my calendar). I was about to travel a bit in Cuba and Jamaica, and then settle for a while in Cartagena (a city I had never heard of) to volunteer with a local non-profit organization. In the About section you can read more about my thoughts from back then.
I spent 200 days by the Caribbean Sea and enjoyed (almost) every moment of it. Needless to say how hard I fell in love with Colombia - just take a look at this blog and you'll see. The friendliness of people, the relaxed lifestyle, everything. I was simply very happy when I lived there. And, as you may have noticed, I recently managed to escape back to Cartagena for three wonderful weeks. It was even better than what I had imagined, it really felt like if I never left, like if the 8 months being away had just been a dream. A lot had happened in my life since I moved back to Paris last July, but all that seemed somehow very far away, and Cartagena felt home again. I reunited with a big part of my friends, and found back to my old healthy lifestyle (sea breeze, sun and happiness = the best diet!). The kids of Fundación La Vecina are doing well, I was so glad to see them again. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of changes at the foundation lately, and even if I had wished to keep working with them, it is not possible right now. Instead, I am in contact with others who know La Boquilla and wish to help people living there, and we are working on a new plan.
With me traveling back and forth, there is no real chronology in my posts anymore (I stopped counting days). The search button there on the right is quite handy, and so are the categories, if you wish to read about a country or a topic in particular. But since I receive a lot of questions, and am often asked for recommendations, especially for Colombia, I am writing this post to give you an overview, and to point you to the right direction. Anything that is pink, you can click on to find out more.
Let's start with Colombia.
All Cartagena related posts can be found here. I lived there for 6 months and explored as much as I could, so I'm happy to help you plan your trip or answer any questions you may have. If I don't know how to guide you, I will put you in touch with my dearest Cartagena friend S, also know as my personal tourist guide.
I recently came across this interesting Trip Advisor-based map, it shows every country's most popular tourist attraction. Some results are quite unexpected (France: Musée d'Orsay, UK: Harry Potter studio tour)... But guess what is the whole Colombia's most visited place by the tourists: Cartagena's walled city! So all this to say, when traveling to Colombia, you just cannot miss Cartagena. It is a mix of historical, colonial beauty, and a modern Miami-style seaside city. Spend time with the warm-hearted, yet sometimes unpredictable Costeños, dance to Caribbean rhythms, and escape the heat of the city to a nearby island. In the Cartagena section you'll find information on basically everything, just don't forget:
- To take a lancha to Tierra Bomba, that is the easiest way to enjoy a paradisiac beach.
- To try out kite-surfing on La Boquilla beach at En Colombia Kitesurf. You think you are only taking surfing classes but on top of that you get to know the whole surfers' community and you'll make lifelong friends. And I promise, it is the greatest sport ever. If kite is not your thing you can also do regular surfing, or even rent a SUP board and go paddle on your own.
- And of course, to eat the world's best fusion sushis at Kokoa. Say hi to owner Pepe from me.
If you wish to read more about Fundación La Vecina and my "experteering" experience, you'll find the posts here.
For more beach and island life, you don't have to go far from Cartagena. There are two groups of islands nearby: Islas de Rosario and Islas San Bernando. Other great places that I have visited and written about are Rincon del Mar, Playa Blanca and Manzanillo del Mar.
The rest of Colombia is wonderful as well, check out these posts when planning your trip.
I only spent a weekend in the capital, and obviously only saw a glimpse of what there is to see and do in this 8-million people South-American metropole. If you don't have much time either, do this: Daytime strolling around in Candelaria and visiting museums, sunset at Montserrate, evening in Zona-T.
If you have the time to visit the surroundings of Bogotà, don't miss the amazing Zipaquíra salt cathedral.
The city of eternal spring, Pablo Escobar and Colombia's only metro/cablecar network. Take a look at my mini-guide here.
Guatapé and El Peñol:
If you are in Medellín, you just have to make a day trip to nearby town Guatapé. On your way you can stop at El Peñol and climb the 750 steps to see this spectacular view.
Cali, oh Cali. This recommendation will not really sound like me but I'm going to give it anyway: be young and party. Try out the legendary Chiva-party bus, and dance salsa until your feet hurt. The Caleños will show you how to have fun! Other thing: eat.
Minca is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in my life. Book your spot at Casa Elemento and the world's biggest hammock. Wake up at sunrise, when everyone else is still sleeping, and take your time to enjoy some peace and calm, and the breathtaking view over the mountains.
Colombia's most popular national parc, and for a reason. Getting there is slow so I suggest you stay for at least one night, better two. If you decide to sleep in one of the hammocks by the sea, take enough warm clothes with you. I'm serious, it is a wonderful experience but really, it gets cold.
