Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia and has a rough history. It was home to the Medellin Cartel which was an organized network of drug suppliers and smugllers during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Pablo Escobar was one of the founders and at the height of its operations, the Cartel smuggled tons of cocaine each week into countries all over the world and brought in up to 60 million USD daily in drug profits. Pablo Escobar was seen as a hero for many poor people in Medellin because he gave money, donated schools and parks and gave jobs to the people. On the other hand he was responsible for more than 250 bomb attacks against authorities and civil population. These days, the city is trying hard to overcome its history and doesn’t want to have anything to do with this history. And luckily for them, the city has so much more to offer!
After our last overnight bus, we didn’t feel like getting on another one. We decided to check the prices for the flights from Cartagena to Medellin and found out that it was hardly any more expensive than taking a bus. That said, we didn’t need to think twice and booked our flight. So all we had to take was a taxi to the airport in Cartagena, get on the flight and take another taxi in Medellin to our hotel. Simple as that!
The first night we ended up at the Medellin Beer Factory which is a restaurant where you can get beer from (almost) every country in the world. Next to that, they serve huge portions of food. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, and not knowing that the portions were really big, we ordered way to much. But, the food was really tasteful. Luckily we had to walk for about 10 minutes before we got back to our hotel so the food could digest a little bit.
The second and third night we went to a closeby area that is called Parque Lleras. Here you’ll find lot’s of really good restaurants. It’s a bit more expensive but really lively and a great place to go to, especially in the weekend.
We stayed at the lovely Campana Hotel. This is a boutique hotel on a great location. It is nice and quiet but walking distance to Parque Lleras where you will find plenty of good restaurants. The room has an enormous bed which is really comfortable, so a good night sleep is guaranteed. There is a strong shower, bathtub (!) and breakfast is included. The staff is friendly, helpful and always smiling. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the nearby Poblado metro station from where you can go everywhere in the city. Or take an Uber for about 10.000 Pesos to the centre.
** You can find them booking.com
Going up with the Gondela at Acevedo cable station you see an enormous city built out of red bricks. Everywhere you look, you see houses. It was incredible to see how enormous this city is. We use gondola’s during the wintersport to get to the top of the mountain and snowboard down. Here, people use the gondola to get home or to work. It’s definitely worth the time and the 3.200 Pesos p.p. to go up and see the city from above.
After the regular cablecar stops, at Santo Domingo, you can get on another one that brings you even higher and gets you to a point where you completely lost the city feeling and that places you back in nature. This place is called Parque Avi where you can go hiking, cycling or perform some other outdoor activities.
What to do on a rainy day in Medellin? We walked around the streets of the centre but it all looked so depressed. The statues at Plaza Botero look better with a blue sky and eventhough the city has lots of museums and churches we could visit, we didn’t feel like doing this. We read about the biggest fresh water aquarium in Latin America and decided to go there because hey, that does sound impressing.
Unfortunately it sounded more impressing than it was. It wasn’t really that big and even though the fishes were and they do have some interesting species, we didn’t really like it as much as hoped. But.. for the 24.500 Pesos entrance fee you can also visit the three interactive areas about neuroscience, physics and communication. And this was great fun! We spent about two hours self entertaining ourselves with games and learning cool things. We felt like two little kids.
Guatape is a small city nearby and it takes about 2 hours by minivan to get here. We got on the 9 am bus from Terminal del Norte (with Sotra Penol, counter 9, 13.500 Pesos p.p. one way). We jumped off at the rock Piedra de Peñol (entrance 18.000 Pesos p.p.) where we climbed the 700+ steps to the top to get rewarded with an awesome view overlooking the surrounding mountains and lakes. Absolute worth it. Once we got down again, we took a tuktuk to Guatape for 5.000 Pesos p.p. and walked around the beautiful, colored, narrow streets of this cute little town. You can also do a boat tour which will bring you to at least one of the houses of Pablo Escobar where you can go paint balling if you want.