Four hours away from Bogota, Colombia and three hours from Medellín, on the highway that connects both cities, you will find a spellbinding destination: La Aldea Doradal, Antioqia, a tiny village artistically carved into a hillside. Whitewashed houses, blue window frames and cobbled streets give the place a bohemian feel, one that summons the atmosphere of a Greek Cyclades island.
In fact, the village is nicknamed ‘Colombia’s Santorini’.
The island of Santorini, in Greece, located more than 10,000 kilometers away, was the main inspiration for the architecture of La Aldea. This tiny Colombian village is part of the township of Doradal, in the municipality of Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia.
# La Aldea: Ties with Pablo Escobar
We made a bit of digging into the history of La Aldea, which was initially built in 1980. Before this, the hillside was an empty private construction lot, according to Revista Diners.
Gustavo Torres, an inhabitant of the village for over 25 years says says it is certain that Pablo Escobar, the famous drug lord, owned at least one house in the region. This was known as Hacienda Napoles, currently transformed form a country estate into a theme park. There are even rumors of Escobar sending an architect scout to Santorini to pick up on some local Greek elements to replicate in Doradal.
“40 years ago La Aldea was in full bloom. Large parties and concerts were held in the square. Most of the cabins were summer homes for families from Medellín and Bogotá,” says Gustavo Torres. Later, the region was hit by drug trafficking and was abandoned for many years. It wasn’t until 2005 that things started to get back on track, with people moving back to La Aldea and rejuvenating the village.
# How to Get to La Aldea, Antioquia
You can get to Doradal by renting a car or by hopping on a local bus from Bogota or Medellín. When visiting La Aldea, be sure to bring loose clothing along, as the weather can be quite hot and humid. The temperature here varies little throughout the year, so there is no right ‘season’ to visit Doradal.
# What to Do and See in ‘Colombia’s Santorini’
Today La Aldea is made up of two large hotels and tens of private lodging houses that are designed in the Mediterranean style. Although many of the inhabitants are working in the tourism industry, there are are other businesses around as well, such as tiny cement factories or farms.
The area surrounding the village is a feast for nature lovers and outdoor sport enthusiasts. In addition to walking the charming cobbled paths of ‘La Aldea’ or having a drink on a bohemian terrace, you can also enjoy lush nature or explore the many surrounding caves.
Some decide to visit the Hacienda Napoles (Escobar’s former property), which is 1 kilometer away from the hillside neighborhood, or the Río Claro Canyon Natural Reserve, located at a distance of 19 kilometers. In Río Claro you can enjoy activities such as rafting, cycling, bird watching and hiking.
‘Why make the effort to build a replica of Santorini?’, you ask. Apparently there are quite a few examples of tourist replicas of famous sites around the world, such as the Chinese replica of the Austrian village of Hallstatt or Thames Town neighborhood, modeled after London, in Shanghai. And the list goes on. Whatever the reason, the replicas end up being famous as well, often turning into booming tourist sites.
Bad or good, you get to decide. In the mean time, I will wrap up this post with a photo of the real deal, the beautiful and unfortunately tourist-packed village of Oia, Santorini, right after sunset.