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Guatapé is a small town bursting with history and culture. Known as the most colorful town in South America, its bright buildings and cobblestone streets are truly a sight to see.
It’s one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever visited. While we lived in Medellin, we did several day trips to Guatapé. We spent our days exploring the vibrant town, climbing the iconic monolithic rock, and even taking a cruise on the lake. There are truly so many cool things to do in Guatapé, we found that taking a tour is a great way to experience as much as possible!
When planning a trip to Colombia, you should definitely try a few tours! Since it’s only two hours from Medellin, it’s easy to go on a day trip to Guatapé. So if you’re based in Medellin and want to head to this unique little town, keep reading!
Below, we’ve found the 7 best tours to take you there and included all the details for each one. There are a variety of activities, group sizes, and price points so you can pick the best tour for you!
- 1. Full-day Guatapé Tour with Boat Trip (overall best group tour)
- 2. Full-Day Guatapé Tour with Lunch
- 3. Private Tour To Guatapé From Medellin (overall best private tour)
- 4. Private Guatapé Rock and Coffee Tour
- 5. Private tour to Guatapé and Helicopter ride
- 6. Guatapé Piedra del Peñol excursion + Gastronomic tour
- 7. Tour the Towns of Guatapé, El Penol, and El Retiro
About Guatapé, Colombia
Guatape is a quaint town of about 5,000 people located two hours from the bustling Medellin. It is easily accessible by taxi, Uber, or by taking a day tour that provides transportation!
The town is widely known for the towering rock known as Piedra del Peñol and the colorful plaza of Plazoleta de los Zócalos. In fact, people travel from all over the world simply to see those two sights.
El Piedra del Peñol is the second-largest Monolithic rock in South America. It stands a staggering 650 feet (200 meters) tall and offers impressive views from the top. This is one of the must-see places in Colombia!
Guatapé is known as one of the most colorful towns in South America. The streets are made of cobblestone and the buildings are brightly colored, full of murals and stories. They call these murals “zócalos”, and they are an important piece of Colombian history unique to this area.
Another impressive feat of engineering is the hydroelectric dam on Guatape Lake. In the 1970s the old town of Guatapé was flooded to build the dam and the man-made lake that we now have today. It is fascinating to tour the lake and know that it was once where the people of Guatape lived.
Pros and Cons of Booking a Tour to Guatapé from Medellin
- Local guide: Having a local guide provides a unique perspective of this beautiful area and allows you to truly understand the history and culture! I love having a guide to learn more about the people and places I am exploring.
- Convenient: These tours are often worth booking simply to make your life easier. They take care of all of the details such as transportation, guides, admission fees, and meals.
- Saves time: It can be hard to see the absolute best sights of an area, so having a guided tour usually lets you jam-pack a few activities into one day.
- Get to see the highlights: Because the tours run so frequently, the guides are well-versed in the area and can take you to the main highlights. They make sure your time is used as best as possible!
- Meet other travelers: Tours are a great way to meet other people. I have found that because we experience something really cool together, we usually leave the tour with a few new friends!
- Less time in Guatapé: You might want to spend all day in Guatapé, but your schedule is set by the tour so you don’t have the same freedom to explore at your own pace. This is kind of a bummer, but you’ll just have to come back now that you’re familiar with the area!
- Long day: This does make for a very long day, as the tours usually try to pack in as many activities as possible! So prepare yourself to be gone nearly all day (and pack some extra snacks just in case).
- Only visit the busy tourist sites: It’s rare to find tours that take you to places that are off-the-beaten-path. You’ll generally stick to touristy areas. But, these areas are touristy for a reason, and they are pretty cool to see!
Our Top Choices
To ensure you’re able to experience everything on a great tour, we’ve narrowed it down to our two favorite options (one group and one private). We loved that these tours take you to all the top attractions, have awesome guides, and make for a memorable day. We highly recommend adding one to your Medellin itinerary!
