SOUTH AND SOUTHWEST ANTIOQUIA:
Amaga • Andes • Angelopolis • Betania • Bolivar • Betulia • Caicedo • Caramanta • Concordia • Fredonia • Hispania • Jardin • Jerico • La Pintada • Montebello • Pueblorrico • Salgar • Santa Barbara • Tamesis • Tarso • Titiribi • Urrao • Valparaiso • Venecia
The southeast tourist route begins at the Regional (La Variente) road exit just outside of Medellin near the township of La Estrella. Here you will exit off of the South Highway (Autopista Sur) and begin your trip into the land of coffee, coal and muleteering! Coffee, whose growth started around the end of the 19th century, promoted the accumulation of riches, which gave birth to several Antioquian industries at the beginning of the 20th century. It also sparked the migration of many new people who founded the towns in the southwest, an era know as the Antioquia colonization.
Around this time, there were men that rode mules and traveled around the various areas in this zone gathering goods and other items along the mountainside and cliffs. They were called “muleteers” and are permanently etched in the cultural makeup of Antioquians to this day.
The first town that you will come to in this journey is Caldas. It lies just southeast of Medellin and has been nicknamed “cielo roto” or “broken sky”. The reason behind this name comes from the amount of rain the area receives in relation to other parts of Medellin and the surrounding area.
Caldas is south of Medellin and represents the farthest outlying municipality in this listing and the southernmost town in the Aburra Valley. Located 13 miles to the south, it serves as headquarters for an important crockery factory that services the Colombia and Latin American markets. Originally the property of wealthy landowner Roque Mejia, the town was founded in 1848 and named after the Colombian national hero, Francisco Jose de Caldas. The expansion of the town came later thanks to the arrival of settlers coming from Envigado, Itagui and La Estrella.
Although Caldas has made a name for itself due to its crockery business, one of the more appealing features of the town is its peculiar offering of bars and restaurants with bizarre and unique styles such as the Vinacure Museum-Bar located in the La Tablaza area. On the other hand, more traditional options also exist in the city including mule and horseback riding. The La Mulera Inn specializes in this activity and its proprietors will show you one of Antioquias favorite past times as you ascend the mountains above in search of traveled trails and spectacular views. Afterward, you can enjoy some wonderful fresh fruit juices and Creole food prepared by the Inn.
Other notable interests in Caldas include La Posada, a refuge for intellectuals and considered to be one of the best venues for literary gatherings in the southern sector of Medellin. After excercising your mental capabilities, you may want to visit Las Mellas dessert factory for some tasty Antioquian style treats including obleas, a thin wafer sandwich filled with caramel. You can also visit such places as Arlequin and El Kaizer that surround the crockery plant.
From Caldas, the next stop is Angelopolis, located among the beautiful pristine landscapes of the El Romeral cordillera, which is today an important ecological trail. The area outside of Caldas begins to become more rural in nature and many small businesses have setup to accomodate travelers including many roadside restaurants, furniture stores, general retail and souvenir stores. You will also notice the increase in rainfall to the area as it begins to take on alot of the same characteristics as the Pacific Northwest region of the USA. Lush green landscape is covered with trees, ferns, bromeliads and moss.
The Romeral hills were declared an ecological reserve in 1995 and are located in and around the town of Angelopolis. The warehouses of the old Antioquia railway can also be visited at the small town of La Estacion, as well as the waterfalls of La Ramirez brook.
After Angelopolis, we get to Amaga, a coal mining region and birthplace of former Colombian president Belisario Betancur, whose house has been declared a national monument.
Arriving in Amaga will require an exit off of the main Regional (Variante) road. Quite common to Colombia, there are not always clear indicators or signs telling you where to exit. If you have decided to rent a car instead of taking the bus, there is a furniture store on the side of the road by the name of XXXXXXXXXX that has some beautifully handcrafted doors, bedroom furniture, tables, chairs, lamps & chandeliers for sale that have all been designed in the general “country” theme of the area. It is definitely worth a stop to take a look before heading down to Amaga, which sits in a valley approximately half a mile below this furniture store and landmark.
Driving down into the town of Amaga requires you to navigate narrow streets lined with local shops, homes and stores. Near the bottom of the hill, you will come to the city square where locals gather to eat, drink and socialize. You will find many vendors that line the square of Amaga and you can purchase a wide variety of items here including clothes, fruits & vegetables, meats as well as items made by local artisans such as jewelry, wood carvings and homemade sweets & candies.
The main church sits at the southern entrance to the town square and is a beautiful site with three spiraling brass spires that instantly draw your attention to them. Although the spires are eye-catching, the real beauty lies within the church.
The next town on the southest route is Titiribi which can be reached by taking a slight detour from Amaga to Bolombolo. Titiribi has many important archaeological treasures, including Circo Teatro Girardot, now declared a national monument. Other notable interests include the town hall, built by Augustin Goovaerts, as well as the house of Eli Posada, today a museum. Among the ecological points of interest, you will find the natural caves of El Tambo and Los Micos hills.
After visiting Titiribi, you will travel back south toward Bolombolo,a town on the banks of the Cauca River. Many vacation homes have been built in Bolombolo by Medellin families who wish to have a warm weekend retreat to vacation.
*From Bolombolo, an arm of the road takes us farther south to the towns of Andes & Jardin.
*You can also get to the town of Bolombolo from Venecia.
Venecia is a great town for horseback riding. Just make sure to carry a good supply of Arguardiente in your saddlebags so that you can take a sip at the many stops along your ride before arriving at a tavern where people socialize, party and listen to old music.
The town of Andes is an active coffe producer in the area and is the birthplace of nadaist poet Gonzalo Arango, who caused commotion in the Antioquian society in the 1950′s due to his non conformist attitude.
Jardin square is considered to be one of the most beautiful plazas in Antioquia. Many bars and taverns surround the square which provide it with an interesting night life.
On the way to La Pintada, you can take a detour and spend some time in the town of Jerico. There is alot of important architectural heritage to be found here and a stopover at the Archaeological Museum and the Religious Art Museum can also be included.
Jerico is famous for its production of carrieles (leather shoulder bags) which muleteers used to carry for storage of miscellaneous items.
After visiting Jerico and returning to the main road, you continue on to the town of La Pintada, whose landscape is dominated by the Citara rocky peaks that rise up in the Cauca Valley.
Two interesting places in this town are the old bridge on the Cauca River, “Alejandro Lopez” railway station, and the old bridge on the Rio Arma.
At this point, you can go up to the town of Santa Barbara in order to start the descent to Medellin from Minas hills.