Tours in Medellin Colombia – El Retiro

Yesterday was the last day with our good friend, Debbie here in Medellin, Colombia.  So it was time for a Day Trip to show her what is so special about living here. There are lots of tours in Medellin Colombia. We contacted our friend Angie to get her ideas, and she arranged a day trip to some local towns within an hour drive. We had a terrific day, and can’t wait for our next tour. Debbie was here for 6 days, and according to my “heart” app, we got in 20.6 miles, 50,244 steps, and 44 flights of stairs.  If you come here you will get all the exercise you want!

Of the available tours in Medellin, Colombia, we liked the idea of a personalized day trip. Medellin is located in a river valley at approximately 5,000 feet. As you can see from the featured image above, we are surrounded by mountains that are 2-3,000 feet higher. Angie planned our tour to include the small town of El Retiro, then to a gorgeous waterfall on the Rio Negro with beautiful gardens and a restaurant. After that, we also visited the towns of La Ceja and San Antonio de Periera, where we had an excellent lunch, and finally the cities of Rio Negro, and El Carmen de Viboral.

Our Private Driver

Our driver for the day was Jorge, Angie’s husband. He met us at our apartment at 9:00 am. He has a very comfortable car, arrived right on time, speaks very good English and was most helpful with translations and finding interesting stops. Angie had also recorded some information which Jorge played for us along the way. Our trip started at 9:00 and we were back to our apartment by 3:30.  The entire trip lasted about 6 1/2 hours, and the total cost for 3 people was less than USD 100.

Leaving Medellin

Tours in Medellin - Artisan Shops
This red shawl, made by local artisans was beautiful and quite expensive, but impractical for living in Medellin.

Medellin is in a long valley.  Rio Medellin flows from South to North through the city.  So to leave Medellin, you must go up!  Our apartment is at 5,000 feet elevation.  All the surrounding mountains are at 7-8,000 feet.  So our day trip took us to a little cooler climate. Shortly after leaving Medellin, we stopped at a beautiful market called Artesanias Caballo de Troya.  The market shows goods from all areas of Colombia and is organized by region.  All of the items carried were made by artisans local to those regions.  All are of very high quality, and as you might expect, the prices reflect the quality.  When you enter the store one of the employees takes you on a complete tour explaining the regions and products.  It is worth a stop.

Next door is a “Tipico” restaurant.  They have primarily food native to Colombia.  I had the most awesome soup called Ajiaco.  Three kinds of potatoes, chicken, rice, corn on the cob (in the soup), a special herb called Guascas, and Avacado on the side.  It was awesome!  Since we do quite a bit of cooking, I found all of the ingredients and a few months later cooked a pot.  It was also delicious if I do say so myself.

El Retiro

El Retiro is a small town, famous for woodworking and furniture manufacturing.  The surrounding countryside is very green with large homes built on the mountainsides.  Of course, we saw coffee growing everywhere we went.  Several of the places we visited are popular with citizens from the US and Canada.  There are many residential properties including single-family homes, condominiums, and apartments.

As is the case all over Central and South America, every town has a square dominated by a large, beautiful Catholic church.  We drove through El Retiro, and before we left, I asked Jorge to take us to one of the good furniture shops.

My Wife Tells Me Trips Are For Shopping, So We Did!

Tours in Medellin - Furniture Buy in El RetiroPaulette has been looking at least 6 months for an entryway table.  I walked into the shop in El Retiro and immediately noticed the perfect table for our apartment.  Paulette hadn’t slept well the previous night and was waiting for us in the car.  I told her I had found something for her to see.  She came in and immediately fell in love with the same table!

I tried to talk with the salesperson, but she only spoke Spanish, and Google Translate wasn’t doing the job.  Fortunately, Jorge came to the rescue.  They were asking 750 COP (USD$250), and we needed it delivered.  In these situations, I like to get them laughing, so I always say “No Rico Americano, pobre Americano” which means not rich American, poor American.

