The Truth About Visiting Guatapé (in 2024)

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Are you planning a trip to Colombia, South America, and wondering, “Is visiting Guatapé worth it, and what has Pablo Escobar got to do with it?” Well, you’ll read the answer below!

 

This small Colombian town, just TWO hours away from Medellín offers many different activities, from climbing the 740 (!) steps of the famous El Peñón de Guatapé to exploring the colored streets in the city center.

 

However, Guatapé also has some disadvantages. Let’s get started about what makes Guatapé a must-visit spot in Colombia, but also why you might NOT want to visit it.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Scenic and Cultural Attractions: Guatapé is famous for La Piedra del Peñol, offering panoramic views, and its colorful zocalos, showing Colombian heritage.
  • Accessibility and Location: Guatapé is a small, walkable town located two hours from Medellín, Colombia.
  • Unique Activities: Offers a range of activities, including a dinner cruise on Guatapé Lake, swimming at La Casuela Waterfall, and live music at Plaza del Zocalo.
  • Accommodation Variety: Features diverse lodging options, from luxurious hotels like The Bosko to budget-friendly choices, many with stunning lake views.

What can I expect from Guatapé?

To start, Guatapé is a very small town of 5.000 people where everything is available within walking distance.  So do not expect a big city with many amenities. However, one of the BIGGEST ADVANTAGE is that it is the most colorful (literally) place we have ever seen! But besides the picturesque streets, the tiny town offers visitors many different things to do and see.

 

So the MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION is: Is Guatapé worth visiting? With a guided day trip tour, definitely! Our reason is that a guided tour, for example, via Viator, takes care of everything for only 30 dollars. This is cheaper and saves us a lot of stress when organizing the day trip ourselves.

 

So now you’re wondering, what are the best things to do on a guided visit to Guatapé? See below!

 

Climb La Piedra del Peñol for the Best View in Guatapé

La Piedra del Peñol
La Piedra del Peñol

The number one reason to visit Guatape is to climb La Piedra del Peñol (El Peñol). One of the most postcard perfect places. A visit to this city would not be a success without hiking up El Peñol! La Piedra del Peñol, which translates to “the stone,” is the second-largest monolithic rock in South America, surpassed only by Brazil’s Sugarloaf Mountain. Standing over 650 FEET (200 METERS) high, this huge rock offers AMAZING views from its summit.

 

To reach the top of La Piedra del Peñol, you’ll need to climb 740 steps—a physical exercise, but the views over Guatape town, the forests, and Guatape Lake are well worth every step.

 

The El Peñol rock became such a significant landmark that it was declared a NATIONAL MONUMENT by the Colombian government in the 1940s, and, in the 1950s, the first recorded climb was made when three climbers, Luis Eduardo Villegas López, Pedro Nel Ramírez, and Ramón Díaz, took five days to climb El Peñol using sticks attached to the rock’s wall.

 

FUN FACT: There are a few restaurants at the summit of Piedra del Peñol where you can grab water or a celebratory drink to treat yourself after the hike.

 

How much is the entrance fee for La Piedra del Penol? See below!

La Piedra del Peñol
La Piedra del Peñol

Entrance fee for La Piedra del Peñol

The entrance fee for the La Piedra del Peñol climb costs about 20,000 C.O.P. (around 5 USD), and the rock is just a 5-minute walk from the bus station in Guatapé’s city center.

 

Insider tip: Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes; they’re an essential part of your Guatapé packing list!

 

Why should you NOT go to Guatapé?

Downsides of Guatapé

Guatapé

Due to its popularity, the town has become quite crowded, particularly during peak tourist season. Especially on top of La Piedra del Penol, it can get quite busy around lunchtime.

 

Another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need cash to enter and climb El Peñol de Guatapé. There are some ATMs, but they are not always working. Also, when you are at restaurants or want tickets to climb La Piedra del Penol, you’ll have to pay in cash.

 

Explore the Colorful Zocalos in Guatapé Town

Zocalos in Guatapé
Zocalos in Guatapé

Visiting Guatapé also means visiting a colorful town. The town is really famous for its ‘ZOCALOS‘, the houses and shops that are painted with symbols of Colombian heritage, cultural traditions, historic moments, and nature.

 

INSIDER TIP: The majority of zócalos can be found on Calle del Recuerdo. Some of our favorite zócalos feature a sheep looking over its shoulder. This is the symbol of Guatapé and represents the town’s motto: “Caminando hacia adelante, mirando hacia el pasado.”In English, “walking forward, looking back.

