Jambo! (And also, hola). In case you don’t stalk me on social media (and you should), my current status is meandering around Medellín and the Antioquia region.
If you are a trendy Netflix viewer, you may know Medellín from popular drug cartel drama, Narcos. However, since the 80’s and 90’s, the city has really cleaned up, and I actually feel pretty safe here.
Some things that make me feel less safe than walking around Medellín include driving on I-95 to Brickell, getting my eyebrows waxed by a new person, and opening DMs from randos (bye!).
To be clear, Medellín is not Beverly Hills…Are there people surviving on less than $1 USD per day, and will they likely assault you for cash? Yes. Should you bring your Prada sunglasses, iPhone 6S+, and Gucci bag? No (but there is the option to buy approximately 72 different varieties of fake Gucci hats near the San Antonio metro station #fashionputitallonme). Does it help to speak Spanish, but to generally be quiet in public unless necessary, as not to advertise your gringa accent? Yup.
Basically, if you are not a loud ~American idiot~, you will likely be fine in Medellín. Or not…sometimes things happen. But frankly, you can get robbed/assaulted/killed anywhere.
That said, if you do manage to avoid death, as an Americana/o in Medellín, you can truly be livingggg. The dollar is really strong right now against the Colombian peso. Today, I had a small ice cream for 1,000 pesos, or 30 cents. My birthday dinner at one of Medellín’s trendiest restaurants, Lucía, was 33,000 pesos, or just under $10. None of the Ubers which I’ve taken have been more than $3USD, and the hour long ride to the airport is about 65,000 pesos, or $19USD.
Tomorrow will be my biggest splurge, as (BALLER ALERT *Tyga voice*) I’ve hired a private driver for 12 hours to bring me to Guatapé, at a cost of $74USD. On an average day here, you REALLY have to try to spend more than $50USD.
So, why should you venture to this very budget-friendly land? Here are a couple of my highlights thus far:
Probably the most iconic image of post-Escobar Medellín would be the Metrocable. This cable car system serves as transport for the city’s more economically disadvantaged residents, providing them with a safe and free route from the city center, up toward the higher parts of the mountain.
[Metrocable from La Aurora]
Today, I took the Metrocable to La Aurora in Comuna 13. Ironic, because yesterday, I heard some Nike-clad American bros talking about it loudly on the train, and thought they were really dumb to consider going there. But today, I was just hopping on random Metros to see different parts of the city, and ended up on one headed there, and decided to stay and check it out, due to my newfound obsession with cable cars.
Comuna 13 is probably the most dangerous neighborhood in Medellín, so I opted to stay in the cable car and didn’t get out of it to explore, but I enjoyed the ride for about 20 minutes or so there, and another 20 minutes back, to the San Javier Metro station.
The Comuna 13 neighborhood is known for gang/paramilitary/cartel violence, but during the day, it just seemed like any other low-income area… Kids playing soccer and basketball outside, various livestock wandering about, tin roofs emblazoned with graffiti, tíos on the street blasting J. Balvin and Maluma.
It was similar to the view from the safer Metrocable route which I took yesterday to…
2) Park Arví
As mentioned before, something about traveling tends to put me in a #naturebetch mode. So, I strapped on some sneakers and took the Metro, then Metrocable, to Park Arví, about an hour away from my Airbnb in Envigado.
The Metrocable ride itself was probably 35 minutes, and sín dudas, was the prettiest cable car ride I’ve yet experienced. We flew over the entire city, set in the flat land between the mountains, then floated over miles of trees, surrounded by lush mountains. It was spectacular.
[Thoreau endorsed momentz]
Once at the park, there were a handful of stands selling fresh fruit, drinks, fried foods and local crafts, specifically giant dreamcatchers. I bought some cool fruits and also admission to a 1.5 hour guided tour in Spanish (3,000 pesos, or 89 cents!).
There were children in our tour group, so the pace was a little slower than I would’ve preferred, and the forest landscape was similar to ones in Connecticut, where I grew up. It wasn’t an exotic trek through an Amazon-style jungle, but it was beautiful.
[I literally did hug a tree at one point in this ~journey~]
My guide was super sweet and passionate about nature. She even showed me where to find an all-vegetarian restaurant after the tour (and also offered to set me up with some hot policemen). Lovezzzz Lina ❤
3) Parque Lleras
Unlike Park Arví, Parque Lleras isn’t really an actual nature park, but probably the most ~trendy~ neighborhood in Medellín. It is still pretty humble, compared to what we would consider a trendy neighborhood in the U.S., or even compared to somewhere like Palermo in Bs As.
[At a non-sexist establishment]
For example, some of the top attractions are Hooters and a Harley Davidson store or restaurant (not sure which). That said, there are also some very cool coffee shops, juice places, boutiques, and tattoo stores. I randomly ended up spending my evening at the latter, with a Miami friend who coincidentally was in the city too, to get a bunch of new tatz from a renowned Medellín artist. Parque Lleras was a cool and laidback environment to chill in, and grab pizza with new tattoo artist friends.
[Graining on that wood, as per usual]
I also celebrated my birthday in the barrio, at probably the only ~boutique~ hotel in the entire city, Hotel Charlee. I semi-crashed a Google party (thanks guys!) and enjoyed the amazing views from the rooftop.
[Area near the ~wash room~]
Caveat regarding the aforementioned hotel: the front desk staff at the hotel is rude AF and act so annoyed when you ask them questions. So, I probably wouldn’t stay here, especially because you can rent a baller Airbnb with a friendly host for $22USD per night, as I did. But the restaurant (Lucía) is great, the bathrooms are sick, the security is top notch, and the rooftop is sublime.
[ALL OF THE LIGHTZ]