how to visit guatape from medellin

How to visit Guatape from Medellin – Easy Day Trips and Longer!

A visit to Guatapé is an easy day trip from Medellin and it’s one of the most popular day trips in Colombia.   The gloriously colourful pueblo of Guatape is just 90 minutes from Medellin.  In Guatape you’ll find fabulous architecture, whimsically painted houses and stunning views.  Known as the most colourful Colombian town is delightfully situated on the edge of a lake, surrounded by glorious scenery.  The town is located close to the famous landmark known as El Peñón del Peñol and one of the primary reasons to take a day trip to Guatape.

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Taking a Day Trip to Guatape

Our complete travel guide for Guatape Colombia takes you through how to get to Guatape, what you must go in Guatape and when the best times to visit are.

The easiest way to take a day trip to Guatape is to do it from a base of Medellin. While you can take public transport (and we’ve covered this all further down in this article), a guided tour will maximise your time, help you skip the lines AND get the most out of a day in Guatape. Here are the top day trips to Guatape.

A Brief Guatape History

Guatape was originally inhabited by indigenous ethnic groups, the chief of whom was named Guatape.  The town of Guatape was founded in October 1811, by the Spanish conquistador, Don Francisco Giraldo y Jimenez.  To honour the old chiefs, the pueblo was named Guatape.

Guatape was primarily a farming town – the economy of the region was agriculture and a little mining.  It was declared a municipality in September 1867.  In the 1970’s an enormous hydroelectric project created a man-made reservoir and today’s landscape.  The Gautape reservoir and dam not only creates more than 30% of Colombia’s energy but supports the tourism industry of Guatape.

view of the lake in guatape

In the creation of the reservoir, the old town of El Peñol was submerged and has lain under the water since.  The new town of El Peñol is now en route to Guatape from Medellin.

Where is Guatape?

Guatape is located in the Antioquia province of Colombia.  It is about 2 hours east of Medellin on a public bus.  How far is Guatape from Medellin?  It’s an easy trip from Medellin.  You will find Guatape 85 kilometres from Medellin.  Guatape is perfect to visit as a day trip from Medellin.  If you have more time, once the day trips from Medellin have gone home, Guatape is fabulous for an overnight stay.  Here are our recommendations for staying longer in Guatape!

Hotel Bosko – Amazing location on the lake, this is adult only Guatape accommodation with incredible views.  Breakfast is included, wifi is amazing and the luxury is just superb!  Reserve your room now!

Balcones de la Casona – a little further out this is a quiet location, with great value and fabulous terraces (plus there’s also a bar.  All rooms have wifi, and you can also rent bikes from here too – check prices and book your room now!

Hotel Real  – great location near the central square of Guatape – you’re right in the middle of things, but don’t worry it’s quiet once the day-trippers go home!  A great simple hotel, very friendly people.  Private rooms are very spacious!  Reserve your room now!

Map of Guatape

Here’s our map of Guatape.  This map shows where you can find Guatape, El Peñol and Medellin.

medellin to guatape map

Understanding Guatape, El Peñón, El Peñol and El Piedra de Penol

You will often read (and hear) El Penon de Guatape, El Peñol, El Piedra, Piedra de Penol and Guatape used interchangeably.  It’s confusing.

Guatape is the name of the town of 5,000 residents, 90 minutes from Medellin. (read our post on what to do in Medellin too!)

El Penon de Guatape, Colombia or the Rock of Guatape is the monolithic landmark located in the municipality of Guatape.  The rock is also claimed by the nearby town of El Peñol, residents of which call it El Peñón de El Peñol.  The rock is also called El Piedra (the stone).  For the purposes of this article, we’ll call it El Peñón.

general location map guatape

To add further to the confusion the original town of El Peñól lies under the waters of the lake, submerged since the hydroelectric project of the 1970s, which flooded thousands of hectares and created the Guatape reservoir.

