How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque

One of the things I like about living in Colombia is that it’s a country full of waterfalls. Many cities are located close to the mountains, so there are plenty of opportunities for hiking. The TEFL in Colombia blog isn’t primarily a travel website, but I like sharing tips for places that are a little bit off the beaten path. I’m not a big fan of overpriced tours, so I prefer to recommend locations that are accessible by public transport. If you are looking for some lesser-known places to visit in Antioquia, you may find this article relevant.

How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque from Barbosa

Medellín is a prime tourist destination with a lot of activities to do. If you want to do something else and escape the busy city, you can hike to Chorro de las Campanas, which I have written about before. Many visitors also travel to towns such as Guatapé, Jardín, or Santa Fe de Antioquia. You can find a lot of information about those places online, so I’d like to focus on a town that doesn’t receive many foreign tourists.

Barbosa, which is located approximately 40 kilometres north-east of Medellín, doesn’t feature on many people’s travel lists. There is nothing wrong with the town, but it isn’t as colourful as Guatapé, so it’s visited mainly by locals from Medellín. Barbosa sits in a valley, and that’s usually a sign of potential good locations for hiking in the nearby mountains. The retro-looking Places of interest section of the town’s official website suggests that it’s true, so I decided to give it a visit.

Getting to Barbosa is relatively easy. You just need to take the metro to Niquía and take a bus from there. The station is quite small and finding the right spot is easy. However, the bus to Barbosa stops at Parque de las Aguas, which is a popular weekend spot, so if you want to avoid long queues, it’s better to travel early in the morning or go on a weekday. You can also use your Cívica card on the bus.

There is no shortage of options when it comes to waterfalls near Barbosa. I chose Ipachanaque because getting there isn’t that straightforward, which means fewer visitors. In fact, I believe that it is necessary to use this expertly-labelled map to demonstrate what I mean:

How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque from Barbosa

The bus left me near the main square (green star); the starting point of the hike is on the road called Vereda Buga (blue star). The most logical route would be to take Calle 13 and cross the bridge. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to reach the bridge because the road was completely blocked off due to construction work. It looks like the same thing happened to the person who uploaded this Wikiloc trail in June 2020, so it’s not clear if taking Calle 13 will even be possible in the future. If you encounter this obstacle, there are two main options available to you:

  1. Get a taxi to the starting point of the hike.
  2. Take Carrera 22 and then walk on the hard shoulder of the motorway until you reach the starting point of the hike.

Long-time readers of this blog will probably find it easy to guess which option I chose. Let’s just say that cars driving on that stretch of Ruta Nacional 62 reach very impressive speeds.

How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque

Vereda Buga is a one-lane road that looks fine at the beginning, but the higher you go, the worse it gets. Taxi drivers will most likely refuse you to drive you up this road because a four-wheel drive is needed to avoid damaging the car. Many people use mototaxis to get to the fincas over there, so if you do this hike, you shouldn’t use headphones to listen to music because you’ll need to let the fast-moving motorcycles pass. You’ll eventually reach a stream and it may be necessary to use a footbridge to cross it if the water level is high.

If you walk fast, the hike to the waterfall can be done in an hour. The elevation gain is 500 metres, which isn’t that bad, but it may get a bit tiring on a hot day, so make sure to drink a lot of water. Along the way you will probably see a lot of cows and horses, and there are also some impressive rocks, including one with ancient petroglyphs that are sadly not really visible anymore. You can simply follow Google Maps or the Wikiloc trail linked above; I suggest going through this gate to get to the waterfall from below because it’s faster that way:

How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque

The path is used by horses and gets very muddy when it rains, so wearing proper hiking boots helps a lot in the final stage of the hike. Ipachanaque doesn’t rank among the most impressive waterfalls in Colombia, but I think it’s definitely worth visiting. You can jump into the pool below it and enjoy the refreshingly cold water. Thanks to the fact that the waterfall isn’t exactly easy to reach, you may not even meet anyone else there, so this is a pretty cool opportunity to get away from the crowds.

