Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia. It’s a safe and fun city. It offers great urban experiences, bars, clubs, restaurants, and shopping but beautiful hikes, countryside, and nature related activities are only a short drive away. It offers the best of both worlds. It was once the most dangerous city in all of South America because of Escobar and the Cartel. But after his death, the city has slowly become more and more safe. In fact, now it’s safer than New Orleans, Detroit, and a few other cities in America.
At no point did we feel unsafe. We stayed in El Poblado neighborhood and it’s where all the tourists stay. Medellin has a lot to offer but as usual we didn’t want to spend too much time in the city so we only focused on two things: the Comuna 13 graffiti tour and Parque Arvi. Before we get to those, here are a few thoughts on Medellin. It’s a beautiful city. It’s a very hilly city so be prepared to get a workout.
We walked around El Poblado and it’s very hilly. By the end of the day, you’ll be tired. Take comfortable shoes and be ready to walk up and down one hill after another. We’re used to walking but there were a few times we just gave up and called an Uber. It can get hot and humid so remember to drink lots of water and of course, don’t forget bug spray. There are less bugs in the city but still good to have it on. Medellin is called the City of the Eternal Spring because the weather is always spring like which is true. Day time can be hot but there’s a slight chill in the air at night. And it will probably rain almost every day so take a poncho.
The down side to Medellin is the traffic. It’s supposed to be bad but we were lucky and didn’t experience bad traffic at all. Then we learned it’s because of Pico y Placa which was implemented to combat the traffic and pollution. Basically it restricts some cars from driving in Medellin during rush hour on weekdays. A few random numbers are picked and if your car license plate ends with that number then you can’t drive in Medellin during rush hour on certain weekdays. These numbers are selected at random.
Just be aware that this will have some effect on your travel plans. We were scheduled to leave for Guatape in the morning but our driver called and said he could not come at that time because of Pico y Placa. We waited about 2 hours before his car was allowed into the city. We were also a little late in meeting Sebastian, our comuna 13 tour guide for the same reason. But aside from these small delays, it didn’t really change our plans too much. We just stayed at our Airbnb and enjoyed the view of the city.
If you choose to rent a car and drive yourself, it is manageable. It’ll require you to pay attention and not get distracted but traffic was mostly well behaved from what we observed. However, there are a lot of motorcycles which you have to watch out for. If you like the challenge then go for it. If you’re like us and just want to relax, hire a driver while you enjoy the sights.
When in Medellin…
- Eat Bandeja Paisa. It’s a platter that includes chicharron, chorizo, pork, rice and beans, fried egg, avocado, plantaine chips, arepa, and sometimes a blood sausage. It’s a huge platter and can be shared between 2 people.
- Eat all their fruits. They are just so much more delicious and juicy than what we get in USA. Especially the papayas and small bananas. I was pleasantly surprised by how good papayas can actually taste. The small bananas are slightly hard to peel but the flavors are so good!
- Have a drink of Aguardiente, aka guaro. It’s an anise flavored drink made from sugarcane. It’s strong but doesn’t taste strong.
- Also taste the Ron Medellin Rum. They have 3 options: 3 year, 8 year, and my personal favorite, 12 year aged rum.
- Don’t wear your Pablo Escobar gear. Don’t go on the Pablo Escobar tour. He’s not some charming, charismatic guy that Narcos portrays. People of Medellin, and especially comuna 13, do not like him.
More to come on Colombia…