How to Visit Guatape

There are several ways to visit Guatape.  The best way to get to Guatape depends on your confidence in negotiating public transport and the amount of time you have available.  You should also consider which of the activities in Guatape you’d like to take part in.  How to get from Medellin to Guatape depends on how you prefer to travel.  Getting to Guatape from Medellin can be as easy as calling a taxi or booking an Uber.  How to go to Guatape from Medellin also depends on your budget – getting from Medellin to Guatape is cheapest by bus, but we’ll start with the easiest way to visit Guatape.

Take a Guided Tour to Guatapé from Medellin

If you prefer to maximise your time in Guatape, then select a guided tour from Medellin – here are the best options for day trips to Guatape. Tours to Guatape from Medellin are easy to arrange.  These Medellin Guatape tours are generally day trips include visits to El Peñón, usually lunch in Guatape and can also include trips on the lake and other activities.  There are a variety of options when it comes to Medellin to Guatape day trips – some include lunch, some include cruises, some dinners.

How to Get to Guatape from Medellin by Public Transport

It is easy to get from Medellin to Guatape independently.    First of all, take the Medellin Metro Line A (blue) and get to the Caribe Station.  If you haven’t already read it, we’ve put together a guide on the Medellin Metro for tourists. 

The bus from Medellin to Guatape goes from the Medellin north bus terminal, so if you are planning to take the bus to Guatape from Medellin you will need to get to this terminal.  The easiest way to get to the Caribe Station in Medellin is via the Medellin metro.

Take the Metro to Caribe Station

Caribe Metro station is connected to the Medellin Northern bus terminal (Terminal Norte) by way of several pedestrian bridges over the highway below.

Take a bus from Medellin Terminal Norte to Guatape

There are several companies that run this route. All the ticket booths at the north bus terminal Medellin are downstairs.  You will companies running the Guatape-Medellin route at the ticket booths 9, 12 and 14.  The companies that operate the Medellin to Guatape bus are Sotrapenol, Sootransvincente and Transporte Guatape la Piedra.

Buses run from 0530 until 1830 and they run as regularly as every 15 minutes.    The bus to Guatape from Medellin timetable is displayed at each counter.  They may also display the times for the Guatape Medellin bus, but it is more likely that the return details are displayed in Guatape.

The cost of a one-way bus ticket to Guatape from Medellin is 15,000 COP.  Tickets from each bus company is the same price.  The journey from Medellin Bus Terminal Norte to Guatape takes between 90 minutes and 2 hours.

If you are taking a day trip we recommend getting off at El Peñol.  The driver will ask and stop here at the gas station at the base of El Peñol.  This is about 10 minutes outside of Guatape on the bus.

You then have a choice of walking up the steps from the bus stop to the actual base of El Peñol, or you can take a tuk-tuk.

Medellin to Guatape Taxi

An Uber or taxi from Medellin to Guatape will take around 1 hour and 40 minutes to travel to Guatape from Medellin.  The cost is around USD$35.

Things to Do in Guatape

Now that you’ve got to Guatape – hopefully early in the day, and hopefully not at a weekend or on a holiday – this is what you’ve been waiting for – all the best things to do in Guatape. We’ll start with visiting El Peñol, as it’s logical to visit here first en-route from Medellin.

WAlking route to El penol

Climb El Peñón

Climbing El Peñón is the number one reason to come to Guatape.   If you’ve walked up from where the Medellin-Guatape bus dropped you off you will have made it to the actual base of the rock.  Here you’ll find a car park (If you take a guided tour, then this is where you’ll start your exploration of El Peñón), cafes and souvenir stalls.

Market and cafes el penon

The ticket booth for El Peñón is also here.  The ticket for El Peñón is 18,000 COP.

There is also a café and more souvenir stalls at the top of El Peñón, but everything is more expensive at the top!

Facts about El Peñón

El Peñón weighs approximately 66 million tons and is the 3rd largest monolithic rock in the world.  El Peñón is composed of quartz, feldspar and mica.

El Peñón is 385 meters long and has an elevation of 2,135 meters above sea level.  At the top El Peñón has an average temperature of 18 °C. Please make sure that your travel insurance covers you to this altitude. You can read our guide to Colombia Travel Insurance here.

