When people heard we booked a trip to Colombia, they reacted as many of you might – with confusion in their eyes and fear in their voices as they warned us to “be careful.” Well, I want to let you all know that Colombia is not only an amazing travel destination with lots to see and do, but it is also quite safe! In any major city, you need to have your own back and to make good choices, but Colombia is not any different and is definitely not somewhere to fear anymore.
Without further ado, here are some reasons we really enjoyed our time in Medellin!
This park in the Poblado area of the city was always alive with people and it was surrounded by nice restaurants and bars – so it was a really great place to find a hotel near. I would recommend anyone coming to Colombia to get a hotel/hostel closer to this area, because it felt very safe and was a place where locals and tourists could mesh. Parque Lleras was also a great place to have a beer and watch a soccer match, which was something we ran into one night as the Medellin team and the national team were facing off. It was packed with people and drinking in public is totally fine to do, so the ambiance was unbeatable!
The Christmas Lights
I specifically scheduled our trip to Medellin at a time when the Christmas Lights would be up in the city. It was undeniably beautiful to walk around and experience all the different installations – they change every year. They are really creative and atmospheric, and perfect for all ages. We were recommended to check out Plaza Mayor, Cerro Nutibara, Envigado, and Avenida la Playa for the best displays, but you can basically see lights in every park and most streets you pass while in town.
A great thing about Medellin is its proximity to the infamous Colombian coffee region, as well as other beautiful attractions. We were glad to take tours on two separate occasions – one was to Guatape and the other was our (awesome) horseback and coffee tour with LandVenture Tours. Medellin makes for a great kickoff point to many other beautiful places in Colombia’s mountains.
The Metro and Cable Car
Good for you, Medellin, for having a functioning and easy public transportation system! In the USA, this is something most major cities lack, so it was impressive to use the metro as a cheap and easy alternative to taxis or buses. It was bustling, so clearly many people utilize this form of transportation as well in their daily lives. We just used the Blue line (which is the main line through Medellin), but I presume the others are just as good. The metro took us to the cable car stop where we hopped over to a cable car with room for about 8 people to sit, and up we went! The views of Medellin were unbeatable, and that was definitely the best reason to use it. We continued on the cable car to Parque Arvi at the top, but besides the farmer’s market they had, we didn’t enjoy it so much. They really needed better signs, handout maps, and shuttle buses to take tourists around the park (because it is huge and that’s basically the only way to get around), but as of now, it is quite confusing.
The Friendly People
I’ll be honest, it was tough going to Colombia and only knowing minimal Spanish, but we made it work and the kindness of the people we encountered made us feel more comfortable when trying to speak their language. The people we did get to converse with were so genuine and welcoming, and even when people realized we didn’t know Spanish, they were still very patient.
Delicious Culinary Options
Being able to eat out every night and spend roughly half of what we would in the States for an equally nice meal was awesome! In Medellin, there is a wide array of restaurants and their traditional Colombian food (street empanadassss) as well as their ethnic options were all impressive. One late night option we had was a sushi train – at a restaurant called, you guessed it, Sushi Train! While there we got to experience the rotating belt of sushi like they have in Japan..that was fun. One day we took a food tour with Medellin City Tours to get to know the local cuisine – and surprisingly, our favorite dish was blood sausage (who would have guessed?!) We never went hungry, to say the least. Our most memorable dinner was when we went to a gastronomic experience at El Cielo, which is a must if you want a 12-course fine dining experience for way less than you’d spend in the States.
We were able to take Uber to get a fair price instead of trying to figure out conversions when paying taxi drivers cash, it was hands-off and convenient. The drivers were typically younger and knew more English that the taxi drivers we experienced, so all in all, it was a good option for us. They even provided the choice of having regular, Spanish speaking drivers, or choosing cars specifically for English speakers (with a small upcharge). We just went for the regular ones to save money, but it was a good idea to have.
The chic bars and clubs in Medellin (specifically in El Poblado) make the city a hub for young adults who want to have a good time. Our favorite place to go was called Dulce Jesus Mio, because it was the weirdest club we’ve ever seen – in all the best ways. From clowns, santas, midgets, and a Pablo Escobar lookalike, to the oddities you find in the bathrooms, it’s like a strange acid trip from start to finish. Being that they had bottle service only, we opted (stupidly) for the cheapest one they had. What was it, you ask? A licorice-flavored bottle notoriously known as Aguardiente. A whole bottle later, I can honestly say we have never experienced a hangover like that one..tread carefully, folks.
Being Able to Blend In
Colombians are surprisingly varied in the way they look, so it was good we didn’t stick out like sore thumbs while walking around. They dress fairly well, so luckily I packed a few nicer clothes for going out at night, but overall no one treated us differently (which was only a problem when they assumed we understood Spanish well!) and for that, we were grateful. It made our experience that much more authentic.
Colombia, gracias por un tiempo maravilloso!