Guatape from Medellin: A Day Trip Guide to Colombia’s Colorful Town
Discover how to get to Guatape from Medellin and what to do there while you’re at it. Welcome to the perfect Guatape one-day itinerary guide.
Guatapé is one of Colombia’s most beautiful colourful, historical towns. It’s full of colorful, vibrant houses, cobblestone streets, incredible lake views and of course the famous Piedra El Peñol- a huge rock you can climb to enjoy the lake views.
One of the best parts is that Guatapé is located just 2hours from Medellin making a trip or tour to Guatape from Medellin for the day super easy. In this guide discover all the ways to get to Guatape from Medellin and all the things to do in Guatape, one of Colombia’s most magical towns.
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BEST TIME TO GO
The area around Medellin, which includes Guatape, is famous for being the city of eternal spring with comfortable temperatures all year round, making it a warm destination to visit during any month of the year.
Temperatures are stable all year round with highs of 22°C/71°F and lows of 13°C/ 55°F so you’ll need to make sure to pack some light clothes as well as long pants and a jacket for the chiller evening.
When it comes to rainfall things vary quite a bit more. Guatape in general is quite a cloudy and rainy town with the most rain falling in April and May and also October and November, so if you’re not one for the rain then avoid these months. The months that see the least amount of rain are December, January and February- the high season for travelling in Colombia.
We visited Guatape in March when the weather followed a bit of a pattern of being pretty cloudy and rainy in the morning and fairly nice in the afternoons.
HOW TO GET TO GUATAPE FROM MEDELLIN
There are two main ways to get to Guatape from Medellin and they are bus and car. I guess you could cycle or go on horseback but that’s probably not the best idea if you’re only got a day.
It takes about 2 hours to get to Guatape from Medellin (perhaps a little longer on the bus) and it’s a swift and easy journey.
To get to Guatape from Medellin by bus, you’ll first need to get a taxi or Uber to Medellin’s Terminal Norte. This is the station you need for all destinations going north and east of the city. You can also get to Terminal Norte using the Medellin Metro- you’ll need to get off at Caribe and that’s on the blue line.
You’ll find all the ticket offices for the bus lines to Guatape on the ground floor at ticket booth number 14 or 9. I’m unsure of the name of the bus line now but you’ll see massive letters spelling out ‘GUATAPE’ on the counter window.
A one-way ticket to Guatape costs 15,000 COP ($4). If you visit Guatape during the week, it’s not essential to buy a return ticket as honestly, you probably don’t know how long you’ll stay.
The bus goes past the famous Piedra El Peñol de Guatapé, so if you want to get off there just ask the driver to stop so you can get off. The bus will then continue into the center of Guatapé.
If the weather is nice when you arrive and you don’t have a lot of stuff with you then I highly recommend getting off at El Peñol and visiting the rock first. Once coming back down you can get a local tuk-tuk to town. This will save you having to get a tuk-tuk both ways later to visit the rock from town.
On the way back just turn up at the bus station and buy a ticket for the next bus back to Medellin. Remember not to leave it too late as the buses don’t run until very late. It’s a good idea to check the time of the last bus back to Medellin when arriving at the bus station.
Another alternative to get to Guatape from Medellin is to drive. A rental car will cost about $40/$50 per day and you’ll also need about 20,000 COP for the tunnel toll just outside Medellin unless you drive all the way around- even then you’ll still need 12,000 COP for the other toll. While it is more comfortable and it gives you the freedom of moving around, it’s considerably more expensive than taking the bus.
We personally drove to Guatape from Medellin as we had just rented a car for a 6-day road trip around this region of Colombia, so for us, it was worth it. But during my first visit to Guatape in 2017, I took the bus and I remember the trip to be easy and quick.
Use the form below to check out the best deals on car rentals from Medellin.
WHERE TO EAT
Namaste Vegan Express– One of the best places in Guatape to have a wholesome, healthy and vegan lunch head up from the main square to this tiny vegan eatery. Choose from a table outside or upstairs and order from their small but mighty menu.
The thing to eat here is their falafel pita. You’ll get a wholemeal pita heaving with crispy falafel and another large bowl full of salad and veggies. It’s a delicious, filling meal and we left so full.
Thai Terrace – before coming to Guatape I had no idea that such a small place in Colombia would have such good Thai food but this place does have a bit of a reputation. Come here for all the classic Thai fare, especially if you need a change from Colombian food.
