Destination Run: Medellin Botanical Gardens, Colombia
Talk to any local in Medellin, Colombia and they will be sure to recommend a visit to el Jardín Botánico. The Joaquin Antonio Uribe Botanical Garden serves as a green belt for the city and showcases more than 1000 species of plant that are native to Colombia. It is easy to get to and free to enter. The laid-back atmosphere and beautiful landscape make it the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon.
Medellin is a bustling city with plenty of activities, restaurants, and nightlife to keep you occupied during your stay. Unfortunately, the busy streets and crowded sidewalks are not ideal for running. The botanical garden offers a small sanctuary for the traveling runner and allows you to experience the varying flora of Colombia’s diverse regions without leaving the city limits.
About the Gardens
The botanical gardens began as the private farm that served as an estate and restaurant back when in the 19th century when Medellin had only 40,000 occupants. The city acquired the land at the beginning of the 20th century and began purchasing surrounding farms and accepting donations to expand the area. It was renamed to Joaquin Antonio Uribe Botanical Garden in 1972 after the well-respected botanist, writer, and educator. Today the park provides 34 acres of green space for a city that has grown to almost 2.5 million citizens.
The loop around the park is only 1 kilometer around but it is packed with almost 5000 individual plants. After a few loops, be sure to explore the interior paths through the gardens that will lead you through the different areas of the park representing the diverse regions of Colombia.
A wooden path will take you to see the stratification of a miniature tropical forest and spits you out near the Orquideorama. The 50-foot tall flower patch was built when Colombia was chosen to host the VII World Conference on Orchidology and now serves as an event center.
Near the orchid garden is the Francisco Jose de Caldas Lake. The lake is home to various animals native to the Colombian wetlands. You will be sure to see some turtles if you stop by. From there you can continue on to the desert garden where you can see the vegetation from Colombia’s two deserts. From there you can continue your way through the park to enjoy the garden of palms and butterfly house.
Situated in the heart of the city, the gardens are very easy to get to. You can take the metro to the Universidad stop and the gardens will be visible from the platform. You can also ask any taxi driver in Medellin for el Jardin Botanico and you will be dropped off at the gardens.
Nearby you will find plenty of other tourist attractions including the Medellin planetarium, Parque Explora science museum and aquarium, Parque Norte amusement park and the plaza Parque de los Deseos.
When to Go
The gardens are open from 9 to 4:30 and are free to enter. There will likely be more visitors on weekend afternoons so visiting during the week or early on the weekend will increase the likelihood of having the paths to yourself. Be sure to check for events being held in the garden as they may affect the hours. However, you may get lucky and your visit could coincide with free yoga in the park.
If you are planning a visit to Medellin, the month you visit is not of great importance. Medellin is known as the city of eternal spring. Its proximity to the equator means the weather stays pretty consistent throughout the year and the higher altitude means that temperatures stay a bit cooler than other cities at the same latitude. Temperatures typically range between 65 and 80 degrees regardless of the month. Rain is common in the afternoon so running in the morning may be your best bet if you are looking to stay dry.
Is it safe?
Running or walking through the botanical gardens, you should feel very safe. The park provides a wide open space and is a popular hangout for families and university students, hardly a prime location for crime.
However, safety is a frequent concern for many first-time travelers to Colombia due to the country’s violent past. Medellin, in particular, is still well-known for the notorious drug trafficker Pablo Escobar and it gained a reputation as the “murder capital of the world” back in the 1990s. However, much has changed in the last 2 decades. The scars of the past are still visible if you know where to look but Medellin has since fallen off the list of the 50 most dangerous cities while US cities such as Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore and St Louis still make the cut.
As in any large city, tourists should be smart with their valuables and be aware of their surroundings. Most robberies and pickpockets are crimes of opportunity so avoid flashing expensive items, placing things in outer pockets or walking alone at night. Homicides and kidnappings should not be of concern for tourists. In the last 3 years, the low number of homicides involving foreigners have been a result of involvement in illegal activity or resisting a robbery.
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