. Well, Medellin certainly has made a name for itself during the drug wars with the various dangerous drug cartels..Things are'nt quite so bad today but are still dangerous.
When I was planning to travel through South America I looked at many things that I wanted to see and do ..One of the first things that I put in place before starting out was my Travel Insurance..this , I took out the appropriate policy for my needs.
These were the usual , loss of of personal items ie: camera and lenses , my baggage and most important medical coverage for ALL hospital and doctors expenses.. So many places I realised that it was not possible to get neccesary medical help if it was needed. Also the horrendous costs of unforseen medical expenses can ruin a holiday in one go.
So, I took out a special policy that included repatriation (most important) just in case of the worst scenario..I realise that I am not bulletproof and anything, ( as we all know ), can happen anywhere anytime..Having travelled a lot and witnessing many bad accidents, I really like to travel with peace of mind knowing that I have medical coverage if needed.
As I don't jump off bridges or out of aeroplanes my insurance risk is kept to a minimum this also keeps down my costs.not stopping me from doing most of what I enjoy when I am travelling.
AS THEY SAY....DONT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!!
Like many extranjeros I only came to Medellin to spend a week or two, but I stayed here for
much longer. The city, the people and the climate - the whole package is right here. Just make sure you already speak some Spanish, before you come here, otherwise you will lose a lot of the culture here. I also found a good language school here, called Spanishola. Not only was my teacher Paula Barros a good laugh, what I liked most about her Spanish classes was, that
they were well organized and structured. If you want to combine tourism in Medellin with learning Spanish, you should try Spanishola.
Daniel from Germany
Overlooking Parque Bolívar is the Medellín's cathedral, Catedral Metropolitana, the city's largest place of worship. This impressive structure stands behind a fountain at the end of the square. It is one of the biggest brick buildings in whole South America, using more than 1,2 million bricks in an attractive neo-Romanesque design. The cathedral was designed by various architects which is reflected in an interesting mixture of influences. Construction began in 1875 and was completed only in 1931.
The inside of this spacious cathedral is rather dark. Walls are decorated with paintings by Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos and huge stained-glass windows glow in a number of colours. The cathedral generally remains open during the day but closes at night.
To know and interact with local people in Medellín there is no better place than Parque Periodista, a small square right in the centre of the city. One day Eduardo brought me here. We had a beer and I also found it a great place for people watching. With bars, restaurants and nightclubs located around the square, this is the most happening spot in the city, a place where the bohemian and alternative people meet. It's an ever changing cultural mixture of punks, hippies, rappers, dealers, pot smokers, gays and the occasional transvestite, joined by university professors, students, poets and musicians.
The bars on the square are mostly rock and underground oriented. They play different music, from salsa, electronic, reggae and alternative rock. But most of the people are on the street instead of inside the bars. Guys on the square play guitars and rappers do their freestyles. Parque Periodista is a place where underground culture of Medellín gathers at night to smoke their marihuana or have a beer. It has become a kind of free zone where the police somehow tolerate it.
Cemeteries are often pretty interesting and Cementerio de San Pedro in Medellín is quite impressive. Established in 1842, it has been declared a museum and a national monument. The cemetery is located in northern Medellín, close to the city centre. It's a heaven of peace and tranquillity, where you find beautiful graves adorned with statues and flowers, funeral chapels and mausoleums, surrounded by palm trees. Walking around the cemetery along the many colonnaded lanes for quite some time I realized that it is actually much bigger than it appeared at first sight.
Walls with tombs are decorated with flowers and notes, sometimes also with personal possessions related to passions of the dead person. In the central section many local celebrities from the political, intellectual, business and literary scene are laid to rest. There is also a memorial for the most famous Argentinian tango singer Carlos Gardel, who died in 1935 in a plane crash in Medellín. The main chapel of the cemetery is lovely and close by there you find some astonishing statues depicting angels, Jesus carrying cross and weeping widows.
more pics in the travelogue
Located in the downtown of Medellín, Parque Bolívar was inaugurated in 1882 and named in honor of the liberator Simón Bolívar. It is situated between Calles 54 (Caracas) and 56 (Bolivia) and Carreras 48 (Ecuador) and 49 (Venezuela), named after places related to the liberation. The park has a large green area with native trees providing welcome shade from the midday sun and is also one of the main meeting places. In the evening the atmosphere can turn a little seedy and you will probably encounter transsexuals and drug addicts.
