The 5 Best Pueblos Around Medellín

Colorful Guatape
Colorful Guatape
La Cueva del Esplendor is quite spectacular.
La Cueva del Esplendor is quite spectacular, making Jardín one of the best pueblos around Medellín.

Writer’s note: This is the tenth story in a monthly series on the “best of” Medellín and the surrounding area. To read the ninth story, click here

This post was updated on Jan. 24, 2015. Santa Rosa de Osos fell out of the Top 5. 

This list, you can easily criticize.

Within a 3-hour radius of Medellín by bus, there are dozens of pueblos, each beautiful, I’m sure, in its own way. I don’t know all of them. How could I? In fact, who does?

The one I most regret not visiting yet is Doradal, your jump-off spot to Rio Claro.

My hope is to visit it before the end of August because that’s when I’ll write my revisions post, the story that will take into account reader feedback and new discoveries to update any flawed “best of” rankings. That means you could see Rio Claro make the final list.

For now, though, I will share with you what I think are the best pueblos around Medellín from my experience to date.

1. Jardín

You won’t often see something jump from No. 5 to No. 1, but my second trip to Jardín made me realize just how charming and interesting this pueblo really is.

I did the horseback ride to La Cueva del Esplendor again, to accompany a friend, but for the most part I just enjoyed lounging in the town, sitting in the plaza, people watching, and I don’t know how anyone could ever get tired of looking at the old colonial buildings, especially the Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción, so well maintained, so vibrant in color.

If you’re looking for other things to do, there’s the teleférico that takes you to a great view of the city, a trout farm if you like fishing, a stop at Dulces del Jardín, or a tour through the town museum.

If it were two hours closer to Medellín, it would probably be Antioquia’s most popular pueblo.

It was hard to take Ciudad Bolívar off the list, but there room for only one coffee pueblo and Betania’s quaint magic will melt your heart.

A flan-like custard drenched in arequipe (caramel sauce)
A flan-like custard drenched in arequipe (caramel sauce)

2. San Antonio de Pereira

People come for the sweets and the empanadas.

You can get the great desserts at any time in San Antonio de Pereira. There are places by the plaza that have a variety of options, everything from chocolate to fruit-flavored cakes and cookies.

Dulces y Postres might be the most popular of these places.

The empanadas are always there too, but the big festival, Fiesta de la Empanada, usually takes place in August.

It’s also a pretty town, a nice place to go to get away for a weekend, something I’d like to do sometime. I’ve only gone for the day, but I hear it gets quite festive here at night.

I hope to find out soon.

This is where that cup of coffee you had at the cafe was born.
This is where that cup of coffee you had at the cafe was born.

3. Ciudad Bolívar

I never thought about visiting Ciudad Bolívar before the fall of 2012, but I came across it online when I was looking for a good coffee growing region that my sister would enjoy.

It would have to be different, not the usual tourist trap, because my sister has a little bit of hipster in her.

We ended up getting a free coffee tour, as I wrote about before, and the friendly people there refused to let me buy them lunch, give them a tip, everything.

Because it’s on the border of the corrupt and slightly dangerous Chocó department, be a little more aware of your surroundings than you normally would. Nothing difficult. Just be aware.

You’ll have a good visit.

Colorful Guatape
Colorful Guatape(photo: David Lee)

4. Guatapé

I know what you’re thinking.

Finally! Why is this place not ranked higher?!

Well, that’s the reason I did not rank Guatapé No. 1 or 2. I’m always looking for undiscovered parts of Colombia, not just the popular locales, the reason I’ve been to almost 40 cities, towns and national parks in the country.

I’ll admit, you can’t go wrong there and it’s only 11,000 pesos (about $6) to get there.

You can take a boat ride on the reservoir that used to be a town and see the cross atop the old church protruding from the water, and what remains of Pablo Escobar’s finca, blown to bits by the Cali Cartel.

And you can’t forget the climb up La Piedra, the giant rock in the distance, although that’s technically in El Peñol, the neighboring pueblo.

My favorite part of Guatapé, though, is the colorful artwork along the lower half of the buildings in the town. I can look at them all day, they’re so pretty.

As he rides by, behind him, the Saturday market in Santa Fé de Antioquia is almost ready for business.
As he rides by, behind him, the Saturday market in Santa Fé de Antioquia is almost ready for business.

5. Santa Fé de Antioquia

Santa Fé de Antioquia used to be the capital of Antioquia until 1826, when Medellín took that title, but historic architecture remains and is the main reason to go and well worth the 11,000 pesos (about $6) to get there.

Santa Fé de Antioquia is known for its heat, the reason there are so many public pools, so bring your beach wear.

Another thing to keep in mind about Santa Fé: there’s a nice arts and crafts market on Saturdays.

What’s your favorite pueblo in Antioquia?

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  1. I’m going to Urrao for their festival this weekend so it will be interesting to see how that pans out. The only other pueblo I have been to is Guatape and I loved it – especially the little drawings on the buildings, they’re so intricate!

      • Urrao is awesome, it’s a town in antioquia, like 4-5 hours away from medellin. Their festivals are this weekend, and they’re amazing, I was there last year, and was so wasted for like 3 days there. Good memories…

        Anyways, iyou guys should go there if you can, I know you’re gonna love it

      • Ohh sorry, I forgot to explain…

        The festivals are called “Fiestas del Casique toné” which means something like “Tribe boss Toné festivals” (I really don’t know how to properly translate Casique though lol). and it’s about an ancient indian king who became legendary for fighting the spanish around 1560, and he and his tribe, the Catios, used to live around that region, including Urrao. Today, they celebrate his memory every year by making the festivals, which are sheer colombian party with tons of alcohol, music, beautiful women, and shows, etc

  2. Awesome. This has me very excited for our trip to Colombia next year. We want to drive from Mexico… Hope we’re not being too ambitious? Have you done any driving around Colombia and would you recommend it?

    • I don’t know about Ryan, but I haven’t done any driving in Colombia. They’re a bit wild and crazy on the roads here, so I imagine it’d be an adventure.

  3. Urrao is very beatiful, others towns for visit : The Uraba zone, with apartadó, turbo, necoclí, capurganá, arboletes, This is a very diferent land, with beaches, sea, banana agricultural landscape

  4. I recommend Concepción. It was declared a national monument a while back because of its colonial architecture. It’s is the birthplace of one of the forefathers of Colombia, Jose Maria Cordoba. It’s a little difficult to get to because the main road is unpaved, but worth the visit. It’s located east of Barbosa so you can take the road from Barbosa to Concepción or take the autopista Medellin-Bogotá then take the road to San Vicente and continue towards Concepción.

  5. This is a very useful post. I’m finding my way around thes blogs. Can I get to these pueblos on local buses and back in a day. Are ther hotels there?
    I have this case to cart around so like to leave it at my main hotel say in medellin and then go off for a week or so to see other areas but with a smaller case. Could you suggest a route please? I like to take my time. History, nature, art. Improve my spanish. Not into big hikes and am travelling solo. Thanks. Im an older traveller.