Medellin is usually one of the highlights of people visiting Colombia. Definitely not at the top of my list of places in Colombia, however, Medellin is a must see in this country and an important stop to understand the history of Colombia, try nice food and have fun.
We stopped here after visiting Salento for the second time and stayed in the city for a week, before heading on to the North.
You won’t struggle to find information on things to do here on the internet and from other backpackers, but here are some ideas.
Things to see and do in Medellin:
- Take the free walking tour and learn about the history;
- Go up the Pueblito Paisa to watch the sunset;
- Spend a day at Parque Explora;
- Take a day trip to Guatape; and
- Enjoy the nightlife and salsa music.
On the first day there, we took a free walking tour with a company called “Best City Tour”. We saw all the major spots in the city and learnt a lot about its history and history of Colombia too. During the tour, we also got the chance to talk to local people and understand their point of view on the sad events the made this place known as a dangerous place. People here are very friendly and they were very happy to talk to us and very thankful for us visiting the country and trying to learn about their history.
With the tour we visited several places, including the Old Railway Station, Square of Lights, National Palace, the Botero Plaza and San Antonio Park. In the latter, we saw a few statues made by Fernando Botero, including the Pajaro de Paz, a statue to remember the victims of the a bomb that took place in 1995 and made 23 victims.
One of the highlights of Medellin for me has been going up the Pueblito Paisa and watch the sunset. We also stayed a while and had an amazing view of the whole city at night.
We spent almost a full day at Parque Explora. You can visit the different sections of this interactive museum and do the experiments yourself. These include optical illusions room, experiments with water and even acting in a short movie. Entrance fee is COP24,000.
Medellin is the best starting point for a trip to Guatape. Usually people take this trip as a combined tour that brings them to visit Pablo Escobar’s house and do the famous paintball in one of his family’s properties. While this activity is increasingly popular, particularly among backpackers and people who watch the Narcos series on Netflix, local people really dislike it. By talking to them, we found out they see this as really disrespectful to them and to their history – some of them even compared it to going to play paintball in places linked to the holocaust. They simply don’t like the idea of being linked to that part of their history!
For this reason, we decided to take the tour the only brings you to visit Guatape, but I will talk about this in my next blog post.
Finally, Medellin is famous for its nightlife. There are plenty of places where you can eat or go out. We went to a few bars in the evening, like the Beer Company, where they have lots of local beers and food, and 37 Bistro, that has a very nice garden in the back. My favourite was El Social, a laid back bar with salsa music.
Where to stay
When it comes to accommodation, there are obviously plenty of options in Medellin, whether you are travelling on a budget or not.
We had a terrible experience in Medellin with our hostel and would really stay away from it. We stayed in private room in a hostel which was among the most expensive, because we wanted to rest and get some sleep after the weeks spent volunteering and hiking, but the crazy room decorations and dirty bed sheets were only the start of our bad experience. The bathroom kept getting flooded, there was no window in the room and the window in the bathroom was also the window of/into another room’s bathroom! People from the other room could open that window while you are having a shower. The staff was very rude and completely drunk at any time of the day and night and, if this wasn’t enough, they tried to overcharge us and other people we met. They insisted that the fee we paid when booking the accommodation online – approximately half of the price of the whole booking – was being kept by the booking platform (Hostelworld), and we had to pay the whole amount again. It took a few hours and we had to contact Hostelworld directly to finally making them admit their “mistake”. If you don’t want to end up in this place, you can send me a message, and I will be happy to share the name of the place!
Luckily, not all the places in Medellin are like this. Talking to other people we met along the way, they had a great experience in their hostels.
Getting there from Salento was very easy, as there is a direct bus to Medellin from here. There is only one bus company that has a direct bus to Medellin, Flota Occidental. The bus journey is supposed to last 9 hours – although it is usually longer due to traffic on the mountains – and it costs COP47,000.
In Colombia, you can’t book your bus tickets online without a Colombian passport, and so you will need to go to the bus station. Being a very popular bus route among both locals and tourists, and being the buses very small, you need to book your bus ticket at least a day – or more – in advance.
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