This city is a fantastic base for your travels in Colombia because there are so many amazing day trips from Medellin. I’ve done them all (some more than once!) in my six months living here in Medellin, and these are my top two favorite excursions from the city.
Guatapé Day Trip from Medellin
Guatapé is the most popular of the day trips from Medellin and for good reason. It’s only a two hour bus ride away, but it boasts an incredibly unique and breathtaking landscape.
To get to Guatapé, you have to catch a bus at the Terminal del Norte bus station. You can either take the metro to the Caribe stop and walk over to it, or call one of many Ubers or taxis in Medellin. Once there, you can get a ticket from the many different booths for the next bus out.
The buses leave fairly regularly, at least every hour, so there’s no need to book ahead. We had three ticket choices when we got to the counter: El Peñol, La Piedra, and Guatapé. It costs $4 to get to El Peñol, and the others are each about 30 cents more than the last.
El Peñol is a small town and not worth stopping at. Instead, we bought our tickets to La Piedra (the rock) and hopped on the bus to continue our journey. The driver stopped at a small cluster of shops near the rock, and we bought a few snacks before climbing up to the base.
There’s a staircase and a road that both lead to the bottom of the rock, and either one will work. Once we got to La Piedra, there were plenty of restaurants and a small marketplace to explore before gearing up for the hike to the top.
La Piedra has 740 steps snaking up the side, and is actually believed to be a meteorite by some. It’s a plausible explanation, because the rest of the land around it is flat lakes, and the monstrous rock rising out of them is very out of place. Whatever it is, we were determined to make it to the top!
The climb actually only took about 25 minutes (with a few rest breaks of course), and once we reached the peak the view was phenomenal. You honestly won’t believe you’re still in Colombia. The surrounding blue green lakes are so vibrant and breathtaking that no photo will ever do it justice (although I’ll certainly take at least a hundred… just in case).
The smattering of shops and vendors at the top make it a perfect little place to grab a beer (you earned it!) and spend some time in the sun before making the long decent.
After the climb, we hopped into a tuk tuk and paid $2 to continue to the town of Guatapé, which is about a 10 minute ride away. I honestly don’t know what I enjoyed more, climbing the rock or exploring the small pueblo. Every home was decorated with ornate wood carvings and painted with the brightest colors.
Guatapé really has to be one of the most cheerful towns I’ve ever seen. The center is marked with a large square and a beautiful church, and it’s surrounded with lots of cobbled winding side streets to get lost on. We also enjoyed a walk along the lakefront and eating a lazy lunch in the sun!
If you have time, hop on one of many tour boats dotting the lakeside to take a trip out to Pablo Escobar’s home. His property is a 30 minute ride away, and the mansions built on the surrounding islands make for a beautiful trip.
We got a quick tour when we arrived. Pablo’s home included his own private discotech (which still runs today), as well as the bombed out shell of his favorite mansion, stables, private soccer field, and more.
The place was destroyed in 1993 by the Colombian Search Bloc just a few months before Pablo’s death, and the eerie ruins are all that is left of his legacy in Guatapé today.
I am planning to return to Guatapé again soon because the pueblo is so relaxing and beautiful that I didn’t want to leave! Next time, I’ll get a room in a hostel so I can spend a night and enjoy the sunset and night life in the small town. I have to say, Guatapé just may be my favorite place in Colombia so far!
Santa Fe Day Trip from Medellin
If you spend any time talking to the locals in Medellin, you’ll be asked often if you’ve made the trip to visit Santa Fe. This weekend, Daniel and I decided to finally check it off our list of day trips from Medellin because it’s close and easy to get to. The small colonial pueblo is only an hour and a half outside of Medellin, and we’ve had so many Uber drivers in Medellin insist that we visit that we couldn’t put it off any longer.
To get to Santa Fe, we had to first go to the Terminal del Norte bus station. From there, it’s easy to find the Occidente ticket booth and buy tickets for the next bus. I’m not sure how often they leave, but we ended up getting ours 5 minutes before the noon departure, which was great. Also great – they only cost $3.25 each.
The bus ride was fairly uneventful, with some sweeping mountain views to help the time pass. Once we finally reached Santa Fe, it was only a quick walk down the street to the outskirts of the cobbled, colonial town.
Santa Fe was actually the capital of Antioquia until 1826 when it was moved to Medellin, and the town still holds an air of pride about it. To me, it felt like Santa Fe takes itself more seriously than the other pueblos in the country.
Unlike the colorful old towns of Guatapé and Cartagena, Santa Fe is starkly white all the way through. A few splashes of flowers here and there give the city some color, but the rest of the churches and homes are strictly white, giving the town a more formal feel than I’m used to in Colombia.
However, I still think Santa Fe is one of the best day trips from Medellin because of the many gorgeous colonial churches scattered around the small pueblo. I counted four on our first walk through, and I’m sure there are many that I missed. If you don’t want to hit up a mass or two, however, there are other options to pass the time.
Fortunately for me, those options include my three favorite things: eating, drinking, and exploring.
After a huge seafood lunch at the colorful and quirky Porton Del Parque, (washed down with coco locos of course) we hit the town. Because Santa Fe is at a lower elevation (almost 3,000 feet!) than Medellin, the temperature was much hotter, and we soaked up some much needed sun. Wandering through the little parks and plazas, up and down the hilly cobbled streets, and enjoying the surrounding mountain views was a perfect way to spend a day in my book.
Escaping to sunny Santa Fe was the perfect start to my weekend, and a much needed break from the early onset of the dreary rainy season in Medellin. If you want to do nothing for a day, Santa Fe is a beautiful place to do so!
When you inevitably find yourself yearning for an escape from the busy city, try grabbing the next bus to Guatapé or Santa Fe. Check out these day trips from Medellin, and let me know what you think of the quaint colonial towns 🙂
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