Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia, has many things to offer to locals and tourists alike. If you want to bid your time in nature while in town, we have some recommendations for you. ColombiaByBus brings you a guide to the Parque de los pies descalzos and the city of the “eternal spring”. Experience what Colombia and Medellin have to offer!

Medellin, the ‘most innovative city’

In 2013, Medellin was declared the world’s most innovative city, in a competition held by the Urban Land Institute. Medellin was chosen amongst 200 cities, including some big contenders, such as Chicago, Sao Paulo, London and Singapur.

The final round of the competition was disputed by three cities: New York, Tel-Aviv and, of course, Medellin. The reason why the Urban Land Institute gave Medellin the big award was the city’s big transformation in recent years. While New York was recongnized for its “culture and hospitality” and Tel-Aviv was considered because of its “technology and investigation”, it was the “progress and potential” that Medellin has shown in the XXI century the one thing that made a difference.

One thing is undeniable: Medellin has risen from its ashes. It was the most violent city of the world during the 90’s, house of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel. With the kingpin’s demise, the city fell into chaos and gang violence spread across the neighbourhoods and slums.

However, with heavy public investment and many private initiatives, Medellin landscape started to change. One of the many initiatives to improve the city for the people was to invest on public spaces. The San Antonio Square, the Biblioteca España (Spain Library) or the Explora Park were built or improved to achieve this.

Parque de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park)

Location: 42 street #58

Open: Tuesday to Sunday, from 8:00 to 21:00

In Medellin downtown there’s a park where you can walk barefoot, feeling the sand in your toes. Sorry, it’s not that you can walk barefoot… you actually kind of have to. Located near Alpujarra and Cisneros Metro Stations, it was built from 1998 to 2000 by the Medellin Public Enterprises (EPM).

Regarded as one of the biggest companies in Colombia, EPM has joined the mayoralty in the effort for urban transformation. As part of their corporative social responsibility EPM has helped in the cleanse of the Medellin River, as well as in schools, roads, houses and parks. One of those parks, precisely, is the Parque de los Pies Descalzos.

The park was conceived as a place to escape from the urban life and relax. That’s essentially the main reason why the guests are asked to be barefoot. In order to be in touch with nature, visitors must take off their shoes and feel the grass, the sand, the rock and the water below them. The park is also a place for multicultural coexistence and public enjoyment. People from all the city, local and foreign tourists meet here to interact with each other. Let’s see what the Parque de los Pies Descalzos has to offer!

La Puerta Urbana (The Urban Gate)

With 29 feet tall, the urban gate is a modern sculpture with water springs and lights that marks the entrance to the park. Being completely interactive, it signals the way the whole park works. During the summer, kids enjoy playing in the water while their parent watch them nearby. The children place is called by the locals “chorritos” (little water jets), and it has proven to be very fun for toddlers and older kids.

Nevertheless, the Urban Gate is a place for all. At dawn, the wonderful colours of the light games will marvel everyone. The near Water Museum, with many rooms devoted entirely to the importance of water for the country, is definitively a must see. There’s also a Reflection Pool, where guests can wash their feet from the sand, grass and soil that the barefoot experience usually brings.

The zen garden and the bamboo forest

Perhaps the most relaxing part of the park is the zen garden. It’s a miniature arrangement with sand, rocks, bamboo, trees and bushes that tries to imitate the Buddhist temples peacefulness. The main idea behind it is that you focus yourself on the garden’s tasks and forget all your problems. Behind the zen garden there is a bamboo forest, where you can feel amidst nature for a while without leaving the city.

Also, as in the Karate Kid, you can try to balance atop some wooden posts, an ancient Buddhist meditation technique. The one in the park is a little bigger than your usual zen garden and maybe not as silent. Children are not forbidden here, so maybe you will notice them from time to time. Still, it’s a perfect plan for those who want to take a break from their daily routine in the city.

Dance and yoga

The park is also a temple for the body. Here, you can find many groups devoted to dance, yoga and bodybuilding. Some youth associations, for example, can be seen regularly practicing the Brazilian art of capoeira, which mixes self-defence and dance. The sport was created by slaves in Brazil as a secret martial art, disguised as a dance. In Medellin’s Barefoot Park it serves as a nonviolent way for children and young people to express themselves. For them, you have to take control of your body and your mind in order to perform properly. The group is called Mestre Delei Kaçula and it mainly groups kids from the fourth commune.

Some other groups spend their time teaching and practising yoga. The zen garden is usually the place where they gather, but it can also be practised in the forest or the water fountains. Yoga is not about relaxation, as it can be very difficult to practice. But, as you immerse more and more in it, you will find in the most excruciating yoga postures some peace and mindfulness.

The sandbox

Enjoyed mainly by children, the sandbox garden is meant to be used by both kids and adults alike. The experience of being barefoot in the sand is, for many, one of the most relaxing things imaginable. The texture of the grains of sand in your soles may remind you of the beach. For the youngest ones, the sandbox is a space for creativity. Children usually enjoy building sandcastles and playing in the sand.

Cafeterias, restaurants and bookshops

For those who want to take some snacks or even lunch properly while in the park, there are many places available. Right in front of the zen garden you may find some tables with umbrellas where you can seat calmly and take a break. It’s an ideal plan to take your children and have some food in a different space. Also, if you want to seize the calm the place has to offer, you can buy a book or a magazine and spend as much time as you want reading and enjoying yourself. Any plan here is actually quite good, so take your time and come to the park. Medellin and the Parque de los Pies Descalzos await for you!