MEDELLIN: beautiful, tasty, and cultured. Nerd paradise.


Without a doubt, the fame of the Planetarium of Medellín-Colombia transcends borders. The growth of its virtual activities has also meant that its presence in the science and astronomy media has been constant and extensive.

Thus, a visit to the Planetarium and its twin brother, El Parque Explora, becomes a priority on the “bucket list” of dream visits for those of us in the scientific dissemination sector. I treasure as a very special gift, a star map and a beautiful Pegasus notebook that people dear to me brought from their gift shop. Medellín has been a calling for many years.

In 2023, after three years without trips due to the pandemic, Medellín leaves the imagination to become the destination of the next family trip with touches of work, since there was an invitation for a talk on Inka astronomy at the University of Antioquia. And there we went.

I had the honor of being able to give a talk about The Dark Constellations of the Incas at the University of Antioquia, at Univercitas, appointments with the universe, a space to share with astronomy students and which was a very enriching and largely happy experience for me. And the next day, the appointment was for the Universo en Expansion podcast with three extraordinary personalities from the media, Andrés Ruiz, Dara Hincapié, and teacher Pablo Cuartas. It was not only one of the most enjoyable talks of my life, but the beginning of unforgettable friendships and projects and collaborations that are taking place.

It is not an exaggeration to say that expectations were greatly exceeded in the face of reality and the unique combination of factors that allow this beacon of culture to shine, not only for Colombia but for Latin America.

A lawyer from Bogotá commented, very convinced and without a hint of envy, that Medellín is another country within Colombia, thus confirming the impression I had of paisa lands.

Medellín is a city with a European feel in its infrastructure, with an undeniable Latin flavor. Modern and tasty – without a doubt – also known for being an academic city with a profuse cultural life. What could be the formula of this gem, of this dream for scientific communicators, geeks, nerds? A vibrant, modern city, with excellent public services and a public-private machinery that allows this interaction, perhaps. Is it just that? I dare here to propose some answers.

Your timespace

Geography is, without a doubt, a main ingredient in the personality of a city, although not everyone is clear about it. It is only 6° north of the equator, with a moderate altitude, and an abundance of fertile rainfall. These are the factors of this warm and exuberant climate without excesses, which give greenery to this wide valley, its high surrounding mountains, also allow the existence of ecosystems, parks, which provide alternatives for pure air. The city of eternal spring, I heard, although the countryman himself is complaining a little, to my disbelief. Cities in the desert, with high altitude, or cold, have (we have) less pleasant climatic conditions.

 Although there are latent pollution problems, and – it must be said – few spaces of clean air due to smokers in public spaces, there are also policies to mitigate the impact such as vehicle restriction by license plates.

 A brief investigation is enough to know that the city recovered from a peak period of internal violence due to drug trafficking during the 80s and 90s. And although now it is an extremely delicate topic that (almost) no one wants to talk about, we know that After the process, a community culture was born, a “paisa pride” that crosses social and political spheres, and is what has allowed the construction of infrastructure in the city, of which they should be very proud.

The first thing: a metro for public transportation, not only fast and efficient, but widely connected, for direct use by its citizens and with prospects for further improvement, allowing quick access to the headquarters of its scientific institutions.

What moved me the most, on a personal level, is the cable car service. The “heights of Medellín” were a geographical surprise, without a doubt, and also knowing that a large part of the vulnerable population lives there. They are places with fewer economic resources, but whose dignity is there, fighting. That public transportation has this extension without an additional cost is extraordinary, although they may forget this on a day-to-day basis. Being able to reach distant destinations in minutes gives these citizens something that is priceless: time. Time for the family, to produce something else, to rest. A little big well-being that more people should have. When everyone’s government can reach that level of everyday life, they are definitely doing something right. The cable car ride continues when, this time with an additional price, a panoramic ride to Arví Park, a beautiful forest towards the countryside of Medellín, Santa Elena. It should last about half an hour, although I lost track of time. A must-see when visiting the city.

