Things to do in Guatape Colombia
1. Climb La Piedra PenonLa Piedra Penon is a huge rock that provides a spectacular view of the lakes around Guatape. It has multiple names – El Peñon de Guatape, La Piedra and El Peñol. They all basically mean the Guatape rock. It is 659 stairs to get from bottom to top! If you are reasonably fit you will be fine – it takes less than 10 minutes to get to the top. But El Peñon de Guatape is rather steep so it is best to take some water and a few breaks along the way! Somewhat confusingly you will get to what feels like it should be the top of La Piedra Penon Colombia (as there are stands selling beverages and souvenirs) but you will then realise you need to head up further stairs which have been cleverly designed to intersect with more shopping opportunities – obviously, a retail genius was behind the design of al Peñón de Guatapé!
⇒ One of the most popular types of day tours and trips in Medellin are those focussed on Pablo Escobar. Read my post on Pablo Escobar Tours for the full rundown on all of the different types of tours and costs.
2. The Coloured Houses of GuatapeMy key objective for my Guatape visit was to get as many great photos of super cute colourful houses in this little town as possible! Guatape is pretty small and easy to wander on foot but it is helpful to have a sense of where the best concentration is of cute houses. There is one road into Guatape from Penol – as you head towards the lake Calle 37 is on your right (although not clearly signed). If you are in a cab this is most likely where they will drop you off. This is quite a cute street with some nice houses on it so get the camera out and this street takes you to the Guatape main square – which has the super cute church. The rest of the streets with the cute houses are on the other side of the square. There are probably about 10-12 streets in Guatape Colombia that are extremely photogenic and most of them are linked. Start with the streets that are off Guatape lake and then wander from there.
⇒ If you’re planning your Colombia Trip don’t miss my 2 Week Colombia Itinerary post.I suggest heading quite far west to where the road crosses the lake and then head back towards the Guatape main square with the church from there. If you like taking photos I would allow about one hour for this. It is difficult to see street numbers/names in Guatape so follow your nose! It is tricky in terms of the time of day and shadows on the houses when photographing Guatape. The streets can be quite windy so I really don’t think there is one optimal time. If you are super dedicated then perhaps arrive in Guatape in the morning and take pics, have lunch and a lake trip and then do another round in the afternoon. I must confess I am not dedicated enough to do this!!! I would also suggest looking out for some of the really cute detail throughout Guatape – we saw everything from pot plants to rubbish bins that had been brightly painted and were nice for photos.
⇒ Another huge Instagram opportunity in Medellin is Feria de Las Flores – read my guide to this annual festival here.
3. What to do in Guatape – Explore the LakefrontGuatape lake is actually artificial – it doesn’t look it but that’s what Lonely Planet says so it must be correct! You can do a boat trip on the Guatape lakefront. We didn’t do this as there wasn’t sufficient time but I wish we had. I think a Guatape boat trip would be a lovely thing to do on a nice day and a nice way to explore the area. The Guatape lakefront area is busy with stalls. There were quite a few with super cute super cheap hats. I bought a couple which I now use in many of my photos and I love them! The hats also tend to fold up easily and pop back into shape even when they are quite large! There were stalls along Guatape lake selling chocolates and drinks, jewellery and most other things you could imagine!
4. Enjoy the Local Food and CoffeeMy favourite experience of this type in Guatape was the amazing coffee stall! So I am from Melbourne Australia and am a complete and utter coffee snob. Terribly horribly picky and a bit coffee obsessed. So I am painful when it comes to coffee. And Black Cafe Guatape absolutely delighted me so it is a high rating! The Black Café is a coffee cart on the lakefront. They have this fantastic almost coffee laboratory set up that produces a brilliant flat white and they put a chocolate sauce on the top which is an excellent addition! For lunch, we headed to the Guatape town main square with the cute church as we were starving and couldn’t wait any longer! We had lunch at the funnily named Tiki Taka which has lots of outside tables and super friendly service. The Tiki Taka Guatape menu is typical Colombian so lots of meat, patacones and we got some hot chips which were good! Tiki Taka also serve the classic paisa dish Bandeja which my friend had and it looked very tasty! The Medellin to Guatape day trip is a must-do whilst in Medellin. It is a lovely photogenic day out and well worth the effort.
Organised Tours GuatapeThere are quite a few tour companies that offer a guided Guatape tour. These can be a great option if you are not in the mood to figure out how to do things and like making a bigger day. There are essentially three different options for Guatape organised tours. The first is to go on a Guatape group tour and visit Piedra del Penon and the town of the Guatape. The second option is to have a Guatape private tour that will cover the same ground but give you more options. The third option is to go with a group, visit Piedra del Penon and town of Guatape and add in a boat tour.
How to get to Guatape IndependentlyUpon investigation, it is quite easy to get yourself to and from Guatape independently and have a more flexible day and most importantly not such an early start! Buses leave from the Medellin North Bus Station (which is quite a distance from El Poblado). Go to counter 9 or 14 at Medellin North Bus Station – several companies sell bus tickets to Guatape or La Piedra. The Guatape buses vary quite a bit – we had a minibus from Medellin to Guatape and then a normal-sized bus heading back. It is a windy and bumpy drive though so if you suffer from getting car sick do make sure you bring something to control nausea. Once you arrive in Guatape it is a good idea to book your bus ticket back to Medellin immediately as they can get sold out. However, do be careful as we ended up returning to Medellin in serious peak hour traffic and it took over 2 ½ hours. The bus pulls into the Guatape bus station which is on the lakefront. The office to buy your return ticket to Medellin is also located Guatape bus station. If you would like to climb up Piedra Penon (which you definitely do!) you will need to get off the bus at the stop before the town of Guatape and after the town of Penol. Ask the bus driver to stop at La Piedra which is 10 minutes after Penol. There will most likely be other slightly confused looking travelers doing the same thing! From here there will be loads of different types of transport to take you to the start of Piedra Penon or you can walk the 1km. Once you have descended you can then take a cab into Guatape – this takes about 5 minutes and is well worth it!
⇒ Medellin has some fantastic food – Read my Top 10 Restaurants and Cafes in Medellin Post
How to Get to Medellin and Get AroundThe nearest airport for Guatape is in Medellin. Air France and American Airline’s also fly to Colombia – click on their airline names to read my reviews! Bogota is only a 30-minute flight from Medellin.
⇒ Read my Things to do in Bogota Colombia in 24 hours post here.
⇒ I flew with Iberia when I went – Here is my Iberia Business Class review
Where to stay in Guatape and Medellin HotelsYou can stay in Guatape although most people choose to base themselves in Medellin.
⇒ Places to stay in GuatapeI would highly recommend staying in the El Poblado area for first-time visitors as it is full of great restaurants and shops and easy to get around. It is also very tourist-friendly and just makes life a bit easier so you can enjoy Medellin.
⇒ I had a fantastic stay in the Art Hotel Medellin – read my review here.Charlee Hotel and it was lovely! It also has a great central location in Medellin and a fantastic rooftop bar and pool! The rooms are gorgeous and they also have a great restaurant on the ground floor. The Charlee is one of the best hotels Medellin has on offer. Diez Hotel Medellin The Sites Hotel Medellin Hotel Loyds Medellin is another good option in El Poblado.
⇒ Ready to plan your next trip? Check out my guide on Chile Itinerary 2 Weeks in Boutique Hotels.
Other Boutique Adventurer Posts You Might Enjoy Reading:I have written about Colombia for several websites:
⇒ The fantastic don’t miss it Communa 13 Tour