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15 BEST Day Trips from Medellin including Places You’ve Never Heard Of

15 BEST Day Trips from Medellin including Places You’ve Never Heard Of

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Medellin is an incredible city with lots to do, but even more treasures await you beyond the city limits. 

Although you could stay for weeks here without getting bored, it’s definitely worth taking some day trips when you’re spending a few days in Medellin. There are some pretty famous towns nearby, like Guatapé and Santa Elena, as well as fun experiences like paragliding or tearing through the mountains on an ATV.

I love Medellin so much that I’ve been back here a few times and even lived here for six weeks, so I’ve done my fair share of day trips from the City of the Eternal Spring. It’s one of the best places in Colombia and there’s so much natural beauty within easy reach of this city. It would be a real shame not to get out and explore it while you’re here!

Whether you want to explore rivers, farms, mountains, or vibrant small towns, you can do it on a day trip from Medellin. I’ve listed my picks for the top 15 day trips so that you can really get the most out of your time in the city. 

Don’t have time to read the full article? Our absolute favorite day trips from Medellin include:

  1. Climbing the famous monolithic rock and wandering the quaint and colorful streets on a day trip to Guatapé
  2. Visiting a local coffee farm to have the freshest cup of Colombian coffee ever
  3. Ride the cable car to Parque Arví and explore the hiking trails and weekend farmers’ market
  4. Explore the hidden swimming spots and waterfalls around San Rafael
  5. Soar above the countryside outside Medellin on a (surprisingly affordable!) paragliding flight

Best Day Trips from Medellin

1. Guatapé 

El Penol as seen from a lake cruise in Guatape, Colombia
El Penol from our cruise!
Calle del Recuerdo in Guatape, Colombia
Calle del Recuerdo in Guatapé, Colombia
  • Distance from Medellin: 80.5 kilometers (50 miles) 
  • Time needed: 10 hours
  • What you need: Bus, taxi, car, guided tour

The resort town of Guatapé is one of the most picturesque and colorful places I’ve ever visited, which is why I’ve listed it as my top pick! 

The colorful cobbled streets of Guatapé would be enough of a reason to visit, but there’s also a lot of natural beauty here. It’s home to Piedra del Peñol, a huge monolithic rock that’s 200 meters (650 feet) tall! It looks like it belongs in a movie, and you can actually climb it for epic views of the beautiful lake below. 

You can also take a boat cruise on the lake, which will take you past a dilapidated mansion that belonged to the notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar. We really enjoyed the boat tour that we took and we learned a lot more about Guatapé along the way. 

Alternatively, you can also rent a jetski by the lake for around 90,000 COP ($20 USD) for half an hour and go zooming around on your own, which is a pretty cool thing to do! 

On a boat cruise in Guatape, Colombia
On a boat cruise in Guatape, Colombia

It’s possible to take the public bus from Terminal del Norte in Medellin to Guatapé for around 25,000 COP ($6 USD). It takes around 2 hours, although you may need to factor in a bit of extra time to get the metro to the bus terminal. 

You can also take a taxi for a fixed rate around 113,000 COP ($27 USD). If you’ve got a group of 4 people, it doesn’t actually work out to be that much more expensive than taking the bus, and it’s more convenient. 

Guatapé is a very popular day trip from Medellin, so of course there are plenty of excellent guided tours that can take you from Medellin to Guatapé.

This full-day Guatapé tour costs just $35 USD including transport, breakfast and lunch, a walking tour of Guatapé, and a boat ride on the lake. You get all the highlights of Guatapé in 10-11 hours including a climb up the famous Piedra del Peñol (just bring 20,000 COP which is equal to $5 USD for the entry fee). We love how well organized the tour is and the guides are so much fun! But don’t just take our word for it, check out the thousands of 5-star reviews! You can read reviews and book your spot online here.

Or if you prefer a more personalized experience, this private tour includes all of the same meals and activities as the one we just mentioned, but it’s only for your group. That way, you get way more attention from your guide and the day is tailored towards your specific interests. It costs $103 USD each for two people, although the price per person substantially decreases if you book online for a bigger group. 

