Medellín vs Manizales: Which is the Better Place to Live? - Medellin Guru
Medellín vs Manizales. We comprehensively compare the two cities in Colombia in 16 categories to see which is the better city to live in for expats.

Medellín vs Manizales: Which is the Better Place to Live?

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17 thoughts on “Medellín vs Manizales: Which is the Better Place to Live?”

    1. Joshua May 30, 2021

      One great thing to say on behalf of Manizales that it absolutely has over Medallo is security, Manizales is by far one of the safest cities to live in Colombia.

    2. Raymond Gertner July 17, 2019

      Combining my 30 yr military career and love for travel as a civilian, I have been to over 100 countries (not all with friendly natives). I originally came to Colombia in 2004, as part of Plan Colombia, and worked in the Embassy MILGRP in Bogota. In that capacity, I traveled all over Colombia and got to know it very well. I met my wife there and we still own a condo in Bogota and, believe it or not, I like the altitude and cool climate. However, the noise, pollution, and crime (much worse since the collapse of Venezuela) are definite drawbacks. I take my ‘good time’ with me inside my head, so many of the metrics used to compare cities simply do not apply to me (although they would for my Colombian wife and dual citizen children), however, security is huge on my list of important issues because of my family and there are still areas, like Bogota and Cali, where kidnapping and street crime are problematic.

      I own a coffee farm in the Eje Cafetero and travel all over that region. I know it pretty well and really enjoy hiking, rock climbing, biking, and rappelling, so Manizales has a certain appeal for me but I can go there on weekends and holidays. For my money, there is simply no competition for Medellin as a place to call home (However, Ibague is another possible choice). My only criticisms are the distance from the Rio Negro airport to the city (but the view is nice on the ride) and that the people are not as warm and friendly as in other parts of Colombia. This may be a result of the large ex-pat population which has reduced curiosity about foreigners among Paisas. For those of you planning to go to Medellin, who speak Spanish but have not been to Paisa country before, there are a couple of websites that teach you some common local nuances of the language and are very funny and helpful. On my first trip to Medellin (with my wife), is where I learned “chevere”, “bacano”, “maluca” and “parce”. We do volunteer work with the homeless in el Centro, Bogota, and the term “parce” became immediately handy. Using it instead of “amigo” showed me to be a kindred spirit whom they could trust, allowing me to help them. Another important word to know in Medellin is “Pola”, which they use instead of cerveza. I really enjoyed your site and the many comments.

      • Hi Raymond, thanks for your comment. FYI, the time for a trip to/from the Rionegro airport will be cut in half soon as the new airport tunnel will reportedly open in early August.

    3. I would say that Manizales is an excellent option for those who don’t mind living in a smaller city. It’s infrastructure is pretty good and I’ve always found the city to be pretty clean and lot nicer than the other two cities in the Coffee Region. I think the criteria set forth by the author, favors large cities and smaller towns will rarely be able to compete in terms of restaurants, nightlife, and shopping options. Also, the public transportation criteria is relative. Sure Medellin boasts a metro, but why would a city the size of Manizales need one? Medellin boasts more public transport options out of necessity. However, I can guarantee you that the denizens of Manizales spend much less time going back and forth, than the people who live in Medellin. Also, in terms of nature and outdoor activities, Manizales may just be the best city in Colombia. I think you need to be more objective when evaluating cities, especially smaller ones. Your criteria is heavily in favor of large cities, whereas the things that may make smaller cities attractive, are notably absent.

      • Yes, a smaller city is difficult to compete with Medellín as it won’t have as many restaurants, nightlife, shopping options or flight options. But it wouldn’t be objective to ignore those categories, as those categories are important to many people. If Manizales is so great why aren’t there many expats there — it honestly doesn’t compare very well to Medellín.

        I was underwhelmed when I visited Manizales after living in Medellín and was quickly bored so went to Pereira which is better IMHO.

        Also, it says at the end of the article – the bottom line in our Medellín vs Manizales comparison is that the best place to live is the best place to live for you. Everyone has different priorities.

