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If you’re visiting Medellin then a side trip to Guatapé is a must! Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Guatapé, Colombia including the best things to do, how long you should stay, and more!
Guatapé, Colombia is a unique little town that every tourist should visit. It is the most colorful (literally) place I have ever been to! But besides the picturesque streets, the tiny town offers visitors many different things to do and see.
If you’re headed to Medellin then a short trip to Guatapé 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!
But if you only have a short time in Guatapé then you may only be able to just scratch the surface of everything this amazing town has to offer – that is unless you plan your time there carefully!
If you’re confused as to what to see and do in Guatapé and how to get there, you’re not alone. So, here is our guide to visiting Guatapé, Colombia after our second visit – it should answer all of your questions and more!
Guatapé, Colombia FAQs
Guatapé is located in the Department of Antioquia in central Colombia not far from Medellin.
Guatape is located 81 kilometers or 50 miles from Medellin. By bus, the drive takes roughly 2 hours.
There are lots of fun things to do in Guatapé, Colombia so it is best to spend a night or two. However, if you’re short on time a day trip is still a better option rather than not visiting at all.
Yes, you can! The areas close to town are not advised for swimming because of boat traffic, but if you head out on a boat tour or kayak you’ll find plenty of quiet areas to go for a dip.
La Piedra del Penol is located 4.5 kilometers or 2.8 miles from Guatapé town center. The drive takes about 5-10 minutes.
There are a ton of things to do in Guatapé (see all of them below) but some of the most popular include climbing the El Penol rock, going on a boat tour, wandering the town, and visiting waterfalls and natural swimming holes!
Ideally, I recommend spending 2 nights in Guatapé in order to be able to do and see everything you want! However, it is possible to still enjoy the town on a day trip from Medellin.
Getting to/from Guatapé, Colombia
Guatapé, Colombia is best reached from the city of Medellin. From Medellin there are three different ways you can get to Guatapé: take the public bus, go on an organized tour, or take a taxi!
Tour from Medellin to Guatapé
One of the most popular and easiest ways to visit Guatapé is on an organized day trip from Medellin. These tours will pick you up in the morning from your hotel in Medellin and take you to explore Guatapé for a day.
There are many different tours to choose from, but some of the most popular include:
Take the Public Bus
The journey by public bus from Medellin to Guatapé is only 2 hours and costs 15,000 COP per person.
The bus station in Medellin where the bus to Guatapé 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.
Once at Terminal del Norte, head to the ticket booths downstairs to buy your ticket. You will see a big sign saying “Guatapé” at ticket booth number 14, 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 Guatapé.
Buses from Medellin directly to Guatapé leave about every 30 minutes.
*Note: The bus stops at La Piedra del Penol (the rock) about 5 minutes before stopping in Guatapé. You could get off here if you want and climb the rock before visiting Guatapé town.
Take a Taxi
If you want a convenient way to get from Medellin to Guatapé you can organize a taxi. Taxi drivers have fixed rates for this journey that is 270,000 COP. While this is pricey, it isn’t too bad if you have a group of four people and can split the cost.
22 Things to do in Guatapé, Colombia
Many people think the only things to do in Guatapé are climbing the rock and exploring the colorful town – this is not true! In fact, we’ve spent several days in Guatapé on two different occasions and have found there are actually a ton of fun things to do and see.
Here are 22 fun things to do in Guatapé, Colombia!
1. Climb the rock (La Piedra del Penol)
First on our list of things to do in Guatapé has to be climbing the famous rock! This is the most popular activity in Guatapé and something that every visitor needs to do!
The Rock of Gutape, or El Peñol, is the second-largest monolithic rock in South America next to only Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio, Brazil. It is just massive and stands over 650 feet (200 meters) high offering incredible views of the area from the top. But if you want this amazing view for yourself you’ll need to climb 740 steps – but trust me, it is so worth it.
Climbing the rock costs 18,000 COP and it is located a short 5-minute drive from the town center of Guatapé. You can take a taxi, tuk-tuk, or the bus to get there.
2. Pablo Escobar Boat Tour
Pablo Escobar once lived in a mansion right on the lake’s edge very close to Guatapé. While all “Pablo Escobar tours” no longer officially exist and you cannot actually go inside the house, you can still go on a boat tour from Gutape that drives past the house.