2. Coffee Tour 

Bailey on a coffee tour in Medellin, Colombia
Picking coffee beans just outside Medellin!

Colombia is famous for its coffee, but you probably already know that, whether you’re a coffee lover or not! This country is the third biggest coffee producer in the world, after Brazil and Vietnam. 

Colombian coffee is famed for its delicious flavor and as you can imagine, there are a ton of fantastic places to drink coffee in Medellin. As much as I enjoyed doing that, it wasn’t quite enough for me and I decided to take a coffee tour from Medellin to one of the many coffee farms outside of the city. 

Learning about the bean-to-cup process is so interesting, and it’s clear to see that the coffee farmers are really passionate about what they do. I even got to pick some coffee beans myself! 

This half-day tour takes you to an organic coffee farm for an interactive guided tour. The coffee farm is in a beautiful setting not far from the city, so you’re getting fresh coffee and a view – that’s my kind of morning! Throughout the experience, you’ll try the coffee cherries, see the seeds or “beans” inside and follow along the entire roasting process to a finished cup of Joe. I loved trying several different varieties of coffee and learning how to tell the difference between all of them.

The guides are super friendly and you get tons of samples, plus some snacks along the way. It costs $75 USD including hotel pickup and drop off from all of the popular tourist neighborhoods, and you’re in a small group which I always think makes this kind of experience so much better! Tours leave at 8 am daily and can be booked online here.

Meanwhile, this 6-hour tour takes you to a farm in San Sebastian de Palmitas and is a really immersive experience – you even get to dress like a traditional coffee worker as you follow along what a typical day on a coffee farm involves. Prepare for a bit of hiking and the chance to pick coffee beans! I think this was one of my favorite parts of the tour – after drinking the coffee of course! The tour also includes a delicious lunch and can be reserved ahead of time for $65 USD.

You can also book this version of the tour for $89 USD to add a horseback ride around the farm. 

Related Read: Before boarding your plane, make sure to read our ultimate Colombia travel guide for all the tips you need before you arrive!

3. Santa Elena 

Beautiful wild flowers in Santa Elena, Colombia near Medellin
The wildflowers!
  • Distance from Medellin: 30.3 kilometers (18.8 miles) 
  • Time needed: 5 hours  
  • What you need: Cable car + taxi or a guided tour

Santa Elena is a small mountain town that’s famous for its beautiful flowers. The cooler climate and nutrient-rich soil mean that many varieties of flowers, both tropical and local, are able to thrive here. As a result, Santa Elena is the birthplace of silletas, the big flower displays that you see during Medellin’s famous Flower Festival

It’s possible to get to Santa Elena by yourself using a mixture of public transport and local taxis. You can take the metro from Poblado to Acevedo Station and then change to the cable car which will take you to Santa Domingo. There, you’ll need to change again to Parque Arvi, and this final leg of the journey also requires you to buy a new ticket. From Parque Arvi, you should be able to find a taxi or use a ride-hailing app to get to Santa Elena.

This journey is fairly easy. The cable car is fun to ride and I enjoyed exploring Parque Arvi (the next stop on our list!). But if you’d rather just go straight to Santa Elena then you can always take a guided tour.

This half-day tour of a flower farm includes round-trip transport from Medellin to one of the local flower farms in the area. The variety of blooms here is amazing and your guide will help teach you all about why this industry is so important to the people of Santa Elena. Plus you’ll get some incredible photo ops among the flowers!

Alternatively, you can take a horseback tour of Santa Elena, which is a fantastic way to explore the beautiful mountain scenery that lies just outside of Medellin. This is a private tour so you can take it at your own pace as you explore parts of the countryside that tour buses can’t! It starts off with some delicious pandeyucas (a local cheese bread) and after a two-hour ride, you’ll get lunch! The experience costs $109 USD each for two people or only $79 USD each for groups of 3-6 and you can book it here.

4. Parque Arví

Riding the cable car to Parque Arvi
Riding the cable car to Parque Arvi
  • Distance from Medellin: 38.3 kilometers (23.7 miles) via road 
  • Time needed: 3 hours
  • What you need: Cable car + taxi or a guided tour

Parque Arví is located on the outskirts of Medellin, but we’re including it as a day trip because there’s so much to do here that you can easily spend a whole day exploring. 

