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Travel Photography Log – Scenes of Medellín Colombia to Inspire You

If you've been reading this website for a while and following me, you probably heard about my “Colombian incident” just over a year ago (January 2017). After that accident, I vowed to return and continue my Spanish studies – and I've done just that. I've been here in Medellín for almost 6 weeks now, and want to share some of my travel photography of this amazing city and country with you.

View of the city of Medellín. The city is situated in a valley among the mountains and sprawls up the hills, as you can see in this image.

When I first announced I was going to Colombia by myself over a year ago, I got a few gasps and questions and statements like these:

  • Is it safe?
  • Is that a good idea?
  • Are you going by yourself?
  • I've heard things about Colombia and Medellín that are not good.

The short answer is – yes it is safe if you use common sense. They have a saying here in Medellín that says, “No dar papaya” which literally translated means don't give the papaya. But the concept means don't be an idiot or act like a victim. Don't walk around with expensive stuff on dark streets you don't know. Don't leave your cell phone sitting on the table of an outdoor cafe. Be conscious of your surroundings and use good judgment.

So have a look at my images of Colombia and you tell me – does it look dangerous to you?

The city of Medellín

First things first. If you want to pronounce the name like a real Colombia, you need say “med-a-jeen”. Not “med-a-yeen” or even “Med-a-lin” – see the video below to hear the proper way to say it.

I happen to agree that it's the most beautiful city in Colombia. In fact, it is probably in the top five most gorgeous cities I've ever visited. Also on the list would be Auckland (NZ), Portland (USA), Havana (Cuba), Paris (France), and possibly Victoria (Canada).

It's just stunning, truly. It's also the city of eternal spring – daily temperatures are always between about 23-29c (73-85f). All year!! It's pretty much perfect, even with the occasional rain and thunderstorms.

Here are some images of Medellín to give you an idea of how green it is here in and around the city.

Lush green areas like this are everywhere, even inside the city.
I walked past this many times on the way to Spanish school. The light caught my eye here.
View of Medellín from Pueblito Paisa (a replica of an old-style Colombian village) located at the top of a hill with a great view of the city.
You can see the dramatic clouds that are often over the city and how far up the hills in many directions the city stretches.

Just outside the city is more green

Mossy covered tree at our hostel in Guatapé. Scenes like this can be seen inside Medellín as well.
This is a secret location which I can't divulge the location – right Isabel!?
The Colombian countryside is lush and green, the parts we saw at least.
Garden pathway.

Food

I used to do professional food photography and still find it fun to take photos of my food, especially when I'm traveling. So here are a few of the good things we've seen to eat – and have eaten!

Aguardiente – the drink of Colombia – is an anise flavored liquor.
Mango popsicle in Comuna 13. Apparently, the lady who makes these has won awards for her popsicles. I can't confirm, but it was pretty damn good!
Grilled corn at a street vendor.
This is what made us decide to eat at this place – wouldn't you?! This lady really was in charge – she kept yelling at the waiters to come get the meat she was cooking. We sat right behind her and could smell all this goodness.

People

I love to photograph people as part of my travel photography and the Colombian people are happy to oblige for a photo. In fact, I find that Colombians are some of the nicest people I've ever met – anywhere. They will even go out of their way to give you directions – I've even heard stories from other travelers of locals actually getting off the Metro (subway) early just to show the visitors where to go, then they went back to the train to continue their journey. Now that's helpful!

Here are a few of the amazing Colombians I've met and been privileged to get photos of.

This was a sneak-shot on the Metro. This little girl and her dad were having a fun conversation and playing some sort of game (poking each other and tickling). FYI the Metro is pretty new and super clean and safe!
I met this baker in Comuna 13 when we took the graffiti tour. He works in the bakery to the left.
Our group bought chocolate from this lady in Comuna 13 on our tour. I got to talk to her a bit and take her photo. I think she's beautiful and doesn't look her age (over 70).
Need I say more? I cute kid and a puppy!
This kid wanted to speak English with me but his vocabulary was limited to pretty much “bye bye”. I spoke to him in Spanish, that worked better. Here he is enjoying one of the famous mango popsicles.
I love this scene I happened upon in Comuna 13. This little girl was playing with her doll in a blanket on the steps and I captured the shot as she ascended the stairs to her home. I love the juxtaposition between her and the motorcycle.
One of the street vendors in a town called Marinilla that we stopped in on our way to Guatapé.
A normal street scene in pretty much any Colombian town.
I added an antique processing treatment to his image to match the feeling I had when I took it.
This guy is the chef that cooked said pig which is in the showcase. He was happy to pose for a photo.
This was our guide, McKoy, on our tour to Guatapé. He's studying engineering and he speaks very good English.
An artist in Guatapé town. He was happy for me to take a photo and chat with me a moment.
You can see how hilly the town of Guatapé is here, and I just loved this guy's boots!
Shoe repairman in Guatapé. Notice the box?
I watched this game for a little while from the doorway then the guy to my left started showing me his cards and telling me about the game. It was gin rummy! They let me watch and I took a few sneak shots (a huge reason why I love the Fuji X100F – its silent mode!)
More on this later – but this was the Zócalo outside the hall where the card game was being played.
I took this shot as I walked past him – he had no idea but I just loved the light and his hat!
These guys, on the other hand, saw me coming and the man in the middle took off his hat and smiled at me and posed.
I love his look. He was oblivious to me taking photos – I even walked past him about 4 times shooting from the hip.
I followed these two ladies up the hill a bit – I love how quaint the town of Guatapeé is – this is a typical street.
Another Guatapé street scene. There were too many other people taking photos of the fountain so I just used a part of it and waited for the man in the matching hat to walk past with his bike, timing it perfectly to get him and the fountain in my shot.

