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


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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 Guatapé is just 90 minutes from Medellin.  In Guatapé 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 Guatapé

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

 

A Brief History of Guatapé

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

Guatapé 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 reservoir and dam not only creates more than 30% of Colombia’s energy but supports the tourism industry of Guatapé.

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 Guatapé from Medellin.

Where is Guatapé?

Guatapé is located in the Antioquia province of Colombia.  It is about 2 hours east of Medellin on a public bus.  You will find Guatapé 85 kilometres from Medellin.  Guatapé is perfect to visit as a day trip from Medellin.  If you have more time, once the day trippers have gone home, Guatapé 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 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!

Map of Guatapé

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

medellin to guatape map

Understanding Guatapé, El Peñón, El Peñol and El Piedra

You will often read (and hear) El Peñón, El Peñol, El Piedra and Guatapé used interchangeably.  It’s confusing.

Guatapé 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 Peñón de Guatapé or the Rock of Guatapé is the monolithic landmark located in the municipality of Guatapé.  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 Guatapé reservoir.

How to Visit Guatapé

There are several ways to visit Guatapé.  The best way to get to Guatapé 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 Guatapé you’d like to take part in.

We’ll start with the easiest way to visit Guatapé.

Take a Guided Tour to Guatapé from Medellin

If you prefer to maximise your time in Guatapé, then select a guided tour from Medellin – here are the best options for day trips to Guatapé.  These day trips include visits to El Peñón, usually lunch in Guatapé and can also include trips on the lake and other activities.

How to Get to Guatapé from Medellin by Public Transport

It is easy to get from Medellin to Guatapé 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. 

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 Guatapé

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

 

Buses run from 0530 until 1830 and they run as regularly as every 15 minutes.

The cost of a one-way bus ticket to Guatapé from Medellin is 15,000 COP.  Tickets from each bus company is the same price.  The journey from Medellin Terminal Norte to Guatapé 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 Guatapé 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.

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guide to visiting Guatape from Medellin How to visit Guatape Colombia  Visit Guatape from Medellin

Taxi or Uber from Medellin to Guatapé

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

Things to Do in Guatapé

Now that you’ve got to Guatapé – 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 Guatapé. 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 Guatapé.   If you’ve walked up from where the Medellin-Guatapé 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.

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 Guatapé

If you took the bus all the way from Medellin to Guatapé, 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 Guatapé 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 marvelling at the views and got your breath back, it’s time to head from El Peñón to Guatapé – here’s how to do that.

map of guatape and el penol

How to get from El Piedra to Guatapé

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 Guatapé.  There are several ways of getting there.

  1. Take a taxi or a tuk-tuk – cost 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 Guatapé 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 Guatapé it’s time to take a look at the other great things to do in this colourful Colombian pueblo.

First, buy your bus ticket from Guatapé to Medellin

If you are taking a day trip from Medellin to Guatapé then the first thing you must do is buy your ticket back to Medellin.  If you’ve taken a taxi or tuk-tuk to Guatapé 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 Guatapé.

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

Guatape location of bus terminal

Buses from Guatapé 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 Guatapé’s Main Square

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

Parroquia Nuestra Señora Del Carmen Guatape

Discover the Zócalos of Guatapé

A zócalo is the term for a coat of cement that creates a façade along the lower 80 centimetres of the houses in Guatapé.  Many of the houses in Guatapé 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 Guatapé

Order a coffee from any of Guatapé’s cafes or coffee shops and you’ll get a great cup of Colombian dark, rich coffee.  What’s unique about coffee in Guatapé 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 Guatapé

If you’d like to explore the lake at Guatapé, you have the option of taking an organized boat trip or renting kayaks.   If you’ve elected to take a guided tour to Guatapé, 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 Guatapé at the weekend or over Colombian holidays we recommend that you pre-book.  Guatapé is very popular at these times.

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 Guatapé – 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 Guatapé Lake will cost around 20,000 COP.

 

What to do in Guatapé in One Day

If you’re looking to spend just one day in Guatapé, follow our 1-day Guatapé 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 Guatapé
  • Book your return bus trip as soon as you arrive in Guatapé
  • 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 Guatapé 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 Guatapé?

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

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

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

What’s the Weather in Guatapé?

The weather in Guatapé is similar to that of Medellin.  It’s warm during the day and the climate is pleasant.  Then the high temperature in Guatapé is usually no more than 23 degrees Celsius.   Guatapé, 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 Guatapé are December, January and February.

pretty cobbled streets and zocalo guatape

How much time do you need to visit Guatapé

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

Where to Stay in Guatapé

There are great places to stay in Guatapé for all budgets.  You will find Guatapé hotels with lake views, hostels and there are also good Guatapé apartments on Airbnb 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!

How Will You Choose to Visit Guatapé?

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

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

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About Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is an avid reader, writer and traveller. She loves hiking, sailing, skiing and exploring the world through food. She left a successful career in IT security and compliance in both the UK and US to travel the world with husband and partner in adventure, Nigel.

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