One of the best things to do here is hiking, as the park is home to 54 kilometers (33 miles) of trails, including the Brooklet and the La Flora Trail. They’re all pretty easy but they do vary in length, so it’s up to you how long you want to hike for. You can also book a guided hike at the park for 25,000 COP (around $6 USD) between 10 am and 4 pm. 

As well as hiking trails, the park is also home to waterfalls and even an archaeological site. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty impressive! You can also see lots of wildlife here, including over 70 different species of butterflies. 

A trail in Parque Arvi, Medellin, Colombia
Get lost in Parque Arvi!

I recommend visiting Parque Arvi on the weekend if you can, as it hosts a farmers’ market every Saturday and Sunday. There are over 40 stands here where you can buy a lot of yummy local food and even pick up some souvenirs, and it just adds a really nice atmosphere to the park.

To get to Parque Arví, you can take the metro to Acevedo Station and then catch the cable car to Parque Arvi, changing at Santa Domingo. After you’ve explored the park, you can take a taxi to explore Santa Elena (the previous day trip we mentioned!) if you like as it’s quite easy to combine the two on a day trip. 

5. Santa Fe de Antioquia

People walk the The Puente de Occidente in Santa Fe de Antioquia
Puente de Occidente
Santa Barbra Church in Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia
Santa Barbra Church
  • Distance from Medellin: 56.8 kilometers (35.3 miles)
  • Time needed: 5 hours 
  • What you need: Bus, guided tour

I love Santa Fe de Antioquia because it’s one of those places in Colombia that locals love and foreigners haven’t quite caught onto yet. There’s a nice atmosphere here, but it’s way less touristy than places like Guatapé. 

Santa Fe de Antioquia is a small, historic town that’s known for its tamarind candy. But beyond that, you can find lots of typical Antioqueño food here, visit plenty of old churches, and take a tuk-tuk to the famous Puente de Occidente, which is a huge suspension bridge that’s a big source of local pride. In fact, it was even declared a national monument! 

You can take the bus from Medellin’s Terminal Norte de Transporte. Head to booth #20 to buy your ticket, which should cost 12,000 COP ($3 USD) each way, and remember to bring some cash as they don’t take cards here. 

However, if you don’t speak Spanish I think you’re better off visiting Santa Fe de Antioquia as part of a guided tour because there’s very little English spoken in the town. This private tour includes a local guide and round-trip transport from Medellin. You’ll get a chance to see some of the famous architecture including walking across the suspension bridge that was once the longest in all of South America!

You’ll have time to stroll through the cobblestone streets, check out some local markets, and hear all about the history of this city from your guide who is also an art historian. It’s a lot packed into 4-5 hours for only $130 USD or $150 USD during the peak season. This tour is available daily, so if this day trip sounds like a good fit for you, book online here!

6. ATV riding in the mountains 

A view of the mountains on an ATV tour from Medellin, Colombia
Photo credit: Medellin Adventure Trails
On an atv tour in the hills around Medellin, Colombia
Photo credit: Medellin Adventure Trails

One of the best things about Medellin is that it’s surrounded by mountains, and you can explore them on this fun ATV tour, which is what we did! 

You’ll be picked up from your hotel in Medellin and then transported up to the mountains, where you’ll have a quick safety briefing and then hit the trails. Some previous ATV tours we’ve done in other places like Cancun, Mexico only include about 30 minutes on the ATV, but this tour has 2-3 full hours!

I loved driving past farms, through fields, and visiting plenty of viewpoints like a gorgeous waterfall where you can jump in if you want to cool off. I found driving these trails was such a great way to discover the Colombian countryside. It’s one of the best tours from Medellin that makes you feel a million miles away from the city.

The tour finishes with a visit to a local trout farm for a traditional Colombian lunch. The meal is freshly caught and cooked up in front of you and our group loved the fresh salmon!