On this full-day group tour, you’ll explore the highlights of Guatapé including climbing the Piedra del Peñol and walking the photogenic streets in town. This tour includes a traditional breakfast and lunch so you get time to relax while tasting local cuisine. To finish the day, you’ll have a beautiful boat ride on the lake and see Pablo Escobar’s Hacienda. And for just $35 USD, it really is a great deal so book your spot online here.
If you want a more personalized experience, opt for this private tour! You’ll see the same sights but will have the super knowledgeable tour guide all to yourself! I felt like I learned more this way and our guide helped us find the best stores and souvenirs in town. The private tour is very well organized and packs a lot in, yet we never felt rushed. The price is reasonable too at $70-93 USD per person (depending on how many you’re booking for) and can be booked online here.
Related Read: If you’re also visiting Bogota on your trip, you might enjoy this awesome graffiti tour we did!
The Best Tours to Guatapé from Medellin
1. Full-day Guatapé Tour with Boat Trip (overall best group tour)
This full-day group tour is our top choice for a reason! It’s a fantastic deal that allows you to see the highlights of Guatapé. Not only will you experience the colorful Zocalos and the famous Piedra del Peñol, but you’ll also take a boat tour to see even more iconic sights.
This group tour is based out of Medellin and provides transport to Guatapé. The day begins with a pick-up from your Medellin hotel around 6:30 am (for an extra $11 USD) or meet at a central location in Parque Poblado. Then you’re promptly taken to a traditional Colombian breakfast.
After you’re fueled for the day, you’ll make your way to the iconic Piedra del Peñol. The guide gives a history of this incredible sight as you ascend the 740 stairs to the top! Keep in mind that most tours (including this one) don’t cover the 20,000 Colombian Pesos (COP) which is equal to about $5 USD. The entrance fee can only be paid in cash with Colombian Pesos. So ensure you have some cash with you!
This tour gets more relaxing in the afternoon as you explore the colorful town of Guatapé. Enjoy the cobblestone streets, brightly colored buildings, and the umbrellas that hang above. On our trip, the guides were very helpful as we walked around, pointing out cool sights and teaching us about the area’s history and culture.
After all that exercise, you’ll probably be hungry! We definitely were and really enjoyed the traditional Colombian lunch the tour provides. Afterward, you’ll take a beautiful boat ride around Pablo Escobar’s mansion and the hydroelectric dam. The perfect way to end a fun-filled day!
This full-day tour includes meals, transportation, and knowledgeable guides for only $35 USD or $46 USD if you opt for hotel pickup. It is truly a bargain for a jam-packed day of adventure! To take advantage of this awesome deal, just pick a date and book your tour here!
2. Full-Day Guatapé Tour with Lunch
On this full-day group tour, you also get to explore Guatapé town, hike up Piedra del Peñol, and take a boat around the lake! The main difference with this option is that it doesn’t include breakfast or the option for pick up from your hotel, but you start a bit later (7 or 7:30 am). So if you’re not a morning person, you might enjoy that extra hour of sleep!
After pickup, you’ll head straight to the Piedra del Peñol, where your guide will provide a history of the second-largest monolithic rock in South America. I was happy that this was the first stop of the day. The area was less crowded and the walk was a great way to wake up!
You’ll have 1.5 hours to climb it, which you might need since it’s quite a workout to reach the top! However, the views make it worth the effort – you can see the bright buildings, rolling hills, and the reservoir from high above! Like the previous tour, entrance to the park is not included in the tour and costs 20,000 COP (equal to about $5 USD) which must be paid in cash.
Next, you will make your way to Guatapé to walk the streets and see the Zocalos. Having a guide explain the significance of the colorful murals is great because you can truly understand the culture that surrounds you. Be sure to check out Calle del Recuerdo, it is a replica of a street from the old city and is known as the brightest street in Guatapé. It’s a quick but beautiful stop (and worth it)!
Afterward, this tour takes you for a traditional-style lunch at a local cafe. You’ll choose from four meal options, including a vegetarian one, so you’re bound to find something you like!
