Medellin was simply in regards to the final place anybody would go.
For many years, it was generally known as the bottom of Colombia’s most notorious cartel, the house of Pablo Escobar, and (within the early Nineteen Nineties) for actually having the world’s highest crime fee. Yep, it was very a lot no bueno.
Then, Medellin improved… lots.
I first visited Medellin again in 2014 simply earlier than it really hit the highlight. I feel for a lot of vacationers it was a beautiful shock to search out out Medellin was safer, livelier, and extra habitable than they’d imagined. Quickly, many expats and digital nomads additionally started to acknowledge Medellin as an inexpensive and engaging place to stay.
Phrase unfold. Medellin turned a factor.
Now, as I revisit Medellin in 2022, it appears the pendulum has swung the opposite approach.
These days, Colombia journey boards and discussion groups debate whether or not Medellin is ‘overrated’. Some vacationers surprise what the fuss is all about. Some digital nomads are even turning their noses up at Medellin having develop into a ‘gringo city’, overtaken by foreigners like themselves.
So what occurred? And do you have to nonetheless go to Medellin?
Let me provide you with my 2 pesos.
Plan your keep in Medellin
Is Medellin value visiting?
From a vacationer’s perspective, I feel Medellin is certainly value visiting for no less than a number of days. I’d even say it’s one of the crucial worthwhile locations in Colombia. However… it’s helpful to have the fitting expectations.
Medellin is usually a contemporary metropolis with many red-brick house blocks in addition to many shanty cities on the slopes of its surrounding hills. There isn’t that a lot of a historic previous metropolis if that’s what you’re hoping to search out.
Many of the sights and issues to do in Medellin are additionally arguably extra of curiosity to residents. It has some pretty parks, a botanical backyard, an amazing science museum, and lots of renovated public squares — however that’s perhaps not what you got here all the best way right here for. Alternatively, cultural points of interest just like the Museo de Antioquia (with its many Botero works) are absolutely extra of curiosity to guests.
In addition to this, Medellin is certainly the place to find out about its fashionable historical past and the drug cartels. It’s additionally fascinating to see how poorer areas have been utterly reinvigorated. Comuna 13 was one of many metropolis’s most harmful areas; now it’s a buzzing vacationer vacation spot famed for its avenue artwork and constructive vibes.
Medellin has nice nightlife and a whole lot of worldwide delicacies, particularly within the prosperous neighborhood of Poblado which is widespread with expats and vacationers.
Purely at face worth, I consider Medellin could be a smidge disappointing if it’s been hyped as much as you numerous. Nonetheless, I nonetheless assume Medellin is an incredible metropolis — and I consider the important thing to appreciating it’s to actually know its story.
When you perceive this story, Medellin will certainly click on for you in a giant approach. No less than, I can say it completely did for me.
There are two sorts of people that have visited Medellin: those that have completed the Medellin Actual Metropolis strolling tour and those that haven’t.
I’ve completed really numerous strolling excursions all over the world, however I nonetheless take into account this one among the many finest I’ve ever completed.
If you wish to perceive Medellin’s previous and current from a deeply private perspective, then the Actual Metropolis strolling tour is a should. It’s run by locals and all the guides lived via Medellin’s ‘unhealthy years’ ultimately.
(By the best way, I don’t earn something from this advice. It’s simply my high journey tip for Medellin!)
Removed from the standard cookie-cutter tour, the tales advised by my information left me deeply affected. Born and raised in Medellin, as a toddler he witnessed individuals getting gunned down with automated rifles proper in entrance of his home. He additionally describes a horrific grenade assault at a metro station and a market bombing that killed two dozen individuals.
By listening to from somebody who truly lived via all of it, you achieve a very vivid image of what Medellin was like only a few many years in the past. Nonetheless, this tour isn’t just in regards to the unhealthy days, however about hope and progress.
Listening to in regards to the unhealthy from the previous makes you admire what Medellin is as we speak. And also you’ll actually begin seeing it with completely different eyes.
You’ll acknowledge how Medellin went via a complete transformation. Squares that have been as soon as the scene of brutal killings have been changed into vibrant public areas. Libraries and galleries have sprung up far and wide. A constructing that was as soon as a refuge for criminals is now, fittingly, town’s Centre for Schooling.
On the left, a sculpture that after exploded in a bombing assault. The artist, Fernando Botero, insisted town hold it as-is, with a brand new sculpture positioned subsequent to it as a reminder of previous and current.
Whether or not you are taking the Actual Metropolis tour or just spend sufficient time in Medellin, you’ll little doubt quickly hear of “Metro Tradition”. It’s one other piece of Medellin’s story.
The Metro system was constructed throughout the top of the Violence (it will get written with a capital V). It shortly turned town’s major image of change. Take a better look and also you’ll see the metro system is actually a supply of pleasure among the many Paisas, totally freed from any graffiti, chewing gum, or cigarette buds.
The metro strains and its connecting cablecars have been an city planning masterstroke, serving to to tie town collectively and combine the slums with town correct, thus elevating alternatives for the poor. Within the outer barrios, you possibly can see posters subsequent to city renovation tasks with slogans reminiscent of, “right here too the Metro Life lives”, displaying how the Metro has develop into a shorthand for Medellin’s revival.
When you see Medellin on this context, it turns into a LOT extra attention-grabbing.
