After having lived in Panama for 5 months (since November 2015), I decided to explore a bit of the other neighboring Latin-American countries.

Colombia was my first choice; well, strictly-speaking, Colombia is in South America, not Central.

As I usually do before any trip, I did my due diligence and research; I took to the articles and forums online, and read up as much as I could on Colombia. 95% of online posts advised against visiting Bogota (the capital), for one reason or another. Most of the votes went to Medellin and Cali (and a few other places, too).

So, in March (2016), I decided to head to Medellin.

Medellin is the second-largest city in Colombia, and the capital of the department of  Antioquia. It’s located in the Aburra Valley, a central region of the Andes Mountains in South America.

Most people remember Medellin as being the home of the now-defunct Medellin Cartel, one of the world’s most notorious organized-crime syndicates. Back then, the city itself was regarded as the most violent city in the world. However, its homicide rate has decreased by 95%, and extreme poverty by 66%, thanks in part to a string of innovative mayors who laid out plans to integrate the poorest and most violent hillside neighborhoods into the city center in the valley below. Medellín is now considered safer than the US cities of Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit and New Orleans — all of which appear in the CCSPJP’s Top 50 list.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the city regained industrial dynamism. Today, Medellin is promoted internationally as a tourist destination, and is considered by the GaWC as “sufficient” to be a global city.

In February 2013, the Urban Land Institute chose Medellín as the most innovative city in the world, due to its recent advances in politics, education and social development.

The most recent survey on the global status of the Smart Cities by Indra Sistemas, catalogs Medellín as one of the best cities to live in South America, sharing first place with Santiago de Chile.

I was in Medellin for a total of 5 days……..which, in retrospect was probably too long (haha). Medellin is a very small city (even smaller than Panama City). Not much to see and do, really.

The first thing I noticed about Medellin — (or, should I say, about Colombians, in general) — is that the people are much nicer and friendlier than Panamanians. And, not in the “Vegas” or “Cambodia” way, where people flash a smile only if they want to entice you into parting with your money. No, Colombians are a very pleasant and friendly bunch. Basic politeness and kindness seems to be the norm.

The other thing I noticed was how relatively cheap things are………..well, compared to Panama (most Latin-American countries share this feature, of course).

I really liked Medellin. My only regret was not taking my camera with me.