Guayabal: Transportation Hub and Tango in Southern Medellin

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Guayabal
Plaza Gardel outside the entrance to the Olaya Herrera Airport
Plaza Gardel outside the entrance to the Olaya Herrera Airport

Guayabal, Medellin’s Comuna #15, is home to a little over 70,000 residents. The main reason for visiting as a tourist or expat is to facilitate transportation via air or bus to other parts of Colombia.

The comuna occupies the southwest part of the city, and is bordered to the north by Cerro Nutibarra and the Belen Malibu neighborhood, to the east by the Medellin River and Poblado, to the south by Itagui, and to the west by Carrera 70 and Belen.

I’ve spent more time in the last year in Guayabal than in previous years, and have gotten a little more comfortable with this part of the city. Still, there are some subjects below where I don’t have enough details to weigh in.

Feel free to leave Comments at the bottom to help us build up information about this important part of Medellin.

History

According to its Wikipedia page, the area now called Guayabal was originally part of Belen until 1925, when muddy farms began giving way to industrial facilities, thus creating Colombia’s first industrial corridor.

In the 1950’s, North American city planners recommended Guayabal as a location for manufacturing. The comuna then developed a reputation for pottery, and the creation of the red roof tiles that are ubiquitous throughout the city.

Birdseye view of Guayabal and the airport
Birdseye view of the airport, bus terminal, and Aeroparque Juan Pablo II

Points of Interest

Aeroparque Juan Pablo II 

Aeroparque Juan Pablo II is a large park running alongside the domestic airport. It features pools and playgrounds for regular use, and also hosts festivals, concerts and events related to La Feria de las Flores as well Christmas.

Olaya Herrera Airport

The Olaya Herrera Airport began operations in the early 1920’s and 30’s, and continues to operate to this day. It no longer handles international flights, only regional and domestic flights from a handful of carriers.

I used it for the first time this year due to my EasyFly flights to and from Bucaramanga. If you can get a flight here, it’s much more convenient than the 50-minute drive to Jose Maria Cordova International Airport in Rio Negro.

This airport will forever be remembered as the place where famed tango singer Carlos Gardel died in a plane crash in 1935.

Terminal del Sur 

Medellin’s southern bus terminal is located adjacent the airport, and offers service to southern Antioquia and Colombia. Go here for destinations like Manizales, the coffee triangle, and Cali. You can also catch buses and taxis to Rio Negro and the international airport here.

Be sure to watch your bags at all times, as luggage theft is known to occur.

The bus station is housed within a mall by the same name, which includes places to eat, shop and even go to the movies.

Santa Fe Zoo

The city’s zoo is located in Guayabal, about a six block walk from the Industriales metro station.

Patio del Tango
Patio del Tango

Food

You’ll find typical Antioquian and Colombian food in this area. In the Trinidad neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to see people cooking over open flames on the sides of the street.

Readers may remember I enjoyed a relaxing Sunday frijolada earlier in the year here.

Nightlife

I’ve only been to one bar in Guayabal, but it’s one that attracts residents from around the city, as well as tourists.

Patio del Tango is one of the two most important tango bars remaining in the city. It’s got a long history, and offers guests a chance to escape the salsa, vallenato and reggaeton music that pervades the city.

Safety

Visitors to Guayabal should exercise caution day or night, and it’s probably not a good idea to walk around outside of the points of interest mentioned above without a Colombian friend who knows or lives in the area.

Cost of Living

It’s a working class area, and based on 2005 census data, 70% of the households are a socioeconomic strata three (medium to low) on a scale of one to six, with the highest strata residents being four and compromising 17%, and the remainder in the lowest stratas.

I’d expect the cost of living to be similar to neighboring Belen, or perhaps a little lower given the proximity to the airport.

