Having completed Paola’s six-week volunteer program at EcoHostel Medellin, I’d like to offer a few tips for future participants.
What to bring for the volunteer program
First Aid Kit
Hat, Long Pants
Where to get meat in Amaga
Despite Paola’s fabulous culinary skills, there were times when Dave and I were hungry enough to bring down one of the neighbor’s cows. Luckily, there are a few restaurants in town that do the killing for you, and for cheap.
Restaurant I. This one is run by Gildalgo (I really don’t know how to spell that), who is extremely nice and accommodating, even on weekends when his place is a madhouse. The trucha and bean soup are pretty good. His restaurant is in the bottom left corner of the square on the second floor above a fast-food chicken shop.
Restaurant II. Honestly this was our favorite one. They make fantastic tamales, mondogo and comidas rapidas like chicken wrapped in bacon on a skewer. The menu might not make any sense, but you can’t really go wrong ordering. This place is in the upper right corner of the square at the end of the block.
Day trips from Amaga
Café de la Cumbre. Great coffee plantation just outside of Ferdonia. The brother of a restaurant owner in Amaga runs the whole place in gives great tours. Plus a fabulous lunch is provided.
El Viaducto. Amaga’s shining tourist attraction. It’s about a four-hour walk to traverse the old 1920s traintracks and passes over some spectacular ravines.
Weekend trips from Amaga
Guatapé. Famous for La Piedra, a really big rock that tourists “climb” (there are stairs all the way up). But it also has hiking and biking trails, as well as water activities. El Encuentro is a bit removed from town, but still a great hostel, with bike rentals.
Jardin. Very picturesque and quiet. There are two metrocables that bring you up the mountainsides and offer great views of the whole town. The two are very different – especially in age – but both are worth the ~5 mil pesos.
Santa Fe. I can’t vouch for this one, but it’s rumored to have some original colonial architecture. Its historical claim to fame is that Santa Fe was the capital of the state of Antioquia from 1813-1826, according to Wikipedia.
Where to go in Medellin
Mango ladies. When you first get off at the metro station there are a variety of fruit stands that sell cups of really ripe mangoes. Definitely worth the 1,000 pesos.
German ice cream place, thanks Fabian! At 12th and 43D. You can measure an ice cream place based on how well they master vanilla, and these guys definitely passed. I really liked hazelnut and cappuccino, but their flavors rotate, so be sure to return for seconds.
3 Tipicos. If you want Colombian platos tipicos, here’s your place. It’s kind of hard to find, but it’s on the corner of 7th and TV Intermeditier. Of course there’s mondogo, but there are other similar soup-based dishes that come with their own variety of add-ons. My favorite was a corn chowder called Apiocata that came with capers, avocado, banana and rice.
Zorbas. In case you want some more vegetarian cuisine, Zorba’s is probably one of the only places that has meat-less dishes in Medellin. The Ensalada Zorba and all of their pizzas are delicious.
Opera Pizza. If you’re craving fatty meat, which you probably are if you’re working at Paola’s, order the Opera. It comes with capers, salami, bacon and mushrooms. Not bad for 17 mil.
Hotel Egina. Dave and I got sick of paying between 60 and 80 mil pesos for crappy private rooms in hostels in El Poblado so instead we tried to find deals online for nicer hotels. Through booking.com we found a room in this hotel right next to the Estadio metro station for 100 mil. It’s clean, quiet, has free breakfast, hot showers and great wifi.
If you can take the metrocable to Santa Elana on a Saturday you’ll be greeted by the local farmers’ market in the entrance of the park. Here vendors sell their local harvests such as uchuvas (goji berries), a type of blueberry that makes pretty tasty wine, arepas, fried pastries, and of course mushrooms! You can’t miss the mushroom dome that sells amazing grilled Portabellos, plus my favorite, mushroom ceviche. The only downside of going to this park on Saturdays is the bike loop is cut down to just about 6 kilometers due to weekend traffic. Though if you go any day from Wednesday to Friday you can bike a much larger portion of the park for free!