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TLDR? The Colombian Paramo is not one of the best-known places in the country, but it’s a national ecological treasure!
The paramo is a beautiful and austere high-altitude alpine tundra. It contains unique vegetation and wildlife not found anywhere else in the world. If you’re in Colombia, it’s highly recommended that you take the time to visit one.
Luckily, Medellin is situated not far from several noteworthy paramo’s. Most of these have nearby towns that offer tours of the beautiful ecosystems that they’re close to.
Here’s a small guide to several of these places that are not far away from Medellin!
Belmira is about as quaint as it comes, constituting just about a four-by-four block section of a town center.
But the real meat and potatoes when it comes to this community are in the surrounding natural areas. These include the closest paramo to Medellin: Paramo del Belmira. Accessing the Paramo del Belmira isn’t too difficult once you’re on location as the environment begins.
It’s just a short bump up in elevation to the town’s north. Several trailheads begin in the hamlet that can lead you up into the depths of the gorgeous paramo.
There are also several guides for hire in the town, which is overall recommended if it’s you’re first time in the eco-system. This is because paramos can be quite cold and are typically high elevation, which can pose for some challenging hiking if you’re not on your toes.
In terms of places to stay, the town has a few small hotels, and there are also several listings on Airbnb available, with some being very affordable.
Belmira doesn’t have much going on in terms of nightlife or anything like that. But as it’s 90 minutes from the city, it’s an ideal place to escape the hectic nature of the city and find some peace and quiet with minimal effort.
Belmira is also on the way to some other notable Antioquian towns in the area. So it’s a good stopping-off point if you’re on your way to Santa Fe de Antioquia for example.
Urrao is a bit further away than Belmira. Although in terms of mileage it’s not too distant from Medellin, it can take almost four or five hours to get to. This is since most of the journey involves trespassing across windy, twisty, and sometimes congested Colombian mountain roads.
Despite being a bit more of a deal to get to, the ordeal is well worth it for the hungry paramo hunter. Urrao lies close to one of Northern Colombia’s most distinguished Paramos: Paramo Frontino.
Paramo Frontino is connected to a sizable mountain range that reaches up to very high elevations, so there’s a lot to explore in the area. Also of note is the nearby Reserva Natural Colibri del Sol. This reserve lies at the foot of the Paramo and is easily accessible from the side of the road that leads into town.
Colibri del Sol is a renowned hummingbird reservation that you hike through to get to the Paramo itself. So there’s the opportunity to hit a few different eco attractions in one go on a day trip.
Urrao is also a fairly small town but is overall much larger than a village like Belmira. It even boasts its own small airport. This mostly owes to the scientific studies and eco-tourism that have been taking place in the area over the last few decades.
Urrao is also large enough that it has a few more urban amenities like bars, cafes, and the like. So overall there’s a bit more to do in town once you’re done exploring the Paramo. That being said, it’s still a very small town so be prepared to unplug and unwind more than have some wild weekend.
San Jose is another tiny Antiouqian town. Like most of these, it’s surrounded by absolutely stunning natural surroundings.
The town doesn’t have much going on in terms of an urban area. Like in many of these towns, most of the residents seem to live in the surrounding hills on various farms, haciendas, and ranches.
There are however some nice parks in the town, and like most villages in Antioquia, the town boasts a very handsome central church that is worth investigating. The town is a great jumping-off point to check out another great Paramo that is close to Medellin, the Paramo Santa Ines.
Unlike Urrao and Belmira however, there aren’t any guiding companies based out of San Jose de la Montana. So if you want to explore the nearby paramo, you’ll be on a self-guided tour.
I would recommend maybe coming to this area after you have familiarized yourself with some of the ins and outs of these high mountain ecosystems. They can often be quite cold because of the high elevations that they are located at.
There are many places in Colombia to go see Paramos. For example, many of the world’s largest are located right outside of Bogota.
But in my opinion, there is something special about exploring the ones that are located in the high tropical Andes of Northern Colombia – this region is one of the world’s most bio-diverse locations.
The interplay between moving through the bird and plant species-rich tropical ecosystems into the more arid and alien landscapes of the paramo makes for a very beautiful and special interplay between natural aesthetics.
Medellin makes for the perfect jumping-off point for the errant eco-tourist thirsty to soak up some of Colombia’s natural wonders. This is due to its proximity to so many special ecosystems.
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