Medellin is an incredible city, certainly my favorite in all of Colombia, and while I prefer to live in the city, that doesn’t mean I don’t love to getaway from it every once in a while.
A nice break to the countryside does a lot of good when you feel the noise, traffic, and all the people getting to you.
So in this article we’ll be touching on a few of the best places to go when you want to get away from it all.
The closest getaway but it feels about a world apart. Located in the mountainous hillsides east of the Valle de Aburra, you will find the little town of Santa Elena nestled into evergreen trees.
Thick forests, hiking trails, and meandering streams are what you will find here, along with the occasional cow and field.
Santa Elena is close enough to be a pleasant day trip, or a place to go if you want to escape the heat of Medellin, but it makes for a great long weekend getaway as well.
The area is mostly small fincas, rather than big hotels, so it’s the perfect place for a quiet getaway.
You can get to Santa Elena by taking the metro cable up to Parque Arvi and then hopping on a bus in Tambo, or grab a bus from Medellin’s Centro.
Jardin is located approximately four hours south of Medellin, within coffee country. Here you’ll find steep hillsides covered in coffee plants, and small trout farms nestled along ice cold streams.
Jardin is the furthest of the retreats, but it’s a beautiful little pueblo where you can sip fresh coffee in Cafe de los Andes, while old guys walk around the main plaza dressed like Juan Valdez.
I’d highly recommend heading to a local trout farm where you can catch your lunch fresh and they will cook it up for you.
Santa Fe de Antioquia
Located just two hours west of Medellin — a dramatically shorter trip thanks to the construction of a massive tunnel through the windy Antioquian countryside — Santa Fe de Antioquia is where you want to go if you’re looking for a bit of fun and sun.
This old town with its cobblestone streets sits at a lower altitude than Medellin and is significantly warmer.
It’s the preferred retreat for sun and pool-loving Paisas.
There are a number of places where you can pay for a daypass and hang out beside the pool, or it’s nice to just walk around the pleasant old town and take in the architecture.
You can also visit the cool old bridge that sits on the far side of town and spans the Cauca River. The bridge is so narrow that traffic can only go by one lane at a time.
Guatape is probably my number one preferred escape from Medellin, located less than 3 hours away to the east, Guatape has a bit of it all.
It’s got the quaint and colorful streets, its got the lakeside retreat, and its got lots of fun activities to take part in.
The highlight of Guatape is hiking up the nearly 800 steps to the top of the massive monolith known as el Penol de Guatape — an imposing chunk of rock that juts out of the earth.
There are all sorts of stories about its origin, but it is undeniable an impressive sight. The view from the top is absolutely incredible as well, as the various lakeside coves sprawl out before you.
I’d also recommend taking one of the private boat tours offered in town. Not only is it fun to have a day out on the lake, but they show you some of the history and stories that lay around the lake, from the bombed out former house of Pablo Escobar, to the site of the former town that was swallowed up by the creation of the lake.
There are numerous adventure activities you can take part in as well, from hiking to horseback riding, to a little zipline. Or you can just hang out in the main square with a drink and listen to music like the locals do.
I would consider Guatape an absolute must visit during your time in Medellin.
Where’s your favorite weekend getaway from Medellin? What town would you add to the list?
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