There are 740 concrete steps from the bottom of El Peñón to the very top, although the final few steps will cost you an extra 2,000 COP to climb there if that section is actually open.

You can track your progress, as the steps are numbered, with every 25th step noting your progress.  Apart from a small section at the top, the up and down steps are separate.

El PIedra steps to the top

The steps to return to the base are closer to the rock and do not have viewpoints.  There are also small resting areas on the way up.

And you’ll want to use these rest stops, the views from El Peñón just keep getting better as you get higher.  Be sure to take photos on the way up – the downward steps are located on the inside of the upward steps, so you don’t have a clear view.

steps to climb to the top of el piedra de penon

The view from the top is spectacular, just be sure to visit on a clear day!

guatape view from el penon

Visiting El Peñón from Guatape

If you took the bus all the way from Medellin to Guatape, then getting to El Peñón is easy and you have 3 options.

  1.  Take the road out of town back towards Medellin.  It will take about an hour.
  2. Take a tuk-tuk or a taxi. This will cost 30,000 COP but will take you directly to the ticket booth.
  3. Take the Medellin Bus. You’ll find this at the corner of Carrera 30 and Calle 32 on the waterfront.  This bus from Guatape to El Peñón costs 2,000 COP.  From where the bus drops you, you can walk either up the road or the steps or take a tuk-tuk for 10,000 COP.

When you have finished marveling at the views and got your breath back, it’s time to head from El Peñón to Guatape – here’s how to do that.

map of guatape and el penol

How to get from El Piedra to Guatape

After you’ve taken in all the views you can from the top of El Piedra, then you’ll want to head from El Peñón to Guatape.  There are several ways of getting there.

  1. Take a taxi or a tuk-tuk – costs around 5,000 COP Per person from the ticket booth
  2. Walk, simply follow the road down and turn right when you join the main road. Walking from El Peñón to Guatape will take about an hour, but is along the side of the main road.
  3. Walk back down to where you got off the bus and take the next bus for 1,500 COP.

Once you’ve arrived in Guatape it’s time to take a look at the other great things to do in this colorful Colombian pueblo.

First, buy your bus ticket from Guatape to Medellin

If you are taking a day trip from Medellin to Guatape then the first thing you must do when you arrive in Guatape is to buy your ticket for your bus from Guatape to Medellin.  The Guatape to Medellin bus fills up quickly.  If you’ve taken a taxi or tuk-tuk to Guatape from Medellin, then they will drop you at the bus ticket office.  The Medellin bus is located at Calle 32 – right opposite the waterfront as you enter Guatape.

Here is a map to show you where to buy tickets to get back to Medellin.

Guatape location of bus terminal

Buses from Guatape to Medellin return at set times, especially in the offseason, which is why you want to book your return bus to Medellin as soon as you arrive.

Visit Guatape’s Main Square

The Parque Principal is Guatape’s main square. Here you’ll find tree-shaded spots to while away the time, while people watching.  The square is surrounded by cafés and bars and is the center of the town.  You’ll find Guatape’s church here too, Parroquia Nuestra Señora Del Carmen Guatape

Parroquia Nuestra Señora Del Carmen Guatape

Discover the Zócalos of Guatape

A zócalo is the term for a coat of cement that creates a façade along the lower 80 centimetres of the houses in Guatape.  Many of the houses in Guatape have these facades painted with vibrant colours and decorated with patterns.  Zócalos usually celebrate the cultural heritage of the family living there.

zocalo guatape

The custom was likely brought from Spain and was originally used to protect the house from erosion.

Hang out in La Plazoleta de los Zocalos

This pretty small square is the place to admire painted steps, yet more colourful buildings and a great place to enjoy coffee.  There are also plenty of souvenir shops around here!

steps and square in Guatape

Drink Coffee from Fine China in Guatape

Order a coffee from any of Guatape’s cafes or coffee shops and you’ll get a great cup of Colombian dark, rich coffee.  What’s unique about coffee in Guatape is that it’s served in a gorgeous china cup perched on a saucer.  Order two cups of coffee and you’ll likely get an even more original cup and saucer option.