Santa Marta is a nice (read: a little bit boring) city but mostly just the place for an inevitable stop-over before/after Minca, Tayrona, Palomino... But what I can recommend in Santa Marta, are two wonderful hostels: Mango Tree and Masaya.
For travellers who want something else than just beautiful beaches, I recommend the 4 or 5-day hike to Ciudad Perdida, the lost city. Pack your mosquito repellent, and get ready for an adventure!
And then for those who are looking for a perfect beach destination, there is Palomino. When you just want to take it easy (or when you are recovering from a food-poisoning and have no energy left), to Palomino you go.
The department of Guajira, in Northern Colombia close to the Venezuelan border, is again a unique experience. White salt mines, yellow dunes, turquoise water... The best way to see everything is to go for an organised tour that leaves from Riohacha and takes you until Punta Gallinas and Cabo de la Vela.
Apart from Colombia, this blog also has a category for Jamaica. I'll be able to give you some basic touristic guidance, but if you need real inside tips, my friend J, the ultimate Jamaica-freak, will help. ;) There are posts separately for the three places where we went.
The authentic Jamaican experience in Kingston with J and her friends: dancing, partying and living as a local - that was fun! Luckily C and S invited me to join them on this little island get-away, when Kingston started to get too hard-core for me.
Ocho Rios, casually called Ochi, is a cute little seaside town. A bit too touristic for our taste, but yet we still managed to make friends with the locals, and spend three relaxing beach days.
If I had to pick the one place that is the most Caribbean for me, the place that looks exactly like the paradisiac tropical island pictured in travel magazines, I would not hesitate a second: Portland, Jamaica. The beaches around the small town of Port Antonio are spectacular. Indescribably pretty, but also quiet and peaceful. This is where I could spend my whole life.
And some people actually do. If you are not afraid of getting too jealous, you might want to read this story about my friend Ocean, who pushed me to jump from cliffs, and with whom I also tried surfing for the first time.
Three weeks traveling alone in Cuba was an adventure. I loved the country and all the people I met there, it was really something unique and different to see. Since I spent a lot of time alone, and in buses traveling from one place to another, I wrote a post almost every day (even if I could publish them only once I got to Cartagena because there is barely no internet in Cuba). I visited many places, but yet there is so much I didn't have time to see. I hope to go back there soon!
My favorites: Trinidad, Viñales, Santiago. My top 3 travel tips: 1. Stay in Casa Particulares rather than hotels, that way you get to know locals and you learn more about the culture. 2. Learn some Spanish beforehand, the Cubans really don't speak English. 3. Be careful when someone wants to "show you around" or needs your help in buying something with CUCs, they are usually trying to trick you to give them money.
You'll find here below my stories from each place.
Back to the 50s, literally. Habana Vieja with its architecture, cars and the feeling of being somewhat lost in the history, is like an old movie. Just stroll around in Habana Vieja, peak into museums, and chat the locals - you will love it.
Cienfuegos is a smaller version of Habana Vieja - with a lot of horses, a beautiful seaside promenade, and a lot of interesting activities to do nearby.
There is no small town as pretty as Trinidad, there just can't be. Hope for sunny weather, and just walk around. Oh and you'd better have a boyfriend/girlfriend when traveling to Trinidad, it's such a romantic place. I'm just saying.
Santiago, a big city in southern Cuba is full of music, dance and real Caribbean vibes. Get ready!
Horseback riding in the Viñales valley, amongst coffee and tobacco plantations, lakes and natural pools. Perfect days with my guide M. I'm not a countryside girl, but in Viñales I could be.
I also traveled to Brazil for a week - even if I try to forget about it. Sao Paulo was an interesting place to see, and I spent some good moments there. On the other hand, my only recommendation to Rio de Janeiro: Don't go there. Or if you really want to go, please be careful.
Oh and as a bonus there is Miami, my safe haven. I wish I could fly to South Beach every time I need to take a break and clear my head, that would be wonderful.
Right now I am back in Paris, and trying my best to settle here again - while of course planning my next South American getaway. Every time I walk or bike past the Eiffel tower (and that happens almost every day since I now live so close to it), and see the tourist crowds that get out of the busses, only to quickly snap a picture before continuing their tour, I force myself to pause and think about how privileged I am to live here. To appreciate the beauty of my city, and to understand how many people in the world would want to live where I live. This blog is not really about Paris, but if you are about to travel here and need advice, feel free to ask. After all, Paris is the city I know the most about.
Old readers, thank you for still being there. New readers, welcome, I hope you will have a good time with us.
Lot's of love.
Ps. If you are privileged to live by the sea or in the mountains, please don't take that for granted. Enjoy and appreciate it every day.
I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!