If you’re headed to Medellin then a short trip to Guatape is a must, regardless of whether you go for a day trip or stay a few nights this town is sure to put a smile on your face. If you are confused as to what to see and do in Guatape and how to get there, you’re not alone, so here is our guide to visiting Guatape including how to get from Medellin to Guatape and what to do in Guatape.
Medellin to Guatape
By Bus the journey from Medellin to Guatape is only 1.5 to 2 hours and costs COP13,500. To catch the bus head to Caribe metro station on Line A in Medellin (or take an Uber for COP12,000) as this metro station connects to Terminal del Norte. At Terminal del Norte head to the ticket booths downstairs to buy your ticket. Buses from Medellin directly to Guatape leave about every 30 minutes.
Before arriving in Guatape you will be asked if you would like to be dropped at El Penol (the big rock) or in town center. If you are planning on going to El Penol and don’t have your big bags then this is a great way to save time and money on travel back to El Penol later and just go straight off of the bus. If you have your bags and are staying in town then just get dropped off in town and head to El Penol after (see below for more information on El Penol.)
Where to Stay in Guatape
Unfortunately we can’t recommend any hostels in Guatape, we stayed at a place called Nomada Backpackers and it was actually terrible. Located on top of a club owned by the hostel, loud music blared until 3am. The room was the size of a closet and the owner couldn’t care less about how your stay was, so just don’t stay there and you will be better off than we were.
What to do in Guatape
Climb El Penol
Five minutes out of town is El Penol, this rock weighs a whopping 66 million ton’s and is the 3rd largest monolithic rock in the world. This must be on your list for “what to do in Guatape.”
El Penol overlooks a man made lake caused by the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the area. Filled with small Islands that make for an amazing view it is said to “be the best view in the world” by locals however I can confirm it is not, but the view is still breathtaking and worth a look.
Getting to the top only takes 740 steps and in the humid weather it is a great way to sweat out all the toxins in the body! A trip to Guatape is not complete without a visit to El Penol.
Getting to El Penol – From the centre of town walk towards the water front street Calle 32 and catch any bus heading to Medellin. Simply tell the driver you’re going to El Penol and get on, this trip will cost COP2,000 (70 cents US) and will save you a 45 minute walk. On the way back catch the bus from the same spot and again any bus, just flag them down.
To get to the entrance you can either take a tuk tuk for COP10,000 or walk, I recommend walking it’s only 900m!
Cost – The entrance fee to El Penol is COP18,000 – a bit pricey however well worth it. If you take the bus and walk to the entrance the day will only cost COP 22,000, there is a shop at the top that is over priced so take water and maybe a snack.
Play Paintball in Pablo Escobar’s Mansion
If you are curious about the infamous criminal Pablo Escobar then a tour to his mansion and a few games of paintball inside could be for you. We opted to skip this although we have some info from friends.
First of, all of the tour isn’t just paintball, it’s also a tour about the man himself, for a few hours you will walk the grounds and find out the real life story of Pablo Escobar (and not the glorified TV version.) After this, you will play 5 games of paintball with 200 rounds provided, other bullets are available to purchase however I’ve been told they are pricey.
Cost – From Medellin the tours are COP160,000 and include lunch transport and the paintball, if you are in Guatape the tours start at COP110,000 and include the same.
Walk the Beautiful Streets
Guatape is said to be the most colorful town in Colombia and shortly after arriving I could see why. If you’re lucky enough to have a clear sky then the town will light up to the point that you will need sunglasses to look around. Concerned about what to do in Guatape? Just look around and you will be amazed!
From the main Plaza just begin walking in any direction and keep walking until you get lost and then walk some more. Take maps.me with you just incase but seriously get lost in it’s beauty, take a thousand photos, and stop for a coffee every now and then.
The benefit of staying a night or two is you will have plenty of time to just enjoy the town itself and the great thing about this is that it’s free!
People Watch from the Square
If your like me and love watching the daily life of others while enjoy a coffee or beer then head to the main square and pick a restaurant or café.
Guatape isn’t like any ordinary town and in the few hours we relaxed we saw all sorts of characters including a group of cowboys drinking on their horses out the front of a bar before galloping around the square. As the sun went down one man had to be pulled off of his horse as the alcohol took affect and holding on was a little too hard.
Go play some pool in one of the many bars and just enjoy the local craziness, this is a great way to spend the afternoon or night.
There are many great places around the square and the coffee and beer is cheap, so enjoy!
Take a Cruise on the Lake
This can be done either by boat or kayak, however due to the lake’s large size I suggest by boat. There are a few options, you can take a local guide from Calle 32 or choose a more luxurious option and take a dinner cruise. Either would be great, just be sure to pick a reputable company or a nice boat as only about one month ago nine people died after a boat suffered an explosion and sunk in the lake. We had arrived just after the accident and opted to skip it.
Budget tip – Guatape can be expensive if not done right – so try to eat street food and cook if you’re on a budget, and don’t take many tuk tuk’s as they are expensive and walking and local buses is all you need here. Enjoy free activities in Guatape (see above) as they are what spending time in this town is about.
Not mentioned – Guatape offers a few other activities such as zip lining and bridge jumping however the area is not renown for this and these activities can be done elsewhere at better quality.
I hope this blog has helped you plan your trip from Medellin to Guatape, and please leave comments if you believe any of the information above has changed or if you just want to let us know what you thought of this post! Hope now you have a long list of “what to do in Guatape!”
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