Medellin is a popular buzzing city in the middle of Colombia and is loved by many who come to visit. What was once a dangerous and deadly city is now an innovative and bustling megalopolis drawing in over half a million tourists a year.
The city is steeped in history, surrounded by lush rolling green mountains, and is a playground for visitors to explore.
While the city itself offers tons of things to do, it’s a great base for day trips too!
Below I’ll share some exceptional activities for you to do on a Medellin tour plus some well worth it day trips.
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Medellin Tours and Day Trips That Are Actually Worth It
You’ll find there’s a ton of different things to do just outside the city and even more things that are day trippable from Medellin but are all of them worth it? Which are the best? Are there any Medellin tours not worth doing?
Hey, we’re all different, but here are some of the Medellin day trips I LOVED, would recommend, wish I did, and even a few I would NOT recommend.
I hope this helps you decide which day trips from Medellin are best for you.
1. Arenales Waterfall Hike
Who knew just 25 minutes outside of a massive city, there’d be a vast verdant nature park with cascading waterfalls. If you’re new here, hey! I really like waterfall hikes. So if there’s one near me, I’ll find out about it, and I’ll do it!
And I was pretty surprised to find one in Medellin so easily. The Arenales area of Enivgado is a perfect little day trip from Medellin without having to go too far out of the city.
You can take one of the buses from here (ask which one goes to Arenales) and you’ll be on your way. The route is pretty windy once you’re out of the city, but it’s not too long, so those that get car sick should be fine.
Once you’re up at Arenales, things are certainly a bit confusing, though! If you’re keen on doing the waterfall hike up here, I’d highly recommend getting a guide. There’s a map just outside the bus stop, but it’s less than helpful, and there’s no map for the trail on Google or Maps.Me.
I’m SO happy I got a guide for the hike up here because I would have never found the waterfall.
And after reading, I found many others didn’t find their way successfully either. Several paths are winding and threading the area, so getting lost is very easy, not to mention we crossed several streams on our hike, and there are no signs along the way. So yeah, if you like aimlessly wandering over river crossings and around a million detours while sweating buckets, by all means, come up here alone!
The waterfall is very much worth the effort. After taking some pictures I ran in to cool off and to wash off the dirt and sweat from the hike. The waterfall doesn’t look supermassive but it’s quite powerful and while the water is pretty cold, it was perfectly refreshing.
The trail is quite easy to do with some river crossings and a couple of areas where you have to semi-scramble up some rocks and tree roots. But otherwise nothing too tricky. I went with a guide named Andres, and he was delightful and a lot of fun! He will meet you in the city and take the bus up with you so you won’t have to worry about doing anything beyond bringing a bottle of water and wearing shoes you don’t mind getting wet.
Andres was kind enough to offer my readers 10% off ANY of his Medellin day trips, including this waterfall hike! Just use code NINA10 at check out. (Oh, and no, this is not at all sponsored, I just enjoyed the tour!)
MEDELLIN TOUR: Check Price | CODE: NINA10
2. Comuna 13 (And 8)
This is one of those “must-dos” in the city, and you won’t regret doing this Medellin tour. Comuna 13 was once of the scariest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellin not too long ago. From illegal settlements and displacement to high homicide rates and gang activity, this neighborhood has done a 180 and is now one of the most visited areas in Medellin.
Walking around the comuna could not be any easier. You can take a quick metro or taxi and walk around all by yourself. I’m ALL for doing things myself, particularly when it comes to walking around a town or city. However, walking around Comuna 13 without a guide would be doing yourself a disservice.
If you want a few snaps for the ‘Gram with the graffiti walls, I won’t judge nor stop you, but PLEASE know this area is so much more than just a photo-worthy spot. Every spray-painted mural represents a story about the community’s past, and you wouldn’t be able to fathom the history that lies beneath with each splash of paint.
I learned SO much on my Medellin tour, and I’m so glad I didn’t go here alone just to wander aimlessly.
In this Comuna there’s also the famous outdoor escalator which is, of course, included in the tour and has a deep history in itself as well. Each wall my guide Kevin pointed out told the next segment of the story of Medellin and quite literally helped me paint a picture in my mind of what this area was like not that long ago.
I really can’t recommend taking a tour in this area enough, and the tours are very reasonably priced and help out the local community. This is the exact tour I did, the guides all live in this neighborhood and have strong ties to the history and community here.
For an even deeper dive into the history and the comunas here, you can check out the lesser-visited Comuna 8 with my friend Andres. (10% discount with Nina10 at check out)
3. Paraglide Medellin Tour
You’ve been staring at all those beautiful green hills and mountains that surround Medellin, did you ever think it would be cool to jump off them? A bit crazy? A bit daring? Yes, but all possible with a half-day tour from Medellin!