Namaste Om– Another great vegan option for bowls, burgers and sandwiches on the main road right by the lake.
Mitos– If you’re looking for a cafe or a great coffee to go this is the place. They have excellent coffee and if you want to put your feet up for a bit it has many well-decorated, private rooms or alcoves where you can relax on comfortable armchairs and sip your coffee.
Pizzeria de Luigi – If it’s pizza you’re after, this place is the best in the area. With a thin, doughy crust and great ingredients, the pizzas here are as authentic as they’ll get in a small town in Colombia.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN GUATAPE
A day in Guatape is all you need really to get to know this small and vibrant town and the giant El Peñol located just 10 minutes outside town. If you do want to stay longer, there are many more activities that you can do to explore the beautiful green surrounding countryside.
Guatape is a unique and extremely colorful town in the Antioquia region of Colombia and walking around and getting a feel for the town is a great place to start.
Guatape isn’t big and you can easily see most of its center in a couple of hours on foot. When walking around you’ll no doubt come across the main square with Guatape’s white and red church dominating it. From here make your way down any of the main streets and explore the many shops, Plaza del Zocalo, Umbrella Street and Calle de Recuerdo.
Notice the beautifully colored buildings and houses all of which have uniquely painted motifs, many of which represent the little town.
SUMMIT THE ROCK ( LA PIERDA EL PEÑOL)
El Peñol rock or La Piedra El Peñol is what many people come to Guatape for and it’s the area’s most popular attraction. Not only can you not help wondering how on earth something like this came to be here, climbing it gives you a brilliant vantage point to observe the whole area.
The main thing to do at the rock is to climb the 800+ stairs to the summit. It might seem like a gruelling climb but it makes for great exercise especially first thing in the morning. As you might imagine, there is no elevator.
From the top, you can circulate around the main viewpoint as well as climb up even higher to the second level for spectacular 360 views of the lake once your legs have recovered.
The views of the lake from here are incredible and you’ll see just how vast this man-made reservoir is. On a clear day, you can see for miles. At the top of the rock, there are some cafes to buy snacks and refreshments.
Tickets to the summit of El Peñol cost 20,000 COP per person. To get there from Guatape jump in one of the local tuk-tuks which will take you all the way up to the entrance of the rock. If you have a car, you can drive, there is parking right at the base of the rock.
Keep in mind that as one of Guatape’s most popular sights, so the parking and the summit of the rock get very crowded so it’s best to come early to avoid the crowds. The ticket office opens at 8 am.
PHOTOGRAPH CALLE DE RECUERDO
Calle del Recuerdo is one of Guatape’s most scenic streets. With cobblestone streets and the typical brightly painted houses covered with bas-relief depictions of people, shapes or animals on their lower parts.
It’s a great place to visit a few boutiques and take photos. I highly recommend coming here early in the morning, especially on the weekend to avoid the crowds as it’s a pretty small street.
WALK THE MALECON
The Malecon or boardwalk was constructed in 2019, giving Guatape residents and visitors a lovely place to hang out, shop and stroll on the edge of the lake in town. You can choose whether to stroll on the upper part of the Malecon, at street level or to walk down the stairs and stroll by the side of the lake, through the gardens while admiring the lake views.
Make sure to continue all the way to the bridge, near which you’ll find the good old Guatape sign to take your obligatory tourist photo.
TAKE A BOAT TOUR
A boat ride is another great way to enjoy the reservoir and little islands that make up this unique landscape. It’s also a great way to learn more about Guatape and its history from the knowledgeable guides on board.
On a typical boat ride from Guatape town, you’ll see a variety of different islands and luxury private residences including that of Colombian football star James Rodriguez.
The boat tour will also take you past Pablo Escobar’s old mansion is Guatape (you aren’t able to get off and visit anymore as the Colombian government has recently prohibited access to his properties) as well as the remainders of the towns and villages that were flooded to make way for the reservoir. It’s possible to see a cross in the water- the spire of a church that is now underwater.
You can book a boat tour from Guatape’s Malecon- there will be many locals offering boat tours, just make sure to check where they visit and group tour numbers.
Click here to book the best Guatape day tour from Medellin that also includes a boat tour, if you prefer not to organise everything yourself.
HAVE A COFFEE ON PLAZA DEL ZOCALO
Plaza Zocalo is the colorful heart of the town of Guatape and you’ll soon find it when exploring the town. It’s the colourful square surrounded by cafes at the end of the ‘umbrella street’. While this square does get pretty packed, especially during the day and at the weekend, it does make a great place for people watching.
