How To Visit Guatape From Medellin: What You Need To Know

Are you looking to visit Guatape from Medellin?  The town of Guatape and its nearby iconic Piedra del Peñol are must-see destinations during your trip to Colombia. 

From the blue waters of the Guatape Reservoir to the views from the Réplica del Peñol, this beautiful area is an amazing stop for anyone who loves great views and being outdoors. 

Kendall and I visited Guatape on a long day trip from Medellin and had an incredible time.  This guide will walk through all the details of planning your own day trip, including transportation, things to do, and how to avoid the crowds. 

What is Guatape?

When most people hear ‘Guatape,’ they think of the iconic Piedra del Peñol with its zig-zag of stairs leading to the top.  However, Guatape is actually the name of one of the nearby towns.

The town of Guatape is known for its beautifully decorated and colorful houses.  Its streets are full of shops and small cafés, and it’s a popular place to spend an afternoon.

The nearby El Peñol rock is surrounded by a jaw-dropping blue-green reservoir.  Besides our 48 hours in Banff, these lakes have the most unique water we’ve ever seen.  

This lake was actually formed in 1970 when the Colombian government decided to build a hydroelectric dam as an energy source.  This dam flooded the surrounding area, creating the existing sea of green-glue lakes.  Today, this dam still serves as a huge energy source for the region. 

Both the Peñol rock and the town of Guatape are popular tourist destinations and are often visited together as a Guatape day trip from Medellin.   

stairs leading up La Piedra del Peñol or  Guatape Rock
The entrance of Peñol Rock, the most popular activity to pair with a day trip to the town of Guatape

Where is Guatape Located?

The town of Guatapé is located about a 2-hour drive from Medellín, in Antioquia.  Depending on traffic, this could be longer.  

The road to Guatape from Medellin is a winding highway through local villages and farmland.  If you get motion sick easily, you might want to bring some Dramamine.  In contrast to the road to our Lost City Trek, I felt fine on our bus ride to Guatape. 

breakfast plate on a ledge, farmland seen in the background
We ate breakfast and lunch at a local restaurant surrounded by farmland

How to Get To Guatape from Medellin

The most common ways to get to Guatape from Medellin are to take a public bus, take a taxi, or go as part of a guided tour.

Medellin to Guatape as Part of a Tour Group

We highly recommend visiting Guatape as part of a guided tour.  These full-day tours are not expensive (we paid less than $40 for each of us), and ours included both breakfast and lunch.

Besides having your meals taken care of, a guided tour is a great way to learn about the history of la Piedra del Peñol, Guatape, and the surrounding villages.

We did a bus tour with Viaja Medellin and had a fantastic experience.  Our tour guide, Nelson, was awesome and explained all kinds of things about the places we visited. 

Many of these tour companies will pick you up from a meeting spot near El Poblado (one of the more popular neighborhoods to stay at in Medellin).

green and white tourism bus
Our tour bus with Viaja Medellin

Public Bus to Guatape from Medellin

For those wanting the flexibility of coordinating your own trip to Guatape, taking a public bus is a great option and only costs a few dollars.  

Since the route to Guatape from Medellín is a popular one, there are buses that leave every 20-30 minutes from the ‘Terminal Del Norte’ in Medellin.

The one trick with using the bus is getting yourself to the Terminal Del Norte bus station.  The easiest way is to simply use the northbound ‘Blue A’ Medellin Metro line.  Here are the steps:

  1. Walk to the nearest blue-line Metro station.  If staying in El Poblado, this will be the ‘Poblado’ station. 
  2. Take the northbound blue line (‘A’ line), and get off at the Caribe station
  3. From there, it’s a short walk to the ‘Terminal Del Norte’
diagram of the Medellin metro station
Map of the Medellín metro lines from urbanrail.net

Once at the north terminal station, head to the ground floor ticket booths.  Look for the ticket booth ‘Sotrasanvicente & Guatape La Piedra’ booth; this is the most popular company to book from.

There are two stops, one at Guatapé town and one at the El Peñol rock, so be sure to clarify which one you would like to visit first (we recommend going to both). 

After purchasing your ticket, find your correct gate number (listed as ‘rampa’).  Be sure not to confuse this with your assigned seat number (‘puesto’)

By Taxi

If you don’t want the hassle of taking the bus and don’t want to go on a guided tour, taking a private taxi is another option.  A taxi ride will cost from $40-50 dollars for both directions. 

Best Tours to Guatapé

We did a full-day tour with Viaja Medellin and had an incredible experience. When we looked at tour options, our runner-up choices were the full-day tours with Tours Guatape and Gigi Tours.

Here’s a quick table summary of each tour duration and inclusions: 

Viaja MedellinTours GuatapeGigi Tours
Tour Duration10.5 hours11 hours11 hours
Start Time6:50 am7:00 amThis includes both breakfast and lunch at a local restaurant. The first stop is Guatape Rock, where you can hike the stairs before the majority of the crowds arrive. 
Includes Breakfast?YesNoYes
Includes Lunch?YesYesYes
Pros:The very first stop is Rock of Guatape, longer guided tour in the town of GuatapeThe very first stop is Rock of Guatape, a longer guided tour in the town of GuatapeSmaller group size, limited to 15 members.  Includes both breakfast and lunch.
Cons:Very short guided tour in the town of Guatape (15 minutes), larger group size. No included breakfast, larger group size. Later start time, and Guatape Rock is not the first stop.  

Best Things to Do at Guatape

This list of things to do at Guatape includes climbing the steps of the impressive Piedra Del Peñol, taking a boat trip through Laguna de Guatape, and exploring the colorful zócalos of Guatape town. 

