Are you ready to explore one of Colombia’s most incredible destinations? Then you have to add the beautiful town of Guatape to your travel bucket list!
Located in the province of Antioquia, Guatape has plenty for everyone – from outdoor activities like swimming and kayaking in its surrounding reservoir to exploring the historical monuments that tell stories from centuries past.
But most people come here for one thing: El Peñón de Guatape – an enormous monolith towering over the quaint homes below.
There is so much more to Guatape than just this iconic landmark though, so in this post, we’ve put together all the best things to do in Guatape you absolutely can’t miss!
*Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*
Table of Contents
Useful Info for Visiting Guatape
Introduction to Guatape
The town of Guatape, Colombia, has a population of approximately 20,000 people and is located in the Department of Antioquia.
It’s most well known for its large reservoir called Embalse El Peñol-Guatape, which was created when two nearby mountains were blasted apart by explosives. The town was intentionally flooded in order to build a dam that lasted from the late 1960s well into the 1970s.
This project was launched due to the necessity of finding a local water source.
Today, it’s no wonder that Guatape has grown into a popular tourist destination – with its stunning lake, colorful streets, and rolling hillsides, it offers a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors.
On average, the town welcomes almost a million tourists a year who come to enjoy the numerous things to do in Guatape and admire its colorful zocalos (murals).
Its most visited attraction is El Peñol, the enormous granite rock that offers a breathtaking view of the lake and surrounding area.
Best Guided Tours to Guatape
Guatape is a popular option for a day trip from Medellin. If you don’t have the energy (or patience) to DIY, you can always take a guided tour, enjoying the best things to do in Guatape, Colombia, while leaving the logistics up to a professional.
Each tour explicitly lists what is and is not included in the price – don’t forget to bring some cash to tip your guide(s)!
Guatape El Peñol with Boat, Breakfast & Lunch – Set out on a full-day tour to Guatape from Medellin, including a traditional Colombian breakfast and lunch. Highlights include a reservoir boat tour, a guided tour of Guatape and its colorful tiled streets, Piedra del Peñol, a sail past Pablo Escobar’s former home, and enjoying the ambiance of Plazoleta de los Zocalos.
Private Guatapé Tour with Peñol Tickets and Boat Ride – If you would rather avoid the crowds, this tour will be the perfect option for you. You’ll be transported to Guatape in an air-conditioned van, and you’ll get to take a memorable boat ride through the reservoir and climb (or simply photograph!) the famed Piedra del Peñol, followed by a traditional lunch in brilliant Guatape.
Guatapé & Coffee Farm Visit – Looking for the best cultural experience? Then you can combine a visit to Guatape with visiting a working coffee farm! This full-day tour is limited to 8 participants, and it also includes fruit tasting at a local market.
Private Tour to Guatapé with Helicopter Ride – For the ultimate luxury experience, check out this tour. You will be able to explore Guatape from all possible vantage points – fly in a helicopter across the lake and admire its stunning views, scale the famous Guatape rock via stairs to witness one of the most impressive sights imaginable, and tour the reservoir by boat.
How to get to Guatape independently
If you’re looking to visit Guatape, Colombia by yourself, the easiest place to depart from is Medellin. You can reach Guatape in 2 hours from the city of Medellin or in 1.5 hours directly from Jose Maria Cordova International Airport.
How to get to Guatape by bus
You can book tickets online through companies like Sotrasanvicente & Guatape La Piedra. There are direct routes between Medellin City (Terminal del Norte) and Guatape for around $19,000 COP ($4 US).
At Terminal del Norte, head downstairs (to the ground floor) to the Guatape ticketing window to purchase tickets. At ticket booth #14, you will find Sotrasanvicente & Guatape La Piedra.
How to get to Guatape by taxi
If you’d prefer more convenience and privacy, you can hire a private driver instead. Most taxi drivers will be willing to take you there at an affordable rate.
