Is Medellin Worth Visiting? Explaining The (Over)Hype

Medellin utilised to be just about the final spot anyone would go.

For many years, it was known as the foundation of Colombia’s most notorious cartel, the residence of Pablo Escobar, and (in the early 1990s) for practically owning the world’s greatest criminal offense fee. Yep, it was pretty much no bueno.

Then, Medellin improved… a great deal.

I 1st visited Medellin back in 2014 just in advance of it genuinely hit the highlight. I imagine for numerous vacationers it was a fantastic surprise to obtain out Medellin was safer, livelier, and far more habitable than they’d imagined. Before long, lots of expats and digital nomads also started to understand Medellin as an cost-effective and attractive location to dwell.

Word distribute. Medellin became a factor.

Now, as I revisit Medellin in 2022, it looks the pendulum has swung the other way.

These days, Colombia vacation discussion boards and chat groups are crammed with debates about irrespective of whether Medellin is ‘overrated’. Some travelers ponder what the fuss is all about. Some digital nomads are even turning their noses up at Medellin getting become a ‘gringo town’, overtaken by foreigners like on their own.

So what happened? And should you even now check out Medellin?

Enable me give you my 2 pesos.

Is Medellin worth going to?

From a tourist’s viewpoint, I believe Medellin is certainly worthy of going to for at minimum many times. I’d even say it’s a single of the most worthwhile destinations in Colombia. But… it is valuable to have the right expectations.

Medellin is primarily a fashionable metropolis with numerous crimson-brick condominium blocks as properly as a lot of shanty towns on the slopes of its encompassing hills. There isn’t that a great deal of a historical old city if which is what you are hoping to locate.

Most of the sights and factors to do in Medellin are also arguably a lot more of interest to citizens. It has some charming parks, a botanical backyard, a pleasurable science museum, and numerous renovated public squares — but that is probably not what you came all the way below for. As far as cultural sights of critical curiosity to travellers, I think Bogota has far more of them (for example the Gold Museum and the Botero Museum).

That explained, Medellin is certainly the put to discover about its present day background and the drug cartels. It’s also intriguing to see how poorer regions have been totally reinvigorated. Comuna 13 utilised to be a single of the city’s most harmful locations now it’s a buzzing vacationer spot famed for its road art and good vibes.

Medellin has wonderful nightlife and a good deal of global delicacies, particularly in the affluent neighborhood of Poblado which is well known with expats and visitors.

Purely at encounter benefit, I believe that Medellin can be a smidge disappointing if it is been hyped up to you a lot. Even so, I continue to think Medellin is an amazing town — and I feel the vital to appreciating it is to definitely know its tale.

The moment you comprehend this tale, Medellin will undoubtedly simply click for you in a significant way. At least, I can say it totally did for me.

Being familiar with Medellin

There are two forms of folks who have visited Medellin: those people who have accomplished the Medellin Actual City walking tour and individuals who haven’t.

I have performed actually numerous strolling tours close to the globe, but I nonetheless look at this a person amid the finest I have at any time carried out.

If you want to fully grasp Medellin’s earlier and present from a deeply personalized standpoint, then the Genuine Town strolling tour is a need to. It’s run by locals and all of the guides lived as a result of Medellin’s ‘bad years’ in some way.

(By the way, I never make anything from this advice. It’s just my top rated vacation tip for Medellin!)

Considerably from the common cookie-cutter tour, the tales instructed by my guideline still left me deeply affected. Born and elevated in Medellin, as a little one he witnessed folks acquiring gunned down with automatic rifles ideal in entrance of his residence. He also describes a horrific grenade attack at a metro station and a current market bombing that killed two dozen folks.

By listening to from a person who truly lived by way of it all, you achieve a truly vivid photo of what Medellin was like just a several decades ago. On the other hand, this tour is not just about the poor days, but about hope and development.

Listening to about the undesirable from the previous makes you recognize what Medellin is today. And you’ll actually start seeing it with various eyes.

You’ll identify how Medellin went through a overall transformation. Squares that were as soon as the scene of brutal killings have been turned into lively public areas. Libraries and galleries have sprung up all more than the area. A creating that was the moment a refuge for criminals is now, fittingly, the city’s Centre for Schooling.

On the left, a sculpture that as soon as exploded in a bombing attack. The artist, Fernando Botero, insisted the town preserve it as-is, with a new sculpture placed up coming to it as a reminder of earlier and present.

Regardless of whether you get the Actual Town tour or basically shell out ample time in Medellin, you are going to no question soon hear of “Metro Culture”. It is an additional piece of Medellin’s story.

The Metro program was developed for the duration of the peak of the Violence (it gets created with a cash V). It rapidly became the city’s principal image of improve. Take a nearer appear and you will see the metro system is in reality a resource of satisfaction amongst the Paisas, utterly absolutely free of any graffiti, chewing gum, or cigarette buds.

The metro lines its connecting cablecars had been an city arranging masterstroke, encouraging to tie the metropolis alongside one another and combine the slums with the city suitable, consequently boosting possibilities for the poor. In the outer barrios, you can see posters subsequent to city renovation projects with slogans this kind of as, “here as well the Metro Life lives”, displaying how the Metro has turn into a shorthand for Medellin’s revival.

As soon as you see Medellin in this context, it gets to be a Great deal much more intriguing.

Other ways to take pleasure in Medellin

What I also like about Medellin is that you can get to know the Colombian lifestyle, as properly as making use of it as a excellent foundation for working day outings in the location.