Coffee in China cups from Guatape

Take a Trip on the Lake in Guatape

If you’d like to explore the lake at Guatape, you have the option of taking an organized boat trip or renting kayaks.   If you’ve elected to take a guided tour to Guatape, then an option will have been to take a boat trip.  If you are travelling independently, then you’ll find the boat operators on Calle 32.   If you are travelling to Guatape at the weekend or over Colombian holidays we recommend that you pre-book.  Guatape is very popular at these times.

Looking for another awesome trip from Medellin?  Explore Comuna 13 – here’s how.

Boat trips on the lake will visit several islands and, so long, as the lake levels aren’t too high, you’ll get to see evidence of the old town of El Peñól that was submerged with the building of the reservoir in the 1970s.

view of lake in guatape

If you’re staying longer then it’s also possible to book dinner cruises on Laguna Guatape – ask at your hotel or hostel for more information.

To explore the lake under your own power, then rent a kayak.  You can rent kayaks at the Lakeview Hostel and the Hostel Galeria for an hour or longer.  If you decide to rent for the day kayak rental on Guatape Lake will cost around 20,000 COP.

What to do in Guatape in One Day

If you’re looking to spend just one day in Guatape, follow our 1-day Guatape itinerary to maximize your time here.

  • Take an early bus (0730-0800) from Medellin to arrive at El Peñon by 1000
  • Climb the 740 steps to the top of El Peñon and treat yourself to the views and a michelado at the top of El Piedra
  • Take a tuk-tuk from El Peñon to Guatape
  • Book your return bus trip as soon as you arrive in Guatape
  • Get lunch from one of the myriad restaurants in the Parque Principal, people watching as you enjoy the weather.
  • Take a self-guided walking tour of the famous Guatape zocalos
  • Head to the lakeside and take a tour of the lake to explore the area you’ve seen from the top of El Peñon
  • Grab a cup of coffee in fine china cups at the square before heading to the bus station to return back to Medellin.
Guatape Coffee in China Cups in the Square

What is the Best Time to Visit Guatape?

Your visit to Guatape should be dictated, though, by when other people are likely to go to Guatape.

Guatape is a great weekend escape for those living in Medellin.  So try and avoid Guatape at weekends and holidays to have a more peaceful time.

You’ll also find that it is quieter if you arrive in Guatape earlier in the day, especially if you want to visit El Peñon.

What’s the Weather in Guatape?

Guatape weather is similar to that of Medellin.  It’s warm during the day and the climate is pleasant.  Then the high temperature in Guatape is usually no more than 23 degrees Celsius.   Guatape, however, does get a lot of rain, so check the weather forecast for when you plan to visit.

You’ll really want to visit one of the most spectacular views in Colombia when there is good weather!  The driest months to visit Guatape are December, January and February.

pretty cobbled streets and zocalo guatape

How much time do you need to visit Guatape

You can see the highlights of Guatape in one day.  Follow our suggested one day in Guatape itinerary to get the most out your day trip.   If you have more time, then spending at least one night in Guatape will allow you to see the town when all the day trippers have returned to Medellin.

Where to Stay in Guatape – Accommodation

There are great places to stay in Guatape for all budgets.  You will find Guatape hotels with lake views, hostels and there are also good Guatape apartments too if you want to stay longer.

Hotel Bosko – Amazing location on the lake, this is adult only accommodation with incredible views.  Breakfast is included, wifi is amazing and the luxury is just superb!  Reserve your room now!

Balcones de la Casona – a little further out this is a quiet location, with great value and fabulous terraces (plus there’s also a bar.  All rooms have wifi, and you can also rent bikes from here too – check prices and book your room now!

Hotel Real  – great location near the central square of Guatape – you’re right in the middle of things, but don’t worry its quiet once the day trippers go home!  A great simple hotel, very friendly people.  Private rooms are very spacious!  Reserve your room now!

Where to Stay in Medellin, Colombia

The two key areas of the city of Medellin that are best to stay in for first-timers are El Poblado and Laureles.  You’ll find a good selection of accommodation in both these areas of Medellin, plus all the infrastructure you’ll need to visit Medellin.