 

Walk around Guatapé Town

Guatapé town
Guatapé town

To discover the colorful pueblo, we recommend walking around the city.

 

Imagine walking in a town where all the buildings are painted in almost every color, the shops are rainbow-like, and the cars are covered in glitter (we are not kidding).

 

Several homes, buildings, restaurants, stores, and even the church each have their very own type of zocalos. It’s an amazing positive feeling to be walking in such a town. You can find walking tours here!

 

Calle del Recuerdo

Calle del Recuerdo
Calle del Recuerdo

With no extra cost to you, you MUST VISIT Calle del Recuerdo or Memory Lane also known as the UMBRELLA Street. This alley is filled with many colorful umbrellas hanging overhead.

 

Luxurious Dinner cruise on the lake

Guatapé Lake
Guatapé Lake

Taking a DINNER CRUISE on Guatapé Lake is the BEST way to experience the natural beauty of the area while enjoying a delicious meal on board a cruise. As you set sail on the calm waters, you’re welcomed by the stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

 

The cruises almost always set sail in the late afternoon, allowing you to witness a breathtaking SUNSET OVER THE LAKE.

 

The dinner cruise is a two-hour journey that offers a gourmet dining experience with a diverse menu featuring both Colombian and international cuisine. The meals are prepared with fresh, local ingredients by onboard chefs, creating an unforgettable culinary experience. In addition, you can enjoy a variety of cocktails, from tropical classics to unique creations.

 

INSIDER TIP: While the dinner cruise offers many delicious dishes, don’t miss out on trying some LOCAL favorites like Bandeja Paisa or Ajiaco, which offer a true taste of Colombian cuisine.

Renting your own boat at Guatapé Lake
Renting your own boat at Guatapé Lake

Adding an extra layer of luxury, some cruises even feature JACUZZIS on deck. Cruising the lake under the starlit sky makes for a magical evening, and the gentle lapping of the water against the boat adds to the experience.

 

Remember to bring WARM CLOTHING clothing for the breezy evening and your camera to capture these unforgettable moments. Tickets for the dinner cruise can be booked online. We recommend making your reservations in advance, especially during peak tourist season, to ensure availability.

 

INSIDER TIP: Unfortunately, it is not advised to swim in the waters closest to town as there is a large amount of boat traffic, which presents potential dangers. However, you can also rent your very own boat and discover the lake yourself on a boat trip! We did this and we had so much fun!

 

Link with Pablo Escobar

Guatapé Lake
Guatapé Lake

One of the unique aspects of Guatapé’s history is its connection to the Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar. Pablo Escobar once grew up in an old house at the lakefront near Guatapé.

 

At the height of his power during the 1980s, Escobar built one of his many luxurious residences, known as La Manuela, on the shores of the Guatapé Lake.

 

Named after his daughter, this grand mansion served as a getaway for Escobar and his friends, where they organized extravagant parties. However, in the aftermath of Escobar’s downfall, La Manuela was BOMBED and left in ruins.

 

Today, the remnants of this mansion stand as a stark reminder of Guatapé’s past and have become a popular tourist attraction. Book the Pablo Escobar FULL DAY PRIVATE TOUR in Guatapé!

Swim at La Casuela Waterfall

Exploring Calle Recuerdo

Just a short drive (3,2km) from Guatapé, La Casuela Waterfall is a SECRET OASIS offering a refreshing escape from the bustling town and the perfect spot for swimming. Nestled amidst lush, tropical trees, this waterfall cascades into a natural pool with crystal-clear, cool water that provides a refreshing break on hot Colombian days.

 

The area around the waterfall is a natural playground, with a lot of space for PICNICS, SUNBATHING, and even BIRDWATCHING. A well-marked trail leads to the waterfall. On your way to the waterfall, you’ll be treated to incredible views of the surrounding landscape, making the journey just as enjoyable as the destination.

 

Insider Tip: Remember to bring your swimsuit, a towel, and some snacks (see here for the best accessories). And don’t forget to pack your trash out with you to help keep this beautiful spot clean for future visitors.

 

Please note: Visitor numbers to La Casuela Waterfall are limited to maintain the tranquility of the area, so it’s best to arrive early or visit during off-peak times to ensure you get in.

 

Stay at a hotel with a Lake View

Bosko Guatape
Bosko Guatape

To fully experience the beauty of Guatape, you have to STAY AT A HOTEL with a lake view. The breathtaking sight of the serene lake set against the backdrop of lush hills is a spectacle you wouldn’t want to miss!

