Hike the Rock

They are saying stairs workout are the best. In that case, hiking La Piedra del Peñol is the best and most beautiful workout of your life.

El Peñón de Guatapé is a must see jewel when you go to Medellin. In the 1940s, the Colombian government declared it a National Monument. It is 2 hours away from the city and the easiest to visit it is to take a tour. I took a private tour: Land Venture Travel. It is very affordable.

The rock was first climbed officially in July 1954, when Luis Villegas, Pedro Nel Ramirez, and Ramón Díaz climbed the rock in a five-day endeavor, using sticks that were fixed against the rock’s wall. When at the top, amazed by the beautiful view, they thought of a way of allowing people to get to the top and see the view. This is how the stairs were built in the middle of the rock. Luis, Pedro, and Ramon wanted to share the beauty with the whole village.

On the way to the Piedra del Peñol, the rock of Guatapé, you can stop a few times to take pictures of the rock from far. Impressive. 

Piedra del Peñol

When you arrive at the rock, you can see all the stairs you need to take to get to the top. 740 of them! Take your time, you can do it. Make the effort to go up those stairs because the view from up there is just out of this world. The summit contains a three-story viewpoint tower, a convenience store, and a seating area. Just relax and admire the view. Peaceful.

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Sleep with Tequila

After a visit at the Jose Cuervo Distillery and agave field, spend the night at Tequila at the amazing Solar de Las Animas Hotel.

The newly built resort offers a great restaurant and bar downstairs, as well as a rooftop bar and pool. The perfect way to relax after a full day of Tequila tasting.

 

Go to Guadalajara

No need to travel far for an exotic gateway. Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico is the perfect town to enjoy the Mexican culture and Tequila, of course.

Day 1: Guadalajara Old Town

Check out the Guadalajara Old Town with its beautiful architecture and its amazing food markets. Here is your free walking tour:

GDL walking guide

Have Breakfast/Lunch at the Libertad Market (San Juan de Dios Market). On the 1st floor, you have small vendors, which are perfect for souvenir shopping. On the 2nd floor, you have a huge food court with authentic Mexican food. The beef tacos are to die for.

 

Then, head out of the market, towards La Plaza de Los Mariachis. From there, take the pedestrian boulevard called Calle Pedro Moreno – The Street of Weddings, well you can see right away why it is called that way. The end of the street will take you to Plaza de Armas, Guadalajara Cathedral, and Plaza de La liberation. At the square, there is a giant sign of the name of the city; the perfect picture stop. On one side of the plaza, enter the Palace of the Governor and check out The Mural Painting “Lucha Social” by Jose Clemente Orozco depicting Miguel Hidalgo issuing the Cry for Independence. It is an impressive mural.

 

Take a break at the Teatro Degollado cafe and enjoy the architecture of the old town.

Continue your walk toward the back of the building. Another great architecture design. Walk down this other walking street, Paseo Hospocio. You will pass by the Children’s Fountain on Devils Corner and the huge flame sculpture inspired fountain at Plaza Tapatia, to get to the Chairs “La Sala de Los Magos” designed by Alejandro Colunga by Hospicio Cabanas Museum. If you have time enter the Institute Cultural Cabanas and check out the man on fire Mural on the roof and other art installations.

 

 

Day 2: Sunday Funday

Spend a day at the artsy neighborhood of Tlaquepaque. The pedestrian street has art boutiques perfect for some souvenir shopping. The restaurants are very lively and they all have Mariachis.

Tiaquepaque

If you get to be in town on a Sunday, make sure to go to the Charro show, a competitive event similar to the rodeo, at the Lienzo charro Charros de Jalisco. Charreada has become the official sport of Mexico. The charreada consists of nine events for men plus one for women, all of which involve horses, cattle or both. It is a fun Sunday event where families go to encourage their man. Boys can start as early as 5 years old.

 

Day 3: Jose Cuervo Tequila Day Tour

Refer to my worthy tours article

 

 

Eat authentic Mexican food and Dance:

For happy hour:

  • Trasfonda – Restaurant in a garden for the best guacamole

Trasfonda

For dinner :

  • I Latina is a great restaurant with a unique bar and decoration. Don’t hesitate to seat at the bar if needed. The food and the ambiance are worth it.
  • La Tequila has great food and ambiance. The Tequila Bar wall by the entrance is very welcoming.

