13 Brilliant Weekend & Day Trips From Medellin

Picturesque birdseye landscape views from El Peñol, Guatape
Earning the El Peñol views is one of the most rewarding day trips from Medellin.

‘The City of Eternal Spring,’ nestled in the gorgeous Aburra Valley region is certainly best enjoyed in nature. If you are tired of the hustle and bustle of the city centre, there are plenty of day trips from Medellin for the more curious individuals to those who want to kick back and relax and everything in between.

Holding the title of the second-largest city in Colombia, Medellin has become one of the most popular destinations to live and visit in the country. While the city is full of vibrancy, colour, and culture and boasts a textured history, there is plenty to explore outside of the tourist-beaten realms of Parque Lleras. 

Using Medellin as a base, you can venture far and wide, allowing you to soak up Colombia in all of its many forms. From small towns to remote countryside villages, the scope of day trips from Medellín covers everything you could wish for when you’re exploring these far-flung corners of Colombia.

So let’s jump straight in a take a look at 13 of the very best day trips from Medellin, from a former expat. Also, let’s nail down those pesky usual logistics!

Day Trip To Guatape from Medellin

Colourful houses on a cobblestone path on a sunny day in Guatape, a popular day trip from Medellin in Colombia

Let’s get started with the most popular Medellin day trip. The tiny town of Guatapé stands fifty miles east of the city and is one of the most popular day trips from Medellin. With beautiful country landscapes surrounding the town and the breathtaking shores of El Peñol’s reservoir lake not far away, Guatape has placed itself firmly on the tourist trail in this part of Colombia.

One of the most famous attractions in Guatape is La Piedra del Peñol, which is quite simply a giant rock that watches over the area. Over six-hundred steps lead up the side of the rock, with markers reminding you how far you’ve gone, or how far you’ve got left, for every fifty steps, perfect for keeping track of your climb. 

Once at the top, the views are unbeatable. The water of El Peñol’s reservoir winding through the inlets and islands as far as the eye can see highlights the true beauty of the area.

The town itself is an explosion of colour, especially the town centre of Plazoleta de Los Zocalos. Buildings are painted with vibrant yellows, blues and greens, including the many town steps that lead you around. 

Not unlike numerous towns and cities in South America, this vibrant colour elevates the whole experience when you are witnessing the birdseye view from atop the rock.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Guatape is 50 miles east of Medellin, along the shores of El Peñol’s reservoir. 
  • Cost –  Around 14,000 COP for the bus one-way.
  • Opening hours – Buses run between the city and town from around 8 am.
  • Time needed – With 4 hours of travelling, you’ll definitely want to set aside the whole day to soak in the sights and sounds of Guatape.
  • Getting there –  If you are in a group, it may be easier to hire a driver or a car yourself. However, most grab a bus from Terminal del Norte in Medellin. Once you’re at the terminal, head to the ground floor and you’ll find booth number 14, where you can buy your ticket. 

El Peñol

A giant rock towers above a green valley on a bed of water in El Peñol, Colombia

A neighbouring town of Guatapé is the aforementioned El Peñol. The town itself is quite small but isn’t without its own charm and it’s worth a wander once you’ve summited the rock. Set amongst the stunning countryside of Colombia, visiting El Peñol provides the ideal opportunity to witness the laid-back lives of Colombians in this region.

On the rolling hills of the town stand a number of picturesque homes and buildings, only adding to the beauty of El Peñol. 

It makes sense to combine a visit to El Peñol with a day trip to Guatape, as most buses heading this way will stop here too. It will be quite a rushed day to squeeze both into 24 hours, though, so consider staying the night in either town for a much more relaxed experience. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – A little closer to Medellin, El Peñol is around forty miles east of the city, along Calle 8.
  • Cost – Take a bus heading to Guatape, which will cost around COP14,000.
  • Opening hours – Buses heading to Guatepe, via El Peñol,  leave around 8 am.
  • Time needed –  If you are only going to El Peñol, around six hours will be enough. If you’re visiting both towns, give yourself the luxury of two days.
  • Getting there – Take the same bus from Terminal del Norte in Medellin heading to Guatape. As I mentioned above, you’ll find counter number 14 on the ground floor, where you can buy your tickets for the bus on the day of travel. 

San Rafael

A gold-domed building stands out amongst multiple buildings in the town of San Rafael, just outside of Medellin in Colombia
Source: Wikimedia Commons

If you’re hoping to experience the authentic atmosphere of a Colombian village, then day trips from Medellin to San Rafael are what you need. Located a whopping sixty-seven miles east of Medellin, many visitors choose to combine a trip to this village with a visit to the nearby town of Guatape.

Straddled on the banks of the fast-flowing Rio Guatapé, San Rafael is a real step back in time to the authentic good old days of the Antioqueño hinterland. Here you can witness a society that is still closely linked with the frontier days of South America, complete with drunk cowboys, cheap dining establishments and an atmosphere like nowhere else. 

Aside from the cultural aspect, the sheer beauty of the village and river make day trips from Medellin to San Rafael more than worth it. The crystal clear waters of Rio Guatapé and the natural pools like Las Tangas or Trocadero are jaw-dropping natural phenomena.

San Rafael is also a great base to experience extreme watersports such as tubing, rafting and kayaking. Whether you want to get your heart beating or wish to relax along the riverbanks San Rafael has both options for you.

Know before you go:

  • Location – San Rafael is located along the Rio Guatapé, sixty-seven miles east of Medellin.  
  • Cost – Around COP6,000 for a one-way bus to San Rafael.
  • Opening hours – The last bus leaves at around 5 pm, but, of course, you should leave earlier in the morning to get the most out of your day trip.
  • Time needed – With such a distance to travel, it’s best to spend all day visiting San Rafael.
  • Getting there – Buses frequently leave from the North Bus terminal, taking around three hours to make the journey.

Weekend Trips from Medellin, Colombia

All of the destinations within this guide could be done in a day, but admittedly some are so big (or far enough away from Medellin) that you will barely get to stop and smell the roses.

Time constraints aside, these following towns are best explored as weekend trips from Medellin as opposed to rushing through and missing the best of these places once you’ve run out of all of the fun things to do in Medellin and you are ready for an excursion out of the city.

Cocorna

A riverbed flows through lush green trees on either side

Around 50 miles southeast of the city is the small riverside town of Cocorna, an ideal spot if you’re looking for one of the more adventurous day trips from Medellin. Nestled along the Quebrada la Marinilla River, the town is renowned for being a place of great opportunities for outdoor pursuits. 

One of the best activities to enjoy in Cocorna, and the Cocorna area, is kayaking down this river which is home to a number of stunning waterfalls and rocky rapids. When you join a kayaking tour, these will include travelling to the town of Cocorna from Medellin and getting out on the river for some arm-working and core-bracing adventures. 

With a relaxing lunch along the banks and a chance to swim in the slower parts of the river, a visit to Cocorna is one you will not soon forget.

As well as kayaking, other activities, including white water rafting, tubing and even parasailing, are possible. Keep a lookout for tours of this type if you are a keen adventurer as doing these activities DIY is nye-on impossible in these areas. 

If water sports aren’t your type of thing, you can also make your own way to Cocorna and simply soak up the jungle and idyllic riverside views that make this area of Colombia so attractive.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Cocorna is located fifty miles southeast of Medellin, along the banks of the Quebrada la Marinilla River. 
  • Cost – Around COP10,000 for a local bus to the town. Tours start from COP70,000.
  • Opening hours – Buses leave all day but to make it back on time, it’s best to grab an early one at around 7 or 8 am. 
  • Time needed – It’s best to spend the whole day visiting Cocorna, to travel there and back and to enjoy the sights and activities.
  • Getting there – Either join a local tour or take the bus from Medellin’s central bus station.

Rio Magico 

A group walk past an emerald river
Source: Wikimedia Commons

With a name like Rio Magico, meaning Magic River, you know that there is something special awaiting you in the Colombian countryside. Officially known as the Melcocho River, the Rio Magico gained its name from the sheer beauty of the flowing water and dense Colombian jungle that surrounds its banks. 

Although it is possible to travel the distance from Medellin to the Rio Magico, joining an organised tour certainly makes things a whole lot easier.

Around 80 miles southeast of Medellin and deep into the jungle, getting to the Rio Magico is far more smooth sailing by joining one of these organised tours that use a 4×4. Picked up from your accommodation in Medellin, you will head to Cocorná, in the department of Antioquia, after a two-and-a-half-hour journey into the rural landscapes. (Therefore it makes sense to combine this trip with your weekend trip to Cocorna).

Hiking along the jungle pathway to the river, you will get to soak up the serene surroundings of Colombia’s jungle (just take your mossie spray!)

As you hike along the river you will pass beautiful streams, slopes and idyllic dirt roads, all shaded by equally beautiful native liana trees. The Rio Magico also offers the perfect chance to bathe in the crystal clear waters, a refreshing end to the bumpy trip after a nice bit of exercise.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The Rio Magico is located 80 miles southeast of Medellin, south of San Lorenzo.
  • Cost – Tours to the Rio Magico will set you back around COP 100,000.
  • Opening hours – Tours will set out in the morning, usually about 8 am.
  • Time needed –  The whole day is needed to travel there and back and enjoy the river trail.
  • Getting there – As part of the organised tour, you will be collected from your accommodation.

Jardin

Traditional architecture in the picturesque town of Jardin, Antioquia, Colombia.

One of the most wholesome weekend or day trips from Medellin has to be the charming town of Jardin, around eighty miles southwest of the city. Founded in the late 19th century among the lush valleys, the town seems almost unchanged over the one and a half centuries. 

A combination of perfectly preserved colonial buildings, colourfully painted homes and a lively town square all add to the appeal of this town.

The laid-back feel of the hamlet is one of its most celebrated features, and escaping the hustle and bustle of Medellin for the day is a perfect way of recharging your batteries. You can simply sit back and enjoy a coffee while the people of Jardin go about their gentle day or take a look at some of the best-preserved architecture like the Basilica Menor of the Immaculate Conception.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Jardin is located 80 miles southwest of Medellin.
  • Cost – A bus to Jardin will set you back around COP25,000.
  • Opening hours – Buses run from Medellin to Jardin throughout the day.
  • Time needed – A weekend trip from Medellin is the perfect amount of time.
  • Getting there – Buses to Jardin leave from Terminal del Sur and take around three and a half hours.

The Best Day Trips From Medellin

These hand-picked day trips from Medellin are exactly what they say on the tin; they are ideal destinations for an early morning, tinto coffee-fuelled trip from the city.

You’re going to be spoiled for choice with these options and if you’re diligent enough with the public transport in Medellin, you could even see 2 or 3 of these in one day.

Santa Elena

Farmers posing with floral displays made for the annual flower festival parade in Santa Elena, Colombia

Only around ten miles southeast of Medellin, on the valley’s edge, is the small town of Santa Elena. Another of the simple day trips from Medellin, the town has been a top attraction for those in the area for years, and it is easy to see why. 

Known as the ‘Village of Flowers’ the town’s temperate climate has made it the location for growing an array of flowers, many of which are exported across North America.

When Santa Elena really comes to life during its annual flower festival, known as, ​​Feria de las Flores. The town bursts into a colourful delight of pollen, flowers and festivities, resulting in a parade of farmers with chairs strapped to their backs displaying beautiful flower formations. 

These farmers hike all the way down the valley side to Medellin displaying their floral displays as a symbol of their identity in Colombia.

Aside from the flowers and subsequent festivals, Santa Elena is a delightful place to visit any time of the year. The temperate climate, laid-back feel and the town itself are perfect for sitting back and watching the slow pace of life go by as you sip your “Tinto” (a small popular coffee in Colombia, however, this word translates to red wine in other parts of Latin America; two glorious manmade inventions sharing the same word.

With a traditional townscape of churches, fountains, statues and tiendas, it’s well worth the day trip to Santa Elena.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santa Elena is located ten miles southeast of Medellin, upon the valley’s edge.
  • Cost – Buses cost around COP2,500 and take forty minutes to arrive in Santa Elena.
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – You can spend the whole day here, though around five hours should be enough to soak up the town.
  • Getting there – Take a bus from the downtown bus station or the Linea K metro cable, which runs from Acevedo train metro station up to Santo Domingo and from Santo Domingo to Santa Elena.

Santa Fe de Antioquia

A large bridge across a body of water in Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia

The mountain town of Santa Fe de Antioquia is another of the fantastic day trips from Medellin, and with streamlined connections, you can do this one with little effort from your side. 

Around forty miles northwest of Medellin, Santa Fe de Antioquia is a historical town that captures the imagination of anyone who walks its streets (and isn’t under the zombie spell of social media on their phones). From colonial architecture to modern coffee houses, spending the day here is full of a wide range of sights and sounds.

One of the most iconic colonial buildings in Santa Fe de Antioquia is the Hotel Mariscal Robledo. Aside from the colonial charm of the building itself, the lobby and restaurant are home to a number of vintage films and sporting equipment from the peak of 1920s and 1930s Colombia. 

As well as the colonial architecture of Santa Fe de Antioquia, the former capital of the region is now mostly renowned for its mountainous location on the outskirts of Colombia’s rural areas. This means it’s not uncommon to see men in cowboy hats sitting around the town square, horses and mules in the streets and markets full of local Colombian fruits, showcasing the connection between city and farmland.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santa Fe de Antioquia can be found forty miles northeast of Medellin.
  • Cost – COP 1,300 for the bus one-way.
  • Opening hours – Buses run around the clock, but you’re best to travel during daylight hours.
  • Time needed – With around two hours of travelling time, it’s ideal to spend the whole day visiting Santa Fe de Antioquia.
  • Getting there – The intercity bus runs from Medellin central bus terminal to Santa Fe de Antioquia, taking around one hour and forty minutes. 

El Carmen De Viboral

A panoramic view of a small urban park during the day
Source: Wikimedia Commons

When we think of art and crafts destinations across the globe, not many of us will put a pin in a small town in central Colombia. And yet, the town of El Carmen De Viboral has firmly placed itself as the mecca of ceramic production in the South American giant.

Located twenty-eight miles southeast of Medellin, the town of El Carmen De Viboral has long held the title of the heart of handcrafted ceramics in Colombia, linking seamlessly with Medellin’s reputation for art and culture.

When artist Eliseo Pareja first arrived in El Carmen De Viboral in the late 19th century, he was blown away by the sheer volume of feldspar and quartz in the region. This boomed into a roaring production and trade in ceramics, lasting well into the modern age. 

When visiting El Carmen De Viboral, you can jump back into this renowned reputation with a visit to the ceramic markets which sell a huge range of bespoke ceramics and pottery. To get a real insight into the history of the town and its ceramic industry, you can visit the ceramic museum which tells El Carmen De Viboral’s story.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The town is located 28 miles southeast of Medellin.
  • Cost – Around 5,000 – 10,000 for a bus to El Carmen De Viboral.
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – You can complete a visit here in around six hours, including the sightseeing.
  • Getting there – Buses leave from the north terminal in Medellin on a regular basis. 

Chorro De Las Campanas Waterfalls

A small waterfall surrounded by greenery

A little south of Medellin and the suburb of Envigado is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the region, the Chorro De Las Campanas waterfalls.

Day trips from Medellin to the falls combine perfect hiking trails, immersing yourself within nature and jaw-dropping scenery. The hike to Chorro De Las Campanas waterfalls starts around four miles south of the metro station in Envigado.

An easy-to-follow trail, the route winds downhill along the banks of the river allowing you to follow the river’s route, taking you to the waterfalls. In a small shallow river, it is often easier to wade through the water at some points, due to the thick vegetation on either side. These riverbanks are also home to some of the region’s most beautiful butterflies, only adding to the hike.

Finally, you reach the waterfalls, a cascading flow of water crashing into the pool below. Many hikers take a dip in the cooling water before heading back along the trail. All in all, the hike to Chorro De Las Campanas waterfalls is one of the more accessible day trips from Medellin and combines all the things that make this wild region of Colombia so exciting.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Chorro De Las Campanas waterfall is located around 11 miles south of the city.
  • Cost – The metro from Medellin to Envigado cost around COP4,000.
  • Opening hours – It’s best to hike to the waterfalls during the morning to avoid the heat of the day.
  • Time needed – Around five hours is enough to travel and hike to the waterfalls.
  • Getting there – Take the metro from Medellin to the town of Envigado, then a bus or taxi to Arenales. From here, you can walk to the start of the hike.

La Ceja Nature Reserve

Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Carmen, Colombian Church of Catholic worship

The town of La Ceja has long been known as a real place of interest in this part of Colombia. Unlike much of the mining industry that gave birth to many towns here, the town of La Ceja has relied more on farming and agriculture, especially the growing of bananas, blackberries, caturra coffee, and other fruits and vegetables.

This refraining from heavy industry means the landscape and natural beauty of the area have been preserved for generations to come. Nowhere is this better seen than in the La Ceja Nature Reserve, located between the cities of La Ceja and Abejorral. A mural of epic waterfalls, sweeping valleys, jungle and home to much of Colombia’s special flora and fauna.

Around an hour and a half drive from Medellin, La Ceja Nature Reserve is the ideal place for hiking and birdwatching. These types of day trips from Medellin will give you another perfect excuse to leave the built-up city behind and throw yourself into the countryside. 

You can find more than ten waterfalls, springs and rivers here, ideal for exploration and long hikes through the nature reserve. Keen-eyed bird watchers may even spot a number of renowned Colombian birds such as the Andean Motmot, the perfect blast of colour amongst the thick, lush vegetation.

Know before you go:

  • Location – The La Ceja nature reserve is located around thirty miles southeast of Medellin.
  • Cost –  COP 3,000 entrance fee.
  • Opening hours – 9 am – 6 pm.
  • Time needed – With so much to see and huge distances to cross, take the whole day to explore La Ceja nature reserve.
  • Getting there – Buses leave from the main bus terminal in Medellin, taking around an hour and a half.

Doradal 

Nicknamed ‘Colombia’s Santorini,’ the tiny village of Doradal is around one hundred miles southeast of Medellin. Despite the distance, Doradal is one of the more high-maintenance day trips from Medellin but is totally worth those extra miles. 

What really makes Doradal stand out is its unique construction. Artistically carved into a hillside, the village is made up of stunning whitewashed buildings with blue window frames and beautiful cobbled streets.

On entering the village, its surroundings instantly transport you to another time and almost has a magical feel to them, not unlike the Greek islands in Europe. Before the country’s huge cartel problem, Doradal had been the place for holiday homemakers from the cities of Medellin and Bogota until it was all but abandoned in the 1980s and 90s. 

Now, many have retired to Doradal, and the life and atmosphere are deftly back, something you will notice as you walk the streets. Aside from the sheer architectural beauty of its buildings, Doradal is surrounded by hiking trails and a number of caves.

From sitting and watching the life of the village pass by amongst the amazing architecture to exploring the countryside that surrounds it, day trips from Medellin to Doradal are always some of the most rewarding. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Doradal is located around a hundred miles southeast of Medellin.
  • Cost – A bus ride from Medellin to Doradal will cost you around COP20,000.
  • Opening hours – Buses leave throughout the day and early evening.
  • Time needed – With around six hours travelling there and back, it’s best to set aside the whole day.
  • Getting there – Either rent your own car or take a bus from the main station in Medellin.  

Medellin Day Trips: Final Thoughts

A stunning bird's eye landscape of small green islands surrounding a bridge over a body of water

I rest my case; Medellin day trips are plentiful, so let’s hammer home a few points before you click off and start booking your tickets.

Pretty much all of the places that I listed could hypothetically be visited in one day, but some places such as Cocorna and Jardin need more time so a weekend trip/couple of days itinerary would be the sweet spot for exploring a cool new place without rushing through too much.

Some places are easy enough to do without a guide, I highlighted tour options and which particular destinations are better with a tour guide for a net positive experience and less stress for your trip.

Speaking Spanish is a massive help in Colombia, but the infrastructure for some of the more adventurous places is still to be found a little wanting.

Feel free to read my guide on where to stay in Medellin and enjoy as many of the day trips from Medellin as you can handle or have time for!

Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
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Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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