The countryside surrounding Medellin is absolutely beautiful. Since the city is in a valley, there are mountains on all sides and the winding country roads often give way to beautiful vistas.
We have taken day trips into the mountainside on almost all of our visits, and at this point we’ve almost looped the city. In previous trips we’ve taken La Vuelta Oriente – “the Eastern Loop”– which heads southeast through the towns of Rionegro, El Retiro, and Carmen de Viboral. On the next trip we headed north to Santa Fe de Antioquia. On our last trip, we headed to a beautiful park called Piedras Blancas, and then further east to la Piedra del Peñol, and the recreational town of Guatape. They all make lovely daytrips, but that last one was probably our favorite of all.
It is probably a good idea to have a guide or go on a tour to get to these towns, as the roads are narrow, winding, and not always well marked. We have the hotel’s wonderful driver, Rodrigo (not to be confused with Rodrigo, our waiter) to guide us on our excursions.
The small towns that lie in these areas have a lot of historical charm, and are usually organized in the traditional way of having a church and a plaza at the center surrounded by stores, and with residence stretching around outwards. Many towns have crafts that they are traditionally known for, such as woodcarving, ceramics, or furniture making.
On this visit, we headed northwest following La Ruta de la Leche – the Milk Route, since this area produces a lot of dairy. Our final destination was La Hacienda la Manuela, a dairy theme park that claims to have the biggest cow in the world. Yes! Be Amazed.
Can't say my mom doesn't have a sense of humor.
Perhaps the kitschiest theme song ever blast from speakers in the restaurant area. Thankfully, it is not on a constant loop, but I am a little sad that I wasn’t able to record a sample to share with you here. Think along the lines of “It’s a Small World After All” in Spanish, with an extra heaping spoonful of saccharine for good measure.
There is also a nice petting zoo for the kids, attractions like zip gliding, and a surprisingly informative tour to show guests the inner-workings of a dairy farm.
As you may have guessed, the destination was a pretty incidental piece of the equation for us. It’s the beautiful scenery and the quaint towns we love -- which give Greg the chance to give his camera some exercise.
You can also find some pretty tasty eats in these areas. We stopped off a couple of times to sample local treats. In the tiny town of San Felix, we found a couple of lovely women frying up fresh empanadas. Delicious!
Rodrigo told us about these pastries which are made in San Pedro. I believe he said they’re called rosquettas.
All along these mountain roads, you’ll find open-air restaurants with small, humble open kitchens that are basically made up of an open grill with some pots and frying pans, and they make the most delicious food.
This is where it’s at! The traditional plate here is the Plato Paisa. (Paisa is the name for the people of Antioquia – the state in which Medellin is located.) Basically, you get heaps of various meats, beans, rice, and arepas on plate. It ain’t exactly healthy, but it sure is tasty – and a huge serving will run you only a few dollars a plate.
To really get your mouth watering, check out this video of our lunch in the countryside:
And to read more about our previous trips, click here. and here.