Medellin & Bogotá

Medellin

24th of August – 4th of September 2013

The original plan was to take a bus from the Ecuadorian and Colombian border to Bogotá where I was going to meet my friend Camilo. Unfortunately on the day I got to the border, the campesinos (farmers) decided that they had had enough with the politics of the Colombian government and started to riot by blocking the main roads connecting the big cities which resulted in, amongst other things, me being stuck in Ipiales, which is close to the border, for three days. Since there was no reliable information on how long these strikes were going to last, I decided to head back to Quito and fly from there to Cartagena skipping Medellin, Bogotá and the Zona Cafetera altogether, simply because I didn’t want to risk getting stuck again which would result in me missing my boat to Panama City. When we stopped over in Medellin I had to claim my luggage and go through immigration and check in again. While I was walking through the airport I met other backpackers who said that they had not had any problems moving around with buses (the strikes seemed to mainly affect the south of the country). I therefore decided not to catch my second flight but instead to take a bus into town. Not catching your connecting flight on purpose is definitely one of those things that doesn’t happen very often.

The fact that I planned on staying only about four days in Medellin and ended up staying 12 days says it all: this city is fantastic! There is a lot to see and do if you’re going to Colombia but going to Medellin is a must. On the first day we went to see the football game Independiente Medellin vs. Once Caldas.

It was nothing too spectacular but still quite a bit of fun. On the second day I did the Pablo Escobar Tour (35.000 COP / 13,89 €; approx. 2,5h) which was quite informative. The main objective of this tour is to teach people about how the Medellin Cartel operated and how it turned the city into the world’s most dangerous city around 1988. Since then, Medellin sure has come a long way. When in Medellin, try to avoid asking people you don’t know very well questions about him. Pretty much everyone in the area has lost a family member or a friend (or at least knows someone that has) as a result of the drug war and is quite happy  They do not want to talk about the criminal who has caused a lot of pain and left Colombia with a massive stigma attached to it. It is nevertheless an interesting part of Medellin’s history and the city today only goes to show, that everything can change completely in less than two decades.

Another thing I can recommend to do while in Medellin are the two cable cars that go up to a neighborhood in the West of the city (Station: La Aurora) as well as a national park in the East of the city (Station: Santo Domingo and then transfer to Arví). Both cable cars are connected to the metro system and are included in the price (1400 COP / 0,56 € to go anywhere in the city). Generally the metro system in Medellin is small but excellent and has majorly contributed to turning the city into what it is today.

Another absolute must while in Medellin is the free walking tour (you need to register beforehand on www.realcitytours.com). Like the name says, the tour is for free but tip based. Hands down, this was one of the best city tours I have ever done. Pablo (he runs the tours) is so passionate about Colombia as well as Medellin and really manages to paint a picture about Colombia’s history and the ongoing civil war. If you are in Medellin, don’t miss out on this gem! Everyone I met who had done it absolutely loved it.

Not really in the city but also incredibly beautiful is El Peñol, a giant monolith just outside the city of Guatapé which offers amazing views over the nearby lake. To get there just take the bus from Medellin (2h; 12.000 COP / 4,76€) and get off at this rock. The admission is 10.000 COP / 3,97 € and money well spent.

Generally I thought Medellin was one of the most beautiful cities I have visited on this trip so far. There are so many green areas and the people are amazing. If you come to Colombia, going to Medellin should be a given.

Bogotá

4 th – 7 th of August 2013

Bogotá is probably not the most exciting city from a tourist point of view. My main reason to go there was to visit my friend, Camilo. I was only there for two full days which is why I only did one day of sightseeing. In the morning I took the Graffiti-Tour (it’s for free but also tip based like the city tour in Medellin) which was good and definitely worth doing when in Bogotá. In the afternoon I went on the cable car (8.000 COP / 3,17 € one way) to the Monserrate, a 3.152m high mountain right next to Bogotá which offers a great view over the city. I’m sure there are more nice things worth doing when in Bogotá (like the Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá / Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá) but that was unfortunately all I had time for.

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2 Comments

  1. Hey there, great post. I’m hoping to move to Columbia to teach after graduating…trying to decide between living in Bogota and Medellin but it looks like Medellin is a lot more exciting from your post.
    Would you say the nightlife/atmosphere overall is a lot different in each city? And is Bogota a lot more expensive?
    Cheers
    G

    Reply
    • Hey,

      I found the overall atmosphere waaaay better in Medellin. I love that city and it is the only place on my trip where I got “stuck”. I ended up staying 10 days or something instead of three because I enjoyed it so much.

      I didn’t really go out in Bogota so no idea about the nightlife there. But Medellin had an amazing nightlife. Price wise I felt it was mostly the same for Bogota/Medellin. Although I don’t know what the rental prices are like since I stayed in hostels.
      I hope that helped.

      Enjoy Colombia, it is a truly amazing country. 🙂

      Reply

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