We originally booked our flight and Airbnb for 6 nights in Cartagena but after further research I determined there weren't enough things to do to keep us busy for the entire time. I had heard some good things about Medellin and found flights on Avianca for $90RT from Cartagena. This was a great opportunity to see another, very different city, in Colombia. If I had planned better and knew we would visit Medellin I would have booked a flight for the same day we arrived in Cartagena, going straight to Medellin and avoiding paying for 2 nights Airbnb in Cartagena while in Medellin but you live and you learn.
Where We Stayed
We rented this Airbnb in the El Poblado neighborhood. It was walking distance to a grocery store, shops and restaurants. The bathroom was a little outdated for my liking but for $50/night for a 2/bdrm 1 bathroom apartment I can't really complain.
Day One-Real City Tours in Medellin and the Metro Cable
We arrived the night before so we had a full day ahead of us. We were lucky enough to get a spot on the free walking tour provided by Real City Tours. They only offer two tours a day Monday-Friday at 9:00AM and 2:00PM and one tour on Saturday at 9:50AM. You can only reserve the tour 1.5 days in advance so Saturday's tour would open for reservation Thursday after 6:15PM. The tour basically goes in a rectangle with about 12 or so stops throughout where you will stop and either sit or stand while your guide gives you some history of that area. The tour shows and talks about both the good and bad of Medellin so there is discussion on prostitution, porn-trade, alcoholism and drug-addiction. My kids are so young I didn't care about this but you may.
You do stop for a quick break halfway through the tour to get a snack, drink, and to relax a bit but I recommend bringing snacks and definitely water. Strollers are allowed on the tour but a carrier is much easier as the streets are busy and you will have to tackle a few stairs. On the flip side if your child is heavy it may be very tiring to carry them for 4 hours.
After the tour we took their subway system to the Metro Cable to head to Parque Arvi. Everyone must exit the metro cable at Santo Dominigo (the last stop) and then switch to another one to go all the way to the park. We heard you can get some nice views of the city from the Santo Domingo stop so we walked around a bit since we would have to change metro cables anyway. Unfortunately for us it started to drizzle a bit while we were exploring Santo Domingo and because it was windy the metro cables stopped running. They were unsure of when they would start back up again and after waiting 20mins we decided we would just head back to our Airbnb since we were starving. Good thing we did as about 3mins after we got in the cab it started pouring! Although we didn't make it to Parque Arvi we got a great tour of Santo Domingo and nice view of the city from above on our ride down the mountain.
Day Two- Guatape & Rock of El Penol Tour and flight back to Cartagena
Through TripAdvisor I found LandVenture Tours, the #2 tour company in Medellin, the 1st is Real City Tours. We did the Guatape & Rock of El Penol Tour and I could not have been happier. It was a private tour, they provided a car seat for Jordyn, AND they dropped us off to the airport saving us taxi fare and allowing us to do this tour on our last day in Medellin without having to wonder what we would do with our luggage after checking out of our Airbnb, talk about a win!
The price was $59 per adult and $30 per child, I am not used to paying for the kids on tours of this nature but for a total of $237 it was still cheaper than a lot of other tours and for what we did well worth the cost! Alejandro was our guide and he picked us up from our Airbnb promptly at 10AM.
We made the scenic drive to Penol and Alejandro told us all about the area on the way. They really allow you to personalize the tour so if at any point you want to stop to take a closer look at something you can. We made a few stops at overlooks to admire the lakes and cities before getting to the Rock. We had the carriers for both kids to make the 750 stair climb to the top but we did see some young kids around the age of 3, 4 climbing up themselves with their parents. As much as Jordyn loves to climb stairs I could see her begging to be carried by the 100th stair so I passed on even attempting that. It took about 15/20mins to make the climb as we stopped twice to catch our breath and drink some water. The view from the top is absolutely breathtaking, one of the most beautiful views I have seen.
After the Rock we went to the town of Guatape, famous for its zocalos (a form of art in Colombia). We first had lunch before Alejandro gave us a tour of the town and taught us all about the history of the zocalos. He was very informative and the homes decorated with this artwork are so beautiful, colorful, and unique. Alejandro took us to the airport when we were ready to go.