Medellín gets all the press but Colombia actually has two cities of eternal spring and the much smaller Pereira is actually a very viable place to live with a similar climate. We compare these two cities in this Medellín vs Pereira comparison.
I have lived in Medellín for well over five years but I have traveled to Pereira several times, which is also known as a city that is best described as a mini-Medellín.
Many Colombians I have met in Pereira feel that the city doesn’t yet get the recognition it deserves.
Not many expats have discovered Pereira compared to Medellín due to Medellín getting much positive press and frequently being rated one of the best foreign cities to live or retire to. Pereira in comparison is definitely off the beaten path.
Medellín has a metro population of about 3.8 million, while Pereira’s metro population is less then 1 million making it about a quarter of the size.
But Pereira is a big enough city that it has many of the same shopping options found in Medellín, including Exito, Jumbo, Homecenter, PriceSmart and Makro plus the top shopping mall in Pereira, Parque Arboleda, rivals the best shopping malls in Medellín.
We’ll compare these two cities in 10 categories, in no particular order.
Note in this article we only include photos of Pereira as this website already has countless photos of Medellín.
It’s a Tie. Medellín is at an elevation of about 4,905 feet (1,495 meters) and Pereira is at an elevation of about 4,629 feet (1,411 meters). Both cities are in valleys surrounded by mountains.
The average temperature during the year in Medellín is 72 ° F (22 °C) and in Pereira the average is also 72 ° F (22 °C).
In Medellín, the average daily high temperature ranges from 81.0 to 82.8 ° F (27.0 to 28.2 °C) and the average daily low ranges from 61.7 to 63.3 ° F (16.5 to 17.4 °C).
In Pereira, the average daily high temperature ranges from 78.3 to 80.8 ° F (25.7 to 27.1 °C) and the average daily low ranges from 61.7 to 62.6 ° F (16.5 to 17.0 °C).
In both cities the temperatures are fairly constant year-round, which is why both are known as cities of “Eternal Spring”.
2. Restaurants and Nightlife
Medellín wins here. Medellín is a much bigger city so it obviously has many more restaurant and nightlife options.
Medellín has many more restaurant options, many of which have been covered on this website. TripAdvisor lists less than 140 restaurants in Pereira and well over 900 restaurants in Medellín when you include the other municipalities in the metro area like Envigado and Sabaneta.
But Pereira still has a number of good restaurants, I found good steak, seafood, Colombian, Italian, Indian and Mexican restaurants in the city, several of which rival the best found in Medellín.
Medellín has more nightlife options that have been covered extensively on this site but Pereira also has some sizzling nightlife that draws visitors from around the coffee region.
3. Cost of Living
Pereira easily wins here. Similar properties I have seen in Pereira in Estrato 5 or 6 neighborhoods tend to rent for or sell for at least 20-25 percent less than in Medellín.
Other costs like groceries, taxis, restaurants and other things tend to be at least 5-10 percent cheaper in Pereira in comparison to Medellín.
For example, I compared the prices of groceries in Exito in the two cities and on average prices in Exito in Pereira were about 7 percent less than in Medellín.
4. Things To Do
It’s arguably a Tie. Both cities have many things to do in the city as well as many things to do nearby.
Pereira is one of the three cities that make up the Coffee Triangle, along with the nearby cities of Armenia and Manizales. As part of the coffee region, stunning scenery and picturesque small pueblos surround Pereira, particularly the popular nearby Salento pueblo.
Medellín also has several picturesque small pueblos nearby including the popular Guatapé and Santa Fe de Antioquia pueblos.
It’s a Tie. Both cities were at the top of a recent survey of 12,548 in Colombia in terms of citizens feeling safe in their barrio.
In this study (slide 41) citizens felt the safest in Medellín, followed by Pereira.
Medellín clearly wins here. Medellín has eight of the top rated hospitals in Latin America, while Pereira has none.
However, Pereira still has several quality medical facilities and many highly skilled doctors. In fact I have heard that in the coffee region, many smaller pueblos such as Salento get their medical needs taken care of in Pereira.
Pereira wins here. As a much smaller city, Pereira doesn’t have all the cars or industry that is found in Medellín so the city has less pollution.
Medellín was ranked #9 in a list of the most polluted cities in Latin America released by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Medellín has recently been putting in place measures to fight increased pollution in the city. For example, the city implemented car/motorcycle free days and banned official vehicles. The city also banned outdoor activities on some days.
Pereira also wins here. Waze ranked Medellín with the eighth worst traffic globally in a study last year that looked at 167 cities worldwide.
Pereira obviously has less traffic being a much smaller city with fewer vehicles.
The worst traffic I have experienced in Pereira was about 30 minutes; in Medellín the worst traffic I have experienced has been well over 90 minutes getting from El Pobaldo to Bello.
9. Ease of Access to the US and Europe
Medellín wins here. Medellín has several non-stop, direct flights to the States plus one non-stop flight to Europe, while in Pereira you need to connect in Bogotá or Panama City to get to the US or to Europe.
However, there is an Avianca flight from Pereira to New York City (JFK) but it stops first in Cartagena, so it’s not non-stop. Or you can drive about an hour from Pereira to Armenia, which has a non-stop Spirit flight direct to Fort Lauderdale.
From Medellín you can fly non-stop to Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and New York. From Medellín you can also fly direct to Madrid in Europe.
10. Seismic Risk
Medellín wins here. Pereira and the coffee region have a history of seismic activity. During the 20th century, Pereira and the nearby region experienced at least seven major seismic events.
Medellín is also at risk but hasn’t really experienced many earthquakes historically or near as much damage as experienced in Pereira.
During the most recent earthquakes in Pereira in 1995 and 1999 several older private homes as well as some public buildings, roads, hospitals, and other structures were damaged.
But seismic risk can be mitigated – recently built buildings in Pereira as well as many of the older buildings in the city are built to withstand seismic activity. The city has also become much stricter about its building codes.
The Bottom Line
In our Medellín vs Pereira comparison, Medellín beats out Pereira in four of our 10 categories; Pereira beats out Medellín in three categories and the two cities tie in three categories. So the end result in this somewhat subjective comparison of 10 categories is a slight edge to Medellín with the categories equally weighted.
But to each his own and to really determine which city is best for you to live depends on which categories are more important to you with a higher weighting for more important categories.
For example, if cost of living and avoiding traffic and avoiding pollution were most important, Pereira would win. If healthcare, ease of access to the U.S. and restaurants and nightlife are your most important categories, Medellín would win.
The bottom line is that Pereira is a viable place to live with a similar climate to Medellín but with a lower cost of living.
The only way to know which city is better is to spend time in both. I have now spent time in both cities and if I weren’t already living in Medellín before I discovered Pereira I would possibly choose Pereira, which is away from the typical gringo trail and is part of the Coffee Triangle.