Medellín, Colombia Graffiti Tour and Arvi Park

We had originally planned to take the 16+ hour bus from Santa Marta to Medellín to stay within budget, but then we read some of the reviews and decided to fly instead. Luckily we found $85 last minute flights on Viva Air. Money well spent for a 2 hour flight vs a 16 bus ride that would have cost about $50. We decided on using AirBnB for our stay in Medellín so that we could have a place to relax and cook our own meals. We found a great apartment in a high rise building in the Bombona neighborhood. The apartment was on the 25th floor with amazing views looking north across the city. The Bombona neighborhood is outside of the classic tourist areas, but we really enjoyed feeling like we “lived” in an authentic area of the city. 

Thomas looking out of the Metro Cable as we ascend up to Arvi Park.
One of our favorite things about Medellín was how easy it was to get around using the metro system. It was clean, cheap, efficient, and easy to use. You can seamlessly transfer, at no extra charge, from the metro trains to the extensive system of metro cables that connect the neighborhoods high up in the hills that surround the city. On our first full day, we took the metro to the Acevedo station in the North part of town and transferred to the K line metro cable that takes you up the hill to the Santo Domingo barrio. Here you can either exit the station and explore the neighborhood or transfer to another cable car, for an additional charge, that takes you up to Arvi Park. We chose to continue up the mountain to Arvi Park. The park sits on top of the mountain above Medellín and has an extensive network of trails. We weren’t really feeling taking a hike, so we grabbed a bite to eat at the top, walked around the visitor center for a bit, then headed back to down the hill. The real thrill for us was the cable car ride up and back down. Metro tickets cost 2,000 COP for each trip and are good until you choose to leave the system. The Arvi Park metro ticket is 5,550 COP per person, each way. Our total cost for this half day excursion, including food was less than 56,000 COP for the both of us (Less than $20 U.S).  Totally killed our budget!
Wall mural from the graffiti tour. Don’t worry, Clay is going to write a separate blog about this tour. So much art to show!

We try not to do many tours since they are usually outside of our budget, but we opted to take the Medellín Graffiti tour to Comuna 13 through Toucan Cafe and Tours. All money goes back into the community to fund after school programs to keep kids off the street. It was amazing! The community that we visited was considered to be the most dangerous neighborhood in the world 20 years ago. It is now a vibrant community whose history is displayed in street art on the walls throughout. They have also installed a series of escalators up the hill that now allow the residents much easier access to other parts of the neighborhood and the city. All of the escalators were clean and working, which is a far cry from the escalators that I am used to back in San Francisco. We highly recommend this tour if you are in town.

This mural displays the past, present, future, and the memories of Camuna 13. Notice the animals are all holding white flags. Powerful!

Medellín absolutely blew us away! It is one of the largest cities in Colombia with a population of 2.4 million people. As far as you can see skyscraper after skyscraper, as there is no more room in the valley between the mountains, the city has to build up. Coming from the Bay Area where delayed trains are expected, it was extremely efficient when traveling across town. It takes about 30 minutes, plus you can take a sky tram up the hills on all sides. All trains go through terminals and it is impossible to get on without paying, they were super clean, and we felt so safe. Colombia has a past, but we can tell you that you need to ignore it, and put Colombia on your travel radar. We LOVED it!