Researching a place can only give you so much dimensional input. After reading tons of facts about Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, it was time to actually get my feet wet.
Quick Info on My Medellin Trip:
1. This is the first time I am doing a solo trip in almost 15 years. Not that I’m less courageous as I was before (i.e. hitchhiking all of Mexico on my own), it’s just that I’m simply more cautious nowadays.
2. Now that I’ve been introduced to luxury hotels, hostels seem like such hard work. I prefer my luxuries over socializing in small kitchens or living spaces.
3. Medellin is so huge that, even though I’m on my own, I know that I can’t really see it on my own.
4. My time in Medellin is truly limited (can’t leave my family alone for too long).
5. The best solution was something I never did before – work with a private tour guide.
Why Hiring a Private Tour Guide Is the New Black
It’s been a long time since I’ve traveled to a large city. When I was younger I tackled cities on my own all the time without concerns about getting lost. I guess I’ve matured and my time is way more precious now. Or, I simply can’t be bothered investing the time to tackle things on my own anymore.
Regardless, being with someone that lives in the city and really knows his way around, while filling you in on cool info about all the spots you visit is something difficult to get unless you befriend a local willing to spend that much time with you. Of course, you could always hire such a person!
But the best part about hiring a private tour guide was simply not worrying. You know when you’re in a new place, the first time you venture outside is always intimidating. You feel like an outsider. It’s an inevitable feeling because your surroundings are totally unfamiliar. You don’t know where to go, how the people are or what the transportation situation is. A ton of other thoughts that flood your mind. But a tour guide cuts all that worrying out in a snap.
The guide takes care of it all for you.
And it’s not what you think. There is no doofy guy holding a big ugly sign showing the world you are a tourist. It’s totally laid back. You’re in their car. And it’s actually like a friend who is truly there for you and wants you to have the best time ever. What can go wrong with that?
What to See and What To Do in Medellin
Have you seen photos of Medellin? Or looked at it on a map? The city is HUGE. I’m not one to be deterred by big cities, but honestly, I had no idea where to even start.
After doing a ton of research for an extensive city tour, I contacted Julio from Colombia Travel Operator. Their overall tour sounded like exactly what I wanted to see.
My actual guide was John, who was awesome. He spoke fluent English. A pure Paisa, with pride and love for his city. In his car we had the city at our disposal.
What the Medellin City Tour Was All About
We started at Poblado Park, which is considered the oldest park in the city and where the actual city of Medellin began over four centuries ago.
Handicraft markets – I love these in every country I ever visit. Unfortunately, in Medellin they aren’t as popular as they are in Central America, so I had a blast when we found one that is open year round right near Bolivar Park.
Bolivar is a huge figure in every single Latin American country hence the name of Bolivar Park.Of course, there were statues for him as well.
Cerro Nutibara – Pueblita Paisa
Cerro Nuibara is actually a hill that is close to the center of town used by locals for recreation, running, BBQ’s on weekends, spending time with family. But at the very top it also has Pueblito Paisa. This is an adorable replica of what Medellin’s first villages looked like. Typical colonial style.
Did you know that they material used to build these houses was called Tapia and it was made from earth (clay), animal blood, cow byproducts and egg?
Botero Plaza – A-Can’t-Miss-It Place
Botero is a world famous artist born in Medellin. He donated 23 sculptures and a ton of his art work to the plaza and the Museum of Antioquia that stands in the plaza as well.
Botero Plaza is incredibly lively with tons of characters and interesting things for sale.
I’ve never seen so many hats and hat sellers in my life all in one place. Interestingly enough, with all these hats around, not a single person – other than the hat sellers – were wearing them (and even they were barely wearing them).
And I love, love, love the coffee sellers. They are everywhere selling the famous Juan Valdez coffee (I actually have no idea if they sold that brand, just wanted to romanticize about it). You can get a cup for less than 50 cents.
Did you know – Juan Valdez is not an actual person, but a personification of the typical coffee grower and arriero (country folk who took merchandise from one place to another on mules). He represents the coffee growers and businesses of Colombia and the coffee is truly one of the best in the world.
What I learned – there is just so much that I have learned and am learning about Medellin. But the one thing that truly stuck out for me was how much the Medellin government puts in to help their people. Even though it is a huge city, community is important. And this holds true as much for senior citizens.
Living in Central America, I can say that the elderly are a forgotten breed here. You either have to be rich to live with help, or depend on your family. And if you’re poor, well you’re simply out of luck and are happy to be thrown some scraps.
Medellin has tons and tons of free activities all over the city for the elderly (as well as the young – but I’ll cover that in another post). Needless to say, this one thing really shows the face of the people, city and government.
Information about Colombia Travel Operator
My itinerary was mainly following this private city tour of Medellin. However, we did tweak it so that I got the most out of what I wanted to see.
They also offer tons and tons of tours all over Medellin and outside of Medellin.
Stay tuned, I also did a one-of-a-kind tour with them. Coming up next.