Is Medellin Worth Visiting? Explaining The (Over)Hype

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Medellin was simply in regards to the final place anybody would go.

For many years, it was referred to 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 charge. Yep, it was very a lot no bueno.

Then, Medellin improved… so much.

I first visited Medellin again in 2014 simply earlier than it actually hit the highlight. I believe for a lot of vacationers it was an exquisite shock to search out out Medellin was safer, livelier, and extra habitable than they’d imagined. Soon, many expats and digital nomads additionally started to acknowledge Medellin as an reasonably priced and engaging place to stay.

Word unfold. Medellin grew to become a factor.

Now, as I revisit Medellin in 2022, it appears the pendulum has swung the opposite method.

Lately, 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 change into a ‘gringo town’, 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.

Is Medellin value visiting?

From a vacationer’s perspective, I believe Medellin is certainly value visiting for not less than a number of days. I’d even say it’s one of the crucial worthwhile locations in Colombia. But… it’s helpful to have the correct 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.

Most 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, a enjoyable science museum, and plenty of renovated public squares — however that’s perhaps not what you got here all the way in which right here for. As far as cultural sights of key curiosity to vacationers, I believe Bogota has extra of them (for instance the Gold Museum and the Botero Museum).

That stated, Medellin is certainly the place to study its fashionable historical past and the drug cartels. It’s additionally fascinating to see how poorer areas have been fully reinvigorated. Comuna 13 was one of many metropolis’s most harmful areas; now it’s a buzzing vacationer vacation spot famed for its road artwork and optimistic vibes.

Medellin has nice nightlife and lots of worldwide delicacies, particularly within the prosperous neighborhood of Poblado which is in style with expats and vacationers.

Purely at face worth, I imagine Medellin is usually a smidge disappointing if it’s been hyped as much as you a large number. However, I nonetheless suppose Medellin is a tremendous metropolis — and I imagine the important thing to appreciating it’s to actually know its story.

Once you perceive this story, Medellin will certainly click on for you in a giant method. At least, I can say it completely did for me.

Understanding Medellin

There are two varieties of people that have visited Medellin: those that have performed the Medellin Real City strolling tour and people who haven’t.

I’ve performed actually numerous strolling excursions all over the world, however I nonetheless contemplate this one among the many greatest I’ve ever performed.

If you need to perceive Medellin’s previous and current from a deeply private perspective, then the Real City strolling tour is a should. It’s run by locals and all the guides lived via Medellin’s ‘bad years’ ultimately.

(By the way in which, I don’t earn something from this advice. It’s simply my prime journey tip for Medellin!)

Far from the same old cookie-cutter tour, the tales informed by my information left me deeply affected. Born and raised in Medellin, as a toddler he witnessed folks 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 folks.

By listening to from somebody who truly lived via all of it, you acquire a really vivid image of what Medellin was like just some many years in the past. However, this tour is not only in regards to the dangerous days, however about hope and progress.

Hearing in regards to the dangerous from the previous makes you admire what Medellin is right now. And you’ll actually begin seeing it with totally 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 became 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, the town’s Centre for Education.

On the left, a sculpture that when exploded in a bombing assault. The artist, Fernando Botero, insisted the town maintain it as-is, with a brand new sculpture positioned subsequent to it as a reminder of previous and current.

Whether you’re taking the Real City tour or just spend sufficient time in Medellin, you’ll little question quickly hear of “Metro Culture”. 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 grew to become the town’s predominant image of change. Take a more in-depth look and also you’ll see the metro system is in actual fact a supply of delight among the many Paisas, totally freed from any graffiti, chewing gum, or cigarette buds.

The metro traces its connecting cablecars have been an city planning masterstroke, serving to to tie the town collectively and combine the slums with the town correct, thus elevating alternatives for the poor. In the outer barrios, you possibly can see posters subsequent to city renovation tasks with slogans corresponding to, “here too the Metro Life lives”, displaying how the Metro has change into a shorthand for Medellin’s revival.

