Medellin is one of the most charming cities in Colombia. Due to its cool culture, laid-back vibes (lots of good parties!), warm climate, and considerably cheap to visit, there is no doubt why that is the case.
I spent a week in Medellin, exploring both the day and nightlife cultures, hiking the hills around Medellin, ate food and drank my way through the city, and here are the top 10 things, with a good balance of culture exploration, adventure, and laid-back activities I would recommend you to do when you are in Medellin.
Looking for a complete itinerary for Colombia? One Month Backpacking Itinerary for Colombia.
Medellin Things to Do Map
Colombia Travel Video
When to Go to Medellin
The best time to visit Medellin is around December as the weather is warm and the peak season has not yet arrive, saving you a few bucks for accommodation as the price started to increase from January to March.
How to Get to Medellin
There are a few major airlines that fly directly to Medellin Airport. Avianca is a great airline to fly around this part of the world whereas if you are coming from Europe or the US, you can fly direct with Iberia or American Airline respectively. To look for the cheapest flights available, browse through both Skyscanner and Momondo to find the best deal possible.
You can also fly domestic via VivaColombia or take overland buses from big cities like Bogota or Cali to Medellin. For bus schedule and prices, you can use Busbud.com to find the best time for your itinerary.
How to Get Around Medellin
The safest and fastest way to travel around Medellin is by Uber. It is reliable and a bit cheaper than taking a regular taxi. You can also take the metro train or the metro cable car to get around the hilly area of Medellin.
For more information on how to navigate through Medellin via Metro, take a look at the 2019 updated guide on Medellin Metro System.
Where to Stay in Medellin
Budget - Hostal Lleras Calle 8 No. 2 - 9 USD/Night (Dorm)
The hostel is equipped with bunk beds with curtains, the best kind of bunk beds hands down. 😁
Mid-Range - Hotel Lleras Suite - 27 USD/Night (Double Room)
The internet in Medellin is fast and widely accessible in most cafes and hotels. If you want to stay connected while outside, I would recommend getting a local sim card. I bought a 2 GB 30 days plan from Claro in Medellin for 46,000 COP. I get signal from everywhere in and around Medellin at 4G speed. Highly recommended.
For more info: Colombia Data Sim Card Wiki.
This place is cheaper than most countries but not dirt cheap. Expect to pay around 30 - 50 USD per day per person including accommodation and food.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
Is Medellin Safe?
Medellin is generally safe and has been for the past decade but with most of the South American cities, common senses need to be followed. Avoid walking alone in an empty street at night with one exception, it should be fine to walk around in a party area since there will be plenty of people out and about all night. Keep your bag in front if you are using public transport or better, take Uber as it is safer and cheaper than the regular taxi.
Here's one tip to rule them all, if the locals don't do it, why should you? You won't find many locals walking on a quiet street alone at night.
That said, if you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Colombia, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
Top 10 Things to Do in Medellin
1. Check out the City (Day and Night)
Medellin is full of fun things to do, both during the day and night. Most of the time, tourists will often be concentrated around El Poblado area, and I often don't like recommending touristy places but El Poblado has the unique charm that always makes me come back to it. You will find plenty of hipster cafes, delicious restaurants, and wine bars to unwind in. Don't expect authentic experience out of this area though.
Botero Park and the Museum of Antioquia is also worth visiting if you are interested in art and the masterpiece collection of Fernando Botero. There is a fun vibe to his work that will be even the art skeptic smile when they see one of his work.
If you are in Medellin on Friday, do not forget to go out and explore the vivid nightlife of the city and see what it has to offer. There are countless places you can go but one of my favorite places to go enjoy a couple of local craft beers is the Cerveceria 3 Cordilleras, a local craft brewery with a bar attached to it.
On Fridays there is always live music with local bands playing. They started at 6:30 PM and finishes at 11:00 PM. The entry fee is 28,000 COP. You can also take a tour around their factory if you are there on Thursday and are interested in how they brew their local beers.
2. Hike the Hill of Three Cross trail
Medellin is surrounded by hills and mountains which makes it a great place to go hiking as well. One of the easier but rewarding hikes is the trail that goes up the Hill of Three Crosses. You can do it in an hour and you will get to see Medellin from above.
You can get there by Uber which should take you around 10 - 30 minutes from El Poblado depending on the traffic and should cost you no more than 15,000 COP. One thing to beware is that there are some reports of robbery along the trail at night so avoid hiking after sunset.
The trail head location is shown below:
The trail is pretty straight-forward with a half-way point at an opening with a giant tree and once you have reached the top, you will find an outdoor gym, a fruit vendor and a grand view of the city.
