Parque Arvi is a new ambitious project just outside of Medellin that will create one of the largest nature reserves in the region. The recent attraction is yet another boost for the city of Medellin that has recently undergone a complete transformation and is now attracting travelers and tourists from all around the globe to see the city of eternal spring. Parque Arvi sits on the eastern edge of the city and can be accessed by both cable car and vehicles and buses alike. The countryside appeal of the lush green fauna is not only spectacular to experience, but forms an important watershed for the area as well as important biological nature reserve for plants and animals native to the area.
My wife's parents have lived in Medellin for over 10 years, and we've visited numerous times (we actually got married there in a week-long destination wedding). One of my favorite (and one of the easiest) excursions I've done is take the metrocable up to the biblioteca espana, an ultramodern, giant, distinctive black library donated by the King of Spain and completed about 5 years ago.
Some pictures from the ride up are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/squeggers/sets/72157626204085798/
But let me back up and put this in context in terms of why I love this excursion. It's about some of the things I love most about this city.
First, Medellin is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, in large part due to its geography. It's nestled in a valley surrounded by the Andes mountains. The city sprawls up the sides of mountains on either side that resemble a temperate Swiss Alps (Medellin's elevation means it's a more comfortable subtropical climate rather than tropical).
Secondly, Medellin is in an improbable and hard-fought renaissance. The city has pulled out of a particularly dark chapter of history characterized by widespread violence and terrorism around the time of Escobar. Almost everyone there knows someone who was killed during this period, and yet they are they are some of the warmest people in the world (and it doesn't hurt that they're not used to tourists and delighted by them). When my wife's parents first moved there 10 or 11 years ago, they wouldn't let us visit them because it was too dangerous. The situation in Medellin evolved so dramatically and in such a positive direction that they invited us to have our whole extended families to come out there for our wedding a couple years ago. The recently built library in a poor neighborhood is a great symbol of this amazing come-back and urban revitalization.
To the excursion itself. The metrocable is a large gondola scaling the mountainside, and it's part of the public transportation system. The roughly $1.50 public rail ticket includes transfer to this line. You get in a little windowed pod and then ride the gondola steeply up over one of the poorer barrios in Medellin, where you'll see a lot of ramshackle brick houses with scrap metal roofs. You can look out and see beautiful views of the city as it spreads along the valley floor.
You'll see the library from the gondola and can tell when to get off. It's relatively easy then to walk down the larger streets in the direction of the goliath library in the distance. You'll be heading through a poor neighborhood, where you may find a could (not a horde, a couple) relatively charming children trying to give you a tour with the expectation of a small tip at the end (they also accept candy/soda, which is probably better(?) to give them than money). Anyway, observe the folks around, as I've found that the folks of modest means around Medellin really carry themselves uncommonly well. People tend to be warm, outgoing, and dignified. OK, then you get to the library, take in some views, tour the buildings, etc. It might not blow your mind compared to the Sydney Opera House, but the library has some very nice spaces. Then swoop back down the mountainside on the metrocable and think about what a remarkable comeback this city and its remarkable people have made and how beautiful it all is.
For what it's worth, my wife has written some pretty good city guides for Medellin based on our explorations over the past 12 or so trips.
The city guide is here: http://www.nibblinggypsy.com/2011/05/medellin-guide-what-to-do-when-youre.html
All of 5 of her Medellin-related posts are here http://www.nibblinggypsy.com/search/label/Medellin
The plane across the river from the center is where the easily likeable barrios of Laureles and San Joaquin are located. This area is not as expensive as El Poblado, but still very tranquil and safe. This is where the UPB university is located, as well as the Unicentro shopping center (not nearly as nice as El Tesoro though). There are two small parks here and many reasonably priced restaurants. The main thoroughfare is Carrera 70 which separates the two barrios.
San Joaquin is the home to a large modern church with several metal cupola. Its design is creative and unique.
Southern, or Southeastern suburbs comprise the 'nicest' part of the city. It is very nicely landscaped, clean, and full of those brick hi-rise buildings that Colombians like. This is definitely an area of choice to live in, both as a resident or as a tourist.
The main wealthy suburb is called El Poblado, and others around it are called El Tesoro, La Florida, Las Palmas, Envigado. It is very nice to walk here; however, you have to be fit because the inclines are VERY steep.
I grouped these two together because they are next to each other, and the subway station Universidad separates them. (Incidentally, the University of Antioquia is located there as well).
Parque de Los Deseo is really a concrete plaza full of people. I mean, there is a million people there, or at least it seems so. It has fountains that shoot out of the pavement and sand areas for children, but most people here are student of the university.
Jardin Botanico is pleasant enough, but it is not the greatest botanical garden by far. It has a lot of trees called laureles, bamboo, some palm trees. There is a large green house. Entrance is $4,000 (pesos, not dollars).
The old center of the city has been taken over by bustleof street vendors and a gazillion of various shops. This area is also known as El Hueco. There are huge crowds selling and buying all kinds of stuff.
This large modern building houses the theater. It is located next to Parque de Pies Descalzos on the river bank. Some of the typical christmas decorations that are installed along the river during the holiday season can be seen on this photo.
This is one of the many nice parks in the city. The columns are supposed to be illuminated at night. There is a modern library building located next to it. This park separates the government complex from the bustle of the commercial center of the city.
This park is located next Plaza Mayor. It is very nice and clean, and you don't have to take off your shoes. There is a Museo Interactivo here, which was being remodeled when I came here. Other than that, you can sit in the shade of bamboos, look at trees floodlighted in purple or green color, play in the fountains. Across the street there is Edificio Inteligente - home to technology companies.
This museum houses many statues and paintings of Medellin's most famous artists, Fernando Botero. There is also a great section of modern latino art. There are people walking throughout the museum who are happy to explain the artwork.
This replica of a typical Paisa village us situated on top of the Cerro Nutibarra. With souvenir shops and open air cafes it's anice place to relax, besides it provides an amazing view over that nice red city. It turly does give you a good idea what the typical village of the area looks like, with its colourful houses, a tiny local chirch, courtyards and patios, small shops and a fountain in the middle of the village. After i went to Santa fe de Antioquia, i realised that the two look almost exactly the same - the town is built up in the exact same way as the replica indicates. So if you don't have time to go to the surrounding towns, the Pueblito Paisa gives you a good idea of the local villages, and the view is truly breathtaking.
El Parque de los Pies Descalzos is one of the most popular parks in Medellin. Comfortably surrounded by trees, it provides a perfect hiding place for couples and lovers, who look for privacy under the surrounding trees and bushes. The park also has several open air cafes which provide a good place for people watching and relaxing. On the other side of the park you'll find huge chess-boards, where you can actually play - a great and interesting pass-time.
Every year in August a flower festival, called Feria de las Flores is held in Medellin - the flower capital of the country. The festival incorporates days filled with music, dancing, colourful flowers, shows, performances, fun and parties. Something you should definately not miss if you can be there in August.
The mountain of Cerro Nutibarra is a great place to get a nice view of Medellin from. It's not too high, so the climb is not that difficult. And on top of the mountain is the Pueblito Paisa - a replica of a typical paisa town, which is full of souvenire shops and street vendors. A nice place and an interseting activity.
This is a really nice little town in the mountains about 100 km from Medellin. A typical paisa town. A really amazing place and the busride up the mountains is really cool and gives a great view on the surrounding villages and nature.