How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque

The hike itself isn’t that long and you can return to Barbosa relatively quickly with some spare time to explore the town. Just remember that it’s a good idea to call a taxi to pick you up where Vereda Buga meets the motorway. Buses to Medellín leave from the corner of Calle 11 and Carrera 20; some of them will leave you in Niquía and others go to the centre, so ask the driver and choose the most convenient bus for you. There are also a few hotels in the town in case you wish to stay a bit longer and visit other places in or around the town.

Would I recommend Barbosa to tourists planning to spend just a couple of weeks in Colombia? Probably not. I think this trip is a pretty good option mainly for those who have already been to most of the popular places in Antioquia and would like to visit a new location with some really nice hiking opportunities.

Adventurous hike to Chorro de las Campanas

Medellín is a popular destination among foreign visitors to Colombia. It may not be the best choice when it comes to your first job as an English teacher, but the city is really impressive. There are plenty of interesting sights such as Pueblito Paisa, but you can also go on trips to other places in Antioquia. Probably the most popular one is Guatapé, which is located close to the amazing Piedra del Peñol. If you don’t have much time, you can simply take the Metrocable to Parque Arví. For those who love something a bit more adventurous, there is another really nice place that can be reached by public transport.

Adventurous hike to Chorro de las Campanas

Envigado is officially a separate town, but visiting it will make you feel like you are still in Medellín. It’s only seven metro stops away from the centre and you can actually walk there from El Poblado. Many people prefer living in Envigado because it allows you to stay in a calm neighbourhood while being reasonably close to everything you need. Its location is also convenient for trips to places such as Parque El Salado and Cuevas del Higuerón.

If you like hiking, I recommend visiting a waterfall called Chorro de las Campanas, which is located close to Envigado. Let me show you what it looks like, and if you would like to know how to get there, just scroll down and keep reading.

Adventurous hike to Chorro de las Campanas

The hike to the waterfall starts in Arenales, which is just 7 kilometres away from the metro station in Envigado. Although the easiest option is to get a taxi, the most entertaining one is provided by the local bus leaving from the southern exit of the metro station. The last section of the winding road is very narrow and maybe a little scary, but that’s the only way to get to Arenales. Although most of the buses turn around and return to Envigado, some of them continue to La Catedral, which now contains facilities for senior citizens. Don’t hesitate to ask the driver to confirm that you’re in the right place.

The trail to Chorro de Las Campanas is easy to follow. If you go there at a weekend, there will most likely be other visitors to show you the correct way. You can also use this helpful Wikiloc trail to guide you. At the beginning, you have to go downhill towards the small river, and the only thing to pay attention is that when you reach a gate, you should take the path to the left of it. You will then reach a narrow concrete bridge crossing the stream, and that’s where the fun part starts. If you get lucky, you may be able to see colourful butterflies.

Adventurous hike to Chorro de las Campanas

The hike to the waterfall is pretty straightforward since you just have to follow the stream. You will cross it several times, and in some places it’s actually easier to wade through the water due to thick vegetation on both sides of the stream. You can walk barefoot if you feel comfortable with that, or you might want to take an extra pair of shoes for the hike. I tried to keep my feet dry as long as possible, but in the end I gave up and decided to walk through the stream. Going back home in my soaking wet hiking boots wasn’t the most pleasant experience ever.

Adventurous hike to Chorro de las Campanas

The waterfall is just a kilometre away from the bridge, but the hike isn’t exactly easy because of the terrain. Getting wet is part of the adventure, and there are also several natural pools to take a dip in. Some visitors even jump into the icy cold water directly under the waterfall to cool off after the hike. If you are hungry for more adventure, you can continue to Salto del Ángel and La Catedral, which involves going through some rather challenging passages of the trail. The other option is to go back to Arenales and catch a bus to Envigado. Whichever route you choose, you won’t regret it because both of them are great choices for spending time in an amazing place away from the busy city.