Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

El Peñol & Guatape – Amazing Medellin Day Trip – Colombia


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Bunnie Alvey



Looking to embark on a breathtaking road trip? Look no further than El Peñol and Guatape, a captivating destination located just a short drive from the beautiful city of Medellin in Colombia. This day trip offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, fascinating history, and vibrant culture that will leave you in awe.


El Peñol and Guatape are two captivating towns nestled amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Antioquia region. El Peñol is famous for its iconic huge rock formation known as La Piedra del Peñol, while Guatape enchants visitors with its colorful streets, charming architecture, and picturesque lakeside setting. Together, they form a dynamic duo that promises an unforgettable road trip experience.


Getting to El Peñol and Guatape is a breeze, as they are conveniently located just about 2 hours away from Medellin. The scenic drive itself is a feast for the eyes, as you pass through lush green mountains and catch glimpses of the sparkling Guatape Lake along the way.


Once you arrive in El Peñol, you’ll be greeted by the towering monolith that is La Piedra del Peñol. This massive granite rock is a mesmerizing sight and offers an incredible panoramic view from its viewpoint at the top. Climbing the 740 steps to reach the summit of La Piedra is a challenging but rewarding experience, as the breathtaking vistas of the surrounding countryside and lakes are simply awe-inspiring.


After conquering La Piedra del Peñol, a visit to the colorful and charming town of Guatape is a must. The town’s vibrant facades adorned with colorful bas-reliefs, known as zocalos, will transport you into a world of whimsy and enchantment. Explore the winding streets, browse the local shops for unique souvenirs, and indulge in the delightful Colombian cuisine served in the many cozy restaurants.


Whether you choose to take a boat ride on the tranquil Guatape Lake, delve into the rich history of the region at the local museums, or simply relax and soak in the laid-back atmosphere, El Peñol and Guatape have something to offer for every traveler.


So, if you’re searching for an unforgettable road trip adventure that combines natural wonders, cultural immersion, and historical charm, look no further than El Peñol and Guatape. Pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to create lasting memories in this Colombian gem.


How to Get to El Peñol & Guatape

Getting to El Peñol and Guatape is relatively easy and can be done by various means of transportation. Here are some options:

  1. By Car: Renting a car or using your own vehicle is the most convenient way to reach El Peñol and Guatape. The journey from Medellin takes around 2 hours, and the route is well-maintained with stunning views along the way. Just follow the signs towards El Peñol and Guatape, and enjoy the scenic drive through the Colombian countryside.
  2. By Bus: If you prefer not to drive, you can take a direct bus from Medellin to Guatape. Several bus companies operate this route, and the buses depart from the Terminal del Norte. The journey takes approximately 2 hours, and the buses are comfortable and affordable.
  3. By Tour: Another popular option is to join a guided tour from Medellin. These tours typically include transportation to El Peñol and Guatape, as well as a knowledgeable guide who will provide you with insights into the history and culture of the region. This is a great option if you prefer a hassle-free experience and want to make the most out of your day trip.

Once you reach El Peñol, you can easily explore both El Peñol and Guatape on foot. The two towns are located in close proximity to each other, making it convenient to walk or take a short taxi ride between them.


It’s important to note that El Peñol and Guatape are popular tourist destinations, especially on weekends and holidays. To avoid the crowds and ensure a smoother experience, consider visiting on weekdays or arriving early in the morning.


Now that you know how to get to El Peñol and Guatape, it’s time to plan your road trip and embark on a memorable adventure to this picturesque Colombian destination.


History and Background of El Peñol & Guatape

El Peñol and Guatape have fascinating histories that have shaped the towns into the vibrant and charming destinations they are today. Let’s delve into the rich background of these two Colombian gems.


The origins of El Peñol can be traced back to the early 19th century when Spanish settlers first established a village in the area. Over the years, El Peñol grew into a thriving community centered around agriculture and farming. The town received its name from the massive granite rock formation, La Piedra del Peñol, which stands proudly overlooking the landscape.


Guatape, on the other hand, has a longer history that dates back to pre-Columbian times when it was inhabited by indigenous tribes. The town was founded by the Spaniards in the 16th century and was initially known as “Guatapecito.” It later became an important trading hub for the region and played a crucial role in Colombia’s development.


One significant event in the history of Guatape happened in the 1970s when the region experienced a period of heavy rain and flooding. As a result, the Colombian government constructed the Guatape Dam, flooding a vast area and creating the stunning Guatape Lake. This transformation brought tourism to the forefront in the region, leading to the development of the vibrant and charming town we see today.


