What to say about Medellin? From reading books on the Medellín Cartel, I was intrigued. What could a city look like post-cartel? How could it move into a new era? We arrived with an open-minded attitude and after bumping into our German friend from our Cabo de la Vela adventure (love those unexpected encounters that keep happening. Latin America is clearly too small!), we were ready to explore. Well, we liked it very much as we were given a fantastic free walking tour by an inspiring woman. We walked a lot through Medellín as she passionately shared her love for this city. M and I, who usually tend to get bored after an hour (oops), were successfully entertained for 4 hours. The city’s history was shared in an interesting and fun way. Our guide didn’t dodge any question and without imposing any opinion, she gave our group straight-forward answers. This was a refreshing approach.
Medellin has truly done an amazing job on their post-cartel image. From a rehabilitation of a shady area into a square of lights to putting education into focus, you could feel the positive energy throughout the city, needed to break away from a painful past. You could almost forget that many lives were lost during the very dark time Colombia went through but without forgetting its past, Medellin seems ready for a bright present and an even brighter future. We particulary enjoyed the modern city’s subway as it was a cost-effective and clean, a great way to move around the city. As we stayed longer than expected in Cartagena, we couldn’t stay too long in Medellin but the city has lots to explore. If like us, you only have 48 hours in Medellin, have fun:
- Taking a fee tour of the city – you walk through many neighborhoods
- Going up the city gondolas, the north one offering a nice view over the city
- Checking out the giant outdoor escalator that transformed Comuna 13
- Hanging out at Parque Bolivar with the locals
- Ordering an albondiga soup at a local non-touristy restaurant, my highlight
After our time in a big city, we were ready to head out to a smaller town where the Rock of Guatape (known as La Piedra Del Peñol) was waiting for us. We could have done it as a day trip but we decided to stay overnight in this cute town (it was actually probably a village). On the bus to Guatape, we met a very interesting German traveler (I tell you those Germans are everywhere!) who suggested that we hike a 12-km trail to reach the 200-meter high (or 649-step high) rock. Always enthusiastic about hiking (ok, almost always, as we hate rain and cold…), we followed our hostel’s instructions and found a lovely trail. Once we reached the rock, we enjoyed it a lot as it turned into a dirt road where we met many smiling locals and a nice view over La Piera.
Meeting René was a sign as he helped us to decide on our next decision. We were tempted to go to Villa de Leyva, a colonial town, north of Bogota but my heart was shouting: ‘go to Salento, hike through wax palms’. It was a tough dilemma but René’s enthusiasm was what we needed to make up our mind. After a delicious early dinner (or late lunch), we took the last bus back to Medellín as we wanted to jump on the night bus to Armenia to be on the first bus to… Salento! Next stop: Cocora Valley and its wax palms!