Once you see Medellin on this context, it turns into a LOT extra attention-grabbing.

Other methods to take pleasure in Medellin

What I additionally like about Medellin is you can get to know the Colombian tradition, in addition to utilizing it as an awesome base for day journeys within the area.

Apart from studying the historical past, to get essentially the most out of Medellin right here are some things I like to recommend:

Take a visit to Guatape

Okay, this can be a bit touristy, however it’s actually enjoyable.

Guatape is a village famed for its vibrant homes with superbly sculpted depictions of village life adorning the decrease halves of each home. It’s a reasonably place to spend a while.

It can be house to the rock of Peñol, a powerful inselberg with 650 steps resulting in the highest, from the place you possibly can watch a lovely 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 experience to Guatape costing about 11,000 pesos.

For a extra guided and full expertise you too can take a tour, corresponding to this Guatape day journey on GetYourInformation (which additionally features a boat journey) or this Guatape day journey on Viator. The excursions are sooner as they embody resort pickup and no public transit.

Go paragliding

The hills round Medellin are excellent launching areas for paragliding. Tandem flights require no particular expertise, are comparatively cheap, and provide spectacular views of the town.

It prices round $50 for a flight. You can guide this simply via Viator or via GetYourInformation.

Take a visit 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 it’s possible you’ll want to keep in a single day to make it well worth the journey.

See a soccer/soccer match

Not being into soccer a lot myself, this was extra of an anthropological train than anything, however I cherished seeing how passionate the Colombians get about this sport. Go with a bit of 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 cherished 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.okay.a. the smelly ft fruit).

You get to go to some native markets and check out about 20 totally different scrumptious issues (or much less scrumptious… see: smelly ft).

Take salsa classes

On some days you may get free classes at explicit hostels (for example on the Wandering Paisa) for those who occur to be a funds traveler. There are additionally salsa classes supplied at most of the salsa bars and colleges.

Dive into the nightlife

The nightlife in Medellin is certainly lots of enjoyable, whether or not you’re the cocktail bar sort or need to go clubbing (many of the music is latin). Your best wager 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 folks spilling out onto the streets.

Visiting vs. residing in Medellin

I believe lots of the variations of opinion about Medellin stem from whether or not folks keep for just a few days, or for for much longer.

Medellin has so much going for it as an reasonably priced place to stay, with a light year-round local weather, a reasonably good high quality of life, and plenty of issues to do. That’s why it’s been very fashionable with digital nomads and distant staff (I additionally suppose the courting scene is a giant attraction for some nomad varieties).

Although Medellin stays a significant digital nomad hotspot, just like Mexico City, Chiang Mai, or Lisbon, its reputation appears to have peaked a bit of bit. Prices 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 Facebook 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.

But for those who’re visiting as a vacationer for just a few days, you’ll most likely be 100% unaware of those controversies.

While Medellin is just not a metropolis with any colonial or historical historical past and even many typical “tourist sites”, it gives an awesome window into Colombian tradition and its more moderen historical past. If 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 possibly nonetheless be a bit of tough across the edges. Don’t put on costly jewellery, maintain your telephone in your pocket, and take official taxis at night time (or ride-hail apps) while you’re going out.

Peachy Poblado space

I’ve requested locals in regards to the security in Medellin on quite a lot 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 informed me all of the barrios (regular neighborhoods) are principally protected and that solely among the communas (hillside shanty cities) may be harmful lately.

I do suppose the scenario is usually a bit totally different for vacationers, as they might be extra focused than born-and-raised locals.

The most secure neighborhood is definitely 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 could be very safe and protected, so you should utilize it to get round with none issues.

In normal, Medellin is just not harmful, however being a giant metropolis in South America it’s nonetheless smart to take some fundamental security precautions.


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Posted OCT 18, 2022 (Updated Oct 20, 2022)

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