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Guatape: The Best Day Trip In Colombia


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Mable Ko



Welcome to Guatape, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Colombia. With its picturesque landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history, Guatape is a must-visit destination for adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Located just a few hours away from the bustling city of Medellin, this charming town offers a perfect blend of tranquility and excitement.


Guatape is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, highlighted by the iconic Penol Rock and the sprawling Guatape Lake. The town itself is a visual delight, with its vibrant and intricately decorated houses that tell stories of the local culture and traditions. Whether you’re seeking breathtaking views, exhilarating outdoor activities, or simply a peaceful escape from the city, Guatape has it all.


Getting to Guatape is relatively easy, with several transportation options available. If you’re coming from Medellin, you can hop on a bus or hire a private car for a scenic drive through the lush Colombian countryside. The journey itself is an adventure, as you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of rolling hills and quaint villages along the way.


Once you arrive in Guatape, you’ll be transported back in time as you stroll through its cobblestone streets. The town’s architecture reflects its colonial past, with colorful facades and ornate balconies that add to its unique charm. Each building tells a story, with vibrant murals and decorative patterns that depict the local culture and history.


One of the main attractions in Guatape is the Penol Rock, a massive granite monolith that towers over the surrounding landscape. Climbing the 740 steps to the top of the rock is a challenging but rewarding experience, as you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of the entire region. It’s a sight that will leave you in awe and make you appreciate the wonders of nature.


Aside from the Penol Rock, Guatape is also famous for its vibrant town square, Plaza de los Zocalos. Here, you can immerse yourself in the local culture, sample delicious street food, and browse through a variety of handicrafts and souvenirs. The square is also a hub for festivities, with traditional Colombian music and dance performances that will leave you tapping your feet and wanting more.


Guatape is also home to the stunning Guatape Lake, a sprawling body of water that offers endless opportunities for water sports and outdoor activities. Whether you’re a fan of kayaking, jet skiing, or simply lounging on a boat while soaking up the sun, this pristine lake will surely satisfy your cravings for adventure and relaxation.


If you’re looking to satisfy your taste buds, Guatape won’t disappoint. The town boasts a variety of restaurants and cafes that serve up traditional Colombian dishes, as well as international cuisine for those seeking a different culinary experience. Be sure to try the local specialty, bandeja paisa, a hearty dish consisting of rice, beans, plantains, meat, and avocado.


With its unmatched beauty, fascinating history, and exciting activities, Guatape truly offers the best of both worlds. So pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in this Colombian paradise.


How to Get to Guatape

Getting to Guatape is relatively easy, and there are several transportation options available depending on your starting point. If you’re coming from the bustling city of Medellin, here are a few ways to reach Guatape:

  1. By Bus: The most common and cost-effective way to get to Guatape from Medellin is by bus. Head to the North Bus Terminal in Medellin, where you’ll find frequent buses departing for Guatape. The journey takes roughly two hours, and the buses are comfortable and equipped with air conditioning. There are also options to book bus tickets online in advance to secure your seat.
  2. By Car: If you prefer more flexibility and convenience, renting a car or hiring a private taxi is a great option. The drive from Medellin to Guatape takes approximately two hours, and you’ll have the freedom to stop and explore the scenic attractions along the way. The route is well-marked, and the roads are generally in good condition.
  3. By Shared Van: Another popular transportation option is to take a shared van, known as “colectivos” in Colombia. These vans operate on a fixed route and pick up passengers along the way. To catch a colectivo to Guatape, head to the San Diego Shopping Mall in Medellin, where you’ll find vans departing regularly. The journey takes around two hours and offers a more personalized and convenient experience.

Once you arrive in Guatape, you can easily explore the town on foot due to its compact size. However, if you wish to venture further out into the surrounding areas, renting a bicycle or a scooter is a popular choice. This allows you to explore the picturesque countryside at your own pace and discover hidden gems that might not be accessible by other means of transportation.


It’s important to note that Guatape is a popular tourist destination, especially during weekends and holidays. Therefore, it’s advisable to plan your trip in advance and book your transportation tickets or rentals ahead of time to ensure availability. Additionally, keep in mind that Colombia has a reliable and efficient public transportation system, and information centers or your accommodation can provide assistance in arranging your journey to Guatape.


Now that you know how to get to Guatape, it’s time to embark on an adventure and immerse yourself in the beauty and magic this Colombian town has to offer.