 

Drink and Dance at:

  • La Lupita Cantina in the old town with its unique wall decoration and amazing reggaeton music is a must go place on the weekend.
  • Pare de Sufrir is the Iconic Mezcal bar. Get a shot of Mezcal to sip with a cold beer. On the weekends they have live bands. It’s an amazing local bar.

 

 

Macchu Picchu and Peru

While in Peru, make sure to take a 3-day tour to see Cusco and one of the new 7 wonders, Macchu Picchu.

A lot of company offer the same 3-day tour where you will have a chance to see beautiful Inca sites, proof of the greatness of the empire.

Cusco City, the historical capital of the Inca Empire and its Cathedral La Iglesia and Convento Santo Domingo on the main square Plaza de Armas and the Inca landmark of Qorikancha. At night, the Plaza is very lively and all the restaurants and bars are full of locals and tourists.

Right outside of the city, you will be able to see other Inca landmarks like the archeological site of Tambomachay, the citadel of Sacsaywaman, the Huayllay National Sanctuary and the village of Ollantaytambo in the sacred valley. You will stop at Mirador Taray, the place to have the best view of Cusco and the surrounding nature.

Macchu Picchu is a day trip by itself. You will take the blue train to the Macchu Picchu city called Aguas Calientes . From there, you will take a bus to the ruins. Be ready to start some walking but it is so worth it. You will soon be able to witness the breathtaking 15th Century Inca site. The scenic is just breathtaking.

 

Back in Lima, make sure to head to Downtown, The place for shopping but also to admire the old streets and some fine architecture works.

The World from the above

Don’t we all have the obsession to see the world from the above?
Didn’t we start flying for that reason?
I love to discover each city from the above. I always search for the highest point; It can be a mountain, a tower or a building. You can tell a lot from seeing a city from the above. The roofs, the architecture, the city mapping tells a lot about the history of the city. I have a feeling that I did not “own” the city until I see it from the above.  Here are my favorite “from the above” views so far:

  1. Prague

Prague is famous for its traditional houses with the red roofs. The houses are white and all see is those red roofs pop up.

You can go on top of the towers at the end of Charles Bridge to have a view of the Prague Castle or Prague Old Town. It is worth the 200 stairs

Before entering the Castle or while walking in its garden, there are many different view points from where you get to admire the red roofs of Prague.

Prague From the above
Prague From the above
Prague From the above
Prague From the above
  1. Budapest

Climb up the St Stephen’s Basilica to have that view of the city . You can also admire the city from the above from the Buda Castle.

Budapest From the above
Budapest From the above
  1. Medellin City

Medellin is located in Aburra Valley in the Andes Mountain and it went from being an agricultural town to the second largest city in Colombia.

Take the famous cable cars to found yourself on top of the city.

Medellin From the above
Medellin From the above
  1. Guatape

The Penol of Guatape near Medellin offers a view of the paradise. When the first man was able to go all the way up the rock, he was so amazed by the view that he said he needs to share  that view with is everybody else. This is how the stairs along the rock were built. Now the 740 stairs still look rustic but they are well designed to allow people to get on top of the rock and admire the breathtaking view. What looks like paradise, is actually a view of the flooded villages and a huge reservoir of water.

From the above Guatape
Guatape From the above
  1. Bogota

Take a look at the Capital of Colombia, an urban Jungle.

Go up the Cerro de Monserrate to have the view of Bogota , Modern Capital.

  1. Los Angeles

The DTLA tall buildings are now part of the LA scenery famous postcards and it doesn’t seem the skyscrapers project is slowing down.

Go up the Skyspace LA from where you can have a view of the DTLA. You can also ride the glass slide, the latest LA Attraction.

  1. Paris

My favorite place in Paris is Montmartre. Beside the Sacre Coeur Church and the square with all the cafes and artists, you can also catch a great view of Paris.

Paris From the above
ParisFrom the above
  1. Seville

Seville stays a picturesque city even from the above. From the Giralda Tower, you can see the Alcazar Garden and the houses are so close that you can even spy on neighbors. Seville roofs are so famous that there is a “Rooftop Tour” https://www.getyourguide.com/seville-l48/seville-walking-tour-from-the-roof-tops-t35852/

Seville From the above
Seville From the above

 

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Cancun Escapade

Whether you live on the East Coast or the West Coast, Cancun is the perfect getaway vacation for a long weekend or for a Spring Break.

