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La Piedra Del Penol: The Big Rock Of Guatapé, Colombia


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Melantha Carrico



Welcome to a breathtaking destination in Colombia, where nature and human architecture blend harmoniously to create an unforgettable experience. Nestled in the lush green hills of Antioquia, just a few hours outside of bustling Medellín, you’ll find La Piedra Del Penol, a colossal rock formation that towers over the picturesque town of Guatapé.


La Piedra Del Penol, also known as “The Big Rock,” is a massive monolith that captivates visitors with its sheer size and stunning views from its summit. It has become an iconic landmark and a popular tourist attraction, drawing adventure seekers, nature enthusiasts, and curious travelers from all around the world.


The story of La Piedra Del Penol is as remarkable as its appearance. It is said to have formed millions of years ago during the Jurassic period, when an immense volcanic eruption created the incredible rock formation that we see today. Its imposing presence and unique geological composition have made it an intriguing subject for geologists and a source of wonder for visitors.


Aside from the geological wonders, the area surrounding La Piedra Del Penol is equally enchanting. Guatapé, a nearby town known for its vibrant colors and colonial-style architecture, provides a delightful contrast to the stoic presence of the rock. The combination of the natural and man-made beauty makes this destination a true gem in Colombia’s tourism landscape.


In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history and geology of La Piedra Del Penol, explore the experience of climbing the rock, and discover the captivating views that await at the summit. We will also take a closer look at Guatapé and its unique charm, highlighting the activities and attractions that make this town a captivating addition to your itinerary.


Prepare to be amazed, inspired, and eager to embark on your own adventure to La Piedra Del Penol and Guatapé – a destination that promises unforgettable experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.


History of La Piedra Del Penol

The history of La Piedra Del Penol dates back millions of years and is intertwined with the formation of the earth’s crust. This massive monolith is believed to have originated during the Jurassic period, when volcanic activity shaped the landscapes of the region.


Legend has it that a dispute over ownership of the rock between two local families, the Galeano and the Diaz, led to the construction of a staircase on the side of the rock. As the story goes, in the 1940s, these families engaged in a fierce battle over the land. In an effort to claim the territory, the Galeano family began constructing a staircase to the top of the rock, with the intention of placing a flagpole at the summit.


However, due to a legal dispute, the construction was halted, and the staircase remained incomplete. The unfinished staircase can still be seen etched into the rock today, serving as a reminder of the fascinating history of this iconic landmark.


In the 1950s, a group of climbers led by Luis Villegas successfully conquered the summit of La Piedra Del Penol, using a combination of ladders, ropes, and sheer determination. This marked the first official ascent of the rock, opening up the possibility for future adventurers to experience the awe-inspiring views from its peak.


Recognizing the potential tourism value of the rock, a spiral staircase with 649 steps was constructed in the 1970s, providing a more accessible and safer route to the top. This development made it easier for both locals and tourists to enjoy the panoramic views that La Piedra Del Penol offers.


Over the years, La Piedra Del Penol has become an important symbol of Guatapé and a significant attraction in Colombia. It has been featured prominently in various films, documentaries, and advertisements, further putting it on the global map as a must-visit destination.


Today, visitors from all corners of the world flock to La Piedra Del Penol to witness its awe-inspiring beauty and to seek out the unparalleled views that unfold from its summit. The history and stories associated with this iconic landmark only add to the sense of wonder and intrigue that awaits those who venture to climb it.


Geology and Formation

The formation of La Piedra Del Penol is a magnificent tale of ancient volcanic activity and natural geological processes. This colossal rock, composed primarily of quartz, feldspar, and mica, stands at an impressive height of 220 meters (720 feet) and stretches over an area of approximately 100,000 square meters.


The story of La Piedra Del Penol begins millions of years ago during the Jurassic period when the region experienced intense volcanic activity. As magma rose towards the surface, it encountered layers of sedimentary rock, leading to a powerful explosion that shattered the earth’s crust and formed the immense monolith that we see today.