The final stop of your day is a private boat tour of Guatape Lake. The guides give an extensive history of the old town that was flooded by the lake. Their knowledge makes this a super unique experience, and you get an afternoon on the water!
This whole day of activities, lunch, guides, and roundtrip transport is just $30 USD. The tour has two pick-up points in Medellin: 7 am at Parque del Poblado and 7:30 am at the Estadio metro station. And you’ll return to the same spot roughly 11 hours later.
These first two tours are very similar, but we personally prefer the first one because it includes breakfast. But if you’re traveling on a budget, this second tour is slightly cheaper! Plus, you get that extra 30 minutes or so of sleep! If that sounds ideal to you, book your tour online here!
Related Read: To really escape the city, head to Costeño Beach. This cute little town feels very remote, but is close to many fun, outdoor sights!
3. Private Tour To Guatapé From Medellin (overall best private tour)
As we mentioned, this is our favorite private tour of Guatapé from Medellin!
This private tour really gives you a chance to slow down and see the sights. You’ll enjoy a day in Guatapé and experience the colorful historic buildings, the impressive Guatapé reservoir, and the beautiful Piedra del Peñol. Having a private tour is great because you get one-on-one time with the guide. You can ask questions and get detailed information about the area they know so well!
I love that this private tour provides hotel pickup and roundtrip transportation from Medellin. You won’t need to worry about finding meeting points early in the morning! And you can start slightly later (between 7:30 am – 8 am).
After pickup, you’ll have a traditional Colombian breakfast before visiting two historic monuments in the area. The Ave Fenix is a beautiful statue that you’ll want to snap a photo of! But I was especially interested in the Replica of Peñol which is modeled after the original town (before it was flooded and relocated).
This tour also includes a boat tour of Guatape Lake. On the boat ride, your guide will tell you the fascinating history of the dam and the old city. You’ll also see Pablo Escobar’s mansion from the water.
After the boat tour, you’ll head to the iconic Piedra del Peñol. The guides will give an extensive history of the sight and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb to the top and see the incredible views from above! A little tip from our trip: if you have the flexibility to schedule the tour on a weekday, it is less crowded at the top.
The final stop is to visit the town of Guatapé, enjoy the bright buildings, and maybe catch some live music in the Plaza del Zocalo! You’ll have over an hour to wander around the cobblestone streets, so you can really explore at your own pace (or get recommendations from your guide).
This tour is great because it lets you settle into the area for the full day while learning about the customs and culture of the locals. And if you’re lucky enough to get Mateo as your guide, you’re in for a fun day! Transportation, meals, and all entrance fees are included for $70-93 USD (depending on group size).
If private tours are more your style, this is a great deal. So don’t hesitate to book your day trip to Guatape online here!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
4. Private Guatapé Rock and Coffee Tour
Colombia’s climate is perfect for growing all sorts of fruits, vegetables, sugar cane, and possibly its most popular export … coffee! For the coffee lovers out there, this awesome private tour takes you to see the entire production process and of course to drink fresh Colombian coffee. You’ll also try a plethora of fresh local fruits with some I didn’t even know existed!
The tour provides transportation to and from your Medellin or Envigado hotel. After pick up, you’ll spend 20 minutes at a local fruit stand to sample delicious and exotic fruits. Colombia has the most diverse fruit production in the world so you’re in for a treat here!
Then, you’re off to my favorite part of the day: the coffee farm! We chose an early tour, so it was the perfect way to get our morning cup of coffee and boost our energy.
The coffee plantation is an immersive experience, showing you the entire process from planting the coffee bean to roasting and everything in between! This is one of the most authentic tours of the area and a great way to learn about this huge part of Colombian culture. And this is why we love private tours, our guide was super knowledgeable and personable, so we had a really fun time!
Once you’re fully caffeinated, your private coffee and rock tour will make its way to the famous Piedra del Peñol. Once you make it to the top, you can take your time and enjoy the mountain peak. After you catch your breath, you can check out the cute souvenir shops, and of course, the incredible view!
Your final stop of the tour is exploring the cobblestone streets of Guatapé. The guide will take you on a tour, then let you explore the city on your own!
If you’re looking for more locally-made coffee, I highly recommend Cafe la Vina! This place has some of the best coffee we’ve tried. They also have a pretty balcony overlooking the plaza – great for people-watching. However, there are so many cafes around you really can’t go wrong in this town.
We love how unique and intimate this tour is! It felt like the perfect blend of touristy must-sees and authentic local experiences. If you’re a coffee person, this is a cool way to witness such a strong part of Colombian culture. Plus, since it’s a private tour, you can choose from departure times between 7-11 am, giving your group some flexibility.
This whole day of activities is between $43-$135 USD per person depending on group size (max 15 people). The price includes transportation, fruit tastings, entrance to the coffee plantation and coffee tastings, and the local guide (the most valuable part in our opinion!). You’ll need to pay for the entrance to the Guatape Rock (20,000 COP) and any other food throughout the day.
If this sounds like your kind of tour, check prices and book it online here!
5. Private tour to Guatapé and Helicopter ride
For an epic day of adventuring– you don’t want to miss this private tour of Guatape with a helicopter ride. You’ll ride in a speedboat, fly in a helicopter, climb a giant rock, and tour the cutest town you’ve ever seen.
We think this is one of the best tours because you do so much in one day!
The adventure begins by making your way from Medellin to Guatapé, and the first stop is Guatape Lake. You’ll spend an hour on the speedboat, but it flies by! The guides are super relaxed and fun. When we went, they even let everyone try driving the boat!
From there, you’ll have a tasty local lunch before (and a breather) before even more excitement … because your next stop is boarding the helicopter!
On this private tour, the helicopter ride is definitely the highlight as you explore Guatapé from an aerial view! You’ll see the lake, the giant monolithic rock, and the rolling hills of Colombia all from above. While the helicopter ride only lasts about 10 minutes, we truly think this bucket-list item is worth it! If for some reason it’s canceled (which has never happened luckily), you’ll get a $70 USD per person reimbursement.
Finally, the group will explore the area on the ground. Your guide will take you up the giant Piedra del Peñol. What a cool experience to now climb the same rock you were just flying over! At the top, you can see the expansive views from a new angle and simply enjoy the beauty of the area. Be sure to check out the cute souvenir and snack shops as well.
After a full day of adventure, you’ll end the tour by relaxing in the town of Guatapé. You can spend your time exploring the cute streets, shops, and cafes. It might be nice to grab a fresh juice from Namaste Vegan to refuel after such a busy day! It’s our favorite place for healthy, delicious juice in Guatapé.
While this tour is on the more expensive side, you truly get a full day of adventure! Prices range from $290-$350 USD per person depending on your group size (max 15 people). Transportation, entrance fees, excursions, accident insurance, and lunch are all included. If it’s within your budget, I think this tour is definitely worth it!
There’s nothing quite like exploring Guatapé by helicopter AND boat, so check prices and book your tour online here.
6. Guatapé Piedra del Peñol excursion + Gastronomic tour
Gastronomy and agriculture are huge in this region. So, one of the best ways to learn about an area is obviously through food! This gastronomic group tour takes you through the history and culture of Guatapé by experiencing traditional dishes, as well as exploring the famous sights in town!
As you make your way from Medellin to Guatapé, you’ll have a few stops to begin the food tour. The guide will share the history of each dish specific to the area, such as local fruits, bread, and hot chocolate. Be sure to try the strawberries topped with meringue and cream. It’s a traditional Colombian dessert and is seriously tasty!
Once you arrive in Guatapé, you’ll jump on a boat to explore the beautiful Guatape Lake. The guides are knowledgeable and hilarious, which makes learning about the historic hydroelectric dams really fun! You’ll continue the gastronomic tour with a picnic on the boat.
Over the next few hours of this group tour, you’ll explore the colorful town of Guatapé. Enjoy the Zocalos and if you get a chance to try “trucha”, do it! Trucha is a trout fresh from Guatapé Lake. It was so good I actually ate it every day we were there!