The boat tour we did was with a company called Getaway Colombia and it was themed around Pablo Escobar to an extent, but it was also just a fun boat cruise where we also learned a ton about Guatapé and its history. We saw some really beautiful views and even visited a museum that is inside a 241-year-old house (that’s rumored to be haunted!)
We paid 50,000 COP each for the boat tour and it lasted about 2.5 hours. For me, it was a really fun tour and definitely one of the best things to do in Guatapé, Colombia.
*Note: You may have heard about going paintballing in Pablo Escobar’s mansion. This tour does NOT exist anymore as the Colombian government has restricted access to Pablo Escobar’s properties.
3. Walk Calle del Recuerdo
Calle del Recuerdo is known as the most beautiful street in Guatapé and also a replica of one of the streets of the old town before the area was flooded to create hydroelectric dams.
The street here is so beautiful and the cobblestones against the zócalos are the perfect combination. This is a short stop that I recommend visiting in the morning without the crowds.
4. ATV Tour
If you’re looking for a little excitement, ATVing through the lush jungle that surrounds Guatapé is probably the activity for you! It will be exciting and fun while also offering beautiful scenic views.
Most tours go for around 1.5 hours. You can either book the tour right in Guatapé, or join an ATV experience with a full day trip to Guatapé from Medellin.
5. Visit San Rafael
San Rafael is a small town located 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) from Guatapé. While the town itself isn’t too interesting or beautiful, the drive from Guatapé to San Rafael is breathtaking in itself!
We rented a scooter in Guatapé for only 10,000 COP per hour and drove out to San Rafael. Along the way you drive through the mountains and get panoramic views almost the entire way! This road is also not very busy at all and makes for a relaxing drive that takes about 40 minutes each way.
You can also rent a bicycle and ride to San Rafael as it is almost completely all downhill. Just catch the bus on the way back as the huge mountain climb back to Guatapé would be less than enjoyable on a bicycle.
Once in San Rafael you can check out the plaza or go for lunch. Around San Rafael, there are also lots of swimming spots along the river such as Estadero Rio Bizcocho and Las Tangas (get a map to these places from your motorbike rental shop.) Or if you’re really up for a bit of adventure head to La Casuela (which is actually next on this list of things to do in Guatapé…)
To me, this scenic drive and day trip is definitely one of the best things to do in Guatapé despite not many tourists knowing about it!
*Tip: We rented our scooter from a little shop called Guatapé Motos. They were super professional, the scooter worked perfectly, and we were supplied with big helmets as well as a phone to use in case of an emergency. The staff also spent a good 10 minutes helping us plan our route and they even gave us a map to take with us!
6. Swim at La Casuela Waterfall
Anybody who knows Dan and I will know that we love freshwater swimming holes and waterfalls! There is nothing better than hiking to discover a little piece of paradise where you can cool down with a swim.
Well, we found exactly this with La Casuela Waterfall. Although only a small waterfall, the surroundings are lush jungle and the water is literally crystal clear. Not to mention, it is quite off the beaten path and when we were there only two other people (locals) were there.
La Casuela is located only 5 kilometers (3.2 miles) from the town of San Rafael on the side closest to Guatapé. This makes a stop here perfect on your day trip from Guatapé to San Rafael. However, if renting a scooter/motorbike doesn’t sound like fun you can also book a guided day trip from Guatapé.
*Note: You cannot drive the entire road to the waterfall on a scooter as it is a rough gravel road. So, either rent a motorbike or hike the last couple of kilometers. We hiked and it took about 30 minutes each way. Hiking took a lot more effort but we did see monkeys in the trees along the way!
7. Listen to live music in the Plaza del Zocalo
This is probably the most obvious activity in Guatapé mentioned in this blog and chances are you’ll stumble across it on your own anyway, but I’ll give you a couple of details just in case!
The Plaza del Zocalo is the most colorful square in Guatpe that you simply have to see to believe. There is also an outdoor “Amphitheater-style” sitting area where you can often find someone preforming live music during the afternoons.
It’s a beautiful place to just relax and enjoy the music and colorful scenery in Guatapé’s vibrant little square!
8. Dinner Cruise on the Lake
Are you feeling like a bit of luxury? Well in Guatapé you can jump on a luxurious dinner cruise called the Yate Majestic and enjoy food, cocktails, and even an onboard jacuzzi!
