Repeated recommendations of fellow backpackers had eventually convinced to add the extra loop on my itinerary to go visit Medellín, Columbia’s second biggest city. As Lisa and Nicky were already too eager to get to the coast, I was exploring the hometown of the probably most famous gangster of all times, Pablo Escobar, by myself.
Coming from Ecuador I eventually arrived in Medellín after spending two more or less sleepless nights on buses. The sleeplessness was not only caused by the immensely windy and bumpy roads but even more so by the driving style of the most likely suicidal, or at least insane drivers which caused me to instead of sleeping focus on holding on to my seat to not fall all over the bus (this kind of driving, however, later turned out to be the quite normal way to do it in Colombia… ). Furthermore, we luckily took regular breaks all through the night as the bus was continuously stopped by heavily armed policemen which were so kind to control my passport every time exactly in the moment when I found at least a little bit of sleep. And even after they had left again, the Kalashnikovs they had carried did not help for sweet dreams either…
By the time I eventually made it to my hostel, the initial motivation to explore the city was at the lowest level possible – I just wanted some rest! After a while though, curiosity conquered laziness and off I went to explore!
Medellín is located in the Aburrá valley, surrounded by mountains. Way more thrilling then the scenic location, however, is its thrilling history. Back in the day, it was considered as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, mainly due to the activities of Pablo Escobar, the most wanted drug lord of that time who controlled his cartel from Medellín but was feared everywhere. Since he was shot to death in 1993, Medellín, blossomed and is nowadays considered as a highly innovative city.
The immense size of Medellín is best visible when taking a cable car to get a bird’s eye perspective from the Santo Domingo barrio. However, to be honest, the view I got there was not altogether so charming and definitely not made me want to see too much of the city close up thereafter. Thus, my city tour was kept to a minimum.
Instead I took some time to relax until I went to discover the real beauty of the area which awaits visitors a two hour’s bus ride outside of Medellín, in Guatapé. Guatapé is a little colonial town, but the surrounding in which it is located is breathtaking. It is a huge lake scenery which seems just unreal. Taking away some of the romantic idyll is the fact that it was all artificially built, serving the purpose to feed a hydro-electric dam. Nevertheless, it is still absolutely beautiful! It requires some effort to get to the best viewpoint that is definitively from “La Piedra”, a monolith with a height of 200m. Everyone who climbs the 659 steps and reaches the top is rewarded with a stunning 360° view. While in Guatapé, it is also worthwhile to take a boat tour to enjoy the landscape from a different perspective.
Fortunately, my trip to Medellín was on a weekend because then the city offers some of the best parties in all of Colombia. This is at least what other backpackers were telling! And in order to check these rumors, a short visit to Parque Lleras which is supposed to be the city’s party hub was inevitably. Indeed, there are plenty of bars, restaurants, and clubs. But still tired from the hours in the bus, after a few shots of Aguardiente – a liquor that all Colombians seem to love – I desired nothing more than some sleep – in a bed for a change.
Since the time was limited and the “to-do-list” for Colombia still long, another bus drive was unavoidable. The next stop was already waiting…
When in Medellín
Where to sleep: La Presidenta is a budget accommodation with a friendly and helpful staff located in the heart of El Poblado, one of the city’s best neighborhoods. Also quite convenient: it is in walking distance to Parque Lleras.
Where to eat & drink: In El Poblado you find lots and lots of bars, restaurants and clubs.
What to do: Go to Guatapé! It’s only a day trip from Medellín and you surely won’t regret it. If you are in Medellìn for the weekend, visit Parque Lleras. This is Medellíns number one nightlife district and really does have something for everyone’s taste.