The History of Guatape

Guatape, a small town located in the Antioquia department of Colombia, is steeped in fascinating history that dates back centuries. The area was originally inhabited by the indigenous Tahamies tribe, who recognized the beauty and abundance of the surrounding land. In the 16th century, Spanish colonists arrived in the region, bringing with them their culture, traditions, and architectural influences.


Guatape’s history is closely tied to the construction of the Peñol-Guatapé Dam, which began in the 1960s. The dam was built to generate hydroelectric power for the country and to control the flow of water in the region. As a result of the dam’s construction, the original town of Guatapé was submerged under the waters of the reservoir. However, the town was rebuilt on higher ground and now stands as the vibrant and picturesque town we know today.


The architectural charm of Guatape is evident in its vibrant and intricately decorated houses, known as “zocalos.” The tradition of adorning the exteriors of homes with elaborate and colorful bas-relief motifs originated in the 20th century as a way for homeowners to display their wealth and status. Each zocalo tells a unique story, depicting scenes from daily life, nature, and historical events. These stunning decorations have become an iconic symbol of Guatape and draw visitors from around the world.


One of the most prominent landmarks in Guatape is the Penol Rock, a massive granite monolith that towers over the town and the surrounding landscape. It is believed that the rock was worshiped by the indigenous people as a sacred site. In the 1950s, a group of daring locals decided to climb the rock, and with the help of a staircase carved into it, they reached the summit. Today, visitors can climb the 740 steps to the top and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.


Guatape has experienced a surge in tourism in recent years, attracting both domestic and international visitors. The town’s rich history, coupled with its natural beauty and vibrant culture, makes it a captivating destination for travelers seeking an authentic Colombian experience. The preservation of its colonial architecture and the commitment to maintaining its cultural heritage are evident in every corner of this charming town.


Exploring the streets of Guatape is like walking through a living history book, with every step revealing stories of triumph, resilience, and community spirit. The locals take immense pride in their town and are eager to share its history and traditions with visitors. Whether you’re admiring the colorful zocalos, climbing the Penol Rock, or simply enjoying the laid-back ambiance of the town square, you’ll find yourself immersed in a journey through time.


Guatape’s history is a testament to the resilience of its people and their deep connection to the land. By visiting this enchanting town, you not only gain a glimpse into Colombia’s past but also support the local community’s efforts to preserve their cultural heritage for generations to come.


Things to Do in Guatape

Guatape offers a wide range of activities and attractions that cater to every type of traveler. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion, this Colombian gem has something for everyone. Here are some of the top things to do in Guatape:

  1. Visit the Penol Rock: The iconic Penol Rock is a must-visit attraction in Guatape. Take on the challenge of climbing the 740 steps to reach the top and be rewarded with awe-inspiring panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The view from the summit of Penol Rock is truly breathtaking, allowing you to appreciate the beauty and vastness of Guatape and its environs.
  2. Explore the Colorful Town: Guatape is renowned for its vibrantly painted houses adorned with elaborate bas-relief patterns known as zocalos. Take a leisurely stroll through the town’s cobblestone streets, marvel at the stunning architecture, and get lost in the stories depicted on the zocalos. This is a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and snap some Instagram-worthy photos.
  3. Take a Boat Tour of Guatape Lake: Guatape is surrounded by the picturesque Guatape Lake, and a boat tour is an excellent way to appreciate its beauty. Hop on a boat and cruise along the tranquil waters, taking in the stunning views of lush green hillsides and scattered islands. Some boat tours even allow you to stop at the islands, where you can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, or picnicking in this idyllic setting.
  4. Try Local Cuisine at the Restaurants: Guatape is home to a variety of restaurants and eateries that serve up delicious Colombian cuisine. Sample local specialties such as bandeja paisa, a hearty dish consisting of rice, beans, plantains, meat, and avocado. Don’t forget to sip on a refreshing Colombian coffee or indulge in some mouthwatering pastries from the local bakeries.
  5. Enjoy Water Sports and Outdoor Activities: Guatape Lake provides ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Engage in water sports such as kayaking, paddleboarding, or jet skiing, or simply relax on the lakeshore and soak up the sun. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also go hiking, zip-lining, or paragliding in the nearby hills and mountains.

When in Guatape, be sure to immerse yourself in the local culture by attending traditional Colombian music and dance performances in the town square, Plaza de los Zocalos. The lively atmosphere, energetic rhythms, and colorful costumes will leave you tapping your feet and wanting to join in the celebration.


If you’re interested in learning about the history and culture of Guatape, consider visiting the local museums and art galleries. These establishments showcase the town’s rich heritage through artifacts, exhibits, and works of art.