At $170 USD per person, it’s not cheap but I definitely thought it was worth it. I got to see a part of the country that not many other tourists do! You can have your own ATV adventure by booking online here.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

7. El Salto del Buey Waterfall

Salto Del Buey Waterfall, Colombia
Just stunning!
Salto Del Buey Waterfall near Medellin
You get really close!
  • Distance from Medellin: 65 kilometers (40.4 miles)
  • Time needed: 9 hours 
  • What you need: Guided tour

The Salto del Buey Waterfall is an amazing waterfall just under 2 hours outside of Medellin. Not only is it beautiful and worthy of being on any Colombia bucket list, but you can also feel the Lenard effect here. 

The Lenard effect happens when water droplets create negatively charged electricity, and it’s said to have amazing therapeutic effects. In fact, studies suggest that the Lenard effect can even have a positive impact on depression. Lots of people find a trip to El Salto del Buey Waterfall really energizing!

Best of all, you can experience the 90-meter (295-foot) waterfall in three different ways as part of this adventure tour. You get to experience two thrilling rides on Colombia’s longest zipline, which is so much fun because you get amazing views of both the waterfall and the jungle below. Then, you get to hike to the bottom of the waterfall to experience the Lenard effect and then climb to the top for insane views – look for a rainbow up here! 

We think that this is an awesome adventure day trip from Medellin. It’s such a fun day out and it’s a private tour, so it’s perfect for groups of friends or families with kids over 5. It costs $200 USD each for a group of 2, but the price drops the more people you book for. The price includes round-trip transport, lunch, all equipment, and of course some delicious Colombian coffee. You can reserve your spot on this popular tour here.

8. Whitewater rafting on the Rio Calderas

Rafting down a river near Medellin Colombia on a rafting tour
Get out and see the beautiful rainforest and rivers near Medellin! Photo credit: Expedition Colombia
  • Distance from Medellin: 103 kilometers (64 miles)
  • Time needed: 8 hours 
  • What you need: Guided tour

Whitewater rafting is always a blast, and you can definitely go on a day trip from Medellin. The Calderas River is about 2 hours east of Medellin, so a day trip involves about 4 hours of travel time, 3 hours on the river, and then some time for lunch, too. 

Rafting on the Calderas River is an awesome way to explore the pristine Colombian jungle, and you get to see lots of waterfalls and wildlife along the way. It’s an epic day out and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves nature and adventure. 

This private tour takes you to the Rio Calderas to tackle Class 3 and 4 rapids. I think this is a great tour for beginners because it’s only you and your group, which definitely helps with the nerves, and the rapids are medium in difficulty so as long as you’re reasonably fit, they’re very manageable. 

You’ll have an instructor to guide you the whole way and you get to see some amazing jungle and mountain scenery. Plus there’s a stop at a beautiful beach about halfway through where you can relax and take a dip in the water.

The tour is run by the only company certified for rafting trips on this river. It costs $133 USD per person and includes lunch, which is really reasonable for a private rafting tour! It’s also suitable for teens aged 14-17, and they can join for a discounted rate of $102 USD. So if you’re traveling with older kids, it could be a fun family day out. Check out all the ticket options and available dates for this adventure!

9. Jerícó 

Colorful buildings in Jerícó Colombia
  • Distance from Medellin: 108 kilometers (67.1 miles)
  • Time needed: 9 hours 
  • What you need: Car, bus

Jerícó is a picturesque and colorful town like Guatapé, but it’s much less touristy. If you like to get off the beaten track and explore cute towns, then it’s definitely worth taking a day trip from Medellin to Jerícó. 

While you’re here, we recommend renting bicycles and cycling around this scenic little town. It costs around $15 USD to rent a bicycle from 8 am to 8 pm, and there are lots of pretty spots to explore. 

Jerícó is the birthplace of Madre Laura, Colombia’s first saint, and you can also find a Christ the Redeemer statue atop a viewpoint overlooking the town. Admittedly, it’s not as impressive as the Christ de Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, but it’s definitely worth making the trip up the hill to check out the views. 

The Cerro las Nubes viewpoint is also stunning and you can hike to the top for spectacular views of the Cauca Valley. There are also lots of coffee farms around that you can explore, and some of them are really beautiful. 

The town itself is also just super cute and you should definitely visit Parque Principal, the main square, to check out some of the quaint cafes and restaurants around. Café El Saturia is a cute little coffee shop tucked away near the square. The coffee is divine and the chocolate cake is pretty good too!

