Today I am pleased to feature a post by the expert travel blogger, David Lee. David is an authority on many travel subjects, but his move to Colombia added this South American country to his repertoire. This is a beautiful post about little known spots in Colombia.
The big city nightlife of Bogota, Medellin and Cali often figure prominently into traveler itineraries, however it’s in the small pueblos that Colombian culture is best experienced. If your time in the country is short, make an effort to visit at least one of the three prettiest pueblos in Colombia.
Located a short two and a half hour bus ride east of Medellin, Guatape is situated on the shores of a large, man-made lake. Guatape is known for its colorfully painted wall reliefs that line the houses and shops throughout the pueblo. The reliefs differ in subject, however they all share the common theme of depicting local Antioquian culture. If the weather is clear, boat rides are available in two forms. First, you can take a double-decker party boat out on the water to enjoy a few shots of Aguardiente with the locals. Or second, you can hire a small speed boat to take you on a tour of the lake, the focus of which is the former vacation homes of Pablo Escobar and family. Escobar’s home, and that of his bodyguards, is just a concrete frame, however many of the homes bought for his family members are still standing. From the lake, on a clear day, you’ll be able to see El Penol, the region’s 200-meter high monolith. The views atop El Penol of the surrounding countryside, spotted with lakes and rolling green hills, is worth the 600-stair climb it takes to get up it. And it’s just a 15-minute moto-rickshaw ride from Guatape’s main plaza.
Nestled in the heart of Colombia’s coffee region, Eje Cafetero, Salento is one of the best preserved pueblos in Colombia, and a popular staging point for exploring the surrounding countryside. As with all pueblos, life revolves around the main plaza, which is lined with hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, and a large church. On the weekends, local vendors set up their stalls to sell everything from locally grown fruits and vegetables to greasy Colombian classics like arepas con queso and chunchurria (intestines). Salento’s proximity to the Valle de Cocora national park makes it the ideal location from which to go for a hike. Home to the world’s tallest palm tree, the wax palm, as well as a wide array of wildlife from hummingbirds to small bears, the Valle de Cocora deserves a whole day to fully enjoy. Muddy conditions, and frequent rains ensure you’ll get dirty, however you can rent a horse to take you part of the way.
Three to four hours southwest of Medellin by road, Jardin is out of the way compared to the preceding pueblos, and therefore receives fewer foreign tourists. If you make the effort to visit, get ready to enjoy one of the liveliest pueblos in Colombia. Jardin’s main plaza is filled with colorfully-painted tables and chairs, which match the colors of the cafe or disocteca to which they belong. All day and night, locals can be seen sipping coffee and catching up on the latest gossip. At thirty cents a cup, the price ensures everyone in town can enjoy the experience. On Saturday nights, the ranchera and vallenato music from the bars is turned especially high, and the plaza swells with what feels like the entire pueblo’s population. Babies in strollers, teenagers hanging out, young couples, and older folk alike are all out to enjoy the atmosphere. When visiting Jardin, take the time to rent some horses and go for a ride up into the mountains surrounding the pueblo. There are several local tour guides to choose from, and all will take you to Cueva de Esplendor, a unique cave with a hole in the roof, through which a powerful waterfall runs. Colombia offers visitors the best of both worlds, the action and excitement of big cities, and the traditional rural culture of its pueblos. Be sure to enjoy them both for a balanced view of life in Colombia.
14 thoughts on “The Three Prettiest Pueblos in Colombia”
Very pretty pueblos, limited to one region though. Plenty more out there in Colombia!
Hi Richard – very true! There’s still much of Colombia left for me to see. I wanted to pick only from the pueblos I’ve seen so far.
Do you have any recommendations?
I’m flying to Armenia on Sept,2. I’ll get a bus to Salento and stay there a week or so. Does you know if there is a bus from Salento to Jardin or do I have to fly to Medellin? I’m really excited to visit this part of Colombia. I lived in Colombia for 5 years in late 90’s and excited to be going back
I’m actually not sure, the author of the piece is Dave and you can find him on Twitter @RTWDave – He’ll be happy to answer your questions I am sure.
nice…I spent 2 months in colombia. All the small towns were so beautiful.
One mistake: in your opening line, it is mistakenly spent Columbia, not colombia.
Good call! I’ve been to all of them and they are gorgeous!! So glad to see more people exploring Colombia. I lived in Medellin for a year and me encanta Colombia! <3
que bacano!! love them all, ahh so many!! colombia is a goldmine of little villages like these….nice one
I haven’t been to Colombia but i heard that this is a magnificent place to have a vacation with. Seeing those pueblos and reading past comments made me too eager to visit the place. I love the look of the pueblo, seems neat and you’ll really have fun with the mountain’s view.
Great post Dave! There’s nothing better than Colombian pueblos and these are 3 of the most beautiful. Off the beaten path a bit more is Cisneros, one of my personal favorites.
Thanks Gareth. I’m looking forward to checking out a few more when I get back to Colombia in 2012.
I find Colombia a very appealing country. It has become safer in recent years, so we can proceed venturing in and exploring :)
Indeed – the pueblos themselves are attractions… all over Latin-America, not just in Colombia.
Excellent suggestions! Generally there is so much to do in Quindio! From zip-lining and paragliding, to cooking lessons and coffee farms.
In Guatape, the frescoes on the outside of the houses depict the activities inside the house (i.e. the type of business). Next time take a closer look at the pool hall or bakery, for example.
Also, the Trucha (trout) in Salento is famous! It is best served on a fried plantain…om nom nom
Thanks for the article. If I only have time visit either Jardin OR Salento, which would you head to?
I was in Colombia last spring (March 2014) and went to both Guatapé and Salento, as well as Santa Fe de Antioquia (another small pueblo worth exploring). I absoluted loved Colombia, and Guatapé is one of my all-time favorite small towns. So colorful! I wish I would have had more time to explore Salento and area (make sure to allow at least a couple days, if possible). The landscape is so lush and beautiful, and Salento is a charming town that really comes alive on the weekend nights.
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