While in Colombia, Medellin is a must...

Medellin Travel Blog

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"La Gorda" Provably the most famous Botero sculpture in the city

Hello everyone,

Here are the best tips I can give you if you want to travel to Colombia. This country is so undiscovered and it is exploding quickly. So pack your bag and enjoy it while it is still affordable and exclusive.
Here is what you can do, the best places, best restaurants, best beaches. You will be able to understand what is hot and what is to avoid in Medellin, Cartagena, Santa Marta and Cali. The places I visited in my Colombia trip this summer (2012)

My first tip... 

The best way to avoid tourist traps is not to look like a tourist. Colombians as many South Americans are very conservative in the way they dress.

Plaza Botero... in the heart of the city
Medellin though, is considered the capital of fashion, so you will see a little of everything. Please do not wear shorts and sandals (Mid-American look) if it is not 40 degrees outside.  

Weather in Medellin is the best in the country, considered the city of the "Eternal Spring", it's always between 20s to low 30s centigrade all year long. But not for that reason, everyone hang out in shorts and flip flops! If you are going to museums, out for dinner, or you are visiting churches, please wear pants. 
Also very important tips are: Do not trust strangers and be very respectful. Just like in any other city on the world, there are thieves, so don't leave your iPhone on the restaurant table, neither your wallet or valuables. The city is quite safe taking in consideration that it used to be one of the most dangerous city in the world.

Love the colors in this one. just like what you see in your trip
Not every area of the city is safe for tourist. While visiting the suburbs like the "Metro cable" or areas that are in the center of town, called: "el Centro" stay alert and don't: "de papaya" that basically means don't give thiefs a chance! Be discreet and careful on cash machines. Try to use them in malls or places recommended by your hotel or your acquaintances. 
*** If you like to use drugs and you happen to travel to Colombia do not expect this city to be a 'powder' paradise; most of the locals are quite against it and are very snobbish when it comes to drugs, mostly if tourist are looking for them. You might be thrown out of places or put in hands of the police. Colombians have tried really hard to change the way people think about them and find really disrespectful when foreigners make jokes about their country and the cocaine issues.
Same as the horse of Barcelona Airport : )

As a general cultural info, Colombians are the nicest people you will ever met. Everyone is very helpful and caring to make sure you relax and have a great time. Please enjoy every minute of your stay and remember that nevertheless this is as a developing country and you might not find the upscale lifestyle you might be used to; but this is exactly what makes this country so quaint and its people so wonderful, they enjoy simple things and simple life... Having a dinner or a coffee around a plaza while chatting for hours might be what they enjoy most. Food is rich and diverse, also heavy and tasty. Try the local delights, "Bandeja paisa" "Pandebonos" and "Arepa de Chocolo with Quesito" that are my favorites.

Last, always ask your hotel or the people you know what is the best way to get a good deal and if it is recommended.

