Mention Medellin to some people and you will see a look of fear on their face. They may tell you it’s too dangerous and not safe for tourists. Well let us set the record straight. These people have been watching too much Narcos and need to get with the times. Medellin has come a long way since being known as one of the deadliest places on the planet during the drug cartel’s reign of terror in the 1990’s. Now, Medellin is the beating heart of Colombia. With so much charm and charisma, it’s easy to see why Medellin’s backpacker scene is thriving. Here is why we think Medellin is so awesome.
How to get there
From Bogota – The bus will take 10 hours and cost 60-70,000 COP (£16.20-£18.90). The 1 hour flight can be found for 92,500 COP (£25)
From Santa Marta – The bus will take 14 hours and cost 110,000-120,000 COP (£29.70-£32.40). We took a 1hr 15 min flight with Viva Colombia with cost us 173,000 COP (£47) each.
Once the epicentre of Medellin’s violent past, this community has many heartbreaking stories to tell. Having seen thousands of murders, military sieges and countless lives torn apart, it’s pretty amazing to see how this place has turned itself around. Now the walls are covered in colourful and inspirational art instead of blood and bullet holes. Children break dance and play instead of cowering in their houses. The local community has rebuilt itself and has no plans to stop anytime soon. Comuna 13 is one of the places you’ll visit on the Pablo tour but is also perfectly safe to visit on your own.
Things to do in Medellin #2 – Experience a football match
Notice how we said experience instead of watch? That’s because it’s very unlikely that you would have experienced an atmosphere like this before. 90 minutes straight of jumping, chanting and signing fans banging drums so hard it felt like the stadium was moving. Atletico Nacional play at the Estadio Atanasio Girardot which is located a short walk away from the Estadio metro station. A ticket in the upper tiers of the east stand will cost 48,000 COP (£12.20) and give you a great vantage point to take it in the madness.
Things to do in Medellin #3 – Take the Pablo tour
Whilst Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel caused untold misery for millions of Colombians, he undoubtedly had an impact on the city that will never be forgotten. This tour will take you all across the city to a number of significant sites including Comuna 13, La Catedral, the “prison” overlooking the city which Escobar had built for himself and the infamous rooftop where he died. We were invited to enjoy this experience by Medellin City Services who have agreed to offer our followers a 10% discount on all tours. Email Camillo at email@example.com with subject heading LWAV10% to receive your discount!
Things to do in Medellin #4 – Get a tattoo
Tattoos are hugely popular in the north of Latin America and, as you may or may not know, we our big tattoo fans and collectors ourselves and often like to get a tattoo as a souvenir or as a memory of something significant. Medellin marked 6 months backpacking through South America for us so it was a perfect fit. Our research led us to Riders Club Tattoo Studio on Calle 11A where had the pleasure of adding to our collection at the hands of the talented @rm_arte and @aura_duque_artista. This is more than just your average tattoo studio, it is also a creative co-working space with a great energy and they are turning the back into a hostel as well. Be sure to check these guys out.
Things to do in Medellin #5 – Medellín Prime Parks
Fernando Botero is a Colombian artist and sculptor famed for his signature painting style, Boterismo. Botero depicts people in a comical and curvaceous manner which some suggest is a form of political criticism. The plaza showcases 23 pieces sculpted by the famous Colombian and set is the ‘Old Quarter’ area of Medellin near the Parque Berrio metro. Full of families hanging out and tourists snapping pictures this is a great, chilled-out spot to spend an hour. Museo de Antioquia is also very close by.
Things to do in Medellin #6 – Guatapé and Peñol Rock Tour
You may be more familiar with this iconic rock by sight rather than name. The Piedra del Penol is a 90 minute bus ride from Medellin, near the small town of Guatape (which is also worth visiting). If you’re coming from Guatape you can take a jeep from the centre plaza to to Piedra for 2,000 COP (£0.55). Once you’ve paid the 18,000 COP (£4.90) admission you have to climb roughly 600 steps to top. Here you can take in the sights of the surrounding, man-made Penol-Guatape reservoir.
Things to do in Medellin #7 – Pub crawl Tour
Poblado is the place to be for backpackers in Medellin. Dozens of hostels and clubs, scores of bars and restaurants and hundreds of people looking for a good time, everyday is Saturday in Poblado. Before the crowds hit in the evenings it is worth having a stroll through the pretty Parque Lleras.
Things to do in Medellin #8 – Treat yourself a little
Travelling is tough, really tough. Sometimes you don’t even have the time to give yourself a good meal, much less take care of your hair and nails. Well that’s where Bonita Salon can help you feel like a million bucks. Offering massages, hair and nail treatments using only cruelty-free, organic products, this salon, set in the hills of Carrera 10 with a wonderful view of downtown Medellin, will have you feeling and looking great. To receive 30% off a haircut, detox hair treatment or coconut hair treatment watsapp Adriana on +573053776959 and quote LWAV30%, Enjoy!
Things to do in Medellin #9 – Explore Parque Explora
This interactive science museum is a playground for your inner-child. Not only are there over 300 interactive exhibits but it’s also home to South America’s largest freshwater aquarium. Whilst designed to make learning about nature, wildlife and outer space fun for kids, it’s fair to say that adults get as much of a kick out it too. Located only a short walk from Universidad metro station, admission is 22,000 COP (£5.90) and should keep you occupied for a good few hours.
Things to do in Medellin #10 – Stroll in the Botanical Garden
Right next to the Parque Explora is the Botanical Garden of Medellin. The 14 hectare ground is home to over 5,500 species of animal and flower. It’s a beautiful space to walk around and feel at one with nature in the middle of a big city. There are a few cafes and a restaurant on the grounds if you fancy a break. Best part is, there is no admission fee.
Getting to Jose Maria airport
Taxis have a fixed rate of 65,000 COP (£17.60) to the airport and Uber is about the same. You can take a white and green bus from Santa Domingo for only 9,500 COP (£2.60)
Where to stay in Medellin
🌟 Hostel recommendation 🌟 – Hostel Ondas
This little hostel is about as honest as they come. Set above a cafe of the same name, it offers cheap and basic accommodation. There is a large, well-equipped kitchen, an inviting common area and even a rooftop bar. Set on Calle 46 close to the metro and a number of shops, this is nice break from the madness of Poblado and is one of the most economic options in the city.
Where to go next
Guatape – This adorable little lake side town is a cute and cosy spot to unwind for a few days. The colourful buildings and cafe-lined cobbled streets have such a romantic feel. Also, the Piedra del Penol is very close by. We used Sotra Penol for the 90 minute, 14,000 COP (£3.80) journey.