Both El Peñol and Guatape have put significant effort into preserving their historical heritage and architectural charm. In Guatape, the colorful zocalos, or bas-reliefs, adorning the facades of the buildings are a testament to the town’s vibrant culture and history. Each zocalo tells a unique story and adds to the town’s vibrant and photogenic atmosphere.


La Piedra del Peñol is a geological wonder that has attracted tourists for decades. In the 1950s, a group of intrepid locals climbed to the top of the rock, paving the way for the construction of a staircase that now leads visitors to the mesmerizing viewpoint at the summit. Today, La Piedra del Peñol stands as a symbol of resilience and has become an iconic landmark of the region.


As you explore El Peñol and Guatape, you’ll discover the stories embedded in the streets, buildings, and natural landmarks. The rich history and cultural heritage of these towns make them a must-visit destination for history buffs and curious travelers.


Now that you have a glimpse into the history and background of El Peñol and Guatape, it’s time to immerse yourself in the captivating charm and explore all that these towns have to offer.


Things to Do in El Peñol & Guatape

El Peñol and Guatape offer a plethora of activities and attractions that cater to all interests. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or food lover, you’ll find something to captivate you in these charming Colombian towns. Here are some of the must-do activities:

  1. Climb El Peñol Rock: One of the top attractions in the area is the imposing La Piedra del Peñol. Challenge yourself to climb the 740 steps to reach the summit, where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and Guatape Lake. The journey may be strenuous, but the views are worth every step.
  2. Explore Guatape Town: Stroll through the colorful streets of Guatape and immerse yourself in its unique charm. Marvel at the intricate bas-reliefs, known as zocalos, that adorn the facades of the buildings, each telling a story of the town’s history and culture. Visit the local shops to find unique souvenirs and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
  3. Visit La Piedra del Peñol: Aside from climbing it, make sure to visit the base of La Piedra del Peñol. This massive rock formation is a sight to behold and offers various leisure activities. Explore the surrounding area, enjoy a picnic, or take a boat ride on the nearby lake to admire the rock from a different perspective.
  4. Take a boat ride on Guatape Lake: Embark on a scenic boat ride on Guatape Lake and soak in the serene beauty of the surroundings. Cruise along the calm waters, passing by charming islands and lush green hills. This is a great opportunity to relax, enjoy the fresh air, and appreciate the natural beauty of the region.
  5. Enjoy the local cuisine in El Peñol & Guatape: Treat your taste buds to the delicious flavors of Colombian cuisine. Indulge in traditional dishes like bandeja paisa, empanadas, and arepas. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the local favorite, trucha (trout) from the Guatape Lake, prepared in various mouthwatering ways.
  6. Shopping for Souvenirs in Guatape: Guatape is renowned for its handcrafted goods and local artwork. Take some time to browse the shops and markets to find unique souvenirs and mementos. From colorful textiles and ceramics to handmade jewelry, you’re sure to find something special to remind you of your trip.

With its captivating landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, El Peñol and Guatape offer a treasure trove of experiences for every traveler. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion, these charming Colombian towns have it all.


So, pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey filled with stunning views, charming streets, and warm Colombian hospitality.


Climbing El Peñol Rock

One of the most exhilarating and rewarding activities in El Peñol is climbing the iconic El Peñol Rock, also known as La Piedra del Peñol. This massive granite rock formation stands at a towering height of 220 meters (700 feet) and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. Here’s everything you need to know about this thrilling adventure:


As you approach El Peñol, you’ll first catch a glimpse of the colossal rock formation jutting out of the countryside. The view alone will leave you in awe, but it’s the challenge of conquering the 740 steps to reach the summit that truly makes the experience unforgettable.


As you make your way up, take your time to appreciate the awe-inspiring views that unfold with every step. From each landing, you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas of the lush green mountains, sparkling Guatape Lake, and the charming towns of El Peñol and Guatape below.


The climb itself can be challenging, but the sense of accomplishment and the breathtaking views at the top make it all worthwhile. Remember to bring comfortable shoes and plenty of water to stay hydrated during the ascent.


Once you reach the summit, you’ll be greeted by a spectacular 360-degree view that stretches as far as the eye can see. Take a moment to catch your breath and soak in the beauty of the Colombian countryside surrounding you. Capture some stunning photos to cherish the memories of this incredible feat.


At the top, you’ll find a small platform where you can take a well-deserved break and enjoy the view. There are also stalls selling snacks and refreshments if you need to refuel before descending. You may even spot some vendors selling souvenirs and handicrafts, providing an opportunity to take home a piece of El Peñol’s charm.


Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie seeking a physical challenge or a nature lover craving the reward of breathtaking vistas, climbing El Peñol Rock is an experience not to be missed. Be sure to plan your visit during a clear day to maximize the stunning views at the summit.


As you descend, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding landscapes from a different perspective. Once you reach the base of La Piedra del Peñol, you can further explore the area by enjoying a leisurely boat ride on Guatape Lake or exploring the charming streets of Guatape town.


Climbing El Peñol Rock is a memorable and invigorating adventure that will leave you with a sense of achievement and a lasting appreciation for the natural wonders of El Peñol and Guatape.


Exploring Guatape Town

Guatape town is a charming and vibrant destination that offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. With its colorful streets, picturesque setting, and rich cultural heritage, exploring Guatape is a must-do when visiting the area. Here’s a glimpse into what you can expect when exploring this enchanting Colombian town:


As you wander through the streets of Guatape, you’ll immediately notice the vibrant and whimsical facades adorned with colorful bas-reliefs, known as zocalos. Each zocalo tells a unique story, reflecting the town’s rich history, local legends, and cultural traditions. Take your time to appreciate the intricate designs and capture some Instagram-worthy photos.


The town square, known as Plaza de los Zocalos, is a hub of activity and a perfect starting point for your exploration. Admire the picturesque church, discover the artisanal handicrafts sold by local vendors, or simply sit and enjoy the lively atmosphere. Here, you’ll find a welcoming and laid-back ambiance that is characteristic of Guatape.


Exploring the charming streets of Guatape is a treat for the senses. Indulge in the captivating beauty of the flower-lined walkways and admire the intricate details of the colonial-style architecture. Take a leisurely stroll and discover local cafes, restaurants, and boutique shops that offer a taste of traditional Colombian cuisine and unique handicrafts.


For a deeper understanding of the town’s history, consider visiting the Casa Museo de Guatape (Guatape Museum). Located in a beautifully preserved and restored colonial house, this museum showcases artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that offer insights into the local culture and the town’s transformation over the years.


No visit to Guatape is complete without taking in the gorgeous views of the town and Guatape Lake from the Malecon, a waterfront walkway. This promenade allows you to fully appreciate the town’s lakeside setting and offers picturesque spots to relax and take in the scenery. Capture some panoramic photos and enjoy the tranquil beauty that surrounds you.


As you explore Guatape, don’t miss the opportunity to savor the local cuisine. Sample traditional dishes like bandeja paisa, empanadas, or arepas stuffed with mouthwatering fillings. You can also indulge in the local specialty, fresh trout, sourced from the nearby Guatape Lake and served in various delightful preparations.


Whether you’re admiring the colorful zocalos, sipping coffee at a local cafe, or exploring the rich history of the town, exploring Guatape will leave you captivated by its beauty and charm. The town’s laid-back atmosphere, friendly locals, and stunning scenery offer a memorable experience that will stay with you long after your visit.


So, take your time, immerse yourself in the vibrant streets, and let the charm of Guatape envelop you as you soak in the unique atmosphere of this Colombian gem.


Visiting La Piedra del Peñol

When exploring El Peñol and Guatape, a visit to the iconic La Piedra del Peñol is an absolute must. This massive rock formation, often referred to as just “La Piedra,” is a natural wonder that offers breathtaking views and an unforgettable experience. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting La Piedra del Peñol:


As you approach La Piedra del Peñol, you’ll be in awe of its sheer size and natural beauty. This monolithic rock stands at a towering height of 220 meters (700 feet) and consists of approximately 740 steps that lead to its summit. The staircase was built in the 1950s, allowing visitors to reach the top and marvel at the panoramic views.


The ascent is a rewarding but challenging experience, requiring some stamina and determination. As you climb the steps, take breaks to catch your breath and admire the breathtaking vistas that unfold with each landing. From the higher levels, you’ll catch glimpses of the stunning Guatape Lake and the rolling hills that surround the area.


Once you reach the summit, a world of wonder awaits. The panoramic view from the top of La Piedra del Peñol is simply jaw-dropping. Take in the majestic landscape, with its vast expanse of tranquil waters, lush green mountains, and charming towns. This view is a photographer’s dream, so be sure to have your camera ready to capture this unforgettable moment.


At the peak, you’ll find a platform where you can relax, soak in the views, and reflect on the incredible achievement of reaching the top. There are also several stalls selling snacks and refreshments if you need to replenish your energy before heading back down.


But the experience doesn’t end once you descend from La Piedra. At the base, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the surrounding area. Take a leisurely stroll around the rock to appreciate its size and marvel at the geological wonders of nature. You may even choose to take a boat ride on Guatape Lake and see La Piedra del Peñol from a different perspective.


