Parque Arví is an ecological reserve located 30 kilometers or approximately 18.6 miles from the center of Medellín, in the village of Santa Elena (Medellín) and the municipality of Guarne, and it is one of my favorite places in Medellín. Parque Arví is located on a high plateau above Medellín, is between 2.200-2.600 meters (7.218-8.530 feet above sea level), while Medellín has an altitude of 1.500 meters (4.291 feet). The reserve is 16.000 hectares, 1.760 hectares of the park contain natural forests and there are also 54 kilometers (33.6 miles) of walkable trails in the park. From the entrance to the park in front of the Arví Metrocable station (Línea L), you can take walking tours and a bike tour. The area the park itself occupies has a lot of biodiversity, as is the rest of Colombia. In Parque Arví alone, there are more than 72 butterfly species, 69 bird species, and 19 mammal species, but you won’t encounter any large mammals here like jaguars or poisonous snakes.
Parque Arví is one of the places I would put on any must see/must do places here in Medellín. It is a beautiful tranquil place for those who enjoy being outside in nature and escaping the city and the pollution without having to leave Medellín. While the park is beautiful and the walks and hikes are quite fun, there are plenty of attractions nearby that make it worth it to spend half a day or a whole day exploring Parque Arví and the village of Santa Elena. Entrance into the park is free but you will need to bring money to do things like guided tours, buy snacks and more.
There is the Mercado Arví (Arví Market), where you can buy different handicrafts made by people who live in the surrounding areas, food-empanadas, pasteles de pollo, fruits, various desserts, plants, produce, and honey. You can also sample different alcoholic beverages made with different fruits or other products cultivated Santa Elena. The village of Santa Elena is where the silleteros who are in Desfile de Silleteros during the Feria de las Flores, the first two weeks of August grow their flowers.
I took a friend visiting Medellín here one Saturday afternoon at the end of September. We had met for brunch, and I was already going up to Parque Arví, so I invited him to come with me. He had not planned to visit Parque Arví while he was visiting Medellín, but since I invited him, he came with me, and we took the metro and Metrocable up to Parque Arví. HE LOVED IT ALL. Riding Metrocable from Acevedo up to Parque Arví is a unique experience, and you see great views of Medellín and then the park. We had a great time exploring Parque Arví, and he enjoyed it and was happy I insisted that he come with me.
I have taken almost everyone who has come to visit me in Medellín (my Dad, Mom, and younger sister, and a friend of mine) and they have all enjoyed Parque Arví. If you are afraid of heights, you may not enjoy the Metrocable ride, but it’s completely safe, and it was designed by French engineers. If you are in Medellín, make time to ride Metrocable at least once if you can, you will thank me later. This guide should help you to plan and make the most out of your visit to Parque Arví.
Bring plenty of cash with you and if you need to get cash go to an ATM before you get up to Parque Arví. You should have plenty of cash with you since I believe almost everything up here is pretty much cash only. While there is a Bancolombia ATM near the Metrocable station, it does not always work with Bancolombia or other debit cards. It sometimes works with Bancolombia cards, but other times it does not work. Using the ATM up here with my American debit card was frustrating since the last time I used my American debit card at this ATM, I was trying to withdraw cash, while my U.S. bank had taken the money I was trying to withdraw out of my account, the ATM never actually dispensed the cash I was trying to withdraw. The same thing has also happened to another friend of mine here who also uses Charles Schwab Bank. Finally, the bathrooms are not free so expect to pay between $1.000-$2.000 COP to use the bathrooms up here.
When to go?
Parque Arví is open to the public from Tuesday-Saturday from 9 AM to 6 PM and is usually closed on Mondays. However, if Monday is a holiday, the park will be closed to public the next day (Tuesday) for maintenance. They occasionally will have special events like night hikes and other events, you can find out about these by following the Parque Arví Corporation’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
How much cash do you suggest that I bring?
I would suggest bringing at the minimum between $50.000 COP-$100.000 COP ($18 USD/€15/£13-$35 USD/€30/£27)** per person, assuming you have already purchased round-trip fare for your journey back from Parque Arví or have enough money on their Cívica to cover your trip home. This should be enough to cover your costs for a doing a guided tour up here, snacks, incidentals and other small things you may be interested in purchasing. If you think you might be interested in buying handicrafts which are not always super inexpensive, may be interested leaving Parque Arví to go to Parque Confama or Comfenalco, I would bring closer to $150.000 COP-$200.000 COP ($53 USD/€43/£39-$67 USD/€57/£51) or more, depending on your budget, needs, number of people you are with, etc.
