Short Trips from Medellin
The following is a selection of our favorite short trips from Medellin.
Guatape / El Penol – The small town of Guatape is a colourful and tranquil pueblito (small town) perfect to enjoy a day trip (or two) from Medellin. Whilst the town is famous for the colourful designs on the facades of the houses it’s probably more recognisable in promotional material for the the large rock “El Penol” which you can climb to get an amazing view of the surrounding man-made lagoons.
Apart from climbing to the top of El Penol for an unforgettable view, some of the things to do in Guatape include jet-skiing, fly roping or taking a cruise on the lake, paintballing at Pablo Escobar’s mansion or just sit back and relax as you breathe in the fresh country air. Guatape is located about two hours from Medellin by buses that leave from the North Bus terminal (Caribe Metro station). A bus should cost you about $12,000 COP. Once you get to the bus terminal in Guatape, you’ll be located on the main street, lining the lake. Peruse the block at your leisure for great restaurants as well as plenty of hotels and hostels. If you have time extend your day-trip to a weekend outing (which many do). The beautiful Kasa Kayam Hostel comes recommended, it’s located 15 minutes from the main Guatape street. Be careful timing your bus back to Medellin as the last bus leaves, on the dot, at about 6 pm from the same station you came in from.
Santa Fe de Antioquia – is a small historical town located just 2 hours from Medellin. It was the capital of the region before the control of power was shifted to Medellin. If you’re interested in colonial architecture, white-washed walls, weathered churches (like The Catedral de Santa Fe de Antioquia, located in the main plaza) and old town squares then Santa Fe is a perfect day trip from Medellin. Cruise around the main plaza and then eat a traditional lunch at Portón del Parque for a tasting Bandeja paisa the local specialty. Drop into the Hotel Mariscal Robledo a very historic hotel with many antiquities on display. They also have a lovely swimming pool which you can probably use for a fee.
To get to Sante Fe you can take a bus, minubus or collective (shared taxi) from Medellin’s Terminal Norte (North Bus Station). Alternatively you can take a tour with Palenque Tours.
Rio Claro – if you’re looking for more than just a one day trip then Rio Claro is a great option. Just three hours east of Medellin Rio Claro offers the chance to get up close and personal with Colombian flora & fauna whilst also being able to participate in various outdoor activities such as rafting, caving and zip lining through the canopy. For the less adventurous you can explore the river and take a swim at one of the relaxing “beach spots”.
There are several types of accommodations to choose from including a Eco hotel or a selection of cabins, some with no external walls, giving you the chance to sleep to the sounds of a chorus of birds and frogs. Be sure to bring a sizeable amount of cash with you as they don’t accept credit cards. There’s an ATM about 30 minutes away from Rio Claro that may or may not be operational. You are not allowed to bring food, alcohol or stereos into the park.
Rio Claro don’t take bookings by email only by telephone. However they do have an office conveniently located alongside Parque Poblado, which is probably more convenient. You can find out more information on the Rio Claro website.
The following video gives a good insight into what you’ll see at Rio Claro. It’s quite long and only in Spanish, you might want to just skip through it.
Toucan Tip: Hacienda Napoles
If you have the chance we recommend you also visit Hacienda Napoles an African themed hotel, zoo and waterpark, located on the way back from Rio Claro. Because of the scale of the park it’s recommended you have a vehicle to get around.
Built on of the remains of Pablo Escobar’s private zoo and entertainment grounds, you might be surprised to learn they have the largest population of hippos outside of Africa, in addition to many other exotic animals like lions, tigers, zebras, jaguars and even elephants. Pablo’s vacation home apparently is just a pile of ruins but the themepark feel of the place remains. They have recently launched some new water attractions including the giant waterfalls which you can see in the video below.