The small town of Santa Elena is located just east of Medellin high in the mountainside and approximately 10 miles away from the city center. The weather is normally cooler due to its elevation and its soils are rich with nutrients that local farmers enjoy for growing an abundance of tropical and local varieties of flowers, may of which are exported to international markets abroad. Santa Elena is also the birthplace of the ornate flower arrangements called silletas that are the cornerstone of the Flower Festival or Feria de Las Flores in Medellin.
This industry is celebrated every year in what has become one of Colombia’s most famous events, the Flower Festival (Feria de los Flores). Held every year in August (typically a dry month for Medellin), this festival incorporates the local flower growers of Santa Elena. Inhabitants from the different villages (called veredas) build amazing works of art with the seasonal flowers. These pieces are built using natural materials including a wooden base upon which a wide variety of flowers are decorated. Afterwards, the Silleteros march down from the mountainside village of Santa Elena with the designs strapped to their backs (called silletas).
The main event for the Flower Festival (Feria de los Flores) is the Silletero parade in which hundreds of beautiful silletas that were made the night before in Santa Elena can be seen making their way down the designated streets of Medellin in massive parades. Many citizens and tourists alike make a pilgrimage every year to the small town of Santa Elena the night before the parade in order to witness the artistic construction of their designs and to toast their work.
Santa Elena also offers year-round attractions as well to local, national and foreign visitors. One of these ecological marvels is Avri Regional Park with its expansive 28,000 acres of natural reserve that extends into the municipalities of Medellin, Bello, Copacabana and Envigado. Sunsets from the ecological park are very popular and attract many visitors who wish to see their beauty. Viewpoints such as La Laguna, Patio Bonito, La Meseta, La Paloma and Cerro Verde offer a wide variety of visual gratification as one takes in the lush green surroundings of the area. The park can be accessed from multiple locations including the township of Santa Elena.
Parque Arvi contains an amazing rich source of bird species including 119 different types currently on record. As well, the reserve boasts more than 163 different types of insect species that can be found along its paths, around the lakes, forests and streams that are in abundance throughout the park. Outdoor sports are also popular at the park including such activities such as hiking, biking, camping, fishing and kayaking. At Montevivo (a few minutes away from Parque Central), there is an expansive system of ropes that have been constructed that allow for the practice of canopy and other climbing sports.
Mixed in with the natural ambiance of the area are hidden culinary treasures to be discovered such as the restaurant Donde Edward in which one can savor the gourmet rabbit dishes that are well known for this region. On the road from Medellin to Santa Elena one can also find the Conejos y Conejos Restaurant (Rabbit and Rabbit) as well as Sancochos Edilma, a place where some of the best sancocho (a local stew made of tubers, carrots, chicken or beef) in Antioquia exists for visitors and travelers. The main square in Santa Elena is the meeting place for those who wish to embark upon other activities in this general area.
Here is an interesting news video (English) about the flower making tradition of the Silleteros in Santa Elena the night before the Flower Festival every August in Medellin.