It’s also possible to arrange transportation through some of the local hotels or hostels in Medellin. If you’re staying overnight in Guatape, your hotel might be able to help you arrange a transfer too, so it’s worth asking around.
You can expect to pay approximately $115,000 COP ($25 US) for a one-way taxi ride from Medellin to Guatape. This is a fixed-rate fare, so be sure to confirm it before setting off on your journey!
How to get to Guatape by driving
If you have a car available or are up for renting one, it takes about an hour and a half to drive from Medellin to Guatape. Just make sure you always have a working GPS since the roads in Colombia can be tricky to navigate for first-timers.
Whichever mode of transportation you choose, it’s important to plan your trip accordingly. Guatape is a popular destination, and the roads can be quite busy on weekends and holidays.
Make sure you set aside enough time for your journey so that you don’t have to rush or miss out on any of the sights along the way!
Where to stay in Guatape
While many people choose to visit Guatape on a day trip, nothing quite compares to staying for a night or two. So if you have the chance to do it, I can’t recommend it enough!
In addition to getting a fully immersive experience of the town, you get to experience Guatape in the morning and the evening, with a mere fraction of the crowds that you see there midday.
If you’re up for an adventure (but with a luxury twist), Guatape is also home to some of the best luxury glamping sites in Colombia.
Below you can find my top recommendations for different budgets for an overnight stay in Guatape.
MID-RANGE – Hotel Los Recuerdos
Located right by the vibrant waters of the reservoir and nestled in the shade of Piedra el Peñon, this resort offers a holiday experience to be remembered. With panoramic views and access to outdoor pools, plus a cruise ship for sailing around the lake, you won’t find anything like it at this price point.
BUDGET – La Madriguera
Depending on the room you select, you’ll be greeted by lake views or a balcony overlooking the lush gardens of La Madriguera. The tasteful decor is complemented by the in-room verdant plants and jungle atmosphere just outside your window or balcony.
Best Things to Do in Guatape You Can’t Miss
Now that you know all the basics you need for an amazing visit, let’s take a look at some of the top things to do in Guatape that you can’t miss!
1. Climb El Peñón de Guatapé (The Rock of Guatapé)
There’s no denying that El Peñón de Guatapé, a monolithic giant looming over the landscape, is easily the most famous attraction in town. Known simply as ‘The Rock,’ it’s a geological marvel that sticks out from the lush, green surroundings like a sentinel from an old-world fairy tale.
Grab your most comfortable shoes and a bottle of water because we’re about to embark on a climb of a lifetime. With a total of 659 steps, this stairway isn’t for the faint-hearted, but I promise you, the effort is worth the reward.
Make sure to stop frequently on your way to the top – not just to catch your breath but to take in (and photograph) the incredible views! To descend, you will need to take another stairway that doesn’t provide the same stunning views so be sure to take it all in on the way up.
Although the stairway seems never-ending, it took us only 25-30 minutes to get to the top. To be honest, I was prepared to take much longer than that, and I was pleasantly surprised when we made it up in no time.
Once you reach the top, you’ll get to admire the 360-degree panorama of the surrounding landscape. The view is absolutely incredible – the patchwork of the land, water, and the tiny islands in between create a mesmerizing scene that you won’t soon forget.
Top tip: Be sure to arrive early to avoid the heat of the day and the crowds. The sight opens at 8 am, and since the day trippers typically arrive after 10 am, you can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. The entrance fee is around $20,000 COP ($5 US), and you can buy the tickets at the foot of the rock.
2. Take a boat tour of the Guatapé Reservoir
The Guatapé Reservoir isn’t just a gorgeous backdrop to the town, it’s a destination unto itself. And one of the best ways to explore it is on a boat tour! There’s something incredibly peaceful about gliding through the serene water under the watchful eye of the mighty El Peñón.
Boat tours typically last about an hour and will give you a closer look at the fascinating labyrinth of islands and peninsulas that make up the reservoir.
