The undisputed king of Medellin day trips is the one that takes you to Guatape and the stunning El Penol rock; if travellers do one day trip from the City of Eternal Spring, the chances are it will be this one. Why? The pretty little lakeside town of Guatape is simply stunning, with its brightly coloured streets and unique architecture, while the views from the rock itself are some of the best in Colombia.
This day trip is a little closer to home; the huge Arvi Park lies to the east of Medellin in the surrounding Andean mountains and is easily reached by the public transport cable-car network directly from the city. Many people choose simply to take a hike on some of the myriad forest trails in the park, but for a really complete trip, make sure to hop on a local bus and pay a visit to the pretty little town of Santa Elena as well.
One of Colombia’s network of ‘Heritage Towns’, Santa Fe de Antioquia lies a couple of hours north of Medellin and is a favoured day trip for those looking for a hot climate and beautiful, traditional architecture. Wandering the pretty, cobbled streets of Santa Fe makes for a relaxing trip out of the city, and the nearby Puente de Occidente bridge over the Cauca River is a true marvel of Colombian engineering.
Another hour beyond Guatape is San Rafael, a much more undiscovered paradise than the touristy Guatape. San Rafael is also at a much lower altitude, giving it an enviable tropical climate, perfect for swimming in the gorgeous clear rivers that flow from the mountains around the town. With several picturesque waterfalls to enjoy and even wild monkeys in the surrounding forests, San Rafael is a great adventure for nature-lovers looking to get off the beaten track.
A much longer day trip (it takes about four hours to get here from Medellin), but a truly worthwhile one, Jardin is arguably one of the nicest small towns in Colombia and is the perfect trip for coffee-lovers to take from Medellin. With a delightful central plaza filled with tables and chairs and locals sipping coffee, as well as tours available to local coffee farms and waterfalls, Jardin is well worth the extra effort it takes to visit.
Cocorna is a small town less than two hours from Medellin and is especially worth visiting for adventure tourism, and in particular for one of the coolest paragliding experiences in Colombia. The take-off site overlooks the town below and your flight takes you over a waterfall in the jungle. Cocorna is one of the lesser-known tourist destinations for a day trip from Medellín, but if you want a truly unique paragliding experience, it’s the place to visit.
El Carmen is the day-trip for anyone looking to pick up some truly unique souvenirs from their time in Colombia; the town is world-famous for its unbelievably lovely handmade ceramics. It’s a tradition that dates back to the 19th century, and the ceramics are recognised as one of Colombia’s most important artisan products. No two ceramic pieces in El Carmen de Viboral are the same, and every single piece is uniquely hand-painted. If you’re a shopaholic at large in Medellin, this is the place to visit.