Different methods to get pleasure from Medellin
What I additionally like about Medellin is that you could get to know the Colombian tradition, in addition to utilizing it as an amazing base for day journeys within the area.
Other than studying the historical past, to get essentially the most out of Medellin right here are some things I like to recommend:
Make a journey to Guatape
Okay, this can be a bit touristy, however it’s actually enjoyable.
Guatape is a village famed for its vibrant homes with fantastically sculpted depictions of village life adorning the decrease halves of each home. It’s a fairly place to spend a while.
It’s also house to the rock of Peñol, a powerful inselberg with 650 steps resulting in the highest, from the place you possibly can watch an attractive lake-strewn panorama.
It’s pretty straightforward to get to however it takes a little bit of time: take the Medellin Metro to Terminal del Norte, from there it’s a 2-hour bus journey to Guatape costing about 11,000 pesos.
For a extra guided and full expertise you too can take a tour, reminiscent of this Guatape day journey on GetYourGuide (which additionally features a boat journey) or this Guatape day journey on Viator. The excursions are quicker as they embrace lodge pickup and no public transit.
The hills round Medellin are excellent launching areas for paragliding. Tandem flights require no particular expertise, are comparatively cheap, and provide spectacular views of town.
Make a journey to Jerico or Jardin
These colourful cities within the coffee-growing area south of Medellin are very enjoyable to go to. You’ll see loads of espresso farmers and cowboys milling in regards to the streets and markets and among the many rolling inexperienced hills you possibly can go to waterfalls or take a espresso tour.
It takes about 4 hours to Jerico or 3 hours to Jardin, so chances are you’ll want to keep in a single day to make it definitely worth the journey.
See a soccer/soccer match
Not being into soccer a lot myself, this was extra of an anthropological train than the rest, however I beloved seeing how passionate the Colombians get about this sport. Go along with a bit group (or a tour) because the stands can get very mosh-pitty and loopy.
Go on an unique fruits tour
I did this tour and I beloved it because it launched me to quite a few lesser-known tropical fruits such because the soursop, guavasteen, candy granadilla, and the West Indian Locust fruit (a.ok.a. the smelly toes fruit).
You get to go to some native markets and check out about 20 completely different scrumptious issues (or much less scrumptious… see: smelly toes).
Take salsa classes
On some days you may get free classes at explicit hostels (as an example on the Wandering Paisa) in the event you occur to be a price range traveler. There are additionally salsa classes supplied at lots of the salsa bars and faculties.
Dive into the nightlife
The nightlife in Medellin is certainly a whole lot of enjoyable, whether or not you’re the cocktail bar sort or need to go clubbing (many of the music is latin). Your best guess is to go to Parque Lleras within the Poblado space, which is a small park surrounded by streets with bars and eating places, all of which have open terraces with individuals spilling out onto the streets.
Visiting vs. residing in Medellin
I feel a whole lot of the variations of opinion about Medellin stem from whether or not individuals keep for a number of days, or for for much longer.
Medellin has lots going for it as an inexpensive place to stay, with a light year-round local weather, a fairly good high quality of life, and lots of issues to do. That’s why it’s been very talked-about with digital nomads and distant staff (I additionally assume the relationship scene is a giant attraction for some nomad sorts).
Though Medellin stays a serious digital nomad hotspot, much like Mexico Metropolis, Chiang Mai, or Lisbon, its recognition appears to have peaked a bit bit. Costs rose and gentrification set in, which has led to some grumbling about it being “overrated”.
There’s additionally been some backlash to sleazy foreigners coming to Medellin to search out prostitutes and medicines and such. Some Fb teams for Medellin have needed to begin a “no jerks” coverage.
Some residents additionally don’t just like the existence of Pablo Escobar-themed excursions, wanting to place this disagreeable period behind them.
However in the event you’re visiting as a vacationer for a number of days, you’ll in all probability be 100% unaware of those controversies.
Whereas Medellin just isn’t a metropolis with any colonial or historic historical past and even many typical “vacationer websites”, it gives an amazing window into Colombian tradition and its more moderen historical past. In the event you’re on a bigger journey via Colombia, I positively wouldn’t skip it.
Is Medellin nonetheless harmful?
Medellin is now not the area of Pablo Escobar, however it will probably nonetheless be a bit tough across the edges. Don’t put on costly jewellery, hold your telephone in your pocket, and take official taxis at evening (or ride-hail apps) whenever you’re going out.
I’ve requested locals in regards to the security in Medellin on plenty of events. I as soon as requested a bunch of locals who I’d befriended in the event that they’d ever been robbed or had something occur — I obtained fairly the collective eye-roll. One lifelong Paisa advised me all of the barrios (regular neighborhoods) are mainly protected and that solely a number of the communas (hillside shanty cities) might be harmful as of late.
I do assume the state of affairs could be a bit completely different for vacationers, as they might be extra focused than born-and-raised locals.
The most secure neighborhood is unquestionably Poblado, which is the place most vacationer lodging is. This space is sort of prosperous and worldwide although, so it’s a bit decrease on native vibes. Laureles is one other nice space to remain. The metro system may be very safe and protected, so you should use it to get round with none issues.
Basically, Medellin just isn’t harmful, however being a giant metropolis in South America it’s nonetheless smart to take some primary security precautions.
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Posted OCT 18, 2022 (Up to date Nov 11, 2022)