Guatape is one colorful haven and a short bus ride from busy Medellin. Guatape is very famous for its cute and colorful street and a 360º panoramic view of the Guatapé reservoir from the monolith called La Pierda. Most of the tourists come on a day trip from Medellin, but we urge you to spend more than one day in Guatape.
If you are not convinced, keep reading. We will explain why you should spend 2 days in Guatape and how to get there on your own without taking any tour.
Guutape is a small town with over 6.200 inhabitants. The name Guatape comes from the Quechua language and it means stones and water. Guatape was in the past called “La Ceja de Guatapé.” Guatapé was found by Spanish conquistador Don Francisco Giraldo y Jimenez in 1811.
If you are planning to visit Colombia, you need to add Guatape to your itinerary. If you would like to learn more about the culture and what to expect, make sure to read 22 essential tips to know before you travel to Colombia.
We are sure that you have seen a couple of colorful photos from Guatape. Also, you had to notice a magnificent view of the lake El Embalse del Peñol with many islands around. But the most famous thing to do in Guatape is climbing the rock (La Pierda).
HOW DO I GET FROM MEDELLIN TO GUATAPE?
Guatape is located around 80 km from Medellin. The roads are good and it should take you around 1 hour. At the Terminal Norte, you need to ask for the bus which leaves to Guatape. They go every hour and the whole day.
To get to Terminal Norte, just simply take Uber. Uber in Colombia is very simple to use and it is very affordable. Taking Uber is much safer than taking any random taxi. With Uber, you will make sure that taxi drivers are official and they won’t overcharge you. We also wrote a full guide on using Uber in South America with all our tips and experiences.
USE OUR UBER PROMO CODE: 2hjlk
You can also get there by Metro – Line A. Get off at station Caribe. Although we do not recommend to take the metro in Medellin, petty thefts do occur and tourists are easy targets.
If you have more questions regarding safety in Colombia or South America in general read more here: Is South America Safe?
If you don’t want to get to Guatape on your own and rather go with a tour operator from Medellin, that’s fine (we won’t judge you). There are a couple of tours available and we really like the day tour which includes a boat trip on Laguna de Guatape.
HOW TO GET TO GUATAPE FROM SALENTO
If you are visiting the famous Cocora Valley and coffee region Eje Cafetero you might want to get to Guatape from Salento right way. Unfortunately, there is no direct connection. You need to come to Medellin and change buses in Terminal Norte in order to get to Guatape.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN GUATAPE
Despite that Guatape is such a small town, we promise, you won’t be bored. There are so many exciting things to do in Guatape and we will mention all of them here. You can see them all in 1 day but you will be definitely rushed. That’s why 2 days in Guatape is a perfect way to enjoy all the highlights.
THE ROCK – PIEDRA DEL PENOL
Piedra del Peñol is one of the most iconic landmarks in Guatape. If you are on Instagram you must have seen many photos. At first, we were hesitating to climb it as it seemed to us as a very touristy thing to do, but in the end, we are happy that we went all the way up.
HOW TO GET TO THE ROCK?
If you would like to get to the Rock on your own, then just take a small tuk-tuk from Guatape. If you are coming on the bus from Medellin and want to climb the monolith right away you can simply get off at the station La Pierda and walk 15 minutes to the entrance.
HOW TALL IS THE ROCK OF GUATAPE?
Piedra del Peñol rises up at 2.135 meters above sea level. Once we arrived, we were shocked by how high the rock is. Also, a bit worried about how we (mostly Gigi) going to climb up to the top. It is very astonishing to see these zig-zag stairs shooting to the sky.
HOW MANY STEPS ARE THERE?
There are 742 steps to get to the top of the “Peñol Rock”. 742! And you will feel them in your legs the next day. It is a great exercise for sure with a rewarding view of lake El Embalse del Peñol. It is a hard walk through these steps. I was battling altitude sickness which gave me a strong headache.
READ MORE: BEST BEACHES IN COLOMBIA
EXTRA TIP: If you want to prevent altitude sickness, make sure to drink plenty of water and have regular stops.
HOW MUCH IS THE ENTRANCE TO PIEDRA DEL PENOL?
The entrance ticket to Piedra del Peñol is 18.000 COP (US$6) and it is open from 8 AM till 6 PM every single day. Please let us know when the price has changed so we can update the information for future travelers.
Are you planning a trip to Colombia? Then make sure to read our full guide on HOW TO SPEND AWESOME 2 WEEKS IN COLOMBIA.
CALLE DE LOS RECUERDOS
If you do not know where to start, walk to the Calle de Los Recuerdos. It’s one of the most unique streets in Guatape. You have to walk up the hill on the cobblestones and admire all colorful buildings with local frescoes.
WALK THE COLORFUL STREETS
If you are into street photography, then Guatapé is an ultimate dream. Very similar to Cartagena, there are many cute streets that scream with colors. I love colorful streets, colorful houses, and basically everything painted in colors. So coming to Guatapé was a dream coming true. We (mostly Nico) took indefinite amounts of pictures of me jumping around and almost in front of every single colorful door. This is just a very little collection from the billion photos Nico took.
