Guatape is easily the most popular day-trip for visitors who are curious to venture out of Medellín. It is a small town located about 2 hours East of Medellín and is known mainly for its colorful houses and large rock “Piedra del Peñol” from the top of which you have great views of the reservoir surrounding the village.
In this post we’ll cover the questions we get asked most about visiting Guatape and very important recommendations for your visit
General Recommendations on Guatape
Guatape gets incredible busy on the weekends, so we strongly recommend you avoid going on a weekend and/or a Colombian holiday. You can spend up to 3 hours just to get there and another 3 just to return to Medellin, so beaware. However, if you can only do it on a weekend, our recommendation is: Sleep one night there. Either you go at night the day before or viceversa. In either case, you can avoid getting stuck in a traffica jam
Also, please keep in mind that on an average weekend, Guatape receives 2x and 3x its population on tourists. It is a small town and it’s collapsing in terms of tab-water usage and waste management. We invite you to bring your trash back to Medellin.
How do I get to Guatape?
Depending on your budget and your travel style, there are different options. We tend to recommend going by bus because it’s cheap and quite simple:
Mini-buses to Guatape leave every 30 minutes from the North bus terminal (“Terminal del Norte”) next to Caribe metro station, look for booth (“taquilla”) number 14. It’s usually best to go to the rock first before visiting the town as the views tend to be better in the morning, so when you buy the ticket, tell them you are going to “la piedra”. From the rock you can take a tuk-tuk to the town, and then grab a bus back from the town to Medellín. If you’re going on the weekend, it’s wise to buy your return ticket ahead of time, as it can get busy.
- Schedule: From 5:30am to 7pm, every 30 minutes
- Price: COP 17,000 per one-way ticket (Feb 2022). (For updated prices, click here)
- Travel time: The trip by bus takes around 2 hours each way under normal traffic conditions
By car (rental, ride-hailing app, private transport company):
Alternatively, if buses aren’t your thing or there are several of you and you prefer to go by car, that’s of course also possible. The trip will be shortened by around 30 minutes to an approximated travel time of 1.5 hours each way under normal traffic conditions. The price will depend entirely on which option of car transport you choose. Just keep in mind that as the road to Guatape is highly transited by tourists, it is heavily controlled by traffic police who do spot checks to ensure that vehicles have the necessary paperwork required for commercial transport.
What is there to do in Guatape?
For a day trip you’ll have time for three things: Visit the rock, have lunch, and see the town. If you want to know more about our typical food, take a look at this: Top 5 typical dishes
La Piedra del Peñol, as it is officially called, is usually where most visitors stop first. If you haven’t seen a picture of the rock itself in preparation for your trip, you’ve probably seen a picture taken from the top of it. On a clear day, the viewpoints on top of the rock will provide stunningly unique backdrops for your travel selfies. The only thing you have to do to get to the top is pay COP 20,000 (Feb 2020) and walk up 740 steps. Easy, right? The good news is that once you’ve made it, you can reward yourself with a cold beer – if you’re feeling adventurous, order it with mango, lemon and salt (“cerveza michelada de mango”).
The town of Guatape itself is not that big, so it’s very easy to explore by foot. The characteristic colorful houses are famous for their diverse “zócalos”, which are painted panels on the bottom half of the façade depicting different occupations and aspects of village life. If you’re in need of souvenirs for loved ones back home, this is a great place to get them, as there is a variety of little stores selling good quality locally-produced handicrafts, including leather goods, jewelry, traditional ponchos and small household items.
Another popular activity in Guatape is to take a boat tour on the reservoir. No prior booking is required, as the boats usually wait at the dock until they fill up. On the weekends when the town fills up with local visitors, the frequency of the tour departures increases while during the week the frequency is likely to be less. Depending on your budget, there is however always the option of choosing a smaller, private boat. Prices vary, but don’t be afraid to bargain.
What can I do to avoid the crowds in Guatape?
- If you go for one day, try not to leave Medellín after 9am.
- Try to avoid going on the weekend when most locals visit the town as it can get very busy.
- If you have the time, stay overnight. This will help you to avoid the day-trippers as you will be there before they arrive and after they leave.
Can you recommend any tours in Guatape?
There are plenty of providers offering a Guatape Tour. Between a cheap tour and going on your own our recommendation is clear: Go on your own. Cheap tours end up being a big crowd on a small town and you kind of get stuck to their schedule. For those looking for a unique experience, we strongly recommend the full-day tour to Guatape offered by Van por Colombia. Before we go into detail, one very important point: If you’re looking for a typical sight-seeing tour, this is not for you! What you get with Van por Colombia is an authentic experience, where the focus is more on stimulating your senses than on a recital of historical facts. We’re talking back roads, music, swimming, and delicious home-made food (oh, the food!).
Info & contact details: www.vanxcolombia.com