Next month, the PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour will make its way to the Colombian city of Medellin for the first time. Despite the years of conflict we’ve heard about on the news, Colombia is now a safe place to visit, particularly Medellin, which Lonely Planet describes as "the jewel in the crown of Colombia."
That may have something to do with its perfect climate of a permanent springtime and mass amounts of greenery laced throughout a bustling city filled with skyscrapers, restaurants, museums and nightlife, all surrounded by rugged peaks with stunning views wherever you look. In fact, a local law requires new buildings to include public art within the construction, so Medellin now has the funky vibe of an outdoor art gallery. Then, of course, there is the country’s most famous, finest-quality exports: coffee and women. Sold yet?
- Exchange Rate: Colombian Pesos (Col$) — Col$1,737 = USD$1
- Weather: Shorts and a t-shirt by day, pants and a sweater by night, and that’s at anytime of the year.
- Tax on Winnings: 20% of winnings over Col$1,206,000 (USD$635) will be withheld by the Colombian government. Official receipts will be issued.
Getting There & Around
The Jose Cordoba International Airport is a scenic, 40-minute ride from the city. There is no tax upon arrival into Colombia, but one must be paid in cash upon departure and can vary in price depending on whether your airline ticket included the tax or not. We suggest having at least USD$40 in cash available, just in case.
Taxis are quite cheap, so getting around isn’t too difficult. Although with all of the beautiful nature around, why not rent a bicycle to take it all in? The mountain roads around the city fill up with local bikers on the weekends — joining them would be a great way to release any bad-beat tension!
Medellin also has a rare mode of transport for a non-ski town — the Metrocable. It’s a cheap gondola lift system that takes you across the top of the city and out to the further suburbs. It runs 20 hours a day and taking it at night when the city is lit up is said to be stunning. Certainly an innovative way to get around!
Latin American Poker Tour
The LAPT Main Event will be held at Casino Allegre from Oct. 13 through 16. Also, be aware that the High Roller event coincides with the Main Event Final Table.
CENTRO COMERCIAL PREMIUM PLAZA,
Carrera 43A (Av. El Poblado) con calle 30.
Third floor, Unit 3101
If you were lucky enough to secure a PokerStars satellite package to this event, then you will be issued five nights' worth of accommodation in one of the following hotels:
Hotel Intercontinental Medellin
Calle 16 #28-51
Variante Las Palmas Medellin,
Tel: +574 319 4450
Hotel GHL Confort San Diego
Calle 31 No. 43 - 90,
Tel: +574 444 9002
Conditions do apply to the packaged accommodation, so for more information or for any hotel-related query, please email email@example.com.
As always, a cocktail party will be held on the eve of the Main Event to welcome players to Medellin, the location is still to be confirmed, but consider yourself warned to keep the night of Oct. 12 free! Transport will be supplied from the above-mentioned hotels.
When you’re busy crushing a poker tournament, we understand that you will be limited for time to explore a city of over 3 million residents. Here are few things to do, as well as a day trip suggestion, you know, just in case the nature of poker forces you into having a few extra days to spare than planned.
Bare Foot Park (Parque de los Pies Descalzos)
Almost every corner of Medellin has a park of some sort, but this one is unique. Here, you’re required to take off your shoes for a refreshing walk along the small rocks through a bamboo forest, along the sand, and even do some climbing on stone pillars. There are fountains shooting cold water to cool down on a hot day, or you can chose to sit in the shade and escape from the bustle of the city, even though you’re still in the heart of it. To top it all off, there’s no entry fee.
Wind Back the Clock
For those who love to explore an old castle, El Castillo Museo y Jardines is the place to be in Medellin. Built in 1930, it has been converted into a museum of family belongings of the former, loaded owner, all surrounded by French-style gardens. You could also explore some of the many churches that you’ll find downtown such as Catedral Metropolitana overlooking Parque de Bolivar, which dates back to 1875.
Be prepared to be bombarded by vendors while you’re shopping. For a taste of the local markets where you’ll be bombarded by vendors as you pass by, a great place to shop is El Hueco. You'll have to put your haggling skills to the test, though. To skip on the cultural experience, try El Tesoro, the largest commercial center in the area with amazing views overlooking the city.
Colombia just wouldn’t be a Latin American country without a great party culture. You’ll find that party culture around Parque Lleras in El Poblado, an area that is also known as the Zona Rosa. This area draws “the young, the beautiful, the rich, the surgically augmented and the merely enthusiastic” as described by Lonely Planet who rank this area as the No. 1 district for entertainment in all of Colombia. Here you can have a drink on one of the many outdoor patios or dance the night away in any of the huge selection of clubs.
The most common plate in a typical Colombian restaurant is called “Bandeja Paisa.” It's known for its oversized amount, and vast combination, of foods such as rice, red beans, grounded dry meat, sweet plantain, chorizo, morcilla, deep fried pork skin, avocado, all wrapped in a tortilla with a fried egg on top. El Hato Viejo is the perfect place to sample some local cuisine. According to Fodor’s you should try the sopa de guineo (plantain soup) before sinking your teeth into lomito (tenderloin) or langostinos (lobsters). Finish your feast with brevas con queso (figs with white cheese), all while sitting among the overflowing plants on the second-story balcony.
Day Trip: Piedra de Penol/Guatape
This gigantic rock that explodes from the landscape of a little town called Guatape, Antioquia is great for a day trip. It is approximately one to two hours from Medellin. You don’t need to be a veteran rock-climber, because over 700 cement stairs have been built into the side of the cliff, allowing you to climb “with ease” to enjoy the stunning view of the surrounding lakes and towns. When you've reached the top, you can even pick up a snack and a drink in the shop to recover from your climb! Once you’re done with the climb, you can spend the rest of your day exploring the cobblestone streets lined with vividly colored houses in the beautiful village of Guatape.
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*Photo courtesy of DiscoverColombia.com.