 

Many of these hotels provide unique experiences tailored to the environment. They offer many different activities such as MORNING YOGA sessions by the lake, allowing you to start your day serenely while soaking up the breathtaking view. Some hotels even offer KAYAKING sessions from their private docks, letting guests explore the peaceful lake at their own pace.

 

Evenings can be spent at the LAKESIDE FIRE PITS, where you can enjoy the sunset and share stories under the starlit sky. For culinary enthusiasts, some hotels organize PRIVATE DINING by the lake, creating an intimate gastronomic experience (see below).

Luxurious Options

For the ultimate luxurious experience, consider The Bosko. This adults-only hotel offers an intimate getaway with stunning lake views. Enjoy access to private hot tubs, gourmet dining, a wellness spa, and guided tours. Prices range from $200 to $300 per night.

 

Mid-Budget Options

If you’re looking for a balance between cost and comfort, Hotel Los Recuerdos is an excellent mid-budget option. It offers a comfortable hotel room with lake views, a swimming pool, and an in-house restaurant. The prices are moderate, with rates ranging from $80 to $100 per night.

Hotel Los Recuedros
Hotel Los Recuedros

Budget Options

For budget-conscious travelers, Hotel Real Guatapé offers clean, comfortable rooms. Although budget-friendly, with prices ranging from $20 to $30 per night, the hotel offers all essential amenities and even offers free wifi.

Hotel real Guatape
Hotel Real Guatape

Remember, booking in advance is necessary! Especially during peak tourist seasons to ensure availability.

 

Listen to live music in the Plaza del Zocalo

calle-de-guatape
Calle de Guatape

Plaza del Zocalo is a lovely PUBLIC SQUARE in the colorful town. It has a seating area outside in an amphitheater-style style where locals, indigenous groups, and visitors gather watching street performers and enjoy the rhythms of authentic COLOMBIAN MUSIC under the open sky. The square is surrounded by cafes and shops for dancing.

 

Each performance at Plaza del Zocalo is a unique experience, featuring a blend of traditional tunes and contemporary beats that reflect the rich CULTURAL HERITAGE of the region.

 

TICKETS for the live music shows can usually be purchased at the entrance of the plaza.

 

OUR REVIEW: As the sun sets and the music starts, the crowd grows bigger and starts to dance, creating an energy that invites you to join in, even if you are not a good dancer. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself learning a few salsa steps from the locals!

 

A night at the plaza is not just about the music; it’s about community, connection, and celebrating the spirit of Guatapé Colombia.

 

Day Trip to San Rafael for Nature Adventures

San Rafael
San Rafael

If you are in Guatapé for multiple days, you should consider going on a day trip to San Rafael. A little more than 16 miles from Guatapé town center, the small San Rafael village lies.

 

Why should you go to San Rafael?

 

The town has several NATURAL SWIMMING POOLS AND WATERFALLS, such as Las Mellizas and El 20, perfect for a refreshing dip.

 

Not many tourists know about this location, so you can expect to walk around a local village with amazing waterfalls and swimming pools. You can even book a river rafting tour or go on an adventurous jungle trail!

 

Something that we liked was that even the journey from Guatapé to San Rafael was amazing, with a SCENIC DRIVE through hills and green landscapes.

 

INSIDER TIP: don’t forget to visit the local farmers’ markets, where you’ll find a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and homemade Colombian specialties, all at walking distance.

 

Remember, the town has a rural charm, and amenities may be basic, so pack essentials, including water, sunscreen, and snacks.

 

Adventure on Guatapé Lake (Laguna de Guatapé)

Laguna de Guatapé

Guatapé Lake, also known as Laguna de Guatapé, is a man made lake that was created in the 1970s when the Colombian government built a dam on the Rio Guatapé for a hydroelectric project.

 

The resulting lake is now a body of water covering over 6,365 hectares. It offers not only a vital source of electricity for the region but also many activities for locals and tourists.

 

You can partake in WATER SPORTS such as water skiing, jet-skiing, and wakeboarding, all of which offer thrilling ways to get up close to the lake’s beauty while feeding your adrenaline rush. For those who prefer a slower pace, PADDLE BOARDING or KAYAKING are excellent options, allowing you to glide across the water at your own rhythm.

Kayaking at Guatapé Lake

Guatapé Lake is also known for its FISHING opportunities, with a rich variety of fish species that make for a rewarding fishing experience. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a novice, casting a line in these waters can be both a peaceful and exhilarating activity.

 

For the true thrill-seekers, PARAGLIDING over the lake offers an aerial view of the region’s splendor. Soar high above the water and the surrounding landscapes, taking in panoramic views that are sure to leave you breathless.