The roads, the airport tunnels and the use regulations are excellent indicators of a community culture that make projects of this scope viable. The vast majority of Latin Americans suffer on a daily basis from the lack of public investment in services as basic as transportation and education. That is why Medellín is a model to follow in terms of management, not only in economic analysis, but in the well-being achieved for the daily life of the citizen.

Reinventing synergy

Something that we visitors do not keep in mind before the visit is that there are a series of synergies here. One of public-private management, another inter-institutional, and even another of citizen-institution.

The Medellín Planetarium does not function alone, but is interrelated with three other institutions. Directly with Parque Explora, and also with the University of Antioquia and the Botanical Garden of Medellín.

The simple fact of being together in the same subway station is a key piece in their interaction. Shared management makes them much more efficient, both at the level of the audience and in administrative and dissemination aspects. The scope of its educational impact is much more extensive than other cultural and scientific centers we can achieve alone.

The theme becomes attractive to attract sponsors and patrons and they see the reach of their brands’ image expanded.

The Resistance (scientific) and a double dyad in the Force

If we want to make geeky references, it would be time to do it with this reinvention of synergy. Because scientific groups are not the only ones that interact through these institutions: arts, science fiction, literature, are some of the topics that bring together more than 50 citizen groups with permanent activity around them. May the force be with you.

Having such an active and sustainable academic, scientific, cultural and artistic life is, I repeat, a great example from which we must learn.

The Planetarium specializes in the topic of astronomy and focuses the public’s attention on that. Parque Explora captivates with a broader range of topics, and has activities with more interaction with the public. Everything achieved with each “box”, with each song, is exciting and moving. I measure this with the fact that the entry has been extended to two days so that those of us who do not manage to see everything in one visit can return the next day.

I have visited places with a lot of content, with exciting topics and excellent facilities with the latest technology. But I have no doubt, and it must be emphasized that the true strength, the spirit of the Medellín Planetarium and Explora Park, are itsextraordinary guides, their facilitators. Boys with a great spirit of service, the overwhelming Colombian and Paisa friendliness, but, above all, with scientific and human training from the University of Antioquía. They have a universe of students and graduates that is constantly growing, who dedicate many hours a day, and several years of their lives to their training. This gives interpretation another level, not only academic, but above all, that vital, real, knowledgeable, didactic and passionate human contact so important for education. It is evident that both the Planetarium and the Explora Park are part of his life, his commitment is great and deep. This is how they can transmit so much and so well: without emotion there is no learning.

Being able to have a constant supply of science professionals is undoubtedly another aspect that other institutions, this time, envy.

The Botanical Garden, with a municipal administration, is a quieter, more poetic and reflective experience, with a slower pace while enjoying what is felt more with the heart than with the head. I confess to having imagined living here, and that this would be a favorite weekend place. However, if you do your homework and investigate a priori, you can access a series of scheduled events and also come with an investigative plan. Everything, in a place where you feel the pulse of life


The technology is, of course, excellent, modern and didactic. Yes, there must be more modern equipment around the world, but the existing equipment places the Medellín Planetarium and Explora Park at the level of any institution worldwide. We hope that they can always be renewed, although the way they use their existing equipment means that they have a long life.

Oh! And in summary, what can you find here:

Prepare to learn a lot about astronomy as a science, in the programs projected in the dome and in the planetarium museum. Interactive, participatory, intuitive, made with a lot of love and humor (many of the space experiences are playful)

In the Explora Park, the perception of the laws of physics is experienced in an experiential way, enjoying an aquarium, seeing reptiles. The little ones have a place to play and interact. They will also question what they know about time, space, music, the brain and how human beings have transmitted their stories. Yes, all in one place. And with dinosaurs.

And dare to speak directly with the nature of a megadiverse country, which also invites you on a journey into your own being in the Botanical Garden. It is a green heart of the city that has activities to make your eco-friends.

You will also find the most beautiful shops here. And they can participate in the many, very constant activities, the in-person ones – and without traveling – virtual ones, through their social networks.

