Traveling to foreign cities is great and all, but after a few days I usually find myself longing for some peace and quiet and the greenery of the natural world. The hustle and bustle wears me down.
So to my delight, I discovered that Medellín is home to Parque Arví, a 16,000 hectare wooded park just a short metro and cable car ride away from downtown.
The park is both a nature preserve where residents and tourists alike can escape city life for a few hours and it's also an archaeological site that features pre-hispanic artifacts and ruins. Part of the Pre-Hispanic trail - the Camino Cieza de León - actually runs through it.
The best part, though, is how you get there. From the cable car station in Santo Domingo, you quickly leave the cityscape behind as you’re whisked up the slopes of the mountain and away from all the hustle and bustle.
Corrugated tin roofs below give way to green pastures dotted with cows then to wild, jungly forest. It kind of feels like you’re soaring above Jurassic Park. And the ride goes on for a good 20 minutes.
At the top, I exited the cablecar and was greeted by a small farmers market selling all sorts of goodies: fried empanadas, sausages, and arepas, handmade jewelry, small cups of coffee and locally made mountain wine (which was too sweet for my taste). I bought a cheese arepa to snack on then headed out to find some trails.
Apparently and unfortunately, though, I discovered that you can’t actually walk most of the trails in the park by yourself and the only tour leaving within the next half hour was a short orchid walk in Spanish, which didn’t appeal to me all that much. So I resigned to walking down a winding paved road (you can also drive to the park, but it takes a lot longer and isn’t nearly as fun) for 40 minutes to a section of the park where I could explore solo – Chorro Clarin. I had no idea what to expect, so I was pretty excited when I emerged into this:
There’s a paved trail that follows the stream for a few miles and alongside the path there are day campsites and overnight campsites equipped with picnic tables, benches, aesthetically designed shelters and even flat concrete tent platforms for camping. Colombia has its priority straight. I went on a weekday, but I can imagine it gets pretty busy here on the weekends and holidays.
On the way back, I figured I had two options: option one was to walk back up the road I had come down (boring) or option two was to discreetly set foot onto the Flora Trail that would spit me out about a quarter of a mile up the road from the cable car station – right next to the carabineros station, or mounted policemen. I chose option two of course, hoping that the rule against walking the trails by yourself wasn’t for safety reasons. After all, there are police on horseback in the park, right?
Back at the top and hungry after my hike, I followed signs to a vegetarian restaurant located across the main road from the cable cars and was greeted by an exuberant hostess who quickly sat me down and served up the most delicious multi-course menu del dia made from organic produce grown right next door. If you made it to Parque Arvi, don't miss this spot!
Then it was back down the slopes on the cable car and back into the hustle and bustle of Medellín life.
How to get there: Take the metro to Acevedo Station then transfer to the K line cablecar which will bring you to Santo Domino. No need to exit the metro station. At Santo Domingo follow signs to Parque Arvi and transfer to cablecar Line L that will take you into the park.
Cost: The entrance to Parque Arvi is free, but the cablecar line L up to the park costs CP 5,200 one way
Self-guided route: Follow the paved path from the cable car station out to the road then turn left downhill toward El Tambo. At the crossroads of El Tambo turn right and continue down the road for 30 minutes or so until you see a sign on the left pointing down a dirt road toward Chorro Clarin. There's a hacienda on the right. On the way back from Chorro Clarin either retrace your steps or find the Flora Trail on the left just as you pass the hacienda. I don’t recommend doing this without some sort of GPS (like maps.me) as there are several trails that branch off from the main one
Where to eat: The vegetarian restaurant across the street from the cablecar station is delcious. Also check out the coffee truck and the local beer stand
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
Traveling is all about making your own experiences! My adventure was awesome, but here's some ideas on how to make your adventure your own
✦ If you have camping gear, spend a night or two in peaceful Chorro Clarin. I have a feeling it gets busy on the weekends, so weeknights might be better
✦ Join one of the park tours to get a better understanding of the history - natural and social - of the area
✦ Hire a private guide to go farther afield