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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 tour from Medellin 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 after our second visit – it should answer all of your questions and more!
Guatapé, Colombia FAQs
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:
Classic Full-day Guatapé, El Penol Rock, and Boat Tour – This award-winning tour is one of the most popular, and for good reason! It will only set you back $30 and lasts 11 hours and includes all the main highlights. Start off by climbing the famous rock, enjoy an Antioquian-style lunch at a local cafe (included), and check out Guatape and the famous Guatape Zocalos. If you think that sounds good just wait, it gets better! Your day ends with a private boat ride on Guatape Lake!
Private Tour of Guatape and El Penol Rock – If you want a private tour with all of the same inclusions as the first option then this is a good choice for $95 USD. Your guide will also show you Pablo Escobar’s old mansion before seeing a quaint church in Marinilla. Breakfast and lunch are included.
Guatapé & Coffee Tour – Touring a coffee farm and climbing up El Penol Rock is another cool combo tour option you can do out of Medellin for $130 USD. You’ll start with visiting the rock before exploring Guatape and having a local lunch after. On the way back stop at a coffee farm where you’ll get one-on-one access with the farmer. They will show you all the stages of coffee production and you can taste many different types!
Guatapé & Paragliding – This tour is all about nature and adventure from the moment it begins! Kick things off from the sky by soaring above the surrounding area by paraglide with an experienced and certified local pilot! Then, drive an hour to the rock and climb up to the top of Piedra del Penol for views of the lakes. After all that activity you can unwind by going on a walking tour of Guatape. This is an epic adventure not to miss out on. It costs $172 USD.
Related Read: You can also add on some bucket list worthy experiences without leaving the city. We’ve tried the best Medellin tours and have some great recommendations!
Take the Public Bus
The journey by public bus from Medellin to Guatapé is only 2 hours and costs 25,000 COP ($5.50 USD) 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 which is 113891 COP ($25 USD). While this is pricey, it isn’t too bad if you have a group of four people and can split the cost.
If you didn’t know, it’s pretty easy to Uber from Medellin to Guatapé! Although you will be paying for convenience. For a one-way ride it will cost around 230000 ($50 USD).
24 Things to do in Guatapé, Colombia
Many people think the only things to do in Guatapé are to climb the rock and explore 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 24 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 20,000 COP ($4.40 USD) and it is located a short 5-minute drive from the town center of Guatapé. You can take a taxi, uber, 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 ($11 USD) 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 that the company we went with is no longer running, but you can book a similar tour in town by speaking to your accommodation.
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 this particular ATV experience with a full-day trip to Guatapé from Medellin.
A cool thing about that tour is that your guide will show you to a region filled with over 430 different types of fruits and you will be given different ones to sample!
It also combines with climbing the rock so for $199 USD this tour is a really great deal!
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 ($2.20 USD) 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 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 of 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 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 performing 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 we ran out of time. 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.
The cruise price starts from about 190,000 COP/$42 USD per person. You can easily book with your hotel once you arrive in Guatape or at one of the many tour offices around town.
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.
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 Cafe La Vina. It was delicious!
Related Read: Naturally, one of the best things to do in Colombia is drinking coffee from locally grown beans!
10. Jet skiing
Jet skiing is one of the most popular adventure activities offered in Guatapé. All you need to do is head to the lake’s edge and you will find someone offering jet skis for rent.
For about 90,000 COP ($20 USD) 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 make 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.
There are two differnt tour options. You can either buy the helicopter tour that departs right from Guatape or this separate helicopter combo tour which includes exploring Guatape, El Penol Rock, and a boat ride in the lake.
If you strictly want the helicopter tour it costs $120 USD for a 6 minute ride. It seems like a really short ride and it is but in reality it is perfetly long enough for you to see the entire area from the sky.
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!)
The combo tour is the better choice if you’ve yet to experience the El Penol Rock and boat ride on the lake for just $350 USD.
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 ($3.50 USD).
I love fish, and I probably ate three 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 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. Canyoning down the Guatape River
While we didn’t get to go canyoning in Guatape we have done it a few other times around the world, one of our favorite places being Queenstown! What I can tell you is that it’s an outdoor lover’s dream – it’s so much fun!
Essentially, canyoning is navigating your way through gorges and down waterfalls by abseiling, jumping, walking, zip-lining, sliding, and swimming.
It’s perfectly safe as long as you’re going with well-trained guides.
This particular guided activity leaves from a little village outside of Guatape called San Rafael which is around 45 minutes away so you will only have enough time to do this activity if you are spending at least a couple of nights in Guatepe.
Once your group reaches the river you will get into your wet suits and go over safety tips and a brief outline of what to expect for the day.
By the end, you’ll see how brave you really are!
You can book this 5-hour Guatape River Canyoning Tour for $60 USD.
15. 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/$22 USD for a double kayak) and packing a lunch and going 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!
16. 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 so delicious, but the place is also super cute with a rooftop seating area as well as seats out on the colorful street – we highly recommend it!
17. 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 in Guatapé!
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 ($5.50 USD) 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, every day between 5:30-7:30 it is happy hour and you can get a class of Chilean wine for only 5,000 COP ($1 USD) – what a great deal!
