Guatapé is full of color, decorations on the houses, a cozy center and located in a beautiful environment. Especially the large rock Piedra del Peñol is an attraction, but the area around Guatapé is also worth a visit. The special environment was created by the construction of the Guatapé dam in the 1970s to supply electricity to Medellín. As a result of the dam, the artificial reservoir was created, through which dozens of islands can now be seen. And now Guatapé has become a popular place among both foreign and local tourists. Guatapé can be visited as a day activity from Medellin, but if you want to avoid the crowds or just want to take it a bit easier, it is recommended to stay at least 1 night in Guatapé. What can you do in and around Guatapé? And how do you get there and back?
La piedra del Peñol
Also called El Peñón de Guatapé, is the large rock that is located about 4km before Guatapé. Against the rock is a staircase built with 659 steps. You can also walk further up from the first vantage point, into the tower. From above, both vantage points, you have a beautiful 360˚ view over the reservoir, the islands and the surrounding mountains. So in total you have to climb more than 700 steps.
The rock is open to the public daily, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. and costs 20,000 pesos/€5 to climb. Several restaurants, bars and souvenir shops can be found at the entrance. Because Guatapé is a popular place for many people, and many people visit the area from Medellín on a day trip, it can get very busy. It is advisable to avoid the weekend, go early in the morning (before 10am before the buses arrive) or just in the late afternoon.
You get to the rock by walking there, this takes about an hour, along the main road. The mototaxi/tuctuc is easier and faster. They drive back and forth for a fixed price of 12,000 pesos/€3 one way.
The center of Guatapé consists of the central square near the cathedral, where several cafes and restaurants are located. At the weekend, when many people know how to find Guatapé, you can expect activities on the square.
Walking around the city is a fun activity in itself. There is so much to see. The houses are not only cheerfully colored, there are also many decorations. Calle del Recuerdo is a popular street. Here hang many colored umbrellas, souvenir shops, you will find the square Plazoleta de Los Zócalos and Zocarolls. The latter is the place where you can get the best cinnamon rolls in town. A cheerful street that can also get very busy. If you walk up this street, up the stairs, you come to Calle 29. Go slightly to the left and then the first street on the right again, here is the continuation of Calle de Recuerdo and also a continuation of a small street with many colored houses. You will also find the popular and detailed fountain Fuente de la Calle del Recuerdo here.
Guatapé from the water
The harbor can be found on the boulevard of Guatapé, on the waterfront. Here you will find several boats, but also rental companies that offer boat trips. The boat trips show you the area and you can also sail to one of the (now abandoned) houses of Pablo Escobar. You can also undertake other activities from the port. Like renting a water scooter, you can go water skiing, kayaking or wakeboarding.
Rent a motorbike/scooter
If you have more time, exploring the area by motorbike or scooter is an ideal activity. The environment is perfect for this. For example, drive from Guatapé to the small village of San Rafael, 27 km and 40 minutes drive from Guatapé. During this route you drive through mountain landscapes and you have beautiful views. You can also visit several waterfalls on the route. The waterfall Cascada La Samaria seems to be visitable on Google itself, but once at the spot on the side of the road there are signs where you can call a guide to visit the waterfall. The waterfall is probably on private property. Another waterfall nearby is the Cascada La Bonita waterfall. Personally not a very special waterfall, but if you have time then it might be worth a visit. Please note that the first 3 km from the main road is asphalted, but the last 4 km is a gravel road with cobblestones. If you drive a scooter, it is not recommended to drive this road. It is mainly the environment and the route that make it worth exploring the area.
You can rent a scooter/motorcycle at Guatapé Motos (see Google) or at the corner of Carrera 32 and the main road. In both cases you pay 25,000 pesos/€6.25 for 1 hour and the prices increase by about 5,000 pesos/€1.25 per hour. You can also rent for a longer period of time, such as 24 hours.
Paragliding and Horseback Riding
Just like in many other places in Colombia you can paraglide in Guatapé with the reservoir, La Piedra del Peñol and the islands as surroundings. Or explore the area by horse, where it is important to check whether the horse looks well cared for. For paragliding you pay 200,000 pesos/€50 and for horseback riding you pay 45,000 pesos/€11.25 per hour.
How do you get there and back?
You can go to Guatapé with a (day) tour, but you can also easily go yourself. The advantage of this is that you have all the freedom to go where you want. You can take the bus, which leaves from Terminal de Transporte Norte. Go to counter 14, you will see that the bus to Guatapé leaves from there. You don’t need to make a reservation, the bus leaves very frequently, about every half hour. Tickets can be bought on the spot and cost 17,000 pesos/€4.25 one way. If you want to go back to Medellín, it is good to know that the bus leaves every hour, at half past one, and in the afternoon a little more often than every hour. The journey from Medellín to Guatapé and vice versa takes about 2 hours. The bus goes through La Piedra del Peñol, just before you arrive in Guatapé. You can therefore also choose to climb the rock immediately upon arrival.