 

Insider Tip: Some activities might require pre-booking, especially in peak tourist seasons. Also, be respectful of the natural environment and adhere to the principles of responsible tourism.

 

Weather in Guatapé

Weather in guatapé

Guatapé, like much of Colombia, boasts a tropical climate, but Guatape sits at a high elevation (approximately 6,500 feet (or about 1981 meters)) which keeps temperatures moderate throughout the year.

 

Average temperatures in Guatapé typically range between 14°C (57°F) and 28°C (82°F), providing a pleasantly warm environment that’s perfect for outdoor adventures.

 

Rain is spread throughout the year, with the wettest months being April, May, and October to November. Despite the occasional showers, the region’s vibrant colors don’t fade, marking every day as a great day for exploring.

 

Travel Tip: Always carry a light jacket or raincoat, as the weather can change swiftly.

 

Best Time to Visit Guatapé

town center

The best time to visit Guatapé largely depends on what you wish to do. For outdoor activities like climbing the El Penol rock and water sports on Guatapé Lake, it’s advisable to visit during the drier months, typically from December to March, when rainfall is least likely to interrupt your plans.

 

However, if you would like to engage in local cultural activities, plan your visit during the annual festivals. The most notable one is the Festival of the Carts (“Fiestas de los Carros”), held in the last week of June. During this festival, the town bursts into life with vibrant parades, traditional music, and dance performances that provide a deep insight into the local culture.

 

How Long to Stay in Guatapé

Guatapé

The small size of Guatapé and closeness of major attractions mean that you can comfortably explore most attractions in a single day so you do not have to stay overnight.

 

More importantly, day tours from Medellin are highly organized and efficient, ensuring you make the most of your time in Guatapé.

 

Tours from Medellin to Guatapé

A common way to visit Guatapé is to take organized day trips from Medellin.

 

This tour takes you out of your hotel in Medellin in the morning and takes you to Guatapé. The most popular tour is the Classic Full-Day Guatapé tour. You’ll visit the famous rock El Penol, go on a Boat Tour, eat a typical antioquian lunch in the local café (included), visit souvenir shops, and walk the town.

Recommended Restaurants in Guatapé

  1. La Fogata: Known for its traditional Colombian dishes like Ajiaco and Bandeja Paisa. The third-floor setting offers stunning views of the lake. The main dishes range from $8 to $12.
  2. Pizzas Picasso: A great escape from traditional Colombian food, offering a variety of gourmet pizzas and salads. Prices for a large pizza start around $10.
  3. El Muelle Restaurante: This restaurant offers a variety of dishes, but is particularly famous for its seafood. The prices vary from $10-$15 for a main course.
  4. La Piedra Restaurante: Located near El Peñón Rock, this restaurant offers breathtaking views and Colombian dishes. Main dishes are typically priced between $8 and $12.
  5. Café La Viña: This café is a must-visit for coffee lovers, offering a variety of coffee drinks and light bites. Coffee prices range from $1 to $3.

Colombian Coffee at Cafe La Vina

Need some caffeine? Enjoy a latte and a brownie at Cafe La Vina! We loved this adorable little cafe.

 

INSIDER TIP: Make sure you sit on the second level so you have a perfect view over Plaza Zocalo!

 

The coffee even has adorable small designs on the back and the beans are locally sourced, ensuring you taste the richness of Colombian soil in every sip.

 

Getting to Guatapé, Colombia

Guatapé street umbrellas

Guatapé in Colombia can be reached from Medellin. From Medelini, there are three different routes to Guatapé.

 

  • By bus: You can catch a bus from Medellín’s Terminal Norte to Guatapé which connects to the Caribe Metro Station. The journey takes two hours and is considered an affordable and convenient way to travel between the two cities. On the ground floor is ticket booth #14, where you’ll purchase a bus ticket for Guatape! The bus ride is about $5–6 and is two hours long.

 

  • By Taxi or Car: Another option is to take a taxi or drive from Medellín to Guatapé. The distance between the two locations is about 74 kilometers, and the drive also takes around 2 hours.

 

  • From the Airport: If you’re landing at Medellín’s airport, you can take a taxi directly from there to Guatapé. This route is only an hour away by taxi.

 

Conclusion

Guatapé is a paradise for adventurers and nature enthusiasts.

 

This ULTIMATE TRAVEL GUIDE will help make your trip to Guatapé an unforgettable experience.

 

Plan your trip accordingly, enjoy the scenic views, practice safety precautions, and make memories that will last a lifetime.

 

Let us know in the comments how your trip went!

 

Keep planning your trip to Colombia

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Laura & Alexander

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