- Getting There – José María Córdova International Airport (MDE)
- Currency – Colombian Peso
- Language – Spanish
- Population – 3.7 million
- GDP (Colombia) – $253 billion (32nd Overall)
I visited Medellín during my first trip to Colombia in July 2016 and absolutely loved it. I came from Cartagena (which I also loved), but Medellín is a big and bustling city that I really connected with. I spent a lot of time engaging with locals and learning about the struggles of those who experienced the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, and the dramatic toll it took on Medellín and Colombia more broadly. Overall, I found this to be one of my most memorable trips and I cannot wait for my next trip to Colombia.
Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” thanks to its temperate climate, Medellín is on its way to becoming one of the best new hot-spots in South America. Investments in infrastructure have greatly boosted the local economy by increasing tourism and encouraging new business. If Medellín is not already on your list, this article will definitely convince you to add it.
At this point, you might be asking, “Medellín? Are you sure it’s safe to go there?” I’m here to tell you that yes, it is. Today’s Medellín bears very little similarity to Escobar’s Medellín. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it’s estimated that roughly 80% of the cocaine entering the U.S. came from Escobar’s cartel. Further, it was the murder capital of the world. Since then, however, things have changed and the Colombian government has worked hard to reinvent Medellín.
That said, Medellín is by no means danger-free and as a result, it’s very important to take precautions. Stay aware of your surroundings, steer clear of less populated neighborhoods, and avoid flashing any cameras or cash around. Staying in a safe neighborhood (such as Poblado) and traveling in groups is recommended. It’s also helpful to learn a few key Spanish phrases before you go since many people there speak limited English. As long as you keep your wits about you, you should have a fun, safe time in Medellín.
Where to Stay
As usual, I had a fantastic experience with Airbnb. I stayed in the Poblado neighborhood which is very safe. I had my own room in a beautiful modern apartment for around $60 USD per night that came with a washer & dryer, keyless entry and a host of other modern features. Check it out!
Flights from the U.S. to Medellín aren’t as long (or expensive) as you probably think. A direct flight from NYC to Medellín will take roughly 5 hours – less than a trip from NYC to LAX. Once you land at José María Córdova International Airport, take the inexpensive shuttle ride to the city center for approximately $3 USD or opt for a taxi to your destination that will cost around $30 – $40 USD.
Though Medellín is more than a kilometer above sea level, it’s not that far from the equator so temperatures are warm year-round. December through February tends to be the most expensive time to travel since that’s the driest time of year, but I went earlier this summer and the weather wasn’t too scorching. With warm temperatures and low humidity, Medellín’s climate is perfect for a variety of activities such as hiking, mountain biking or just strolling through the city streets.
Tip: Wear sunscreen! Even when it’s cloudy the sun will still get to you. Learn from my mistake and make sure to wear sunscreen every day of your trip!
Take a Bike Tour!
If you really want to get to know the city – and simultaneously burn off some calories – check out a bike tour. Medellín’s pleasant year-round climate makes it the ideal bike tour town. On the tour, you’ll see famous sites such as the Plaza de Cisneros and many other sites across the city. The ride I took was through http://www.medellinbiketour.com and it was fantastic.
Ride the Metro
A symbol of Medellín’s bright future to come, the metro is a quick, easy way to get around town. It’s also much cleaner and less complicated than NYC’s subway system, making it a tourist-friendly way to travel.
One of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Medellín, El Poblado is a great place to walk around, shop, or grab a bite to eat. At night, check out the bars and nightclubs. I stayed at a fantastic Airbnb apartment in Poblado that was very safe and beautiful.
For an authentic taste of Colombia, you have to try Mondongos. The portions are huge for the price, and the house specialty soup is to die for. Whether you opt for the grilled chicken or the bandeja paisa – a plate piled with rice & beans, beef, plantains, and arepas – you won’t leave this place hungry.
Fresh fruit, popsicles, limonadas, aguas frescas – you name it, Medellín’s street vendors have you covered. While doing some sightseeing I stopped at one vendor who pressed fresh sugar cane together with lemons and limes to make one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. It was fast, refreshing, and just what I needed before continuing my tour.
Another vendor selling Salpicón, which translates to “hodgepodge” of fruits!
Though Colombia is well known for producing some of the best coffee in the world, it’s actually kind of difficult to find a good cup of coffee, as most of the best stuff is exported to other countries. If you’re in need of a caffeine boost, check out Pergamino Café for some good coffee, good pastries, and good vibes.