Tips for getting to Parque Arví
While you could take an Uber or car up to Parque Arví, I would not recommend taking an Uber or taxi up here since it will take you a while (maybe 45 minutes to an hour from Poblado without much traffic) and it will be expensive. Moreover, Parque Arví has its own Metrocable station, so I would highly recommend if at all possible take the metro and then Metrocable up here from Santo Domingo.
Taking the Metro and Metrocable to Parque Arví
You can take the metro Línea 1 to the Acevedo Station, to access Metrocable. When you arrive at Acevedo, you will walk upstairs from the train platform and make a right without leaving the station and take the infamous Metrocable towards Línea K, Santo Domingo. Once you are inside the Metrocable car and on your way up, it will be three stops (Andalucía, Popular, and Santo Domingo) towards Santo Domingo, and this portion of your trip should take no more than 15 minutes. You will get off at the Santo Domingo station, make a right and then transfer to Metrocable Línea L, Arví and you will pay $5.500 COP to board Línea L from Santo Domingo, the fare is higher since this is mainly a touristic route. The Metrocable ride from the Santo Domingo station to the Arví station should take between 15-20 minutes. For more information on navigating Metro de Medellín, you can check out my guide for navigating Metro de Medellín.
If you are only buying single-use metro passes, my recommendation is when you are at the metro station going to take the train to Acevedo, tell the person at the ticket booth that you want however many roundtrip tickets to Parque Arví. Or if you have a Cívica, do yourself a favor and make sure you have enough for at least one roundtrip fare so you can avoid waiting in line at the Santo Domingo station to buy your transfer tickets. This will help you save time waiting in line transferring between Línea K and Línea L and when you are returning from Parque Arví. I am specifically suggesting that you do this since the lines to buy tickets to transfer can be long and who wants to wait in line when if you are planning ahead you can avoid lines?
How much it costs to take the Metro de Medellín to Parque Arví
How much you can expect to pay without a Cívica*
$2.550 COP: Approximately $0.85 USD/€0.75/£0.65-One way metro base fare
$6.000 COP: Approximately $2 USD/€1.70/£1.50-One trip from Santo Domingo Metrocable Station to the Arví Metrocable station
Total roundtrip per person to and from Parque Arví without a Cívica you can expect to pay at least $17.100 COP, which is approximately $5.50 USD/€4.85/£4.50 in total roundtrip per person.
How much you can expect to pay with a frequent user Cívica*
$2.225 COP (base metro fare if you have a regular/frequent user Cívica) Approximately: $0.75 USD/€0.65/£0.60
$6.000 COP: Approximately $2 USD/€1.70/£1.50-One trip from Santo Domingo Metrocable Station to the Arví Metrocable station
Total roundtrip per person for Parque Arví with a standard Cívica you can expect to pay at least: $16.450 COP: Approximately $5.20 USD/€4.75/£4.25.
What to wear and bring
I would recommend wearing athletic clothes and athletic sneakers or shoes for hiking which have a tread, and you would be comfortable walking in and do not mind getting dirty or muddy if you are planning on doing on one of the guided tours in the park. I would recommend that you bring with you or wear sweater or jacket since Santa Elena is at a much higher elevation than the rest of Medellín so you will feel the temperature drop as you take the Metrocable, Línea L from Santo Domingo to Arví. The average temperature at Parque Arví is approximately 15ºC or 60ºF, so when I go, I am almost always wearing pants or leggings and bring a sweater or jacket. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES would I recommend wearing sandals or open-toed shoes if you are planning on doing a biking or walking tour.
Also, I would definitely, make sure to bring an umbrella and/or raincoat since it rains a lot in Medellín and you do not want to get soaked if you are out and it starts raining. And I would recommend bringing a backpack and at least one bottle of water, they sell bottled water at Mercado Arví, but the tap water in Medellín is safe to drink and clean, given that it comes from the snowmelt in high mountain springs. I drink the water in Medellín, I would not drink the water in Uruguay, Ecuador or Chile since it does not taste great, is not super clean and/or upsets my stomach.
While there are many walking trails in the park, the park is enormous, and you cannot walk by yourself alone here without a guide. The only place I would ever walk alone to unaccompanied is the Chorro Clarín Picnic Area, you can get a map at the top, and they can explain how you can walk to Chorro Clarín. Also, this is a safety issue since I have heard stories of people having encountering trouble walking alone in the park on the trails. Do yourself a favor and do a tour, do not go out by yourself, this way you will see more of the park, you can avoid getting lost, and stay safe. Most of the tours are not super long, strenuous or challenging, they are pretty easy, so I recommend doing them.