Geologists believe that La Piedra Del Penol is an example of a volcanic plug, also known as a volcanic neck. This occurs when magma solidifies within the vent of an active volcano or after the volcano has become extinct. Over time, the surrounding layers of softer rock erode, leaving behind a solitary, resistant plug.


What makes La Piedra Del Penol even more impressive is its distinctive shape, featuring a vertical crack that divides the rock into two distinct sections. This natural crevice, believed to have formed through volcanic fissures and subsequent weathering, adds an element of uniqueness and visual appeal to the already striking formation.


The geological composition of La Piedra Del Penol has also played a role in shaping the surrounding landscape. The enormous rock serves as a natural water reservoir, contributing to the formation of nearby lakes, including the iconic Guatapé Lake. This symbiotic relationship between the rock and the water has created a stunning setting that amplifies the awe-inspiring beauty of the area.


Exploring the rock up close, visitors can admire the intricate patterns and textures on its surface. These patterns, formed through millions of years of erosion and weathering, showcase the testament to the forces of nature at work. The varying colors and mineral deposits add to the artistic allure, making La Piedra Del Penol a masterpiece created through the collaboration of geological processes.


As you stand at the base of La Piedra Del Penol, you can’t help but feel a sense of wonder and reverence for the immense power and beauty of nature. The geological significance and mesmerizing formation make this colossal rock a geological marvel and a must-see destination for all those fascinated by the wonders of the earth.


Climbing La Piedra Del Penol

Climbing La Piedra Del Penol is an exhilarating adventure that rewards hikers with awe-inspiring views at every step. The 649-step spiral staircase that leads to the summit provides a safe and well-maintained path for visitors to ascend the mighty rock.


Before embarking on the climb, it’s recommended to bring comfortable shoes, sunscreen, water, and a camera to capture the breathtaking moments along the way. The staircase is divided into sections, allowing climbers to take breaks and enjoy the scenery while catching their breath.


As you ascend, the sounds of nature surround you, and the cool breeze refreshes your every step. The lush greenery and panoramic vistas create a serene and immersive experience, making the climb not just a physical challenge but also a journey of exploration and appreciation for the natural wonders of the region.


Reaching the top of La Piedra Del Penol is an unforgettable moment. The panoramic view that awaits is nothing short of breathtaking. From this vantage point, you can see the sprawling landscape of Guatapé, with its vibrant green hills, winding lakes, and charming town nestled below.


The picturesque Guatapé Lake, also known as the embalse de Guatapé, stretches out in all its glory, reflecting the sky and surrounding mountains. The beauty and tranquility of the lake, dotted with small islands and boating activity, create a mesmerizing sight that leaves a lasting impression.


As you explore the top of the rock, you’ll discover various viewpoints offering different perspectives of the surrounding landscape. Each angle presents a unique photo opportunity, allowing you to capture the awe-inspiring beauty that stretches as far as the eye can see.


Whether you choose to sit and take in the magnificent views or soak up the sun while enjoying a picnic, the experience of being atop La Piedra Del Penol is truly unforgettable.


Descending the staircase is a breeze compared to the climb, offering a chance to reflect on the achievement and take in any details missed on the way up. As you descend, the view of the surrounding countryside unfolds before your eyes, providing a different perspective of the same picturesque landscape.


Climbing La Piedra Del Penol is an adventure that combines physical exertion, natural beauty, and a sense of achievement. It is an experience that will stay with you long after you leave, leaving an indelible mark in your memory as a testament to your courage and love for exploration.


The View from the Top

Reaching the summit of La Piedra Del Penol is an experience that rewards visitors with a breathtaking view like no other. As you stand at the top, the panoramic vista that unfolds before you is an awe-inspiring sight that captures the beauty and grandeur of the Colombian countryside.


Gazing out from this elevated vantage point, you’ll be treated to a bird’s-eye view of the picturesque town of Guatapé and its surrounding landscapes. The vibrant patchwork of green fields and rolling hills extends as far as the eye can see, creating a captivating backdrop for the town below.


