We start this new series of reports on the beautiful towns and villages of Colombia with San Luis, which is located in the southeast of Antioquia…
Colombian pueblos (villages) like Barichara, Villa de Leyva, Jardin, Salento, Santa Fe de Antioquia and Mompox get the most attention. There’s no doubt they merit their fame, and they’re magnets for both national and international tourists, bringing with it a lot of the trappings of a popular destination. There are a lot of lesser known scenic pueblos in Colombia you should consider if you want to get away from the crowds. One of them is San Luis in Antioquia. We interviewed Yesica Pineda (pronounce Jessica) who works in the tourism sector and nature conservation in San Luis. She gave us a bit of depth on the town and surrounding area.
San Luis is 125 kms (78 mi) to the east of Medellín, a two hour drive by car or 3 by bus. Remember that distances are magnified in much of Colombia because of the mountains. The climate is warmer than in Medellín as the town is at a lower elevation, just over 1000 meters (3280 ft). Temperatures range from 65 to 85 F (18 to 29 C) year round. Because of its alpine tropical setting you can expect bouts of rain almost daily. San Luis was one of the pueblos still under the influence of narco-terrorist groups well into the early years of the 2000s, but is now safe to visit.
The population is over 7,000 and you can find all the services for a comfortable day or multi-day visit. According to Ms. Pineda, the big attraction locally is hiking. Some of the trails through the tropical forest can be challenging she says, but well worth the effort as you’ll come across rivers, waterfalls, caves and indigenous petroglyphs. She mentioned the El prodigio caves and the El Tambo trail as standout treks.
The area is famous for marmosets (titi in Spanish, pronouned tee-tee), tiny primates, and Yesica is part of the conservation effort to protect their habitat. To see marmosets look way up in the trees and as Yesica noted, you’ll need a long lens to photograph the diminutive creatures. Tigrillos (ocelots) live in the area but are much harder to spot. Bird watchers will love it here as the forests are home to a great variety of colorful tropical birds. Conservation and promotion of the natural riches of the area are important to the community. Among the local organizations is Vigias de los Rios (https://www.facebook.com/Vigias-De-Los-Rios-San-Luis-891528007566715/) . They have an office in the town which you can approach for guidance. You can hire local guides to accompany you or your group.
The town of San Luis is surrounded by the majestic Andes mountains and has an authentic old timey pueblo flavor. Artists have adorned many walls in the town with spectacular painting. Each painting depicts something with a local relevance, some of which you can see on this page.
The area also offers popular tourist attractions: canopy (ziplines), glamping, and horseback riding. You can easily find these through Google.
Getting there: There’s frequent direct buses from Medellín (terminal norte) and one daily from Rio Negro to San Luis provided by Flota Granada. Fares are between 20,000 and 23,000 COP https://www.flotagranadasas.com/hora-san-luis.html
Aerial photo from Wikicommons. Other photos provided by Yesica Pineda.
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