To sign up for a tour, when leaving the Metrocable station, go to the covered area straight back behind the Metrocable station, where it says Guía de Interpretación, where they have the signs advertising each tour, some tours they only have at certain times. The guides who give these tours are professional and do an excellent job of explaining everything and teaching you about the history of the park, the local ecosystem and more. HOWEVER, this is Colombia y’all so do not be surprised if your guide only does the tour in Spanish and is unable to give it in English. If your Spanish is not the best, we can only hope that there is someone on the tour who can translate into English or another language that you speak or understand.
I have personally done the Senderismo Vital (Vital Hiking Tour), the Orquídeas, Bromelias y Anturias (Orchids, Bromeliads and Anturias Tour, where you go to the Orchid dome) and the Sendero Arqueológico (the Archaeological Tour). I enjoyed all of these tours, but I found the Orchid tour to particularly interesting. I did this tour with my Dad who was initially reluctant to do this one since he wanted to do the Archaeological Tour, but that one was not available. He ended up enjoying the Orchid tour, and we both learned a lot. They have a lot more tours than these three, and sometimes they even have night activities here, check out their website for more information. The prices for tours went up in August 2018, so these are the current rates per person to do one of the guided tours are below.
If you are looking for food if you make a left out of park, and walk down the hill until there is a restaurant called El Tambo, on the right side at the bottom of the hill. They have great food and menus in English and Spanish. There are plenty of restaurants right near the park which sell food, and slightly above the normal exit for the park, there is supposed to be a great vegetarian restaurant. If you are interested in trying Coca tea, you can do that for free at a restaurant near the park. In order to reach the place which sells coca tea and other coca products, you make a left out of the street entrance for the park and start walking down the hill, past the archeological site. You will reach a group of stores in a cluster across the road and there will be a sign for the store that sells coca tea, grown by indigenous peoples south of Medellín.
I really like the way they prepare coca tea here and if you want an energy boost or are suffering from altitude sickness, I would recommend having a cup of coca tea. It is important to remember that coca tea and cocaine are two different things, consuming coca leaves or using coca products provides a variety of health benefits and they have been consumed by indigenous peoples here in South America in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Chile for thousands of years before European colonization.
Tour costs per person
$6.000 COP (Sisbén only for people from the Área de Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá)
$10.000 COP (Colombian Nationals)
$25.000 COP (Foreigners): Approximately $8.30 USD/€7.10/£6.40
At Parque Arví, they have a strategic plan to make the park more accessible and build paths for those with disabilities and wheelchair users. There are stairs and ramps in some of the main areas. However, the trails at Parque Arví for if you are a wheelchair user could be dicey. The main areas near the Arví station are pretty accessible since there are ramps in this area.
While I have never personally seen anyone who uses a wheelchair using Metrocable, I have seen people with strollers so I would imagine that you can use Metrocable if you are a wheelchair user. It is important to remember that the Metro de Medellín does not really have elevators or escalators, so if you have a stroller, you will probably be stuck with finding some people to carry your stroller up and down the stairs from the station entrance to the train platform.
However, Metro de Medellín does have wheelchair lifts attached to the railings to help transport wheelchair users from the station entrance to the platform. However, I would imagine if you are a wheelchair user it could difficult to get up to the station. I think there are lifts for wheelchair users at most metro stations since there are not many elevators at the Metro de Medellín stations.
*Those who are SISBEN 1, 2 or 3, with a personal Cívica or without a personal Cívica, metro fares will be lower. SISBEN 1, 2 or 3 beneficiaries pay a reduced fare for transferring between Metrocable Línea L (Arví), Metrocable Línea K (which connects you to the rest of the metro system)
**At the time I was researching and writing this article the exchange rate for US Dollars, Euros and the Pound Sterling for those in the UK to Colombian Pesos (COP) was the following:
$1 USD: $3.000 COP
€1: $3.350 COP
£1: $3.995 COP
***Each year Metro de Medellín raises their prices for everyone and the price for the year is valid from 1 January-31 December for a given year. If you want to be 100% accurate for costs, I would check the Metro de Medellín website for how much it costs to use Metro de Medellín. Here is a link where you can see the current fares for Metro de Medellín for 2019. I updated this post on 2 January 2019, to reflect the new metro fares for this year. Exchange rates tend to fluctuate, so these are some cost estimates given how these rates fluctuate.
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