a group of tourists in medellin on bicycles

Medellin is known for many different things: the mild climate, the vibrant Paisa culture, and the numerous tourist-friendly activities available throughout the city. All of this has contributed to growing numbers of international visitors, especially in 2022 and 2023. Tourism in Medellin has generally been on the rise since the city started transforming a couple of decades ago, but the numbers fell sharply due to the pandemic. However, now that the restrictions have been lifted on international travel, Medellin has once again become a hub for tourists from all over the world.

Tourism statistics for Medellin

For reference, in 2002 – when Colombia wasn’t that safe for travel – there were about 540,000 visitors from other countries. These days, about 2.5 million people visit Colombia as tourists each year, with about 1.4 million of them visiting Medellin in 2022. The city is right behind Bogota in popularity for tourists, and if recent statistics are anything to go by, that won’t change anytime soon.

In January 2023 alone, 454,727 tourists visited Colombia. This was a 63% jump compared to January 2022, and an 18% increase compared to January 2019. Assuming the same trends are present in Medellin, that means a huge increase in tourism at the beginning of 2023.

Before 2010, Medellin only had a handful of hostels that catered to tourists; there just wasn’t enough demand to justify more of them. By 2020, though, that number had grown to over 150 hostels that were specifically geared towards foreign visitors. Of course, the pandemic forced many of them to close, but the city’s growing tourism industry has given rise to even more of them in 2022 and 2023. The Provenza neighborhood used to contain the highest number of hostels in Medellin before the pandemic, but the Manila neighborhood is now a better spot to find a tourist-friendly hostel. 

Which countries do tourists in Medellin come from?

Visitors to Medellin come from all over the world, with the majority of them (around 64%) being from various Latin American countries. Another 20% arrive from the United States, and 16% come from Europe. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Spain make up most of the European tourists in Medellin, but with 1.4 million annual tourists, you can be sure that people from almost every country on the continent decide to visit at some point. 

Why Medellin is so popular with tourists

There are things to enjoy and appreciate in almost every major city in the world, but not all of them can say that they get 1.4 million tourists annually. What makes Medellin different? Here are some of the reasons why. 

  • The city’s advancements

Even though Medellin is located in a developing country, it has some of the most advanced medical facilities, university programs, and urban planning in the world. It’s gained international recognition for the standards of its healthcare facilities, and it has also completely changed certain neighborhoods (like what you will see on a Comuna 13 tour) through government initiatives and improved public transportation. Even though the average tourist doesn’t visit another city for the quality of their urban planning, this and other factors can certainly improve the quality of a visitor’s stay.

  • The weather

Medellin is known as the “City of Eternal Spring”, because the weather is usually sunny and mild year-round. There may be a sudden shower or two during the afternoon, but there’s hardly any winter season, let alone a rainy season. This makes it ideal for visiting at any time of year.

  • The art and culture

Over two decades ago, Medellin was named the “most dangerous city in the world” due to the prevalence of gang activity, drug trafficking, and more. However, it has since completely transformed itself. This happened through a combination of tougher law enforcement tactics, and a strong focus on artistic and cultural development. For example, Comuna 13 used to be known as one of the most violent neighborhoods in Medellin. Now, there are Comuna 13 tours that introduce visitors to its incredible graffiti, street music and dance performances, and more. Medellin also has a number of museums, gorgeous parks, and community events centered around music, art, or similar activities. There’s even an entire plaza that contains 23 different sculptures by Fernando Botero, Medellin’s most famous artist.

  • Paisa culture

The Antioquian region of Colombia (where Medellin is located) is the birthplace of Paisa culture, which is known for its welcoming people and rich, hearty Paisa food. A tourist who’s only visiting for a week may not get the chance to integrate with the local culture, but in Medellin, they may still feel like they got close to it thanks to the friendliness of their hosts, tour guides, and more. 

  • Shopping

Most tourists will have the opportunity to pick up a few souvenirs during their trip, but Medellin offers an exceptional variety of shopping experiences for anyone who’s interested. Aside from the typical trinkets, they can also get colorful clothes, sombreros, miniature Botero sculptures, handwoven satchels and blankets, handmade jewelry, etc. For a more upscale shopping experience, tourists can visit the El Poblado neighborhood. 

  • Adventures like paragliding, helicopter tours, and day trips outside of town

The city of Medellin has more than enough to keep any tourist busy for days on end, but there’s even more to enjoy just outside of the city. There are paragliding tours that will take you soaring over the scenic hills surrounding Medellin, and helicopter tours for a more VIP tour of the cityscape. There are also nearby towns like Guatape, Santa Elena, and others, which are easily accessible by car or bus from Medellin. Guatape is famous for the Piedra del Peñol, a massive monolith that offers epic 360-degree views from the top. Santa Elena is known as the home of the region’s best flower growers, who produce the millions of blooms that are used in Medellin’s Festival of the Flowers each year.

In conclusion

Medellin is a colorful city with a unique cultural heritage. Even though it used to be famous for all the wrong reasons, it has successfully turned the narrative around, and become a favorite destination for tourists around the world.