My roommate and I decided to go to Medellín when we learned that we received two extra weeks of travel time. We spent a total of five days “in” Medellín, but only three of these were spent in seeing the city. The national airport that flies to Medellín actually flies to an airport about an hour outside of the city, so most of our first and last day consisted of us taking buses, taxis and planes.
When I first decided that I wanted to go to Colombia, everyone told me I needed to go to Medellín. It is famous for being the Land of the Eternal Spring with a year round fantastic climate, clean streets, an efficient metro and beautiful sites. I am not a huge fan of big cities, so I wasn’t particularly prioritizing a trip there. I assumed that it would be similar to any other city I’ve visited and I’ve seen quite a few including Madrid, New York, and London with small differences and the general impression being that of money and people and dirt. I went because my roommate wanted to go, I had the time, and it wasn’t going to be expensive. I figured I would make the best of it, but I wouldn’t find anything particularly impressive.
I was wrong.
Medellín has a heart of its own, and I really enjoyed my time there. Granted, I stayed in a hostel in the ritziest area of town (El Poblado) and I didn’t have to work or actually live there, but I definitely appreciated my glamorous view of the city.
Our first full day in Medellín we spent wandering downtown. The main plaza is filled with statues by Botero, who is an iconic Colombian artist.
We also went to the Botanical Garden (which was free) and a couple of parks in the city. One of the things I noticed about the city is that there were a lot of accessible green spaces. There was a little park on almost every corner of the areas I walked through. Once night fell, we admired the alumbrado of the city. Every year, for the month of December, the city’s parks, the walk along the river, and many buildings are covered in Christmas lights.
The second day, we took a bus to Guatapé ($12,000 COP), which was the one thing I really wanted to do while I was there. Guatapé is a nearby pueblo which is famous for La Piedra (The Rock). We first went to the little town of Guatapé which is filled with brightly colored houses that are covered in whimsical designs.
After looking around the town, we took a bus to La Piedra ($2,000 COP). We walked up the hill to La Piedra which is a ginormous rock that looks out of place and strange from up close. We stopped on the way up the hill to eat bandeja paisa at a lookout over the mountains. (Bandeja paisa is a typical dish from the region). We got to the base of the rock and payed the entrance fee ($10,000 COP). We then climbed the 700 stairs to the top of the rock. We spent over an hour at the top simply admiring the fantastic view.
The region is covered in lakes and mountains. I was pretty happy to be up there as you can see by the photo.
On the third day, we went to the Pueblito Paisa which is free and is a replica of a “typical” pueblo from the region. We also took the metrocable up to Parque Arví (a national park) where we walked around. The metrocable is a part of the public transportation system in Medellín and allows city dwellers to get to their homes that are nestled in the mountains on the edge of the city and allow tourists to go to the national park and admire the city from above.
Overall, I had a fantastic time in the city and managed to spend under $650,000COP/$325USD for everything.
Traveler’s Note: Despite the reputation that the city has, I would say that it is generally very safe. I did watch someone get pickpocketed on a city bus, but that can happen in any major city and precautions should be taken no matter where you are traveling. It is not recommended to be downtown after 6PM, but El Poblado is safe at all hours.