Bad Yogi City Guide: Medellín, Colombia
Medellín, Colombia, usually makes people think of its not-so-distant and dangerous past. “Why would you want to live there?” they asked me.
Medellin has come a long way in the last 30 years. It has evolved into a modern, innovative city (indeed, it was named most innovative in the world in 2012), and has become a popular vacation and relocation destination. With nearly perfect weather year-round and gorgeous mountain views, it’s a place I was happy to call home for two and a half years.
Paisas, as Medellin residents are called, are active people, and yoga is a big up-and-coming part of the focus on wellness and fitness.
Flying Tree Yoga is the studio I called home during my time in Medellin, both as a teacher and as a student. They hold classes in English and Spanish, and host a variety of special workshops and events, like how to make kombucha and, my favorite, the monthly community potluck. If you’re interested in spending some time in Medellin, they also have an internship program for certified teachers, where you can get some extra teaching experience while learning to teach in Spanish. It’s located on a quiet street in the lovely neighborhood of Laureles.
But it’s not the only game in town. You can try classes at Element Yoga, 108 Yoga, Happy Yoga, and Atman Yoga. There is also an active group of AcroYoga enthusiasts who meet at the park, and last year there was a yoga festival with international teachers.
I love the gym, and I found my workout home at Santillana and then the university gym at UPB. Both were very reasonably priced and don’t require a membership, just a month-to-month payment. They are both clean and well-kept with plenty of equipment and, my favorite, a fantastic group fitness class schedule.
At Santillana, I was a kickboxing regular with Juan Camilo, my favorite teacher. And you’ve got to try rumba. Not Zumba, though that’s great, too. I’m talking rumba: a free-style mix of Latin dance steps taught by instructors who can seriously move. These classes will make you sweat and start to feel like a dancing champion. It’s not a substitute for actual salsa lessons if you want to learn to dance, but still, after two years of regular attendance I feel more confident about my dance moves than I ever have in my life. (One time, a classmate even told me she thought I was Colombian!)
The big fitness chain in town is BodyTech. They have numerous locations and various membership options. Their best clubs are very fancy, complete with Pilates refomer classes, saunas, and more—a place to see and be seen as well as work out.
Speaking of being active, every Sunday a few major streets are blocked off, and you can walk your dog, run, bike, roller blade, or skateboard for miles through the city. This is where I did my long weekly run when I was in marathon training: I could go for 10 miles one way and always have the company of other people, as well as booths selling food and drinks so I could refuel with some salt-on-the-rim mango lemonade.
Medellin has a variety of restaurants to suit all budgets, but even the most expensive ones aren’t that bad compared to the ones in the United States. For my birthday one year, we went to Carmen, a restaurant that regularly gets mentioned as a best place to eat (and it’s where Tom Cruise was spotted when he was in town filming a movie), and our meal for two with drinks and dessert was about 60 US dollars.
There are lots of great sushi restaurants. My favorite was Sushi House in Laureles. Almost all of the sushi places offer 2×1 or another similar deal at least one day per week.
No matter where you go, you’ll likely see limonada de coco (coconut limeade) on the menu. You’ve got to try it—I love it. It tastes a little different in each restaurant, so you’ll have to order a few and find your favorite. Other traditional tastes are arepa de chocolo (slightly sweet and cornbread-like, usually served with campesino cheese) and bandeja paisa (the traditional lunch).
MetroCable: Take a trip on the cable car to the top of the mountain. The view of the city you get on the ride is worth it by itself, but at the top, Parque Arvi offers hiking trails and a little market where you can get lunch or a snack.
Christmas: Christmastime in Medellin is the best. The entire city goes wild with lights and decorations. Santa Fe mall has a large open space that gets decorated with a new theme or activity every month, and over the holidays it was absolutely stunning. Since you’ve always got great weather in Medellin, the holidays really are a wonderful time to visit.
La Feria de las Flores: The flower festival is THE event in Medellin every year. For one week, the entire city celebrates flowers with exhibits, parades, competitions, concerts, and other special events.
Movies: Sure, you can see a movie anywhere, but Medellin has fantastic movie theaters with comfortable seats, 3D screenings, and your choice of sweet or salty popcorn. Movies from the US are usually shown in English with Spanish subtitles, although children’s movies are usually dubbed in Spanish. The best part? It’s very inexpensive, and if you go on half-price day, you’ll pay just a couple of dollars per ticket. You and your date can enjoy the show and plenty of snacks for under $10.
My favorite days in Medellin were spent walking around the neighborhoods, trying new restaurants, and checking out special events like Colombia Moda, the food festival, and the annual marathon. It’s a wonderful city, and I can’t wait to go back.
P.S. Love this series? Be sure to check out all our city guides and our interactive map of our writers’ favorite spots!