Santa Elena FlowerFarm & Silleteros Tour Details

Starting time: 9am or 2pm

Duration: 4 hours

Locations: Pickup and drop-off from the hotel

Age restrictions: 4+

Price: $130 per person (500,000 COP)


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What to expect during the Santa Elena Flower Farms and Silleteros tour:

One of Medellín’s most beloved festivals is the Feria de las Flores, or Festival of the Flowers, and guess where the flowers come from? That’s right – from Santa Elena. The Santa Elena flower farms and silleteros tour gives you the opportunity to see where these famous flowers are grown, and learn about the flower growers, or silleteros. Our tour guide will describe Santa Elena’s history, as well as the history of the silleteros.

You’ll also get to tour the actual flower farms, guided by the farmers themselves. A popular tourist activity is to learn how to arrange flowers on the silletas, which are what silleteros famously carry on their backs to transport flowers. You’ll learn not only the techniques they use, but also hear about the many traditions of the region’s silleteros.

At some point during the tour we’ll make time for a relaxing lunch, during which you’ll enjoy some regional food and drinks for a taste of authentic Colombian cuisine.

Santa Elena background

Santa Elena is a township of Medellín that’s just outside of Medellín; it’s easy to reach by car or bus, and is almost always sunny and warm. Medellín might be flooded with millions of flowers every year for the Festival of the Flowers, but in Santa Elena, it doesn’t take a festival for the flowers to show up; during the blooming season, they’re always around!

This township is in the mountains, and is actually located within the Arví Nature Reserve. Even though Colombia is known for its flower exports, these flowers aren’t destined for international consumers. Instead, the flowers of Santa Elena are mainly meant for the Festival of the Flowers, plus other buyers in the region.

Silleteros background

The name “silleteros” comes from the word “silleta”, which is itself a form of the Spanish word for chair (silla). A couple of centuries ago, the silletas were actually used as transport; the silletero would use them to carry a passenger on their back across mountain trails. In many cases, the passengers were people who were sick, and needed medical attention from a doctor in Medellín. Since they couldn’t make the journey on foot, a silletero would be hired to make the three-hour trek with the sick person on their back.

As roads and transportation improved, the silletas started being used to carry flowers or vegetables instead of people. Since many silleteros support themselves by growing produce as well as flowers, their silletasare used for whatever has to be brought to the markets. They can hold enormous numbers of blooms; during the festival in Medellín, they support flower arrangements that weight up to 100 pounds!

Highlights of the Santa Elena Flower Farms and SilleterosTour

Tourist activities in Santa Elena are pretty much all centered around the village’s flower farms, and for good reason – these farms have brought both prosperity and fame to the village.

One of Santa Elena’s most important landmarks, the Silletero monument, is near the entrance of the village. This monument honors the lives and traditions of the Silleteros. It’s composed of three statues; in the middle is a man carrying an elaborate array of flowers on his back, with a woman and a young girl standing on either side of him. The statues look strong and bold, and at the base of the monument is the inscription “When a Silletero passes, it is Antioquia that passes”.

There are countless flower farms around Santa Elena, and many of them offer tours that are guided by the silleteros themselves. Visitors get the chance to walk around the flower fields, listen to the history of the area and the farm, and learn about the lives of the region’s flower growers. The farmers are always happy to answer questions, whether they’re about silletero traditions or how long the flowers take to grow. Each farmer has a deep knowledge of every part of the process, both from their own experience, and from generations of wisdom that they got from their parents and grandparents.

This tour wouldn’t be complete without learning the basics of arranging flowers on a silleta. The flower growers love sharing their knowledge and traditions with visitors, so many tourists enjoy the hands-on experience of putting together their own arrangement. A smaller silleta is typically used, for two reasons. First, a lot of people would have a hard time carrying a full-sized silleta with pounds and pounds of flowers laid out on it. Second, participants only have a limited amount of time to complete their arrangements, so a smaller one makes more sense.

Some people say this is their favorite part of the Santa Elena flower farms and silleteros tour. They get to chat with the silleteros, get up-close and personal with bunches of beautiful flowers, and take pride in the results of their efforts once the arrangement is done. Plus, it’s a great opportunity for some unique, colorful photos!

Something that sets these tours apart from other Medellín tours is that when you book any activity with silleteros, the money is going directly to their small business. Santa Elena isn’t big enough to be full of chain restaurants or large stores, so every peso you spend there will go to real people, rather than corporations. Whether you’re learning how to arrange flowers, or picking up some snacks from a local vendor, you can feel confident that it’s money well spent.

What to bring for the tour

We recommend that you bring along the following items for this tour:

  • Walking shoes
  • Cash
  • Sun protection, like sunscreen or a hat
  • A light jacket, since it gets colder in Santa Elena compared to Medellín
  • And last but not least, a camera!