Visiting La Piedra del Peñol is an adventure that combines natural beauty, physical challenge, and stunning views. It’s an experience that will leave you with a sense of accomplishment and a deep appreciation for the captivating landscapes of El Peñol and Guatape.


Whether you’re a nature lover, an outdoor enthusiast, or simply seeking unforgettable vistas, a visit to La Piedra del Peñol is a highlight of any trip to this Colombian region. So, make sure to include it in your itinerary and prepare to be awestruck by the awe-inspiring beauty of this natural masterpiece.


Taking a Boat Ride on Guatape Lake

Exploring Guatape Lake by boat is a delightful and serene experience that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region. With its crystal-clear waters, picturesque islands, and lush green surroundings, Guatape Lake offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Here’s all you need to know about taking a boat ride on Guatape Lake:


Several boat tour options are available, allowing you to choose the type of experience that suits your preferences. From leisurely sightseeing cruises to more adventurous activities like kayaking or paddleboarding, there’s something for everyone.


As you embark on your boat ride, you’ll immediately notice the tranquil atmosphere and the captivating beauty of Guatape Lake. The calm waters mirror the surrounding landscapes, creating a sense of serenity as you glide through the lake.


One of the highlights of a boat ride on Guatape Lake is the opportunity to visit the charming islands scattered across its surface. These islands are often covered in lush vegetation and are home to various bird species, providing a haven for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers.


Some boat tours offer stops at specific islands, allowing you to disembark and explore the picturesque surroundings on foot. Enjoy a leisurely walk, snap some photos of the stunning scenery, or simply bask in the tranquility of nature.


For those seeking a bit more adventure, some boat tours offer watersports activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, or jet skiing. This allows you to delve even deeper into the lake’s beauty and experience the thrill of gliding across its pristine waters.


Regardless of the type of boat tour you choose, the views from the lake are simply breathtaking. Paddle along the tranquil waters, marvel at the emerald green hues of the lake, and admire the picturesque hills and surrounding countryside.


Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the famous La Piedra del Peñol, the colossal rock formation that stands proudly overlooking the lake. Seeing it from the water offers a unique perspective and further enhances the beauty of the landscape.


Whether you opt for a guided boat tour or prefer to rent a boat and explore at your own pace, a ride on Guatape Lake will leave you feeling refreshed and connected to nature. Breathe in the fresh air, listen to the sounds of nature, and let the beauty of the lake wash away your worries.


Exploring Guatape Lake by boat is an experience that allows you to fully appreciate the natural wonders of the area. So, sit back, relax, and let the peacefulness of the lake envelop you as you create unforgettable memories on this enchanting Colombian gem.


Enjoying the Local Cuisine in El Peñol & Guatape

When visiting El Peñol and Guatape, one of the highlights of your trip will undoubtedly be the opportunity to indulge in the delicious flavors of the local cuisine. From traditional Colombian dishes to fresh seafood sourced from Guatape Lake, the culinary scene in these charming towns is a treat for the taste buds. Here’s a taste of what you can expect when enjoying the local cuisine in El Peñol and Guatape:


No visit to the region is complete without trying bandeja paisa, a classic and hearty Colombian dish. This savory platter features a generous serving of red beans, rice, ground beef, fried pork belly, chorizo, a fried egg, plantain, and an arepa. It’s a true feast that represents the richness and diversity of Colombian cuisine.


Empanadas are another must-try culinary delight. These golden, flaky pastries are filled with a variety of ingredients such as beef, chicken, cheese, or vegetables. Served piping hot, empanadas make a perfect snack or appetizer while exploring the towns.


Arepas, a staple of Colombian cuisine, are cornmeal patties that are often stuffed or topped with a range of delicious ingredients. Whether you prefer them filled with cheese, avocado, meat, or served plain, these versatile and satisfying treats are a must-have when in the region.


Being located near Guatape Lake means that the area is known for its fresh seafood. Trout, locally known as “trucha,” is a specialty, and there are numerous restaurants offering various mouthwatering preparations. From grilled trout seasoned with local herbs to the traditional trucha con patacones (trout with fried plantains), you’re in for a delectable treat.


Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the local street food as well. Look out for vendors selling delicious buñuelos, small cheesy dough balls, or arepas rellenas, which are stuffed arepas filled with cheese, meat, or chicken. These snacks are a tasty and convenient option while exploring the vibrant streets of El Peñol and Guatape.