As soon as you land in Cancun you can feel the heat and the humidity. Cancun Hotel Zone is a street with all the hotels back to back. The Hotel Zone ends in Downtown Cancun. I stayed at Royal Solaris All Inclusive Resort. It’s the perfect combination of a budget-friendly hotel with a great pool and area.

You can enjoy Cancun at the Hotel Pool with again the all-inclusive service which means as many Margaritas and Daiquiris as you want by the poolside or at the pool bar. You can also escape the hotel and go to the Hotel Beachfront. That white sand and clear water is so tempting.

What I loved about Cancun is that it offers a tropical paradise; you can relax and tan by the pool or at the beach, but also an adventure. Cancun is the closest city to Chichen Itza, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO Heritage site.

Chichen Itza Day tour can be booked online or at the hotel, where they offer great deals. They picked us up at the hotel. First stop Sacred Cenote, Cenote Sagrado. What a natural wonder. We entered the Cenote, welcomed by locals. It was impressive to see the depth of the Cenote. Down in the Cenote, we got to assist at a traditional dance. Cenotes were used by the ancient Maya Civilization for sacrificial offerings.  A lot of people were diving and swimming; I got scared by all the small fishes that one could see in the water. We then headed to Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza which means “at the mouth of the well of Itza” is one of the largest Maya cities and our tour guide walked us around the whole archeological site. We saw the Bail Court, where they sometimes have special concerts, the Group of Thousands Columns, the Temple of the Warriors and of course dominating the site, El Castillo, the famous Kukulkan Pyramid. The tour gave us ample time to wander around on our own and take pictures. We ended that day tour at a local traditional buffet style restaurant where we had great food and great show by traditional dancers.

Cancun also offers a lot of Beach activities like Jet Skiing or snorkeling. I took a day tour to Isla Mujeres. We left the port in the morning. On the way to Isla Mujeres, we stopped for snorkeling. It was magical to see all those colorful fishes.  We stopped at a small beach for lunch and got to touch a shark. I was scared but it was a lot of fun. I wish I had more time and could actually spend a night is the island. It is definitely a little paradise on earth.

At night, even if the resort offers a lot of activities, DJ, and dancing, you need to go to Downtown Cancun. It’s a very small downtown with few clubs but a lot is happening at night. There is a party bus that stops at every hotel in the Hotel Zone and takes you to the clubs. What a way to start the night. The most famous club is Coco Bongo. You will have to pay to get in but it’s worth it. Coco Bongo is NOT your average club; it’s a club and a concert place. The main room is huge with about 5 levels and everybody has eyes on the stage. No DJ on the stage but your favorite singers’alikes coming to perform. And if you like 90’s music you will love. From Michael Jackson to the Spice Girls, all of the most famous singers alike will come and perform all night long. Oh and I almost forgot, it’s all you can drink. It is a crazy experience that you need to live while in Cancun.

 

Piedra del Peñol & Guatapé Tour

A must take, Worthy Tour

Piedra del Peñol or more commonly known as el Peñón de Guatapé is a must see jewel when you go to Medellin. It is 2 hours away from the city and the easiest to visit it is to take a tour. I took a private tour: Land Venture Travel. It is very affordable.

Andres pick us up at the hotel and instead of taking the boring highway that usually big tour buses take, we took the beautiful scenic route to Guatapé. We had the first stop at the Tequendamita Fall. If you didn’t get a chance to go see the Tequendama Fall in Bogota, this is the perfect occasion to see the small replica and no bad smell here.

Then, we headed to la Piedra del Peñol, the rock of Guatapé. We stopped a few times to take pictures of the rock from far. Impressive. All along, Andres was telling the story of Medellin, Guatapé, and el Peñón.

When you arrive at the rock, you can see all the stairs you need to take to get to the top. 740 of them! Take your time, you can do it. Make the effort to go up those stairs because the view from up there is just out of this world. Just relax and admire the view. Peaceful.

After the effort, we headed to Guatapé village for lunch. Andres had a perfect local restaurant in mind where we enjoyed Club Colombia Beer and a typical Colombian lunch. After lunch, Andres gave us a tour of the village. We walked through the waterfront and Remembrance Street. I felt in love with that very colorful village.