INTERESTING FACT: The frescoes (paintings) on the walls are decorated with zocalos (scenes). Locals started to color their houses to get rid of chickens pecking at the walls.
CASA DEL ARRIERO
The Casa del Arriero is the oldest house in Guatape and you need to check it out. You can only visit the courtyard as there are still living descendants of the original owners.
PLAZA WITH CHURCH
Guatapé has a small plaza called Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Carmen (in English: Church of Our Lady of Carmen). There are several restaurants and a very nice fountain. Here you can find several taxis if you are planning to go to the Piedra del Peñol.
Thinking about visiting another colorful town in Colombia? Make sure to head to Cartagena and check our guide on the best photo spots in Cartagena.
CENTRAL PLAZA WITH FAMOUS STAIRS
If you planning to walk around Guatape, you cannot miss the plaza with the famous colorful staircase. Plazoleta De Los Zocalos is the perfect spot for people-watching. There are several souvenir stores around where you can get many cute things and also handmade and authentic Wayuu bags. Don’t forget to try the well known hot cinnamon rolls.
LAGUNA DE GUATAPE
El Embalse del Peñol also called Laguna de Guatape is an artificial lake. The hydroelectric complex was created in 1970 and now generates power for the entire region. Once you will climb to Piedra del Peñol you will have a wonderful view of the lake and indefinite amount of little islands spread out.
TAKE A BOAT TRIP TO LAGUNA DE GUATAPE
If you would like to visit the islands in the lake, you can take a boat tour. There are small boats that can take up to six people, or if you feel like partying then you can get into Partying Paisas. We didn’t feel like doing either, but perhaps next time.
CAN YOU SWIM IN LAGUNA DE GUATAPE?
Of course, you can swim in Laguna de Guatape. We haven’t, as it wasn’t very warm. But you can do plenty of water sports as well, such as jetski, boat trips, kayaking, and even zipline over the water.
READ MORE: A FULL GUIDE TO HIKE COCORA VALLEY
SKIP PABLO ESCOBAR’S MANSION
We know that other blogs mention Pablo Escobar’s mansion as the coolest attraction ever. BUT, please do not visit it. The mansion La Manuela in Guatapé was named after Pablo Escobar’s daughter. The mansion was bombed in 1993 by the vigilante group “Los Pepes”. Hence, there are mostly ruins now. This is somewhat interesting, but what is shocking to us is that you can play paintball here. Pablo Escobar’s actions killed many people and his greed for power destroyed many lives. So playing paintball here might be a tad inappropriate. However, you can make your own decisions. This is just our opinion.
WHY LOCALS HATE TO TALK ABOUT PABLO ESCOBAR?
If you are coming to Colombia and if you are truly interested in history and getting to know Colombian culture, you will quickly learn that Colombians are ashamed of Pablo Escobar. Pablo Escobar opens a lot of wounds and sorrow for many people and Colombians are NOT PROUD of Pablo Escobar and his crimes. At least this was our experience.
Try to ask locals about Pablo Escobar and that you want to visit one of his mansions and just observe their facial expressions. Pablo Escobar was a villain, a terrorist and Colombias say that he shouldn’t be remembered nor glorified as a great Colombian.
Same with the Pablo Escobar Museum in Medellin. Locals were against it and didn’t want tourists to go there. Luckily, it was closed down.
EXTRA TIP: Make sure to visit instead the Memory House Museum in Medellin to learn all about Medellin’s dark history. This museum is dedicated to Pablo Escobar’s victims.
WHERE TO STAY IN GUATAPE
Despite that Guatape is such a small town there are plenty of hotels to choose from. We stayed in a family-owned hotel called Lagos De Guatape. It was a nice place with clean rooms and a private bathroom.
Have a look at all hotels in Guatape
BEST TIME TO VISIT GUATAPE
The best time to visit Guatape is technically all year around. The temperature is mild all year round and keeps around 23° Celcius. We would definitely avoid holidays and weekends in general as many Colombians are coming to Guatape for a day trip from Medellin. The driest months in Guatape are December, January, and February. We visited in March and we had no rain and sunny skies.
IS GUATAPE SAFE TO VISIT?
We felt very safe when visiting Guatape. People of Guatape are very friendly and we didn’t feel any danger despite walking to our hotel in the evening. Many people wonder if Colombia is in general safe for tourists. If you want to find out how to stay safe in Colombia, check our guide on all our safety tips while traveling in South America.
WHAT TO PACK?
For your Guatape trip from Medellin, you need to pack a couple of things. It is usually sunny in Guatape so don’t forget to take your hat and reef safe suncream (use GIGI10 for 10% off). For climbing the rock we definitely recommend you to take comfortable shoes to get up the 742 steps. However, sometimes weather can be unpredictable, so make sure to pack a raincoat or waterproof jacket. And don’t forget to have plenty of water with you.
We hope that you are going to have an awesome time in a colorful Guatapé. And let’s see, maybe you will take even more photos than us. Challenge accepted? 🙂
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