Nestled in the endless forests that line the excess of mountains that engulf the pretty city of Medellin is Parque Arví, an ecotourism national park open to the public and the ideal place to hike in, you would imagine.
Coming up first when you Google ‘things to do in Medellin’, it is not surprising that the park gets a great rating because it is a good day out and a perfect break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
It is just a bit unfortunate that it is poorly organised and hard to navigate for those of us who just want to go to a national park and hike.
Thankfully, there are ways around being forced to pay for a guide and the very limited information offered by tourist information in the park.
So what is the deal?
Parque Arví, like many things in Colombia, is set up to make money and that is basically what it is trying to do. However, it is still a very beautiful place and you should try not to let this detract from it.
To get to Parque Arví you can take the fabled Metro to Acevado station and take the public metrocable (a cable car) over the city up towards the mountains. At the last station of Santo Domingo you can swap over to the dedicated Parque Arví cable.
The journey here is a great experience and it is amazing to see authentic neighbourhoods of Medellin give way to the vast expanse of trees in the park.
It will cost 5,550 mil Colombian Pesos each way to the park though there is no entrance fee. However, Arví is set up to try and get more money out of you which is why you should come prepared.
The tourist information will first tell you to take a guide through the park. Alternatively, you will be told to take buses to two places where you can avail of adventure sports or a theme park.
If you do not want to do these, they will send you a thirty minute walk down the main road to a ‘picnic area’ which is nice but not exactly what you want to do for the whole day.
So what if you just want to HIKE?
Unfortunately, the park is not set up to cater to avid hikers. They do not provide maps of the trails or helpful signposts at all.
If you want to hike in Parque Arví, I would highly suggest going by the app Maps.Me. Maps.Me is an app that allows you to download maps of regions and then access routes and locations while offline.
I was delighted to discover that while the park did not want to assist you in finding the routes, the app had them all.
Marked as black dotted lines on the map (as opposed to the larger white lines that indicate the main roads), you can follow any of these trails into the vast forests of Arvi taking you past streams, nature and even little communities who live in the park. All you need to do is make sure you have the map of Medellin downloaded before you go.
The trails are, as I said, not marked so expect to take a couple of wrong turns but if you stick to your map you will certainly be fine.
So where do I start?
My advice would be to enjoy the mercado at the park entrance before heading to the cultural centre and following the directions to the picnic area. This can be found by following the main road from the entrance down to a crossroads with some restaurants.
Here take a right and follow the road twenty minutes to the picnic area. From this point, open your Maps.Me and you will find an abundance of trails marked by black dots.
The entrances to the trails are generally unmarked so make sure to have your eyes peeled.
And enjoy your free day of hiking in Parque Arví!