Andres Munera was an amazing tour guide. I will recommend everybody to take the tour with him. He was very friendly, had anecdotes about the region, speaks English and Spanish and he is very knowledgeable. It is worth it to take a personable tour to get to know the rich history of a Piedra del Peñol and Guatapé.

Thank you Andres

Ultimate Guide to Cartagena

I stayed in Boca Grande, the Miami Beach of Cartagena. The other good place to stay is inside the walled city, in the old town.

 

Day 1: The walled city and the fortress

Enter the walled city. The clock tower, Puerta Del Reloj, is the symbol of the city. When walking around, you will see colorful Fruit Ladies. Tip them and you will be able to take pictures. The old town has the most famous ice cream shops. If it’s a hot day, you will need to go to Gelato Paradiso for a threat. For lunch or happy hour stop at Plaza Santo Domingo to enjoy a drink, traditional food and at happy hour time, the Colombian dancers gather and you can admire the Maple Dance, the traditional dance by the slaves.

After the visit of the old town, head first to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the old fortress and then to La Popa, a cathedral on top of the city. You will need to get a cab to go to those 2 places.

At night, have dinner at the sophisticated restaurant La Vitrola. It is a dressy spot for both locals and tourists. Then walk to Café del Mar at the entrance of the walled city. The huge outdoor lounge offers the best view possible of the sunset. Grab a Club Colombia Beer and enjoy the best DJ. That lounge is my favorite lounge is the world.

 

Day 2: The Rosario Islands and Playa Blanca

You will need to book a tour to get to that beach. Every morning the boats leave for Playa Blanca from the main port. Note that you will have to pay for a port tax. It is a 45min ride and you will found yourself in paradise. The Water is clear and the sand white.  The Seafood lunch is part of the tour and it is so good. The downside is the beach is full of locals that are trying to sell you items. Be patient and politely say no.

If you want a private beach, you will have to go to a resort.

At night, you can party on a Chiva Party Bus. Book the party bus at your hotel or online. The Chiva Bus is a typical Colombian Party Bus. They pick you up at the hotel; there are music and local alcohol on the bus. Everybody is dancing and singing. After partying in the bus, all the Chiva buses stop at the walled city before dropping everybody off at a club in Getsemani. They come back around midnight to pick you up.

 

Day 3:

  • You can go to the beach in Cartagena.
  • You can go to Santa Marta Beach by boat or taxi but it is 4h away! You might want to stay the night there to fully enjoy the beach and relax
  • You can so go to the Lost City – El Pueblito, the archeological remains of a lost city in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in The Tayrona´s National park. Again, it will be better to stay in the area for the night to fully enjoy the experience.
  • You can go to the Mud Volcano and enjoy healing powers of the mud baths

 

 

Ultimate Guide to Medellin

I stayed at the Diez Hotel in Zona Rosa which is the best neighborhood for cafes, restaurants, and bars.

Day 1: Day trip to Guatape

It is 2 hours away from the city. I took a private tour. It is very affordable and Andres Munera was an amazing tour guide. I will recommend everybody to take the tour with him.

We took the scenic route to Guatape and did the first stop at the Tequendamita Fall. If you didn’t get a chance to go see the Tequendama Fall in Bogota, this is the perfect occasion to see the small replica and no bad smell here.  Then, we headed to El penol, the rock of Guatape. We stopped a few times to take pictures of the rock from far. Impressive. All Along, Andres was telling the story of Medellin, Guatape, and el Penol. When you arrive at the rock, you can see all the stairs you need to take to get to the top. 740 of them! Take your time, you can do it. The view from up there is just out of this world. Just relax and admire the view. Peaceful.  After the effort, we headed to Guatape village for lunch. After lunch, Andres gave us a tour of the waterfront and Remembrance Street. I felt in love with that very colorful village.

 

Day 2 and 3: Medellin city

 I took the hop on hop off, turibus. It is the perfect way to visit the city.

The bus stops are:

Plaza Botero is the Home to 23 of Fernando Botero’s larger-than-life sculptures. That Plaza is worth an extended stop to admire all the amazing “large” people sculptures. Parque Berrio is across the street from Plaza Botero, this small park is always filled with juice vendors and local street performers playing traditional Colombian music.

