Travel tips by Coordle. We find and compile the information, so you don’t have to.
Medellin (Mede “gene”) sits in a very picturesque valley. The city is far larger than I imagined and spreads up into the hills. Medellin is vibrant and full of life into all hours of the night and early morning. The norm in many South American cities is to stay up late eating, drinking, and having a great time. When most US cities things are settling in for the night, things are alive and exciting in Medellin! We hope this information helps make your trip to Medellin more enjoyable.
On to transportation logistics
Airport: Unlike the Bogota and Cartagena airports, which are close and have cheap transportation to the city center, the Medellin airport is about an hour’s distance away from the city center and taxis and rideshares to and from the airport cost between $59,000 to $65,000 pesos each way. If you’re looking for something less expensive, the Aeropuerto-Combuses Bus runs to/from the airport for $9,500 pesos. The bus drops off/picks up at the San Diego Mall (between 4am and 10pm) and Hotel Nutibara (between 3am and 10pm). Hotel Nutibara is in the middle of the city right next to Botero Park. The bus is very clean and comfortable. It is reminiscent of a super shuttle, but better because you do not have to climb into the back of a 16-passenger van. The vans leave every 15 minutes between the times mentioned above.
Transportation: Medellin has Uber and a good taxi system. The taxis are everywhere and available at decent prices. If you are worried about the prices, bring out the calculator on your phone to do the conversion and get the price before getting in. It is also good to have the address written out to allow the driver to see to ensure you’ve communicated the correct location.
Medellin also has a great metro system that includes cable cars in some locations (see map). With this metro system, you pay by ride not by trip length. When getting your metro card, tell them how many rides you want. The rides are around $2,200 pesos each. When your card has no more rides on it, the machine will keep the card on your last use. The metro system goes to all the touristy parts of town quite consistently and is relatively fast. Some metro station stops fill up quickly and are a tight squeeze. Make sure to pay attention to your bag at these stops to avoid having anything stolen.
Onto touristy things!
Graffiti/Comuna 13 Tours: Medellin has a great graffiti scene as does Bogota, but this scene is better as there seems to be more developed, full artistic pieces. Around the hospital metro station and under the highway almost all of the cement pillars have amazing pieces on them. There is a free graffiti tour around Comuna 13, which is pretty extensive and around 2 hours long. We booked it through Freetours.com. While the tours are free, you’re expected to tip ($20,000-$30,000 pesos). Our tour guide from Zippy Tours was named Laura, and she was born, raised, and continues to live in Comuna 13. That experience gave us a very nice historical perspective of the violence, death, and drugs that made Comuna 13 a very deadly place to live or visit during the1980s and 1990s. The city and Comuna 13 did a 180-degree turn and now the area is not only safe and welcoming to tourists, but also is driven by tourism. The stories behind the art were wonderful to hear and gave us a fuller story about Comuna 13.
There is also a graffiti tour run by Comuna 13 Tour that is $90,000 pesos. This tour is run by artists who are in the graffiti scene and one potentially more enjoyable as they talk more in-depth about the artists, legalities, and their experience. Over the last 10 year, Comuna 13 installed 6 levels of escalators with Comuna 13 to create more accessibility, and it has had unbelievable success. Comuna 13 is on a hill, and the hill is hilly as heck. The stairs are no joke, and for someone who is in shape not carrying anything. It’s hard to imagine people carrying groceries, children up all the stairs or how the elderly, pregnant folks, parents with kids or the disabled had access to anything below in the city without the escalators.
Comuna 13 has amazing views and give wide sweeping views of the city. Make sure to take pictures when on the tour. The views are spectacular.
Other Tours: There are free walking tours and free food tours. Try to do one of them because it gives you a great perspective of the city and country and information you wouldn’t have possibly known on your own. Also, they are usually run by people who are from Medellin, and that personal experience is valuable.
Christmas Lights: One of the big reasons people go to Medellin is for the Christmas lights. They are displayed in Parque Norte and did not disappoint. Parque Norte is an amusement park surrounding a lake. The fun starts at Planetarium of Medellin where they have a light and sound show put on by EPM. The show is about 11 minutes long and is on every hour at night with the last showing at 11pm. It is worth the time to go watch as it is a techno show with dancers on the video and lights.
From that point, you go through Parque Explora where they have large scale light decorations. The theme the year I was in Parque Explora was musical instruments. Within the Parque, you will find musicians, artists, food vendors, and everything else under the moon. It is a great atmosphere, and you will also see a lot of families and kids out, regardless of how late it is. Once you get to the end of Parque Explora, which is maybe 200 meters, you will turn left into the opening area of Parque Norte.
Front of Parque Norte
There will be a lot of people here. A LOT. There will be food vendors galore both inside and outside Parque Norte so do not worry about going hungry. Please be aware that this area only takes cash, so make sure you have it on hand. If you are standing in the opening area of Parque Norte you can go straight through the row of vendors selling hats, fake tattoos, caricature drawings, and miscellaneous things. That row will turn into the food vendors and the theme–just like any amusement park–is meat, sweets, and carbs. You can get huge meat plates for $10,000 pesos, bags of mini churros for $2,000 pesos, obleas, ice cream, beer, and so on. It is a foodie’s Colombian paradise. On this row you will also see street performers.
Now time to go into Parque Norte! Parque Norte is free and a huge attraction for Colombians. I did not see many foreigners, and any foreigner I spoke to about it had no clue the lights existed. Once inside Parque Norte, you will see large scale Christmas decorations everywhere, and walking to the left will put you officially in the amusement park. The crowd and path takes you fully around the park through all the decorations. There are different themes and main pieces within the park. If you watch the video at the Planetarium of Medellin, walk through Parque Explora and Parque Norte, it will take you a solid two hours. There is a lot to look at and a lot of activity buzzing around you. Just like Guatape is a must-do daytrip, the Christmas lights are a must do if you are in Medellin the end of November to the beginning of January. Here is a great article on the Christmas lights from LaJolla Mom.
Plaza Botero: This park has a Botero statues, mostly women. This is a big tourist attraction and where you can get random souvenirs such as wide brim hats.
Market: This market seems to be the heart of Medellin and it where you can get any food, clothing, or electronics you need. This is a very busy and fast-paced area. It is a great place to travel through on the way to Plaza Botero.
Random tip for you: Colombia uses the same wall prong adapter and voltage as the US and Canada!! Hip-hip-hooray! No blowing out transformers or hoping you can use a straightener in other countries.
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please reach out to us at email@example.com.