Note: This was originally published on HackerNoon and written in 2019.
During his travels, author and podcaster Tim Ferriss mentioned on comedian Ari Shaffir’s podcast that the first thing he likes to do in a new city is to take a bike tour. I followed that move, taking a walking tour my first few days after arriving to get a sense of the areas, following that up with experiencing local marketplaces, bars, and nightlife.
I traveled to Medellín, Colombia, both to explore for a week on vacation and then to immerse myself in daily life, while working remotely as the creator of Coinverse, the first cryptocurrency news audiocast app.
Whether your interest is history, marketplaces, art, or coffee, there is something for you. I have always avoided what I thought of as “traditional tours.” After experiencing RealCityTours “free” city walking tour, where you pay with a tip, it is an experience I will actively seek out on future trips. The free tour was led by a local who was an interactive storyteller.
It’s best to base your tours on personal recommendations and/or online reviews. I got suckered into a “transformation tour” through a popular hostel chain that was advertised as educational to learn about the positive evolution of neighborhoods.
In actuality, it was a drive to three different tourist spots to look around and spend money with the tour guide’s friends.
I’ve had a great experience and received excellent in-person feedback on the tours below.
- Real City Tours: Free walking tour, Exotic fruits tour, and Transformation tour
- Comuna 13 Medellin Graffiti Tour
- Urban coffee tour
Marketplaces refer to anything from “mom and pop” merchants where everyday people or businesses buy groceries, to hubs with restaurants from around the world. Both are worth exploring. The former lends itself to more adventure.
- Plaza Minorista
- San Alejo 1st Saturday of the month
- San Fernando Plaza
- Market Square Envigado
- Central Mayorista de Antioquia
- Placita de Flórez
- El Pulguero Llanogrande Limited to a few times per year
- Markets map
- The Best Markets in Medellín, Colombia by CultureTrip
- The Best Street Food Markets in Medellín by CultureTrip
Through the handful of nights I went out, I experienced the variety the city offers. I explored a battle of the bands at the Selina hostel, danced to Reggaeton till 4 AM on my birthday at Buena Vista, stepped on a few toes at a local salsa joint, El Tíbiri, helped host a rooftop morning yoga and dance party, and saw a new friend DJ.
My social circle grew through roommates, informal events friends hosted, tech meetups, etc.
One of my favorite experiences was Calle 66a. A local friend introduced me to this street where you walk up to a bodega, drink beer, and hang out on the street. People are here every night, and I hear it can get rowdy into the early morning.
If looking for the hostel party scene, there are well-known “party hostels” like Selina and the Purple Monkey. For bars and clubs, the two main spots are around Parque Lleras in El Poblado and Carrera 70 in Laureles.
An alternative to the bar scene is language exchanges like El Social (Wednesdays), and Café Ondas (Wednesdays and Fridays). Locals and travelers meet in order to practice speaking, listening, and hanging out.
Within a quick trip from downtown, you can be in the jungle jumping into a waterfall or overlooking the cityscape. The proximity of the locations and range of difficulty in accessing these sites make the samples below easy to get to from downtown.
I’m happy I did Cuevas del Higuerón last minute. I chose this because it was a decent workout, thanks to the ascent, a view of the city, and the opportunity to jump in the waterfall. The waterfall was cold, surprisingly not as cold as Yosemite National Park’s waterfall in California during the summertime.
You can take Uber or public transportation to the trailhead at Cuevas del Higuerón — Camino Ancestral — Camino Real La Ayurá.
Next time I’d love to do El Cerro De Las Tres Cruces because of how easy it is to access and the citywide view. The hike up lasts only 30–45 min. To get to the trailhead, take an Uber to Casa de los Bernal which will take you to the start point.
Here are more great outdoor adventures.
- La Ruta hiking Facebook group
- Parque Arví bike
- Parque Arví hike
- Parque Arví night hike
- ATV tour offered by Rango Hostel
- Mountain bike descent offered by Rango Hostel
After a week of exploring, it is nice to wind down with a massage on the rooftop of the Diez 10 Hotel. It took me a while to book the full body massage because I had a hard time understanding what I was ordering due to my Spanish, or lack thereof. The massage was good, costing $50 per hour, about half the cost compared to the states.
If you decide to go to Diez, the following descriptions of the menu will save you my confusion.
- Masaje terrenal: Full body using hot stones
- Masaja tropical / nuez de coco: Using coconuts
- Masaja de caña: Using bamboo
- Masaja atardecer llanero: Using hot wax
For a less fancy and highly rated experience, Sports Massage is $40 per hour.
Lastly, I explore how to work effectively.
If you’re curious “Why Medellín?” or for the best local flavors, read the following.