With my friend and my brother I was able to knock off my list quite a few of the must see and experience places in Medellin, but in a city like this one there are endless things to do. In this blog I will write about my experience at Parque Explora, the botanical garden of Medellin, El Pueblito Paisa, and the museum of Antioquia. All four of them rank in the top 10 on TripAdvisor.
Parque Explora which literally translates into “Explore Park” is a combination of an aquarium, museum, and interactive activities for kids and adults, or, to put it more in a more fancy way, it is an interactive science museum as stated by our lovely friend wikipedia. El Pueblito Paisa is a small town on top of a hill in the center of Medellin that resembles the architecture and lifestyle in the region back in the good old days when things were much simpler. I think every city should have this because it is very interesting to physically put yourself in a different time period of that city’s history. Heck, maybe once every five years or so they change the whole theme to a different decade or century. That would be cool even for the locals I think.
The botanical garden as you can imagine has lots of flora and some fauna and the great thing about this garden is that it is free. You could come here every day for a picnic if you wanted. The one section that does cost some money to enter is the butterfly garden which is 4,000 COP which is less than a dollar. Lastly, if you like art then the museum of Antioquia is a must see. Visitors mainly come to see some of the work from one of the most famous South American artists and Medellin native, Fernando Botero. Right outside the museum is Botero plaza which has 23 sculptures designed by Botero with their characteristic oversized figures. Inside on the third floor is where his artwork is.
It had been a week since we arrived in Medellin and my friend was getting ready to leave early Saturday morning. My plan for the day was to run, swim and finally in the early to mid afternoon make my way to Parque Explora. The run was a success, but the swim was not. As mentioned in a previous blog the pool I regularly went to is closed on weekends and so I tried a different one, but this one is a family pool with no lanes for lap swimming.
After lunch it was time to make my way to this very well known interactive science museum. On weekdays their ticketing counters close at 4pm and you must be out by 5:30pm which made it impossible for me because of work. On weekends ticketing closes at 5pm and you must be out by 6:30pm. In July of 2022 which is when I went, the regular individual ticket price for a Colombian was $37,000.00 COP or about $8.00 USD and $42,000.00 COP or about $9.00 USD for foreigners. The individual ticket price which also includes access to Medellin’s planetarium is $55,000.00 COP or about $11.50 USD for locals and $62,000.00 COP or about $13.00 USD for foreigners. I just got the regular individual ticket since the lady at the ticketing office only recommended the full package if I had come earlier.
I was excited to be at an aquarium again for the first time in a very long time. The only other aquarium I have been to is the one in Barcelona. My family and I went there a few times because we knew one of the directors that run the place and we even got a behind the scenes tour from him. Medellin’s Parque Explora is South America’s largest aquarium and as you can see from the photos below they have all kinds of cool fish.
I often equate aquariums with the famous saltwater animals like the sharks, dolphins, whales, etc., but it is cool for an aquarium like this one to focus on what some might consider to be the less “exciting” freshwater animals.
They also have various land animals like snakes, geckos, golden frogs, different kinds of cockroaches, and much more.
Lastly I went into the various themed interactive activity rooms like the music one, social media, and time. It was annoying that the little kids and even the adults did not want to give up their spots playing and after waiting for a good amount of time I would just get frustrated and leave to then turn around and they left too, but instantly replaced.
I certainly recommend this place and next time I will make sure to visit the planetarium too. If you decide to go to Parque Explora, make sure to combine that with a visit to the botanical garden of Medellin which is right across the street and free to enter. I did not do this because it was closed (4pm) by the time I exited the science museum so I left it for another day.
Fast forward now to my last weekend in Medellin. My brother had left on Friday and I was leaving the following Friday so the “pressure” was on to make the most out of this last weekend. I was supposed to go on a bike ride with my new cycling friends that I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, but from the moment my early morning alarm went off I knew the chances of riding that morning were slim because it was raining cats and dogs. The rain was not stopping so my buddies decided to try our luck the next day, and so I quickly came up with a contingency plan. It still relied on the rain easing or preferably stopping which it did by late morning, early afternoon. I decided to first go to Medellin’s botanical garden and then head over to el Pueblito Paisa. A lot of the uber riders I spoke to on my rides to and from the pool recommended that I visit the little historical town so of course I had to go.
The visit to the garden was nice and made me forget a little bit that I was in a huge city. It does not compare to Kew Gardens in London, but if you are someone that just appreciates greenery and some, you will love this place.
I did pay 4,000 COP for the butterfly garden visit and it was a very informative session. A guide is inside at all times with the guests and explains in Spanish all the butterflies. Unfortunately, for those that do not speak Spanish it did not seem like English was an option. I did notice a few fancy restaurants too so it might be a good place for a special occasion.
From the garden I took an uber over to the not too distant hilltop, but the clouds were slowly returning and getting darker. This was a time that I was hoping that the looks were just a deception. Once at the top there are tons of stands selling souvenirs and snacks. Behind and to the left of the multitude of people that gather here by the entrance you can see the houses that resemble early 20th century architecture of the region. To the right there are stairs that lead basically to a rooftop from where you have a 360° view of Medellin. It is incredible how many nice spots there are around Medellin to get a nice image of the city. By the rooftop there is also a museum, but I did not enter.
I saw several stands that sell obleas and I had to get one. Just a few days earlier I got hooked and now every time I return from a swim I get one at the stand close to the apartment complex. It is two wafers and a bunch of choices for what to have inside. My favorite is with Arequipe (Colombian caramel), cream, shredded cheese, and blueberry and strawberry sauce.
Another sweet snack that I have seen a lot around Medellin are solteritas. It looks like a small orange waffle with orange cream on top. I have not tried this one yet so I decided to give this one a try here too. I was a bit surprised by the taste. The “waffle” part is not soft at all like I thought it would be. It is very crunchy. And I could not figure out what the orange cream is made out of, but certainly sweet. Worth a try, but I will stick to the obleas.
Right as I was finishing up my solterita the rain began. Left and right people were searching for cover as if an enemy opened fire. I took a calmer approach and gently walked to where the cars pick up and drop off the people. I stood under a tree while I waited for my uber ride. One after another they canceled my ride. Fifteen minutes later I decided to just walk down the hill as it was just a light rain at this point.
Last, but not least, I had to visit the museum of Antioquia. I am not the biggest fan of art museums, but part of getting to know any culture is also viewing and learning a bit of its art and this museum in particular is rich in history as it is the second oldest one to be established in all of Colombia. Botero’s paintings and sculptures might be the reason you are drawn to enter, but the museum has plenty more to offer with artwork from various centuries explaining the country’s rich history. For foreigners the entry fee is $18,000 COP which is about $4 USD.
With that my month-long trip to Colombia came to a close. In the next blog I will write about my overall thoughts of the city and the pros and cons of my experience.