Medellin was once called the most violent city in the world. Mention Medellin to any person who has never visited the city of “eternal spring,” and the first comment that comes out of their mouth is something like this, “Oh that place is dangerous, with its history of Pablo Escobar-ish drug kingpins, murderers and robberies!”
Well, if you’re thinking along those lines right now I’ve got news for you. Pablo Escobar left the building on December 2, 1993 (meaning: he was gunned down by a special task force commando while trying to flee his pursuers across rooftops in the barrio of Los Olivos). Many say justice was rightfully served.
So what happened to Medellin? Medellin has risen from the ashes of the turbulent 80s and early 90s like a true champion. Medellin is a testimony to the spirit of the Colombian people and a testimony to the power of peace.
When you visit this beautiful city you’ll be able to experience the hospitality first hand.
We’re about 10 days short of having lived here for almost 9 months, during 3 visits in total. We’ve rented an apartment off AirBnB in the barrio of Envigado and have come to love the locals like family.
Envigado has become a home away from home for us.
When you spend a considerable amount of time in any neighbourhood people will start to notice and greet you on sight. Well, this is exactly what’s been happening to us here.
- We have made local friends who have invited us to their homes, and have taken time out to go road tripping with us.
- We often end up chatting with people we meet on the street.
- Our neighbours from across the street give us a friendly wave whenever we’re on the balcony.
- The fruit sellers on the corner always have time for a friendly smile and a hello.
- And the neighbour downstairs has gifted us fruits and other things, just because she wanted to.
Fact is, we love Medellin. Yes, of course there are still robberies and murders and attacks — even on tourists — but nothing more than in any other big US or Australian city.
If you keep your wits about you and don’t advertise your riches you should be fine.
What not to do in Medellin
- Wear gold or silver jewellery
- Display expensive gadgets openly
- Leave luggage unattended
- Walk around drunk
- Walk around in a strange neighbourhood at night
- Visit the slums trying to capture photographs (which is simply rude and an invasion of privacy)
- Stay away from tourist hot spots like the centre of Medellin (or be more vigilant in those areas)
Use common sense and you should be OK.
In all the time we have been here, we have not once experienced rude or obnoxious behaviour by any local.
It’s usually the tourists who act inappropriate, thinking they can come here, get a local girl and spend their days in a drunken haze.
So let’s talk about why we love Medellin.
Reason #1 — The locals
One of the biggest reasons this city has scored so high in our hearts is the kindness and open heartedness of the locals.
I can’t possibly begin to imagine the horrors and pain they felt during the violent 80s and 90s. We’ve had some deep conversations with friends here who have personally experienced the trauma, the fear, the pain and the heartache of those turbulent times.
They told us crazy stories that you usually only see in the movies. They told us first—hand accounts of how they feared for their lives and for the lives of their children. And during one such conversation if became clear to us that the people here would rather forget the pain than keep talking about it because it just rips open old wounds.
We respect that and so should you.
We have a ton of respect for the local people here because to experience this and be so welcoming (not hostile), so friendly (not angry) and so open hearted (not bitter) is truly a testimony to the spirit of the people here in Medellin, and in Colombia.
Reason #2 — The weather
Medellin is known as the “City of the Eternal Spring,” or “La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera” in Spanish. Medellín has recently been voted as one of the best cities to live in South America.
What’s not to like about sunny days, occasional rain showers and blue skies? The city lies 1,500 meters above sea level, surrounded by the Andes mountain range. So the temperature can wary greatly between day and night time.
- On average, the year-round high temperature is 28 Degrees Celsius
- And the average year-round low temperature is 17 Degrees Celsius
Most days are pleasantly warm. You can walk around in a t-shirt and shorts. Although you should know that if you prefer to blend in with the locals, I suggest you consider wearing jeans and a t-shirt — not backpacker style shorts and singlets. You’ll stand out like a thorn amongst roses.
Most of the locals here dress in jeans and a t-shirt.
Reason #3 — The culture
Visit any South American country or city and your senses will be inundated with its cultural richness, colours and ancient culture.
Medellin is no different.
The locals here are called Paisa, a term derived from the word paisano, meaning “fellow countryman.” Not a month goes by without a festival, religious event, exhibition or other celebration.
Throughout December for example you will hear and see firework displays every day of the week. Yes, crazy I know. Especially when you know that fireworks are forbidden.
The Paisas love to celebrate life. They love hanging out with their friends and family and enjoy good music, good foods and good times.
National Geographic has voted the Medellin Christmas lights as one of the top 10 in the world. And OMG! You have to see this to believe it. The displays are truly magical.
My suggestion is that you put Medellin on your must-visit list
If we could stay longer, we would. But sadly, it is time for us to move on and explore another part of the world.
Medellin and its people have embraced us with open arms and we will always fondly remember our local friends, our “new family.”
If I can leave you with any words of wisdom it would be these:
Open your heart, open your eyes, open your ears and soak up every single moment while visiting this beautiful city and its people.