Apart from mastering the history, to get the most out of Medellin below are a number of issues I suggest:

Take a excursion to Guatape

Okay, this is a little bit touristy, but it is truly entertaining.

Guatape is a village famed for its vibrant homes with fantastically sculpted depictions of village life adorning the decrease halves of each and every household. It’s a fairly put to shell out some time.

It is also property to the rock of Peñol, an outstanding inselberg with 650 measures leading to the major, from wherever you can observe a attractive lake-strewn landscape.

It is quite simple to get to but it normally takes a bit of time: get the Medellin Metro to Terminal del Norte, from there it’s a 2-hour bus journey to Guatape costing about 11,000 pesos.

For a a lot more guided and complete practical experience you can also just take a tour, these kinds of as this Guatape day excursion on GetYourGuide (which also incorporates a boat vacation) or this Guatape working day journey on Viator. The excursions are more rapidly as they include resort pickup and no public transit.

Go paragliding

The hills all around Medellin are ideal launching places for paragliding. Tandem flights need no exclusive abilities, are relatively reasonably priced, and give magnificent sights of the town.

It costs all over $50 for a flight. You can book this quickly as a result of Viator or via GetYourGuide.

Consider a vacation to Jerico or Jardin

These colourful towns in the espresso-escalating area south of Medellin are really entertaining to pay a visit to. You are going to see plenty of coffee farmers and cowboys milling about the streets and markets and between the rolling eco-friendly hills you can visit waterfalls or just take a espresso tour.

It requires about 4 several hours to Jerico or 3 hours to Jardin, so you might would like to keep overnight to make it truly worth the journey.

See a soccer/soccer match

Not staying into soccer substantially myself, this was extra of an anthropological exercise than something else, but I beloved seeing how passionate the Colombians get about this activity. Go with a minor team (or a tour) as the stands can get extremely mosh-pitty and ridiculous.

Go on an unique fruits tour

I did this tour and I cherished it as it launched me to quite a few lesser-recognized tropical fruits this sort of as the soursop, guavasteen, sweet granadilla, and the West Indian Locust fruit (a.k.a. the smelly ft fruit).

You get to go to some neighborhood markets and consider out about 20 various tasty issues (or considerably less delicious… see: pungent feet).

Take salsa classes

On some times you can get free of charge classes at distinct hostels (for occasion at the Wandering Paisa) if you happen to be a spending budget traveler. There are also salsa classes offered at a lot of of the salsa bars and educational institutions.

Dive into the nightlife

The nightlife in Medellin is certainly a lot of entertaining, no matter if you are the cocktail bar form or want to go clubbing (most of the new music is latin). Your most straightforward guess is to go to Parque Lleras in the Poblado place, which is a tiny park surrounded by streets with bars and places to eat, all of which have open terraces with individuals spilling out on to the streets.

Viewing vs. residing in Medellin

I consider a whole lot of the discrepancies of viewpoint about Medellin stem from no matter whether persons stay for a couple days, or for a lot extended.

Medellin has a lot heading for it as an reasonably priced put to live, with a moderate yr-round local climate, a quite excellent high quality of lifetime, and quite a few issues to do. That’s why it is been quite preferred with electronic nomads and remote employees (I also assume the dating scene is a big attraction for some nomad types).

Whilst Medellin continues to be a big digital nomad hotspot, similar to Mexico City, Chiang Mai, or Lisbon, its acceptance would seem to have peaked a small bit. Charges rose and gentrification set in, which has led to some grumbling about it remaining “overrated”.

There is also been some backlash to sleazy foreigners coming to Medellin to locate prostitutes and medications and such. Some Facebook teams for Medellin have experienced to start out a “no jerks” policy.

Some inhabitants also don’t like the existence of Pablo Escobar-themed excursions, wanting to set this disagreeable era guiding them.

But if you’re traveling to as a tourist for a handful of days, you will almost certainly be 100% unaware of these controversies.

Though Medellin is not a metropolis with any colonial or historic heritage or even many typical “tourist sites”, it gives a fantastic window into Colombian lifestyle and its much more new record. If you are on a more substantial vacation via Colombia, I definitely would not skip it.

Is Medellin even now unsafe?

Medellin is lengthier the domain of Pablo Escobar, but it can continue to be a little tough all over the edges. Don’t put on expensive jewellery, preserve your mobile phone in your pocket, and choose official taxis at evening (or trip-hail applications) when you are likely out.

Peachy Poblado spot

I’ve questioned locals about the basic safety in Medellin on a number of occasions. I as soon as questioned a group of locals who I’d befriended if they’d ever been robbed or had anything at all transpire — I obtained fairly the collective eye-roll. Just one lifelong Paisa advised me all the barrios (regular neighborhoods) are in essence safe and that only some of the communas (hillside shanty towns) can be perilous these times.

I do consider the problem can be a bit different for travelers, as they may possibly be much more targeted than born-and-elevated locals.

The safest neighborhood is undoubtedly Poblado, which is where most tourist lodging is. This space is fairly affluent and intercontinental though, so it’s a little bit reduced on area vibes. Laureles is another great space to remain. The metro method is incredibly protected and harmless, so you can use it to get about without the need of any problems.

In basic, Medellin is not unsafe, but being a significant metropolis in South America it is even now sensible to acquire some basic safety safeguards.


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Posted OCT 18, 2022 (Up-to-date Oct 18, 2022)

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