Marg and Leigh's travels around the world

We are two retired women from New Zealand, busy travelling the world. Our quest is to experience other cultures before they are changed beyond recognition, and see endangered animals and environments before they disappear. We hope you like our blog and enjoy our exploits. We sure have had fun getting here.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Medellin (Colombia)

Leaving Salento, we doubled back to the north, through Pereira again to get to our next destination, Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia and gateway to the lakes district.

Trucks making a slow trip to Medellin
The route was very mountainous, and the road winding and narrow, which made for a slow bus trip.

It was made even slower by the huge number of trucks on the route with almost no opportunity to overtake.

While it was slow, and frustrating at times, it did provide a respite from our otherwise speedy and manic bus driver. Colombian drivers are the worst we have experienced!

Eventually, about an hour and a half later than scheduled, we arrived in Medellin.

At the Medellin bus terminal, we showed taxi drivers our hotel address and they just shook their heads and drove off! About fifteen frustrating minutes later, a lovely young local guy, noticing our difficulty, stopped a taxi for us and we put ourselves and our bags in before giving the driver the address. It worked!

Medellin from the hills
Our hotel, Guest House Poblado-Manila, wasn't quite what we expected as it was much more basic and didn't look like the photos on!

Arthur, the owner, was very pleasant and helpful so we just decided to go with it, especially as it had been very hard to find accommodation for the dates we were there, and it was only for two nights.

The location was great - in the suburb or Poblado, lots of treed streets, bohemian atmosphere, and plenty of restaurants.

We had only stopped in Medellin to visit two places - El Peñol and Guatapé - both about two hours north of Medellin. The night we arrived in Medellin, we were tired after the bus ride, but we only had that night to figure out what bus to catch to get to these places. However, Arthur stepped in and even though it was around 8 pm, he came to the rescue by getting us onto a tour.

Peñol - La Fénix de América statue 
Next morning at 7 am, we were picked up by our tour bus and off we went. Everyone else on the bus was Spanish speaking as was our guide (but she did have Google translate!).

Meals were included in the trip price, and we stopped at a roadside restaurant for a traditional breakfast – yum!

An hour or so later, we arrived at a small town called Peñol. This had a church that is a replica of El Peñol – The Rock, and an interesting female form giant statue depicting a phoenix.

Peñol kids
The town was a little quiet and we stopped only for an ice cream, stretch and toilet.

We were amused to see a classroom of kids perched on a nearby wall eating their lunch. They reminded us of a well behaved flock of wee birds that perch on power lines - very cute.

Shortly after that, we arrived at Laguna de Guatapé, a huge lake created mostly through the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

Marg - Laguna de Guatapé
At the lake lookout, there is a replica of Viejo Peñol, a village that was submerged by the creation of the lake. Later on we saw a cross on the water, marking the site of the village.

To our pleasant surprise, we were taken for a boat ride on the lake.

Unfortunately, the boat had the loudest Latin American music we have ever heard - absolutely deafening and you couldn't escape it or talk over it.

El Peñol  (The Stone) and 740 stairs
No-one else seemed to mind the music volume, and many were moving to the salsa rhythm - so we decided we had delicate ears and gave in to it!

Before long, we saw the bombed out remains of the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s lake-side mansion, which is now a tourist attraction.

An hour or so later and back on land, we drove to the foot of El Peñol - The Stone.

El Peñol is actually a massive rock, standing at 2,135 metres above sea level, which formed millions of years ago. 

There are 740 steps to the very top of the rock and we climbed them all, with a few stops on the way.

The outlook from the top was spectacular and gave us a great overview of the lake area.

El Peñol - view from the top
Then we had to get down the rock - so hard on the knees!

We made it down to have a very nice local trout for lunch, all included in the tour price, before boarding the bus to go to Guatapé.

Guatapé is a gorgeous wee town on the edge of a lake.  

The town has a mass of narrow cobbled streets with the most amazing, colourfully decorated buildings.

Colourful Guatapé village
The lower part of each building is painted and sculpted to a theme that depicts village life. 

They are wonderful and very different to anything we have seen before.

We had a lovely time exploring before bussing back to Medellin.

It had been a long day but we achieved our objective of seeing this interesting area.

Colourful Guatapé village
We found a cute local restaurant in Medellin for a nice dinner before packing up again for an early start to the airport.

The airport is miles out of town and our taxi driver took all corners at speed – Colombian drivers have one speed and its fast!

As we bid Medellin farewell, we decided that we were happy with what we had seen even though we had limited time.

We are getting quite tired in our travelling now and looking forward to a long break at our next destination (and last on this trip) - Cartagena on the Caribbean.


  1. I am thoroughly enjoying reading your blog - it brings back marvellous memories of my 4 months in South America in 2008 - I have been reliving the experience through your transcripts - thank you so much and love to you both - Brigid (we met on the boat going to see The Northern Lights!!

  2. Wow! El Peñol looks so interesting. I wonder what H&S would say about the staircase? :-)