Where to Stay in El Poblado, Medellin

There are a host of places to stay in El Poblado, Medellin – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in El Poblado, Medellin, mid-range places to stay in El Poblado, Medellin, and budget accommodation in El Poblado, Medellin.

Hotel York Luxury Suites, Medellin–El Poblado: The Hotel York Luxury Suites in El Poblado units include cable TV, a kitchenette, a private bathroom with a shower, air-conditioning, and a coffee machine. This top hotel in Poblado, Medellin also has an outdoor pool, a bar, a shared lounge, and free WiFi. There’s also a restaurant and a fitness center at this fabulously luxurious hotel in El Poblado, Medellin. Read more reviews and check room rates and availability for the Hotel York in Medellin here.

Lettera Hotel, Medellin–El Poblado: The Lettera Hotel in Poblado provides accommodation with air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom with a shower and hairdryer, an iron, a safety deposit box, a balcony in some rooms, an iron, a mini-bar, and a desk. This mid-range hotel in El Poblado, Medellin also offers continental breakfast, airport transfers, and free WiFi. There’s also a garden and a terrace here. Check room rates and availability for the Lettera Hotel in Medellin here.

574 Hotel, Medellin–El Poblado: The 547 Hotel is in a great location in El Poblado and this budget Medellin hotel has rooms that are spacious with a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, air-conditioning, a mini-bar, bed linen and towels, and balcony in some units. The budget Medellin hotel also offers continental breakfast and there’s free WiFi. This affordable hotel also offers laundry services and this is a great budget hotel option in El Poblado. Read more reviews and check room rates here.

Where to Stay in Laureles

There are a host of places to stay in Laureles – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Laureles, mid-range places to stay in Laureles, and budget accommodation in Laureles.

Inntu Hotel, Laureles, Medellin: The Inntu Hotel is centrally located in the Laureles area of Medellin and rooms here have their own private bathrooms with hairdryer, air-conditioning, sound-proofed rooms, a desk, and a flat-screen TV. This great Laureles hotel also offers laundry, dry-cleaning, and ironing services, and an on-site coffee house and restaurants for dining options. The Inntu Hotel in Laureles, Medellin, has spa facilities offering massages, spa treatments, and other wellness packages. There are great scenic views at this top Medellin hotel from both the sun terrace and garden area. The Inntu Hotel is a great luxury hotel in Laureles. See room rates and availability for the Inntu hotel here.

Hotel Laureles Plaza, Laureles, Medellin: The Hotel Laureles Plaza is in a great location in the Laureles district of Medellin–Laureles. The rooms here at Medellin’s Hotel Laureles Plaza have their own flat-screen TV, private bathroom, air-conditioning, a hot tub in some units, and a wardrobe. This mid-range Medellin hotel also serves continental or a la carte breakfast in the morning, and has an airport transfer service, family rooms, a bar, and free WiFi. The Hotel Laureles Plaza is a great hotel option in Laureles. Check out rates and availability of Hotel Laureles Plaza here.

Hotel Torre Primavera, Laureles, Medellin:  The Hotel Torre Primavera is located at Calle 40 in Laureles, Medellin and is a great budget option in Laureles. The units here at the Hotel Torre Primavera include a TV, a private bathroom with hot water, maid service, and free WiFi access. If you are looking for budget-friendly accommodation, Hotel Torre Primavera is a good option when visiting Medellin. Find out more about Medellin’s Hotel Torre Primavera’s room rates and availability here.

Travel Tips for Exploring Colombia

How Will You Choose to Visit Guatape?

A day trip to Guatape is an essential trip from Medellin. Guatape is close to the city, easy to get to and you’ll get amazing views from the top of El Piedra.   Visiting Guatape from Medellin is one of the best Medellin day trips that you can take.  Put this on your Colombia bucket list, no matter how you choose to visit!

How will you choose to visit Guatape?  Are you an independent traveler or do you prefer to take a tour?  Let us know what works best for you.

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