Skip to content

Medellín Unseen: What the Media Fails to Show

Medellín is a place which brings up images of violent crime and the drug trade. This is because many years ago, It was home to the Medellín Cartel led by the evil Escobar. This man caused a number of atrocities during Colombia’s darkest period in modern history.

Colombians didn’t make this Netflix series. What you need to understand is that Narcos focuses merely on a dark aspect of Colombia 40 years ago. Furthermore, most people don’t know the positive side of the city. The city has moved on from when cartels ravaged it and homicide was commonplace. It’s the first every city to use cable cars as a form of public transport. In 2013, it beat NYC to gain the title as the most innovative city.

Flying in From Cartagena

I highly recommend flying into Medellín whether it’s domestic or international. It took an hour to fly in from Cartagena on Viva Colombia. The airport in Cartagena is a little disorganised as the terminal is too small. Once I arrived in Medellín, I found out that the airport is actually an hour from the centre. However, a shared taxi only cost £8 to get to my hostel.

Where did I Stay In Medellín?

I stayed at a hostel called The Wandering Paisa. I was unlucky as I got top bunk in the worst spot in the worst room. It was a room of 6 bunk beds in such a small space. I was also sleeping next to the window. It meant that I had to put up with trying to sleep with cumbia music blasting outside on the streets. Despite this, the staff were completely fine. It was also very clean and it was good place to talk to other travellers.

Things to do – Cerro Nutibara in the Heart of Medellín

This place is a massive park right in the centre of the city. In the middle of the park is Pueblito Paisa. To get there, you must walk up the steep path and you will find quaint buildings. These buildings emulate those of the countryside of Antioquia. Although this place was quite full, I felt like I was the only foreign tourist there which made it more interesting.

There was also a staircase which took me to a viewpoint to admire the vistas of Medellín. From these views, you can see that the city is characterised by loads of modern high rise buildings. This is because Medellín is a city which has developed in more recent years.

On my walk back from here to the hostel, I was pleasantly surprised that Medellín is actually a city with affluent areas and even came across a decent outdoor gym.

Visiting Comuna 13 Solo

This was the experience which made me fall in love with Colombia. Comuna 13 was once a barrio which was territory of cartels and paramilitary groups. These days, this place has completely turned itself around as it has become a tourist attraction. Giving tourists the rare opportunity to get a glimpse of life in a barrio without worrying about crime.

Getting there seemed a little bit daunting at first as it can be hard to find where Comuna 13 starts. I took the metro which is the nicest I’ve seen in Latin America. A few stops to San Javier and thought I had to take the cable car. The cable car will give you amazing views of some barrios. However, once you get to the station, I didn’t think I had any business walking around these areas. It turns out that the start of Comuna 13 was a 10 minute walk from San Javier station. Once I had found the place, I did not feel that it was such a dangerous place.

The views from Comuna 13

To make it easier to get around the place, there’s a few escalators to get to the upper areas. This place has an incredibly lively atmosphere with it being very crowded and there are loads of places selling souvenirs. Furthermore, the power of community has really brought this place alive. You can expect to see street art, people performing rap battles with enthusiastic crowds and people performing impressive breakdancing. This is a place in Medellín that you simply cannot miss, it has an incredibly enchanting vibe and you can feel the energetic spirit that this place has.

Everyone and Their Gran was out for the Game

I just happened to be in Medellín on the night of the final of Colombia’s football competition, Medellín’s Atletico Nacional was to play Tolima to become national champions. That day I had seen almost everyone wearing green and white shirts and once the game had kicked off, I got myself to a crowded pub pretty much on the street to experience the atmosphere.

Atletico Nacional came out victorious in a game that had everything, it was a heated and end-to-end game which ended with Atletico Nacional scoring in injury time. When that goal went in, the crowd erupted, there was foam and beer everywhere. People jumped up in extreme elation and the celebrations were absolutely insane. I swear, there were crowds of people in the streets in green and white making celebrating and making lots of noise.

The very moment of victory

Normally, when a team wins something in Scotland, it tends to just be the same type of people out celebrating and they go overboard with it sometimes even descending into violence. However, I saw people from all walks of life and despite copious amounts of alcohol being drunk, I did not see any violence.

Taking a Tour to Guatapé

I heard a lot of talk about Guatapé which is a small town with a lake and the massive rock known as El Peñon. I decided to book a tour on Tripadvisor and I have to say the tour was absolutely brilliant. The English-speaking guide was a guy called Sandy and he was the same age as me. He learned English through listening to rap music and while speaking in the mic, he moved his hands like a rapper. What we had in common is that we both had an interest in learning languages, he was fluent in 4 languages and could even speak a bit of Jamaican Patois and Bosnian.

Sandra and Sandy – my guides to Guatapé

The tour cost about £20 with lunch as well which is a very good price. Furthermore, we first went to El Peñon which is one of the most famous sites in Antioquia. The entrance costs about £4 and when you’re walking up the stairs you will have to wait behind someone else for a bit. Once I got to the top of the rock, the views were very impressive of the lake and the green scenery. What I can say about El Peñon is that there are a lot of tourists and getting down can be tough on the legs.

Guatapé Lake

After that, we went on a boat around the lake and on the top of the boat, you can get a good view of El Peñon and the surrounding nature. The incredible scenery of this place will make you want to see much more of Antioquia, even though it was a very cloudy day.

With the view of El Peñon

Before heading on to the town of Guatapé, we stopped for lunch and I had bandeja Paisa for the first time. Sandy explained that bandeja Paisa had been made to provide sufficient energy for agricultural workers. It is a plate with a bit of everything on it. A bit of beef, advocado, sausage, beans and egg.

Sandy gave us a tour of the town of Guatapé and explained that this place decided to make money off of tourism after losing their main industries. They went about this by putting illustrations on the front of every building. The name of these are Zocalos. In order to attract tourists, they’ve made the streets look colourful and there is a fountain with a statue of a fish representing Antioquia’s fishing industry. We were given some time to explore the town, however it started to rain, so I decided to buy a bottle of Colombiana and wait it out in some shelter.

As it takes an hour and a half to get from Medellín to Guatapé, I recommend going with Tours Guatapé as they make it easier and more time efficient for you.

Indulging in Empanadas

I couldn’t come to Colombia without talking about the tasty fried empanadas that you can find everywhere. Once I got returned from Guatapé, I found La Catedral where I could buy an empanada for about 40p. As you can see, you don’t need to worry about spending too much on good food in Colombia.

My Opinion on Medellín

What can I say about Medellín apart from it being nothing short of a fantastic city. Even though it has an unfortunate reputation with crime, it does not feel like it is rife with crime at all. I steered clear of anything to do with narcotourism after seeing reviews on Google saying that the Pablo Escobar museum was a massive tourist trap. It’s got a really good metro system which would put the London tube to shame.

If you enjoyed reading this, be sure to check out how I enjoyed backpacking in San Salvador and Belgrade.

1 thought on “Medellín Unseen: What the Media Fails to Show”

  1. Very interesting, – your travel writing is becoming very competent. I love to hear about your travels and for someone who is going to these places you are providing a very useful guide. 👏👏

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *