Visiting Guatape – A Traveller’s Guide
July 29, 2017
Travel Guide for Guatape, Colombia
Guatape, Colombia is a unique little town that every tourist should visit. It is the most colorful (literally) place I have ever been! But besides the picturesque streets, the tiny town offers visitors many different things to do and see.
Topics included in this travel guide to Guatape, Colombia are:
- Getting from Medellin to Guatape
- A day trip versus an overnight trip
- Where to stay in Guatape
- What to do in Guatape
- Other useful information
- Where to go next
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, it should answer all of your questions!
By Bus the journey from Medellin to Guatape is only 1.5 to 2 hours and costs COP 13,500.
The bus station in Medellin where the bus to Guatape leaves from is called Terminal del Norte. You can get to Terminal del Norte via the metro. The Caribe Metro Station on Line A actually connects with Terminal del Norte so you don’t have to walk much at all.
Uber is also a very affordable option for getting to the Terminal del Norte from anywhere in Medellin.
Once at Terminal del Norte, head to the ticket booths downstairs to buy your ticket. You will see a big sign saying “Guatape”, this is where you buy the bus ticket. If you can’t find the right ticket booth, just ask anyone. There is only one company that regularly goes to Guatape.
Buses from Medellin directly to Guatape leave about every 30 minutes.
Before arriving in Guatape the bus driver will ask if anyone wants to be dropped off at El Penol (the big rock) which is ten minutes before arriving in Guatape. El Penol is a great place to check out, so to save backtracking, it is wise to go to El Penol first directly from the bus. However, if you have lots of luggage then this may not be wise as there are a lot of stairs to climb and nowhere to store your bags while you climb El Penol.
If you have lots of bags and plan on staying in town for a night or two then just get dropped off in town and head to El Penol after (see below for more information on El Penol.)
This one is totally up to you! However, if you want to see all of the best things in Guatape in a day trip from Medellin then I highly recommend joining an organized tour. A tour will provide transport and be organized to maximize your time.
We spent one night in Guatape and found it to be the perfect amount of time to see everything without feeling rushed. We left from Medellin in the morning and hiked El Penol in the afternoon. We enjoyed the local festivities that evening and then explored the town some more the next morning before heading back to Medellin.
If you have the time, then I would recommend spending at least one night in Guatape, it is such a cute town and super relaxing!
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 3 am. 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.
Guatape is so small that everything is within walking distance. You don’t need to be concerned about your accommodation location as you will able to get around very easily on foot.
Climb El Penol
Five minutes out of town is El Penol, this rock weighs a whopping 66 million tonnes and is the 3rd largest monolithic rock in the world. This must be on your list of “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 takes 740 steps. In the humid weather, you will definitely work up a sweat! A trip to Guatape is not complete without a visit to El Penol.
Getting to El Penol
From the center of Guatape walk towards the waterfront 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 COP 2,000 ($0.70 USD) and will save you a 45-minute walk.
To get to the entrance to El Penol from the highway you can either take a tuk-tuk for COP 10,000 or walk, I recommend walking, it’s only 900m!
On the way back, catch the bus from where you were dropped off on the highway. Just flag down any bus heading in the correct direction.
You can also take a taxi from Guatape directly to the entrance of El Penol but the price will depend heavily on your negotiation skills. The cheapest we were able to negotiate was COP 30,000 for one-way.
The entrance fee to El Penol is COP 18,000 – 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 overpriced 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 paintballing, 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.
From Medellin the tours are COP 160,000 and include lunch transport and the paintball, if you are in Guatape the tours start at COP 110,000 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 a map with you just in case, but seriously, get lost in its beauty, take a thousand photos (and stop for a coffee every now and then.)
The benefit of staying a night or two is that 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 you’re like me and love watching the daily life of others while enjoying 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 effect 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 coffee and beer is pretty 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.
Budget tip – Guatape can be expensive if not done right – so try to eat street food and cook if you’re on a budget. Don’t take many tuk-tuks as they are expensive, walking and local buses are all you need here. Enjoy free activities in Guatape (see above) as spending time in this town is what it’s all 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.
There are so many amazing places to check out in Colombia, make sure you don’t miss some of my favorites such as:
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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