In this article:
- Guatape is a colorful little town that sits right on Embalse El Peñol-Guatape, one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in Colombia.
- To get to Guatape, you need to take a two-hour bus ride from Medellin’s Terminal Norte, which you can easily access by taxi or metro.
- The world-famous La Piedra del Peñol is a massive rock that dominates the landscape of Guatape. While you’re there, you absolutely have to climb the 650 stairs to see the view from the top.
- There are plenty of activities to do in Guatape, including jet skiing, splashing around at an aquatic playground, and hiking to some waterfalls.
If you’re planning a trip to Colombia, you’ll almost inevitably end up in the country’s second-largest city of Medellin.
Once the heart of Pablo Escobar’s cocaine empire, the city of Medellin is now a safe and well-developed metropolis with endless experiences for backpackers and high-budget travelers alike.
Plus, if you like to party, the city of Medellin has a wild nightlife scene that literally never stops. However, if you’re looking for a bit of respite from the mania of Colombia’s wildest city, hop on a bus and visit the beautiful lakeside town of Guatape, only a short bus ride away.
Truly, out of all of the destinations that I’ve visited in Colombia thus far, the small town of Guatape is probably the most unique and most colorful. As soon as we hopped off the bus, we were astounded by the array of multicolored houses and businesses.
Indeed, nearly every building in the entire town is covered in hand-painted works of art. The streets are lined with cute restaurants, cafes, and bars that sit right along the lakeside promenade.
And, one can’t talk about Guatape without talking about the lake (or, more accurately, the reservoir) known as Embalse El Peñol-Guatape, which is one of the largest lakes in the entirety of Colombia.
The winding corridors of water snake between lush hills and create a sort of “aquatic labyrinth.” The clear blue surface of the lake reflects the clouds above and glistens in the sun. In the distance, you can see La Piedra del Peñol, the legendary rock that dominates the landscape and gives you a sense of ancient grandeur.
The whole place is simply magical.
If you’re in Medellin, don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit Guatape. It’s a quick and easy bus ride away, there are plenty of wonderful accommodations in the town at affordable prices, and there are endless activities to keep you occupied while you’re there.
How to Get To Guatape
If you’re traveling to Guatape, you’re probably going to be leaving from Medellin. Regardless of where you’re staying in Medellin, you’re going to have to get to the Terminal Norte Bus Station.
I would recommend taking a taxi there; however, you can save some money (but spend a lot more time) by taking the metro. If you’re taking the metro route, you’ll need to get to your nearest metro station and take the blue line to Caribe Metro Station.
Once you arrive there, you simply have to follow the signs and take the short walk to Terminal Norte.
Once you get into Terminal Norte, you’ll be immediately approached by people asking you where you’re going. Just tell them that you’re going to Guatape and they’ll usher you towards a bus that will take you there.
All of the buses charge around the same price, so don’t worry about getting ripped off. Just make sure to buy your tickets at a window rather than handing money to some random guy in the middle of the terminal.
Once you’re on the bus, the journey from Medellin to Guatape should take you right around two hours. But, it probably won’t feel like two hours considering you’ll be mesmerized by the gorgeous scenery that surrounds you throughout the duration of the journey.
When you arrive, you have the option to get off at La Piedra del Peñol and immediately ascend the rock or get off in Guatape and drop your stuff off at your accommodation first.
Where to Stay In Guatape
When staying in Guatape, your best options for accommodation basically fall into two categories.
You can either choose to stay in a hostel in the town, most of which are affordable, fun, and beautiful or you can choose to pay a little bit more for a private Airbnb with a stunning view of the lake (which are usually a bit further from the heart of the town).
It really depends on what your preferences are and what your budget is.
If you choose to stay in a hostel, I would recommend Casa Kayam, especially if you’re a fan of art. This affordable hostel is a little bit of a drive out of the town center; however, you should be able to catch a tuk-tuk taxi into the town at any time of the day.
Plus, Casa Kayam also houses artistic residencies, which means you’ll probably meet some super cool people and see some amazing art while you’re there.
Things to Do in Guatape
As soon as you step into the town of Guatape, you’ll be amazed by the natural scenery, the colorful buildings, and the kind and welcoming energy of the locals. Seriously, one of the best things to do in Guatape is, quite simply, to walk around and take it all in.
However, if you’re a more activity-oriented person, here are some of the best things to do in Guatape, Colombia:
1. La Piedra del Peñol
If you plan on staying in Guatape, it’s absolutely imperative that you climb La Piedra del Peñol at some point or another. And this isn’t one of those tourist activities that’s overhyped and overcrowded.
Sure, La Piedra del Peñol is flocked with tourists, but the view from the top of this massive rock is absolutely breathtaking, as is the view the entire time that you’re climbing the 650 stairs to the top.
Once you get to the top of the rock, you can chill out and enjoy the view after your long ascent. They also sell food and drinks. I’d recommend trying one of the mango micheladas, which is essentially beer and mango juice mixed together.
It sounds strange, but it’s surprisingly delicious.
2. Parque Comfama Guatape
Open every day of the week except for Monday, the Parque Comfama Guatape is the best place in Guatape for some wet and wild fun.
The main attraction here is the floating playground and obstacle course where you can jump and climb around, working up a sweat just before plopping into the cool water. Throw away your inhibitions, find your inner child, and splash around like no one’s watching.
Once you’ve exhausted yourself by jumping around on the playground and going down the slide a thousand times, you can rent a water vehicle like a kayak, a water tricycle, a rowboat, or a pedal boat and explore a bit more of the lake.
3. Cristalino Waterfall Trail
If you’re a fan of hiking and nature, then you absolutely need to head over to the Cristalino Waterfall Trail. You’ll need to take a tuk-tuk ride to the trailhead and then walk along the river for a few hours to reach the waterfalls.
However, once you get there, you’ll be stunned by these incredible natural cascades and pools that are perfect for swimming.
Be warned, though, that this hike is not for the faint of heart. As you journey through the high Andean native forest, you’ll have to maneuver across crags, hop across puddles, and make your way up some steep slopes.
4. Rent a Jet Ski
If you have a little bit of room in your budget, I would highly recommend renting a jet ski and zipping around the reservoir. It will cost you a pretty penny, but I can’t imagine a better place on Earth for driving a jet ski.
You can either ride solo or with a friend and cruise around the many islands in one of Colombia’s largest lakes. Plus, as you’re cruising, you’ll get outstanding views of the town of Guatape and La Piedra del Peñol.