Cable cars. Aguardiente. Lush gardens. Innovation. Street art. Plastic surgery. Red roof covered hillsides. A tragic past.
All of these words describe Medellín -- a place we'd dreamed about visiting for years. Our good friend in Portland, Juan, was born and raised in Medellín. After meeting Kelly studying abroad in Italy and getting married, he moved to Portland where the four of us became lifelong friends. We were showered with fruit lady postcards, aguardiente, and guava candy each time they returned home from a trip to Colombia. Needless to say: we kept pinching ourselves that we were in the city we'd heard so much about. However, we were a bit heartbroken that our friends couldn't be there to show us around the city.
That being said, we spent two weeks in Medellín and had the chance to meet and stay with Juan's family. They don't speak any English, so our Spanish skills were really put to the test. His sweet mother fed us way too much food and we listened to salsa music with his sister. At one point, Antonio, Juan's dad, brought up a photo on his phone of Kelly, Juan, Daniel and I. He got a bit teary-eyed as he said that he holds this photo very close to his heart. Needless to say, seeing the family that raised our friend had to be one of the most serendipitous moments of our travels. Being out on the road, it's easy to forget what it's like to be in a home with home-cooked meals and overwhelming love. A warm hug and 'thank you' to Antonio, Luz, Maria, and Consuelo for hosting us.
where to stay
Be Okay Hostel+ - This funky, modern hostel is located within blocks of the best restaurants and bars in Medellín. The hostel features a fantastic rooftop that's perfect for relaxing, people watching on the streets below, and enjoying a beer. The friendly staff is usually up there socializing with their guests as people are cooking in the kitchen or playing cards. Be Okay has a level of comfort that many hostels can't quite achieve. It feels like you're staying with family here. We stayed in both the dorms and the private rooms and loved both options. The beds are super comfortable! If you're visiting Medellín, definitely check out Be Okay Hostel.
We also loved our stay at Los Patios Hostel Boutique. Read about it here.
where to eat
Dharma Vegan Resto - This is a great lunch spot in the El Poblado neighborhood. The owner strives to show people that traditional Colombian food can be just as delicious without meat and dairy products. The menu of the day changes daily, so it's a guarantee that you'll taste different flavors each time you visit. This was our favorite restaurant in Medellín!
Street Burritos - To be honest, food in Colombia isn't cheap. We found a woman selling vegetarian burritos from a little stall in the El Poblado neighborhood. They were easy on the wallet and delicious. A great option if you're watching your budget.
Bunuelos - A popular (and unhealthy) breakfast item, these are fried dough balls often stuffed with cheese. Everyone should try them at least once in Colombia.
La Bodeguita Havanera - A locals favorite spot with live music and incredible mojitos. A fun atmosphere to enjoy a few drinks!
Crepes and Waffles - We actually didn't try Crepes & Waffles until Cartagena, but there are several locations in Medellín too. If you are passing by and in the mood for something sweet, try their incredible ice cream. We visited multiple times in Cartagena because we couldn't get enough of the flavors -- especially the pistachio. The restaurant is known for hiring single women or women in need, so that's a cause that we 100% support!
Ajiacos and Mondongos - This restaurant doesn't look like much from the outside, but it's a very famous lunch spot in Medellín. The restaurant offers traditional soups, ajicos and mondongos in vegetarian options. If you're really lucky, you may have the chance to meet Juanes (or other various celebrities) at the restaurant like we did!
things to see
Jardín Botánico de Medellín - The botanical gardens are located on 34 acres of land and feature over 1,000 different species of plants. The morning that we visited the gardens, we were among only a handful of others wandering around. The gardens have a lake, a tropical palm garden, a desert garden, a butterfly garden, and more. Grab a $1 coffee and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Museo de Antioquia & Plaza Botero - This art museum is most popular for featuring art by Medellín native Fernando Botero. Even if you don't know Botero by name, you've likely seen his work at some point. He's known for featuring curvy, plump, round people and objects. Botero has donated his work to the museum, including 23 bronze statues outside in Plaza Botero. For 10,000 pesos ($5.50 USD) per person, you can see his iconic work along with a number of other exhibits.
El Tesoro Parque Comercial Shopping Mall - If you're looking to do some shopping in the air-conditioning, El Tesoro is your place. It's located high up on the hill above the city and features some incredible views. If you're traveling with children, they'll love the mini amusement park inside of the mall. Although it doesn't look far on a map, make sure you take an Uber there because the hills are steep.
Guatapé - Many people opt to do a single day trip to Guatapé from Medellín. This is totally doable, but we recommend spending a few nights in Guatapé. Known as the most colorful town in South America, Guatapé is a great little town to walk around in, take photos, and climb the giant rock for a view of the surrounding lakes.
In love and adventure,
b & d