Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia. And just like any city, they have a bustling city center, streets lined with restaurants and bars, and constant traffic. Lots of traffic.
But it’s not like American traffic where there is all this stopping and going and honking. It’s this constant flow of cars making their way up these steep and narrow city streets, motorbikes weaving in and out, and pedestrians casually crossing streets all in perfect sync. It’s hypnotically fluid.
But on Sunday mornings, one of their busiest streets (43A) closes down to cars and becomes a pedestrian oasis. It felt like Chicago’s Lakefront trail on a summer Saturday morning, and we loved it.
What is Ciclovía?
Ciclovia translates to bike path. Medellin doesn’t really have many bike paths or trails in the city – it has narrow streets and bumpy sidewalks that are not super conducive to bikers. (Although we did see bikers riding up the mountain roads at night when we were coming in from the airport, so people do it, but it looks horrifying.) So once a week, about 60K of Carerra 35 transforms into a safe, beautiful and convenient destination for bikers and pedestrians to get their fitness on.
Who is Ciclovia for?
Literally everyone. We saw trained cyclists, casual bikers, BMX bikers, kids in pedal cars, runners, walkers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, and even a guy on a Hoverboard. And dogs are totally welcome! It had a very casual and inclusive vibe. There were as many if not more people just out for a stroll than there were serious athletes. It really felt like everyone in the city came out to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful views.
What to wear?
It doesn’t matter that its 80 degrees and you’re running, the mantra still holds strong: only gringos wear shorts. This is probably the hardest thing for me to adjust to in Medellin (not Kenny though, he’s been wearing jeans and long sleeves in the summer for years).
For the most part, people wore fitness pants and t-shirts. (Even the walkers were dressed in their fitness gear!) While there were a handful of women in shorts, a majority of them were in capris or leggings. There were more men in shorts, but it was still not the majority.
What are the conditions like?
So. Many. Hills. Medellin is in a valley in the Andes Mountains. I can run a marathon in Chicago but that means nothing when you find yourself on the relentless inclines that come with running in the mountains. Running 10 miles here felt like running 15 or 20 in Chicago. There were points where we ran a mile or two uphill before catching the slightest downhill break.
The hills don’t seem to bother the locals – this is just their backyard. The real saying should be gringos can’t handle hills. While I’m pretty sure it was running up the hills that took my breath away, I’m sure the elevation didn’t necessarily help. The elevation ranges from about 5,000 – 6,500 feet above sea level.
If you’re a cyclist, these mountainous conditions can be tough on bikes. You’ll find locals along most of the path offering basic bike maintenance, such as tire repairs, for what I assume was a reasonable fee.
What else is there to do?
During Ciclovia, the street is lined with vendors selling fruit, fresh juices and other healthy-looking snacks. In Envigado (a suburb south of the city where the road closure ends), you’ll find lots of restaurants with open air patios to grab a snack of coffee and arepas (delicious corn cakes often filled with cheese or served with butter). When you get to Poblado, there is a farmers market (Mercado Campesinos) at Parque la Presidenta where you can score some insanely delicious fresh juices like mango, coconut or Guarapo Costeño (sugar cane and lime juice).
When is Ciclovia?
Sundays from 7AM – 1 PM.
Planning a Trip to Medellin?
That’s awesome and we’re jealous! Our Medellin travel guide has everything you need to plan your trip and is a great place to start. We’ve got you covered on everything from our perfect 1-4 day Medellin Itinerary to our Medellin Coffee Guide for all things coffee. Be sure to check out our favorite things to eat, drink and do in Medellin plus a video of our Top 10 Medellin experiences. Wondering how much all this will cost? We’ve got you covered with our Medellin travel costs infographic.