Finally, you’ll spend some time exploring the Piedra del Peñol. You can work off all the delicious food you ate during the day by climbing the monolith! Admission to this is not included but only costs 20,000 COP which is equivalent to about $5 USD.
Keep in mind that this is a group tour, so they are often pretty big, and some of these stops might take a while! But, it is a great way to see the area on a budget. In Medellin, you can request hotel pickup or meet at Parque El Poblado by 7:50 am. Included in the $48 USD price are roundtrip transportation, insurance, the boat tour, your guides, and snacks!
So if you want to see Guatapé while tasting all the delicious local treats, book this tour online here!
Related Read: If you’re also heading to nothern Colombia, check out these amazing tours in Cartagena!
7. Tour the Towns of Guatapé, El Penol, and El Retiro
It’s not very often you get to explore three historic towns in one day! This private tour takes you to the best of Guatapé, El Penol, and El Retiro. They take care of everything so you can simply enjoy the day!
The drive from Medellin to Guatapé is about two hours, so we love that this tour breaks up the drive with a breakfast stop. You’ll get to see one of the local small towns, as well as indulge in traditional Colombian cuisine – two of the best things you can do in Colombia! At El Alto del Chocho, you can enjoy wonderful empanadas and locally grown coffee. What a way to start the day!
Your second stop is the Piedra del Peñol where you have the option of climbing to the top for breathtaking views! Good thing you had a hearty breakfast because this climb is certainly a challenge but absolutely worth it. The 20,000 COP admission fee is not included.
The next stop on this private tour takes you to the town of Guatapé. You can marvel at the bright Zocalos and learn the enriching history of the old city. You’ll have a bit of time to wander the streets, walk the Malecon boardwalk, and pick up a handmade souvenir at one of the boutique shops.
You’ll then continue to the town of El Retiro to see authentic Colombian culture. This cute town is nestled in the mountains and is known for its architecture, rich heritage, and traditional art.
Finally, the group will visit the Salto del Tequendamita waterfall. Not many tours take you to this waterfall, so there aren’t as many tourists! The waterfall is easy to access and simply a beautiful way to end the day.
This tour is roughly 7-8 hours, which is a little shorter than the others (not always a bad thing!). It offers hotel pickup in the El Poblado area, or you can join by meeting in Parque Lleras. Transportation, snacks, and your tour guides are included for $110 USD per person.
We love this tour because it goes to places that not many tours offer, so you’ll get a truly unique experience! If it sounds like a good fit for you, check availability and book this tour online here!
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Where to Stay in Medellin, Colombia
All the tours on our list leave from Medellin. So chances are, you’ll need a solid place to stay in this city! And luckily, it’s one of the best places to visit in all of South America.
However, picking the right area to stay in a big city can really affect your experience, and Medellin is no different. For most people, safety in Medellin is the most important factor when deciding where to stay.
Below are the best areas to stay in Medellin along with accommodation options for all budgets.
This vibrant upper-class neighborhood offers amazing nightlife, top restaurants with cuisine from all over the world, and a safe friendly atmosphere. The streets in El Poblado are safe to wander day and night providing you use some care when it’s really late.
This area is a perfect base to explore other parts of the city and the area I recommend staying in Medellin. It’s also the starting point for many of the best tours in Medellin and tours to Guatapé. Some places I recommend staying are:
Los Patios Hostel – A great budget option for backpackers. this hostel is famous in Medellin, and the place is beautiful. There’s a rooftop swimming pool, communal spaces, and a fun terrace. Rooms are themed according to different regions in the country which is a nice touch. While dorm beds aren’t the cheapest (starting at $26 USD), the reviews and standards are really good. You can also easily book on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.
14 Urban Hotel – This medium-budget hotel is stunning and perfectly located in El Poblado. The rooms are spacious and modern, the staff is friendly, and the price includes a delicious breakfast. Plus, this hotel can cost as little as $63 USD a night when booked in advance.