Now, I’m not going to lie, Dan and I didn’t do this cruise for ourselves as it was a bit out of our budget (starting from about 190,000 COP per person) but we spoke to a tour guide about it and he recommended it. He said that many Colombians come to Guatapé on holidays and they love this cruise and post photos all over Instagram of them hanging out in the jacuzzi.
While it is pricey, if money isn’t a concern then it would definitely be a fun experience in Guatapé!
9. Drink Colombian Coffee
Did you know that some of the highest-quality coffee beans in the entire world are grown on the outskirts of Guatapé?! So, it only makes sense to drink lots of amazing local coffee while exploring Guatapé, Colombia.
Wander the streets of Guatapé and you will have a huge range of cafes to choose from. We had an incredible “Italian-style” coffee at a place called La vina Coffee Bar. It was delicious!
10. Jet Skiing
Jet Skiing is one of the most popular adventure activities offered in Guatapé. All you need to do in head to the lake’s edge and you will find someone offering jet skis for rent.
For about 90,000 COP you can rent a jet ski for half an hour. This way, you can explore the lake all on your own and have a bit of fun speeding around!
11. Scenic Helicopter Flight
The lake and hundreds of tiny islands in it makes for a pretty spectacular sight! Although we didn’t do the helicopter ride in Guatapé, we have gone on one before in New Zealand and truly believe that it is a bucket-list experience everybody needs to have at least once in their lifetime.
Expect to pay about $90 USD for a 10-minute ride. Although short, this is a really reasonable price for a helicopter flight and well worth every penny. You do need to book online in advance to secure your spot (especially if you’re visiting Guatapé on the weekend when the town is very busy!)
12. Eat Trucha
“Trucha” is trout and a fish found in the lake surrounding Guatapé. Therefore, Trucha is one of the most popular things to eat in Guatapé as the fish is fresh and really cheap! In fact, you can get an entire fried trout served with rice, salad, fries, and fried plantain for as little as 16,000 COP.
I love fish and probably ate 3 different trucha meals in Guatapé over the course of only three days – it was really that good!
13. Stay at a Hotel with a Lake View
One of the best things to do in Guatapé, Colombia is just relaxing on the water’s edge enjoying the peaceful lake. And the best place to do this is from the comfort of your hotel room balcony!
While there are tons of options for hotels and hostels in the town center, it can be very noisy if you stay here. We recommend staying on the outskirts of Guatapé to really enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.
Lake View Hostel is a beautiful budget option within walking distance to the town center. Although it isn’t the best view of the lake, it does have mountain views and is a well-kept hostel.
For something more upscale, consider Los Recuerdos which is ranked by most as the best hotel in all of Guatapé!
14. Paddleboarding or Kayaking
Right in town you can rent paddleboards and kayaks. You can choose between short-term rentals that are priced hourly or a full-day rental for a flat rate.
We recommend renting a kayak for a whole day (about 100,000 COP for a double kayak) and packing a lunch and go exploring! Find islands, go for walks, enjoy the peace and quiet and even go for a dip! Spending a day out on the water just exploring is easily one of the top things to do in Guatapé!
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.
World Nomads is a good option for anybody looking for fully comprehensive travel insurance including things like trip cancellation and adventure activities. They included coverage for over 250 different adventure activities, everything from snowboarding to whitewater rafting! You can also buy the insurance in advance in case your travel plans are interrupted, or, while you’re already on the road.
We’ve personally used both SafetyWing and World Nomads for different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada 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!
15. Sip fresh juice at Namaste Vegan
Guatapé, Colombia is quite a trendy town with cafes on every corner and tons of options for places for vegetarians and vegans to eat. We went to a place called Namaste Vegan one morning and had the best fresh juices ever!
But not only are their juices to die for, but the place is also super cute with a rooftop seating area as well as seats out on the colorful street – highly recommend!
16. Shop Artisanal Boutique Stores
If you wander the streets of Guatpae you’ll notice tons of cute little shops or stalls set up selling handicrafts and souvenirs. If you want to find something unique to buy as a souvenir you’ll have no trouble finding it inGuatapé!
17. Rock Climbing
If you like rock climbing then the ultimate experience is climbing the Rock of Guatapé (La Piedra del PEnol!) Now, this isn’t an easy activity and often takes a few hours. It is a great challenge especially for those that have rock climbing experience.
The rock does get quite hot in the afternoons though so it is best to tackle it first thing in the morning.
You can also book a day trip from Medellin including rock climbing online!