This region is not popular amongst foreigners in terms of a place to live, so I don’t have any anecdotal information about room or apartment rental costs.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Your 2005 stats are outdated, 2011 stats from the City of Medellin for Guayabal indicate that 57.7% of the population in the comuna live in socioeconomic strata three (medium to low) on a scale of one to six. 25.3% are in strata four (medium), none in strata five or six, and 16.6% in strata two (low) and less than 1% in strata one. The comuna has moved up on average since 2005 with more now living in strata four.

  2. Just to add en el aeroparque there is a 1.5 km cycle track which opens around 6am and where you will even see pro cyclists like Rigoberto Uran and the legendary Cochise working out. It is adjacent to the airfield and you can rest a bike there as well. Just down the road there is a great roller blade track where you can get lessons and buy blades

  3. Do you have any details on how to use this airport? It seems hard to figure out which airlines fly out of there and how to buy tickets from them. I don’t think there are any flights listed with U.S. based online travel companies. Thanks, Cary

    • Hi Cary, first off, Olaya Herrera Airport is *not* an international airport anymore. It’s only domestic and regional flights within Colombia.

      EasyFly is one carrier that flies from it, and I used them for my Bucaramanga flights earlier in the year. For most foreigners, you’ll be hard pressed to find a flight to where you want to go, as a lot of the destinations are 2nd or 3rd tier — not places we want to visit.

      • Santana has 4 flights a day to Bogotá from Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport and I wouldn’t call Bogotá a 2nd or 3rd tier city. Flying to/from Bogotá via Santana using Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport saves the long drive out to José María Córdova Airport. ADA has flights to Cartagena and Barranquilla but you’ll have to connect in Montería, unfortunately ADA’s flight schedule makes for a long connection. And Santana has flights to Cali but you’ll have to connect in Bogotá.

        Other airlines that fly out of Enrique Olaya Herrera include Aexpa, EasyFly and Searca.

        The list of destinations you can get to with direct flights from Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport include: Acandí, Apartadó, Armenia, Bahía Solano, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Capurganá, Caucasia, Condoto, Corozal, Cúcuta, El Bagre, Ibagué, Manizales, Montería, Nuquí, Pereira, Quibdó, Remedios, Tolú,

        I have flown from Enrique Olaya Herrera with direct flights to Bogotá, Manizales, Montería, and Pereira – and prefer to use this airport for domestic Colombia flights over the time and cost of going to José María Córdova Airport. I just wish one of the airlines in Enrique Olaya Herrera would start direct flights to Cartagena, San Andres and Santa Marta as it would make beach vacations easier.

          • I don’t agree that “most of the rest would be of no interest to the average tourist” as quite a few tourists I have met in Medellín have been interested in visiting the Coffee Zone – with Manizales, Armenia or Pereira as a starting point. And several other tourists I have met have gone to Nuquí to see Colombia’s Pacific coast.

            When I flew to Pereira from Medellín last year (using the Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport), over half the flight happened to be foreign tourists and backpackers visiting the Coffee Zone. I like Pereira, which is famous for being one of the few cities in the world with 8 separate micro-climates, depending on which elevation and barrio you’re in. For example, in one part of the city it might be a little cold while just 30 minutes away is a warm part while it is raining in a different part.

  4. Regarding Guayabal… as a six-year resident of Medellin, I too was unaware of this area except for trips to the zoo, the local airport and the Southern bus terminal. That changed after a recent move to Barrio Sante Fe — a lovely Barrio that sits roughly between the zoo and the local airport. An Estrata 4 Barrio, it’s a flat, safe, working-class neighborhood that has a lot going for it. A fifteen-minute-walk to the Pobaldo Metro, there’s plenty of shops for fruits/meats/vegetables and the usual array of services found in most all of Medellin’s Barrios. The cost of living it a bargain too. If you like to see kids riding their bikes in your neighborhood and people out for a stroll — along with easy access to most all of your everyday needs — I suggest you have a look at Barrio Sante Fe. No doubt the place will evolve as the higher priced El Pobaldo scene begins to grow into the surrounding areas. My only complaint… not enough trees!