Rule #1: Forget everything you think you know (and don’t mention that Netflix show.)

By Chanel Dror

I always feel a little bit of anxiety in the days leading up to a big international trip: Are all our transportation and accommodations accounted for? Am I going to get along with my travel partner? Have I been hyping this up too much? These are the types of questions that were swirling around my head before Eric and I took off for Colombia this past December. I’d been planning for months, checking the weather compulsively, coordinating with family in Bogota, pinning and TripAdvisor-ing like crazy. Then the day finally came, and it was time to put all those plans to action.

Four months later, and I’m still reeling from our adventure. Somehow, in just two short weeks, Colombia forged a permanent place in our hearts. Every person we met felt like an old friend, every meal was better than the last, and every destination was dubbed “our new favorite city.” This week, I was finally able to sit down and put together a brief recap of it all… click through for all the delicious details, and be sure to check back again for more updates in the future, as something tells me this won’t be our last tour through Colombia.

*photography from my Instagram

Monserrate, Bogota

Arguably Colombia’s most famous tourist attraction, we knew we had to check out Monserrate — the mountain at Bogota’s city center — and the 17th century church perched at its peak. The jaw-dropping views were unlike any I’d ever seen, and enjoying a coffee at Santa Clara Restaurant made for the perfect start to our trip.

After landing in Colombia, one of the first things I noticed were the countless flowers, trees and succulents that I’d never seen before. This white-on-white scene was just begging for a photo.

La Candelaria, Bogota

Much of our time in Bogota was spent exploring the different neighborhoods by foot. La Candelaria is a historic area with so much to see, that one day nearly wasn’t enough. El Museo del Oro (the Gold Museum) is absolutely worth visiting.

We also had an amazing afternoon exploring El Chapinero — one of the more affluent (and definitely charming!) neighborhoods in Bogota. We felt right at home at the oh-so-hipster Bourbon Coffee Roasters, and the antiguedades en Calle 9 (antique shops on 9th street) had me wishing I’d brought an empty suitcase with me.

Fulanitos, Bogota

When we look back on our entire two-week trip, Eric and I are in agreement that our meal at Fulanitos was the absolute best we had — Colombian or otherwise. Get the beef empanadas, the fried robalo (fish) and plantains, and the sancocho. Actually, just order one of everything.

Black Bear, Bogota

By our last night in Bogota, we were absolutely exhausted… but of course, staying in wasn’t an option! When we asked my cousin to recommend a spot that was both lively but relaxed, he quickly pointed us to Black Bear. We pulled up to the gorgeous marble bar, enjoyed consecutive craft cocktails, and slowly made our way through course-after-course of delicious cuisine… ah yes, exactly what we were looking for.

photo credit

Islas de San Andres y Providencia, Colombia

After 4 days in the mountains of Central Colombia, we were ready for some sun! I visited our family on San Andres Island as a child (nearly 20 years ago now!), and have been desperate to return ever since. As soon as we arrived, I knew my memory hadn’t failed me, and that the island is indeed just as magical as I remembered.

We drove all along the island’s coast, stopping at different coves and jumping off points.

We were fortunate to be able to stay at my uncle’s beautiful home on the island, where we enjoyed the most unbelievable meals. We awoke to a fully set breakfast table each morning, then came from the beach in the afternoons to a lunch of grilled fish that was caught that morning.

Have any of you ever had fruta del pan (or breadfruit)? The starchy fruit grows on trees in the Caribbean, and is given its name because when cooked, its texture is similar to that of freshly baked bread. Yum.

Casa San Agustin, Cartagena

We were then off to Cartagena! And though we stayed at the lovely Casablanca B&B, we knew we wanted to kick things off with a poolside mojito and photo opp at the beautiful Casa San Agustin.

If you know anything about Cartagena, this likely won’t be news to you: the colored walls, grand wooden doors and flower-filled balconies in the city’s Old Town are simply spectacular. We couldn’t stop taking pictures no matter how hard we tried!

The street vendors in Cartagena can be a little overwhelming, but I’ll be damned if they’re not selling the best tropical fruit ever.

And when we needed another snack to beat the heat, La Paletteria was the best impulse decision we’d ever made. I’m not even the biggest ice cream lover, but the palettas we got there were to die for.

Palace of Inquisition, Cartagena

As a port city that spent almost 300 years under Spanish rule, Cartagena has a rich history. We loved learning all about it at the gorgeous Palacio de Inquisicion.

St. Dom, Cartagena

In the interest of full disclosure, I should start by saying that St. Dom is owned by my cousins. But bias aside, it is one of the most well curated boutiques I’ve ever visited, and if you want to see the best fashion and decor that Colombia has to offer, this is the place.

I spent way too much time playing dress up at St. Dom! I’d had my eye on this siren red number from Johanna Ortiz for months, so I was thrilled to finally check it out in person… even if it was a few inches too long.

Two other must-see shops: Casa Chiqui for incredible Colombian interiors, and El Loto del Sur for gorgeous soaps, candles and bath products made and sold only in Colombia.

Islas de Rosario y Baru, Colombia

One of the best days of our trip consisted of a boat trip out to the islands of Rosario and Baru with a group of new friends. We were out from 10am until sunset and had an unforgettable time.

El Pescador de Colores, Isla de Baru

In the afternoon, our boat docked at a private beach club on the island of Baru. Barefoot and in our swim suits, our group shuffled into our large beachside table for [more] rosé, and a little bit of almost everything on the menu.

The highlight of the meal? This seafood paella, followed by a breezy nap on one of the restaurant’s large sun beds before getting back aboard the boat.

Mila’s, Cartagena

The morning after NYE, Eric and I stumbled out of our hotel desperate for some sustenance (as one does on New Year’s Day). What we got at Mila’s was so much more — solid bloody marys, an amazing feast, and best of all, these freshly baked churros con chocolate.

A few other favorite Cartagena eats: El Bar del Sur in the Getsemani neighborhood, and Harry’s in the Santa Teresa Hotel.