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TLDR? San Carlos is an awesome place for a natural getaway from Medellin and is accessible by bus, car, and other modes of transport!
Sometimes, all you need is a break from the hustle and bustle of Medellín, if only just for a weekend. If your perfect vacation includes relaxing in a bonfire under a starry night or hiking through lush vegetation and streams, then you should check out San Carlos!
Located in Antioquia, about three hours from Medellín, San Carlos is a small town known for its water wealth.
If you’re wondering how to get to San Carlos, don’t have to worry: read on to learn the best ways to get to the village and what to expect once you’re there!
Without a doubt, San Carlos is a perfect tourist destination for those looking to get away from busy hotspots like Guatapé.
With a population of around 12,500 people, you’ll be free of long lines and waiting times, making it easier to enjoy the charms of the village.
This cozy town is located 70 miles away from Medellin, but I assure you the long trip is worth it for the fairytale landscapes and waterfalls.
I recommend staying in San Carlos for at least two nights. Although you can tour the village in a two-hour walk, you’ll want more time to enjoy its natural pools, streams, and rivers fully.
Now that you know more about San Carlos, let’s talk about how to get there!
There are several ways to get to San Rafael, depending on your budget and desired level of comfort. From the cheapest to the most expensive, your options are bus, car, and personal driver.
The bus is the cheapest option, and you won’t have to worry about getting lost along the way or paying additional costs such as gas or booth tolls.
However, it can take more than three hours to get to San Carlos due to bus stops, traffic, roadworks or even getting stuck behind a slow-moving truck.
To get to San Carlos from Medellín, you first need to get to the North Terminal. You can take the metro, Uber, or taxi. Once you’re there, look for booths #10, #27, #37, or #43. There you’ll find the two bus companies that can take you to San Carlos:
I recommend researching departure times, prices, and rules to travel with your pet beforehand.
Most buses have air conditioning, reclining chairs, and even free Wi-Fi, so after boarding take a nap, read a book, or grab a window seat to enjoy the landscapes while traveling.
If you have a driver’s license and want to enjoy the complete experience of traveling to San Carlos and making stops in nearby towns or other tourist destinations, renting a car is the best option for you.
This option is a little more expensive – you’ll have to factor in the cost of the rental, gas, and toll booths.
Driving to San Carlos should only be considered by experienced drivers comfortable driving on Colombia’s often bumpy and narrow roads.
Leaving out the economic factor, renting a car gives you the freedom to stop for a snack, or take postcard-worthy pictures of the landscape whenever you want. Just make sure to bring enough sunscreen to avoid sunburns, the hot sun can burn you even through the car windows!
No driver’s license but still don’t want to deal with public transportation? Don’t worry, you can always spend a little extra money on comfort.
Although it’s the most expensive option, hiring a driver will make your life easier. The driver will pick you up at your hotel or Airbnb and drive you straight to the village.
Take a nap or tell the driver to stop any place you want, it’s up to you!
At first glance, this small town may seem like a simple, quiet place to spend the weekend while enjoying the beautiful Antioquian landscapes.
But if you look closer, you’ll find many opportunities to practice extreme water sports such as canyoning and rappelling.
You can find all types of accommodation such as:
In each of them, you’ll find a welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff willing to help you hire an ecotourism agency or give you advice about the must-visit spots in the area.
You can also find family-run businesses welcoming foreigners looking to learn Spanish in a cozy place while saving some money.
Like many small towns near Medellin, you’ll find a variety of traditional paisa dishes with unique flavors.
And as always, don’t forget to try the local artisan coffee, and you can even purchase some extra beans to prepare when you’re back home.
My favorite restaurant in town is Rincon Costeño. Despite its homely appearance, you’ll find the best seafood dishes that you’ll taste in your life at Rincon Costeño. Trust me!
Whether you want to practice some extreme sports or just escape from urban life for a few days, San Carlos is the place to be.
The friendly people, beautiful landscapes, and delicious food make this a favorite tourist destination for travelers who want to get away from the crowds. I’m sure you’ll love it!
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