Guatapé is a town in Colombia, located in the Eastern Antioquia region. It’s a major tourist attraction because of El Peñón de Guatapé—a famous large rock that visitors climb. Guatapé is also known for its colorful and ornate architecture and beautiful landscape that surrounds the area. The distance from Medellín to Guatapé is a short 81 Kilometers (50 Miles) and it takes about 2 hours to travel there by car. Guatapé is a popular destination for tourists that are staying in Medellín and want to take a Day Trip to Guatapé.
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A Brief History of Guatapé, Colombia
Spanish conquistadors declared Guatapé their territory in the 1800s. The original name of the territory was “La Ceja de Guatapé” and in time it became, “Guatapé.” Guatapé comes from the Quechua language and means, “stones and water.” Quechua was the language of the Indigenous that lived there before the Spanish.
During the first years of Guatapé’s existence, the area was full of farmers who lived off of their land. The two main industries of the area were agriculture & mining.
In the 1970s, a hydroelectric complex was built in the city. The hydroelectric complex is a man-made water system that produces energy. The project turned Guatapé into the premier source of electricity in the country. The system created a stunning man-made lake that engulfs the area and is a big reason why tourists visit today.
The town in Guatapé has buildings with colorful & ornate architecture. When the buildings were first built, straw was used for the baseboards of the homes. Chickens were eating the straw, so the villagers placed ceramic over the straw and then painted it. The paintings became grander throughout the years, and now many of the buildings in the village have colorful designs.
Man-made lake and colorful homes aside, Guatapé is the most famous for a large rock named El Peñon de Guatapé. It’s a large natural structure that tourists climb to catch swooping views of the city.
How to get from Medellín to Guatapé
Getting from Medellín to Guatapé is easy. Some tourists visit Guatapé for a few nights, while most take a day-trip to Guatapé from Medellín. The ride takes about 2-hours to complete each way. The journey there is beautiful. The surroundings that you’ll pass through are cute Colombian farms and towns.
The best way to travel from Medellín to Guatapé is by Public bus. Buses depart from the station in Medellín every 30-minutes. You can book your tickets upon arrival at the station. To take the public bus to Guatapé, follow these steps:
- Go to Medellín Terminal Norte. To get here, you can take a taxi/Uber or take the Metro (public train) to the Caribe station. If taking the Metro, cross the street once at the Caribe station to get to Terminal Norte.
- Walk inside Terminal Norte and look for the ticket booth that sells tickets to Guatapé. Ask an agent to help you if lost.
- Buy bus tickets to Guatapé
- Wait for the bus to arrive, and then travel to Guatapé!
For reference, a one-way bus ticket cost 15,000 Colombian Pesos (approx. $5) when I went. Prices may change, so expect it to fluctuate.
Another option is to hire a private driver to transport you from Medellín to Guatapé. A private car service will cost between $25 – 50, depending on the company.
To Return via bus, you can book a ticket on the spot (day of) at the local bus station in Guatapé. There’s only one bus station in the town, and it’s a small town so you’ll be able to find it by asking around.
When is the Best Time to visit Guatapé?
Taking a day trip from Medellín to Guatapé is a common weekend activity for locals & tourists. Because of this, the best days of the week to visit Guatapé would be Monday – Thursday if you’d like to avoid the crowds.
The best months to visit Guatapé are December, January, and February. During these months, the climate is dry with less chance of rain (which equals a clear sky for great views from the top of the Piedra del Peñol!)
What to Do on a Day Trip To Guatapé
There are many things to do in Guatapé. The two things that you’ll want to do if visiting Guatapé on a day-trip are to see the Piedra del Peñol, and walk around the town to see the key sights there. Here’s an overview of what you should put on your itinerary if visiting Guatapé for a day:
- Climb to the Top of Piedra del Peñol: This is the #1 focal point of Guatapé. Piedra del Peñol is a large rock that visitors climb to the top of to catch the best views of the area. There are 659 stairs to climb before reaching the top, which is as exhausting as it sounds. There is a restaurant and are souvenir shops at the top of the rock. There’s also a large area at the very top that visitors go to for views of the man-made natural landscape of the area.
- Walk Around the Colorful Town & Admire the Zocalos: Guatapé is one of the most colorful towns in Colombia. Visitors like to walk around the town and admire the colorful & ornate buildings. The town is famous for its zocalos, which are decorations placed on the bottom of each building. There are souvenir shops in the town that sell hand-made Colombian goods. There are also quite a few excellent restaurants in the town.
- Visit “Our Lady Carmen” Church: The church is located in the middle of the Guatapé town square. The church is white with red trimming; a stark contrast from the colorful buildings that surround it. Travelers visit the church to admire its architecture. It’s an active church, and locals regularly gather there for mass.
Full List of Things to Do in Guatapé
Here’s a list of things to consider doing in Guatapé if you have more time on your hands after seeing La Piedra del Pinol and the other key sights in town. Some of these activities may require spending more than a day in Guatapé.
- Visit the Community Historical Museum: Go to Museo Histórico Comunitario to learn more about the history of Guatapé. The museum contains artifacts and details about the town’s history.
- Go on a Coffee Tour: Colombia has the best coffee in the world. Coffee is grown all over the country, including in the area surrounding Guatapé. You can book a tour through a private company or go with a local by booking your tour via AirBNB experiences. Tour costs vary, and some of them offer a combination tour of Guatapé & a coffee farm.
- Hike to a Waterfall: There are waterfalls in the area surrounding Guatapé. You can visit alone or go with a tour.
- Spend Time by the Lake: You can relax by the lake, or take part in a water activity such as kayaking, jet skiing, or sailing.
- Do Some Adventure Sports: You can go hang gliding, paragliding & ziplining in Guatapé.
- Go on a Nearby Hike: There are quite a few hiking trails in the area that surrounds Guatapé. Here’s a comprehensive list of the hikes that you can take in the area.
Enjoy your Trip to Guatapé!
The day trip from Medellin to Guatapé is one of the best things that you can do in the area around Medellin. Guatapé is one of the most beautiful areas in South America, and you’re sure to have a memorable time visiting.