There are times when you travel that you just know you are going to love a new city. I had this feeling about Medellin, Colombia. In the 90’s Medellin was considered the murder capital of the world. Once home to the world’s most notorious and violent drug cartel, headed by Pablo Escobar, Medellín witnessed 6,349 killings in 1991, a murder rate of 380 per 100,000 people. Today it is a whole new world. From the moment I arrived, you can see the change and feel how proud people here are of their city. I will walk you through my discoveries this week and share with you a little of what I saw and learned.
After a relatively easy flight from the US through Panama, we landed in the early evening in Medellin. The airport sits about an hour out of the city center so after collecting our bags we hailed an Uber. As I have mentioned in the past, I will always use Uber when it is available because it is always cheaper and I don’t have to have the local currency on me or explain to the driver where I am going. The one hour ride from the airport came to $25 and the driver waited with us at our Airbnb apartment until the owner arrived with our keys.
We had rented a nice two bedroom, two bath apartment in the area of Laurelles. This is one of Medellin’s nicer areas, second only to Poblado which is a little more touristy. The cost for the whole apartment was $28 a night. We instantly unpacked and went for a walk. Absolute favorite thing to do in any city I travel to is walk around and get a feel for the neighborhood while eating and drinking. We had a great dinner of arepas and a few beers. We were pleasantly surprised by how cheap our meal was. We spent a couple dollars each on dinner with a beer. On our walk back to the house we noticed a few casinos in the area. Now after living in Las Vegas for 20 years, I rarely if ever go into casinos while traveling. I did take a picture of this one because of the name 🙂
We also came across this guy right by our place selling these delicious frozen alcoholic beverages. Yes that is a gummy worm on top.
Our first full day in Medellin we decided to check off a bucket list item. We went paragliding. We meant to do this last year in Rio but it got cancelled because of bad weather. So after a quick Uber ride up the mountain, we met our guide and received a quick briefing on what to do while we got harnessed up. The views while we waited for takeoff were spectacular!
Then we ran off the side of the mountain and proceeded to ride the thermals like a bird for about 20 minutes. It was an awesome rush and the closest sensation to flying I have ever had.
Most of the week we ate at different street vendors and small restaurants. The food is the cheapest I have ever experienced in any country. Here are some of my favorites and nothing below costs more than a dollar!
One of the days we were there we decided to do a Pablo Escobar tour. We had both just finished watching the Netflix series Narcos and were interested in seeing some of the locations in real life. The Colombian people as a whole don’t speak about Escobar much and are doing their best to put his legacy behind them. The tour took us to his childhood residence, the Monaco building that was blown up in an attack on his family, his grave site and the building he was eventually shot and killed on the rooftop of. It was interesting to hear the story coming from a Colombian man who had been born and raised in Medellin and lived through all of it. We asked a million questions about Medellin daily life and had a great time seeing the city through the eyes of one of it’s residents.
Our final stop on the tour was a neighborhood called Comuna 13. During the peak of violence, this was the most dangerous neighborhood in Medellin. The police wouldn’t even go there. It is in the west end of town and the road to the ocean and out of Medellin runs through it. Therefor it was a very strategic holding of the cartel. At one point the government had to send in the army to regain control of this area. Today it is a shining example of how a reinvestment in a neighborhood, coupled with community pride can turn things around. The city spent 5 million dollars on this amazing escalator system that runs up through the shanty shack homes. What once took hours to traverse up these incredibly steep hills, now takes minutes. Lots of street artists have adorned the buildings telling the neighborhood’s story and helping with the healing.
One of the best things about Medellin is the perfect year round weather. The city has the nickname “City of eternal Spring”. We enjoyed mid 70 degree weather for our entire trip and took advantage by walking constantly. We saw some beautiful Botero statues in Botero Park and more than our fair share of breweries and restaurants. The city has one of the best metro systems in the world and even metro cable cars that go to the top of one of the surrounding mountains.
A wonderful 7 days of eating, drinking and seeing all the sites and a few excursions. We did everything we wanted and never worried about money. We got a few souvenirs and lived it up. With all this we managed to only spend $60 a day each! This place is insanely cheap and makes it that much more fun to enjoy anything you want without worrying about what it costs.
Between the weather being amazing, the people being friendly and the place being the cheapest country I have visited out of 50, Medellin has quickly become my new favorite place. We felt safe at all times, even when walking at night and through dark neighborhoods. The city was very clean and the people friendly and respectful. I would highly recommend anyone who has been thinking of coming here to not hesitate. Sooner or later the rest of the world will figure out there is nothing to be afraid of and this place may not remain so affordable and clean. Just save me some fries 🙂