One of the highlights of the view is the mesmerizing Guatapé Lake, which sparkles under the sunlight. The vast expanse of water stretches out, reflecting the sky and the surrounding mountains, creating a picture-perfect scene that is a feast for the eyes.


The lake is dotted with islands, some of which are privately owned and adorned with enchanting houses or resorts. These small islands add a touch of charm to the already captivating view, creating a sense of serenity and tranquility.


The surrounding mountains, covered in lush vegetation, provide a dramatic frame for the scenic beauty below. As you admire the landscape, you may notice the unique formations and geological wonders that dot the region, serving as a reminder of the immense natural diversity and geological history of the area.


At the top of La Piedra Del Penol, there are multiple viewing platforms that allow visitors to take in the view from different angles. Each platform offers its own unique perspective, showcasing different aspects of the breathtaking scenery and providing ample opportunities for photography enthusiasts to capture the perfect shot.


As you peer down towards the town of Guatapé, you can fully appreciate its colorful and captivating architecture. The town is known for its vibrant and intricately decorated houses, each adorned with stunning bas-relief carvings known as “zócalos,” which depict various scenes and symbols of local culture and history.


As you soak in the panoramic view from the top of La Piedra Del Penol, it becomes clear why this destination has captivated the hearts of so many. The combination of natural beauty, vibrant landscapes, and the unique charm of Guatapé make it a view that will leave a lasting imprint on your memory.


Whether you visit at sunrise, sunset, or any time in between, the view from the top of La Piedra Del Penol is a truly magical experience. It is a moment that will take your breath away and remind you of the profound beauty that exists in the world around us.


Guatapé: The Colorful Town

Nestled at the base of La Piedra Del Penol, Guatapé is a charming and vibrant town that captures the essence of Colombian culture and architecture. Known for its colorful buildings, picturesque streets, and rich history, Guatapé offers visitors a delightful contrast to the imposing rock formation that looms above.


The town’s most distinctive feature is its colorful houses, adorned with intricate bas-relief carvings known as “zócalos.” These vibrant and detailed decorations depict a variety of motifs, including animals, flowers, indigenous symbols, and scenes from everyday life. Each zócalo tells a story and adds a unique touch to the town’s character and charm.


As you stroll through the streets of Guatapé, you’ll be enthralled by the captivating beauty of these ornately decorated houses. The vibrant colors that adorn the facades create a lively and inviting atmosphere, making it a joy to explore every corner of this enchanting town.


Guatapé is also renowned for its cobblestone streets, which add to its old-world charm and provide a nostalgic ambiance. As you wander through the town, you’ll encounter charming plazas, picturesque churches, and quaint shops selling local handicrafts and artwork.


In addition to its architectural allure, Guatapé boasts a rich history that dates back to the 16th century. The town was originally established by Spanish colonizers and became an important trading post in the region. Today, remnants of its colonial past can be seen in the preserved architecture and historic landmarks that dot the town.


One such landmark is the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a striking church with a beautiful bell tower. The church stands as a testament to the town’s deep religious roots and serves as a focal point for locals and visitors alike.


As you explore Guatapé, be sure to take a moment to visit the bustling waterfront. The town is situated on the banks of Guatapé Lake, and the waterfront promenade is a lively hub of activity. Here, you can find restaurants, cafes, and bars where you can savor delicious Colombian cuisine and soak up the vibrant atmosphere.


Guatapé is also known for its vibrant and lively festivals, where locals come together to celebrate their cultural heritage. Festivals such as the Festival de los Zócalos and the Festival de Luces showcase the town’s artistic traditions and provide a colorful spectacle for all to enjoy.


With its colorful houses, cobblestone streets, rich history, and lively festivals, Guatapé is a town that exudes charm and captivates the hearts of those who visit. It serves as the perfect complement to the natural wonder of La Piedra Del Penol and provides a memorable and vibrant experience for all who set foot in this magical Colombian destination.