Strap up and paraglide over Medellin for an insane adventure! You’ll glide right over the deep dramatic valley, soar over rivers and forests, and wave hello to the entire city just like a bird.
My friend Daniel made me highly regret not going paragliding in Medellin or Jerico (more on this in a bit). So don’t miss out like I did and take the leap (literally)!
MEDELLIN TOUR: Check Price
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4. All Things Coffee, Cooking and Beer
We LOVED 3 Cordilleras and drank their pale ales almost every night (while watching Netflix, of course,), only after we left Medellin did we realize they had a brewery with tours and fun events happening randomly throughout the month! Total fail. If you like craft beer, the scene is just reaching Medellin, and 3 Cordilleras seems to be one of the first on the train.
We are picky with our beers, and we think they do a pretty decent job, particularly when compared with the competitors in the country. 🙂
Unlike the craft beer scene, coffee isn’t new to Colombia.
And the coffee here is no joke. While they export a lot of the quality beans, if you go straight to the farm, you’ll be able to grab ahold of the good stuff before it flys off to another country! Oh, AND learn how they make that cup of hot brewed goodness, that makes life better each and every morning, that drink you can’t live without (well, at least I can’t). The process is astonishing. Seriously, it’s crazy how much work goes into these little beans.
Take a coffee tour day trip from Medellin if you’re not planning on taking one anywhere else. This is part of the coffee region, after all.
And if you’re into cooking classes, this cooking class couldn’t get any more authentic. Street food favorites like arepas, mojitos to keep the creative cooking juices flowing, recipe secrets to steal and take home, and more all on an easy tour from Medellin.
Medellin Day Trip Tours
The Medellin tours above weren’t too far from the city but the rest require more time to get to. You’ll need a full day for these.
5. Guatape and El Penol
Guatape is probably the most popular day tour from Medellin, and there are three significant reasons why I think this is perhaps the best day trip from Medellin…
- It’s gorgeous, yes, it’s true what you’ve heard/seen.
- It’s just too easy! There are tons of tours and opportunities to go there, so why not?
- It’s JUST a day trip from Medellin and not much more. As in, I don’t recommend you go to Guatape on your own to spend extra time there…
Let me explain myself on #3 a bit more… El Penol is the beautiful large rock that you will climb to get “that” view. It’s stunning, said to be the best view in the world (it’s not), and makes for an epic snap and way to spend your day.
Guatape is a cute and vibrantly colorful town not too far from El Penol and is worth a wander.
The square has a lovely church, the promenade along the water makes for a relaxed stroll, and the colorful buildings will beg for a feature on your Instagram, BUT that’s about it! Guatape is definitely a town “made for tourists” and I wouldn’t want to waste a few days staying here.
I’m SO happy we didn’t decide to make this easy day trip from Medellin on our own. It would have cost around the same or more, been more of a headache to coordinate, and we probably would have missed out on a few other stops we did on the tour because doing it yourself would take longer.
This is the exact tour I did, and they did a fantastic job.
Everything was highly organized, and nothing was annoying or cheesy. They provided transport and then sufficient time for you to wander and explore El Penol and Guatpe yourself. They included a nice local meal, the bus was air-conditioned (thank god), and the guide did commentary while you’re on the bus moving on to the next place.
It was a cool tour, and I was prepared to hate it (ha!). There was also a lovely boat ride included that glided you right up and towards El Penol, which was a nice touch. You also got to float past an old home base of Pablo Escobar.
Making a day trip to Guatpe is 100% worth it, and I can’t recommend it enough, but like I’ve laid out here, I think it’s only worth a day trip, don’t make the effort to DIY this one.
MEDELLIN TOUR: Check Price
6. San Rafael
Loving the idea of a Guatape day tour from Medellin? Excellent, glad we’re all on the same page here! If you’re up for extending your day trip a bit, San Rafael is just a bit further out and would make for an awesome addition to your trip out to Guatape.
The area has incredible crystal rivers that will certainly cool you off from the 700+ steps you just climbed up to El Penol.
It’s an easy day trip from Medellin with this tour, and it will be a full-on day packed with fun without having to check out of your hotel.
MEDELLIN TOUR: Check Price
7. Santa Fe de Antioquia
Only 1.5 hours from Medellin, Santa Fe de Antioquia is a perfect escape for a Medellin tour away from the craziness of the city. Santa Fe is a place where cowboys roam the streets and green mountains adorn the backdrop. For some reason, locals know about the charm of Santa Fe yet, foreigners haven’t caught on to this spot as a Medellin day trip.