Guatape is also a shopping haven, with numerous stores and markets selling handicrafts, textiles, and locally made products. Take home a piece of Guatape by purchasing unique souvenirs such as handmade ceramics, traditional textiles, or beautifully crafted jewelry.


With its breathtaking natural landscapes, vibrant culture, and array of activities, Guatape is a destination that will captivate your senses and leave you with unforgettable memories. Whether you’re exploring historic landmarks, indulging in local cuisine, or embarking on thrilling adventures, Guatape promises an immersive and enriching experience for every traveler.


Visit the Penol Rock

A trip to Guatape would not be complete without visiting the iconic Penol Rock. This massive granite monolith, also known as El Peñol, rises 200 meters above the surrounding landscape, offering breathtaking panoramic views of Guatape and its stunning natural surroundings.


To reach the summit of Penol Rock, you’ll have to conquer the 740 steps that lead to the top. It may seem like a daunting task, but the journey is well worth the effort. As you ascend the stairs, take in the beautiful scenery that unfolds before your eyes. The lush green forests, sparkling waters of the nearby Guatape Lake, and the picturesque town below will leave you in awe.


Once you reach the top, prepare to be amazed. A viewing platform awaits you, offering 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. From this elevated vantage point, you’ll see sprawling hills, distant mountains, and the intricate network of islands that make up Guatape Lake. The sight is truly awe-inspiring, and it’s the perfect opportunity to capture some stunning photographs.


In addition to the incredible views, there are also shops and small stalls at the summit where you can purchase refreshments and souvenirs. Take a moment to catch your breath, savor a cold drink, and admire the natural beauty that stretches as far as the eye can see.


The history of Penol Rock is as fascinating as the views it offers. Local legend has it that the rock was initially worshipped by the indigenous Tahamies tribe, who believed it to be a sacred site. In the 1950s, a group of daring locals harnessed their courage and determination to climb to the top. They accomplished this feat by constructing a staircase directly onto the rock, which remains to this day.


Visiting Penol Rock allows you to connect with the natural wonders of Guatape and immerse yourself in the history of the region. As you stand on the summit, gazing at the stunning vista before you, you’ll gain a profound appreciation for the beauty and majesty of the Colombian landscape.


It’s advisable to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds, especially during peak tourist seasons. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a bottle of water for the climb, as well as your camera to capture the breathtaking views. Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the natural surroundings as you explore this remarkable geological wonder.


Visiting the Penol Rock is an unforgettable experience and a highlight of any trip to Guatape. So, lace up your hiking boots, take a deep breath, and embark on an adventure that will take you to new heights.


Explore the Colorful Town

Guatape is renowned for its vibrant and colorful architecture, which adds to the town’s unique charm and whimsical atmosphere. Exploring the streets of Guatape is like stepping into a living, open-air art gallery.


As you wander through the town’s cobblestone streets, you’ll be captivated by the intricately decorated houses adorned with elaborate bas-relief motifs known as “zócalos.” These decorative panels depict a variety of scenes, including folklore, nature, and historical events, all showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the region. Each zócalo tells a story, and it’s fascinating to observe the different styles and themes showcased on each house.


Take your time to admire the details and craftsmanship of these vibrant murals. The combination of bright colors, intricate patterns, and storytelling designs creates a visually stunning backdrop for your exploration. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture these lively and Instagram-worthy scenes.


While wandering through the town, make sure to visit the main square, Plaza de los Zócalos. This charming square is the heart of Guatape and showcases more zócalos, creating a vibrant and festive atmosphere. It’s the perfect spot to relax, people-watch, and soak up the local ambiance. You might even be lucky enough to witness traditional Colombian music and dance performances taking place in the square, adding to the lively atmosphere.


Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting the Casa Museo, a small museum that provides insight into the history, traditions, and heritage of the town. Learn about the construction of the Peñol-Guatapé Dam, the resettlement process of the town, and the cultural significance of the zócalos. The museum’s exhibits are informative and offer a deeper understanding of Guatape’s unique character and identity.


While exploring the town, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the local artisanal shops and boutiques. These stores offer a wide variety of handmade products, including ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and handcrafted souvenirs. Shopping for these unique items not only supports local artisans but also provides you with a tangible reminder of your time in Guatape.


If you’re a food enthusiast, be sure to stop by the local bakeries and restaurants to sample delicious Colombian cuisine. Indulge in traditional dishes such as arepas, empanadas, and bandeja paisa, and savor the flavors that are distinct to this region. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a cup of Colombian coffee, known for its rich flavor and unique aroma.