Parque Bolívar is historic and cultural place. Around the park are several cultural sites such as the Catedral Metropolitana on the north and Teatro Lido on the south. On Sundays people visit the park to listen to the free concert of the Symphony Orchestra of the University of Antioquia. The park gets especially lively on first Saturday of the month when it hosts the craft fair of San Alejo, a place to buy arts, handcrafts and antiques.
Medellín has park for nearly every social class. If you need to get away from the busy and noisy Parque Bolívar or the upscale trendy bars of Parque Lleras, you should find your way to Parque Poblado, which is the middle class version of the latter. Iglesia San Jose del Poblado in the main square of the district marks the place where Medellín was founded in 1616.
I passed by Parque Poblado every day, it was half way between metro station Poblado and Hostal Tamarindo. The park during the day has little to offer. There are shops around Calle 10 and some nice antique shops around, and it's a fine place for a little lunch and coffee-sipping.
However, it gets bustling with life at night when groups of youth visit the park and the surrounding bars. The place is especially lively on weekend nights when people gather around Parque Poblado until dawn drinking, smoking and chatting. You can buy cigarettes, food and drinks from street vendors the whole night. There are some nice bars at the bottom of the park where you can listen to vallenato or reggae.
El Poblado became the new place to live for wealthy residents of Medellín. Located about 4 km south of the city centre, much of the neighbourhood is set in steep hills which means it is less humid than other parts of Medellín. The hillside setting offers incredible views of the city, while views of El Poblado from other parts of the city are quite spectacular because of the number of high rise buildings jam-packed together.
The neighbourhood is packed with best hostels and stylish hotels, upscale restaurants, trendy bars and cafés, and it's a popular area with travellers. Parque Lleras (the so-called Zona Rosa) has some of Medellin's best nightlife and Parque Poblado is where the more alternative scene hangs out. For some fine shopping head to the upscale malls, such as Oviedo and El Tesoro.
El Poblado is safe to walk around at any time. There are a lot of trees, plants and flowers, and it has several streams that descend from the mountains towards Medellín's river. Although large open green spaces are not common, Parque Lineal de la Presidenta is a welcome exception. One evening Natalie from Hostal Tamarindo asked me to join her on a walk to the park. We made a circle around the area and she kindly explained about the notable sights.
The best way to get to El Poblado from the city centre is taking the metro to Poblado station and then walk up Calle 10 for about 10 minutes. Alternatively you can take the bus no. 133 from which leaves from Parque Berrío but it takes much longer.
more pics in the travelogue
Built at the top of the 80m-tall hill called Cerro Nutibara, Pueblito Paisa is a rather well-constructed miniature replica of a typical traditional Antioquian town. With a colonial-style architecture, it's one of the region's favourite tourist sites and receives a lot of attention in the travel literature. Despite being completely tourist-oriented, the place is worth a trip as there is something rather charming about it.
The pueblito is constructed in the shape of a horseshoe with a cobblestone town plaza where you find the little faux church, a fountain, two-storey houses with wooden balconies and mayor's residence. It offers decent souvenir and handicraft shopping as well as an excellent restaurant that serve the traditional bandeja paisa, a typical dish of the Paisa region. From the adjacent platform there are magnificent panoramic views of Medellín which are particularly impressive during December/January for alumbrados (Christmas lights).
more pics in the travelogue
Pueblito Paisa is within walking distance from the metro station Industriales. The walk from the bottom of the Cerro Nutibara requires hiking uphill for a while.
Across from the Universidad de Antioquia is a beautiful Jardín Botánico. It was founded in 1972 in memory of one Antioquia's most respected naturalist, Joaquin Antonio Uribe. This garden is a wildlife refuge where a number of Colombian animal and plant species are found. Since opening the garden has grown in size and stature and is now a wonderfully green space with more than 600 spices of trees and plants, including a vast collection of orchids.