Santa Fe Mall, Medellin... Getting ready for the Flower's fair
As a tourist you might be over charged if you try to go shopping in the center, outside malls or outdoor markets, by the way if you happen to need groceries I recommend "El Exito" it has it all along with good prices and there are lots of them around the city. 
Now what is good about Medellin... 
The capital of Colombia is Bogota, though it is very very busy and cosmopolitan. Nothing wrong with that, but you can see that anywhere else in the world. Medellin in the other hand, is the second largest city but still feels like a town in many ways, with a population under 3 million it has a perfect size. It is set on a valley between mountains that makes is very charming and scenic. 
Places to see: 
Museum "El Castillo" Medellin
Museum of Antioquia, a "MUST" the most important museum in Medellín and one of the best known in the country. Located at the heart of Medellín in the old city hall, transformed in the institution's headquarters, it is also next to Plaza Botero, that is MY FAVORITE place in the city. 
2. Museo El Castillo, located in a very exclusive area of the city called "El Poblado" and built in 1930 in medieval Gothic, it has French-style gardens, explosions room, library and concert hall for 250 people, exhibit permanently porcelain and glass, stained glass, music, sculpture, piano and ballet.... It is amazing to see a very European castle in the middle of Medellin, it used to be a home of a wealthy Colombian/German family.
Pandequesos.... Pandebonos!!!
3. The Museum of Modern Art(MAMM), with a huge collection of contemporary art comprising sculptures, assemblages, paintings, photographs, and prints by local and foreign artists. One of its major attractions is the collection of almost all the works of the Antioquian painter Debora Arango and the projection of cinema-art.  
4. Parque Explora,  located next to the Botanical Gardens that is also an amazing park to visit. Explora is an interactive museum, focused on science, technology and many other aspects of knowledge and creativity. It offers visitors an experience of close contact with the cutting edge of science and technology, the universe and outer space, nature and our planet, the human body, biology, ecology, research, creativity and inventiveness and learning by playing, among other factors.
Typical view Saturday night out in Medellin
Provides, among other attractions, the largest aquarium in South America where it can watch the fishes of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, with a sample of the Colombian Caribbean and Pacific. After this you can take a walk by the Planetarium that is located in front to Parque de los Deseos has telescopes and projection room for 300 people, in its dome 17.5 meters in diameter are permanent exhibitions, for all ages, on our planet and space. Its services include an auditorium, library and a permanent exhibition on space history. 
Where to Stay.... 
I would rather to stay near "El Poblado" area, it is close to everywhere including the ways to the airport. It is very modern and it has everything handy for the foreigners. I always recommend hotels around the "Avenida El Poblado" and near "Parque del Poblado" but if you like the night life find something closer to "Parque Lleras" the it is very close to the action, meaning restaurants and bars.
Bandeja Paisa, actually Frijoles con Chicharron... God forgive me!
 Plus it has the best and safer areas to go out in the city. The Medellí­n weekend nightlife is in discos, pubs, parks, and certain dedicated streets. You must visit "El parque Lleras" for dinner and quick drinks. There is an amazing new hotel there called: "The Charlie" that has one of the best rooftop bars in the city with a glass pool in case that you would like to visit it for a refreshing swim.... The hotel is super modern, the only thing is that is in the heart of the "rumba" or party in the city those days, so it might be a bit loud for some people taste... And once again, if you go out in shorts, they might don't let you get in the restaurants or clubs.

I was also recommended two new hotels called Art Hotel and 10 hotel, both walking distance to both Parque Lleras and Parque de el Poblado.

Plazas in the center of Medellin

A restaurant I visited this time was Santorini, just around the corner of Parque Lleras. I will give them 5 points. Surprinsigly the squid tasted just like in Greece! 

Best shooping malls: Oviedo, San Diego and Santa Fe. Also Primium Plaza and Unicentro. 
Interesting facts about Medellin
"The position of Medellín as the second industrial city in Colombia, after Bogotá, has been a main factor in overcoming its crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. The Metro of Medellin a massive urban transport service, became the pride of the city, and so far the only sign of the Medellín Master Plan of the 1950s. The construction of the Plaza Mayor de Medellin an international center for congresses and expositions, was designed to show the globalized economy of Colombia to the world.