If you want to rent a car, then the fastest way to get to Jerícó from Medellin is to drive. If not, you can head to Terminal del Sur and buy a bus ticket to Jerícó from booth #18. Terminal del Sur is easy to reach if you’re staying in Poblado, as it’s about a 15-minute walk from El Poblado metro station

10. Jardín 

Beautiful building in Jardin, Colombia
Beautiful building in Jardin, Colombia
  • Distance from Medellin: 131 kilometers (81 miles)
  • Time needed: 9 hours 
  • What you need: Car, bus, guided tour 

Jardín is a sweet little town that’s famous for its coffee. Visiting from Medellin can be a pretty long day, especially if you go without a tour, but it’s a great chance to explore the Colombian countryside. I definitely recommend exploring Jardín if you don’t have long to spend in Colombia and want to learn more about the coffee culture and see a more rural side to life here.

The main town square is a really nice place to chill, grab a coffee, and people-watch. You can also see the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception here, which is one of the town’s main highlights. 

I recommend making time for a ride on the Garrucha cable car to a viewpoint with a cafe. I mean, does it get better than enjoying some Colombian coffee with a view? Plus, it only costs 5,000 COP ($1 USD) for a ticket, so you may as well, right?

I also love that this town has so many great natural attractions. You can hike to the Cave of Splendor or visit the Chorro Blanco Waterfall, which is around 100 meters (328 feet) tall. And visiting a coffee farm is a must while you’re in Jardín – the Finca la Flora is one of the best in town and you can arrange a guided tour of the farm in person once you arrive.

To get to Jardin, you can take the Rapido Ochoa bus from Terminal del Sur. Head to booth #38 and you can buy a ticket for 25,000 COP ($6 USD) each way. However, the bus does take around 4 hours so I think that a rental car or guided tour is the best option for a day trip. 

This private tour is an awesome way to explore Jardin. You’ll visit a coffee plantation in the mountains and a coffee roaster in town, as well as take a sightseeing tour of the town. The price varies by group size, so it’s $169 USD per person with a group of six, or $205 USD each for two people. You can also upgrade online to add a trip to the Chorro Blanco Waterfall which I recommend doing as it can be tricky to find on your own! 

Related Read: Another charming place to wander around is the Old City in Cartagena, Colombia. It’s a walled part of the city full of beautiful spots to discover.

11. San Rafael 

Bailey swims in a waterfall in San Rafael, Colombia
La Casuela is so beautiful!
  • Distance from Medellin: 108.5 kilometers (67.4 miles)
  • Time needed: 9 hours 
  • What you need: Car, bus, guided tour 

San Rafael is a scenic town that’s known for its network of rivers and swimming holes. If you love swimming and exploring nature, then this is the perfect off-the-beaten-path Medellin day trip for you. 

You can take the bus to San Rafael from Terminal del Norte. Buses depart every 30-60 minutes and tickets cost 26,000 COP ($6 USD) each way. This is a cheap option but the bus takes around 3 hours each way, so it’s best to catch an early bus. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive there in about 2.5 hours or do what we did and take a scooter!

We actually rented scooters in Guatapé for 10,000 COP ($2.50 USD) an hour and drove ourselves to San Rafael. This route is a highlight all of its own with panoramic mountain views basically the whole way! We didn’t find the road busy at all, so it was a pretty relaxing way to travel.  

The town of San Rafael was founded in the 1860s by miners, and there’s a strong farming community here. You’ll see lots of horses and vegetable stands around here – it’s a bit like stepping back in time. The main square is always bustling, so we recommend heading here for a coffee and people-watching session before you head out to the swimming spots. 

If you’ve looked at any of our other blogs, you might realize how much we love finding hidden swimming spots and waterfalls. Well when we heard about La Casuela Waterfall, it immediately was on our agenda! It’s not a huge waterfall, but the water is crystal-clear and it’s surrounded by lush jungle. It’s also not that well known, so when we went, there were only four people there – including us!