All of the major tour companies will include each of these stops, but planning your own trip gives you the flexibility to stay at each site for as long as you’d like. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of each Guatape activity: 

Climb Piedra Del Peñol

The Piedra del Peñol, also known as the Rock of Guatapé, is a huge rock that’s 200 meters (or 656 feet) tall.  Visitors can climb a zig-zagging staircase of over 700 steps to reach the top.

From the top, you’ll have an incredible bird’ s-eye view of the surrounding blue-green man-made lake, which was created by the hydroelectric dam in the 1970s.  

tourist looking over green lakes at la piedra del peñol while visiting Guatape from Medellin
The top viewing platform from La Piedra del Peñol

Entrance Fee and Opening Times

La Piedra del Peñol is open each day of the year from 8 am to 6 pm.  The entrance fee is 25,000 Colombian Pesos (around $6).  This entrance fee is generally not included in your tour.  With Viaja Medellin, we simply paid our pesos to our tour guide, and he purchased all our tickets in bulk.  

If you are visiting on your own, simply bring your cash to the small ticket booth at the staircase’s entrance. 

We recommend arriving at la Piedra del Peñol early, as it can get quite crowded. 

How Many Steps to Guatape Rock?

There are 740 steps to reach the top platform of La Piedra del Peñol (or Guatape Rock).  These stairs are marked with numbers so you can see the progress you’re making.  And, there are plenty of small platforms with great lake views along the way. 

zigzagging stairs at la piedra del peñol or Guatape Rock
The lower sets of stairs on the way up to the top viewing platform

Visit the Town of Guatape

Guatapé is a small town of around 11,000 people and is located on the shores of the manmade Guatape Lagoon.  It’s famous for its colorful zócalos.

Zócalos are colorful panels found on the lower half of almost every building in the historical center of the town.  They often have painted pictures of flowers or village life. 

These panels were originally created to protect the bottom of the buildings from livestock and are what makes Guatape really unique.

The town has endless colorful streets to explore, full of small shops and cafes.  The main plaza is a great spot to hang out and people-watch. 

colorful central plaza of the town of Guatape
The colorful central plaza

Our Lady Carmen Church in Guatape

Our Lady Carmen Church (Parroquia Nuestra Señora Del Carmen Guatape) is located next to the main Parque de Guatape.

It was built in a Greco-Roman style and has some really cool arches and unique architecture.  It’s a great place to spend a few minutes.

Réplica del Peñol

The Replica del Peñol is a replica of the old town square that used to be where the Laguna de Guatape now exists.  This is a great quick spot to stop and snap a few photos before heading down to the nearby boat docks. 

a tourist standing in the plaza at the replica of Peñol
The plaza at the replica of Peñol

Take a Boat Tour on the Laguna de Guatape

The Laguna of Guatape, also known as the Guatape Reservoir, is a man-made lake near the town of Guatape in Colombia. 

It’s a beautiful area surrounded by hills, and the water is a unique green-blue color.  You’ll get some of the best views of the Lagoon from the top of the rock La Piedra del Peñol, but another great way to get up close and learn more about the area’s history is by taking a boat tour. 

There are several cruise boats stationed by the Replica del Peñol. We did this as part of our guided tour, but it’s easy to coordinate a boat ride if you’re exploring on your own. Just have cash on hand and talk to the employees on the dock. 

the water of the Guatape lagoon with two small boats
A boat tour is a great way to see the Lagoon up close

Kayak Guatape Lagoon

You can also kayak the Guatape Reservoir.  You can purchase a ticket from civitatis.com, and the meeting point is Calle 32 #28-29 near Guatape Town

You’ll want to book at least 24 hours in advance to guarantee your spot. Rentals are available for 4-8 hours and include the kayak, oar, and life jacket. 

Best Time to Visit Guatape

The best time of year to visit Guatape is during the dry season, from December to March.  Although the air temperature in Guatape stays similar throughout the year, you’ll have less chance of getting rained on if you go during these months.  

We had decided on a late February trip in order to avoid any spring break crowds, and we thought that this was a perfect time to visit.

The temperatures were in the 70s, and the skies were mostly clear with occasional cloud coverage.  

Try to avoid visiting Guatape on the weekends, especially if you want to climb the Piedra del Peñol, as the crowds will be much thicker. 

tourists walking toward the zigzag staircase of La Piedra del Peñol
We visited on a weekday, and it was still very crowded at La Piedra del Peñol

Guatape Day Trip Video Summary

Visiting Guatape From Medellin on a Map

Visit Guatape FAQ

Is Guatape Worth it?

Yes, a visit to Guatape is worth it and is one of the most iconic things to experience near Medellin. To make the most of your experience and avoid the crowds, try to go early in the morning on a weekday. 

How Many Steps to Guatape?

There are 740 steps to ascend El Peñol de Guatape, or ‘Guatape Rock.’ This ascent takes most tourists between half an hour and an hour. The top of El Peñol has spectacular views of the surrounding Lagoon, and there are multiple souvenir shops and cafes, so it’s a good idea to have some cash. 

How Many Days Do You Need in Guatapé?

All of the biggest Guatape attractions can be seen as a long day trip from Medellin.  However, for those wanting to spend more time in the town of Guatape, on the Lagoon, or at El Peñol (Guatape Rock), a two-day stay might be a better option.  

How Long Does it Take to Get to Guatape from Medellin?

A bus or taxi ride from Medellin to Guatape takes around two hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions.  Many tour groups will break up the drive with a stop at a local restaurant for breakfast. 

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