Time Crunch? Here are my 3 Days in Medellin

Coming from the mainland, such as NYC, it might take you 6 hours to fly to Medellin, Colombia. That’s a good portion of your day already. I’m going to assume that’s part of your day one of your three-day visit. I don’t remember my exact itinerary, but I do remember it was crunch time when I went to visit Medellin and had to include my travel days into my vacation – I had a week I split up between Medellin and Cuba when I went.

It is essential to strategically plan activities and travel time when given a limited schedule to travel to Medellin from the mainland USA. For the limited amount of time, here is the most effective way to maximize 3 days in Medellin:

  • Day 1 – 45-Minute Airport Commute, Check-in and Night Events
  • Day 2 – Day Trip to Guatape
  • Day 3 – Free Walking Tour, and 45-Minute Airport Commute

You’re probably like, why include the airport commute in the itinerary? I include it because the commute time can be variable depending on how the traffic is. The ride from the airport to the city is a winding downhill path down the sides of a mountain. When I was there, my driver would mention that there were landslides at times, and that could be a reason to slow down the traffic. My first-hand experience was about a two-hour ride back to the airport. It takes a while for people from the city to drive up the mountain to clear out a traffic jam caused by accident.

So yeah, keep that in mind. I’ll try and provide as many tips as I can that I wish I knew when I had a time crunch staying in Medellin.

Day 1 – 45-Minute Airport Commute, Check-in and Night Events

45-Minute Airport Commute

A 45-Minute Airport commute is probably not something that you want to plan out, but you should. Vacation isn’t the most fun when things are hectic and on a time crunch.

View from the ride down to Medellin from the airport.

Some tips for the commute:

  • Download the app Taxi Taxi. This is the app the locals use, which is the equivalent of Uber in the area. You can call a cab through this app to take you down the mountain back to Medellin.
  • You can also use Uber, but I’ve heard rumors while I was in Medellin that this wasn’t as common or allowed. But I can confirm that Uber did work when I went to Medellin.
  • There’s also the bus method. It’s the cheapest way to get down the mountain. It operates most times of a normal day. I never chose this option because of the time crunch. I recommend you don’t choose this option for only having a three-day itinerary.
  • Practice your Spanish with your driver, or prepare something entertaining on the way down the mountain
  • Use the restroom before you leave, you never know how the traffic will end up


The first thing you’ll need to do when you arrive at Medellin is to drop off your items.

I’ve booked AirBnB and have stayed with local friends while I was there. Because these options may take more effort and coordination for your first-time visit, it may be advised to book a hotel.

When I travel and book hotels, I book through a Marriott with my Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card. I do it because it’s relaxing and it’s a place of familiarity I can return to. Plus, they’ve been able to check me into a room on a last-minute basis when I was in need. This happened to me when I went to Rome. I locked myself out of my AirBnB and wasn’t let back in until the next day. In this case, having the Marriott Bonvoy membership saved my vacation.

Once you get settled, there’s no time to waste. You’ve traveled all day and have had the chance to relax or sleep during your rides. It’s time to get out and get moving through the city.

Night Events

Medellin has so many neighborhoods you can choose from for the night events. The upper-class areas have notably been Laureles and Poblado. It’s ideal for checking Poblado out if you were only to choose one.

El Poblado’s nightlife environment will provide you plenty of options. You’ll notice a lot of other travelers in this area. It seems to draw in these types for food, dance, beer and music.

For a more authentic feel, you may want to check out some of the hostel events. Personally, if I were to go back, I would stick with hostel events. There’s a chance to be more social and connect with other travelers and locals.

There was a night where a hostel hosted a Spanish and English exchange night. I was able to stumble through my Spanish while sharing a brew with new friends.

Day 2 – Day Trip to Guatape

I’ve written about this extensively in my post, Easiest Day Trips from Medellin.

The basic premise is that booking a $30 tour to have your day trip handed to you is worth it.

Alls you do is show up at a meeting point in Medellin, and the guides will direct you to multiple stops to see a more authentic and beautiful side of Antioquia – the region Medellin is in.

I was able to go to Guatape, where I summitted a large rock and viewed blue lakes all around. And I tried one of the more traditional foods there called Bandeja Paisa.

These day trips will be an actual full day. Be prepared for a nice nap on the way back from Guatape.

Day 3 – Free Walking Tour, and 45-Minute Airport Commute

Your final day in Medellin should be spent in the city itself. This way, you’ll have time to pack and head to the airport afterward.

There are free walking tours available that will start early in the morning.

From here, you’ll meet with other travelers and your local tour guide who is incredibly knowledgeable about the culture and history of Medellin. And then you can begin the tour through the city and learn about the architecture, the political factions which exist or did exist, the foods, the shops, and more.

Neat architecture from the tour

I would highly recommend you to not miss out on a walking tour when in Medellin. You’ll be able to learn and get a feel of the city more than walking around by yourself or the person(s) who are with you.

The tour I chose was Real City Tours. You have the option of a group photo, which I was a part of. If you decide to do this, don’t forget to bring local currency with you and be sure to tip your tour guide!

If you have time after the tour, why not find a hole in the wall and eat a local lunch?

Can you name this meal? I’m honestly not entirely sure what we’re eating here

Headed Back

Your three days is finally complete. You’ve been able to experience El Poblado and hostel culture, Guatape, and a tour of Medellin. 

Now it’s time to head back to the airport and go back. 

Before you head back, don’t forget to review my bullet points on tips for the airport commute!

Jess Archives

Writer. Traveler. Technologist. Follow my IG @jess.archives

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