Medellin

Medellin (photos) is now very near the top of our list of places that we would want to return to, possibly for an extended stay.  It is a beautiful and enjoyable city.  Is that surprising?  Before starting this trip, most people were a little surprised when we told them that we would be visiting Colombia.  The notion that Colombia is a dangerous place still lingers.  And, to be sure, there are remote areas that are not recommended for travelers.  However, this does not extend to most of the country and certainly not to Medellin.  Pablo Escobar was the man responsible for the violence that made Medellin a dangerous city in the 1980’s.  But he died in 1993 and today Medellin is one of the safest cities in South America.

Plazoleta de las Esculturas

Medellin is a city comprised of 2.5 million people and sits at an elevation of 1500 meters (about 5,000 feet).  It is a modern city with high-rise buildings that stretches out along a narrow valley running north and south.  The elevation gives it a very mild year round climate.  The city center is very pedestrian friendly with large open plazas and wide sidewalks.  Metro Medellin is a sleek and modern elevated rail system that runs the length of the city plus a spur that runs west and a cable car that runs east high up into the hills overlooking the city.  A single use ticket for $1750 Colombian Pesos or COP (just under $1 USD at current exchange rates) will allow you to ride anywhere in the city, including the cable cars.  We used this system extensively and found it to be fast, efficient, smooth, clean and safe.

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Laureles neighborhoodWe stayed in a section of Medellin known as Laureles.  It is a solidly upper middle class neighborhood of low and mid-rise apartment buildings.  We stayed in a hostel called Urban Buddha.  It is a small place occupying a 1950’s art deco home.  The neighborhood is quiet, super clean and safe and is about a 15 minute walk to the nearest Metro station.  On our first morning there, we found a fruit and vegetable cart in the street 1 block from the hostel.  Apparently, he makes daily trips through the area.  Within 2 blocks of the hostel there’s a solid selection of places to eat plus a food market called Pomona, a place with the look of a Whole Foods Market but not the organic only selection or prices.  A few blocks further away, on the way to the Metro station, there’s a 6 or 8 block stretch along Carera 70 with lots and lots of restaurants, bars, snack shops and markets.  At night this is a very lively scene with tables and music spilling out onto the sidewalk from pretty much every establishment on both sides of the street.

In order to explore the sights in Medellin, we used the Metro to get around.  We would walk to the local station which is part of the spur the runs west from the main line.  We would ride to the 3rd stop which intersects with the main line.  There we would change to the other line to ride either north or south.  For example, one day, mid-afternoon, we rode to the north to catch the cable cars.  Near the north end of the city, the cable cars head east and rise all the way up the hillside.  Generally, the hillsides are home to the poorer neighborhoods.  The hills are very steep with the housing all built from the same red colored blocks, stacked up in all kinds of configurations.  We rode to the top and then walked out onto a small plaza underneath the cable car towers that provides a panoramic view of the valley containing the city.  We hung out there to watch while the sun fell below the hilltops on the opposite side of the valley and lights began to appear throughout the city.  When we rode back down to the Metro station, there was a huge crowd waiting to board the cable cars for their ride home at the end of their workday.

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Some of our others outings included a walking tour of Central Medellin, a visit to the Botanical Gardens, an exploration of the neighborhood of El Poblado which is the hot part of town for nightlife and high-end living and a trip to the small town of Sabaneta which is on the southern fringe of Medellin.  Everywhere we went we felt completely safe.  The streets and sidewalks are in good repair and very clean, the people were almost uniformly friendly and helpful.  This appears to be a city that works well and has a solid infrastructure.  We found the neighborhood of Laureles to be very comfortable and one that we could easily imagine living in.  In short, a place that we would look forward to visiting again.

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3 thoughts on “Medellin

  1. Thanks so much for the pictures. It really gives a great feeling of what y’all are experiencing. This has got to be the greatest adventure!
    I see why you were impressed with this city. The night views were spectacular! It’s a large place, glad that you felt so safe. Everything is so clean!
    Am I imagining that the fruits and vegeatables are much larger than what is available here? I would love it there, fruits and veggies are my thing.
    The statues in the plaza are interesting. You must tell us what they represent.
    Continue to be safe and have a blast!
    Love y’all. Are you coming to Dale Hollow and will you fly out of Louisville this time? Please come and spend a night with me!
    NGC

  2. I had gotten behind in my reading and looking, so I’ve basically caught up now. WOW! your pictures continue to amaze me and give me a vicarious experience. I agree with others that you made the right decision about the backpacking trip. Also, sorry to hear about your being “under the weather.” Hope you’re better now! I can see why you want to come back to this city–it is beautiful, clean, and soooo interesting! Also, I applaud all the open plazas throughout the lower American cities and the availability of fresh fruit and veggies–healthy food! We could definitely take a lesson in this country–too much fast food available and not enough healthy alternatives, esp. in small towns like mine. I can buy organic in limited quantities in Kroger and that’s about it unless I travel to Nashville to Whole Foods and like you said–high prices.
    I continue to enjoy this blog immensely and look forward to hearing you talk about it on the way to DH! Are you flying out from Nashville? Are you visiting anywhere else first?
    Later, with much love,
    Sheila

  3. addendum–I forgot to tell you that we had a huge hail storm last week (golf ball to baseball size). It was during the last period of the day at school, so my car was in the parking lot. I, and every other person in Tullahoma, Manchester, and Murfreesboro, sustained damage to my car and my house–currently dealing with insurance and vendors = YYYUUUKKK!!!!! New roof, gutters, some facia board on the house and the detached garage. Car is fully dented on hood, roof, trunk and some on sides. Thank you, Mother Nature!!

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