On Returning to Medellin After 12 Months Away

Barrio Colombia
Barro Medellin (in orange) occupies the building where Kukaramakara once stood. Ibiza discoteca and a bar have opened up show next door.
The large balcony of the first apartment I'm renting in Poblado
The large balcony of the first apartment I’m renting in Poblado. The view ahead is toward the north of the city.

As soon as my AeroGal flight from Lima dipped below the cloudline, exposing the green mountains and rolling hills of Antioquia, I began to wonder how I could ever leave such a beautiful place.

But leave I did.

Twelve months ago, I set out to explore the rest of South America.

Highlights include:

  • Ecuador and an 8-day cruise in the Galapagos Islands
  • Peru and the 5-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu
  • Living in Lima for 5 months
  • Falling in love with a wonderful Peruvian girl
  • Two weeks traveling Patagonia
  • Ice climbing on a glacier for the first time
  • Living in Buenos Aires for 6 weeks, and taking tango lessons
  • Traveling the coast of Uruguay
  • Chile and sandboarding in the Atacama Desert
  • Bolivia and the Salt Flats of Uyuni

Three things were abundantly clear to me after my first few hours back in Medellin.

1. Medellin is the most beautiful city in South America as far as I’m concerned. I still need to see Rio, but I’m confident Medellin can hold up against the competition.

2. All the things I loved about Medellin in 2009 are still the things I appreciate about it in 2012. The mountains, the consistent Springlike climate, the friendly people, the energy of the city, and the pretty paisas.

3. I’m not the same man I was when I left. It feels like I’ve lived a lifetime or two in the last 12 months. That’s one of the things I love most about travel — it’s like taking steroids for personal growth.

Barrio Colombia
Barro Medellin (in orange) occupies the building where Kukaramakara once stood. Ibiza discoteca and Why Not are both new.

After checking into my first of two Poblado apartments, I went for a walk around Parque Lleras, taking note of the bars and discotecas that have changed ownership in the time I’ve been gone. There were quite a few changes in Barrio Colombia as well.

Nightlife and food are two of my favorite topics to cover in the city, so I wanted to get a quick feel for what’s been happening.

Then I met up with Ryan, whose been doing an excellent job of entertaining and informing readers of this blog since I left.

After a few Pilsens, we walked over to the Buddha hostel in Laureles where he’s now working. Once there, he introduced me to Mariano, the owner.

The Buddha hostels are a real trip. The one in Laureles features decor he once used in a discoteca he owned in Bogota. As you can tell from the photo above, it’s not your average party hostel in Medellin.

Finally, there are some hostels where travelers can go for a more relaxed and peaceful environment.

I’m writing this after being back two days, and already I know two weeks won’t be enough time in the city I love so much.

I look forward to meeting up with all my friends, and getting a lot of writing done in between. If you’d like to meet up this week, leave a comment, or follow Medellin Living on Facebook for updates about any events I’m attending.

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  1. I live in Medellin, and agree that it is very beautiful, but Rio is definitely more beautiful. The beach, the architecture, corcovado, pao de azucar, Santa Teresa… there’s no contest. Rio is by far the most beautiful city in S. America. Also, depending on what you consider to be beautiful, I think you could make a pretty strong argument for Buenos Aires as second runner up, if you take architecture into account.

    • Hey Louis, I appreciate your opinion. I’m sure Rio will blow me away. I loved Cape Town, and I think they both have that same mix of mountain and beach views going for them.

      But having lived in Buenos Aires for 6 months earlier this year, I’m really surprised you threw that city in the mix. Culturally, it’s got a lot to offer, but the scenery was not inspiring in the least.

      If anything, I’d suggest Santiago, but was I was there in Winter, it was so smoggy I could barely see the surrounding mountains.

  2. I lived in Medellin twice – Santa Marta, Rodadero and Monteria. The last time I lived in Medellin was on Calle 10 up off Las Palmas by CES. Beautiful house with lots of land – but it would rain daily there (but not down ocne you past Transversal Superior).

    Lots to do in Medellin (Pobaldo) but so much traffic. Going anywhere was an hour deal.

    Now we live in Rodadero and we can pay the gas, water, electric (at 3 different places using credit cards) and go shipping and stop by the dentist in 2 hours. Also, there is much development here and real estate prices are going up 30% a year on new projects – absolutely amazing investment.

    So Medellin I agree is beautiful and you have many things to do – and Poblado is very clean – but I love so much living on the coast.. 73s my friend..

  3. Dave, this is Dennis from your Patagonia Trip. I loved reading this article and all of your articles. You write very well. I need to visit Columbia and some other destinations in South America in the coming years. My next trip in February is Southern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. I hope that you have a camera now that is dependable ? What type are you using now ? I agree with your comments on Buenos Aires. I have the resources to winter in a city like Medellin, I just need the courage to get up and do it. I look forward to read about your future travels. Thanks again Dave, you inspire me.

    • Hey Dennis, glad to know you’re out there reading! Many people visit Medellin for a few days, and return to spend more time here. So you can always start with a short visit.

      I got the same camera, the Canon S100, but confirmed that the serial number is not associated with the problem that caused my previous one to break.

      • Dave, I would like to get a Canon S100. Can you give me info. on what type of serial number I should be looking for ? Thanks so much.

        • This is direct from Canon:

          Some PowerShot S100 units (with the serial numbers listed below) may encounter a lens error due to a part becoming disconnected inside the lens. In particular, this lens error may occur when the camera is used in certain environmental conditions such as high temperature and/or humidity.

          Affected Product:
          Some PowerShot S100 Digital Cameras within the following serial number range:

          The first and second digits of the camera’s serial number are any number from “29” through “41”. For example: “29xxxxxxxxxx”, “30xxxxxxxxxx”………”41xxxxxxxxxx”

          (The [x] characters shown above represent the remaining characters of the product’s serial number.)

  4. I’m heading to Colombia in February – partially because of all your positive reports. My husband and I only have 12 days on the ground. Because we land in Bogota we obviously need a few days there but we’ll include Medellin in our plans too. The rest of the time I’d like to be out in the country so I’ll be checking your blog for other must do ideas.
    Enjoy your two weeks.

    • Thanks Leigh, I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time here. I recommend the pueblo of Guatape, about 2 hours from Medellin by bus. It can be done as a day trip along with El Penol, or if you prefer the country, I’d recommend a night or two there.

  5. Nice article Dave, I definitely want to visit Medellín one day. This is all of the more reason to do so. I also liked your quote on personal growth. It is really true; I do not think people realize how much potential you have to grow in such a short amount of time while traveling.

    Viva la vida amigo y disfruta sus viajes!


  6. Where is the best place to live in Medellin for a US expat, near dining, university, culture, no need for vehicle, trees, parks, museums, zoo, botanical gardens, 2 bedroom 1100 sq ft, western quality

    • Well it depends on what you’re looking for and your budget. You’re not going to be able to live near both the zoo (which is not that nice) and the botanical gardens (not an especially popular area for expats).

      Poblado is by far the most popular neighborhood, followed by both Envigado to the south, and Laureles to the west.