Rooted sturdily in the Aburra Valley (one hour’s flight south of Cartegena) lies the dynamic city of Medellin. A shining example of what’s possible when you combine passion and dedication, Medellin has persevered through years of adversity to become one of the most captivating destinations that Colombia has to offer.
Once known only for its devastating history of violence, Medellin is now applauded worldwide for its innovations in medicine and transport, as well as its excellence in art and textiles. It is home to Colombiamoda, one of South America’s largest fashion trade shows, and is the most popular corporate business destination on the continent.
To take advantage of its centralized location, we stayed in the La Poblado area, an upscale borough which is quite popular with tourists due to its high-end amenities. Chic restaurants, cool bars, shopping-- you’ll find all the hits here (and maybe even a fancy souvenir).
If you’d prefer experiences over a new purse, consider staying at the Charlee, a 5-star hotel with rooms that provide sweeping views of the city. The hotel also boasts an exclusive rooftop lounge/bar/pool with live music and intensely good times. If that’s too much of an experience, you might prefer taking a quick walk over to Parque Lleras for some people watching.
For a longer walk and a taste of “The Real Medellin”, contact Medellin Soul Tours to book a tour with a local (ask for Santiago, if he’s available). There is no better way to understand the true heart of a place than by listening to the stories of its people, and Medellin truly has a heart worth knowing. Your guide will be able to show you the city’s staples, as well as its hidden gems.
Bring an extra memory card for your camera so you’re adequately prepared for what is arguably Medellin’s most famous district, Communa 13. Decades of heart-wrenching violence within the borough gave birth to a peaceful resistance of colourful art and stirring music-- the true passion of the people. In recent years Communa 13’s soul has been spreading to the rest of the city thanks in part to the installation of a hillside escalator connecting this community to the rest of Medellin. Some of the most prominent work that you’ll see is by @CHOTA_13. Check him out on Instagram! We absolutely recommend booking Stairway Storytellers to guide you through the art and history of this fascinating area.
If you’d like to go further (and your feet have finally had enough), ask your hotel to arrange a driver for a day. A two hour drive east will take you to Guatape, a small, colourful town on the shores of a manmade reservoir.
Have a wander through the streets and take in the lavish bas-reliefs the town is famous for, visit its monasteries, or climb the tangled stairs of Piedra del Penol for unbelievable views (and snacks) at the top! Check out Must do Travels' video for a taste of what awaits you.
Have you been to any of the places we’ve mentioned? What about other cities in Colombia? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!