City center
The former violence also served the purpose of demolishing the high social barriers that were the basis of many social evils. Social exclusion has eased due to the development of transport infrastructure; the Metro, a new system of public buses is being planned with the so-called "Metroplus" is already in use and a network of ski-lifts in the poorest barrio communities called the "MetroCable". Additionally, an electric escalator 1,260 feet long was inaugurated in Comuna 13, one of Medellín's poorest neighborhoods, on December 26, 2011, making it the first and only one of its kind in the world. Today's Medellin includes spaces for art, poetry and drama at their public venues and libraries. There are new ecological parks and new public spaces that encourage the inclusion of people of the city in its development.
Pueblito Paisa
The "Feria de las Flores" It is the most representative event in the city of Medellín. Is done in late July to early August. The Festival, plus many other activities and festivities, is the main axis the "desfile de Silleteros" a colorful and artistic parade of flowers filled saddles on the back for their own grower and already well known internationally. 
The inhabitants of Medellín are often called Antioqueños (Antioquians) after their state, rather than Medellinenses (Medellinians) after their city. They are also often known as Paisas a name which some suggest comes from the coffee growers. The term Paisa comes from the word paisano (fellow countryman). Paisas make up one of the five different regional cultures within Colombia. The Paisa Region includes the states of Caldas, Risaralda, Quindio and some towns of Valle del Cauca and Tolima.
Downtown Medellin
 Although Paisa culture is dominant in Medellí­n (the "Paisa Capital"), the city is becoming more cosmopolitan, now offering music from other regions of Colombia, and a variety of restaurants including Chinese, Cuban, and Argentinian. 
The Paisa culture has a Spanish background, and is traditionally Catholic, entrepreneurial, hard-working, and famously hospitable. Paisas are said to speak softly and quickly, to smile easily, and to love bullfights, rodeo, music, poetry, soccer, bargaining in the markets, and parties. They are proud of their city, and work hard to keep it clean, stemming from the campaign begun in the 1980s, "Depende tambien de ti, darle amor a Medellin" (It depends on you too to give love to Medellin). Today, Medellín has 20 public libraries, 40 museums, 21 public parks and 28 theaters.
Medellin at night

 As a quick day trip you have many options:

1. "La vuelta a Oriente" that is basically a road trip up on the east mountains, leaving from the north east side of the city to visit different picturesque towns like GuarneMarinillaRionegro, San Antonio, La Ceja, El Carme y El Retiro to return to Medellin by the south east into El Poblado. You can also do half way in "Las Palmas" that is the part in top of El Poblado. Make sure you stop in the side of the highway for empanadasarepas with quesito and hot chocolate.

Pueblito paisa in Christmas... One of the most magical times in Medellon
You will find anything from one star to 6 star restaurants along the way. This is very popular weekend short trip for the locals that also travel to cottages or Fincas to spend the weekends.

Read also my "Vuelta Oriante" blog if you need more information: (Copy and open this link in your browser)


2. "Guatapé and El Peñol" The majestic surroundings of the Embalse El Peñol-Guatapé, is one of the country's largest lakes. It was created in part by the construction of a hydroelectric dam that provides 30% of Colombia’s electricity supply. It's hard to miss the region's most famous attraction. It's officially named El Peñon de Guatapé, but more commonly referred to simply as La Piedra (The Stone).

Rooftop at the Charlie hotel
Located about one hour and a half to two hours of Medellin there is this monolith of 385 meters high, a massive rock foundation that was declared as National Monument in 1940s, and with its artificial lake that if you don’t know this fact you could easily be mistaken as a natural wonder. El Penol looks easy to climb, but a little less than 700 steps on a side staircase are quite tiring if you are not fit. Nevertheless the magnificent views of stunning landscape are rewarding. Guatapé is a beautiful town that has its own style and each house front is decored and painted different one from another. If you want hustle and bustle then visiting over the weekend is perfect choice as Guatapé is also popular within Colombians. I like to visit it during the week and early in the morning as I always want some peace and quiet and that is always a great decision.
Famous Botero painting, the killing of Pablo Escobar
There are many Hiking, Scenic boat tours, Paddle Boat rentals, Kayaking, Fishing, Trips to hidden waterfalls and swimming holes, Arts and Crafts shopping, Canopy Zipline, Mountain and Road Biking, Horseback Riding, Rock Climbing, and free tours of the local museum.

3. "Sante Fe de Antioquia" is a destination you don't want to miss! Driving about 90 minutes from Medellin you will find mountainous landscapes of great beauty driving through the longest tunnel in Colombia. The "Tunnel of the West" is 4.6 kilometers long and is equipped with modern equipment for safety and service.  This is one trip you'll want to experience with your significant other or close friend. The weather is much more warmer than in medellin; so it is perfect for swiming and bathing.