On the shores, you can spot many celebrity homes, and you’ll also cruise past a haunting yet compelling sight – Pablo Escobar’s mansion. Yes, the very home of the infamous drug lord! Although the house is now bombed-out and covered with graffiti, it’s a stark relic of Colombia’s turbulent past.
In recent years, it was a popular place for paintball games, but now the access is restricted, and you can’t enter the premises. What’s more, rumor has it that the Colombian government will demolish the property very soon so this may be your last chance to get a glimpse of it.
While touring the lake on a boat, don’t miss the remnants of the old town of El Peñón which was flooded to create the reservoir. Today, the eerie sight of the half-submerged church spire piercing the water is a stark reminder of the town that once stood here.
You can find many boats offering tours along the Malecon in Guatape, so be sure to check the prices and look for a good deal. If you would rather book a tour from the comfort of your home, take a look at this Guatapé Reservoir Private Boat Ride.
3. Try out water sports on the lake
When you’re surrounded by a body of water as inviting as the Guatapé Reservoir, it’s impossible not to want to jump in! Thankfully, Guatapé offers a host of water sports that cater to every kind of thrill-seeker.
Jet skis, paddle boards, kayaks, and banana boats, you name it, and it’s available for rent right at the shoreline. Whether you’re an experienced adrenaline junkie or a newbie dipping your toes into water sports, there’s something for everyone.
Don’t miss the chance to go jet-skiing across the vast expanse of the reservoir. Nothing beats the feeling of the wind whipping past your face as you skim over the water with the impressive El Peñón in the backdrop.
If you’re after something more serene, paddleboarding or kayaking is a great option. You can paddle at your own pace, exploring the little islands and coves that dot the reservoir.
No matter what activity you choose, you’ll be rewarded with unique views of the lake and its surroundings, adding another dimension to your Guatapé adventure.
4. Photograph Calle del Recuerdo
If you love colorful streets, you have to include a stop a the vibrant Calle del Recuerdo. This charming street, aptly named the ‘Street of Memories’, is a feast for the eyes and a delight for photographers.
Every corner of this street is painted with a riot of colors, making for some fantastic photos. Buildings are decorated with murals, sculptures, and other artworks that make Calle del Recuerdo a truly unique experience.
So if you’re looking for the best things to do in Guatape, don’t miss this street!
5. People watch at Plazoleta de Los Zócalos
One of the best things to do in Guatape is simply soak up the atmosphere in one of the town’s most popular squares, Plazoleta de Los Zócalos.
This isn’t your everyday plaza, mind you. Plazoleta de Zócalos is an explosion of colors and unique artworks that make it one of the most Instagrammable spots in town. It’s a fantastic spot to simply sit back, sip on some delicious Colombian coffee, and watch the world go by.
6. Stroll around the Umbrella Street (Calle 29)
If you’re looking for another must-see in Guatapé, make your way to Calle 29, or as I like to call it, the Umbrella Street! Located right in front of Plazoleta de Zócalos, this street is an absolute charm.
Calle 29 greets you with a dazzling array of umbrellas suspended above the street, creating a vibrant, colorful canopy. These cute little umbrellas add a dash of color to the skies and provide much-needed shade on sunny days.
This Instagram-worthy street is a testament to Guatape’s vibrant aesthetic and creativity. So, as you explore Guatapé, be sure to take a leisurely stroll down Calle 29 and enjoy this unique, photogenic spot.
7. Find the most unique zocalos
If you’re seeking what to do in Guatapé that truly captures the town’s vibrant culture, then go on a treasure hunt for the most unique zocalos in town! Every house in Guatape is decorated with a zocalo – a colorful, fresco-like mural located in the lower section of the house.
These zocalos are more than just decoration, they’re a window into the life and interests of the people who live there. Each panel tells a story, from capturing traditional scenes of everyday life to representing the homeowners’ hobbies or professions.
What makes this one of the most interesting things to do in Guatapé is the endless variety of zocalos. You might find a zocalo depicting a barber’s tools outside a hairdresser’s house or a zocalo with lush coffee plants hinting at the owner’s profession.
