Outside Medellín: Guatapé and Santa Fe de Antioquia

Everyone will tell you that Medellín is great. Before I arrived, travellers filled me with stories about the fun, the excitement, the perfect weather.

It’s true, Medellín is fun, it can be exciting and it does have perfect weather. But in the two weeks I spent there I was constantly waiting for the Medellín magic to kick in. Maybe i was missing something, but it seemed to be just another big city full of partying travellers and fancy cafes.

Modern Medellín lacked some of that unique Colombian charm that wins you over, and that you can find in spades around the rest of the country. Luckily though, if like me, it’s charm that you are looking for, you don’t have to go very far.

Guatapé

We took a trip to Guatapé on a weekend before we left Medellín for Colombia’s coffee region. The little town is famous for its almost blinding colour, the little pictures that skirt the colonial buildings and beautiful lake that it sits on the edge of.

While most people visit it in a day or two there are plenty of things to keep you entertained if you wanted to stay longer. We spent the weekend roaming the cobblestone streets, listening to the buskers in cafes that line the little outdoor amphitheatre and making the most of one of Colombia’s biggest lakes.

It takes about two hours to get from Medellín to Guatapé and on the weekend it fills up with Medellín locals, so if you are looking for a more relaxed experience aim to get there during the week.

Just outside of Guatapé is the Piedra del Peñon, which is a giant rock that once climbed gives you an impressive view over the lake. Wanting to ride in the decorated moto taxis, we took one of the tuk tuks from the cute main square to the bottom of the rock and lined up with the hoards of tourists to climb to the top.

The view was nice, but I am not sure it was worth the crowds of tourists, I wouldn’t recommend if you are there on a weekend like we were.

There are also other places around town to go exploring, waterfalls and nice spots along the lake. We stayed in Lake View hostel and they recommended a few spots and offered motorbike or horse rentals if you wanted to go and check them out. You can also get out on the lake in various boat tours and other things.

We mostly stayed around the town though, and were pretty content with the beautiful streets and musical buzzing atmosphere. Little Guatapé is definitely worth the trip, especially if you are feeling a little underwhelmed by Medellín like I was, this place has plenty to keep you inspired.

Santa Fe de Antioquia

Arriving in this little white town was a breath of fresh air. The bougainvillea twisted around the streets and led us from one pretty square to the next.

Once the capital of Antioquia, this little town is oozing with old, presidential charm. The main square, which was sadly under construction when we were there, is lined with plenty of restaurants where you can sit and watch the day pass.

Although, there isn’t a great deal of big draw attractions, the town makes for a pretty and relaxing day wandering through the streets. If you wanted to learn a little bit more about it there is also a small free museum hidden in one of the many colonial buildings.

To get to Santa Fe, we caught a quick and easy bus out from Medellín which took a little over an hour.  It was the perfect little terracotta town for a day trip, and it was well spent, relaxing in the sun out of the city.