18. Walk the Malecon
In 2019 Guatapé opened its very own Malecon (waterfront boardwalk.) Here, you can stroll along the lake and enjoy the views. There are also small stands selling juices and food you can snack on along the way.
If you walk the entire Malecon to the far side of town (near the bridge) you’ll come across the Guatapé sign. Taking the classic tourist photo here is a must-do while in Guatapé, Colombia!
19. Drink Cocktails at the Floating Bar
For a little change of setting, head to the floating bar in Guatapé and have a cocktail right on the edge of the lake! Adc Shots Guatapé is the name of the place and while it is small, it is very cute and definitely worth a stop for a cocktail at sunset.
20. Eat the best Thai food in ALL of Colombia
This might sound strange because one thing Colombia is definitely not known for is Asian cuisine. But I just have to say, the restaurant called Thai Terrace is absolutely incredible and the chef really knows what she’s doing when it comes to Thai food.
I honestly had the best Pad Thai in my entire life (and I’ve spent several weeks in Thailand) here! It was only 25,000 COP and was a large portion too, but I managed to eat the entire thing because I was not going to waste a single bite.
Thai Terrace is a small restaurant and as such, it is often very busy. I recommend coming before 7 pm in order to secure a table. Plus, everyday between5:30-7:30 it is happy hour and you can get a class of Chilean wine for only 5,000 COP – winning!
21. Try Strawberries, Meringue, and Cream!
After dinner, it’s time for dessert and I honestly think the best dessert in Guatapé is a small “hole in the wall” place that serves strawberries topped with meringue and whipping cream.
I can’t remember the name (I don’t think it had one) but it’s located near the main square on Calle 31. This dessert is really tasty and only costs 8,000 COP.
For Colombians, Guatapé is the place to come to party! People from Medellin come for the weekend and literally party the entire time. For this reason, the nightlife in this tiny town is awesome.
You can go to a busy discotheque such as Luxury, or if you want something a little bit more chill head to the local pool bar or a pub such as the new Getaway Pub.
Be sure to check out our complete guide to Medellin, Colombia for important planning info!
Day Trip from Medellin VS Spending the Night in Guatapé
This is a question a lot of people ask. To me, it is a matter of personal preference, but I think it is best to spend a night (or two) in Guatapé if you have time for it! The reason is the tours are rushed, don’t visit hidden gems and won’t cover even a 3rd of this list. Also, during the middle of the day, Guatapé is very overcrowded.
However, if you really don’t have time then a one day tour from Medellin is better than missing out. A tour will provide transport and be organized enough to maximize your time.
We spent two nights in Guatapé and found it to be the perfect amount of time to see everything without feeling rushed. We left 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 day including a boat tour. On our last day, we rented a scooter and adventured to San Rafael!
If you have the time, then I would recommend spending at least one night in Guatapé, it is such a cute town and super relaxing!
Where to Stay in Guatapé, Colombia
If you decide to visit Guatapé for more than a day, you will need somewhere to stay! A few great accommodation options in Guatapé are:
Lake View Hostel – This cute little hostel is perfect for budget or solo travelers offering dorm beds as well as private rooms. You will get amazing views right from the hostel’s front door!
Oak Tree Hostel – Only a 5-minute walk from town is this small locally owned hostel offering affordable private rooms for less than $40 USD. Breakfast is included and the owners make sure everyone feels welcome!
Hotel Los Recuerdos – Beautiful hotel with a swimming pool and amazing views. You can get rooms with air conditioning and WiFi is available throughout the property. A private double room with breakfast included costs about $100 USD.
San Miguel Campestre Resort – Rooms with gorgeous lake views, a pool and restaurant on-site, this is luxury when it comes to Guatapé! You have to take a boat to get there as it is located on one of the islands near Guatapé! Such a neat experience!
Before you go…
I hope this blog has helped you plan your trip to Guatapé, Colombia. If you have any questions, leave them below in the comments.
Also, be sure to check out the rest of our Colombia blogs. A few, in particular, that you might like are:
- San Andres Island Colombia – A complete guide to visiting the most beautiful island in Colombia
- Where to Stay in Tayrona National Park – The best places to stay in and near Tayrona National Park
- Complete Colombia Travel Guide – Everything you NEED to know before visiting Colombia
- Salento Travel Guide – The best things to do and see in Salento, Colombia
- Medellin Itinerary – A day by day guide to enjoying Medellin for those spending 1 to 5 days there!