5 Most Unique Experiences in Medellin City
Medellín is Colombia’s second-largest city, but its rapid transformation from the Crime Capital of the World to the City of Flowers is its main claim to fame. Today Medellín is modern, cultural, innovative, and the perfect base for exploring the scenic countryside around the Aburrá Valley. Combined with near-perfect weather, these are all great reasons for enjoying the sunshine in the city’s beautiful parks and plazas.
There are many unique things you can do in Medellín. Here are just 5.
#1. Learn about organized crime
In the late 20th century, Medellín was infamous as a crime capital. Today the city remembers the dark years in the Museo Casa de la Memoria. The museum commemorates Columbia’s violent history through the civil war and the rise of organized crime in the city. Inside you’ll find interactive exhibits, artwork, and emotive photographs documenting terrible times.
The most famous drug lord in Medellín was Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellín Cartel. He was the richest criminal ever, worth an estimated US$30 billion. However, his legacy is controversial. Locally, he was seen by many as a saint for his work to help the city’s poor. If you are interested in real-life crime, you can join a Pablo Escobar Tour to learn all about his role in Columbia’s history. You can learn intimate details about his life, see the spot where he was captured, visit his prison, and pay your respects at his grave.
#2. Go paragliding
If you’ve ever considered leaping off a mountain, Medellín is the best place to give it a go!
With so many hills and cliffs, the Aburrá Valley is a renowned area for paragliding. The thermal currents are perfect for keeping you high in the air, and the lush green scenery below is heavenly.
For thousands of years, people have dreamed of flying like birds. Inside an airplane, surrounded by metal, isn’t the same kind of experience. When you’re paragliding, you’re exposed to the sky and the wind. You can feel the speed and the thrill of the flight. Because of the gentle glide toward the ground, paragliding is surprisingly safe for an “extreme sport”. It’s also more environmentally friendly than viewing the Aburrá Valley in a helicopter or plane.
The best way to enjoy paragliding in Medellín is to book a paragliding tour with a local tour company that will transport you to a suitable hill, provide you with all the equipment you need, and ensure your safety. You’ll also find paragliding more affordable than other airborne tourist activities, and you’ll remember your flying experience much more vividly than you would any other kind of flight.
3. Explore the beautiful countryside
Medellín is surrounded by beautiful countryside, but the most spectacular place to visit is Guatapé, 48 miles to the east. Here you will find a picturesque lake and the imposing granite column of El Peñol that abruptly rises 565 feet over the surrounding land. Over 740 steps zigzag up the sheer side of the column enabling visitors to climb to the summit and admire panoramic views of the beautiful lake below.
While climbing those steep steps in the sun, ensure you stay hydrated, smear on some sunscreen, and wear a sunhat and trekking shirt so you don’t become overheated. Halfway up El Peñol is a shrine to the Virgin Mary where you can stop for a break and maybe say a little prayer for strength to complete the rest of the climb. After your exhausting climb, you might want to visit the village of Guatapé to visit the historic center and sample traditional Antioquian food.
On your way back to Medellín, why not stop off in El Retiro and admire the tropical forest preserved in the San Sebastián La Castellana Ecological Reserve. El Retiro is famous in Colombian history because it is the place where Doña Javiera Londoño set free a large number of slaves in 1766 and gave them mines so that they would have their own source of income.
#4. Enjoy mountain biking or ride an ATV
The lush mountains and foothills surrounding the Aburrá Valley are ripe for exploration. This is your chance to visit places few tourists ever see. The best way to explore the more remote trails is by riding a mountain bike or All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV). You can bring your own bike, hire a bike or ATV, or book a tour with a reputable local tour company that provides you with an ATV or bike.
Life is short, so you should strive to enjoy it as much as possible. Adrenaline-pumping experiences such as speeding an ATV along a mountain ridge or flying down a slope on a mountain bike remind you that you’re alive. Why sit in a tourist bus and snooze when you could be hitting the trails at speed? You’ll certainly make more lasting memories if you combine the beauty of mountain views with the thrill of the ride.
On a Medellín ATV tour, you can benefit from your guide’s local knowledge to ensure you visit all the most beautiful sites and don’t get lost. If you have never before ridden an ATV, you’re in for the experience of a lifetime. Most likely you’re going to want to do it again someday soon.
#5. Dance the tango or salsa
You’re probably aware that dancing is in a Columbian’s blood. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Medellín. Malaga Bar is one of the world’s oldest tango bars where you can stop in for a drink and catch the Tango Show every Saturday from 5:30 pm to see experts dancing the tango to live music.
Medellín has strong associations with the history of the Tango because the King of Tango Carlos Gardel spent much time in the city and passed away here in 1935. If you want to learn about the history of Tango and its part in Medellín’s history, you can go on an informative Tango tour to visit the many historic buildings and locations associated with the developing popularity of this world-famous dance.
Medellín is also a great place to take salsa dance lessons or just hang out in local clubs and bars where locals listen to salsa music and dance. Popular bars for live salsa music and dancing include El Eslabon Prendido and Son Havana. Whatever you like to drink and whatever music you like to dance to, you’ll find lively bars and clubs in Medellín where you can mix with the friendly locals and learn a few new dance moves.