Café Hotel Medellín – Cafe Hotel is your typical hotel and comes with everything you’d expect from classic hotel brands such as Hilton. The location is a little up the hill from the main restaurant and bar area of El Poblado, but this makes it much more of a quiet stay. It has a beautiful view and a rooftop jacuzzi which is perfect for relaxing after a long tour! Rooms start from $69 USD a night.
For luxury travelers, Elcielo Hotel & Restaurant is easily the best choice. Not only is it still affordable (starting at $234 USD), but the hotel comes with a fantastic location, luxurious rooms, a swimming pool, a spa and wellness center, a fitness center, and fantastic views of the city. It’s beautifully decorated, and the quality of the service and on-site food is superb.
Laureles is another upmarket neighborhood that’s a great area for tourists to stay. This area is where the stadium in Medellin is located, and it’s very similar to El Poblado.
The reason I like Laureles is that it’s closer to downtown and more central so you don’t have to travel as far to visit many attractions in Medellin. Some places to stay in Laureles are:
The Wandering Paisa Backpackers Hostel is a top choice for backpackers in Laureles. It has a fantastic atmosphere perfect for meeting other travelers, a great location, and clean facilities. What more could you want? Plus, a bed in a shared dorm starts from just $9 USD a night. You can check availability and book on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.
Hotel Vivre – If you want a quiet and comfortable stay then Hotel Vivre will suit you. It’s right off the strip with lots of shops, bars, and restaurants nearby. The rooms here are modern and clean, and breakfast is included in the room rate (which begins at just $44 USD).
Other Activities to do While You’re in Medellin
While heading outside the city to Guatapé is a fantastic day trip, don’t miss out on spending a few days in Medellin! There are so many cool things to do in Medellin, you’ll want to stay a while. I even moved here for six weeks after my first visit because I loved it so much!
Here are a few of the best activities in Medellin.
- City tour – Get your bearings and explore Medellin with the help of a local guide. This walking tour with Real City is one of the best free walking tours I’ve done in Latin America! You’ll need to book online a day in advance and then you’re all set to see the highlights of downtown Medellin while learning some of the city’s history. Alternatively, this bike tour of Medellin helps you cover more ground with plenty of stops for photos as you explore back roads, quiet parks, and colorful neighborhoods.
- Ride a cable car to Parque Arvi – There are cable cars around Medellin that double as a scenic way to see the city along with transportation. Hop on the cable car up to Parque Arvi where you’ll see the entire city from above. Once you’re at the park, get out and explore the amazing hiking trails. If you’re here on a weekend, don’t miss the farmers’ market!
- Eat amazing food – There are flavors and styles galore, so get a taste of Medellin by joining a private food tour! You get to try traditional Colombian food and drinks as your guide helps you order at some of the best local spots. If you’re looking for a great meal on your own, the vegetarian pizza at Cafe Zorba’s is a personal favorite of mine!
- Go on an adventure – While in Medellin, you can check off some activities from your bucket list! You can go paragliding to soar above the mountains surrounding the city, explore trails aboard an ATV where you’ll get some magnificent views of Medellin, or hit the water for a whitewater rafting experience where you can swim in a waterfall and check out a jungle canyon!
- Explore El Poblado – This is one of the safest and most touristy areas in Medellin and it’s home to some of the best restaurants, bars, and shopping. In fact, your hotel might even be located here! Head to the local square of Parque Lleras for live music and dancing in the evenings!
Thanks for reading!
If you’re staying in Medellin and considering visiting Guatapé, go for it! This colorful town is full of so much history, culture, and beautiful vistas. And with multiple tours leaving daily, seeing Guatapé is also super easy. We hope this list helped you find the best tour for you and that you have an amazing time on your trip!
If you found this article useful, check out our other blogs about Colombia here. Below, I’ve linked to a few related reads that might come in handy. Thanks for reading!
13 Things to know before visiting Tayrona National Park
Guide to Exploring Cartagena’s Old City