TLDR? Parque Arvi is one of the best hikes in Santa Elena!
Santa Elena is a beautiful little village just minutes outside of Medellin. The town is an adorable high-elevation hamlet. It’s situated amidst the foggy backdrop of the incredibly beautiful tropical Andes mountains.
Antioquia, the region of Colombia that Medellin is in, has begun to gather international renown. It’s all for the unbelievably beautiful qualities of its natural settings!
Let’s jump into some of the best hikes and outdoor activities to enjoy in the area.
Parque Arvi, Santa Elena Side
One of the more famous parks in the region, Parque Arvi is large enough that it stretches back to reach the Santa Elena Community.
There is an entire article dedicated to describing all the wonders contained within Parque Arvi, so take a gander at that when you get a second.
Parque Arvi also has the entertaining feature of having a cable car system within its boundaries. So, if you’re feeling a bit winded from the hike or maybe need to run some errands in Medellin before heading back to your eco-lodge, that amenity is available.
The park is in very close proximity to the urban center of Medellin. This means that there are some pretty sublime views available from some of the vistas of Parque Arvi. You can see the whole city of Medellin quite easily.
Parque Arvi is quite a bit bigger than most of the other reserves in the area. So there are many hikes and trails contained within it that are worth checking out. I found the app Alltrails to be pretty useful in offering suggestions of certain routes and loops to take.
One big attraction on this side of Parque Arvi is the Hotel Piedras Blancas. It features high-class lodging adjacent to a beautiful alpine lake that is connected directly to the larger Parque Arvi.
This makes the hotel a pretty pristine jumping-off point for other adventures in the area as well. You can check out the official website of the park, though it is in Spanish.
Amibosque Reserve and Education Center
Amibosque is a very cool nature preserve in the Santa Elena area that also serves as an education and outreach center for the local community. The staff and volunteers of Amibosque engage in numerous green outreach projects in the Santa Elena community. This includes various eco-friendly landscaping projects as well as clean-up efforts.
Amibosque has a central education building with tons of information about the local ecology. Some modest lodgings are also available in the reserve should you feel inspired to spend the night.
The reserve that Amibosque is on features several very beautiful hikes. This includes one to the notorious “Cascada del Diablo“, which locals claim has physical and spiritual healing powers.
Lodging and engaging in recreational activities in Amibosque comes with the bonus that there are educated natural guides. There are also printed nature guides that can help to inform you about all of the wildlife present in the area.
Reserva San Pedro Bird Sanctuary
This particular place to go hiking had the very important distinction of being located right outside of my Airbnb. Although I would have recommended it anyways, given the cool things that I saw inside of it.
The entrance to the nature sanctuary is easy to miss, so you’ll have to watch the sign that marks the entrance. It’s (you’ll never guess) got a lot of birds on it.
Once inside, there’s a lot to see, with varying terrains that shift in the blink of an eye. One minute, you’re walking along what seems like a thick tropical jungle. Then once you ascend to a ridge, you’re traversing what looks like a boreal pine forest. It’s all quite enchanting!
One thing that’s very cool about the parks and reserves in Santa Elena is that they’re often interwoven into the towns that they are close to. This means that you can go hiking through a nature preserve, pop out into a little piece of civilization, grab a coffee, and head back into the forest. It’s great stuff.
Of course, the star of the bird sanctuary is, after all: the birds! I saw a bunch even on the brief walks I took.
I must have seen half a dozen brightly colored bird species on just a few short hikes, so make sure to bring your binoculars and identification book. You can also reference the iNaturalist page for this part of Antioquia.
This hike is a bit further away from what would be considered the town center of Santa Elena. So it maybe would be more in the cards if you rented a car and had a bit more mobility during your stay.
Cerro Moron is one of the taller mountain peaks in the area. It subsequently offers some pretty amazing views of the surrounding landscapes when you get to the top.
The trail can be a bit rugged at points, and there’s also the reality of the very-high elevation to consider. So overall, I would recommend this hike only if you feel like you’re in very fit physical shape.
Despite the difficulty of the trail, once you get to the top, the views make it all worth it. I was able to see a significant portion of the surrounding mountain ranges and valleys. They looked very romantic with the swirling, misty clouds draped around them.
Cerro Morron isn’t too far away from Parque Arvi either, so there is the possibility of taking on several hikes in one trip if you feel so inclined.
Enjoy Eco-paradise in Antioquia
Many of the houses, farms, and conglomerations of buildings in Santa Elena are tucked in between numerous nature preserves and wildlife parks. So if you’re looking for some outdoor activities, there’s a lot to offer.
Taking a walk pretty much anywhere in the region that Santa Elena comprises an outdoor activity in itself. This is especially true if you’re used to a place like Medellin or another urban environment. Lying at the intersection of multiple biodiversity hotspots, the landscapes and wildlife at one’s disposal when there are frankly quite mind-blowing.
So get out there and see what’s waiting! There’s a ton to explore.
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