La Casuela is about 5 km (3 miles) from San Rafael. The last part of the road is rough gravel, so you’ll need a motorbike (rather than a scooter) or you can hike it like we did. It’s about a 30-minute hike and you’ll be in good company with lots of monkeys around!

If you want to do a whole day of hidden swimming spots, Las Tangas is one of the best and it’s within very easy reach of the main town. In fact, it only takes about 30 minutes to walk there. The Laguna Azul is another great spot that’s another half an hour’s walk down the same road. 

12. Paragliding 

paragliding in Colombia
Imagine the views!

Medellin is surrounded by beautiful mountains so it’s a fantastic place to go paragliding. In fact, you can go flying over the mountainous landscape on a half-day trip from Medellin and then fit some more fun activities into the rest of your day! 

Paragliding on a day trip from Medellin is also super affordable. For $55 USD you can book a 15-minute flight in the mountains that will give you absolutely epic views, or you can upgrade to a 30-minute flight for $119 USD. Both options also allow you to arrange for private transport once you book which I highly recommend as it’s a more rural area to get to.

This is actually one of the most popular things to do in Medellin, and I can confirm it feels great to get out of the busy city and soar above the mountains. The company that offers these flights has been going for 25 years run by a super passionate pilot who first saw paragliding as a kid and wanted to fly! You can make your own flying dreams come true and check out all the 5-star reviews for this flight when you book online.

You can also book this private paragliding tour for $76 USD, which means less waiting around for other people. Private transportation is also included in the price which makes things nice and easy, and the flight lasts for 15 minutes. Photos and videos of your flight are also included so you can take home some great memories of your trip.

13. Take a chocolate tour 

Bailey grinds cacao a traditional way in Medellin, Colombia
Grinding cacao!

Colombia is one of the biggest cacao producers in the world and 95% of its exports are classified as “Fine Flavor” by the International Cacao Association, which is a pretty big stamp of approval! 

I think taking a chocolate tour is one of the best ways to get out of Medellin for the day! You can learn all about the bean to bar process and try lots of samples. 

I mentioned earlier that coffee tours in Medellin are super popular, but not everyone likes coffee. If you don’t, then I highly recommend taking a chocolate tour. And even if you do like coffee, who doesn’t want to go to a beautiful farm and eat chocolate? I say do both if you can … but I love coffee and chocolate, so I couldn’t choose just one!

My top pick is this full-day cocoa farm tour where you head to a gorgeous farm in the countryside. Once you arrive, you’re welcomed like part of the family and get the chance to roast and grind beans (and do lots of tasting, of course). I feel like I learned so much and got a whole new appreciation for chocolate as I went through the process of making my own chocolate bar. You even get to pick out your own toppings like fresh fruit from the trees on the farm!

The tour guides are so friendly and since it’s a small-group tour, it doesn’t feel rushed and you get more of a hands-on experience. The tour costs $100 USD, although it gets cheaper if you make a bigger booking and there is a private tour available. You can see all the options when you book online!

If you’re traveling in a group and want to have the whole experience (and more chocolate!) to yourself, this highly-rated private chocolate tour is great value. It costs $71 USD per person for a group of 4 adults including transportation, a welcome glass of organic orange juice when you arrive at the farm, a guide, and a chocolate-making workshop. 

The private tour is great at explaining all the history and methods of chocolate production, they joke you can probably start your own cacao farm after! You pick cacao right from the trees, cut the fruit to get the seeds out and see how the drying and fermenting processes work. After that, put your chef hat on and pick out ingredients for your own chocolates – there’s everything from sugar cane and peanuts to ginger or vanilla. While your chocolate creations cool, you’ll be treated to fresh cheese bread and hot chocolate made from the farm’s cocoa. It’s a pretty amazing day out, but there are limited spots, so make sure to book in advance.

14. Hacienda Napoles

Hacienda Napoles Colombia
Hacienda Napoles Colombia
  • Distance from Medellin: 175 kilometers (108.7 miles)
  • Time needed: 12 hours 
  • What you need: Car, guided tour 

Hacienda Napoles was once a luxurious private estate that belonged to none other than Pablo Escobar. As well as a huge colonial-style house, the estate featured a zoo, a sculpture park, a private airport, and a Formula 1 racing track. Yes, really! 

