Ready to catch a breath during or after your visit to busy Medellín? Make sure to put Guatapé on your travel list then. After little more than a 2 hour-drive from Medellín, you’ll be standing in one of Colombia’s most colourful villages, in the middle of the Colombian countryside. The region is also home to La Piedra del Peñol, a massive rock towering high over the surrounding landscape. One steep climb up and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view.
How to get to Guatapé?
There are buses leaving for Guatapé and El Peñol every 20 minutes from Medellín’s Terminal del Norte. You can get your tickets at counters 14 and 9. There was no need to book in advance at the time we were there, we could just book our seats on the first bus going out. A one-way ticket cost us 14.000 COP (price in february 2018), which is very cheap for a ride that takes up to 2 hours. The bus stops at El Peñol before continuing on to Guatapé. If you want to do La Piedra first, just get off at this stop and catch a taxi after your hike and continue your journey. Another option is to get into one of the small tuktuks that’ll drive you to Guatapé in no time. A colourful experience to say the least!
It’s possible to do Guatapé as a day trip if you catch the last bus going back to Medellín at 7 P.M. If you’d like to experience the laid-back atmosphere to the fullest, however, it’s a good idea to stay for the night.
5 fun things to do in Guatapé
If you’re in the neighbourhood, don’t miss out on bringing a visit to El Peñol. After a steep climb up the 650 stairs, you’ll be rewarded with a breath-taking 360° view of the surrounding area: a natural patchwork blanket of lakes and green lands, with the mountains rising high up behind them. Order a drink at the bar on the top of the rock, and take in the view. It’ll look even nicer!
If you understand some Spanish, a boat trip in one of the many lanchas is a nice way to discover the area. Did you know for example that this lake district was constructed artifically and that half of the houses around the lake were property of Pablo Escobar (ok, we’re exaggerating, but there really were A LOT) and other, less shifty celebrities? The lancha will take you up to the original village of El Peñol which was drowned completely after the dam was put into place. It got rebuilt higher up, with only a crucifix in the middle of the lake as a testimony to what used to be a lively village.
One of the reasons we liked Colombia was because of all the great food. In Guatapé, you really have to visit Kushby by Sam, an Indian restaurant where the owner Sam will be welcoming you whole-heartedly with a big smile. He’s one of the nicest guys we’ve ever met, telling you all about his world adventures and life vision. You’ll be wanting to start your own restaurant in Colombia after hearing him out, no doubt about it. And the guy can cook!
Of course, you’ll be coming to Guatapé to see the colourful streets and houses. Get your camera ready because there’s an instagram proof spot around every corner. Especially when the golden hour of the day strikes! Roam around the village at nightfall when most tourists have gone home, and you’ll get to experience Guatapé together with the locals. Make sure to pass by Plaza de Zocalos, where an explosion of paint seems to have taken place. In late afternoon, there’s a laid-back atmosphere with street artists entertaining the crowds. If you want a picture without people in it, go check it out in the morning before heading back to Medellín. You’ll get to see the place come to life with every new ray of sunlight.
After an overdose of colour like this, you’ll be wondering why we’re not painting our own houses so brightly. What an energy boost for your mood every day! (Well, except for this little fella maybe…)
Restaurants and hotels in Guatapé
- Kusby by Sam: cheap and yummy Indian food, the healthy version, with the nicest owner in the world.
- Craving some pizza? Book your table at Pizzeria di Luigi. We didn’t have any luck and ended up at Vecchio Forno G., which turned out to be the biggest misser during our entire holiday.
- We slept at La Casona. It’s a very basic hostel, good for one night. There are not that many hotels in Guatapé and the very good ones such as Oak Tree House are complete in no time. So be aware of that if you’re last-minute decision makers like us…
- We left our backpacks in our hostel in Medellín and only took what’s necessary to get through one night in Guatapé. Very handy if you like to decide in the moment what to do next.
- If you choose to stay for the night in Guatapé, you can only buy your return ticket on the day you leave.