Strolling down the streets of Medellín in 82° F (28 ° C) weather can make most Northern Hemisphere expats forget that it’s December. More importantly, maybe like me, you’ve also failed to register that Christmas is less than a month away. Yikes!! Time to look for some Christmas gift ideas from Colombia.
If you haven’t started your Christmas gift shopping yet, fear not! I’ve rounded up for you a selection of 10 iconic Colombian souvenirs that you can easily pick up in Medellín as Christmas gifts and pack in your suitcase before you head home. If you are heading home for Christmas.
As a digital nomad, I’ve started to loathe collecting any more tacky souvenirs. Things like miniature replicas of the Eiffel Tower and fridge magnets. Frequent moving doesn’t allow for the collection of more material goods.
So, when I buy a Christmas gift for someone, I choose to buy what I would prefer to have. And right now, that usually only includes items I will use daily or consume quickly.
So, with that criteria in mind. Here is my selection of the 10 most iconic Colombian items that could make a perfect Christmas gift for someone:
1. Pergamino Coffee Gift Set
You may be popping into this popular independent coffee roaster in El Poblado some time this week any way. So while you are there, why not pick up one of their popular boxed coffee sets.
You can choose from a variety of options. Go for the single bag box, double bag box, or double sized box with one bag of coffee and a tinto sized metallic mug emblazoned with a Pergamino logo.
I love these gift boxes as they are made of the highest quality materials and include gold engraving. Also, each box includes one of Pergamino’s beautiful postcards that tells the recipient about the delicious coffee they have received. With an average price of around 22,000 pesos, it really looks like a luxurious gift, but for only a few bucks!
If you are quick, you can also snag a bag of their seasonal Christmas blend coffee or their exclusive Geisha blend.
For my coffee snob brother, I purchased a box of the Geisha. Not cheap at 50,000 pesos, but he’s worth it. Additionally, I bought him an iconic Pergamino t-shirt. For a man who is passionate about mountain biking, loves the color orange, and always starts his day with at least two cups of coffee, I couldn’t think of a more fitting gift. (I hope he doesn’t read this before Christmas Day!)
Where to get it: Pergamino Cafe, Carrera 37 #8A-37, Medellín, Antioquia
2. Tilín Tilín Chocolate
Whilst you are at Pergamino, also pick up some Tilín Tilín Chocolate for your stocking stuffers.
Colombia is one of the top Cacao producing countries in the world, which makes bringing back some chocolate from the region another iconic choice after coffee.
Whilst you can pick up some low-grade bars from the likes of Exito or Carulla, I would wouldn’t recommend it. These mass-produced bars are blended with unnecessary additives and many of the cacao beans have been fumigated before roasting.
Tilín Tilín Chocolate is different. It is a small, locally run artisan chocolate bar maker that focuses on providing you with organic, unadulterated cacao in their high cacao percentage bars.
Their low-processed production method helps retain the natural antioxidants characteristic of high quality chocolate. Which in turn, enhances the complex flavors.
The other thing that I love about Tilín Tilín chocolate bars is that they aren’t too sweet. Whilst many chocolate bars today list sugar as their main ingredient, Tilín Tilín allows the natural notes of the hazelnut, berries and red wine found in cacao to predominate. The result is a smooth dark chocolate that is low in sugar with just the right amount of bitterness.
I recently spoke with the founder of Tilín Tilín, Danny Michlewicz, who informed me that they are also offering a super limited edition of larger sized artisan bars that come elegantly gift wrapped in biodegradable packaging.
These elegantly presented hexagon bars, encrusted with whole nuts on top include the story of Tilín Tilín and the importance of chocolate in Colombia. With only 1,500 available, be quick!
Where to get it: Pergamino Cafe, Carrera 37 #8A-37, Medellín, Antioquia. Additionally, Tilín Tilín will be opening their first store in Provenza on December 11. Check their Facebook page for details.
3. Wayúu Hammocks
Another iconic souvenir from Colombia is the hammock. Living in the city of ‘Eternal Spring’ means that being outdoors is a regular part of daily life. I am sure that you have noticed that nearly every apartment balcony in the city is strung with one of these woven slings.
While you can purchase a Colombian hammock from one of the many touts that roam the streets in Medellín, I would recommend buying a luxury hammock from Wayúu hammocks instead.
Guaranteed to be 100% Colombia, these high-quality, handwoven pieces are made by the indigenous Wayúu tribe. These timeless pieces, whilst modern in design, still preserve the Colombian heritage and craftsmanship.
These are luxury hammocks, which is reflected in the price, but the company does not compromise on quality or on its social responsibility. There are no sewing machines involved in the production.
The pieces are produced in the crafters homes by mostly single mothers. The hammock fringes are made using the traditional macramé technique.
Colombian Wayúu Hammocks are a meaningful symbol of this country’s indigenous heritage. They are an excellent gift for any special friend or family member.
Where to get it: http://www.hamacasdedioses.com/
4. Wayúu Bags
If the Wayúu Hammocks are out of your price range, then opt to pick up a a Wayúu bag instead.
These brightly colored woven bags have recently been spotted on the shoulders of the globes hottest A-Listers. But you can pick up an original here in Medellín for a fraction of the price.
Arguably, Colombia’s most famous and globally recognized artisan product, the mochila shoulder bags are also woven by the indigenous Wayúu people.
Located in the isolated desert of the Guaijra Peninsula, a purchase of one of these bags will not only bring a squeal of delight from your female friend or family member, but it also helps provide much-needed income to this poor community.