The square is surrounded by cafes, and you can take your pick. We had a coffee at the cafe of the second floor overlooking the square and it was a great place to stop and rest for a bit and of course, try some of Colombia’s best coffee from these parts.
Plaza del Zocalo is also a nice place to get some photos and if you’re lucky, in the afternoons and evenings you can catch some live music here too.
TAKE A SCENIC HELICOPTER FLIGHT
Helicopter flights are available for anyone who wishes to truly get the best views in Guatape- not only of the lakes but also of El Peñol rock itself. A short flight over the lakes and the rock will give you a unique opportunity for the best views in the area and of course, to experience the thrill of a helicopter ride.
Prices depend on the length of the flight and how many people are in your group but you can expect to pay about $90 USD per 10-minute flight which is very reasonable for a helicopter flight.
Most book-in-advance helicopter tours are full-day tours to Guatape that depart from Medellin. If you prefer to organise a day tour to Guatape from Medellin which includes a helicopter ride check this great tour here.
Otherwise, you’ll have to enquire and book once to get to Guatape. The heliport is located right next to El Peñol rock. Booking directly here will get you the best rates.
HAVE A DRINK ON A FLOATING BAR
From the Malecon, you’ll no doubt spot a number of boats and barge-style boats moored up to the side of the lake. If you look closer you’ll notice that a few of those are floating bars.
The floating bars make a great place to relax in the early evening, grab a beer or a juice and contemplate the day. If you’re looking for somewhere to go for a drink in the evening, this is a nice option.
Skip the jetskiing and go paddleboarding instead- it’s better for your body and the environment. From Guatapé town you’ll see quite a few different companies offering kayaking and paddleboarding as you walk down the Malecon. This is one of the best ways to explore the lakes around town for the afternoon.
You can rent paddleboards or kayaks for a full day or by the hour. If you’re in town just for the day then I recommend renting a paddleboard for an hour or two and paddling a little further from town for some great lake views and some peaceful time on the water.
Alternatively, if you are planning to stay longer you can rent a kayak (single or double) for the day, pack some drinks and snacks and head out on the water to spend the day paddling around and exploring the inlets and islands around the lake.
GO SHOPPING FOR ARTISANAL CRAFTS
As soon as you begin wandering the cobblestone streets of Guatape, you’ll notice the large variety of little boutiques selling a wide range of lovely artisanal handcrafts. You can buy anything from gorgeous, chunky jewellery pieces to candles, homeware, accessories and clothing.
If you’re looking to buy something for yourself or perhaps to grab some things to take back for family and friends, make sure to look around some boutiques while strolling around town.
WHERE TO STAY
If you decide to actually turn the day trip into an overnight stay, and trust me, it is tempting, there are many places in town to rest those tired legs.
In Guatape you’ll find all kinds of accommodation options for all budgets but mainly at the budget and mid-range levels. There aren’t really many luxury hotels in Guatape. Also note that most hotels here cater for the Colombian market, so staff may or may not speak much English and the decor is also geared to a more Colombian taste.
The Boato Hotel – One of the best hotels in Guatape, located right on the lake. With beautiful, moody, modern decor, rooms here include amazing lake views, private terraces with hot tubs and there’s a bar and restaurant on site. The service and comfort here are outstanding. Check rates and availability here.
Luxe by The Charlee – For luxury accommodation at a great price, perfect for groups, this is another really great choice for a longer stay in Guatape. Rent a whole villa or apartment and enjoy a fully serviced apartment with all modern amenities as well as some amazing lake views from a private terrace. Check rates and availability here
Oak Tree house – A simple and affordable hotel right in the centre of town, perfect for crashing after a long day. This simple, local hotel isn’t big on the design but it is clean and the beds are comfortable. The staff are very friendly and accommodating too. Check rates and availability here.
Lake View Hostel – If you’re looking for a simple, no thrills hostel to crash for the night then Lake View Hostel ticks all the boxes. It has a range of dorms and privates for every kind of traveller, a great cafe for breakfast, brilliant views right from the communal terrace and Thai Terrace restaurant is just upstairs. Check rates and availability here.
Ready to explore Guatape from Medellin? Let me know your questions and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
Planning a trip right now? These are just some of my favourite websites I use to book everything from hotels to rental cars!
Rentalcars.com for quick and easy car rentals worldwide
Booking.com for great deals on hotels
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