Exploring the colorful town of Guatape is a feast for the senses. The combination of stunning zócalos, lively squares, and delicious gastronomy creates an unforgettable experience. So take your time, embrace the vibrant ambiance, and let yourself be immersed in the lively and artistic atmosphere that defines Guatape.


Take a Boat Tour of Guatape Lake

A visit to Guatape is not complete without exploring the stunning Guatape Lake, a sparkling body of water surrounding the town. One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the lake and its surroundings is by taking a boat tour.


Several tour operators in Guatape offer boat tours that allow you to cruise through the calm waters and marvel at the breathtaking landscapes that surround you. Hop aboard a boat and let the gentle breeze guide you as you explore the hidden gems and natural wonders of Guatape Lake.


The boat tours typically take you to different areas of the lake, including the scattered islands that dot the waters. Each island has its own unique charm, with lush vegetation and secluded beaches. Some boat tours even offer the opportunity to stop at one of these islands, allowing you to swim, sunbathe, or simply relax in this tranquil setting. You can also choose to explore the islands by kayak, giving you a chance to get even closer to nature.


As you navigate the lake, you’ll be treated to unparalleled views of the surrounding landscapes. Admire the rolling green hills, towering cliffs, and charming villages that line the shore. The calm waters reflect the stunning scenery, creating postcard-worthy photographs at every turn.


During the boat tour, knowledgeable guides will share interesting facts and stories about Guatape and its surroundings, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of the area. They will provide valuable insights into the local culture, history, and the significance of the lake to the region.


Boat tours are available in different durations and styles, including private or group tours, as well as options for romantic sunset cruises. Whichever tour you choose, you’ll have the opportunity to relax and soak in the beauty of Guatape Lake while enjoying the serene ambiance.


For a memorable experience, consider taking a boat tour during the sunrise or sunset, when the colors of the sky blend harmoniously with the natural beauty of the lake. Witness the sun casting its golden rays over the water, painting a picture-perfect scene that is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Boat tours of Guatape Lake provide a refreshing and unique perspective of the region’s natural beauty. Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, a boat tour is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the charm and tranquility of Guatape Lake.


Remember to bring sun protection, comfortable clothing, and a camera to capture the magical moments you’ll experience during your boat tour. So, sit back, relax, and let the gentle waves of Guatape Lake carry you away on an unforgettable adventure.


Try Local Cuisine at the Restaurants

Exploring the culinary delights of Guatape is an essential part of immersing yourself in the local culture. The town boasts a variety of restaurants and eateries that serve up delicious Colombian cuisine, making it a food lover’s paradise.


One of the must-try dishes in Guatape is bandeja paisa, a hearty and traditional Colombian meal. This dish typically consists of a generous portion of rice, beans, plantains, carne asada (grilled meat), chicharrón (fried pork belly), avocado, and a fried egg on top. It’s a true culinary delight that will leave you feeling satisfied and energized for your adventures in Guatape.


For seafood enthusiasts, Guatape offers a wide range of mouthwatering options. Freshly caught fish, shrimp, and crab are often featured on the menus of local restaurants. From ceviche to grilled seafood platters, you’ll have plenty of choices to indulge your seafood cravings.


Vegetarians and vegans will also find delicious options in Guatape. Many restaurants offer plant-based dishes that showcase the natural flavors of local produce. From hearty vegetable stews to creative salads, there are plenty of options to cater to dietary preferences.


When dining in Guatape, it’s not just about the food but also about the ambiance and views. Some restaurants offer stunning lakefront locations, allowing visitors to enjoy their meal while gazing at the tranquil waters of Guatape Lake. The combination of delicious food and breathtaking views creates an unforgettable dining experience.


Don’t forget to complement your meal with a refreshing Colombian drink. Try a local favorite, such as aguapanela, a sweet beverage made from sugarcane, or refajo, a mix of beer and Colombian soda. And no meal is complete without a cup of rich Colombian coffee, known for its exceptional taste and aroma.


Alternatively, you can explore the local street food scene in Guatape. You’ll find food stalls and vendors selling a variety of snacks and treats. Indulge in empanadas, arepas, or buñuelos, deep-fried cheese balls, which are popular street food options enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike.


As you dine in Guatape, take the time to interact with the locals and learn about their culinary traditions. You’ll find that the people of Guatape are proud of their food heritage and are eager to share their culinary knowledge and stories with you.