Just remember that many artisans take hours or weeks of hard work to create these pieces, so expect to pay a fair price for them. At one of the local markets around town, I was quoted a price of around 46,000 pesos for a large bag. You will pay more for the thick strapped bags as these take longer to make.
Where to get it: The street vendors around Parque Llarres and Parque Poblado sell these iconic bags. Or if you are headed to Cartagena, pick one up there.
5. Ceramics from El Carmen de Viboral
Did you know that just an hour away from Medellín there is a small pueblo that is world renowned for producing artisan ceramics? Even the Pope has some pieces from this region of Colombia.
I recently toured the Ceramicas Renacer factory in El Carmen de Viboral and saw first-hand the meticulous care that is put into each piece.
The women artisans hand paint each cup, saucer, and plate without a stencil, using only a previous piece of work as a guide. Nearly all of the pieces are painted in fresh, bright colors inspired by the flower farms surrounding the hillsides of Medellín: pansies, orchids, roses and hydrangeas.
Purchasing such handicrafts in the United States or Europe would cost a fortune. Here I picked up an exquisite cup and saucer set for just 19,000 pesos.
6. Comuna 13 Graffiti T-Shirts
If you haven’t taken a tour of Comuna 13 yet, I would highly recommend it! This barrio of Medellín was once considered the most dangerous place in the world.
Now it is a vibrant neighborhood exploding with street art, being gentrified with public escalators, and welcoming tourists.
During the tour, you will pass by an outdoor gift shop where a very entrepreneurial local sells images of the most popular street art on posters and t-shirts. For a small fee, a custom t-shirt can be made.
My friend purchased a t-shirt for her nephew during our tour. It included an image from the renowned graffiti artist @Chota13. The t-shirt was hand pressed using a hot machine and was delivered to my friend in person whilst she finished the tour.
A unique item for any age group on your list, but an especially great gift idea for children.
Where to get it: Comuna 13. I advise taking a tour from one of the following companies:
- Comuna 13 Tours – cost is 70,000 pesos per person
- Medellín Graffiti Tour – cost is 60,000 pesos per person
- Stairway Storytellers
7. A bottle of Aguardiente
Ok, I’m not sure every receiver is going to love you for this one, but it is one of the most iconic drinks of Colombia. In fact, it has been the most popular alcoholic beverage in the Andean region since the Spanish era.
For those of you that haven’t tried this potent spirit yet, aguardiente is an anise-flavored liquor. t is derived from the sugar cane popular in the Andean regions and has a fierce 29% alcohol content. To enjoy like a local, it is recommended to shoot it neat.
Where to get it: Any local supermarket will have a variety to choose from.
8. A Vueltiao Sombrero
For the men in your life, choose a Vueltiao Sombrero (Spanish for turned hat).
These white and black hats have become a symbol of Colombia. Originating from the Zenú indigenous people, they are made of a locally grown type of cane. There is a wide variety in the price and quality of hats that you can purchase. Most of this is determined by the the number of strips required to produce the hat.
A 15-strip hat takes around three days to make and will be one of the cheapest you can buy and the most common you can find. A 27-strip hat is a serious investment. This variety can take up to thirty days to make, but will last you longer. Generally speaking, the more flexible the hat is, the higher the quality and the higher you’ll pay.
Go with what your budget can allow.
Where to get it: You will often find men selling the hats along Calle 10 in Poblado.
9. Beaded Jewelry
For the women in your life, choose a piece of beaded jewelry handcrafted by indigenous tribe’s women.
Up and down Calle 10 in El Poblado you will find indigenous tribes women of Colombia making necklaces and bracelets from miniature, brightly colored beads. The designs are incredibly intricate and painstakingly crafted.
I’ve always preferred, where possible, to buy artisan products directly from the artist. Seeing a piece being crafted in front of you makes it an extra special gift for someone in your life. These incredibly crafted one of kind pieces are available from around 35,000 pesos each.
Where to get it: You will usually find several indigenous women making jewelry on the sidewalks up and down Calle 10 in El Poblado.
10. Guava Paste
Medellín is full of exotic tropical fruits. While you can’t bring fresh fruit out of Colombia and into yours, you can bring guava paste.
This sweet, gooey, concoction is available from many shops in a dense brick form. In addition, there are several varieties. The unadulterated form; those with a sugar dusting; and some stuffed with arequipe.
Sliced up and paired with with cheese, and it makes the perfect appetizer. Or buy individually wrapped portions for snacks.
A Colombia treat for the sweet tooth in your life.
Where to get it: Most supermarkets will have it. Check in the aisle with the nuts, peanut butter and chocolate.
Bottom Line: Christmas Gift Ideas
This is just a selection of my favorite Christmas gift items from Colombia; things that I will be bringing back home for my family and friends.
If none of these tickles your fancy, then I’d also suggest heading to the two gift shops at Medellín’s Modern Art Museum to possibly find some good Christmas gift ideas.
These stores also have some wonderful artisan and locally made products for sale, including a wider selection of ideas for children. For purchase are hammocks, beaded jewelry, woven baskets, wooden cooking utensils, Medellín t-shirts, scarves and toys.
And if you are looking for something beyond Christmas gift ideas and looking to do something in Medellín in December or early January, make sure to head out to see the World-Class Alumbrados (Christmas Lights) in Medellín.
What other Christmas gift ideas do you have? Please drop us a line below in the comments to tell us what iconic souvenir item you will be bringing or sending home as a Christmas gift from this beautiful country.