Once one of the most dangerous cities on the planet, Medellin with its barrios that sprawl the mountains surrounding the city, its hip & chick neighbourhoods & its deep & complicated history showing everywhere, may shock you & surprise you but will certainly have you saying wow!
Just soaking up the whole atmosphere & getting to grips with the scale of this up & coming metropolis could take you days or even weeks. In fact we are sure even spending a couple of months here would still not be enough time to discover all that Medellin & its surroundings has to offer. We only scratched the surface in our 4 days there, here’s what we got up to & what we enjoyed most.
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Where We Stayed
Most backpackers opt to stay in the El Poblado neighbourhood & with good reason, it feels safe, has a good amount of amenities, is easy from which to reach anywhere else in the city but still & has a very friendly feeling.
We stayed at Purple Monkey hostel, in barrio Manilla; a decent, clean hostel with the added bonus of being only a 10 minute walk from El Pobaldo’s metro station. There are plenty of restaurants in the surrounding neighbourhood, most upmarket places but perfect if you’d like to treat yourself. There are also cheap eats & street food to be found closer to Parque El Poblado or Parque Lleras, the latter being the place that people gather most nights but especially on weekends to paaarrtttaaayyy! There is also a large Exito supermarket which is great for stocking up on essentials & for buying food, as we did to cook for ourselves.
For us a must on our stay in Medellin was a ride up in the funicular to Parque Arvi, taking the metro from Poblado to Acevedo (dir. Niquia) then changing to Santo Domingo & onto to Parque Arvi we were taken right up over some of the cities barrios, giving us the most awesome views.
All of the colourful neighbourhoods below us, which have come such a long way since the days that they would have been to dangerous to roam were absolutely amazing to see. The love & attention that has been put in to building homes from the most basic of materials & the use of paint everywhere is just so cool! The higher up we got on the funicular the more we were able to see, until eventually the whole city was just there below us, such a breathtaking & for us, moving sight when you think of not just how far Medellin has come as a city but the country of Colombia as a whole. From up there the city to us was one of hope, one of happiness, kindness, determination & freedom, symbolising the Colombian people perfectly.
Afterwards the city started to disappear below us & was replaced with a sea of thick forest before we arrived at the stop for Arvi Park. A nice place for a wander around, a read about the indigenous people that originally inhabited the mountains & a walk through one of the trails, once being guided & the other taking around 3 hours, which had we had more time that day we would have definitely taken.
More than a little bit of a sore subject with the Colombian people & something that because of this we were unsure of going but we figured it is a very big part of the not only Medellin’s but Colombia’s history & we wanted to educate ourselves further than just watching the TV series narcos.
We took our tour with Paisa Road, which picked us up from our hostel at 9:30 am & cost us 60,000 COP per person. The tour was informative & interesting with a video playing through the parts that we were driving around the city. In the 3 hours we visited an old apartment building of Escobar’s, a place of worship for the Virgin Mary, Escobar’s grave and his last hideout in Medellin.
Love them or hate them Fernando Botero’s works are not only famous in Colombia but also worldwide. Medellin is the birthplace of the famous Colombian figurative artist and sculptor. His art depicts people in their true form, & is interesting to see even if art isn’t your thing. The easiest way to reach this park is to get off at the Parque Berrio metro station, it’s just a few minutes walk from there.
Well worth a day trip & away from the hustle & bustle of city life, Guatape is only an hour & a half by bus from Medellin’s north terminal & costs just 13,000 COP per person each way. You can hop off the bus at El Penon de Guatape, a huge granitic rock that you will see from quite a distance & from which you can enjoy spectacular views after climbing the 740 steps up to the top. The entrance fee to get through the gate to the stairs for the rock is 10,000 COP per person & a tuk-tuk into Guatape afterwards will cost about the same.
Guatape itself is a gorgeous & colourful town which is lovely to have a wonder around & admire all of the painted little houses, just like we did. There’s also the option to take a boat tour which we also opted for, there were 3 of us & it cost 90,000 COP in total , we just wandered down to the dock area & found a boat from there. The tour lasted around 1.5 hours, from which our driver pointed out numerous points of interest, mainly famous people’s houses & also dropped us off for a quick tour of one of Pablo Escobar’s old home.
When we’d had our fill of this quaint little town we just stood on the road heading back out of town to get a bus back to Medellin. People speak mostly Spanish in these parts so some basic idea of where you are going, what you need in Spanish would be helpful for you 🙂
That’s A Wrap
There are so many other things to see in Medellin & some that we just didn’t get round to in our short time there. After speaking with other travellers we heard that the free walking tour is a great way to get to see the city & also know than Medellin in renowned for its nightlife.
We’d really just advise getting there & seeing what takes your fancy but most of all to embrace it for what it is as once one of the most dangerous cities on the planet is a super cool & hip place to just hang out!
Thanks so much for reading we hope you’ve enjoyed it & we’ve given you some ideas if you are thinking of heading to Medellin.
From Medellin we headed onto the beautiful and fascinating city of Cartagena, find out what we got up to there…
If you have any questions or comments please add them below 🙂
Kelly & Adam x