Whether you choose to dine in a cozy restaurant or opt for street food, exploring the local cuisine in Guatape is an experience not to be missed. So, let your taste buds embark on a flavorful journey, and discover the delicious flavors that define the culinary scene of this charming Colombian town.


Enjoy Water Sports and Outdoor Activities

Guatape is not only renowned for its picturesque landscapes and vibrant culture but also for its diverse range of water sports and outdoor activities. With its stunning Guatape Lake and surrounding natural beauty, the town offers an array of exciting adventures for outdoor enthusiasts.


One of the most popular activities in Guatape is kayaking. Rent a kayak and glide through the calm, crystal-clear waters of the lake, surrounded by breathtaking views. Explore the hidden coves, navigate through peaceful mangroves, and take in the serenity of nature. It’s a fantastic way to get up close with the ecosystem, spot wildlife, and immerse yourself in the tranquility that Guatape has to offer.


For those seeking an adrenaline rush, jet skiing is an exhilarating water sport that allows you to zip across the lake’s surface. Feel the wind in your hair as you speed through the water, enjoying the thrill of the ride and taking in the stunning scenery that surrounds you. Jet skiing is a perfect activity for adventure seekers and water sports enthusiasts.


If you prefer a more relaxed experience, hop on a paddleboard and explore the lake at your own pace. Stand-up paddleboarding offers a unique perspective, allowing you to glide smoothly over the water while enjoying the peace and serenity of your surroundings. It’s a great way to work on your balance and core strength while immersing yourself in the beauty of Guatape Lake.


Guatape is also a great destination for fishing enthusiasts. Cast your line into the lake and try your luck at catching some of the local fish species. Fishing tours and boat rentals are available, providing you with the necessary equipment and guidance to have a successful and enjoyable fishing experience.


For the ultimate thrill, why not try out water skiing or wakeboarding? Guatape Lake offers the perfect conditions for these adrenaline-pumping activities. With the guidance of experienced instructors, you can learn to carve through the water and experience the exhilaration of gliding across the lake’s surface.


Aside from water sports, Guatape is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes that are ideal for hiking and exploring. Lace up your hiking boots and venture into the rolling hills and mountains that frame the town. Discover hidden trails, breathtaking viewpoints, and hidden waterfalls as you immerse yourself in the beauty of the Colombian countryside. Guided hiking tours are available for those who prefer to explore with a local expert.


For thrill-seekers and adventure lovers, Guatape offers activities such as zip-lining and paragliding. Feel the rush of adrenaline as you soar through the air, enjoying the bird’s-eye view of the stunning landscapes below. These activities allow you to fully appreciate the natural beauty and topography of the Guatape region in a unique and unforgettable way.


Whether you’re a water sports enthusiast, an avid hiker, or an adventure seeker, Guatape offers a wide range of outdoor activities to satisfy every adventurer’s craving. So, dive into the waters, conquer the trails, and create lasting memories as you embrace the natural wonders of Guatape.



Guatape, with its stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history, is a destination that truly captures the essence of Colombia. Whether you’re climbing the iconic Penol Rock, exploring the colorful streets adorned with zocalos, or embarking on a boat tour of Guatape Lake, this charming town offers a truly unforgettable adventure.


Getting to Guatape is easy, with various transportation options available from Medellin. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a town overflowing with charm and traditions. The architectural beauty of the zocalos and the cobblestone streets create a picturesque setting that is perfect for leisurely strolls and sightseeing.


Visitors to Guatape must not miss the opportunity to climb the Penol Rock, an awe-inspiring feat that rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views of the region. From the summit, you can admire the sprawling landscapes, the Guatape Lake, and the surrounding mountains, creating a picturesque backdrop for your memories.


The culinary scene in Guatape offers a delightful exploration of traditional Colombian flavors. Sample local dishes like bandeja paisa and indulge in freshly caught seafood. The town’s cafes and restaurants are also perfect for relaxing and savoring the local cuisine while taking in the charm of the surroundings.


For outdoor enthusiasts, Guatape offers a playground of adventure. Explore Guatape Lake with activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and jet skiing. The calm waters and stunning views create an idyllic setting for water sports enthusiasts to enjoy.


Additionally, the surrounding hills and mountains provide ample opportunities for hiking, zip-lining, and paragliding, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Colombian countryside.


In conclusion, Guatape is a Colombian gem waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re seeking breathtaking views, thrilling adventures, or a glimpse into the country’s rich cultural heritage, Guatape will captivate your heart and leave you with memories to last a lifetime.


So, pack your bags, embark on an adventure, and let Guatape enchant and inspire you with its natural beauty, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality.