Lying within the Aburra Valley, day trips from Medellin are plentiful for the more hyperactive 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 twenty-four of the very best day trips from Medellín after nailing down the usual logistics.
History of Medellin
Before the Spanish conquistador, Francisco de Herrera Campuzano recognised the potential of Medellin’s fertile soil, the site where the city can be found today was a quiet natural landscape set amongst one of the most self-sufficient civilisations in the country, where locals built homes and survived on animal agriculture and cultivation of maize and beans.
Though he stumbled upon the area in the 1540s, it wasn’t actually until the year 1616 that the first settlements called the region its home. The first to settle here were communities of local Amerindians, but it didn’t take long for the population to grow to thousands of people; numbers that grew exponentially when the world found out about the nearby, newly discovered gold mines.
The industrial revolution in Colombia, mixed with the boom in coffee production, again increased the city’s population in the early 20th century to the hundreds of thousands.
The later part of the century saw the city fall into a dark period, brought about by high poverty levels, the drug trade and the infamous Pablo Escobar. This gave Medellín the unwanted title of the most dangerous city in the world back in 1988, only increased by the presence of urban paramilitary groups such as FARC and the AUC.
Throughout the 21st century, Medellín has gone through a regeneration, bringing it from its poverty and crime-stricken depths to a resurgence of hope via its enriched culture and alluring tourism.
Although not without its flaws, Medellin has grown into one of the most popular cities to visit in all of South America. Still lagging a little behind the top 10, but certainly moving up the ranks.
Where is Medellin?
Medellin lies in northwest central Colombia, around 128 miles east of the Pacific coastline and 150 miles southeast of the Panama border, it’s become a popular stop-off point for anyone heading out on a South America itinerary (if you are ever feeling adventurous and have the time/energy/money; I highly recommend overlanding from the north of Colombia all the way down to ‘the end of the world,’ in Argentina!)
Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, is around a 250-mile drive southeast of Medellin, a short jaunt compared to the huge distances in the South American continent. If like me, you’re from a small country, brace yourself while travelling around Colombia; this nation is an absolute beast in size!
Best Time of Year To Visit Medellin
Known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’, Medellin remains comfortably pleasant all year round. Though it sits in one of the country’s tropical regions, its elevation of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level means the city enjoys an average temperature of around 22 °C (72 °F) throughout the year.
While the climate may be warm all year round, Medellin does experience two distinct rainy seasons, which most travellers prefer to avoid.
Don’t get me wrong, these rainy seasons are nothing compared to the monsoon-like rainy seasons in other parts of the world, like Thailand or Malaysia, but they can put a halt to your plans at certain times of the year. These damp months fall between April and May as well as from September to November, with around 21 days of rain each month.
Medellin certainly lives up to its claims of constant spring, but when it rains in Medellin it really hammers it down. However, from my experience living in Medellin, the downpour is fast and furious but it doesn’t tend to last too long.
I’d highly recommend visiting outside of these months, and instead, planning your visit during the dry season, especially if you’re a keen hiker – ideally between December and February or during June. It’s worth bearing in mind that these months are also some of the busiest months, with many more tourists and higher accommodation and tour prices descending on Medellin.
To get the best of both worlds, but take on the risk of some rainy days, shoulder season is a great option. In Medellin, this falls on either side of the rainy season; during March, July and August.
How To Get To Medellin
As one of the biggest and most popular cities in all of Colombia and South America, transport and connections to Medellin are pretty well streamlined. Whether you’re travelling to the city as your first destination on the continent or plan on living in Medellin for the long haul there are numerous ways of getting there.
If you are planning on travelling to Medellin from abroad, the city has a very convenient international airport, which makes things pretty easy. Well, as easy as travelling in South America can be.
The city’s airport, José María Córdova International Airport (MDE), is just 15 miles east of the city itself. To get to Medellin from the airport, you have three options:
- Shuttle Bus: 1 hour, 10,000 COP per person.
- Shared Taxi: 40 minutes, 17,000 COP per person.
- Private Taxi: 40 minutes, 80,000 COP per taxi (four people)
- Uber: Comes at a slightly higher cost than a taxi, but you have the upside of less naughty business like rip-off attempts as the rider will be reviewed (as will you!)
For the majority of flights from Europe, you’ll need to make a stopover in another major Colombian city such as the capital of Bogotá. That’s unless you’re one of the lucky ones travelling from Spain, where you can take a direct, 10-hour flight from Madrid.
Travelling by air from North America also allows you to travel directly, including flights from:
- Miami (MIA) ~ 3.5 hours
- New York City (JFK) ~ 5.5 hours
- Fort Lauderdale (FLL) ~ 3.5 hours
- Orlando (MCO) ~ 4 hours
If you are flying in from the South American continent itself, there are direct flights from:
- Peru’s capital Lima (LIM) ~ 3 hours
- Chile’s capital Santiago (SCL) ~ 6 hours
If you already find yourself in Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, you can jump on a bus from La Terminal, located in the Salitre neighbourhood of the city. Buses leave every half an hour and take around ten hours to make the journey.
While this is one of the cheapest ways to get to Medellin, the journey can often take longer than ten hours, depending on traffic and any diversions that might take you around the houses. This will set you back a minimum of 100,000 COP one-way.
It’s also possible to take a colectivo from Bogotá to Medellin from the same place. These much smaller but often overcrowded buses are able to weave through traffic, enabling you to cut an hour or so off the rather uncomfortable journey. You’ll pay a little less for a colectivo – around 80,000 COP.
Of course, you can jump on a nice and easy, one-hour flight from Bogota to Medellin. While these cost near double the bus, about 160,000 COP for a one-way ticket, it’s a perfectly viable option if you haven’t got the luxury of time.
To get from the Colombian coastal city of Barranquilla to Medellin, one of your best options will be to take an overnight bus between the two. Buses leave around 7 pm each night from Barranquilla, and you will arrive in Medellin at around 8 am the next morning.
There’s only one bus that runs the route, operated by Rapido Ochoa, and they’ll charge anywhere between 150,000 – 250,000 COP per seat. It really all comes down to the level of comfort you’re after.
Again, you can take a much shorter direct flight from Barranquilla to Medellin that will set you back a similar price to the cost of the bus but only take just over an hour to make the journey.
From Quito, Ecuador
If you fancy travelling slightly hardcore from the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, then you can take a long-haul bus across the country and into Colombia. To do this, you’ll first have to take a 14-hour bus to the Colombian city of Cali.
From Cali, you can jump on a second bus to Medellin, which will usually take around 8 hours. For the two journeys combined, you’ll need to budget for around 250,000 COP and allow a couple of days for travel time, as the roads and border crossing can be unpredictable.
Of course, the easier option is to book a flight, but there’s no direct path between the cities. While this mode of transport will take considerably less time (around 4 hours flight time, including transfers), you’ll still need to transfer to Cali and fork out just over 1 million COP.
This all depends on your personal style of travel, of course!
How To Get Around Medellin
Medellin’s public transport has improved so drastically over the last decade that it is now used as a model of economic development for other countries and cities struggling to improve their citizens’ wellbeing.
From the more traditional city buses and metro links to the more interesting taxi rides, you won’t struggle to find a way of getting around the city and beyond.
One of the most popular and effective ways of getting around Medellin is via the city’s ultra-modern metro system. This rapid transit system links most of the destinations around the metropolitan area of the city, with lines running from north to south and from the centre to the west of the city.
Its efficiency is relied upon by visiting tourists and commuting locals to get them from A to B on a daily basis.
A single ticket for the Medellin metro will cost you around COP 2,550 and get you to most destinations across the city. If you plan on staying in the city for a long time or even living here, it is worth getting yourself a Civica card (metro card). This prepaid card will allow you to make multiple journeys without having to worry about carrying cash all the time.
A cheaper and much more old-school way of getting around Medellin is to take one of the city’s buses. If you can get your head around the often mind-boggling routes and numbered buses, then it can become a really helpful mode of transport across Colombia’s second city.
Buses head out into much more niche locations compared to the metro, so the likelihood of needing to rely on one is pretty high.
Each bus usually has its own fixed fee, which you’ll find scribbled onto a sign in the front window. However, if your communications skills are half-decent, it’s better to ask a local to point out which bus to get and how much it’ll cost.
Although not as risky as it once was, bus travel is best left for the daylight hours as it can become a centre of petty crime and even with that being said, daylight robbery is not completely rare within the city.
Boasting a relatively flat topography, getting around Medellin on a bicycle is a popular option and will allow you to see the city from the ground level in all its glory. Bikes are available to use freely by the public and are known as EnCicla. As long as you return them to their points in an hour or less, you won’t be charged for their use.
As an outsider, you will need to register to use this free bicycle service by getting yourself a Metro card.
After you have secured the card, you will need to fill out the correct online forms to use them. Although this may seem a little involved, the rewards make the effort of doing so totally worth it. Not only is it a cheaper way of getting around, but it will also keep your fitness levels high, helping you cope with the high altitude throughout your day trips from Medellin.
For a super quick way of getting across the city and to various day trips from Medellin, you can utilise the local taxis. Although many may still have reservations about using the taxis here, they are generally considered safe and are far safer than wandering back from a drink during the evening hours, but please leave your windows up and don’t show off with your flashy smartphone inside the taxi – text those sweet nothings your booty call when you get home. I’ve known a few people who have them taken off them via gunpoint in Medellin.
It’s easy enough to wave down taxis on the Medellin streets, though using local taxi apps such as Tapsi or Easy Taxi is far safer and easier.
These apps are similar to the more famous Uber, but fares need to be paid in cash directly to the taxi drivers. Journeys usually start from around COP 3,600 – 6,500, and you will be charged COP 1,284 for every extra kilometre.
Uber in Medellin, and Colombia as a whole, have gone through many phases and back and forths over the years. Although technically illegal, Uber operated throughout the country until the end of 2020, when Uber left the country.
A month later, this popular taxi app returned to Medellin under newer rules. Now, you can rent a car through Uber, which comes with a driver, and this can be done with hourly rentals and a choice of vehicle.
Is Medellin Safe?
Medellin and its people have experienced hard times throughout its modern history and, at one point, the city had the morbid reputation of being one of the most dangerous cities in the entire world.
Having gone through a period of transformation and regeneration over the past few decades, the city has come out on the other side as a general (in South American terms) safe place to visit and live. This rebirth of hope has been born out of economic recovery and a strong appreciation for making Medellin a top tourist hotspot in all of South America.
As is the case with many awesome Latin American cities, you’ll still need to have your wits about you, and common sense comes into play to keep you safe.
It’s advisable to refrain from walking around the much poorer areas of the city, where you are more likely to be a victim of crime. Drunkenly wandering around the city during late night hours is also seen as a no-no here (do as I say, not as I did!)
The Scopalaomina scam is one of the most worrying that I have come across during my decade on the road. A powdery substance, nicknamed “The Devil’s Breath,” can be blown into your face, rendering you unable to have free will.
Men often fall prey to this honey trap (not surprising as Colombian women are gorgeous) and wake up with their bank accounts cleared and no recollection of what happened.
Check out this fascinating VICE documentary on this terrifying drug:
14 Day Trips from Medellin: For Adventurers, Lovers (+ Relaxation)
Day trips from Medellin take plenty of different forms, from thrill-seeking adventures and romantic hideaways to relaxing days spent getting up close and personal with the valleys.
Covering all of this and more are two weeks of day trips from Medellin – a fortnight that will have you travelling far and wide from Colombia’s second city.
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 breath-taking 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, and you can not help but feel a sense of that sweet “aaaa, que hermosa’” feeling 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’ 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.
2. El Penol
A neighbouring town of Guatapé is the aforementioned El Penol. The town itself is quite small but isn’t without its own charm. Set amongst the stunning countryside of Colombia, visiting El Penol provides the ideal opportunity to witness the laidback 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 Penol.
You can quite easily combine a visit to El Penol 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 Penol 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 Penol, leave around 8 am.
- Time needed – If you are only going to El Penol, 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.
3. Parque Arvi
Although only slightly northeast of Medellin, the Parque Arvi is perched high up on the valley’s lip, meaning it is quite a distance to travel and requires a day trip to visit comfortably.
Part of a large ecological nature reserve in Medelín, Parque Avri offers visitors a unique chance to explore the wild and wonderful nature of Colombia and immerse themselves in the spectacular landscape.
Covering an amazing 40,000 acres, Parque Arvi is mostly made up of ancient natural forests intertwined with fifty-four miles of walkable trails. As well as hiking, you can enjoy a range of activities such as cycling, picnicking and horseback riding in the park – though your own two feet will be enough without the need of sitting upon an animal’s back.
Aside from the beautiful ancient pre-Hispanic trails, the park is home to 72 species of butterflies, 69 species of birds, and 19 species of mammals, proving it a terrific place to spot some of Colombia’s best wildlife. For gorgeous views of the Aburrá valley and Medellin below, you can hike up to a mirador or lookout point where the valley lies out below.
One of the easiest and, perhaps, most adventurous ways to get to Parque Arvi is to take the gondola lift system of Metrocable from Poblado metro station, which will take you around an hour to get to Parque Arvi.
This way, you can cover the heights of the valley pretty quickly and enjoy awesome views of the city and valley to go – making it one of the easiest day trips from Medellin.
Know before you go:
- Location – Parque Arvi is located northeast of Medellin, along the top of the Aburrá Valley.
- Cost – Guided tours start from COP25,000. However, it’s easy enough to explore by yourself for a COP5,700 entrance fee.
- Opening hours – 9 am – 6 pm.
- Time needed – It’s best to spend the whole day here to get the most out of your visit to Parque Arvi.
- Getting there – Take the Metrocable from the Poblado metro station straight to the park.
4. Santa Elena
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 is 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.
5. Santa Fe de Antioquia
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.
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, including vegan and veggie options, 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.
7. San Rafael
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.
Much like the town of Cocorna, San Rafael is also a great base to experience extreme watersports such as tubing, rafting and kayaking. Whether you want to get the heart beating or wish to relax along the riverbanks San Rafael has it all.
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.
8. El Carmen De Viboral
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.
One of the most wholesome 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 celebrating 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 – Having to travel there and back, it’s best to give yourself around seven hours to visit Jardin.
- Getting there – Buses to Jardin leave from Terminal del Sur and take around three and half hours.
10. Chorro De Las Campanas Waterfalls
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. 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 over 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.
11. Rio Magico
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.
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.
12. Hike and Zipline At Los Saltos Ecopark
Located between the municipalities of Abejorral and La Ceja, Los Saltos Ecopark is one of the most popular day trips from Medellin for adventure travellers.
The park is home to lovely landscapes, yet it is the activities that really make this park well worth a visit. Taking the top spot in these activities is the highest Cable Vuelo zipline in the country, being 33 meters high and 1350 meters long. Zipping across the waterfall canyon, with your heart racing and breath taken from both experience and the impressive views.
Aside from the fantastic zipline, Los Saltos Ecopark is also home to abseiling spots and beautiful hikes. Hiking across the huge park, you can take in views of stunning waterfalls, rocky hills and lush green vegetation. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or simply wish to take in the more beautiful scenery of this part of Colombia, the Los Saltos Ecopark has a bit of both for you.
Know before you go:
- Location – Los Saltos Ecopark is forty-one miles south of Medellin.
- Cost – The entrance fee is COP1,000.
- Opening hours – Thursday through Monday from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.
- Time needed – To get the most out of the experience, it’s best to set aside the whole day.
- Getting there – Take a bus to Abejorral, but via the Guaico, these buses only travel at 8:00 am on the way to the park and at 4:00 pm back.
13. La Ceja Nature Reserve
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.
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 it, 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 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.
10 Day Trips From Medellin: Honourable Mentions (Adventure Guide)
Aside from the numerous day trips from Medellin that are well on the tourist map, there are others that can’t be overlooked. Many of these will encapsulate the true nature of adventurous travel in Colombia, from daredevil adventure sports to more unique day trips from Medellin.
Let’s take a look at ten of these day trips from Medellin that deserve honourable mentions.
1. Pablo Escobar Tour: Important Things To Consider
When you have a curious and open mind for the truth like myself, trips may bring you to the deserted Chernobyl, The gutwrenching Auschwitz museums of Poland and learning about uncomfortable truths such as the Cambodian genocide to name but only a few.
When you do this you will always be met with a synonym of “why the hell would you want to go there?”
Every case is not the same. For example, all of the above receive donations from the victims of the horrors, but I have less of an argument for visiting North Korea where 100% of your money funds the barbaric government.
I plan to write a more comprehensive article on this topic, but for now, just know two things:
- Most tours fund friends and families of Pablo, or other Narcos who exotify Escobar and continue the cycle of violence in impoverished areas of Colombia.
- Most Paisas (the name for Medellin locals) loathe the man and do not want to hear about your Pablo Escobar tour, or how much you enjoyed the Netflix show. (It was fantastic, but if you have had loved ones who died or were affected by this era, then imagine how you would feel).
You have to do what’s best for you and your own moral compass. There is, however, a good compromise to any of your ethical conundrums; some companies donate large profits to victims of this dark period, or to bettering beaten-down neighbourhoods.
Those that do are very proud and forthcoming about where your money goes, it’s a simple case of emailing in advance and doing your due diligence.
So you get to itch your curiosity scratch and sleep with the soft pillow of a sweeter conscience.
2. ATV Tours
All-terrain vehicle tours are one of the best ways of mixing up a thrilling ride with exploring the stunning Colombian landscapes. By joining an organised ATV tour, you will be picked up at your accommodation and taken to the base camp. From here, you will be provided with all the gear you will need for a safe and exhilarating experience.
Getting off the road on your ATV, the tour will take you through the amazing terrain of Leaves Trail, San Nicolás Valley, airport forests, headwaters and runway trails. Seeing the diverse terrain and views of rural and wild Colombia while travelling over speedy tracks is one for you fellow dopamine-driven individuals.
Combining the fast-paced exhilaration of an all-terrain vehicle with the backdrop of such appealing views and surroundings is one of the best ways of seeing the Antioquia Department in all its glory.
Know before you go:
- Location – The ATV tour will take you throughout San Nicolás Valley.
- Cost – Around COP 300,000.
- Opening hours – Tours depart three times a day, at 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM.
- Time needed – All in all, you will need around five hours to complete this tour.
- Getting there – As part of the tour, you are collected and dropped back off at your accommodation.
3. Paragliding in Medellin
If the ATV didn’t quite do it for your high levels of adrenaline requirements, one of the best day trips from Medellin you can do is a paragliding tour, and what better place to do that than in the Edenesque surroundings of central Colombia.
The vast mountain ranges, warm winds and consistently sunny days around Medellin and the Aburrá Valley mean that this part of the world is the ideal place to experience a paragliding tour.
The experience will begin with a ten-mile drive to the northern town of San Felix, high on the northern edges of the canyon. Upon arrival to San Felix, meet your experienced paraglider pilot, who will assess the weather conditions for the paragliding experience.
You will then take a short walk to the take-off ramp, located on a sloping hill, giving you the best take-off conditions possible.
Your experience will be done as a tandem flight, allowing someone with no experience of paragliding to enjoy the flight. All you will have to do is follow instructions for how to run on the take-off site, sit comfortably in your harness and position yourself for landing. An assistant will help you and your tandem pilot take-off, and then you will enjoy at least a 20 minutes flight, depending on the day’s weather conditions.
All in all, a paragliding tour in Medellin combines both the heart-racing and adrenaline-inducing sport of paragliding with fantastic aerial views of the Aburrá Valley and the postcard views from below.
Know before you go:
- Location – The paragliding takes place in the town of San Felix, ten miles north of Medellin.
- Cost – COP 179,000.
- Opening hours – Flights will take place throughout the day, as long as conditions are good.
- Time needed – A good few hours are needed to travel and then conduct the flight.
- Getting there – As part of the tour, you will be collected and dropped off at your accommodation in Medellin.
4. Hike The Hill Of Three Crosses
Slightly southwest of Medellin is the Hill Of Three Crosses, renowned as one of the best hiking spots around the Aburrá Valley and Medellin itself. The steep hill can be seen from practically anywhere in Medellin and has long been one of the most popular day trips from Medellin, not only for visitors but for locals also.
The Hill of Three Crosses gets its name from the three wooden crucifixes that stand on the steep hill, and it has become the place for hiking and general fitness in the area. The steep climb can be a little difficult if you’re not used to hiking, but the views and surroundings are well worth the effort.
Generally, it will take you between twenty and forty minutes to climb to the top of the hill and is around three-quarters of a mile hike, one way. The trail leading up on the hill is perfectly marked out, and with numerous other hikers making their way there, it is impossible to lose your way.
Along the path, first steps have been carved out of the hillside, though with many people making the climb, you may have to hike along these.
At the base, midpoint, and top of the hike, you’ll find concession stands selling fresh-pressed juice, fruit, and numerous other things to give you a boost. Both from a fitness and sociable point of view, hiking the Hill Of Three Crosses is a really enjoyable thing to do while in the city of Medellin.
Know before you go:
- Location – Hill Of Three Crosses is located in the southeast area of the city.
- Cost – Free.
- Opening hours – 24 hours.
- Time needed – Around 2 to 3 hours should be enough to climb up and down while enjoying the views.
- Getting there – If there are a few of you, it’s more economical to take a taxi to the base of the hill.
5. Mountain Bike Tour
As we have seen throughout this guide to day trips from Medellin, this area of the world offers some of the most incredible scenery both in its jungles, mountainous regions and forested foothills, so it’s no surprise that it is one of the best places to join a mountain bike tour.
The rolling foothills of the surrounding valley and the endless dirt tracks that cut through the landscapes offer the perfect challenge for mountain biking in unfamiliar territory.
By joining an organised mountain bike tour, you can explore the endless stretches of trails and routes that surround Medellin and beyond.
The tours are run by guides that also share the same passion for mountain biking, meaning you will get the best of the tour. The expert guides will take you to the meccas of Medellin mountain biking, as well as the spectacular spots that you’ve never heard of, making the trip one that you will never forget.
Know before you go:
- Location – Depending on the kind of tour, you will bike around different locations through the foothills and mountain ranges surrounding Medellin.
- Cost – Tours will cost around COP400,000.
- Opening hours – Mountain bike tours will usually begin in the morning, around 9 am.
- Time needed – Tours will last for half of the day, talking around six hours.
- Getting there – Part of the organisation includes collecting you from your accommodation
6. Graffiti Tour
Like many of South America’s major cities, Medellin is home to many amazing examples of street graffiti, something that seems to be woven into the artistic nature of the city. The graffiti has been used as one part, transforming the once run-down city streets into something far more attractive to the eye; this is especially true of the city’s Comuna 13 district.
The tour will be run by a guide who has a wealth of knowledge about the history and background of Medellin graffiti. These works of art range from poignant memorials to works of surreal art.
Walking around the city streets, these artworks may cover a small wall, whereas others cover a whole block. This tour will really open your eyes to the regeneration Medellin has gone through over the past couple of decades.
Know before you go:
- Location – Artworks can be found across the city but mainly in the Comuna 13 district.
- Cost – A graffiti tour will set you back around COP 90,000.
- Opening hours – 10:00am, 4 hours AND 3:00pm, 4 hours
- Time needed – The tour will last around four hours.
- Getting there – A meeting place will be agreed upon when booking the tour.
7. Get Lost in Cable Cars (But Not Too Lost!)
One of Medellin’s most stand out features is its modern cable car public transport. Not only is using cable cars an efficient way of getting around but riding them can be an enjoyable activity just by themselves.
Known as the Metrocable, the cable cars allow you to travel across the city’s high altitude neighbourhoods quickly.
The system consists of a network of 16 pre-existing gondolas, similar to those used in the London Eye. Not only can you get across Medellin quickly, but they also allow you to observe the views from above.
Spending a couple of hours travelling on the Metrocable is a perfect alternative (or addition) if the activities mentioned above give you a sickening feeling as opposed to the excited butterflies in your stomach.
Just be sure you know how to get back to where you started!
Know before you go:
- Location – There are six lines covering the city, with the main station located in Santo Domingo.
- Cost – Standard fares are around COP 2,430.
- Opening hours – Monday to Saturday from 4:30 am until 11 pm, Sunday from 5 am to 11 pm.
- Time needed – Spend a couple of hours travelling across the city.
- Getting there – With many stations across Medellin, there is sure to be one within walking distance of your accommodation.
8. Find ALL 23 Statues in Plaza Botero
Fernando Botero liked big butts and he could not lie, so he didn’t (and neither should he, I’m also a fan!)
Not only was he honest in his love for big bums, but also larger ladies; he dedicated pretty much all of his life’s work to celebrate them. He also ventured out to exaggerated caricatures to express his political views, with a lot of his work being inspired by one of Mexico’s most revered exports, Diego Rivera.
Plaza Botero is a 7,000 m2 outside park that displays 23 sculptures by the prolific Colombian artist.
Botero dedicated these statues as part of the regeneration of the city, and they really stand out as Medellin’s modern cultural centre. The green space is a great place to relax and soak up some greenery while in the centre of the city, helped by a number of benches.
One of the best things to do in a park full of 23 sculptures is to try and find all 23. Scattered across the seven thousand metre square park, these sculptures depict a number of different images and are known by names such as “The Hand”, “Eve”, “Maternity”, “Man on Horseback”. It is said that rubbing the statues brings you good luck, so getting around all 23 is sure to bring luck on your side.
Know before you go:
- Location – Plaza Botero is located in the centre of Medellin, along Carabobo Avenue.
- Cost – Free.
- Opening hours – 24 hours.
- Time needed – Only around half an hour is needed to see the park and sculptures.
- Getting there – Take a bus to the nearby Berrio Cra bus stop.
9. Atlético Nacional Vs Independiente Medellín
As is the case with all of South America, football, or “soccer” as some of the world knows it, is a huge deal. Medellin is home to two major soccer teams, Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellín.
Understandably, there is a strong rivalry between the two teams and watching a local Medellin derby game is an electric experience, Colombia’s answer to Argentina’s Superclasico.
Both teams play their matches at the Estadio Atanasio Girardot in Medellin, and they are two of the biggest teams in all of Colombia. Managing to catch a game between these two is a dream come true for any footie fan visiting Medellin.
Know before you go:
- Location – Estadio Atanasio Girardot stadium in western central Medellin.
- Cost – COP 18,000 for a seat at one of the curves and range up to COP 48,000 for a seat at the main stand
- Opening hours – Games will usually be played in the afternoon around 3 pm.
- Time needed – A couple of hours to watch the match and get to the stadium.
- Getting there – Stop Estadio is next to the stadium. Take metro line B from stop San Antonio in the city centre.
10. Drink Aguardiente With Friends ( Possibly In Your Home)
Colombia’s infamous alcoholic beverage, Aguardiente, translating as “firewater” in English lives up to its menacing reputation and should be drunk with precaution.
Seriously guys, a couple of glasses of this rocket fuel will blow your tits off!
I’ve tinkered with Tequilla in Mexico, consumed one too many caipirinhas in Brazil, sipped on Sake with the Japanese and “celebrated” with Russians on strong local vodka (yuck!) after taking down their tallest mountain, but this whole aguardiente business…it’s the work of Satan.
I can’t make you drink it in the comfort of your own home (and to be honest I didn’t either) but the best I can do is play overprotective Dad, and just warn you how potent this thing is and leave it up to you.
Both men and women have to stay safe from different evils, especially with the aforementioned “Devil’s Breath” situation in the safety section. Anyway, I don’t want to scaremonger, drink up have fun and be merry with good people who you trust.
And voila! There you go, the very best of day trips from Medellin for every temperament. Enjoy!