Ah, freedom! After almost six months of lockdown, Colombia lifted its national quarantine and strict travel restrictions on Sept. 1. To celebrate, we finally broke down and bought a car, something we’d been mulling over for a while. It’s given us the ability to (safely) start exploring the little towns that are an easy drive from Medellín, such as Barbosa, Antioquia.
Barbosa is our first foray into the Antioquian countryside since our thoroughly enjoyable visit to San Carlos and San Rafael way back in March, and just before the COVID sky fell. Situated about an hour’s drive from Medellín in the northern Aburrá valley, Barbosa is a lovely and quaint colonial town on the banks of the Rio Medellín. It shares Medellín’s beautiful year-round climate and is surrounded by natural beauty: rolling hills in every shade of green and an abundance of waterfalls, lakes, and streams.
Here are our highlights after spending just a few hours in Barbosa, Antioquia.
The Cerro de la Virgen
The commanding statue of the Virgin Mary is pretty hard to miss from any vantage point in Barbosa. She’s easy to reach, just a short walk up a steep hill from Barbosa’s main Plaza de Bolivar. The statue offers stunning vistas of town and a great place for a picnic lunch.
The Plaza de Bolivar
The Plaza is Barbosa’s living room. After our walk up to see the Virgen, it was a pleasure to sit in the plaza, cool off with a cerveza, and watch the families out for a nice day in the beautiful weather. I don’t know what we expected, but we were pleased to see that just about everyone was wearing a mask.
Two beautiful old churches grace Barbosa: the main Iglesia de San Antonio de Padua, and the Capilla de Maria Auciladora, built in 1776.
The Well-Tended Colonial Architecture
Barbosa has an abundance of what we’ve come to expect from rural Colombian towns: whitewashed adobe buildings accented with bright colors and lots of beautifully carved woodwork.
Barbosa is easy to get to by car, since it’s right off the main highway leading north out of Medellín. You can take a bus from the Terminal del Norte in Medellín, or take a taxi. Another idea: hire a private driver, such as our friend Juan Camilo Aguilar (WhatsApp +57 316 833 4225). He’s not just a safe driver, but an excellent guide who will give you a memorable and personalized experience.
There are plenty of inexpensive and high-quality restaurants just off the main Plaza. Also, check out the numerous shops lining the pedestrian street connecting the two plazas.
We’ve been told there are numerous waterfalls that are walking distance from the town. We never found them but did try to drive to one – Cascada Ipachanaque – on a very bumpy road a good half hour away, only to find the path to the waterfall completely washed out. Oh well, it was a pretty drive and a nice little hike! On our next visit, we’re determined to come back with some waterfall pictures.
ABOUT BIOSAFETY: You may be asking yourself, is it safe to be doing this kind of traveling in a country where the coronavirus is still raging? The short answer is yes, we believe so – if you take all of the precautions that public safety experts recommend: constant mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing. As we said, it’s gratifying to see so many people taking those precautions, even in the smallest towns. It’s also a good idea to avoid public transportation if possible (hiring or renting a car is best for now).