Medellín is the second largest city in Colombia with about 4 million people. It is situated at 1,500 m (4900 ft) elevation, which in equatorial latitudes (it’s at 6°N) is the altitude for an ”eternal spring” climate. Not too hot, not too cold—it’s just right!
My main goal in Medellín was to study Spanish for a week, and to learn more about the region’s history and culture. The one geologic excursion I had planned, to El Peñón de Guatapé (the Rock of Guatapé), was not successful because of a traffic stoppage—due to a bicycle race—on the route eastward from Medellín. I hadn’t realized that bicycling is so popular in Colombia—it is the second most popular sport after soccer. They are extremely proud that in 2019 Colombian Egan Bernal won the Tour de France, becoming the first Latin American to win this prestigious bicycle race.
Medellín’s history of violence and recovery
Thirty years ago Medellín was considered the most dangerous city in the world. If you’ve seen the Netflix series Narcos, you know about Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord and narco terrorist who was the founder and sole leader of the Medellín Cartel. He was killed in 1993, and although this was not the end of violence, it began the evolution toward creating the thriving city we see today. There remain problems, of course, but the city is moving forward in a positive direction.
The city has, in the past 25 years, built an impressive network of metro, bus and cable-car lines. Life is easiest in the valley where services are readily accessible. Life is more challenging on the steep valley slopes, where people displaced from their countryside homes by guerrilla, paramilitary and even government violence have occupied small parcels of land to construct their basic dwellings.
Thanks for paving the way for future travelers with new information of a previously dangerous place.
You are welcome—thanks for reading!