Guatape is the most famous day trip from Medellin, and it can be overcrowded if you don’t choose the right day. Don’t go there during Colombia public holidays, Holly Week, weekends, and holidays period!
Guatape is known for two reasons:
The cute colonial town – although it’s quite small
The breathtaking view from El Peñol, a massive monolith where you can reach the top – 750 steps
A day trip from Medellin is manageable as it’s 2 hours away from the city, but it can take up to 3 hours on the way back as you’ll arrive during the rush hour.
My travel tips for visiting Guatape:
Leave in the morning from Medellin with a small bag and plan to stay 1 night in Guatape. Visit the town and book a water activity on the lake.
Wake up early the next day and hike to the top of El Peñol so that you will be alone! It opens at 8 am.
Take the bus back to Medellin around 2 pm. You can buy your ticket in advance at the bus station.
Another excellent travel tip is to include Guatape with San Rafael and San Carlos, 2 perfect off the beaten path towns with crystal clear rivers.
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El Peñol and Guatape are 2km away from each other, and there are excellent hotels in between. To move from one to another, you can take buses or tuk-tuks for 5 - 10 000 COP. It's easy. Moreover, your hotel can call you one if needed. Landscapes are so lovely that I don't recommend staying in town (too much noise).
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Things to do in Guatape
Except for going to the top of El Peñol, there is not much to do in Guatape. This is why I recommend picking a lovely hotel near the lake where you can relax and do some kayak. In town, local travel agencies offer different tours to waterfalls (hard to find otherwise) and water activities on the lake.
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More travel ressources
We went 4 times to Guatape and wrote about our travel experiences.
For us, good restaurants and exciting nightlife are important while traveling. We gathered our favorite picks on an interactive Map. Look for "Colombia Insider - Eat and Party like a local in Colombia" on Mapstr!