Medellin is a beautiful city. And one of it’s best features is its proximity to other remarkable areas. Each of the pueblos (small towns) we’re going to discuss offers their own natural marvels, local flavor, and cultural experiences . These nearby retreats are popular with locals, as Paisa’s love the outdoors, and are only a short bus or cab ride away. Whether you’re looking to relax, play, or wine and dine, these eight towns need to be on your Colombian bucket list.
Whether it’s catching a brilliant sunset or having a trek around, Arvi Park is one of the best experiences in Medellin. The Line L metrocable runs gondolas up to the park, offering incredible views of Medellin both up and down the gondola.
Once you reach the top, activities and relaxing atmosphere abound. Maybe you want to go horseback riding through lush, temperate pine forests. Or rent mountain bikes. Or stroll the mountain paths, find your way to river and take a dip in the swimming holes.
Montevivo is a system of rope built into the forest canopy, allowing visitors to walk right into nature and experience something new. The park is home to 119 different species of birds an incredible biodiversity, making it a favorite locale for naturalists of all kinds.
There are routine restaurants and vendors established through the park, selling arepas, chicharrones, patacones and cold beverages.
La Ceja del Tambo
It will take you an hour to arrive at the verdant valley pueblo of La Ceja. And it’s an hour well spent. You’re about to see some amazing waterfalls. Get into nature and visit the Buey River waterfall. Maybe think about some kayaking or rafting in these world famous waters. Or strike out towards the Pantanillo River for the gorgeous Tequendama Falls.
As a haven for upcoming artists, La Ceja hosts Ciudad Galeria, a program to promote arts and culture within the pueblo. Speaking of art, the Chapel of Our Lady of Chiquinquira is considered a museum of religious imagery. This important building is complimented by the gorgeous Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Carmen.
An area primarily dedicated to livestock and agriculture, the town also hosts 15 flower farms. Here, a great many floral exports take root: lilies, tulips, orchids, carnations, chrysanthemums, pompoms, hydrangeas, and many more. Just a look around is a colorful and amazing spectacle.
Rent a cabin at La Finca Los Lagos and you’ll enjoy waterfront views and peaceful nights lounging by the lake. Or stay at the Nogal Hotel La Ceja for more centralized stay – great for wifi and in-house food.
Guatape sits alongside a gorgeous lake. Well, it’s a reservoir – and the reservoir provides 30% of the Medellin’s electricity. But the pueblo and scenery is so beautiful that it’s hard to think of it as anything but natural splendor.
On weekends, the town’s waterfront boardwalk fills will vendors selling, art, food, wine, and souvenirs. To get a different view you can take the Cable Vuelo, a canopy zipline, over the lake. If you’d rather go by water, kayaking is a great way to spend an afternoon. Leisurely boat tours of the reservoir visit the site of a submerged towns and also of Pablo Escobar’s old manson, Fantasy Island.
This beautiful refuge in the middle of the lake offers swimming, cabanas, stunning views, plus food and drink aplenty. The area’s most famous attraction is called La Piedra (The Stone). The 200+ foot rock outcropping is a geological marvel with safe trekking all the way to the top.
Hotel Los Recuerdos is a beautiful stay and enjoys great views of La Piedra form the courtyard pools. If you want a tranquil waterside retreat, the Hotel Pietra Santa can have sleeping over the water in a private cabana.
For the best cuisine, La Fogata offers grilled fish with American and Colombian dishes. Don de San blends Asian, Mexican, and Italian elements with Paisa flavors for delicious results. Or Namaste will deliver Vegan dish delights.
One hour West of Medellin is RioNegro, an pueblo celebrated for its sweet treats by day and weekend festivities by night. Stroll through to see San Nicolas Cathedral and Church of San Antonio de Pereira. These monuments showcase beautiful architecture and Paisa history. Cafes, shops and restaurants are sprinkled around the community plazas bordering these buildings. While you’re there, don’t miss the great food and wine at Mundos Restaurant, or the goodies at Dulces y Postres.
The RioNegro Recreational Park has waterways, cable cars, carousels, and amusement park for the whole family. Otherwise, it’s a sprawling spread of trees and groomed greens for casual enjoyment.
On the highest hillside of Envigado sits Plaza Pakita. This large collaborative mechant space is a recent addition, a space reminiscent of a Whole Foods that ate a bunch of food trucks and birthed an entire dining and shopping center. Organic grocers, florists, butchers, bakers and many an uncommon, delicious meal are available. Middle Eastern, Mexican, gourmet burgers and sandwiches are available and arrive to visitors in the communal seating area.
This is a weekend scene, so you’ll enjoy a tranquil reading area in the bookstore/cafe during weekdays. For dinner, walk across the street to Casablanca restaurant or grass-fed, local beef in all varieties – in a upscale setting.
The quaint pueblo of Sopetran is presided over by the beautiful alabaster church in the Park La Ceiba. Founded in 1616, Sopetran offers a relaxing and historical backdrop for a retreat. Nearby are the ancient Ruins of Salado and the Town of San Nicolas (said to be oldest town in Colombia).Come for hang gliding, paragliding, fishing trips or a cool afternoon at the PArque de Las Aguas. If you overnight it, a luxurious historical finca or the plush Hotel Sopetran make for a great night’s sleep.
Santa Fe de Antiquia
This quiet pueblo boasts boast some of the best-preserved colonial architecture in all Colombia. Santa Fe was the capital of Antioquia from 1584 until 1826. To get here, you’ll pass through the Tunel de Occidente, the longest tunnel in South America at 22 kilometers. Aside from the timeless and easygoing ambiance, take a trip to the Puente de Occidente bridge just outside of town. The 300m long bridge over the Rio Cauca is the longest in South America and was declared a national monument in 1978.
When you get hungry, try the Tripadvisor favorite Fuego, a Uruguayan joint worth the reputation. If you rest over, check into the Hotel Mariscal Robledo in the town center for an old-world feel with all the modern comforts.
Only 10 miles east of Medellin proper, Santa Elena is a mountainside town that enjoys cool breezes and great popularity during the weekends. The town centers around nature and artisan crafts, from wood-crafted homewares to farmer’s markets-fresh blackberries, coconuts, and granadilla.
The ornate flower arrangements called silletas, cornerstone of Medellin’s Festival of Flowers, originate here. There’s a monthly Moon Concert series held in the forests as well as the Corasant Art fair on the first Sunday of each month. Rabbit is the local culinary specialty. Conejos y Conejos prepares a delicious rabbit dinner. And be sure to try out the garden-set Donde Edward for dessert.
Visitors to Santa Elena will enjoy staying at one of the privately owned fincas (farmhouses) for the weekend or Hotel Piedras Blancas, which overlooks a lake and ecological park. No matter where you, Santa Elena offers a chance to connect with mountain culture and disconnect from city life.
The wealth of great places to visit outside of Medellin take many years to explore. From heritage sites, natural wonders, local culture – Medellin acts as jumpoff point to some of Colombia’s most exceptional experiences. When you travel and stay here, you just might come to know them like the back of your hand.