Tucked neatly in a valley at the base of towering Andean mountains, Medellín is a city where the scent of freshly-cooked empanadas wafts down palm tree-lined streets, where graffiti art transforms neighborhoods into open-air museums and where the peaks that overlook the city offer a lush, flowery landscape and impeccable views from above. Medellín is by far one of the most popular places to visit in Colombia—it has a magic that is undeniable and a specific brand of Colombian charm that will make a visitor want to return.
The personality of this bustling Andean city mixes both old-world Colombian elements (think traditional Colombian music playing from bars in public squares, folks milling outside of colonial churches and locals settling in for classic bandeja paisa meals) with modern-day allure (the night is always young, salsa bars are raging and mixologists are in touch with the latest cocktail trends). It’s easy to fall in love with Medellín so much so that many tourists will be convinced to extend their visit.
If in town for more than a few days though, be sure to expand the itinerary to see nearby hidden gem towns that illustrate everything that makes the Antioquia region so special. Below, are five locations all within a couple of hours of Medellín that are easy to visit for a day or two. These spots are away from the beaten paths of Medellín’s El Poblado area and the done-to-death tourist trips to Guatape and all well deserving of your attention.
For foreigners exploring Colombian terrain, the coffee region is certainly enticing. Colombia is the exporter of some of the highest quality coffee in the world and so, if you’re one to sip on a freshly-brewed espresso or a piping-hot Americano first thing in the morning, a visit to nearby coffee farms will be an unforgettable experience.
Fredonia is a town less than two hours of a drive from Medellín that sits in the midst of a rolling forest green landscape. On a rainy day, misty clouds roll in level with country fincas (cottages) and heavy rains will lull tried travelers to sleep. If looking for a coffee farm to explore, consider staying at Hacienda La Sierra. This gorgeous accommodation is situated in the middle of coffee fields overlooking the backdrop of the mountains which Juan Valdez—an iconic figure in the history and promotion of the Colombian coffee trade—so frequently traversed with his trusty mule. If staying here, expect top-of-the-line meals, fresh-from-the-farm brewed coffee in the morning and, of course, an enriching coffee farm tour showing all that goes into the making of your morning brew.
You can stay on a working coffee farm in Fredonia and trek through the jungle near the Samaná Watershed with this active 10-day itinerary that starts in Medellín.
Sabaneta is its own small town though it’s attached to Medellín through the city’s subway system. That makes it an especially easy place to visit for a traveler who doesn’t necessarily have the time to venture far out of the city. Sabaneta is a quaint location in the country on the outskirts of Medellín where cowboy-hat wearing farmers ride horses down from their farms in the mountains to enjoy traditional fare and a drink of aguardiente.
There, cows graze in fields next to sleek new apartment buildings and music is always playing from the open bars that line the main square. A traditional Colombian lunch will likely include a meat-heavy plate of rice, avocado, chorizo sausage, arepa, and chicharron. Sabaneta is the perfect place to get an authentic sample. Afterward, share one of the giant buñuelos (donuts) for dessert—Sabaneta is famous for them.
Santa Fe de Antioquia
Known as a spot where Paisas (read: people from Medellín) escape for a weekend away, Santa Fe de Antioquia is a hot and tropical environment where the sun beats down quite hot. It’s a pretty little colonial town so the architecture nerd in the travel group will love exploring the sights of the centro historico. Expect to see cobblestone walkways, buildings that offer a glimpse into the colonial past, adorable church squares and orange-tiled roofs. En route to this pueblo is a suspension bridge that gives a stunning (albeit intimidating) view of the Cauca River.
Learn more about visiting Santa Fe de Antioquia in Best Things to Do Around Medellïn.
During the rainy season, tropical storms bring rain that pours in sheets upon Medellín and cool, mists settle in. Medellín is by no means a cold climate but during these seasons, the air can have a chillier-than-normal bite in the mornings and evenings. If seeking a weekend in hot weather, head to San Jerónimo—it's an easy and popular addition to Santa Fe de Antioquia day trips.
The town of San Jerónimo is just short of 25 miles from Medellín but because it’s much lower in elevation, its tropical weather comes with hot, hot days. This is the place to go to enjoy afternoons lounging by pools and drinking in beautiful views on Andean peaks that surround the town. Keep your eyes peeled for the many hummingbirds that call San Jerónimo home and be sure to eat your fair share of local produce: San Jerónimo is the where avocados, oranges, and limes grow aplenty.
In the hills above Medellín, you will find the relaxed and tranquil Santa Elena. Santa Elena is beautiful, with crisp, clean mountain air, trails, streams and flower farms that bloom in beautiful bold colors. Santa Elena is accessible by Medellín’s famous cable car ride that will be on the bucket lists of most visiting travelers and is most known for its Parque Arvi—a natural space that spans 1,241 hectares. Visiting the park is also one of the best family activities around Medellín.
In taking that cable car ride, travelers can expect to be transported above some of the city’s hillside barrios and into a well-treed landscape that dramatically changes from the hot, humid environment in the valley to cooler temperatures and ample natural green space. This section above Medellín is also the place that launches the flower festival parade during the first week of August each year. Then, country folk wear flower displays on their backs and march down the mountain into Medellín. See this unique 11-day itinerary for more on Santa Elena's famous flower festival.