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I have a confession to make. In August 2010, after a cummulative 18 months living in Medellin Colombia, I left to explore the rest of South America.
Until then, Colombia had been the one and only country I was familiar with on the continent. I knew the city and paisa culture of Medellin were awesome, but what if there were other cities that were even more awesome?
It was a question I had to answer for myself, before I could continue to devote 6 months a year (or more) to the City of the Eternal Spring.
Over the last 11 months, I've traveled Ecuador, Peru (including 3 months living in Lima), Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.
The glaring omission from this list remains Brazil, but that behemoth will have to wait a little longer. Other countries, such as Venezuela, Paraguay, Suriname, French Guiana, and Guiana, I already know to be unlikely contenders for my heart (though I intend to visit them in 2013).
My survey of South America to-date has only served to reinforce the uniqueness and awesomeness (is that a word?) that is Medellin.
Without further ado, I present my top 10 list of reasons I miss Medellin, after almost one full year apart.
One of the first observations I made upon arrival in Medellin was how Latin music could be heard everywhere. In the streets, from the little vendor shops, to the taxis, buses, and supermarkets. And of course there were the usual suspects every night: restaurants, bars, and discotecas.
The mix of all these new and different genres threw me for a loop at first. As time went on, I learned how to discern salsa from merengue, and vallenato from bachata. And if you love reggaeton, you'll be hard pressed to find a country where it's more embraced than Colombia.
During my tour of South America, I learned there are two tiers of countries for travel and living.
Countries like Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Brazil are all what I'd deem expensive by Western standards. That's to say they're well worth a visit, but your Western money (such as US Dollars) won't take you as far. Taxis, food, nightlife, accommodations, and apartment rentals are all noticeably more expensive.
While Colombia isn't the cheapest place to visit, nor Medellin the cheapest place to live, I believe I got the best bang for my buck there.
By comparison, Bolivia is the cheapest, followed by Ecuador, and Peru. I was happy to visit all three, however, for various reasons I didn't find myself wanting to settle down in any of them.
Colombians, and specifically paisas, are the sexiest girls in South America. Again, I haven't been to Brazil yet, but I'm confident in this statement from what I've seen so far.
They are also generally more approachable than their pretty, Western counterparts, even for the shy guys who have yet to learn a lick of Spanish.
This is an "X" factor for me. Every new city and country I visited had its own culture, but none seemed to capture my attention and curiosity like the paisa culture of Antioquia (the department for which Medellin is the capital).
The next closest thing might be the gauchos of Argentina and Uruguay, but I didn't spend any time with them, nor go on any extreme horseback rides as I've done in Colombia, so I can't say for sure.
This goes along with the aforementioned paisa culture, however given the 10-day duration of the annual Feria de las Flores in Medellin, I'm giving it a dedicated spot on the list.
Every year, more than a week of parades, street parties, concerts, and events is capped off with the one-of-a-kind flower parade. I've attended two of the last three Ferias, and they've always been a lot of fun.
Sure, I found pueblos in the other countries, but nothing as scenic as Guatape, Jardin, or Santa Fe de Antioquia, and those are just the popular ones within a few hours of Medellin.
Colombia owns the "pueblo tourism" market. I believe some countries in Central America may be contenders, such as Guatemala and Mexico, but Colombia has a lock on South America.
La Feria de las Flores every July/August is my second favorite time of year. So what's my favorite?
December, due to the massive display of Christmas lights in Medellin. Starting in October, millions of twinkling, colored lights are strung up around the city, and surrounding municipalities (Envigado, in particular, is stunning).
While I haven't spent this big holiday in another South American city, I can't fathom that any could be better decorated. The resulting atmosphere is special. Every evening, and especially on the weekends, people of all ages, from kids to the old folks, go for walks along Rio Medellin, and the city plazas to view the lights.
The temperatures in Medellin are so constant, all year, that it can be easy to take them for granted.
Sometimes people complain about the frequent rain in the rainy seasons, but the reality is the storms often pass in a few hours, and it's soon sunny again. And even when it does rain, it's usually in the afternoon, after a morning filled with beautiful blue skies.
Most of the Western coast of South America is desert. You might find drier weather, but the landscapes can be very bleak (sorry Peru). High altitudes in Bolivia, and cold Autumn and Winter weather in Argentina and Uruguay had me wishing I were back in Medellin.
I've written a lot about nightlife in Medellin over the years. Many of the other factors on this list combine to create one a very fun bar and club scene, including: Latin music, sexy girls, warm weather, and low costs.
Paisas often ask me what I liked about Medellin. I always start with the mountains. And that hasn't changed in over three years. The city's natural geography is hard to beat, especially when you factor in everything else on this list.
Sure, the mountains in Peru's Cordillera Blanca are bigger, but the city of Huaraz has nothing on Medellin in terms of beauty. There are larger peaks around La Paz, but bigger isn't always better.
The high altitudes in Bolivia had me gasping for air upon arrival, whereas Medellin is situated at a pleasant 1,500 meters above sea level. Most visitors won't even notice the altitude.