Cerro El Volador Natural Park, Medellín’s Scenic Mountain

Downtown Medellín as viewed from the hilltop

photography by: Omri Westmark

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In a metropolis where nature is well-integrated into the urban landscape, pockets of greenery are always a stone's throw away from any bustling street. As a quintessential green city, Medellín boasts dozens of gardens, parks and reserves where one can have a glimpse of Colombia’s sheer biodiversity. Towering over the densely-populated Aburrá Valley, Cerro El Volador rewards its visitors with commanding views of Medellín as well as a close encounter with various species of wild-animals without the need of venturing deep into the country’s remote jungles.

Well before the arrival of Spanish colonialists to the Americas and the ensuing establishment of modern-day Medellín in the 17th century, the Aburrá Valley was dotted with a smattering of small outposts, inhabited by local indigenous groups. Though most of these pre-Columbian hamlets are long-gone by now, a verdant mountain in the middle of town has been serving as a testament to the area’s bygone era.


Soaring 82 meters above the surrounding neighborhoods, Cerro El Volador is one of Medellín’s guardian hills. Along with Cerro Pan de Azúcar, Cerro El Picacho, Cerro Las Tres Cruces, Cerro El Salvador, Cerro Nutibara, Cerro Santo Domingo and Cerro La Asomadera, the hill and its citywide siblings are notable for their historical and ecological significance.


As various archeological excavations suggest, it was across the foothills of Cerro El Volador that some of the region’s first settlements were founded, heralding the development of Colombia’s second largest city. In spite of its rich past, in the following centuries, the hill was stripped of its native and non-native dwellers while the surrounding area evolved into the hectic place that is Medellín.


The lush mountain is now designated as the city’s largest nature park, encompassing an area of more than 100 hectares. Throughout this natural enclave are copious species of endemic flora and fauna, including 48 types of plants, 9 mammal species, 12 reptile species and 76 types of butterflies. However, it is the park’s avian critters who truly reign supreme with nearly 200 species of birds calling it home, chief among them are the blue-tailed hummingbird and Colombian chachalaca.


The park is crisscrossed by several paved trails, some of which possibly overlap with ancient pathways walked by the hill’s former inhabitants millennia ago. As visitors ascend to the top, they will come across several lookouts along the way, each offers its own unique perspective of the city and the multiple geographics features in and around.


Past a whimsically-designed gate and concrete-made stairway is the hilltop, a grassy glade with sweeping panoramas of downtown Medellín, and due to its proximity to Olaya Herrera Airport, also a favorable location among plane spotters.


While the climb is relatively moderate, the warm weather coupled with high humidity levels can make it a sweaty experience. Luckily though, throughout the park are a couple of vendors who sell a plethora of sliced fruits and refreshing juices to quench your thirst with.


The mountain is accessible from a couple of entry points, but the main entrance lies along Carrera 65, about half an hour by foot from the nearest metro stations, Universidad and Estadio. A far more adventurist alternative is to hike through the steep walkway whose hidden trailhead lies on Calle 65.