Thursday, May 21, 2015

Our Trip to Medellin, Colombia

We decided to see for ourselves what others have told us about Medellin -- that it is a beautiful city to visit with wonderful weather year-round.

Well, we weren't disappointed.  We took a ten-day trip to Medellin this month and enjoyed the change of pace from Cuenca's cooler climate.  This is our first trip to another country in Latin America, and hopefully we'll continue traveling to other countries.  High on the list are Machu Picchcu, Peru;  Buenos Aires, Argentina; Iguazu Falls, Brazil; and Easter Island, Chile.

But back to Medellin.  We flew from Cuenca to Quito; then Quito to Medellin via Bogota, which we accomplished all in the same day; no long layovers.  We cleared immigration and customs at the Bogota airport, which is huge.  We had previously arranged to have a private driver meet us at the airport who drove us through the hillsides from the International Airport in Rionegro to Medellin  -- a 45 minute drive.  (Note that you can get direct flights to/from the U.S. on LAN, Avianca, and Spirit Air.)  We arrived at 9pm and had the good fortune of seeing Medellin on a clear night all lit up as we approached the city from above.  My camera was still packed or I would have taken pictures of the illuminated hills of Medellin.

We stayed at two hotels during our ten days -- the first one being the Intercontinental Hotel of Medellin (

Mike at the entrance of the hotel

Gift shop

Medellin is lower in altitude than Cuenca (4,902 feet vs. 8,400 feet), thus the weather was wonderful -- low 80's during the day and low 60's during the night.  You never needed a sweater or jacket during the day.  There was an indoor restaurant, and an outdoor restaurant near the pool.  We ate our complimentary breakfasts (full breakfast buffet) indoors and the rest of our meals, we ate around the pool. 

Huge outdoor pool

Mike said that this reminded him of Hawaii -- all the trees and flowers

Here are pictures of the flowers growing outside around the pool area

The following photos are views from our hotel:

We went on a city tour that started around 2pm and lasted until dark. The tour started downtown at Botero Plaza.  Fernando Botero's bronze sculptures were larger than life.  His signature style, also known as "Boterismo", depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume, which can represent political criticism or humor, depending on the piece. He is considered the most recognized and quoted living artist from Latin America, and his art can be found in highly visible places around the world, such as Park Avenue in New York City and the Champs-Elysees in Paris.  There were twenty-one sculptures in the plaza -- here are just a few of them:

Maternidad (motherhood)

Caballo (horse)

Pensamiento (thought)

Hombre caminante (walking man)
Hombre a caballo (man on horseback)
Also in the plaza were museums and a church 

Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe
Simón Bolívar
Wednesday afternoon in the park
In Colombia, streets are called "calles" and run east/west, and avenues are called "carreras" and run north/south.  Here is a street sign in Botero Plaza.  (Yes, the streets have signs, unlike Cuenca!)

Next on our tour was a ride on the Metro which includes a cable car ride if you wish.  Here is our group at the metro station waiting upon the train.

These are pictures of the cable cars.  The reason for the cable cars is so that the people living up in the hills can come down into the city for work, school, etc.  Before cable cars, they had to walk.  They also have escalators built into the steep hills for the people living on the slopes to make getting around easier for them.

A village high up on the slopes of the city

Looking down from the cable car onto a soccer game in process

Our last stop on our city tour was at a lookout point, high above the city.  It was getting dark and the city lights were coming on.  Here is a picture from high above the city at a place called Cerro Nutibarra (

We went to the movies (many theatres in Medellin showing movies in English), and to shopping malls and grocery stores to check out the prices and to see what was available.  I took pictures of U.S. products in the grocery stores that we no longer can get in Ecuador since imports have been severely restricted.  However in Colombia, these items are available since they have a free trade agreement with U.S., unlike Ecuador.  However, Colombia is on the peso not the dollar, so you have to make the conversion to see how much an item costs.

Small corner grocery store compared to the big supermarkets

Looks like chicken breast is $12,175!  But doing the conversion, the actual price is $5.07.

We stayed in the section of Medellin called El Poblado.  There are sixteen communities in Medellin, of which El Poblado is one (  There are several malls in Poblado; we went to two:  Santa Fe and El Tesoro.  Here are pictures of the El Tesoro Mall:

Passageway between sections of the mall

View from the mall

There is an area in Poblado called Parque Lleras which is a popular gathering place surrounded by restaurants and hotels.  It's especially popular with the younger crowd on the weekend.  We were there on a Saturday afternoon, and a band was getting set up for the evening.

One of the restaurants/hotels surrounding Parque Lleras

We moved from the Intercontinental Hotel to the Dann Carlton Belfort Hotel  This hotel is within walking distance to many of the areas we wanted to walk to, including Parque Lleras.  Here are pictures of the second hotel we stayed in:

Dining room

Dining around the pool

Dinner by starlight!

We're thinking that we might go back to Medellin during Christmastime as the Christmas lights in Medellin are rated as being in the top ten in the world.  It would be pretty to see!  (


  1. So how were the prices compared to Ecuador?

    1. Due to the free trade agreement that Colombia has with the U.S., there are many more imported items in the stores, and not much more than you'd pay in Ecuador. Colombia uses the pesos and right now the exchange rate is in our favor. For the conversion, divide the peso by the current exchange rate ($2,488), which is improved from last year. Now is the time to buy there, because you get more for your money due to the exchange rate.

      Also, the communities are rated by stratas 1-6: 6 being high (think Beverly Hills and where we were) and 1 being extremely poor (up in the hills where the cable cars go). So you can find anything to fit your taste, budget and lifestyle there.

      Generally speaking, prices are higher than Ecuador by about 10-15%.

  2. If the prices are higher then why do Ecuadorians go across the border all the time on shopping sprees. I know this to be a fact. I live with the Ecuadorians (i.e., my girlfriend is Ecuadorian and of course all of her large family is as well).