The Parque de los Pies Descalzos, or ‘Barefoot Park,’ has become a popular gathering place in the heart of Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellin. If you’re looking for museums, fountains, free music, yoga, relaxation, or just a spot to think among the trees, this is the place for you.
“Your feet work hard for you. They get dirty, they bear your weight, they stand, walk, and run every day. And when you go into the shower do you ever really wash your feet? We thank our feet here, as they are the hardest workers of our body.”
Cati, our tour guide at the park and a sports medicine student, showed us how to wash our feet in the final and most well-known stage of the park, the ‘Espejo de Agua’ or ‘Reflection Pool.’
Our feet were dirty and tired, but in the warm night with the melodic lilting of an orchestra carried on the breeze, pampering ourselves seemed to fit the mood just right.
‘Chorritos’ and the Water Museum
While helping a friend work on a photo documentary this past Saturday afternoon, I stumbled upon Medellin’s iconic Parque de los Pies Descalzos in the center of the city and immediately asked myself: “why have I never come here before?”
Kids were running around the chorritos, little water jets that shoot out of the ground, a community orchestra was warming up near a line of restaurants with glass windows, and people were exiting the adjacent Museo de Agua – the city’s water museum that illustrates how important water is to humans and Colombia specifically – wearing water-themed wristbands and laughing their way through a bubble exhibit.
My friend and I sat down on a bench and we started snapping photos, discovering more and more about this open-air treasure that lies in the backyards of Medellin’s Metropolitan Theater and largest convention center, Plaza Mayor.
It was’t until Cati approached us with a big smile and asked if we were interested in a guided tour that we really knew what this park was all about.
Forest, Earth, Sand, and Water
There are four main areas of the park: forest, earth, sand and water. In all the spaces visitors are asked, but not forced, to take off their shoes; although it did appear taboo to walk around with shoes on, and the guides did not hesitate to gently persuade passersby to observe the unwritten rule.
The first area is a colorfully lit miniature forest of bamboo. Winding rocky paths are peppered with benches every few yards, each complete with people reading or kissing or just contemplating the peaceful atmosphere. It’s quiet at dusk in the woods. Cati reminds us that trees give us so much – oxygen, material for building homes, and more – and we should be thankful for their gifts.
Upon exiting the forest, we were greeted by a group of nearly 50 people all sitting silently in a circle on the ground in a dimly lit grassy area, meditating. We moved to the side and Cati explained that this grassy area is not for dogs nor sports nor running around, but rather for being at one with the ground, with the earth. She encouraged us to stand still for a few moments in an area by a tree and just appreciate the nature around us.
We then moved to the Zen Sand Garden, a sandbox for both adults and children alike that she compared to those miniature zen gardens often found on people’s desks and used as calming devices.
“Whatever you see in the patterns you or others make in the sand is unique to you; no one else is seeing the same as you,” Cati told us.
It was here that we had to navigate blindly through a labyrinth of ‘tree trunks’ and balance on top of upright wooden posts while centering ourselves and focusing on all of our senses. One member of our party had to be led around after she almost crashed into a family of three enjoying ice cream. Balance and peace can be challenging sometimes.
The Reflection Pool and Fountain of Sounds
At this point, our bare feet were sore from the rocks, dirty from the grass, and covered in sand from the last area. This was when we were escorted to the final station, the Reflecting Pool, to wash our feet after the evening’s work.
“It’s very important that whenever you come here, you wash your feet last. You can rest your feet in the water at any time, but make sure that you stop here before leaving for a final cleanse,” Cati told us, like a mother telling her kids to brush their teeth before leaving for school.
We promised her we would wash our feet before we left.
To our surprise, however, there was one more station awaiting us: the Fountain of Sounds. Towards the eastern edge of the park exists a whirlpool sitting some seven feet below rest of the park. It was specifically designed for “adults to escape the noise of the world around them,” and just sit and listen to the water jets dance around their feet. It is not uncommon for adults to bring their kids on a Sunday afternoon and let them loose in the ‘chorritos’ or the sand area while they relax with friends and gossip about the past week.
The 10-year-old park is a wonderful weekend afternoon spot for families, couples and travelers, and will continue to be a cultural hub for the city of Medellin.
In addition, the Parque de los Pies Descalzos often hosts large cultural and community events ranging from programs and dance lessons during the city’s famous “Flower Festival” to concerts such as the ‘Alan Parsons Project’ that came this past August.
If you want to get to the Parque de los Pies Descalzos, the fastest, safest, and most direct form of public transportation is the MetroPlus bus. Hop off at the Plaza Mayor Station and head a little west until you hit the park.
Parks in Medellin
- Tour with Parque de los Pies Descalzos Staff
- El Parque de los Pies Descalzos lo espera (EPM)