Row of colorful ceramic plates at El Carmen de Viboral, ColombiaEl Carmen de Viboral is yet another charming Colombian town that’s an easy day trip from Medellín.

El Carmen de Viboral’s claim to fame is its artisan ceramics workshops, with craftsmanship that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Ceramics aren’t just an important economic sector for this region – the unique, hand-painted style of the pottery work is a symbol of local pride. All over town, you’ll see exquisite mosaic work and embedded dishes on everything from lamp posts to store fronts.

As usual, photos are in galleries. Just click through to see each one by one.

As small Colombian towns go, El Carmen de Viboral is relatively young.

The town dates back to the late 19th century (1870-1880) when locals discovered rich deposits of feldspar and quartz in the region, key ingredients in the fabrication of ceramics. The hand-painted designs are unique to El Carmen and combine indigenous and Spanish traditions.  Many of the little shops have open talleres (workshops) where visitors can see how the ceramics and other handicrafts are made.  Each beautiful piece is high-quality, one-of-a-kind, and inexpensive, which made it really hard to choose our favorites for gifts and for our home! 

Our Tips for Visiting El Carmen de Viboral
We really enjoyed our quick trip to El Carmen. It’s easy to experience most of its delights in just a few hours, and the shopkeepers were wonderfully friendly and accommodating – explaining their wares and allowing us to take pictures. At 2,136 meters in elevation, the town is a bit cooler than Medellín but refreshingly so. Best of all, El Carmen is relatively off the beaten tourist path and offers a very authentic, small-town experience.
  • El Carmen de Viboral is in the rolling hills east of Medellín, an easy 1.5-hour drive through some beautiful countryside. It’s also easy to reach by direct bus (from Medellín’s Terminal Norte) or taxi.
  • Most of the pottery shops are located on Carrera 31 between Calle 43b and Calle 33. Google Maps lists many of them.
  • There are plenty of excellent restaurants on and near the main plaza. We enjoyed a tasty “tipico” lunch at Restaurante de Don Alfonso.
  • If you have more time, check out the ceramic museum (it was closed due to COVID the day we were there). Also, many of the shops give ceramics painting classes, although that might also be on hold due to the pandemic.
So many Colombian towns, so little time! Here are some of the others we’ve visited and blogged about.
  • Guatape, home of the famous and towering El Peñon rock and the colorful “zocalos” gracing every building.
  • Santa Elena, the spiritual heart of Antioquia’s flower culture and birthplace of the sillateras – the farmers that grow beautiful flowers and then carry them in the annual Fería de las Flores parade.
  • La Ceja, another pretty town near Medellín that’s perfect for a weekend getaway.
  • San Rafael and San Carlos. We visited both of these scenic and rural towns in the same weekend trip.
  • Barbosa, a lovely town at the northern end of the Aburrá Valley, the huge valley carved by the Medellín River.
  • Jardin, a beautiful heritage town in the southern part of Antioquia Department. It’s further away, but well worth a weekend visit.
Next Up: Jericó

Just last weekend, we spent a wonderful three days in Jericó, another Colombian heritage town (Pueblo Patrimonio) in the southern reaches of Antioquia Department. It’s our favorite so far! Here’s a sneak peak:

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    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, you two. Miss you!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      You are so welcome, Donna, and thanks for your comment 🙂

  1. Sharon Brooks Reply

    Thank you both for sharing your wonderful photo’s. John and I also visited there about 1 year or so ago and found it equally charming. I think it is time for another visit. Thanks for the reminder.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Sharon! There are so many amazing little towns right near the city. Antioquia is a treasure trove of delights!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      There are so many to see here in Colombia 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Alison. Each little town we visit here is more amazing than the last 🙂
      – Susan

  2. Colombia’s (and Mexico’s) towns are incredibly photogenic, and I didn’t realize this until probably five or six years ago when I began stumbling upon blog posts about these places. By the way, speaking of Guatapé in one of your earlier posts, last week I met someone who also raved about it. Yet more reason to visit Colombia!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Oh wow, a Guatapé connection in Indonesia! Now I know a Colombia visit is in your future, mi amigo 🙂

  3. Looks like a beautiful town to visit. The ceramics are so colourful and pretty. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks for visiting, Natalie!

  4. I love exploring little towns like this. Where the people are friendly and keen to share their experience and craft. how can one not smile all the more seeing such bright and colorful creations.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Sue! El Carmen is a great little town, and so close to Medellín. Now that we have a car, we’re enjoying seeing what there is to see right here in our backyard.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks!! Hope you can visit Colombia someday.

  5. What gorgeous ceramics! Thank you for sharing the treasures of this town. I look forward to visiting someday and will surely come home with a whole new set of dishes!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks Kelly! Hope you can visit El Carmen someday. It was hard not to buy everything in sight 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Caroline! The beautiful crafts in El Carmen really are hard to resist.

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