Nestled in a valley Medellin is characterized by leafy streets and sprawling communes running up the hillsides. For visitors the city is extremely easy to navigate with it’s spotless and efficient metro, the city’s pride and joy, linked with cable car systems to explore the barrios. The weather here is also perfect, eternal spring, warm in the day and slightly fresh at night. It’s actually hard to imagine that just 20 years ago this was the world’s most dangerous city. The locals embrace tourism and are always happy to assist with directions, recommendations and tips.. In fact it really pleases them to meet foreigners and they do their best to ensure that we enjoy our time in their city and Colombia.
For visitors there is a lot to see and do in Medellin and you will never get bored. One of the best ways to orient yourself in any city is to do the free walking tour. In Medellin this is run by Real City tours and is one of the best walking tours I have completed in my 5 months of travel around Latin America. The team is knowledgeable, passionate and extremely helpful. The tour is about more than just seeing the main sites, they focus on making sure you understand the context of what makes Medellin tick. They explain the history of the city and how it relates to Colombia more broadly, the culture of the Paisa people, the complex political situation in Colombia, the influence of the narcotics trade, how the city has transformed over the past 20 years and of course what local delicacies need to be sampled during your stay. The tour operates on tips so you can pay what suits your budget.
To further understand how life has changed for people of Medellin the graffiti tour of Comuna 13 is another must. Led by locals who live and work in the area you will explore the once highly dangerous area and see impressive street art that has been used as a medium to record history and brighten the neighborhood. The tour run by Toucan Tours ensures money is flowing back to the community funding art and hip hop programs as outlets for local youth and an alternative to gang life.
A trip to Medellin is not complete without a ride up the cable cars. This birds eye view of the city will not only provide stunning panoramic photo opportunities but also an insight into the daily life of the locals as they go about their business below. Taking the second cable car at Santo Domingo will bring you up to Parque Arvi, a natural haven just outside the city parameters. I really enjoyed walking through the forest and taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are also options for activities such as kayaking, horse riding, zip lining and mountain biking if you want a bit more adventure.