Even Madonna likes Chicharon in Medellin, while her MDNA 2 days show. Medellin Nov 2012
Santa Fe de Antioquia is one of the most beautiful colonial towns in all of Colombia; it is like taking a trip back in time. You’ll feel like you’re walking alongside Spanish royalty as you wander the cobblestone streets while take in the beautiful 15thcentury Spanish architecture.  As you gaze out over the Spanish stucco walls and ornate door carvings that make Santa Fe de Antioquia so special, you’ll understand why this colonial town is regarded as a Colombian treasure that remains undiscovered by tourists. As soon as you visit Santa Fe, you’ll immediately notice just how relaxed life is in this tight-knit Colombian community.  Elderly men wile away the hot days playing chess in the cool shade of the plaza trees, while local children enjoy a frenetic game of fútbol on the street corner. Be sure to watch out for Colombian tourists and locals on horseback trotting through the city streets. There are various churches, a cathedral and an interesting cemetry to visit on you tour of Santa Fe de Antioquia. The Puente de Occidente is just outside of town and it is an unusual bridge that was one of the first suspension bridges in South America, and has now been declared one of Colombia's national monuments. In Santa Fe de Antioquia, one can either go on nearby hikes, or go horseback riding to explore some of Antioquia's countryside. The town makes a great day trip from Medellin, but for those who wish to stay for longer, there are various small colonial hotels in the town including the upmarket Mariscal Robledo (which has a nice swimming pool), in addition to Hotel caseron plaza, Hostal Plaza Mayor (popular choice for backpackers), or Hostal Guaracu (in nearby San Jeronimo) and Hospedaje Franco, to name just a few.

Here is a link with more info about this new hot destination in Colombian Travel:


Update: May 14, 2015 I am adding this New York Times link to this blog, enjoy it: 


Travel2014 says:
Nice blog! Congrats on your feature :)
Posted on: Apr 06, 2014
Ils1976 says:
Congrats on your feature ... love the entry and definitely have a look at the rest of your blog! :D
Posted on: Apr 06, 2014
rsvpme says:
Congratulations on a well written, evenly paced writing. Glad to see this part of the Americas featured...Congrats !
Posted on: Apr 06, 2014
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La Gorda Provably the most famou…
"La Gorda" Provably the most famo…
Plaza Botero... in the heart of th…
Plaza Botero... in the heart of t…
Love the colors in this one. just …
Love the colors in this one. just…
Same as the horse of Barcelona Air…
Same as the horse of Barcelona Ai…
Santa Fe Mall, Medellin... Getting…
Santa Fe Mall, Medellin... Gettin…
Museum El Castillo Medellin
Museum "El Castillo" Medellin
Pandequesos.... Pandebonos!!!
Pandequesos.... Pandebonos!!!
Typical view Saturday night out in…
Typical view Saturday night out i…
Bandeja Paisa, actually Frijoles c…
Bandeja Paisa, actually Frijoles …
Plazas in the center of Medellin
Plazas in the center of Medellin
City center
City center
Pueblito Paisa
Pueblito Paisa
Downtown Medellin
Downtown Medellin
Medellin at night
Medellin at night
Pueblito paisa in Christmas... One…
Pueblito paisa in Christmas... On…
Rooftop at the Charlie hotel
Rooftop at the Charlie hotel
Famous Botero painting, the killin…
Famous Botero painting, the killi…
Even Madonna likes Chicharon in Me…
Even Madonna likes Chicharon in M…
Medellin Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Good Food and Great Ambiance
Great food and location, just in the heart of El Poblado and in one of the most famous squares in Medellin. Food is local and international. Servi… read entire review
Medellin Hotels & Accommodations review
Best New Hotel in Medellin
Great hotel with fantastic facilities. Modern and sexy. Amazing views of the city from its rooftop bar/pool. Try the Italian restaurant "Lucia" … read entire review
photo by: caliphil007