Arriving by Plane from Cartagena, Medellin is set between green hillsides and mountains, with a winding road giving amazing views as you head to the city. Arriving into the city was overwhelming, with skyscrapers and fast roads, but Medellin is much more than this. With buzzing plazas and parks, there is lots to do, but with limited time, so much can be missed!

There are several areas in Medellin to explore.  Walking along to Poblado Parque was a true colombian experience with few foreigners about. The Paisas are friendly and I enjoyed stopping for an empanada and colombian coffee in a small cafe to watch the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.  Exploring the city with a free Real City Walking Tour, listening to historic stories and meandering through the vibrant streets are a must, but for a real small town colombian experience, a day trip to Guatape is essential!

A full day tour starting in Parque Berrío, enabled me to see the city coming to life on a monday morning. I had a translator for the trip and I was with ten other English speaking visitors from around the world. After a short journey we stopped for breakfast to enjoy the traditional Colombian arepa. We then continued a little further to Marinilla, a small town about one hour outside of Medellin. It has plazas where horses and carts meander and stalls that sell fresh tropical fruits.

Our next stop was El Peñol, a new town built in the seventies after the old town was under water! Despite being new, it has lots of charm and the Church built has been based on El Peñól de Guatapé. El Peñol de Guatapé is impressive. Standing two hundred metres high, it is a rock looking slightly out of place.

With 659 stairs zig-zagging up the front of the mountain, you feel like you’re about to take on a real challenge, but once you start, you know it’s going to be fantastic at the top. Everyone goes at their own pace (and there is room to overtake for the fast stair-climbers), stopping to enjoy the view and catch your breath, several times during the climb, but I wanted to see it from the top! It took me ten minutes and after 659 steps, I was wowed by the views. Overlooking the water and the many bays and Isles, the view was beautiful. I then realised there are another fifty or so steps to the very top. I climbed the spiralling stairs in the tower and I was met with a 360º view. The sun was shining and the views were just perfect.

After heading down the stairs it was time to head to the town of Guatapé. We enjoyed a traditional paisa lunch of bandaje paisa, although there are other options, before embarking on a boat to cruise through the isles for one hour. It was beautiful to see the landscape from the water, with rugged shorelines that the boat maneuvered between. Enjoying the sunshine on the top deck, dancing some salsa with new friends or simply relaxing and enjoying the views.

Heading into Guatapé, this little town is possibly the most colourful town you’ll ever see. With vibrant murals painted on the fronts of houses and nearly every building painted in an array of colours, making it beautiful and full of character. The Colombians are friendly and there was nothing better after walking around than enjoying a Colombian coffee in the plaza.

Guatapé and El Peñól de Guatapé should be on every visitor’s to-do-list when they visit Medellin. Either a day tour or overnight. I visited with Tour Guatapé which i booked through Ivy Hostel and would definitely recommend the fantastic day trip.