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Ambivalent Impressions Of Medellin

A City That Changed A Lot

Plaza Botero, Medellin, Colombia

Plaza Botero

Back in 2009, I raved about “La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera” or the “City of Eternal Spring”, as Medellin likes to call itself, and could have easily imagined living there for a few years. I discovered back then a modern, creative, even avant-gardist city with a stunning quality of life.

 

 

 

In summer 2016, reality hit hard when I came back twice 3 days…

  • Being one of Colombia’s major economic center, Medellin have grown a lot, and is now congested with heavy, noisy traffic. It is much harder to find quiet spots, even in the posh residential areas of the city.
  • Medellin have turned extremely popular amongst Colombian & foreign tourists alike, and is now more than ever on the Gringo Trail. Especially disturbing is the “Zona Rosa”, filed with foreign party-animals. Drugs and prostitution are partly in your face now, a completely new and to me disturbing phenomenon.
  • Last but not least, La Feria de las Flores, beginning of August, is more popular than ever, and the city is stormed by throngs of visitors, mostly Colombians. There was not one single accommodation left in the whole city for the last week-end, and 800.000 visitors were expected for the “Desfilete de Silleteros”… Making the city even more congested!

 

Do not get me wrong though…

Medellin has a strong character and a lot to offer for the curious traveler, away from the Gringo Trail and the throngs of younger backpackers here to party. But you will need time to soak in the magic of this city. With only 2 or 3 days at hand, you might be very disappointed, as highlights are not touristic ones: there is actually very little to see from a touristic point of view…

View from the Cerro Nutibara, Medellin, Colombia

View from the Cerro Nutibara

Plaza Botero, Medellin, Colombia

Plaza Botero

Medellin-101

Plaza Botero

What is still unique in Medellin is how easy it is to move around the city: the subway enables you to zip through this wide spread city and avoid the heavy traffic. The most fascinating means of transport are the two cable cars, one climbing the western hills, the other the opposite side, plus of course the one taking you out to the Parque Arví…

Cable Car to the Barrio de Santo Domingo, Medellin, Colombia

Cable Car to the Barrio de Santo Domingo

Barrio of the the Escaleras Electricas, Medellin, Colombia

Barrio of the the Escaleras Electricas

Maybe especially in Medellin, getting to know locals will make a true difference. My friend Santiago, whom I had met White Water Rafting on Rio Suarez in San Gil, took me to places where no tourists ever go. That made for me a true difference in the visit.

White Water Rafting on Rio Suarez, San Gil, Colombia

White Water Rafting on Rio Suarez, San Gil

 

Take Medellin As A Hub

With enough time at hand, there is a lot to do around Medellin…

  • Jardín, a 3 hour bus ride south of Medellin, was definitely one of the highlights in Colombia and maybe even in South America…
  • I haven’t visited those places, but was told several times that Guatapé, Sante Fe de Antioquia & Jericho were definitely worth the visit. Instead of the many day tours on offer in Medellin, I would rather spend a night there to enjoy the place with fewer tourists. Avoid weekends though, as those are popular weekend destinations…

 

All In All?

Being much more touristy, much more congested with traffic and much more noisy, Medellin is now a city that is difficult to grasp if you only have 2 or 3 days at hand… At first sight, the city is not attractive, there are as good as no touristic point of interests, and… You are back on the Gringo Trail, big time!

Nonetheless, if you have more time at hand and if you have the opportunity to meet locals, than you will discover another face of this vivid city, with extremely welcoming people who will get out of their ways to have you enjoying their city, of which they are so proud.

Street Art around the Escaleras Electricas, Medellin, Colombia

Street Art around the Escaleras Electricas, Medellin, Colombia

Last but not least, Medellin can be a great hub to very nice places around, where you could or should spend 2 to 3 days, like Jardín, Guatapé, Santa Fé, or Jericho…

 

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