Medellin Part 1, Colombia

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Colombia July 2017
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Medellin Part 1

A little bit about Medellin; this is the 2nd largest City in Colombia after Bogota, and lies at an altitude of 4,900ft; in the Aburra valley. The climate here is steady all year round; about mid 80’s during the day and mid 60’s during the night. It is a little cooler than Cali. No need for heating or AC. Medellin was the stronghold of Pablo Escobar, the most notorious drug lord. Escobar made so much money from the cocaine trade to the US, that he practically “ruled” Medellin with impunity. In the fighting with other drug lords, the right wing and left wing guerilla groups, and with the Colombian Govt (with US backing)  to stop or control the cocaine drug trade, Medellin became the most dangerous city in the world. About 25,000 people were killed in 1 year during the height of the drug wars. Escobar made over US$30 billion during his career controlling over 80% of the cocaine trade to the US. To protect himself from the police, he paid a set amount of money per policeman (based on rank) that was killed by his sicarios (thugs).

We flew from Cali to Medellin on Air Avianca, a Colombian airline; flight was a short 45min flight. It was getting dark when we landed, and we got an Uber, that took us over 45mins to get to Envigado (cost of about $18), where we had rented an AirBnB apartment. The drive was very pleasant, with great views of the city lights as the place is hilly. The apartment was a 3 bedroom apartment in a highrise, and it was in a hilly residential area, with no nearby shops or restaurants. The doorman gave us the keys and showed us the apartment etc; all in Spanish, of course 🙂 . So we took an Uber to go to Park Lleras, the most happening square in Poblado neighborhood. This place was a large square full of people enjoying the night a multitude of restaurants, bars, and night clubs. Lots of street vendors selling all kinds of things.

Park Lleras at night
Park Lleras at night

After grabbing a quick dinner, we headed back the apartment. Next day, we got our bearings, and figured out that we could take the local Metro bus that would take us the Itagui subway station, where we could catch the subway to all different parts of Medellin, all for a fixed fare of about 60 cents each, per person, fixed fare.

So we took the bus by flagging it down right outside our apartment, and at the Itagui metro station had our breakfast of Empanada o papas; which are potato chops like we used to make; and Colombian coffee, which is actually very good and not bitter at all.

Local breakfast on the go
Local breakfast on the go

Then we took the subway and did some touring. First stop was Plaza Minorista; which is a huge market for fresh food, fruits, vegetables etc. Have to hit the fruit and vegetable market 🙂 . Some scenes below from there

Street fruits; jackfruit cart
Street fruits; Jackfruit cart
View of communities built on the hillsides of Medellin
View of communities built on the hillsides of Medellin
Busy market
Busy market

We found a nice little restaurant which turned out to be a “fancy’ place with chefs and white table cloths in the basement of this market for an Almuerzo (lunch) set menu, and fresh squeezed fruit juices.

Nice restaurant inside the market; very reasonably price set menus for about $5 (3 dishes)
Nice restaurant inside the market; very reasonably price set menus for about $5 (3 dishes)
The wheeled coffee stall is very popular
The wheeled coffee stall is very popular and can be seen everywhere. Notice how clean the place is (outside the market)

Almost everywhere, we found that Colombia is very clean; there are plenty of people sweeping the streets and sidewalks. Very civilized.

Another interesting place we visited was  Plaza Botero, which is a large open square with lots of people. Here is where the sculptures of Fernando Botero can be viewed; there is also a museum dedicated to his art in this square. See some of his sculptures below

Plaza Botero
Plaza Botero
Botero’s art
Botero’s art
More of Botero’s sculptures
More of Botero’s sculptures
All Botero’s sculptures showed oversized figures
All Botero’s sculptures showed oversized figures

We found some “chas” (yogurt + cold water)
We found some “chas” (yogurt + cold water) to keep us cool while checking out the scene in the plaza
Street scene near Plaza Botero, more sculptures
Street scene near Plaza Botero, more sculptures
Interesting flower
Interesting flower
Knife throwing entertainer at Red stop lights
Knife throwing entertainer at Red stop lights; looks like she was quite popular
City Scene
City Scene, with above ground subway
City View, note the needle shaped building on the left
City View, note the needle shaped building on the left
Fresh juice stands were everywhere; our Metro bus is in the background
Fresh juice stands were everywhere; our Metro bus is in the background

One day, we took a trip out to Guatape, which is a very scenic area about a 2 hour bus ride from Medellin. To get to the bus stop, we took the subway to Caribe station, and walked about 2 blocks to the Estation du Norte. There were over 50 different bus company counters, so we had to find the right bus company’s counter (Sotrasanvicente bus company,counter # 14) for La Piedra. Bus tickets were about US$4 each) and after about 2 hours riding through some very pleasant green countryside, we finally got dropped off at La Piedra.

