If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for a quick answer, rather than a roundabout discussion of the two only for the writer to say that you should go to both. I could also do that to avoid offending anyone who feels oddly passionate about either city, but I won’t. The answer is Medellin.
Okay, if you were looking for the quick answer, you can stop reading now. The next bit is going to be me justifying my answer and trying to say that Bogotá is also cool.
Is Bogotá worth the visit? Absolutely, but if you’re on a crash course through South America, it can be sacrificed in favor of more time in Medellin. If you don’t feel like reading this and are more of a visual person, you can check out my Colombia video so you can see for yourself why Medellin is just simply superior.
So how exactly is Medellin better than Bogota? Theres’ quite a few reasons, but my biggest thing is the undeniable life of the city. It is vibrant, bustling, and has a fantastic personality of its own that Bogota lacked. Bogota was beautiful and I’ll admit, the city had its share of breathtaking sights. At about 10,000 feet above sea level, being surrounded by the mountains was truly something to behold. The street art was also amazing. The graffiti in Bogota is ubiquitous, fantastically detailed, and tough to get tired of. There is no denying that it has a lot to offer, but again, if you were in a dilemma and needed to pick one over the other, to me, Medellin is a no-brainer.
Medellin is all-around one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. The rolling, lush green hills surrounding the entire city along with the vibrant red buildings clumped together along the hillsides make for endless views. Do you want to see how beautiful Medellin is? Go to your nearest metro station, buy a ticket for 2,000 pesos (not even a dollar), and admire everything you pass by on the train ride. You can hop off literally anywhere and enjoy some of the most breathtaking sights you’ll see in urban Colombia.
The weather is another thing to take into account. I’ll admit that landing in Bogota from Cartagena was one of the most relieving and satisfying feelings I’ve ever had. I went from sweating so much to actually shivering once or twice. It was quite nice, but the cold can get old really quickly. The change in temperature was pleasant but after I arrived in Medellin, I wondered why I hadn’t lived here my entire life. The weather in Medellin is perfect. It is usually in the 70’s. The Snapchat filter literally says “Eternal Spring”. In Cartagena, I went back to the hostel every two or three hours just to shower because it was so humid and I felt disgusting. In Bogota, I would bundle up, bundle down, then bundle up, and so on. Medellin is the weather that dreams are made of.
The next, and probably most important, thing is nightlife. In terms of nightlife, Medellin is a top global destination. The nightlife areas are as packed and lively as you’ll find anywhere in the world on a Friday night. For most tourists, drinks are much more affordable than you’ll find in your home country. The Colombian people are also among the friendliest you’ll meet. If you fail to make at least a few local friends on a night out, there is something wrong with you. I also found Medellin to feel much safer than Bogota, despite the reputation it has due to Pablo Escobar’s cartel. While Bogota felt more like a college town to me, it did not share the same vibrant nightlife that Medellin has. In terms of stumbling around drunk at 3 AM, I would also prefer to be in Medellin for safety reasons. Bogota is a massive city, almost twice the size of Medellin. There are good areas and bad areas, but Medellin’s most prominent nightlife areas felt much safer than those in Bogota.
In terms of things to do, I felt like I could explore Medellin day after day and find something new to love. I got bored in Bogota after my first day. Bogota was chill and had a relaxing vibe to it, but most travelers don’t go to new destinations to chill. I did enjoy sitting at coffee shops and taking in the hustle and bustle of Bogota. That is also something I did in Columbia (Missouri) quite often, and not quite something I wanted to do in Colombia. You can easily knock out La Candelaria, El Museo de Oro, and Cerro Montserrat in under a day, which are Bogota’s three main attractions. I managed that no problem, and then suffering from boredom that night, moved my flight to Medellin a few days sooner. It was one of my best decisions, as even a week in Medellin was not nearly enough time to really appreciate how incredible the city is.
Even if you just stay in Medellin, you are going to have a fantastic time, but Medellin is also in great position for some amazing day trips and activities. Guatape is about a two-hour ride away from the city and is very much worth going to. Hike the giant rock, take in the colorful canvases of the city’s casas, and stop by Pablo Escobar’s old mansion to do some… paintballing. Oh yeah, if you’re into Narcos or Pablo Escobar, Medellin is the city to be in. Many tourists think of Pablo Escobar and cocaine when they think of Colombia. Rather than try to bury that dark part of Medellin’s past, many tours will gladly educate you on one of the world’s most cruel and fascinating figures.
As one of the Americas’ largest cities and Colombia’s capital city, Bogota is probably the city most well-known by travelers itching to go to Colombia. But seriously, go to Medellin instead. If I were to go back to Colombia, it would be a no-brainer for me to go back to Medellin. Part of that reason is because I told some little kids I’d come back to kick their asses in soccer again, but even if that were a non-issue, I would still pick Medellin hands-down.
Check out my Colombia video below to get a small taste of what the beautiful country of Colombia has to offer.
It barely scratches the surface, but hopefully, it convinces you to go to this fantastic country, especially Medellin! Nothing will do the beauty, culture, and life of Colombia justice. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself.
Related: Colombia Survival Guide