Many people come to Colombia in search of the Colonial architecture of Spain. Approximately 80 kms. to the north of Medellin, you will find the charming but bustling city of Santa Fe de Antioquia.
The city was founded in 1541 by Field Marshall Jorge Robledo with the name – The City of Antioch – La Ciudad de Antioquia. On a later trip he established another small town called the Villa de Santa Fe. Neither town fared well and eventually in 1584 they amalgamated and became Ciudad de Santa Fe de Antioquia. In the same year by order of the King of Spain, Santa Fe became the capital for the province/state of Antioquia which it remained until 1826.
Santa Fe has a population of 25,825 (2013) inhabitants of which 14963 are urban and 10862 are rural. The traditional economy of Santa Fe has been based on the production of coffee, corn and beans (frijoles) plus fruit and livestock. The mean average temperature is 27 C but this is truly ”tierra caliente” and Santa Fe is hot !
The opening of the Tunel de Occidente – The Tunnel of the West, in 2006, has made tourism an important part of the economic engine as it cut off 40 minutes of mountainous driving to reach the former Capital. This hot, all year round climate has made Santa Fe a popular holiday and weekend resort.
Driving to Santa Fe can be a bit challenging as virtually no road signs exist. From Carrera 80 pass in front of the Exito in Robledo. If you are facing the store then on the far right side, take a left up the hill. Follow the traffic and eventually, you will see a sign for San Jeronimo. Further up the hill the road will split left and right and you will see a sign for the Tunnel. Take this left fork in road.
As of January 2014, the toll for the tunnel was 12.500 COP. This passageway through the mountain is 4.2 km long and you emerge on the other side of almost in a different world. Medellin stretches chaotically up to very close to the entrance of the tunnel but as you exit you will see beautiful, verdant mountains and valleys. The vegetation is lush but as you begin your descent to Santa Fe you will begin to see a dramatic change in the scenery.
The altitude of Santa Fe is between 390m and 550 m feet above sea level. As a result the temperature climbs as you descend and the ground cover becomes more and more arid. The heat makes this area an excellent location for growing fruit and there are many roadside fruit stands.
As you enter the historic section of the city you can easily be transported back 250 years to a time when the narrow streets only needed to accommodate horses and mules. The cobbled streets and whitewashed houses have not changed much since that time. Today they are a little more chaotic as this is a hub for the local agriculture industry and there is much movement on the roadways that weren’t intended for cars and trucks.
The town square is larger than most that you will encounter in the many of the Colombian pueblos and reflects the importance that Santa Fe played as the capital of the province/state of Antioquia for more than 200 years.
The colonial homes hold an appeal to some and certainly, you can see the rejuvenation of some of the older homes as you stroll through the streets. Many developers have risen to the call and have developed condo communities very close to the historic city. These meet the needs of many weekenders who are looking for a warm place to escape to for a few days. Later this year we will be examining real estate prospects in Santa Fe.
Your visit to Santa Fe can be done easily in a day, but staying over a weekend and walking the streets, early Sunday morning will give you a far better feel for what the old colonial city was like. The entire old city is a historic site and in 1960 was declared a national monument by the Colombian government.
While in town you can visit the Metropolitan Cathedral. This has been often called the Mother Church as it was the first in this part of Colombia. The original church burnt down and was replaced by the Cathedral in 1837. There are three other churches that you can visit, within blocks of the main square. Of particular note is the Iglesia Santa Barbara that has a lovely Baroque facade. Beside the Church of Santa Barbara is the Museum of Religious Art and if you enjoy museums then include the Museum of Juan del Corral. Two other sites that you might wish to include are the Archiepiscopal Palace and the Puente de Occidente – the Bridge of the West.
The Bridge of the West is a suspension bridge that was constructed in 1887 – the same year the Eiffel Tower was built. If you don’t have a vehicle then you can take the 6 km. drive in a local moto-taxi. If you have the opportunity you can climb up the hill behind the bridge and have an excellent view across the Cauca River.
The bridge is still functional today. You can walk the entire span or if you have a car, you can drive it as well. Due to weight concerns the vehicles are spaced apart as to not put too much stress on this historic, single-lane bridge. The base of the roadway are wooden planks and they rattled as you drive across them.
Allow yourself an hour and forty or fifty minutes to make the drive. It is well worth your time to catch a glimpse of Colonial Colombia in Santa Fe de Antioquia.
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