Guatape town is one of the most famous tourist spots in Colombia. It is located just outside Medellin (around 2 hours drive). It is a charming little town on a huge reservoir, full of colorful buildings that line cute streets, and a granite rock with 659 steps that you can climb. Here is a short guide to visiting Guatape with things to do, the best time to visit, and other information.
Guatape town is located outside Medellin, therefore it is quite easy to get there from the big city. There are a few ways to visit Guatape.
Guatape has almost the same temperature during the whole year, so there is not really a certain time that is best for visiting Guatape. However, I do recommend you choose the days with sunny weather reports, since you probably will want to climb up the Guatape rock (El Penol) and rain can make it a little bit harder as well as ruin the view.
I also advise you to visit Guatape on the weekdays, since on weekends there can be bigger crowds of local tourists.
To explore Guatape town and do all the things you would want, you don’t need more than two days. It will give you a chance to do everything at your own pace.
If you are coming to Guatape for a day trip, don’t worry. You will have enough time to do most of the things here, just on a faster schedule.
I personally believe a day trip is the best option for over 90% of tourists.
Guatape town is pretty safe for tourists. This town’s economy heavily depends on tourists, so there is no real crime here. However, be aware of your surroundings and watch for petty crimes.
Guatape town has a long history and throughout this history the town has changed a lot. In the 16th century the conquistadors came, this land was inhabited by indigenous groups. The name of the town comes from the ruler of one of the indigenous groups whose name was Guatape.
Officially the town was founded in 1811. However in the 1970s the government decided to build a hydroelectric complex. This created a huge reservoir around Guatape and surrounding towns and brought a bunch of new tourism!
More than 6,000 hectares were flooded to create a system of freshwater lakes. Nowadays Guatape hydroelectric complex makes 30% of the entire country’s power.
The streets of Guatape town are absolutely charming, kinda similar to my favorite Colombian town of Jardin, another place in Antioquia we went to for a few days. Guatape is famous for its colorful zocalos (panels/murals). You will see many ornaments on the facades, so pay attention to details. Every street has its unique colors. Don’t just stop on one pretty street, go around the whole town, you will find many interesting things.
The zocalos all show different aspects of the town, from the history of the indigenous people, to the goods sold inside a shop. You can even find creative ones that look out of place, but I guess that makes them all the more charming.
Climbing the Guatape rock also known as El Peñol de Guatapé is the reason why most of the tourists come to Guatape town.
El Peñol de Guatapé is one of the two biggest monolithic rocks in South America (the other one is Sugarloaf in Rio de Janeiro). Its height is 200 meters and it has 659 steps that you can climb up to see the incredible view of Guatape reservoir.
El Peñol rock is located just 5 minutes drive from Guatape town. You can get there by taking a taxi or a tuk tuk. The tuk tuk ride will cost you around 15,000 COP one way.
To climb El Peñol de Guatapé you will have to pay 20,000 COP a person (around $6). It will take 20 minutes to half an hour to climb up 659 steps (depends on how fit you are).
At the top of the rock there are a few vendors that sell souvenirs, a cafe where you can get cold drinks, or an ice cream. It actually surprised me how NOT overpriced drinks were at the top of El Penol rock. And that is when there is no elevator, or a cable car to take goods to the top. Everything has to be carried by hand.
At the top of the rock you get a 360° view that makes all that struggle on the steps worth it. You probably will spend not more than half an hour at the top (enjoying the view, and cold drinks). To get down it took us between 10 – 15 minutes and that was just because there was traffic.
As you already understood, Guatape lake is a large man-made freshwater reservoir. The reservoir itself is a popular attraction for tourists. It is a popular place for kayaking, jet skiing, and boat rides.
All water activities that I listed above are super fun, and if you have the time you should do them all. But if you are short on time, at least, do a boat ride.
The boat ride will take around an hour to an hour and a half. You can just enjoy the view at the top deck. Bigger boats for groups usually have a bar where you can buy beer, or soft drinks. So, your ride can be very pleasant.
There are a few boat tours that you can take. Some of them offer a dinner on the lake as a part of experience, others focus on Pablo Escobar’s connection to Guatape, and some just take you slowly around in a relaxing manner.
The specialty of Guatape town is trout (trucha) that is fished from the lake. If you know a bit about fish, then you are aware that trout is a fatty delicious fish that lives in clean fresh water.
In Guatape town you can get freshly caught and cooked trout with a bunch of sides for just about $4. It is definitely one of the best options for your lunch in this town.
Guatape town is full of cute little cafes and restaurants. While you are visiting Guatape, it would be a crime to not find a cozy place and enjoy local coffee.
One of my favorite places is located in one of the buildings at Plazoleta de Los Zócalos. It is called “Restaurante bar la plazoleta”. This restaurant has a small balcony that faces Plazoleta de Los Zócalos.
Plazoleta de Los Zócalos is a colorful square, full of people.Therefore restaurante “La plazoleta” is a great spot to relax with a cup of Colombian coffee and people watch.