After Escobar’s death in 1993, there was a long legal battle between his family and the Colombian government over the fate of Hacienda Napoles. Eventually, the government gained control of it in 2006 and now you can visit the abandoned ranch to learn about Escobar and the damage he inflicted on the people of Colombia, as well as visit the on-site water park and zoo. 

Public buses do run from Medellin to Hacienda Napoles, but the estate is very spread out so you need a vehicle once you’re there. Therefore, it’s better to either rent a car and drive or go as part of a guided tour. Since it’s a 3.5-hour drive from Medellin to Hacienda Napoles, we definitely recommend taking a guided tour because that’s a lot of driving for one day! At least with a guided tour, you can sleep on the bus. 

This private tour will take you to Hacienda Napoles where you’ll have plenty of free time to explore the ranch at your own pace. It’s so interesting and humbling to hear stories about Escobar’s victims, including police officers and government officials who were often intimidated and terrorized by his cartel. It also includes park admission and you’ll stop for breakfast on the way, although meals aren’t included. It’s $225 USD each for two people, but cheaper if you book for more. Since it’s a private tour, you’ll want to book in advance to guarantee a spot.

Related Read: If discovering hidden gems is your travel style, don’t miss some of the best day trips from Cartagena, Colombia!

15. Rio Verde 

Expedition Colombia Rio Verde Tour
Photo credit: Expedition Colombia

The Rio Verde is a gorgeous river that winds through the Colombian jungle and there’s a ton to explore here, from rapids to waterfalls to gold mines. 

The Rio Verde is pretty wild so the best way to explore is by taking a guided tour. One of the best things that we did in Medellin was this Rio Verde day trip. It was a long day but we got to do so much, and we’re so happy we did it!

You’ll be picked up from your hotel early in the morning and then it’s a two-hour drive to Rio Verde. You start with a guided jungle hike which is a lot of fun and a great chance to spot wildlife. Then, you go rafting along a 29-kilometer (18-mile) stretch of river, which includes a swimming stop at the waterfall. 

This tour is truly a fantastic day out and we had an absolute blast. I think the best part for me was that the rafting included both rapids that were fun to navigate over and then calmer sections to catch your breath and just admire the view. Plus, it’s a private tour so you get to know your guide well and can learn more about the area and its wildlife. 

It costs $184 USD per person including breakfast, lunch, and private round-trip transportation. It’s one of the pricier tours on this list but you get to explore a really remote area and it would be difficult to try to go alone. We definitely felt like it was worth it, and our guides made us feel really safe the entire time.

If you’re looking for a fun and adventurous day trip from Medellin, you can reserve the exact same tour we did here!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Medellin

Bailey in the city of Medellin city free walking tour
The free walking tour is epic!
Street art of stairs in Comuna 13, Medellin
The street art is a highlight of touring Comuna 13!

While getting out of the city has some pretty great experiences, don’t leave without discovering all the things to do in Medellin. I even moved here for six weeks after my first visit because I loved it so much! These are just a few of our favorite activities in Medellin.

  • City tour – Get your bearings and explore Medellin with a local guide. This walking tour with Real City is one of the best free walking tours I’ve done in Latin America! You need to book a day in advance and then you’re all set to see the highlights of downtown Medellin. Alternatively, this bike tour of Medellin covers more ground with plenty of stops for photos as you explore back roads, quiet parks, and colorful neighborhoods.
  • See Comuna 13 – What used to be one of the most dangerous places in the world, Comuna 13 has transformed into a vibrant neighborhood! Graffiti art and street food are two main attractions and this Comuna 13 tour includes both. The guides also share personal stories of life here giving you a window into its dark past. We learned so much and it was one of our favorite tours in Medellin.
  • Eat amazing food – There are flavors and styles galore, so get a taste of Medellin by joining a private food tour! You get to try traditional Colombian food and drinks as your guide helps you order at some of the best local spots. If you’re looking for a great meal on your own, the vegetarian pizza at Cafe Zorba is a personal favorite of mine!
  • Learn to salsa dance – If you’ve always wanted to learn how to salsa, this is the place! We loved the live salsa music at Son Havana Bar for a night out. If you want to learn a few moves beforehand, this salsa and bachata class is a great way to find your rhythm and get those hips moving!
  • Explore El Poblado – This is one of the safest and most touristy areas in Medellin and it’s home to some of the best restaurants, bars, and shopping. In fact, your hotel might even be located here! Head to the local square of Parque Lleras for live music and dancing in the evenings!