Activities and Attractions in Guatapé

Guatapé offers a plethora of activities and attractions that cater to a wide range of interests, ensuring that every visitor can find something to enjoy. Whether you prefer outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or leisurely exploration, this vibrant Colombian town has something to offer.


One of the must-do activities in Guatapé is taking a boat tour of the stunning Guatapé Lake. These tours allow you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area, as you glide across the crystal-clear waters and take in the breathtaking scenery. You can visit the islands dotted across the lake, discover hidden coves, or simply relax and enjoy the tranquility.


For the adventurous souls, hiking and rock climbing in the vicinity of La Piedra Del Penol offer an adrenaline-filled experience. The surrounding hills and valleys provide ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the rugged landscapes and enjoy stunning views. Climbing enthusiasts can also try their hand at scaling other nearby rock formations that offer challenging routes and rewarding vistas.


Back in town, a visit to the Plaza de los Zócalos is a must. This bustling square is adorned with beautifully painted zócalos, showcasing the town’s artistic heritage. Here, you can browse through local shops selling traditional crafts, souvenirs, and handmade goods. It’s also a fantastic spot to relax at a cafe, indulge in a cup of Colombian coffee, and people-watch while taking in the vibrant atmosphere.


To delve deeper into the local culture and history, a visit to the Museo de Guatapé is highly recommended. This small museum showcases exhibits that highlight the town’s history, including pre-Colombian artifacts, colonial-era relics, and traditional crafts. It provides a fascinating insight into the past and cultural heritage of Guatapé.


Another popular attraction is the El Peñol Reservoir, a man-made lake that was created as a hydroelectric power project. It offers opportunities for water sports such as kayaking, jet skiing, and paddleboarding. The serene surroundings and tranquil waters create a perfect environment for relaxation and recreation.


For those seeking a unique and thrilling experience, paragliding over the stunning landscapes of Guatapé is an option. With professional instructors guiding you, you can soar high above the town and marvel at the breathtaking views below.


Lastly, don’t forget to indulge in the local cuisine. Guatapé is home to a variety of restaurants and eateries that serve traditional Colombian dishes, including bandeja paisa, arepas, and delicious fresh seafood. Exploring the local culinary scene is a delightful way to experience the flavors and tastes of the region.


Guatapé truly offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature lover, adventure seeker, history buff, or a food enthusiast, this vibrant town has a plethora of activities and attractions to keep you engaged and captivated.



La Piedra Del Penol and the colorful town of Guatapé in Colombia are a match made in heaven for adventure seekers and culture enthusiasts alike. A visit to this breathtaking destination promises awe-inspiring views, fascinating history, and a vibrant cultural experience.


The towering La Piedra Del Penol, with its unique geological formation, stands as a testament to the powerful forces of nature. Climbing to its summit provides an exhilarating adventure and rewards you with panoramic vistas that will leave you speechless. The view from the top, overlooking Guatapé Lake and the surrounding landscapes, is a visual feast that showcases the natural beauty of the region.


Guatapé, with its colorful houses adorned with zócalos, cobblestone streets, and rich history, is a town that exudes charm at every turn. Exploring its streets and plazas brings you face to face with Colombia’s vibrant culture and showcases the artistic traditions of the region.


There is no shortage of activities and attractions in Guatapé. From boat tours on Guatapé Lake to hiking in the surrounding hills, there is an adventure for everyone. Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting the Plaza de los Zócalos, indulging in traditional cuisine, or exploring the town’s museums.


Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure, cultural immersion, or simply a retreat into nature’s beauty, a visit to La Piedra Del Penol and Guatapé will exceed your expectations. It’s an experience that will leave an indelible mark on your memory and create memories to last a lifetime.


So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey to La Piedra Del Penol and Guatapé – a destination where nature’s marvels, rich history, and vibrant culture come together in perfect harmony.