21. Sail on Guatapé Lake
Sailing is a fantastic way to relax in Guatapé!
On this Go Sailing Guatape Tour, you will see the iconic rock in the distance and just enjoy the tranquility of being out on the water. Your guide will teach you about sailing and his co-captain will bring some exotic local fruits and beer for you to indulge in.
If you’re looking for a mental getaway from thinking about your trip’s itinerary, then this 3-hour tour is for you! It costs $60 USD per person.
22. 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 ($1.75 USD).
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 Bar Baroja.
Related Read: Be sure to check out our complete guide to Medellin, Colombia for important planning info!
24. Rock climb on the Guatape Stone
If you like to rock climb you can actually do this activity on the largest rock in Antioquia, the Guatape Stone. The guides on this exact tour have over 10 years of experience so they will make sure you are safe as you climb your way to the top. Once you make it up there are hammocks you can look down at the view while eating a provided local lunch!
Once you rappel down you’ll head to central Guatape and immerse yourself in the colorful streets and culture.
It costs $220 USD and you can expect this full-day experience to last up to 10 hours.
Note: Some beforehand experience of rock climbing is advised as this tour is not a lesson.
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 day trip 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!
If you are considering spending only one night in Guatape then check out this 2-day glamping tour. It is an all-inclusive alternative for just $227 USD that allows you to climb the rock, explore Guatape, and also experience the bliss of the Colombian countryside.
After a day filled with activities, you will be picked up and dropped off by a private boat to your glampsite on the water. Enjoy roasting marshmallows before being served a gourmet dinner and then stargaze from your private jacuzzi.
The next morning you can opt for a hike before breakfast and then swim or fish from your own dock right on site. In the evening your guide will drop you back in Medellin.
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 $9 USD dorm beds as well as private rooms that are a 10 min walk to the center of town. You will get amazing views right from the hostel’s front door and it’s a clean and quiet space! Some rooms have balconies to enjoy. There is a Thai restaurant on the roof that guests really enjoy.
Oak Tree Hostel – Only a 10-minute walk from town is this small locally owned hostel offering affordable private rooms for less than $30 USD. Breakfast is included and the owners make sure everyone feels welcome! There are bikes and kayaks available for rent as well as towels and bed sheets. Keep in mind that the wifi may be a bit spotty.
You can book Oak Tree Hostel on Booking.com.
Hotel Los Recuerdos – Said to be the best hotel in Guatape! It has a large beautiful swimming pool and amazing views every way you look. The rooms are modern and elegantly styled with a TV and minibar and they have air conditioning and WiFi. A private double room with breakfast included costs about $136 USD. You can also grab cocktails from the 7th-floor rotating bar before eating at the main restaurant.
You can book Hotel Los Recuerdos on Booking.com.
Bethel Lozana Guatape – A hotel that is full of character while still being luxurious. Rooms are enclosed inside wooden domes made out of raw materials each having a gorgeous lake and mountain view! A deluxe queen room begins at $269 USD. Guests have access to a hot tub, sauna, bar, and restaurant and it’s easy to book tours with the front desk. It’s quicker to take a boat versus driving as it is located on the opposite side of Guatapé Lake! Such a neat experience!
You can book Betel Lozana Guatape on Booking.com.
Where to Eat in Guatape
If you want local food this place located right next to the Malecon is delicious and they give big portions!
It is a little more on the moderately priced side at around 40000-50000 COP ($8-11 USD) but they are known for seafood and steaks prepared just how you like them. For sides, expect to find yuka, steamed potatoes, fries, patacones, and salads on the menu.
There is seating on the first and second floors – I recommend the top floor for some nice lake views!
This rather affordable restaurant serves brunch, lunch, and dinner with meals starting at 15000 COP ($3.50 USD) Its location and brightly colored walls make it look like a tourist trap but the quality of food and service live up to the nice and spacious ambiance.
The coffee here is highly rated so don’t miss it and a delicious choice for lunch is one of their burgers – nice and juicy!
You can also bring your computer and work here while eating breakfast if you like as they have strong wifi.
From the outside Oregano looks like a family restaurant but they serve some fine Italian food. Plus, the head chef had previously cooked at 2 different Michelin Star restaurants, so attention to detail and flavors doesn’t go unnoticed here!
They make classics like ravioli and pizza but their meat dishes are all flavorful too and the octopus is cooked perfectly!
There is a nice range of cocktails that you can pick from and enjoy as you look out at one of the best views that you will find from any restaurant in Guatape. The Sangria is also very good too!
Expect it to cost around 50000-60000 COP ($11-13 USD) per person for a drink, starter, and main.
If you’re getting tired of Colombian food mix it up with some fine dining Asian at Koi Cocina Asiática! It looks expensive but the prices can be surprisingly low (20000-60000/$6-13 USD) depending on what you get.
You can get authentic-tasting Japanese dishes like miso soup, ramen, gyoza, sushi, fresh sashimi, and more. Their Koren Fried Chicken is also a big winner in our book! There are also TONS of vegan and vegetarian options.
The staff here also cannot go unrecognized, they speak very good English and are super kind and accommodating to your needs.
Tip: Monday is BOGO on entrees!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)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!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
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: