Noah Adelstein and I flew from Panama City to Medellin, Colombia on March 8th. This was my very first time entering South America and I was very very excited to explore and experience the culture. Medellin, in particular, has been at the top of my bucket list as its strengths sit interestingly at the intersection of history, sports, nightlife, and nature. The TL;DR of the adventure — Medellin felt very safe. The clubbing scene is super fun. The history is wild and unbelievable. And the nature is breathtaking! I would actually say that Medellin is my favorite city that I have ever been to. The food is the only eh factor but all other aspects of the culture were really memorable and impressive.
Uber is illegal in Colombia, yet it still operates under-the-radar. We called an Uber as soon as we landed, unaware of the increasingly heated controversy of Uber operations vs. incumbent Taxis, and were in for a bit of an adventure. Our Uber told us to come to the arrival section. We got in his car, after he got out to hug us and pretend that we were friends. We went along with it because why not. All he told us…”do not mention Uber.” Sure enough within a few seconds a police officer came up to our car, took our driver out, interrogated both us and the driver for 10 minutes…and somehow…we convinced them we met him on the internet! If we had not covered for him, they would have taken his car away. Anyways, it worked out and he drove us to our Hostel.
We stayed at the Los Patios Hostel in the heart of expat Medellin. It was at the higher end of hostels price-wise but I have no regrets and definitely think it was a great decision. We booked all of our tours and experiences through the hostel so would definitely recommend staying there. They have a beautiful rooftop bar that overlooks the city and the people we met there were really awesome!
Colombian food is good but like most South American food rather greasy, fatty, and oily. Empanadas were great, as well as more traditional Colombian dishes that were some variety of chicken, beans, rice, etc. There were tons of Western/up-scale food options near the hostel that were actually quite nice. Strong recommendation for the Mercado del Rio — a modern lively food market with tons of great food(like the ones in Tel Aviv and Rotterdam).
I have never watched Narcos but I will say that I have always been fascinated by the history of Colombia and drug trafficking, gangs, and violence broadly. Having since educated myself more about the culture (reading books, gone on tours), I will start by saying things are very complicated. There is no black and white this is good this is bad this is what should have happened. But it is all super interesting and, imo, worth exploring at some point in your life.
The first tour we did was of Pablo Escobar’s life. We visited his home (a few weeks after they destroyed it), his “jail,” his soccer field, and his grave-site. The tour was very informative and definitely peaked my interest in the topic.
The next thing we did was a day-trip was to Guatapé, we booked through our hostel. It really takes a full day but is super worth it. A trip to Medellin must include Guatapé in my opinion — the nature is breathtaking and the views are incredible.
My favorite tour on the trip was the free walking tour of Comuna 13. My guide was amazing — like actually the best guide I have ever had for any experience. He was young, only 20 years old, and actually grew up in la comuna. The tour definitely painted a clearer picture of Colombian history and helped me build further empathy with the culture.
Noah and I went to a soccer game through our hostel. It was super fun, but then started pouring rain. The Colombian fans are crazy, reminded me of the time I went to a game in Paris. Amazing how soccer can influence a culture and bring people together.
The nightlife in Medellin is insane — rivaling Hong Kong, Barcelona, and Beijing for some of the best I have ever experienced. The clubs run until daylight and there is all types of music. Be safe, but definitely go for it.
I spent my last day in Colombia wandering alone as Noah had to fly out a bit earlier. It was refreshing taking everything in alone — always freeing to feel very small.