First Impressions of Medellin, Colombia

The Metro Cable in Medellin, Colombia

Like every travel agent and Colombian guidebook will tell you, “Medellin is one of Colombia’s safest cities”. One of Colombia’s safest cities who, in 2010, had the highest increase in violence of Colombia’s urban centers.

Although the Medellin River splits through the heart of the city, distinctly dividing central areas and neighborhoods, I don’t think the essence of Medellin will be as easy to define – “good from bad.”

Upon arrival, I spent my first few nights at the Casa Kiwi Hostel in El Poblado. I was amazed at how sophisticated and modern everything was.

New office buildings and shopping centers were scattered amongst green trees and babbling brooks. The city’s views were stunning and the giant green mountains that surrounded it acted as the perfect backdrop.

At night, the streets and parks were illuminated with incredible christmas lights that you could stroll through at any hour and the upscale bars, clubs and restaurants were full. There’s even a Hooters! This isn’t what I expected.

Christmas Lights in Envigado

Over the next few days I ventured away from the touristy Poblado towards downtown Medellin and up to the neighborhoods that rise from the valley, and was happy to find a different Medellin.

Although it’s beautiful, I was happy to find out that life in El Poblado isn’t the norm.

I buried my camera deep inside my pocket and walked with my head down along sketchy side-streets and through bustling markets, stopping along the way for fresh mango slices and to admire the Botero statues.

The arepas and fresh squeezed fruit juices are delicious. The metro system is clean, simple and the perfect tour guide. The construction plans and civil developments prove why Medellin is known as “Colombia’s industrial capital” and the weather is a perfect 70 degrees and breezy, which proves why Medellin is known also known as “the city of everlasting spring“.

The women are absolutely gorgeous, curvaceous and live up to their reputation as being some of the most beautiful in the world (as well as the Medellin’s reputation for being one of the best places in the world for plastic surgery).

Keeping Cool in Medellin, Colombia

It all seems great if you look quickly. Take a second look, the drug deals are unavoidable. Kids on bikes deliver and corner stores and outdoor gyms are good meeting points. I got through a whole set of pull-ups the other day during a drug bust across the street from place I started working out.

The talk of FARC, paramilitary and mafia are just as unavoidable. Maybe they don’t operate (as clearly) in downtown Medellin like Pablo Escobar did but, from what I’ve been told, they sure aren’t dead.

All-in-all my first impressions are… Medellin intrigues me. I’m won’t pretend to understand her complexities or layers just yet but I am excited to learn more. As my salsa teacher says “paso a paso“.

Medellin River in Medellin, Colombia

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My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!

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