3. Learn Salsa for Free with the Locals
You have not really seen Medellin if you did not experience the famous salsa culture here. There are plenty of places that provide a clueless tourist like myself a basic course in Salsa but wouldn't it be better if you are being taught by a stranger in a salsa bar for free?
If you are in Medellin on a Tuesday or Saturday night, you can hop over to Dancefree workshop to learn Colombian salsa dance from very energetic instructors there. You can also ask the locals in the bar to be your dancing partner as many of the people there are also looking for a practice partner. Most locals are very friendly and will often help you along the way as you stumbled around the dancefloor. It's also a great place to meet local people and make friends as well.
4. Taste the Real Colombian Coffee at a Local Coffee Farm
Colombian are well-known for their coffee beans and Medellin is perfectly located within the coffee belt. There are several coffee plantation tours offered in local cafes or your accommodation that you can go with.
The tour often consist of transportation to the private plantation where you will be able to see how they pick coffee beans, learn about the process of preparing coffee beans and get to try some of the finest coffee in the world. If you are a coffee snob like me, you must not miss this.
5. Stroll Around Arví Park
A little tamer than the Hill of the Three Crosses, Arvi park is a nature reserve and a Pre-Hispanic archeological site, known for its wildflowers, butterflies and hiking trails. It is the perfect place for you to dive yourself into the stunning nature surrounding Medellin.
The trail can be a little hard to navigate so I would recommend you go on with a free guide provided by the park at the entrance.
To get to Arvi Park, you will have to take a metro and get off at Acevedo station and take the Metrocable (cable car) Line K to Santo Domingo station before transferring to Line L.
For alternative hiking info: How to Hike to Parque Arvi and the Metrocable via the Back Door.
6. Walk around the Santo Domingo Metro Cable Station
On your way down from Arvi park, be sure to get off at the Santo Domingo station and explore this part of the city. The area around here has a more authentic feel than in El Poblado and you will be able to get a sense of what it's like living in this city from a perspective of the locals.
There are many cafes and restaurant around the Santo Domingo station with a stunning viewpoint of the district and the view below it. Some reports have claimed that this area is still dangerous, although I had no problem here, so keep your backpack secured and avoid being here at night.
7. Go Picnic, Read a Book, and Relax at the Jardín Botanico Park
If you are looking for a place to get away from it all and you just want to be in a quiet area, away from the craziness of Medellin, around nature, there is no better place to be than the spacious and green Jardín Botanico Park.
One of the highlights of the park is the large architectural wooden structure, depicting several types of plants found inside, where you can have a nice picnic, read a book with a nice cup of coffee and unwind from all the hustle and bustle of Medellin.
To get there, you can take the metro and get off at the Universidad Metro station and the park should see the park from the platform.
8. Try all the "Menu del Dia"
One of the cheapest and most delicious ways to devour your way through Medellin is to order "Menu del Dia" or "Menu of the Day" for lunch which is commonly served in many restaurants around the city. It is basically Happy Hours but for lunch. "Menu del Dia" is often served with drinks and a bowl of soup together with the main course meal. If you are looking for a way to save money but you still want to try different kinds of stuff, order "Menu del Dia" the next time you visit a restaurant in Medellin.
For a highly detail info on menu del dia in Medellin , visit: The Best Menu del Dia Lunches in Medellin, Colombia.
9. Get your Coffee Fix at Cafe Velvet
One of the cafe I often frequent when I was Medellin is Cafe Velvet. They serve the most delicious latte in town together with a crispy croissant, making it one of my favorite places to go during my morning routine. They also offer a limited tour to their coffee plantation if you are interested in a more unique coffee experience, but it's a bit pricier than all the other tours around.
10. Climb up the La Piedra meteorite in Guatape (El Peñón de Guatapé)
Guatape is a beautiful colonial town located around 80 km east from Medellin. It is a perfect destination for a day trip from Medellin if you are interested in seeing one of the most colorful pueblo out there.
One of the highlights is La Piedra meteorite (Stone of El Peñol), a 10 stories high rock that had fallen to earth millions of years ago. You can climb its 740 steps to the top and you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of the man-made lake below.
To get to Guatape, you will have to take a metro to the Caribe Station where you will be able to buy the bus ticket to Guatape at the Terminal del Norte bus station. It should cost you no more than 14,000 COP and will take around 2 hours to get there.
For more info on how to get to Guatape: A Guide on How To Get to Guatape by Bus.
Extra. Watch Narcos While You Are There
Last but not least, if you have not watched the famous Netflix series Narcos (Season 1 and 2), do so while you are in Medellin for extra immersion.😁
I always feel that it is necessary for us to learn the history of a place we are visiting so that we can see where the locals are coming from and how far they have come. Given that Narcos is not exactly historically accurate, look at it for what it is, entertainment based on true location and you won't have to imagine what it's like to be there, because you are already there.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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