Quick Guide to the Metro System of Medellin
By Dani Blanchette
Medellin, Colombia is on the forefront of public transportation in not just South America, but in the world. It is the first, and only, city in Colombia to build a metro-train, one of the only cities in all of South America to have a metro system at all, and the first in the world to build a metro-cable used for daily public transport (versus tourism). On top of that all, they are now in process of building the first ever outdoor escalator system, for use in public transport, in the world.
Navigating around this metro system can be a bit challenging, but like any metro system, there are a few simple tricks to quickly and cheaply navigating the city.
There are 2 main lines to the metro rail. The first 1st is the main North-South line. Like most lines, when you enter the train, only the very end station names are listed. If you have entered from anywhere in the middle, knowing which direction to go is a little confusing. If you can remember N for ‘north’ you are all set in Medellin. The North station is named ‘Niquia’ (the south is “Itagui’).
The San Antonio stop is the central stop on the North-South line, and the eastern-most stop on the East-West line. San Javier being the western stop on this line.
Medellin also has 2 metro-cables (above ground, hanging cable cars that bring citizens up the mountainsides). One metro-cable is located at San Javier and goes up the mountain, down the other side, then back up the next mountain. Here it ends and is solely for travel to the poorer barrios of this area.
The other, and more popular, metro-cable is located at Acevedo station; on the North-South line, north of San Antonio. This line climbs the mountainside into an eastern barrio of Medellin. It has 3 sections to it. The first 2 being for the barrios and are the same cost as the metro-rail.
The 3rd and upper section of this line costs an extra 5,000 pesos – about $2.50USD – because it is the entrance to Arvi Park, a state park located on the other side of the hill, and not considered part of public transport.
Medellin is also under construction of the first outdoor escalator system in the world which is to be used as part of the daily public transportation system. Located a quick bus ride west of the San Javier metro station, and in the poorest barrio of Medellin, these escalators will make a 30 minute climb up a steep staircase – there are no roads going up this mountainside neighborhood – into a 5 minute covered ride, up swiftly moving escalators.
Some of the popular sites you can reach off the metro system (and their stops) are:
- San Antonio downtown market area – San Antonio station
Street markets and vendors hawking everything from designer jeans, electronics, umbrellas, and homemade snacks. This area stretches from San Antonio to Parque Berrio.
- The Voluminous Statues of Parque Berrio in the Plaza Botero – Parque Berrio station
These ‘larger than life’ statues are creations by the famous Colombian sculpture, Fernando Botero.
- The Bibloteca Espana – Metro-cable line off Acevedo station
Gigantic, black stone library that looms over the city in the Santo Domingo Savio barrio of Medellin
(go to the Acevedo metro station (north of San Antonio) then transfer to the metro-cable. You see the library while riding up the cable. Its giant. Can’t miss it)
- Parque Lleras and the Poblado party district – Poblado station
This is the nightlife district and tourist center.
- The futebol stadium complex – Estadio station
This stadium complex hosts not just the stadium, but a gym, arenas, and a gigantic FREE Olympic sized pools complex. Just stay away on National vs Medellin days (the 2 Medellin futebol teams. Things can quickly turn violent)’
- Botanical gardens, Parque Norte (amusement park), Parque Explora, University de Antioquia – Universidad station.
This area is a great place to hang out, meet students (and families on the weekends) or just sit and read.
- North Terminal – Caribe station
This station is also the north bus terminal where you can catch buses to cities such as Guatape and Santa Fe, both great places to go for day or overnight trips from Medellin.
There are many more places to visit and things to see using the metro system of Medellin And for 1.800 pesos it is worth just riding up and down each line, looking out the windows, and seeing what interesting things you can see from the air.
Once you have seen the city from the air, you can get off a stop and explore it from the ground.
Dani Blanchette is a photographer and travelblogger for the travel blog Going Nomad. She also works as a photojournalist for the online music magazine TastesLikeRock.com. She is currently traveling in South America. You can also buy her prints at DaniBlanchette.com