Stroll through the cobbled streets, marvel at the old-town charm, wander down vibrant colored alleyways, discover a hidden beer scene, step into the ornate churches, and stuff your face with local specialty desserts.
My friend Daniel runs day tours from Medellin to Santa Fe if you’re interested in adding that town to your list of places to visit!
MEDELLIN TOUR: Check Price
Should You Do These As A Day Trip From Medellin?
BONUS! I have a few more than seven items on my list of Medellin day trips. BUT… Are they worth just making a day trip or do they deserve more?
Pablo Escobar Tour
I didn’t have much interest in doing a Pablo Escobar tour, mostly because it’s not my thing. But for those that are interested in doing one and perhaps are wondering why I don’t have it listed here as a recommended day tour from Medellin, this post may explain a bit why.
It’s a grey area. The locals hate it. It’s putting money in the pockets of people who were tied to a man who scarred a nation…
There’s a lot here; it’s heavy, and it’s was something I didn’t want to support nor was that interested in anyway. It’s something to think about if you’re planning on coming here to do one! You may want to rethink it.
Hot damn, I fell pretty hard in love with Jerico, and while I have this on my list of day trips from Medellin, I can not urge you enough to reconsider your plans on visiting Jerico as a day trip. It deserves more than just a quick hop over, and I won’t go too much in detail here because I have a whole post on Jerico, Colombia, but if you can swing it, stay longer!
I’ve mentioned my friend Daniel a few times in this post, and here’s where Daniel comes in to save the day. IF you have no time to pop down and spend a few days in Jerico, I get it! But Daniel makes it possible to get here on a day tour from Medellin without you regretting all your life choices.
If you were to do this trip yourself as a day trip from Medellin, you’d probably hate yourself.
The buses will take much longer to get you down here, and you’ll have all but a couple of hours to enjoy if that.
If you come here on a day tour from Medellin with Daniel, not only will you have a private guide throughout the entire trip, he has a car, which makes life oh, so much easier. He will take you around Jerico, show you the highlights, the churches, talk about the history and even take you to his favorite paragliding spot.
You can enjoy the views or jump off and paraglide yourself; Daniel gives you the option to add this on.
Jerico has some cool hikes, a seriously relaxed mountain vibe going on, cowboys and horses roaming the streets, gorgeous views, opportunities to go paragliding, and a pretty happening hammock scene (my kind of scene!).
So whatever amount of time you have, if you want to see Jerico, definitely don’t think about going down for the day by yourself, it’s too hectic, don’t listen to other posts which recommend this!
Take a tour, like the one Daniel offers OR use my genius hack that I just made up before going to Jerico…
Book Daniel’s tour and let him know you won’t be returning to Medellin with him. So not only do you get an excellent tour around Jerico with a local and a private drive down there, you get a private transfer to the next town on your trip! It’s genius, I know, I’m amazing, what can I say? Seriously though, it’s a great tour (no, not sponsored!) and a great way to move on to the next town if you’re heading south anyway like I was.
JERICO TOUR: Check Price
[box]RELATED: Guide to Jerico, Colombia[/box]
I thought I loved Jerico…. Until I made it to Jardin. And then I was torn.
I loved Jardin SO MUCH; it hurt to leave. But let’s get this out of the way, the only reason I’m listing Jardin in my post about day trips from Medellin is for two purposes…
- I have a guide to Jardin, Colombia, that you should probably read if you’re interested in going.
- I’m here to warn you that Jardin is NOT A GOOD DAY TRIP FROM MEDELLIN!
I honestly have no idea why other posts have Jardin as a recommended day trip from Medellin; it’s the worse idea I’ve ever heard.
[box]RELATED: Guide to Jardin, Colombia[/box]
Jardin is about four hours by bus away from Medellin; I’m not sure in what world that’s considered a day trip. Eight hours of driving round trip and about zero hours to explore the town for a day sounds fucking awful.
Jardin is exceptionally deserving of a trip for a few days, don’t miss out!
IF the only way you can see Jardin is by a day trip, then I’d recommend doing a highly recommend tour like this one so you have private transfers which will be much quicker.
I hope this helped you prep for your trip to Medellin! Let us know in the comments what you plan on doing in Medellin and what day trips you’re going to take.
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad and epically failing at the American Dream since 2011. Her sassy yet informative blog, Where in the World is Nina? is all about how to work abroad to live a more adventurous life. If you want to travel longer you have to work to wander.