Not to go all Southwest Airlines on you all, but sometimes we all want to get away.
It’s not even because of an embarrassing moment, such as the funny faux pas of the commercials, but we just need a break from the congestion of the big city.
The problem is, sometimes we have only a day. That’s what this list is for, to help you figure out the best days trips from Medellín.
We hope you enjoy these places as much as we do.
1. San Rafael
I had heard of San Rafael but had never been there. The closest I had gotten was the bridge that takes you east of Guatapé (spoiler alert).
That all changed when my parents came to visit me in Colombia for the first time and my good friend Juan Carlos insisted on showing them a good time.
We did the Guatapé/El Peñol tour, albeit an abbreviated one, because Juan Carlos really wanted to show us San Rafael, specifically the river that passes the city.
I never expected I’d be making it No. 1 in a best day trips story.
There are several places you can go along the Río Guatapé that offer swimming, camping, barbecuing, zip-lining and other fun activities. We didn’t go to any of them.
Instead we went to a private property along the banks of the river, a place we had the privilege of going only because Juan Carlos is familiar with the owners.
Out of respect for them, I can’t tell you where it is. But you have other parts of the river to enjoy the amenities I told you about above, and the town — with its pretty church and old colonial architecture — is open to everyone’s enjoyment as well, all of it just a 3-hour bus ride away for 17,000 pesos (about $9).
Maybe we’ll run into each other there someday. Because it won’t be at my secret spot on the river.
My first excursion here came after living in Medellín for only a couple of months and I had been looking for it ever since because I didn’t know how to get back and I lost the contact information for the people who took me there.
I found it again recently, finally.
You take the green Metro bus from the Envigado station that says Arenales, and it’ll take you up into the hills east of the growing suburb.
When you get off the bus, just walk straight ahead until you reach a fork, where you will go left on a dirt road that takes you along a creek.
You’ll criss-cross it for about 45 minutes to an hour before you finally arrive at a big waterfall and a pond where you can swim. I’d recommend going on a sunny day. The water is a little chilly.
There are two other things you can do as well.
On the side of the pond where you arrive, opposite the waterfall, there is a path, albeit a steep one, that you can climb to reach an open plain among the mountain tops. It’s a great place for a picnic.
Another option is hiring Adventure Envigado to do some rappelling.
No matter what you decide, you’ll have a great day.
3. Guatapé/El Peñol
This is probably the most popular day trip for foreigners.
You get on the little bus to El Peñol for about 12,000 pesos, then you climb La Piedra, the huge monolith, what was a meteorite that hit that spot millions of years ago. They say three-quarters of it are beneath the earth, amazing since the part above ground is about 10 stories high.
The view from the top will give you great pics of the turquoise waters of the inlet-fragmented reservoir below.
When you’re done you just walk down the skinny access road to the main highway where you got off the bus, and wait for the next one. Shouldn’t cost more than 2,000 pesos for the quick ride to Guatapé.
Enjoy the zócalos, the colorful art on the sides of the buildings, but don’t miss something so many people do: a boat tour of the reservoir.
Don’t mistake this for the brief booze cruise that gives you a beverage or two, but not much else.
The real tour will take you past Pablo Escobar’s old finca and nightclub, which his enemies blew up in an attempt to kill him. He escaped through an underground passage.
The finca is still a burnt shell but the nightclub is now a restaurant.
You’ll continue until you arrive at a cross protruding from the water, the site of the old El Peñol church. The town was moved to higher ground when government officials and EPM flooded the low-lying areas to create the reservoir.
You’ll hear all about it and more if you make this trip.
4. Parque El Salado
I won’t say much since I’ve already written so much about this place, other than a few keywords:
Barbecue. Hiking. Horseback riding. Monkeys. Zip-lining.
Now go find out what I’m talking about.
5. Parque Arví/Santa Elena
This would rival Guatapé/El Peñol if people would do it in its entirety, but most people take the Metrocable to Parque Arví, walk around for a bit, maybe rent a bicycle, and then head back down the hillside the same way they got there.
Take the blue bus with Santa Elena in big letters on the front. You’ll want to stop by one of the fincas de silleteros to learn more about the history of the Feria De Las Flores, Medellín’s biggest festival.
That’s right, it’s more than just a 10-day party.
When you’re done, spoil yourself with a late lunch or early dinner at Uchuva Lounge. The catch is, you need to make a reservation and have at least six people in your group, so do it because it’s worth it.
The gourmet cooking is a great way to end your day.