Where to Stay in Medellin, Colombia

Elcielo Hotel & Restaurant
Photo credit: Elcielo Hotel & Restaurant

With so many great day trips from Medellin, chances are you’ll need a solid place to stay in this city so you can explore! And luckily, it’s one of the best places to see in all of South America.

However, picking the right area to stay in a big city can really affect your experience, and Medellin is no different. For most people, safety in Medellin is the most important factor when deciding where to stay.

Below are the best areas to stay in Medellin along with accommodation options for all budgets.

El Poblado

This vibrant upper-class neighborhood offers amazing nightlife, top restaurants with cuisine from all over the world, and a safe friendly atmosphere. The streets in El Poblado are safe to wander day and night providing you use some care when it’s really late.

This area is a perfect base to explore other parts of the city and the area I recommend staying in Medellin. It’s also the starting point for many of the best tours in Medellin and tours to Guatapé. Some places I recommend staying are:

Los Patios Hostel – A great budget option for backpackers. this hostel is famous in Medellin, and the place is beautiful. There’s a rooftop swimming pool, communal spaces, and a fun terrace. Rooms are themed according to different regions in the country which is a nice touch. While dorm beds aren’t the cheapest (starting at $30 USD), the reviews and standards are really good. You can also easily book on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

14 Urban Hotel – This medium-budget hotel is stunning and perfectly located in El Poblado. The rooms are spacious and modern, the staff is friendly, and the price includes a delicious breakfast. Plus, this hotel can cost as little as $93 USD a night when booked in advance.

Café Hotel Medellín – Cafe Hotel is your typical hotel and comes with everything you’d expect from classic hotel brands such as Hilton. The location is a little up the hill from the main restaurant and bar area of El Poblado, but this makes it much more of a quiet stay. It has a beautiful view and a rooftop jacuzzi which is perfect for relaxing after a long tour! Rooms start from $120 USD a night on Booking.com.

For luxury travelers, Elcielo Hotel & Restaurant is easily the best choice. Not only is it still affordable (starting at $319 USD), but the hotel comes with a fantastic location, luxurious rooms, a swimming pool, a spa and wellness center, a fitness center, and fantastic views of the city. It’s beautifully decorated, and the quality of the service and on-site food is superb. It’s a popular choice, so best to book this one ahead of time.

Laureles

Laureles is another upmarket neighborhood that’s a great area for tourists to stay. This area is where the stadium in Medellin is located, and it’s very similar to El Poblado.

The reason I like Laureles is that it’s closer to downtown and more central so you don’t have to travel as far to visit many attractions in Medellin. Some places to stay in Laureles are:

The Wandering Paisa Backpackers Hostel is a top choice for backpackers in Laureles. It has a fantastic atmosphere perfect for meeting other travelers, a great location, and clean facilities. What more could you want? Plus, a bed in a shared dorm starts from just $11 USD a night. You can check availability and book on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

Hotel Vivre – If you want a quiet and comfortable stay then Hotel Vivre will suit you. It’s right off the strip with lots of shops, bars, and restaurants nearby. The rooms here are modern and clean, and breakfast is included in the room rate (which begins at just $66 USD).

Thanks for reading!

Bailey in Comuna 13 Medellin, Colombia
Thanks for reading!

Medellin is such a vibrant and fun city in Colombia, but so many adventures are waiting just outside city limits! Hopefully, you have a few ideas for the best day trips from Medellin. Let me know your favorite or which one you chose in the comments below.

Before you book those plane tickets, have a look through our other blogs about South America. We’ve traveled this amazing part of the world extensively and would love to pass along a few tips or give you some inspiration. Here are a few of our popular blogs below to get you started:

South America Safety Tips

25 BEST Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

30 FUN Things to do in Bogota, Colombia + Complete Guide!