Yes, it is easy to deduce that we are delighted with the visit, and with the happy conjunction of factors that allow them to exist as they are. It must be repeated that they are an example of management, synergy, communication and scientific dissemination and education systems.

It is clear, its mission has focused on disseminating science to its population, bringing what is happening in the world closer to the local public in a prominent way.

My question is then, would it be time to also take the opposite path? Doesn’t Colombia, too, have a lot to offer the world? Could we leave the exclusively international framework by delving deeper into what gives them their own personality as a country? Is it time to enter the field of identity?

In the best of spirits, I dare to give some factors seen from the outside:

Equatorial location:

In South America, only Ecuador and Colombia can boast these coordinates, which allow them to enjoy an extraordinary observation site between the North and South Sky during the year. This aspect allows people to better understand the interactions of the biodynamics of the earth in reference to its cosmic position, the cycles of nature, water, and, very important in scientific dissemination, also the “round” shape of the earth (not it’s a joke).

The South American countries in the tropical zone have a mega diversity that is extraordinary in the world. But this occurs in cycles that are complex to understand without cosmic contexts, whose dynamics are essential to learn.

Export countries

The academic training, but above all the cordiality of the country, are the highlight of my visit. No doubt. There is continuity and growth of the professionals at the University of Antioquia. Although we need these young scientists discovering mysteries of the universe, there is a population with knowledge of science, biology, astronomy and observational astronomy, from which our sector (scientific dissemination and astrotourism) would greatly benefit. Returning the role of the facilitator, the guide, the planetarist to our institutions is a path that we must dare to take if we wish to remain. Having a broader field of work, even if it is temporary, is an issue that could be beneficial for your students and professionals.

The successful experience of the Medellín Planetarium-Parque Explora is potentially a franchise that other cities in Colombia could implement. They already have wonderful circumstances, their megadiversity, know-how that we know works, and an extraordinary staff of professionals.

Cultural astronomy

In the talk on Inca astronomy that I gave in the Univercitas program, which was very well organized, I was able to perceive with great joy that the students’ academic interest in research into the ancestral cultures of Colombia is born. As an example, the comment on the rescue of Chibcha Astronomy and the feeling of vindication of the Pastusos for being “Incas” and feeling part of an extraordinary story that involves more countries than Peru.

This seems to be a pending issue, since in Latin America there is a great wealth of ancestral cultures deeply connected to the heavens, not only ancient cultures, but living cultures. Although Colombia is undeniably mestizo, there is a pending identity with indigenous cultures from which the average citizen feels alien. I see in this path, already a commitment from the University of Antioquia

Country’s potential for Astrotourism:

Colombia is a country in a good moment of its international perception and that undoubtedly attracts a lot of tourism. It is necessary to maintain a critical attitude in view of the improvement of this sector, more concentrated in a Caribbean of parties, cruises, cosmetic surgeries, showcase experiences, which is not always the segment with the best impact.

Extraordinary nature, megadiversity, dark skies, authentic regional identity, good tourist infrastructure, highly trained professionals in astronomy as a science, large academic centers, are already existing factors for astrotourism to Colombia to be a very viable option in the short term. These could be times to activate new synergies with the private and public sectors, tourism businesses and academics, to let the world know that here is a paradise for nerds.

I already want to go back

The friends I met and shared with, the double dyad in the Force, remain forever in my heart. I wish that they continue this path, that they can continue inspiring us and, above all, teaching. From that kindness that the world recognizes.

Medellin takes on its own challenges, its difficulties with mistakes and successes, but without a doubt with great tangible results.

I dream that soon, I will be able to see programs of Colombia in the cosmos and indigenous astronomy in 360° in its dome. That in Parque Explora we see a new room to fight climate change as well. May we have positive astrotourism, functions in other languages. May your networks continue to grow exponentially and visit the country again on a stellar observation plan. I would like to see them giving their own guideline to the world, with SCIENCE for peace. And finally see Polaris from La Guajira.

By Ana Maria Milla

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