Second largest city in Colombia next to Bogota. It is said to be the most advanced city in South America and one of best places to live in South America next to Santiago Chile, and Barcelona & Lisbon Spain. It also rivals Panama City though in Central America as one of the best foreign cities for Americans to live in. The city has an annual average temp of 72 deg F and has been dubbed righteously "The City of Eternal Spring". Medellin is also known as the flower capital of the world and hosts a flower festival every year called the La Fiesta de las Flores.
It also had it's dark side once home to Pablo Escobar, drug czar, responsible for Medellin becoming the murder capital of the world. But this has slowly changed over the years and Medellin has become a very safe place to visit or live.
Poblado District - The exclusive neighborhood where most of the expats live and new construction of apartments & condos occur
Envigado - very nice quiet middle class area with many restaurants & bars
Shopping - the best shopping areas by no coincidence happen to be between the two areas Poblado & Envigado the largest shopping mall being Santa Fe rivals those of the most modern in the United States. While Oviedo has numerous upscale shops, restaurants, and money changing stores. Rio Sur has restaurants, bars, discos and curiously Arts & Crafts & Typical Handcraft booths on the bottom floor.
It is best to rent a furnished apartment rather than a hotel for extended stays for less money with the option to cook andwhich can be found on Airbnb or MedellinApartments.com but get something within walking distance of the Metro. If you can't get to the exact location on the metro you can either walk a short distance from a stop or take a taxi for a cheap fare less than $3.00 US or 5000 pesos for short distances.
is about a 45 min taxi ride to the center of downtown and costs $60,000 pesos about $23.00 at the rate of 2650 pesos to the dollar. The peso is losing value everyday with the dollar strengthening at this time. So it makes sense not to cash in your dollars all at once but each day as you need them and one of the best exchange rates is at the airport so get a large exchange there before going into the city. The next best place is the ATM or at a exchange at a large grocery store such as Exito or Jumbo.
THE METRO SYSTEM
The equivalent of Bart in the Bay Area of California the Metro electronic train crosses Medellin from North to South and from Centre to West. But in addition Medellin has overhead cable cars. It is one the most impressive feature of the metro system, the metro cablé system, a network of 9 cable car systems that take passengers up steep mountainsides that line the Valley of Medellin. There are two connections to cable transportation from the Metro and worth riding for overhead views of the city. One of the cable rides take you to Parque Arvi, which passes over jungle terrain up to a restaurant and many arts & craft booths as well as food booths.
I would describe San Antonio as the central hub of the Metro System with Azevedo, the Metro Stop to the North to get on the Cable to Parque ARVI, but on the ride up there is a transfer at Santa Domingo for the last leg of the trip. About 25 min total.
To the West of San Antonio the Metro Stop would be San Javier to take the cable up hill all the way to La Aurora for a view of the hillside communities. wikitravel.org/en/medellin
To hillside communities
To Parque ARVI
BOTANICAL GARDEN - University metro stop
You can ride the metro system and get off at UNIVERSITY and walk less that a block to the Botanical Garden of Medellin.
PLAZA BOTERO - Parque Berrio metro stop
Fernando Botero was born in Medellin in 1932 and is famous for his bronze portrayals of fat subjects both human and animal outside and his paintings and drawings inside the Museum D Antquia next to the plaza.
Museo D Antiqua - Parque Berrio metro stop
El Museo El Castillo - Aguacatala metro stop
Located on the hillside in Poblado above the Santa Fe Shopping Center this Gothic Medieval Castle was constructed in 1932 by H.M. Rodriquez whose architect was inspired by the castles of France's Loire Valley.
In 1943 Diego Echavarría Misas purchased the castle and he and his wife converted it into their residence. In 1971 the castle along with the lush gardens were dedicated as a historical museum because all the family's belongings and furniture were left in place and after paying a small fee at the gate you can go on a free tour inside which is advised because there is so much to see. However the tour guide is not bilingual so brush up on your Spanish.
Santa Marta, Colombia
Founded on July 29, 1525, by the Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas, it was the first Spanish settlement in Colombia, and is the oldest surviving city in that country, and second oldest in South America. It is a major port & tourist destination. It is also the place where Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Colombia from Spain died of tuberculosis.
The main agricultural products are: bananas, coffee, cocoa and cassava. (Wikopedia)
My advice: 8/2015, I just got back from a weeks stay in Santa Marta. Stay away from Taganga it is the arm pit of Santa Marta unless your a diver. In central Santa Marta you can find all kinds of modest lodging for about 50,000 pesos (I would recommend Playa Mar all the things you want to see by walking are nearby) or expect to pay about 150,000 or more for above average. That being said there are very few things to do in Santa Marta but the things to see are Tyrona Park (to stay here overnight you can either fought it with a rented tent and sleeping bag or get an upscale hotel) and Minca Coffee plantation these two attractions by tour (recommend Expotur), La Quinta de San Pedro by taxi(as previously mentioned by another reviewer) I call it the Iguana Park because they are literally everywhere. Walking for all the following El Parque de Los Novios (all the best restaurants and bars are here), Gold Museum (not even close to the quality of the one in Bogota), ErotiKa Museum ( very small and tame compared to todays erotica), The Cathedral, and Coco restaurant on the marina for American and local food.
