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Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

Houston, Texas
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Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

My husband and I are planning to go to Colombia in mid-September to celebrate his 40th birthday! It's not nearly as long a trip as we would like to take but we are leaving behind our almost 3-year old with my mom so we're nervous to be gone for much longer.

We typically enjoy places that offer architecture, culture, walking tours, people watching and good food. Based on the research I have done so far, I'd ideally like to visit Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena however I am concerned 5 days is too short to cover all 3 cities. We definitely want to go to Cartagena for the Old City. Not interested in beaches per se so we won't try to go to Rosario or Santa Marta etc. The decision we have to make is whether we stay in Bogota (we will be flying into El Dorado) or just pass through and go straight to Medillin.

I did try to pull together a scenario in which we are able to cover all 3 cities and it's really tight!

Day 0: Depart US late night

Day 1: Arrive Bogota morning. Explore Bogota all day

Day 2: Leave for Medellin morning. Medellin all day

Day 3: Explore town/s around Medellin. Leave for Cartagena in the evening

Day 4: Cartagena all day

Day 5: Cartagena all day. Leave for Bogota in the evening.

Day 6: Depart Bogota early morning

Any input to help make our decision is much appreciated!

Thanks.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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1. Re: Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

Five days is WAY too short for three destinations. You'll be spending too much of your time in transit between destinations. Pick two. Any two. I loved Bogota. I liked Medellin. I have not yet been to Cartagena.

August is supposed to be the driest time of year in Bogota. Bogota is usually overcast and drizzly. Think of Seattle or San Francisco, weather-wise, only at 8500 ft above sea level. Medellin is beautifully sunny with near-perfect weather year-round. Think of San Diego, weather-wise, at 7000 ft above sea level. Cartagena is a Caribbean city, expect it to be hot and muggy. However, it's not much of a hurricane risk due to its location. And hot and muggy is relative. You're in Houston, so it will be similar to the weather you are leaving.

I would recommend Bogota and Cartagena. Most people seem to prefer Medellin and its perfect weather and well-organized public transportation to Bogota. But I'm not most people.

Houston, Texas
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2. Re: Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

Thanks for your response. Could you share a little more about why you preferred Bogota over Medellin? Thanks!

Las Vegas, Nevada
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3. Re: Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

That's a difficult question to answer. There is more to do in Bogota: it's a much larger city. And yet Bogota, despite being home to a population of 8 million, didn't feel like a mega-city. The attractions and sights to see are more obvious and plentiful in Bogota. There is more to do in the surrounding environs.

That said: I could come up with a list of why Medellin is better, too. The weather, for one. It has some very interesting modern architecture. It has more Botero. The hotels and restaurants are more concentrated in the beautiful Poblado neighborhood. And the people are friendlier.

But the bottom line is that I just felt more comfortable in Bogota, for whatever reason. I love the fact that people in Bogota are not automatically warm and effusively friendly. You have to earn Bogotanos' warmth and friendship, but it is earned VERY easily. I like that. It's more like I am in real life. So I'm suspicious of unearned warmth. It makes me feel like I'm a tourist in Disneyland.

I would add that, given that you want to minimize your transit time, the airport in Bogota is very close to the hotel districts while, in Medellin, the airport is a LOOOOOOONG way out of the city. Long. It's so far out that it makes DIA or Houston Intercontinental seem like they are right downtown. (I exaggerate, but not by much.) But, realistically, you can't go wrong with either. Or with choosing both and ditching Cartagena,

That said, I would recommend pairing one or the other with Cartagena for the different view of Colombia. Both Medellin and Bogota are beautifully located up against the Andres in different valleys (which is why you can't easily get from one to the other using surface transportation, even though they look, on a map, like they'd be close). Cartagena is a Caribbean city. It would be a completely different experience, as opposed to interesting variations on the same theme.

