Ask a few people on the streets and they will soon set you straight: Colombians want to be known for something other than that infamous thug and drug-dealer, Pablo Escobar. And sure, the recent mega-hit by Netflix, “Narcos” is reminding a new generation of what happened, but if you can look past that historical blight (and you should) there is a mystical world of excitement and discovery that awaits you in Medellin.
More specifically, when you venture into this beautiful and rugged landscape, you’ll discover the secret that more and more adventuresome travelers and digital nomads are eager to keep quiet about: Medellin, Colombia is one of the best places to visit, year round.
A bold claim to be sure. But what are the specific reasons people from around the world are flocking to this city? Below we’ll share 7 of the primary benefits you’ll enjoy discovering in Colombia’s second city.
The WeatherAre you reading this with a blizzard outside your window right now? Well, you might just want to skip this section, or book your flight ASAP, because the Medellin forecast is best previewed with four words: “City of Eternal Spring.” That’s right, since Medellin is located at about 5,000 feet above sea level in the temperate Aburra Valley, you’re practically guaranteed an experience a wonderfully cool tropical climate any time you might drop in for a visit. Average temperatures range in the 80’s (perfect for wearing jeans year-round), with night temperatures dropping to the 60’s, with wonderful breezes coming from being situated perfectly on the west range of the Andes Mountains.
In the winter, you can expect a little more rain to fall. August is the warmest month with more wind and sunny days than average. Always pack an umbrella when and a light jacket when heading this way, but leave your snow boots at home, and expect to feel the radiant smiles of people who have few weather woes. Speaking of the people..
The PeopleIf I had a nickel for every visitor to Medellin who raved about the warm and friendly people who regularly open their homes to visitors and offer friendship to the one million foreigners who visit this city annually, well, I’d be doing a lot better!
The truth is, all who visit here are immediately struck by the dynamic innovation, drive and ingenuity of Medellin’s people. Eager to depart from its former reputation as one of the most dangerous places on the planet, residents young and old are joining forces and working to restyle Medellin as “South America’s Silicon Valley.” The government is working to attract big names (recent moves into Medellin include Hewlett-Packard, Kimberly-Clark and Pipeline Studios) for investment and business.
All this change is driven by a passionate people who love music and tango dancing, football (soccer) and their beautiful country, a place they’re proud to welcome foreigners for living and visiting, year-round.
Here’s where things get really interesting. Imagine, for a moment, you could live the way you do, on a fraction of what you currently spend at home. It’s not unrealistic to expect you could save 50-70% of the cost of expenses in your country, when visiting Medellin. Consider this: a haircut costs just $3. Two tickets to the movies go for about $5. And if that’s a date you’re on, I’ll challenge you to spend more than $25-30 on dinner for two, with drinks and premium food in one of the endless restaurants in this wonderful paradise for food and wine lovers. And that’s going to really be living it up.
If you’re on a “work-cation,” and you need to power up with lunch in the business district — Colombian foods are everywhere for about $3 to 10 a plate. Without much in the way of budgeting, you can easily expect to life here and trim 30% off your daily living costs. That means more cash in your pocket, which means more new and exciting adventures to choose from.
Now the question becomes, why haven’t you booked your fare yet?
The FoodIf the prices on food items above are appetizing, wait till you read the menus. The incredible bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables found in Colombia rivals anything else you may venture across in the world. And some of the best are right here, in Medellin.
If you’re after a vast number of terrific food options, get ready to exhilarate your taste buds, at very reasonable prices. Ribs are popular here in Medellin, and done very well in El Poblado. One place you’re sure to love is at MU Medellin (Carrera 34 # 7-1 a 7-99, Poblado). El Poblado is a trendy place many foreigners call home. Maybe not important now, but the building has been sold and MU will move to a new location this year.
Read more about El Poblado accommodations here.
Another higher-end option you’ll want to use for a special occasion is Carmen (Calle 36 / Carrera 10A) or Mystique (on Carrera 33 / 7A).
As mentioned above, many great restaurants offer low-priced lunch deals. One you’re sure to enjoy is D’Andre. They serve up fruit juice, soup, salad and a main entree for under $10. If you’re on a thinner budget, get over to the Tiger Paw hostel where your daily lunch special is just a few dollars. If you’re like me and you do enjoy a few meals at home, you can use Pedidos Ya and Hello Food to order anything you fancy.
And you don’t even need to speak Spanish.
Get ready to be treated like royalty. As a foreigner in Colombia, you’ll soon discover the natives are fascinated with meeting people from other countries. A vast majority will show you extraordinary helpfulness, as you move from one accommodating group to the next. On the weekends, you’ll see that the streets swell and the discos fill as everyone seems to be out and about after the work is done.
Another thing you’ll see are what Colombians call descomplicados, which is an attitude which basically means to “go with the flow.” Many others are struggling to make ends meet, so you’ll see many informal businesses as you walk the streets. One thing you won’t want to open with is the drug culture/Escobar conversation, but everything else is fair game.
The AttractionsSmart tourists come, first and foremost, for the natural bounty and range of options Medellin has on offer. When you pack into a country the size of France or Spain beautiful ranges of mountains, unspoiled Caribbean beaches, jungles that teem with wildlife, and the powerful Magdalena and Amazon rivers you’ll immediately see why Colombia is the clear winner for most biodiverse country in the world. It has more species of birds, frogs and orchids than any other country and yet hundreds more are unclassified.
I would personally take the day trip up to Guatape (pictured above). The views of these man made lakes are incredible. Consistent rainfall keeps everything so lush it is truly breathtaking. If you really want to dive in I would watch Magia Salvaje which is an incredibly well done documentary on the vast landscapes of Colombia.
If jungle tours are your thing (and they should be) Medellin is perfectly located for your next adventure tour deep into the Amazon, where you can launch a visit all the way to those famous Inca temples of Machu Pichu or venture from this base to take a heart-stopping bicycle ride over the world’s most dangerous roads—in Bolivia. I would personally start with the many beautiful towns outside of Medellin which are very close first.
When you encapsulate the entire experience which is Medellin, Colombia you’re sure to see what about 3.8 million residents are in love with. The experience is rich, varied and thrilling. Overcoming the stereotypes of this bountiful land ensure you’ll enjoy a place many never see. From the shopping to the peaceful, red brick buildings and clay-tiled rooftops, you’ll enjoy gardens everywhere and clean streets with many of the trappings you’d find in a lively cosmopolitan city. The ability to see and experience first-hand a place made famous by a villain but sustained by its own biodiversity and fun-loving people is something no traveler should deprive him or herself of!
Click here to have a look at some of the best accommodations in Medellin