Jardin Botanico is the big Botanic Garden of Medellin.

Pueblito Paisa is small traditional village recreated atop Cerro Nutibarra, a small hill in the center of the valley. The hill offers terrific, near 360-degree views of the city. It also has a church and souvenir shops.

El Castillo Museo y Jardines was Inspired by the castles of the French Loire Valley, El Castillo was constructed in 1930.

Parque Arvi: take the famous Medellin Metro cable to get to that Park, one of the region’s largest nature reserves.

Parque de los pies descalzos : this park in the middle of the city offers relaxing activities that can be done barefoot, hence the name of the park.

 

At night stay in Zona Rosa. The Park is surrounded by restaurants. Pick any, they are all good

For the dance and drink part, head to Mojito Bar, one street away from the park. The little bar runs on mojito and they have salsa classes some nights. Don’t be shy and dance.

Ultimate Guide to Bogota

Bogota in 3 days

I’m staying in the old town, La Candelaria neighborhood. It is perfect for the touristy activities during the day but it is a dead neighborhood at night. For the night festivities, you have to head to Zona T.

Day1: Monserrate and Usaquen

Cerro Monserrate is a few blocks away from old town but unless you love hiking, you are better off taking a cab to the cable cars that will take you all the way up. At Monserrate, you can have a 360 view of Bogota, visit the Monserrate Church and you can also see from there el Cerro de Guadalupe which is a huge statue of Guadalupe. If you have extra time, you can also cab it all the way there.

For lunch, head to Usaquen, a colonial town near Bogota. They have really good restaurants and cafes. You can relax by the park and check out the Iglesia Santa Bárbara (Santa Barbara Church). If you go there on a Sunday, they have their famous flea market, the perfect place to buy souvenirs made by locals.

At Night, head to Andres Carne de Res. It is in Chia, an hour outside of Bogota but you won’t regret it. It is a huge restaurant with amazing food and after dinner time the music becomes loud and everybody will be on the dancefloor. It is the best restaurant I’ve been to.

Day2: Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira and the Mystic Lake Guatavita

Start the day early and go the Salt Cathedral a few hours away from Bogota. You will need to get a tour or cab it there. I got a private chauffeur for that day.

After the visit of that breath-taking cathedral built in a salt mine, I headed to Lake Guatavita. On my way there, I stopped at a small food cart to get the traditional Arepas con queso which is special bread filled with Cheese. So Yummy.

Lake Guatavita and the village are 1 hour away from the Salt Cathedral. You will fall in love with the lake and the little village.

At night, Zona T is an area famous for its abundance of good food, and a plethora of pubs and bars, including the famous Bogotá Beer Company and Andrés DC. Andres DC is the most stop for drinks and dancing. It is a 4 story building with a bar and dance floor on each level. This is where the young crowd is.

Day3: The Tequendama Fall and La Candelaria

La Candelaria is the name of the Old Town. It is full of museums from Museo de Oro to Museo Botero and Museo de la Esmeralda (Emerald Museum). The one that is worth going to is the Botero Museum. Botero is a Colombian artist and you will see his work in every city. He is famous for his paintings and sculptures of people in “large” and they actually call that “boterismo”.

Head to the main square, called Plaza de Bolivar. The Plaza is surrounded by Capitolio Nacional, which serves as the seat of both houses of the Congress of Colombia, Palacio de Justicio and Palacio de Nariño (the official office for the executive branch of the Colombian government). At the Plaza, you can feed the pigeons and make sure you take a picture. Walk along the Palacio de Nariño and take a picture with the guards at the entrance to the Palacio de Nariño, cross the street and check out the 17th century Iglesia de San Augustín. Few streets away, you will see one of the oldest cathedrals of Colombia, Catedral Primada de Colombia.

If you need a break, enter any of the typical coffee shops and try the traditional Chocolate con queso. It’s Hot Chocolate with Cheese! It’s actually not that bad.

If you have some time left head to Tequendama Falls and the Abandoned Hotel that are 2 hours from Bogota with cab or bus. I was told by locals that it smells very very bad and it is actually not that impressive.

If you have extra time, you can also take a Coffee Plantation Tour. After all, Colombia is famous for its coffee.