As you stroll through the towns, you’ll come across cozy restaurants and cafes serving up a range of international cuisine, such as Italian or Mexican, alongside Colombian specialties. Sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal, and be sure to savor a cup of freshly brewed Colombian coffee, known for its rich and aromatic flavor.


For those with a sweet tooth, be sure to try some local desserts. Arequipe, a creamy caramel spread, is a beloved treat that can be enjoyed on its own or drizzled over various desserts. And how about indulging in some postre de natas, a traditional Colombian milk-based dessert with a rich and creamy texture?


When enjoying the local cuisine in El Peñol and Guatape, you’ll discover a diverse and satisfying array of flavors that will leave your taste buds craving for more. From hearty meals to tasty snacks and delightful desserts, the culinary experiences in these towns are sure to be a highlight of your trip.


So prepare your taste buds, try new flavors, and immerse yourself in the culinary delights that El Peñol and Guatape have to offer.


Shopping for Souvenirs in Guatape

When visiting Guatape, you’ll find yourself immersed in a place of vibrant colors, charming streets, and rich cultural heritage. One of the highlights of your trip will undoubtedly be shopping for souvenirs to take home and cherish the memories of your time in this picturesque Colombian town. Here’s a guide to shopping for souvenirs in Guatape:


As you explore Guatape’s streets, you’ll come across an array of shops, boutiques, and market stalls offering unique and locally crafted souvenirs. From handicrafts to artwork, there are plenty of options to choose from.


One of the most popular items to purchase in Guatape is the iconic handcrafted bas-relief, or zocalo, which can be seen adorning the facades of the colorful buildings throughout the town. These intricately designed pieces of art capture the essence of Guatape’s culture and history. You can find various zocalos depicting scenes from daily life, nature, or even Colombian legends. They make for a beautiful and meaningful souvenir to decorate your home or gift to loved ones.


Handmade textiles are also a popular choice among visitors. Look for vibrant and intricately woven tapestries, rugs, or blankets showcasing traditional Colombian designs. These textiles showcase the craftsmanship and artistry of the local artisans, allowing you to bring a piece of their talent into your home.


For those with a passion for jewelry, Guatape offers an array of options. Look for pieces made from local gemstones, such as emeralds or quartz, which are crafted into unique and stunning designs. Other popular choices include handcrafted earrings, necklaces, or bracelets featuring traditional Colombian motifs.


If you’re a lover of pottery, Guatape won’t disappoint. Discover beautifully hand-painted ceramic pieces in vibrant colors and intricate patterns. From decorative vases and plates to intricately sculpted figurines, these pieces make for eye-catching and memorable souvenirs that reflect the local culture.


As you explore the local markets, you’ll also find an abundance of unique trinkets and small keepsakes such as keychains, magnets, or miniature sculptures. These affordable items make for wonderful mementos of your time in Guatape and are perfect for sharing with family and friends.


Additionally, Guatape is known for its locally produced coffee. Take the opportunity to visit one of the coffee shops or markets and pick up a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans. This way, you can bring home the distinctive flavors of Colombian coffee and enjoy a taste of Guatape long after your trip is over.


Remember to take your time while shopping and engage with the local vendors. They are often eager to share the stories behind their crafts and provide insights into the cultural significance of the items they sell.


So, whether it’s a handcrafted zocalo, a beautifully woven textile, or a piece of locally made jewelry, shopping for souvenirs in Guatape allows you to bring a piece of its vibrant culture and artistic heritage back home with you.


Take the opportunity to explore the markets, support the local artisans, and find that perfect souvenir that will always remind you of the captivating charm of Guatape.



A road trip to El Peñol and Guatape is a journey filled with natural wonders, rich history, and vibrant culture. From the towering La Piedra del Peñol to the colorful streets of Guatape, this Colombian gem offers a captivating experience that will leave you with cherished memories.


Whether you choose to climb the 740 steps to reach the summit of La Piedra, explore the charming streets of Guatape, or take a boat ride on the tranquil Guatape Lake, you’ll be enchanted by the beauty that surrounds you.


Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of the region, sample the delicious local cuisine, and bring home unique souvenirs crafted by local artisans. The warmth and hospitality of the people of El Peñol and Guatape will make you feel welcome and ensure that your trip is a memorable one.


As you embark on this road trip adventure, allow yourself to be captivated by the stunning landscapes, immerse yourself in the rich history, and let the vibrant culture leave a lasting impression on you.


So, pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to create beautiful memories on your road trip to El Peñol and Guatape. Discover the natural wonders, soak in the charm of the towns, and experience the warmth of Colombian hospitality. Your adventure awaits!