Paisas enjoy visiting small towns so much they’ve created a colloquial verb for it – puebliar – which literally means to visit pueblos. Whether it is Semana Santa (Holy Week) or just a long weekend, Paisas are constantly hitting the road to visit the charming towns located nearby. After doing a bunch of puebliando myself, I compiled this list of my favorite small towns in the vicinity of Medellín, all reachable by a short day trip.
Guatapé tops the list, as undoubtedly the most popular town close to Medellín. The name comes from the chief of the region from many years ago, who was a prominent leader. Unlike some of the less hyped towns on the list, nearly all visitors to Medellín will have heard of Guatapé and its popularity is evidenced upon arrival. The town will be flooded with tourists, as the word is out that Guatapé is a wonderful place to visit.
Located approximately two hours by bus from Medellín, Guatapé is characterized by the enormous rock that overlooks the town (La Piedra de Peñol). Numbered cement stairs (more than 700!) and breathtaking views greet climbers as they climb towards the top. A sign near the entrance to La Piedra claims that “the most beautiful view in the world” awaits people who reach the top. Readers will have to decide for themselves if this is truly the case, although the view is undoubtedly beautiful as you can see the Represa de Guatape in many directions. Gorgeous fincas line the coastal parts of the represa, which is an example of man made beauty. The holes that the water has now filled in were not created via natural processes but rather with dynamite.
While admiring the giant rock, be sure to note the giant painted letters “GI” on the side. Many years ago, they had endeavored to paint “Guatapé” on the side of the rock, but the project was abandoned after just a letter and a half.
In addition to La Piedra, visitors to Guatape will enjoy the town center and central park, which are surrounded by quaint cafes, artesanal stores, and streets lined with colorful houses. Guatapé is also undergoing a massive development project along the shoreline in the town, which should open in the latter part of 2019.
This small pueblo is a fantastic spot that offers majestic living for its approximately 20,000 residents. Abejorral is about three hours from Medellin by bus, and is an attractive spot for rock climbers, hikers and those who like enjoying outdoor excursions that include beautiful landscapes with rolling hills. With new investors coming into Abejorral in the late 2010s, this quaint pueblo has quickly turned into a trendy destination for travellers in 2019.
The architecture of the pueblo in Abejorral is very colorful and has touches of a world that is older and more traditional. Indeed, Abejorral has a strictly Antioquia-based architecture for that region. Abejorral’s economy focuses on cattle, agriculture, floriculture as well as mining. One notable attraction near Abejorral is La Casa En El Aire, which is a wooden hostel built into the side of the mountain just outside of the town.
Barbosa, which is a 30-minute excursion by bus from Medellin, does not receive many foreign visitors. It’s considered to be off the main path for nature loving hikers and climbers.
Indeed, Barbosa is quite the undiscovered gem, with its enticing waterfalls, plentiful streams and natural watering holes for swimming in. Situated in the northern portion of Aburra Valley, you can expect to see people on horseback. Consider a horseback ride through this wonderful pueblo with friends or family as you cruise along the trails that connect these beaten paths to the villages here.
#4 Santa Fe de Antioquia
When it comes to places that provide a glimpse into streets and buildings which harken back to colonial times, Santa Fe de Antioquia is one of those lovely pueblos. The architecture and white exterior of some of its churches with Spanish design influences are quite wonderful to see. And it remains one of the best preserved pueblos in Colombia.
Also known as ‘la ciudad madre, Santa Fe was established by Jorge Robledo in the 16th century, making it one of the oldest pueblos in this part of the country. Visitors can traverse a long wooden bridge known as the “West Bridge” or “El Puente de Occidente.” When it was built in the late 19th Century, it was the third longest bridge in the world. Although cars are no longer allowed on it, visitors to Santa Fe can walk, bike or jog across.
Sometimes called the ‘Athens of the Southwest’, Jericó offers visitors a wonderful mix of European styled churches and beautiful foothills. Located high in the mountains of Southwest Antioquia, the uphill drive into Jericó is simply stunning. There is also a tall, picturesque statue of Christ overlooking the town and the canyon created by the Cauca River (one of the longest in Colombia) is clearly visible below.
There are coffee plantations, street art, craft vendors, uptempo music and pools to swim in. Embrace the cobblestone streets of Jericé as you walk amongst the many quaint, yet brightly colored homes and welcoming cafes.
Update – November 2019: Unfortunately Jericó was devastated by landslides caused by torrential rain on November 4th. Readers are encouraged to check local reports about conditions before visiting.
#6 El Carmen de Viboral
If you are looking for a welcoming pueblo that has ceramic making and art in its blood, visit El Carmen de Viboral. This town provides many opportunities to see the craftwork of the ceramic makers up close. And it’s the capital of ceramic making in Colombia – there are workshops all over town where you can learn their craft.
Each November, the pueblo really comes to life with La Festival de Las Luces, which includes plenty of dancing and singing in the streets and a fireworks display.
Whether it is the local men on horseback wearing cowboy hats or lush green hills surrounding it, Jardín is definitely one of the most charming towns close to Medellín. Visitors can take a ride on a teleferico (Gondola), or visit fincas where they grow coffee or fish for trout.
Like all Colombian pueblos, a church overlooks the central park, and the church in Jardin is particularly beautiful. If beauty in nature is more your thing, be sure to check of La Cueva del Esplendor which is located within hiking distance of the town. Similar to Santa Fe, the architecture in Jardín is from the colonial era, so visitors may feel like they took a step back in time upon arrival.
Is your favorite Antioquian pueblo missing from this list? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add it to an updated version of the story in the future.