She laughed and told Jorge the price was the price regardless of where we were from.  But after some back and forth, they finally agreed to reduce the price to 600 COP (under USD$200), including delivery!  We bought it on the spot.  And they showed up at our apartment at 5:00 that afternoon.

A Spectacular Waterfall Near El Retiro
Debbie Paulette Steve and Rio Negro waterfall

The amazing waterfall!

Angie had told us there was a nice waterfall with a garden and restaurant.  We all love waterfalls, so off we went.  And oh my gosh, what a waterfall!  We saw it from the road. As we drove in it kept getting better and better.  We stayed there about 1/2 hour, took lots of photos and videos, had a cup of good Colombian coffee and watched and listened to the cascading water.  Later, we learned that it was the Rio Negro.

La Ceja and lots of greenhouses

Our guide had told us that La Ceja was known for its beautiful flowers.  And as we were driving in we saw acres and acres of greenhouses.  The entire place was beautiful, and we did stop by one garden shop.  The colors were brilliant.

Every August, Medellin has a huge event – the Medellin Flower Festival. It lasts about a week and has every imaginable event including parades, fireworks, and gorgeous displays of flowers. Many of the flowers are grown in La Ceja. So you should come to Medellin in August.

The town is quite large and we drove through a small part.  I took this great picture of the church on the square.  Then I saw a sign that intrigued me.  I have no idea what a “Jacuzzi Bar” is.

Lunch and Postres at San Antonio

It was time to eat, and Jorge found us a “tipico” restaurant in San Antonio de Periera.  Tipico means you get a nice grilled piece of chicken, pork, or beef plus a slice of plantain, rice and beans, and an Arepa.  The dish has distinctive spices and we generally don’t care for these plates.  But these were delicious and we all cleaned our plates.  We also ordered a bottle of white wine.  The cost for three dinners and the wine was less than USD$15.  I had the beef and Paulette and Debbie had the chicken breast.

Then Jorge said it was time for dessert or “postres” in Spanish.  He took us to a place that had all the desserts out on the bar so we could pick what we liked.  We selected something like flan with a fig on top and a Napoleon.  They poured Arequipa sauce which is like caramel over the top.  Both were rich and tasty.

El Carmen de Viboral

Our final destination was El Carmen de Viboral.  It is known for its ceramics.  We passed by the José María Córdova International Airport in the City of Rio Negro on our way to El Carmen.  We drove through some more beautiful countryside and arrived in El Carmen.  But we were still digesting lunch and dessert and chose to look from the comfort of our car.  There were many new buildings including a modern church building and new apartments.  We did see lots of ceramics shops so we will have to look more closely next trip.

On our return to Medellin, I asked Jorge to take us by the “Piano House”.  It is a spectacular creation and looks exactly like a massive grand piano built on a hillside. We got close and could see it from the road, but couldn’t get any good pictures.  It is so unique, I don’t know why they don’t offer tours. Fortunately, I found these photos online.  And it does have white and black simulated keys on the other side.

Tours in Medellin - View from the Airport Road
A spectacular view of our new home town, Medellin.

Heading Home

As we approached Medellin, we had to take another photo of our beautiful new home town. It is a wonderful place to live, and we are very glad the Lord decided to bring us here to help establish an English-speaking church. Thanks for tagging along on our trip.  Hope you enjoyed it and I’ll add some more articles as soon as possible.  And please tell me what you think below.

Hasta Luego!

Steve & Paulette Tuggle

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8 thoughts on “Tours in Medellin Colombia – El Retiro”

  1. Hi. Great article. Easy to read, and easy to view. My wife and I don’t travel muck, but we enjoy hearing about the experiences of others. Thanks again.

  2. I love your description of your trip with my friend, Debbie. I’ve never been to Columbia, but would love to visit one day. It loooks like a beautiful place.

  3. Hi, and thanks for posting this nice article. I really enjoyed reading and looking at the images.
    I passed through Bolivia a long time ago but then it was not advised to visit the Medellin district.
    I wish you all the best for your future project 🙂

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