There is a small open-air auditorium with frequent concerts at weekends. Other attractions include a lovely lake full of beautiful white water lilies, a herbarium and Orquideorama which houses a significant display of orchids in March and April. If walking makes you hungry, there is a gourmet restaurant called Itu, serving mostly traditional food and drinks, and Café del Bosque. And even better, you can enjoy this quiet, relaxing surroundings having your own picnic :)
At the end of my walking tour I visited La Tienda del Jardín, a shop with some beautiful pieces of art, all made from natural materials. I was pleasantly surprised to also find Natura, an eco-friendly Brazilian cosmetic brand that I like a lot.
This well worth visiting botanical garden is open daily from 9:00am-5:00pm and admission was free (December 2009).
Open in December 2007, Parque Explora is a large complex (25.000 square meters) with various science museums and displays and the biggest freshwater aquarium in South America. The place is educational and fun. Young visitors can learn about science and technology through interactive experience. Themes include physics, biology, technology, media and geography. They can learn about robotics, make their own snapshot videos and take infrared photos. The interactive display on geography includes an earthquake stimulator and they can watch how a tornado is made.
The aquarium is fascinating and contains the most representative species that inhabit fresh waters in Colombia as well as marine life with all colours of fish, corals and sea anemones. There are displays and information about waterways and ecosystems in Colombia and South America.
Parque Explora is open Tue-Fri 8:30am-6:00pm, Sat & Sun 8:30am-6:30pm (closed Monday). There is so much to do and see that you should allow several hours here. The entry fee depends on how many activities you want to do. Staff are very helpful with the explanations and audio guides are available in Spanish and English.
Facing Parque Berrío is Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, the most important church of Medllín. It dates back to the 1776 and served as the city's cathedral from 1868 to 1931. It was restored in 1997. Other churches stood here before, the first one from 1649 was made of wood and with a thatched roof.
Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is a colonial style construction. It looks quite unusual in the surroundings of 1970s high-rise office blocks. The basílica contains some beautiful interior decoration, including an ornate ceiling with stunning recessed panels, and important religious art, such as the painting of the Virgin of la Candelaria, belonging to the most typical Spanish colonial style.
Parque Berrío is the main square of the city and a good place to start the walking tour of the historic downtown. Adjacent to the busiest metro station Parque Berrío, it's a lively meeting place where people sit on benches and chat, others play vallenato, there are fruit vendors and people offering minutos or llamadas (phone calls).
The park is dominated by a colonial Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. There is the Stock Exchange building and Banco de la República in front of which you find La Gorda (the Fat Woman), a sculpture of Fernando Botero. In the centre stands the statue of Pedro Justo Berrío, an important Colombian politician in the 19th century.
Next to Berrío metro station is an impressive black-and-white building, Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe. The palace was constructed by Belgian architect Augustín Goovaerts between 1920 and 1938. Built in a Renaissance style with a touch of Gothic, its dome was imported directly from Belgium. The building seemed very exotic for its time but nowadays it is considered a unique architectural monument. For many years it was the seat of government of the department of Antioquia.
From 1986 it is home to all cultural programs of Antioquia. Palacio de la Cultura hosts concerts, theatre, art expositions, library, conferences and workshops. Its dome serves as auditorium and a place for showing the films.
It is open Mon-Fri 8:00am-5:00pm and Sat 8:00am-2:00pm; admission is free.
City planners have prohibited new constructions in central Medellín that doesn't include public art. The result is a glorious outdoor gallery Plazoleta de las Esculturas at the doorstep of Museo de Antioquia. Fernando Botero, the most famous artist of the city, donated 23 of his sculptures to the city which placed them on this square. The plaza is now known as Plaza Botero in his honour.
His sculptures are famous for the exaggerated forms of the figures. The majority of them are naked women but there are also a few men, and animals - cat, dog and horse. Lots of people pass through the park every day and these oversized sculptures are the much-photographed site of Medellín. The sculptures are attractive, they invite people to touch them. Colombians tend to believe that Botero's sculptures bring good fortune.
Besides the Plazoleta de las Esculturas, you can see his massive bronze of woman's torso, La Gorda, in front of the Banco de la República in Parque Berrío while in the Parque San Antonio three of his sculptures include Pájaro de Paz (Bird of Piece).