Terminal du Norte, buses available to take you to places north of Medellin
Terminal du Norte, buses available to take you to places north of Medellin
Rural scene from the bus, once we were outside Medellin city
Rural scene from the bus, once we were outside Medellin city
Small town along the way
Small town along the way

We finally arrived at La Piedra, where we got off with several other tourists; this place is a tourist place. The attraction is a large monolithic rock that one can climb for incredible views of very beautiful countryside. This is similar to La Pena de Bernal that we went to near Queretaro in Mexico (see http://alikarimtravelog.com/queretaro-part-2/).

We got off the bus and had a coffee and snack at the local restaurant, and then took a short tuk-tuk ride to get us to the base of the Penon; see pics below

Coffee and snack stop before going to El Penon
Coffee and snack stop before going to El Penon
The Rock (El Penon) is a monolithic rock that juts out of the earth
The Rock (El Penon) is a monolithic rock that juts out of the earth; that was once worshipped by the local Tahamies Indians that lived here.

The area around this is a dammed-up river, that ended up forming a large lake with many fingers. As a consequence, the area around here was very beautiful with a lot of water. At the base of the Penon, we bought tickets to climb up to the top ($6 each for tourists)

The authorities have built a staircase along a fissure in the rock, that are used to climb to the top of the Rock. There are 659 steps altogether to go up, and a different staircase to come down the same number of steps.  The tickets were about $6 each

659 steps
659 steps

There were some astounding views on the way up and at the top

Climbing up
Climbing up
Half way up
Half way up
View from the top
View from the top
More views from the top
More views from the top
Beautiful countryside
Beautiful countryside

We then climbed back using an inner staircase; all 659 steps. At the bottom, we took a 5 minute tuk-tuk to take us to the town of Guatape, where we had local specialty of Trucha, or trout fish at a local restaurant on the lake

Lakeshore Restaurant, live music
Lakeshore Restaurant, live music
Trucha fish on sizzling plate with all the trimmings
Trucha fish on sizzling plate with all the trimmings, and fresh squeezed juices

We then spent the rest of the afternoon checking out this quaint old prosperous Spanish colonial town; see some shots below

Beautiful church outside
Beautiful church outside
and inside
and inside
I particularly loved the last sentence of this inscription in the church
I particularly loved the last sentence of this inscription in the church
Guatape Town scenes; this one and below
Guatape Town scenes; this one and below

Lakeside activity
Lakeside activity

After a very pleasant afternoon in Guatape, we caught the 5:30PM bus back to Medellin from Guatape. Once back in Medellin, we took an Uber to Park Lleras in Poblado, to a Turkish restaurant to try out some schwarma’s. We then walked around the park; people & entertainment watching and then got an Uber back to our apartment

Medellin view from our apartment
Medellin view from our apartment; the structure on the bottom right is an area built for sports (basketball, football etc), and these were in every neighborhood for anyone to use.

More Medellin next, before returning to Dallas

This entry was posted in Cali & Medellin July 2017, Colombia, South America

12 thoughts on “Medellin Part 1, Colombia

  • ALAMARA GIWANI August 15, 2017 at 10:11 pm Reply

    wow wow wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thanks for sharing the color and richness!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ali Karim August 15, 2017 at 11:01 pm Reply

      Alamara; you always encourage us to write and share; thanks for being such a loyal reader and for always encouraging us. Much appreciated

  • Naz Adatia August 16, 2017 at 7:41 pm Reply

    Good Morning, beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing. I love the write up, it feels like I am right there experiencing the places.
    Thanks
    Have a wonderful day.
    Naz.

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 7:42 pm Reply

      Thanks Naz; so glad you are enjoying our travels in Cali and Medellin

  • Zul Walji August 16, 2017 at 10:41 pm Reply

    Another awesome travelogue.

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 10:46 pm Reply

      THanks Zul; so glad you are enjoying our travels in Cali, Medellin and in Colombia

  • Azeem Asaria August 16, 2017 at 11:00 pm Reply

    Hi Ali- I have to say you know how to enjoy and make the most of your trips.

    How long did it take you to climb 659 steps?

    Azeem

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 11:02 pm Reply

      Thanks Azeem; we are indeed blessed to be able to travel the world. And because we live at B&B or similar type places, its cheaper so we can travel.

      RE: 659 steps; I think it may have takes us 15-20mins; did not time it and we took it leisurely, stopping along the way to admire the beauty

  • mahamud jinnah August 17, 2017 at 9:23 pm Reply

    Loved the sculptures in Medellin and the rock that you guys climbed the next day. Very scenic.

    you are very adventurous. Not quite sure i would trust Uber or airbnb there. I would have visions of them taking me hostage.I know Columbia is changing but i will see it vicariously through your beautiful lens. Not on my bucket list yet.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Ali Karim August 18, 2017 at 12:08 am Reply

      THanks Mahamud for the encouragement. So glad you are enjoying our trip through Colombia

  • badru walji August 18, 2017 at 2:32 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing.So beautiful.Badru Walji

    • Ali Karim August 21, 2017 at 12:36 am Reply

      Thanks Badru Walji; so glad you are enjoying my travelog through Colombia

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