Graffiti tour and Comuna 13

One of the “must-do” things here in Medellín is to take a graffiti tour up to a community called “Comuna 13”. Medellín is divided into a total of 16 communities, and each is assigned a “strata” number from 1-6. The strata number indicates the income level and services of the community. A strata 1 is the poorest and a 6 is the most affluent.

The area we lived in during our stay in Medellín is a 6, while Comuna 13 is a strata 1. It is one of the poorest neighborhoods, and it also has one of the most tumultuous and violent histories. But they are on a mission to change that and the people of the community are doing have beautified it with art and music. The graffiti is to put color and life back into a place that suffered some of the worst violence in the history of the city.

This was our guide for the graffiti tour. He is 19 and is a rap and hip-hop artist, his stage name is J.H. The tour we took supports Casa Kolacho (see his shirt) by sending part of the proceeds to help them pay for supplies for the artists.
Two residents of Comuna 13. It's hard to show just how many stairs there are in this place! The houses are literally built one on top of the other and there are no roads other than for bikes, walking, and motorcycles.

In the 1990s many people moved from the countryside to escape the fighting there and ended up at the top of the hillside overlooking Medellín. They had no services, no water, no electricity, nothing. The government forgot about them – then the guerillas came in to help them build houses, and get services – but it came with a price! If they made a product they had to donate a certain amount to the guerrilla cause – if they had children they would take them and teach them to fight as young as 12 years out.

In 2002 the government came in to get right of the Guerrillas by attacking them from the air. Many civilians, including children, were killed. One woman started waving a white sheet out her window to tell them to stop shooting as two kids lie injured in the street outside. Others follow suit waving white flags of all kinds and they got the shooting to stop so they could help their injured get medical care.

This piece of art symbolizes the white flags.

Since that time the community has seen a transformation and hip-hop and graffiti has given the community color in what was once a bleak and drab existence. There were mad incredible stories, many sad ones – but it was encouraging to see what they've created and how it continues to transform.

This article from a travel blogger has some good information about the community. Here are more images of the community and the art.

Can you find Kermit!?
J.H. Explaining to us about this artwork. It's Mother Nature and you can see that she is crying – he says because things were bleak in the community and lacked color. Also because we are destroying nature on the planet.

Click on one of the photos below to see them larger.

Guatapé and The Rock

Guatapé is a really cute little town about 79km from Medellín, but it takes over 2 hours to get there. The roads are windy and slow but the scenery out the bus window was fantastic. We took a tour there so we got to make a few stops along the way – then we stayed overnight and returned the following afternoon with the next tour (for the same price!).

The town is situated on a man-made reservoir. Several years ago the government wanted to create the lake and one town was submerged in the process. So they negotiated with the people and built them an entirely new town prior to the flooding process. Not a bad deal!

In the area is also a giant rock – which nobody has an explanation for how it got there. But it's on privately owned land and the man who owns it created stairs to the top and you can pay to climb it for a nominal fee (18,000 pesos or just over $6 USD).

Not bad for a shot out the bus window, hey?! You can see “The Rock” in the distance.
The towns of El Peñol and Guatapé were fighting over ownership of the rock prior to its current owner acquiring the land. So the people of Guatapé started to write the town name on the rock – but it was illegal so got stopped and now is just a G and part of a U showing.
740 stairs from the bottom to the top of the viewing tower atop the rock. Unfortunately, my husband wasn't feeling well (a cold) and my ankle is good but I didn't want to push it by doing that – so we did not climb to the top.
View of the reservoir from just below the rock. That is a fancy hotel that has a great view and location. Rooms there were about $85 USD a night – but we stayed in town instead.

Guatapé town

This has to be one of the cutest little towns I've ever seen. If not, it certainly is the most colorful! They have something called a Zócalo – if you can read Spanish it is explained in the photo below. But basically, it's an artistic application to the lower part of the outer wall of each house and building. Each one is unique to the owner or business and indicates either their interests or profession or the nature of each business.

Here are just a few of the colorful ones I found in Guatapé. Click on one of the photos below to see them larger.

More of the town

Here are some other images of the town of Guatapé.

 

I found out two days after we returned to the city that this boat sank last year (in July 2017) and 7 people were killed. Now life jackets are mandatory, good plan!
This girl was one of our tour members and she made a great model here.
The street of umbrellas.
What do you see in the glasses? Where did I take this shot?
I liked the juxtaposition of the bike, scooter, and motorcycle against the Zócalo of the donkeys.
A colorful plaza in town where musicians and other artists frequently entertained visitors. I love the two selfies happening in the background – can you spot them?

Click on one of the photos below to see them larger.

Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed seeing a bit of Colombia through my eyes. I know I'm not done here, not by a long shot. The city is gorgeous but it's the people that keep me wanting to come back, the climate isn't so bad either.

Without a doubt, I will return to Colombia again. I want to see more of it and visit Cartagena and Santa Marta and other cities on the coast yet too. Colombia you have a lot to offer – te quiero!

Cheers,
Darlene-1-250x130.png

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