Central Santa Marta
I went on two very challenging walking tours in Santa Marta, The Walking Tour to The Tayrona National Park and the Minca Coffee Plantation.
Promises of beautiful beaches, swimming in cool clear water, and lunch with a cold beer are incentives to keep on treking on both dirt and wood slat pathways. Actually not a difficult hike just fairly long about 10 miles from start. The best swimming area is the Piscina or Swimming Pool but they do not want you to stay there because up ahead a couple of miles further is the El Cabo Beach which has an outdoor restaurant which is part of the tour and since lunch in not included you get to pay for your lunch there. By far the most challenging of the two was the Minca Coffee Plantation tour which challenged not only your endurance but your ability to travel steep, slippery, and stony paths. Often broken by refreshing water falls and swimming holes. It was not the trek to get to the plantation that was the trick because it was at the beginning it was going up the steep trails to visit the water falls and back that made the tour so challenging.
Minca Coffee Plantation
Taganga Bay - My take on this place. Originally I had booked a place to stay here because it was very reasonable and showed the scenes that I took above. It was billed as walking distance to the beach. Well within a couple of miles from my cozy home with separate rooms and baths that I would be staying, I realized I had made a serious error due to misinformation. The roads became indescribably bumpy, dusty, and just plain eroded. Trash and neglect on each side of the road. Upon arrival I noticed the place was green and pleasant enough but not enough to distract from the surroundings. I decided to unload my suitcases but not unpack and take a walk down to the beach where the bars and restaurants were located before bailing. The road was solid dirt and trash, people seemed sketchy and for the first time I had reservations about walking in Colombia. But I noticed other foreigners walking the main road towards my destination and concluded it was safe to do so. I got down to the beach and bars, dodging stray dogs and garbage along the way and thought how with photography you can crop anything to just show the best of what an area represents. Even without cropping I could not capture the sheer poverty and neglect of the area I was experiencing. It was depressing and decided at once to leave. On my way back I hailed a taxi and spoke with the host who said he would keep 50% of my prepaid week stay and I was glad to get away with even that. In short, Taganga is billed as the place to get diver certified and as the dive area in Santa Marta. Even if I was going diving there I would not advise staying in town but instead go to central Santa Marta like I did to find some very reasonable hotel rooms, old but comfortable.
La Quinta de San Pedro
La Quinta de San Pedro
Is a hacienda (quinta) built in the 17th century, famous for being the location, Dec. 17, 1830, where Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Colombia from Spain, died of tuberculosis.
It should also be known as El Parque de los Iguanas because there are iguanas everywhere.
Coco restaurant - on the marina
First of all I was looking for a place to have breakfast along or near the marina when I noticed a few people sitting at some table and chairs in front of a new (it's stands out as almost everything in Santa Marta is either old or older) building so I decided to check it out.
Much to my delighted surprise it was a new and modern restaurant named Coco, similar to what you might find in the states. Sitting at one of the tables, I didn't know it at the time was one of the owners, Mauricio,interviewing a possible employee for his office which is the yellow building just across the street. (She did get the job by the way).
During my ordering of breakfast, we exchanged some small talk and he explained to the waiter how to instruct the chef to make eggs over easy which I had ordered. Next thing I knew I was invited over to tour his new office building, state of the art even by US standards, and invited to dinner the following night with his beautiful wife, Lena who had owned the properties previously. Some how the real estate development ended in marriage but when you meet her you will understand why.
That night I had ordered pepper steak and honestly I wasn't expecting much as steaks aren't like they are in the states in Colombia they are usually thin and chewy. Wow was I surprised when I got a thick delicious steak the quality of a filet mignon. The seafood appetizers were fantastic as well. I honestly don't remember what everyone else ordered because the Malbec wine flowed but I know they everyone had something different.
I returned the next morning again for breakfast to try the dutch oven pancake which beats any pancake I've ever eaten and give another opportunity for the staff to perfect the eggs over easy. Needles to say I found a place I felt at home ordering any kind of cuisine for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and made a couple of friends in the mean time, Mauricio and Lena. Mauricio is fond of a fruit cup for breakfast which I took a photo of.
BTW coffee drinks are the bomb here. I always ordered a latte for breakfast.
Since I love to travel and try local food I will comment on my experiences, places, and food that I encounter so that others may be inspired to travel to the same locations with some insight into the local food , restaurants, culture, places to stay (hotels or airbnb) and hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls and tourist scams so not to waste time and money unnecessarily. I would also appreciate posts and comments on the same locations by others!