You can literally find a surprise around every corner, so don’t miss the chance to explore this fascinating side of Guatapé.
8. Take a Selfie at the ‘Guatape’ Sign
For a town brimming with color and art, it’s only fitting that even the town’s name displayed along the shore is a work of art! The Guatape sign is located at the end of the Malecon, so it’s easy to locate if you’re out for a stroll.
This eye-catching, vibrant sign is quickly becoming one of the most iconic attractions in town. It’s a great spot to take a selfie and capture Guatapé’s unique aesthetic, so don’t forget your camera when you’re here!
9. Visit Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Carmen Church
One of the quieter yet equally beautiful things to do in Guatape is visiting the Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Carmen Church. Situated in the main square, this church serves as a calming respite amidst the bustling town.
Built in the 1800s, the church has seen the town of Guatape evolve and grow over the centuries. The exterior of the church, though not as colorful as the rest of the town, is a beautiful sight to behold (and photograph!).
10. Shop for unique souvenirs in the local markets
No trip to Guatape would be complete without a visit to the local markets. From colorful handicrafts and souvenirs to hand-painted zocalos, the markets of Guatape have something for everyone.
Whether you’re looking for a unique gift for someone back home or just want to browse the local wares, the markets of Guatape won’t disappoint.
11. Spend the night in a luxury glamping
For those who love the idea of connecting with nature but aren’t keen on sacrificing comfort, luxury glamping in Guatapé might just be the perfect blend. Imagine sleeping under the stars, surrounded by stunning landscapes, all while enjoying the comforts of a high-end accommodation!
Glamping – or glamorous camping – offers a unique twist to your Guatapé adventure. Nestled amidst the stunning scenery, these upscale campsites come equipped with all the amenities you’d expect from a luxury stay, from comfortable beds to private bathrooms.
We chose to stay at Bosko for two nights and absolutely loved it. Not only did we have fantastic views of the lake, but the property also has one of the most amazing pools we’ve ever seen. You can read more about our experience in this complete Bosko hotel review!
So, if you’re wondering what to do in Guatapé to make your visit truly unforgettable, consider spending a night in one of these luxury glamping spots.
12. Sample local cuisine
Exploring Guatapé isn’t just about feasting your eyes on vibrant zocalos or climbing El Peñón, it’s also about tantalizing your taste buds with the rich flavors of Colombian cuisine. Trust me, the culinary scene in this charming town is something you don’t want to miss!
Start your gastronomic adventure with a traditional Colombian breakfast of ‘arepas’ and ‘chocolatte’. For lunch or dinner, try ‘bandeja paisa’, a hearty meal that will fuel your explorations.
But the star of Guatapé’s culinary scene has to be fresh trout, a local specialty often served with garlic sauce or fried plantains. You’ll find a variety of restaurants around the town square serving this delightful dish.
13. Enjoy the vibrant nightlife
When the sun sets, the fun doesn’t stop in Guatapé. In fact, it’s when the town’s lively spirit truly shines through. From lively bars and clubs to cozy cafes, the nightlife in Guatapé is a mix of laid-back charm and energetic revelry.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxed evening sipping cocktails, a chance to dance to some local tunes, or simply want to stroll through the beautifully lit town square, Guatapé after dark doesn’t disappoint.
A must-visit spot is the vibrant Malecón, where lively bars line the waterfront. Another unique Guatapé nightlife experience is a visit to a local “fonda”. These traditional pubs offer a unique insight into local culture and are the perfect place to try some ‘aguardiente’, a local anise-flavored liqueur.
Planning a trip to Colombia?
Then you might want to take a look at all our other travel guides about Colombia. I promise, they are just as awesome as this article was!
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- 13 Best Things to Do in Guatape, Colombia
- Luxury Glamping in Guatape: Bosko Hotel Review
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- Glamping in Colombia: 17 Stunning Bubbles & Luxury Tents to Book