Is Guatape on your Colombia bucket list? Having lived in Medellin for 1.5 years, I recommend a trip to this gorgeous destination. From taking in the panoramic views to exploring its colourful old town, it’s definitely worth a day trip
It claims to have the best view in the world, and once you’ve climbed the 600 plus steps, you’ll realise why. With a stunning panoramic view, Guatape in Colombia will literally take your breath away.
As you gaze at the view, at the mass of water that snakes its way through lush green islands, it’s easy to forget that these aren’t even islands at all.
Created by a hydroelectric dam which provides 30% of the electricity to Colombia, over 5000 acres of land was purposely flooded back in the 1970’s with the hilly landscapes creating an island view.
The best things to do in Guatape Colombia
1. Climb La Piedra del Penol
The best view is on top of the Rock Guatape or La Piedra del Penol, a rock which itself has caused a divide. The town Penol claim it's theirs and the people from Guatape claim the same. So much in fact that they went to the extremes of painting the name of their town all over it but only got so far as ‘G' and half of the ‘U' and then fell off died (or so rumours say). Now the letters ‘GI' stand tall on one edge.
It only takes an hour max to climb up and although it looks steep, it’s a pretty easy climb with chances to stop on the way and admire the tiny houses and lush hilltops, and once you get to the top, there’s a wide viewpoint with souvenirs and refreshments.
2. Explore the town of Guatape
One of the best things to do in Guatape is to explore its town.
The town of Guatape is so colourful with buildings covered in ‘zócalos,’ 3D decorative wall art which depicts village life and is on nearly every building in the historic part of the city centre. Even the poorer neighbourhood has been transformed and is painted in vibrant colours.
Visit on the weekend and you’ll be surrounded by street stalls selling art and souvenirs and people zip lining along the lake as numerous boats make the trips around the hilly islands.
Not far down the road is the former town of Old Penol, a town with an even more exciting history. Not that you can see it, as it was flooded 35 years ago to make way for the dam. Just a giant memorial cross sits in the lake marking the spot where the old church lay under its murky waters.
But not all is lost as nearby is a replica of the town of how it was before its watery days…
3. Taste the traditional Colombian food
If you are a foodie, you can’t leave Guatape, or Colombia, without trying some of its culinary delights. There are plenty of savoury and sweet options to choose from.
Some of the most popular Colombian foods are:
Calentado. It is the most traditional breakfast in the country. This dish has white rice, beans, Colombian chorizo, a fried egg and an arepa.
Some locals love to add something sweet to the dish and have sweet plantain with it or drink hot chocolate with this traditional breakfast.
Pandebono. If you love bread, you must try pandebono. It is only made with three main ingredients: cheese, eggs and yuca flour. It’s fluffy, salty and extremely delicious.
Bandeja Paisa. It is Colombia’s national dish. It is super filling and full of flavours. It contains red beans, rice, chicharron, meat, chorizo, fried eggs, plantain, avocado, and of course, an arepa.
Torta negra colombiana. If you have a sweet tooth, you will love this cake. It is made with chocolate and dried papaya, an interesting but delicious combination.
4. Visit La Cazuela Waterfall
La Cazuela Waterfall is the perfect stop for any travelers that love nature. Not only is it beautiful, but it is a hidden gem to be uncovered.
The waterfall is small, but its surroundings will take your breath away. It is in a tiny town with beautiful lush green landscapes surrounding it.
Swim, relax and take in the views! It is a lovely place to cool off.
5. Go shopping
Guatape is one of the best places to shop in Colombia, especially if you love handicrafts. You can support the locals by buying jewellery, bags and home decorations. Plus, most of these objects are budget-friendly.
Esencia del Sol is a lovely shop with beautiful necklaces, rings and bags.
6. Drink Colombian coffee
Colombia is known for having the best coffee beans in the world, and what better opportunity to taste Colombian coffee in Guatape?
Some of the best cafes in Guatape are Cafe La Vina, Hecho con Amor Deli and KAFFA.
How to get from Medellin to Guatape
Guatape is the most popular day trip from Medellin.
I got to Guatape by car, which took 2 hours from the city of Medellin. Buses leave the north terminal and pass through El Penol and the entrance to the rock, costing approx $12,000 pesos.
If you visit on a day trip, make sure you buy your ticket beforehand, as the last bus back to Medellin leaves at 6.30 pm or 7.45 pm on Sundays. There is accommodation in the area if you’re looking to stay for longer, and the area is really safe for a solo female traveler.
Frequently Asked Questions About Guatape, Colombia
- How many days do you need in Guatapé? Two days gives you plenty of time to enjoy everything Guatape has to offer.
- Is Guatape safe? Yes, it is a safe destination for solo travellers.
- Is visiting Guatapé worth it? Yes, it is a beautiful destination with lots of things to do, especially nature activities.
- Does it rain a lot in Guatapé? Guatape is generally rainy.
- When is the best time to visit Guatape? February is a good month to visit Guatape if you want to do water-related activities. It is usually a warm and dry month.
Read more about Colombia
- Facts About Colombia
- Colombia’s Outdoor Escalators
- Best Nightlife in Medellin Colombia
- Christmas in Colombia