Guatapé is a small, very pretty lakeside town in Eastern Antioquia, about 1½ hours from Medellín, Colombia.
The picturesque town of Guatapé is known as the Pueblo de Zócalos, named for the beautifully sculpted and painted depictions of village life that adorn the lower half of most buildings in the town center. On weekends, the waterfront malecón (boardwalk) fills up with local vendors selling beautiful Paisa art, food, and souvenirs, and the adventurous can take a ride on the Cable Vuelo, a canopy zipline over the lake. Popular boat tours visit the former site of Viejo Peñol, a town which was submerged by the creation of the reservoir, which is now marked by a giant memorial cross. Boat trips can also include a trip to see La Manuela, Pablo Escobar´s now bombed-out lakeside mansion, and ¨Fantasy Island¨, a pretty refuge in the middle of the reservoir, which has a swimming area, cabañas for rent, beautiful views of La Piedra, a tienda selling snacks and beer, and a pair of friendly resident scarlet macaws.
From Medellín: direct buses from Medellín leave from the Terminal del Norte (directly connected to the Caribe Metro Station), passing through El Peñol and the entrance to La Piedra on the way to Guatapé (about two hours). Two companies provide service: Sotrasanvicente, +57 4 861-0595, and Sotrapeñol, +57 4 851-5912, ticket counters 9 and 14. Each company provides service approximately every hour starting at 6AM. The average fare is between COP$13,000 (La Piedra) and COP$14,000 (Guatapé) (Nov 2018). Many buses continue to San Rafael. The last bus from Medellín to Guatapé is at 7PM. The last bus from Guatapé to Medellín is at 6:30PM (7:45PM on Sundays and Holiday Mondays). Return buses from Guatapé to Medellín fill up quickly on weekends – buy your ticket in advance (can buy for exact time either in Medellín or in Guatapé bus terminal).
Around the region: moto-taxis (+57 314-731-2184) provide service from the Parque Principal in Guatapé to La Piedra (COP$9,000, negotiable) and around the local area. Buses and Willys (Jeeps) also provide service between Guatapé and El Peñol (COP$3000), passing by the entrance to La Piedra (COP$2,000). Men generally hang off the back, which allows for excellent views. To get to La Piedra, ask to be dropped off at the Zeuss gas station, from there it is a 1-km walk uphill. Chivas provide service to the remote countryside.
The majestic surroundings of the Embalse El Peñol – Guatapé, one of the country's largest lakes, were created in part by the construction of a hydroelectric dam that provides 30% of Colombia’s electricity supply. It's hard to miss the region's most famous attraction, a more than 200-m-high rock outcropping that towers over the surrounding area. It's named El Peñol de Guatapé, but more commonly called La Piedra (The Stone). Over 650 stairs have been built into the side of this enormous geological marvel, allowing safe access to the top, where a viewpoint offers spectacular views of the lake and surrounding areas, as well as souvenirs and snacks. Entrance fee to the La Piedra is COP$20,000.
The following activities and tours can be arranged in and around Guatapé and El Peñol, with English-speaking guides upon request: hiking, scenic boat tours, paddle boat rentals, kayaking, fishing, trips to hidden waterfalls and swimming holes, arts and crafts shopping, canopy zipline, mountain and road biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and free tours of the local museum. The tours can be bought directly from the lakeside company Colombia Getaway in Guatapé.
- 1 Guatape Motos, Calle 32 #22-09 (at the main street "Malecon", near the bridge), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 09:00 - 18:00. Small motorcycle and scooter rental office, run by an international team. They offer tours too. Really cool way to explore the area, especially if you come from busy Medellin. COP$10,000-20,000 per hour.
On weekends, local merchants line the waterfront malecón selling a wide variety of arts and crafts and souvenirs.
A trip to Guatapé wouldn´t be complete without sampling the local specialty, fresh trout served in your choice of many delicious preparations. There are many good restaurants along the malecón and around the central park offering everything from traditional bandeja antioqueña to pizza and Mexican food. On weekends, local vendors also sell a variety of tasty snacks along the malecón.
- Hecho Con Amor Deli, Calle 31, # 25-42 (Opposite the entrance to the synthetic football pitch), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. noon-7:30PM. Mostly vegetarian cafe/restaurant offering vegeburgers, wraps, quiche, soup, salad, amazing cakes and desserts such as cheesecake, brownies and muffins and also very addictive chocolate truffles. Everything is home-made including all the sauces, mayo, etc. Prices are very good - for example COP$9,000 for a vegeburger or wrap, cakes and desserts from COP$3,000. Refreshing home-made lemonade with ginger or mint, fruit juices, beer and wine also available. The pavement cafe-style restaurant is in a peaceful location and also offers Wi-Fi and English book exchange.
While in Guatapé try some of the drinks typical of the Antioquia region, such as jugo de leche (juice with milk), jugo de aqua (juice with water), or Milo frio.
There are a wide variety of good hotel and hostel accommodations fit for every budget. Most are around the central park or along the malecón.
- 1 Lakeview Hostel, Cra 22 No. 29 B 29 (10-minute walk from the bus station, continue along Malecon (the boardwalk) until the big bridge, turn right on the last street and the hostel is ~300 meters on the right side.), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. On a quiet side street facing the lake, sunny and modern hostel with usual amenities (kitchen, TV with DVDs, fast Wi-Fi, common area, free tea & coffee). Offers mountain bike rental from COP$25,000/day, kayak from COP$20,000/day. Many day hikes to hidden waterfalls and easy access to El Peñon. COP$20,000 dorm, COP$60,000 private.