Medellin
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4. Re: Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

I would stick with Bogota as you are flying in there anyway to cut down travel time. I live in Medellin, however I prefer Bogota - but both choices are great however if you decide on Medellin;

Bogota: There is a lot more to do, it is more international and also has the historic area of Candalaria. A suitable day trip would be to Zipaquira and Guatavita where they have the salt cathedaral. The people in Bogota are very friendly and it is a large city with many different regions. The weather however is colder and usually wetter than Medellin. Day trips from Medellin would be Santa Fe de Antioquia or Guatape (both of which are great)

Historical Areas - Bogota has Candalaria (Historical area). An outlying city in Medellin has something similar (ie Santa Fe de Antioquia) which would involve a day trip (a great trip but you seem short on time)

Bogota has Monseratte (fantastic view over the city - catch a cable car up). Medellin also has numerous cable cars to the mountains (or a little hill Cerro Nutibara with a small village); however my opinion is that Monserrate is better / generally nicer and situated near Candalaria.

Dining areas - Bogota has Zona Rosa / Parque 93 and as the main areas. There is more variety / better food in those in Bogota as opposed to Medellin. The good areas for dining in Medellin are around Parque Lleras / Rio Sur or in the shopping malls.

Both places have markets and brand spanking new shopping centres.

Hope that helps.

Oakland, California
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5. Re: Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

That itinerary is not realistic. You're not factoring in travel time, including in particular the time you will spend getting to and from airports, waiting for flights, etc. (In Medellin, the airport is a full hour from the city center. In Bogota, the distance is much shorter, but the traffic much worse, so the drive can be equally long.)

I would suggest first of all that you limit to two cities, max (Bogota and Cartagena). Second, I would recommend you connect directly to Cartagena from the US rather than overnighting in Bogota. Those overnights are a huge time waster. Specifically, the itinerary I would suggest is IAH-BOG-CTG stop CTG-BOG stop BOG-IAH. Since you are coming from Houston, I assume you will be flying United; the connection to Avianca at BOG will be relatively easy now that AV has moved the CTG flights from Puente Aereo to Terminal 1.

Bogota/Cartagena is a good combination. Medellin is a very pleasant city, with gracious and charming people, but Bogota has much more for the very short visit tourist to do and see. And you do not want to miss the Museo Botero which I consider to be possibly the least known great museum in the world.

Edited: 29 July 2014, 08:48
Houston, Texas
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6. Re: Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

Thank you ALL for the thoughtful and detailed responses. The decision is made - Bogota and Cartagena it is!

And yes, I have decided to change the itinerary to go straight to Cartagena (the stop is actually in Panama City), then to Bogota, then non stop to Houston.

Medellin
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7. Re: Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

If you are in Bogota for his 40th; make a reservation at Andres del Carne Res - a great restaurant with theme waiters etc that turns into a bar / disco. It is in Zona Rosa and three levels (there is another one in Chia however it is out of Bogota and a bit of a hike).

Bogota, Colombia
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8. Re: Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

I agree with bicks_medellin. If its a birthday that you are celebrating you MUST go to Andres Carne de Res! It is the best place in the country for celebrate. Keep in mind that if you are in Bogotá either Friday or Saturday I will recommend that you go to Andres Carne de Res in Chia (one hour from Bogotá). If you come in week days go to the one in Zona Rosa. Dont forget to make a reservation!!!

If you need help dont hesistated in contact me.

Medellin
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9. Re: Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

Make sure you have transport back if you go to Chia and leave late. We had lots of problems with so many people and very taxis willing or able to make the trip

Ascot
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10. Re: Help! 5-day Colombia itinerary: Medellin v. Bogota decision

I agree that Bogota is worth spending time in, especially Candelaria during the day. The Police Museum in particular was very interesting with its displays from the Pablo Escobar drug-busting of 1992, and surrounding architecture from colonial days is beautiful. I was there in 2006 so obviously a few things may have changed but I found it easy to get around with taxis and walking. I stayed in the wealthy area (recommended as secure in those days) at Cosmos 100 hotel which even then cost me 50 quid a night but a very nice classy hotel with top floor gym and pool. City centre has lots of nice modern bars and restaurants.

Give yourself lots of time if getting away from airport as I gave myself 3 hours which was hardly enough due to massive queues and almost missed my flight !!

Edited: 02 August 2014, 12:13