        • Jeff, why would Pereira be any better than MZL? I pass through Pereira when going to Armenia and I find it rather disgusting (fair enough, I only see the parts of the city which you see when going through). If I am not mistaken, Pereira has also some serious safety issues (relatively high murder rate, especially when compared to Manizales orMDE). Armenia, IMHO, also cannot hold a candle to Manizales,, except for the climate)

          • Pereira has a much larger metro population than Manizales so it has more dining options, more nightlife and more shopping options. You can find PriceSmart in Pereira but not in Manizales due to a smaller metro population of about 560,000. I was quickly bored in Manizales with not much to do in the small city. Also, IMHO Pereira has a better climate with a climate similar to Medellín – Manizales is higher so colder. Also, the Pereira airport is larger with more flight options and rarely closes down compared to the Manizales airport that closes frequently. Also, Pereira is less hilly so more walkable.

            • Jeff I agree with you. Manizales is too cold and hilly and also too small. I much prefer Pereira that is very walkable and has a better climate. Perhaps you should do a Pereira vs Manizales comparison?

            • Pereira has less than 500,000 inhabitants, if I am not completely wrong, vs, roughly 500,000 in Manizales, so let’s say for arguments’sake they are roughly equal in size…. but size may not actually matter that much, given that, unfortunately, too many people live anyways in parts of the city not recommendable for any kind of activity. But I agree with you that La Nubia is not the most recommendable airport…

            • No Pereira has a metro population likely approaching 750,000 as you should include the connected metropolitan area of Dosquebradas in the Pereira metro area.

    4. Christian January 31, 2018

      Having spent as long as 3 months at a time in Manizales, and 6 weeks in Medellin, I’ve always loved both cities and thought a lot about which I’d prefer if I settled long-term in Colombia.

      This article was a great look at some basics, but I feel like it misses a lot of the advantages of Manizales. The smaller size of Manizales and the surrounding terrain makes it fantastic for more outdoorsy people. If you’re a cyclist, mountain biker, hiker, or just like to get outside on the weekends and be in the mountains and fresh air, Manizales is fantastic. The surrounding area is far more beautiful than Medellin and also far easier to get to.

      For me, the strength of Manizales is the combination of natural beauty very close to the city, it’s relaxed, small-city lifestyle, and just enough of a restaurant and bar scene to have some decent options.

      No doubt that Medellin is the better choice for anyone looking for a city lifestyle or a big expat community, but I love Manizales and it has it’s own strong points. Not to mention absolutely fantastic people.

    5. NB: I forgot to mention that Manizales boosts Colombia’s best aguardiente (Cristal de Manizlaes) and best rum (Ron Viejo de Caldas), especially the aguardiente is hard to find in Medellin, so better stock up on this essential if visiting Manizales.. 🙂

    6. Jeff,
      while I would fully agree with you evaluation (and I also know both cities a fair bit), let me add two comments: If you even go so far as to mention Cali as an alternative to the Manizales airport (btw, more of an airfield in my point of view 🙂 ), you might as well offer MDE as an alternative, I don’t think that Cali is closer compared to Medellin.
      If your observation is correct that many MDE expats don’t even know Manizales, then my answer would be they are missing out on a nice weekend getaway. While Manizales cannot be compared to Medellin, of course (probably no city in Colombia can be really compared to it), it still has a few merits of its own which would make for a nice escape (starting with the scenic drive from Medellin to Manizales, the Feria de Manizales in early January, sunsets to be enjoyed in the Chipre Barrio, and, least not last, Manizales has a relatively big university, which in turn makes of course for some appropriate nightlife..) Cheers Harry

      • Thanks. I agree with you that Feria de Manizales is worth seeing. A couple years ago I went to Feria de Manizales and had a good time.

    7. Brock Canner January 15, 2018

      Thanks Jeff, another great comparison post. All things considered. I’d prefer Medellin. More to do and see. Better nightlife and warmer. Better Metro is important as well.

    8. Nice article and I agree with your comparison. I visited both Manizales and Pereira in the coffee region before deciding to live in Medellin. My impression of Manizales was that it´s too small for me and I was quickly bored there. It´s also too hilly and too cold for me. There is nothing really notable about the Podunk town of Manizales except that it has a lower cost of living. I could never live in Manizales and I liked the larger city of Pereira better as it has a similar climate to Medellin. But I prefer living in Medellin with so much more to do and the good metro system.

      • David Williams January 15, 2018

        I agree with you that Manizales is a Podunk town. I went there a year ago when visiting the coffee region and was planning to stay there for 4 days but left after the first day and went to Pereria instead which was a good decision. Manizales is a boring and small city with too many hills and not much to do. There is no reason for me to return there as there are so many more interesting places in Colombia.

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