8 Things to Experience During a Solo Trip to Medellin
Updated: May 14, 2020
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In April 2019, I decided to take full advantage of the opportunity to do a week-long solo momcation during our two week Spring Break from Mexico. I’d never been to South America, so after reading several recent blog posts and hearing recent experiences from friends, I made the “Land of Eternal Spring”, Medellin, Colombia, my next destination of choice.
Since I’d be there for a week alone, I used Airbnb Experiences to book several tours to keep me busy and help meet other travelers including other solo travelers, and also took off on my own for a few activities.
Below are eight things that made my trip one I won’t forget, and that I highly recommend for other solo travelers looking to get the best out of a week-long trip to Medellin:
See a Local Soccer Game
Take a Tour of Comuna 13
Take a Walking Tour of Downtown Medellin
Visit a Coffee Ranch
Go Salsa Dancing
Take a Day Trip to Guatape
Eat Bandeja Paisa
1. Go See a Local Soccer Game
Like many Latin American countries, Colombia is serious about their soccer! The energy and passion in the stadium is one that can't be beat, with fans cheering and the band playing from start to finish. That being said, experiencing a local soccer game is a must-do activity.
Unless you're a die-hard fan, there's no fun in going to a soccer game alone…which is why booking a tour through Airbnb Experiences was the best choice. Not only did it allow me to meet and attend the game with a group of other travelers, but it also ensured some of the best seats in the stadium (as well as transportation and pre-game drinks) for a very affordable price.
Recommended Tour: Soccer Match Tour
2. Take a Tour of Comuna 13
Once known as the most dangerous neighborhood in Colombia, Comuna 13 has since overcome the negative reputation and is now one of the most visited neighborhoods.
A tour through the neighborhood will take you past several intricate and colorful wall murals that represent the neighborhoods' historic struggles and recovery. The stories behind the murals forever changed the way I viewed Medellín.
Find a tour that also takes you for a ride on Medellín’s cable car system (the first in the country), which was the ultimate experience. The afternoon thunderstorm that passed by made for an even more exciting experience after the cable cars jolted to a stop mid-way!
Recommended Tour: Comuna 13+ Downtown: From Violence to Innovation
3. Go Paragliding
I’ve always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Although I’d never even considered paragliding in the past, the moment that I read that it was popular in Medellin, I knew I had to give it a try.
For less than $100 USD, I booked a tour that included transportation to the paragliding site as well as admission. For an extra fee I was able to purchase Go Pro photos and videos of the time that I was in the air.
(Check out one of the latest Go Pro models and get your own on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2XAhrwD)
It was an amazing experience to say the least, and not nearly as scary as I thought I'd be! The staff was very friendly and made it comfortable and enjoyable from start to finish. It was by far one of the highlights of my trip.
Recommended Tour: Paragliding Experience
4. Take a Walking Tour of Downtown Medellin
A walking tour of Downtown Medellín is a must-do, as it has a LOT of history as well as interesting artwork. It's needless to say that the Plaza Botero is a must-visit area…the photos of the large and unique structures speak for themselves.
I highly recommend doing this as a group tour if possible, as downtown Medellín can be a little sketchy. The Free Walking Tour by Real City Tours comes highly recommended and also has several other tours to choose from.
Even though Plaza Botero was full of visitors, it was the only place I'd visited that gave me an uneasy feeling. My Uber driver even warned me to keep my phone out of sight and always be aware of my surroundings.
If you have time, I also recommend visiting the Museo de Antioquia for more Fernando Botero structures and beautiful artwork.
5. Visit a Coffee Farm
One of the things Colombia is known for is its delicious coffee. Whether a coffee drinker or not, a visit to a coffee farm is a must!
Although the Salento and Jardín coffee regions are two of the most well-known and popular for its coffee plantations, they often require full-day trips due to the distance, and not to mention they are pretty expensive for the solo traveler. There are several smaller, beautiful fincas less than half an hour outside of Medellín that are not only economical, but a very informative experience.
The tour that I took not only included harvesting beans followed by a delicious lunch and coffee tasting, but also allowed one lucky person (myself) to plant my own coffee tree. It was for sure an unforgettable experience (and turned me into a bit of a coffee snob afterwards)!
Recommended Tour: COFFEE! Plant, harvest...taste!
6. Go Salsa Dancing
It doesn't take long to realize just how much music is a part of the culture in Colombia. At any given time of day you'll hear a variety of Latin music blasting from speakers and rolling across the valley.
Although salsa dancing in particular is more popular in the city of Cali, you can still find great salsa clubs with live music in Medellín. If going alone is overwhelming, I once again recommend joining a salsa nightclub tour via Airbnb Experiences. I had a great night dancing the night away and meeting new friends. Even those on the tour who had never danced salsa before couldn't resist giving it a try once the music got under their bones!
Unfortunately the Salsa Club tour I took is no longer available, but you can find several other dance club experiences in Medellin by clicking here.
7. Take a Day Trip to Guatape
Guatape is a small, colorful and charming town about two hours outside of Medellin. It is mostly known for El Peñón de Guatapé (La Piedra Del Peñol), a massive rock structure with a 740-step climb to the top lookout.
Although there are a variety of tours to choose between several different providers, I highly recommend planning a day or two to go on your own. Not only are the tours very expensive as opposed to doing it alone, but once you get there, trust me, you won’t want to be stuck on someone else’s schedule!
Getting there was as easy as heading to the nearby bus station, buying an inexpensive ticket, and being on my way. I found the Aperlust blog very helpful in planning my trip with step by step instructions of where to go to purchase my ticket, what to be on the lookout for, and what to expect.
Once you’re there, I’d recommend making the rock climb the very first thing you do (it’s one of the must-do activities while you’re there). Afterwards, take a tuk-tuk back to town, grab some lunch, and follow it up with a nice cafecito. I highly recommend stopping at Zocarolls Guatapé, which is THE most popular and delicious cinnamon roll spot in town. The owner was VERY friendly and also spoke English.
Although Peñón is easily made the center of attention, the small town itself has plenty to explore and do. It’s pretty touristy, so there are lots of people roaming around at any given time; however, there are so many colorful side streets and shops to explore that it won’t even make a difference.
The scenery is absolutely beautiful. I stayed only one night in an Airbnb, but I would for sure go back just to stay there and relax for a few days.
8. Eat Banda Paisa
Medellín certainly had its variety of foods and food tours, but one mouthwatering dish is the traditional bandeja paisa. Although some ingredients can vary based on where you go, the main ingredients typically consist of red beans, white rice, ground meat, chicharon, fried egg, plantain, chorizo, arepa, black pudding (morcilla), avocado and lemon. In other words, you’ll want to be hungry before you attempt to tackle a plate!
I still owe Medellin a second trip to experience even more activities such as one of the popular walking food tours, a Pablo Escobar tour, and the boat tour in Guatape...but the above activities certainly made for a week well spent in Medellin.
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