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Medellin: The Phoenix of Colombia

Date: November 4, 2021 | By: Ashish Sanghrajka | Category: Travel Blog

Dear Advisor Partners,

I’ve just returned from my latest visit to Colombia and I’m happy to say, Colombia is back! I visited in June with my family and I could see a groundswell coming, a far cry from my visit last September when the city was still looking a bit empty. This time around, I could hardly believe my eyes and it’s not even festive season yet. The country is busy, active and near 100% occupancy in parts of Medellin and full in Cartagena. All this action before a single cruise ship has even returned to Cartagena. And the best part? I am in-between visits, proudly returning to Medellin next week to represent Big Five at Tourism Cares.

Normally I wouldn’t send out a blog on the same destination back to back, however, I have a few things to share with you that just couldn’t wait. First, you just have to hear about the latest and greatest in Medellin! Medellin is by far the hub for new hotels and restaurants in Colombia. Known as the city that bases tourism on transformation, it is undergoing yet another one as we speak. One of my new favorite hotels in Medellin, Quinta Ladera, has only ten rooms and was just opened this September by a charming couple, one of whom is an architect turned hotel owner. The same goes for restaurants with El Cielo opening as both a hotel and restaurant, on top of it being the only Michelin star restaurant in the city. There is also a great Japanese Colombian fusion restaurant called Koi, opened just last month in Guatape, that is simply divine. This is all in addition to the great hotels and vibrant food scene already thriving in Medellin. Seeing Medellin rise like a phoenix in a post-2020 world really put a smile on my face, ear to ear. I’ve always believed the people of Colombia work twice as hard making their country special for visitors because they refuse to be defined by a stereotype of their past. I thought that during my first visit in 2006 and I still firmly believe that today. The same can be said about Bogota and all other parts of Colombia, evidenced by my colleague being in Cali at around the same time I arrived in Medellin.

Second, let’s dive into Cartagena, which I love going back to. Here, I love going back to my favorite rum bar, El Arsenal, to see my brother Abraham. Then there’s the comical culinary experience at OhLala bistro with Carolina and Gilles as they constantly evolve their creative skills. The hotels in Cartagena are running at or near 2019 levels (some even running ahead of 2019 levels). Yet, the desire to deliver excellent, personalized service doesn’t change with Casa San Agustin, as they still remember how to make “Limonad Ashish,” a drink concocted for me years ago. The same goes for Sofitel Santa Clara, who remembered how much I enjoyed their olive tapenade and made sure to have it ready, even though the dish is no longer on their menu. One of my favorite moments was enjoying the amazing rooftop view from Casa Amarla and yes, even a sneak peek at the soon-to-be-reopened (and renamed) Casa Botero.

Third, let’s talk about entry into Colombia. As of now, no PCR test is required to enter Colombia, only the simple “checking” health form completed online and a valid passport. When completing the health form, at the end, click on “download your preregistration” before you hit accept and take a screenshot of the confirmation. Then you can print the PDF that is downloaded. If anyone needs it, I have a screen-by-screen visual ready to send by email. I do recommend my fellow travelers carry vaccination cards if you have one because you will need a rapid test or proof of vaccination to enter the oceanfront eco-lodges in Baru and beyond. Lodges like Las Islas and the soon-to-be-opened Sofitel Baru do the testing right on site. Quick and simple, leaving you more time to explore the beautiful country of Colombia to its fullest.

I can’t wait to start my 33rd visit on Monday! Please enjoy this week’s video.

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