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Retire To Sabaneta, Colombia

The Best Of Small-Town Life In Lovely, Friendly, Affordable Sabaneta

We jumped off the bus and headed for the church steeple overlooking the town square a block away. We were technically still in the Medellín metropolitan area, but it felt as though we’d left the modern, cosmopolitan world and returned to old-time Latin America.

The Sabaneta town square is a bustling social center where you see young people enjoying the sidewalk cafés while sun-worn old-timers in cowboy hats sit nearby on benches solving the world’s problems.

Sabaneta is a medium-sized town, but its friendliness and closeness convey the feeling of a village.

On Saturdays and Sundays, local people converge on the square to catch up with friends and enjoy a pleasant day out. Folks come, too, from nearby El Poblado to enjoy lunch or dinner and be a part of this homey and enjoyable setting. With wall-to-wall cafés along one side of the square, you have plenty of places to sit and relax.

Just off the square is another row of attractive outdoor cafés and eateries along a pedestrian walkway (Carrera 44, starting at the church)…more options for relaxing and watching the world stroll by.

On the other side of the square is a row of market vendors with a large indoor market stretching out behind them.

Sabaneta lies at the southern end of the Aburrá Valley and is one of 10 municipalities in the Medellín metropolitan area. It’s also the smallest municipality in all of Colombia, with an area of 5.8 square miles (15 square kilometers).

Like all Medellín, Sabaneta enjoys what most of us believe to be the world’s best weather. Average high temperatures are in the upper-70s, with lows in the lower-60s, all year (that’s 26˚C and 17˚C, respectively). No heat, no air conditioning, and no screens on the windows, thanks to the 5,200-foot altitude.

Sabaneta is as different from downtown Medellín as you can get. The pace is slower here and more laid-back. In contrast to modern, energetic Medellín, Sabaneta feels like small-town Latin America…like a community. A number of high-rises are sprouting up here, but mostly you find clean streets, friendly people, and life with an old-fashioned, Spanish-colonial feel.

Sabaneta’s 38,000 inhabitants enjoy not only the same weather, but also the same excellent infrastructure that you find throughout the Medellín metro area, yet this little zone has the character of a small city in Ecuador or Bolivia. The result is classic Latin American colonial charm blended with things like pure tap water, high-speed internet, and a first-rate public transit system.

This special mix of old and new draws people from the rest of the valley who get to Sabaneta via a quick ride in a car, bus, or train and who, once they’ve arrived, feel like they’ve entered another culture. As a result, Sabaneta supports a modest national and international tourist trade.

Property prices in Sabaneta are slightly less than in the rest of the Medellín metro area. Many of the properties are older, and you can find good bargains. At the same time, new apartments are going up on the edge of town; these are perfect for someone who wants Sabaneta’s ambiance but also the latest in modern living.

Here are a few examples of what’s on the market here today:

  • Two blocks from Sabaneta’s central park is a seventh-floor, 87-square-meter (940-square-foot) apartment for sale with three bedrooms, two baths, a balcony, and a garage. This building is less than two years old and is located close to restaurants, shops, and public transportation. Asking price is 210,000,000 pesos (about US$102,500 at today’s exchange rates).
  • A nearby two-story apartment has excellent valley views and plenty of living space. It’s big at 253 square meters (2,725 square feet) and includes three suites, two garage spaces, a maid’s quarters, a large kitchen, and a balcony, all for 275,000,000 pesos (US$135,000). That works out to an amazing US$530 per square meter, or US$49 per square foot…an absolute bargain buy.
  • A second-floor apartment of 105 square meters (1,130 square feet) is also located close to Sabaneta’s central park. It includes three bedrooms, two baths, and a balcony. This one’s only 190,000,000 pesos (US$92,700).

Sabaneta is a good choice for the expat or retiree who wants the perfect weather and modern infrastructure that Medellín has become famous for (with lower prices) but who also wants to experience the laid-back culture and village feel of old-time South America.

To give you a better feel for the surroundings in Sabaneta, I took the video camera out last weekend. You can see the video I filmed here or see below:

Lee Harrison

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