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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?