Vegan Colombia: The Ultimate Guide to 48 Hours in Medellin
Medellin is a Vegan-Friendly City of Eternal Spring
Already established as one of the not-to-be-missed highlights of Colombia, Medellin offers you the wonders of a progressive, bustling city that’s keen to shine for its innovative social and infrastructural development. With a convenient public transport system and gorgeous weather (summed up by its other name, the city of eternal spring), the most difficult part will be trying to leave.
Day 1: Morning
The free walking tour
Often when you arrive at a new city, one of the first things you do is head straight to the centre to get a feel for it. Whilst not strictly off limits, the centre of Medellin can be a tad tricky to navigate safely for first timers. Luckily, the free walking tour offers you the chance to dive into the heart of Medellin, tick off all of the key tourist sights, learn the history from locals and admire the development of one of the most innovative cities on the continent, without getting hopelessly lost.
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The tours are run in English by local (Paisa) guides. You need to book a day or two ahead online and there are plenty of tour companies to choose from. They take around 4 hours and are free, but you are expected to leave a donation at the end.
After the tour, you can always head over to the Museo de Antiouia to appreciate Botero’s paintings. Alternatively, visit the Museo Casa de la Memoria, which provides visitors with a solemn, victim-led account of the city’s violent past.
Day 1: Afternoon
Fruit, fruit and more fruit!
Is it possible to be vegan in Medellin? Whist Colombian cuisine is generally heavy on meat, there is one food group you’ll be able to enjoy to your heart’s desire: fruit. Colombia is the most biodiverse country on earth and that fact comes to life with its fruit. From mango with salt and lime, to the lesser known granadilla, sapote, mangosteen, ice cream bean fruit, or ‘salpicon’ (a fruit salad in juice). The centre of Medellin is a great place to try something unfamiliar, washed down with ‘gurapo’ juice (a vegan drink made from sugarcane and limes).
If you’re travelling around Latin America at the moment, you might have come across cable cars everywhere; Medellin is where it all began. Part of an urban regeneration initiative to enable the incorporation of a previously marginalised population into the heart of Medellin, it’s now also an excellent way to spend an afternoon and to enjoy some striking views of the city.
Whist the metrocable to Parque Arvi is the most popular, if you’re looking for something less touristy, take one of the newer lines and get a feel for the metrocable for what it really is. From San Antonio in the centre, take the tranvia (the tram; the newest addition to Medellin’s public transport) to Oriente and then the metrocable line H to Villa Sierra. You can stay on and do a loop or get off and have a little look around, although it’s advisable to not stray too far.
Day 1: Evening
Medellin has 2 football teams that share the same Atanasio Girardot Stadium. Football is the national sport and whilst there’s no alcohol allowed or sold within Colombian stadiums you will find the energy and singing of the ‘barras’ entertainment enough.
Matches are usually in the evening and tickets can be bought on the day. You can specifically ask to be seated in the rowdiest part with the fans or in the quieter family area. Again, you can arrive easily on the metro, at the aptly named station Estadio.
Medellin is renowned for its nightlife, the most popular area being in and around Parque Lleras in Poblado. There you’ll find a mix of places playing a variety of Latin music, such as La Ruana de Juana or Babylon. For electronic music you have Calle 9 + 1.
If salsa is more up your street head to the La 70 near the stadium, a strip where you’ll find Son Havana and El Tibiri. Or for a traditional fonda experience, head to Dulce Jesus Mio on Avenida las Palmas.
Remember to stick to official taxis at night, it’s recommendable to use an app such as Easy Taxi or Uber.
Where to stay
The liveliest, most well-connected and safest areas to stay in are Poblado, Laureles, or the recently regenerated Cuidad del Rio.
Day 2: Morning
Take the metro to Universidad and you will arrive in front of Medellin’s botanical garden. It’s home to hundreds of different species and is the heart of the city’s annual flower festival. The Orquideorama – an architecturally spectacular outdoor area modelled on a bunch of flowers – provides a beautiful backdrop, under which you can savour the flora and fauna. If it’s not overly crowded (AKA not a Sunday) you’ll see lizards, turtles, parrots, butterflies and more. The entrance is free, except during special events.
Day 2: Afternoon
Long seen as too dangerous to step foot in, Comuna 13 has been regenerated with the construction of outdoor escalators. These facilitate the journey up the steep hills for the locals. Furthermore, they allow visitors to take a ride to the top of the comuna to relish the beautiful street art and admire the colourful rooftops that frame Medellin.
You can arrive by metro to San Javier, then take a taxi or walk to the escaleras electricas.
*Side note: please avoid mentioning Pablo Escobar. Whilst Colombia is shining as a growing tourism hotspot, the glorification of narco culture and violence is one of the most uncomfortable aspects of this tourism boom for the locals.
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Maria Bonita Welsh, a British social studies teacher living in Colombia. Maria loves travelling and is passionate about plant-based food. Check her out on Instagram for recipes and plant-based inspiration.