A quick and useful guide covering the four best options for how to get to Guatapé from Medellín by bus, a private day-trip, taxi, or driving yourself!
Guatapé is located in the rolling hill region just a short 2-hour drive from Medellín. It’s a stunning but small town that is famous for its colorful buildings covered in unique art (called zocalos), delicious Antioquian food, awesome trails and waterfalls, and of course, the giant rock called El Peñón de Guatapé.
But, if you’re like I was, you’ll be sitting in Medellín and wondering how to actually get to here!
That’s why, after a fair bit of research, speaking to locals, and actually making the trip myself, I’ve formulated this useful travel guide.
I’ll give you the run down of the four best options for how to get from Medellín to Guatapé cheaply and fast so you can enjoy your trip.
Option 1: Private Day Trip to Guatapé From Medellín
If you’re short on time, or would prefer to see all the best highlights in Guatapé on an easy day trip from Medellín, then you’re in luck!
There’s currently a deal for an awesome organized tour on GetYourGuide that is rated as 5-star and has over 1000 reviews! In fact, it’s the most-booked tour in Medellín and is easily the most popular way to get to Guatapé.
Besides comfortable transport, you’ll also get:
- Climb the giant rock (El Peñol)
- Boat ride on Peñol-Guatapé Dam
- Guided tour of the tiny town of Guatapé
This is great value and much, much cheaper than booking a return taxi!
Book: Guatape Day Trip (best-rated in Medellín)
Don’t Miss: Where to stay in Medellín (best neighborhoods)
Option 2: Public Bus From Medellín to Guadapé
For the backpackers, budget travelers or travelers looking to spend a night or two in the traditional colonial town, then the best way is to take the Medellín to Guatapé bus. This is how I got to Guatapé.
Below I’ll outline exactly what you’ll need to do to get the bus. Don’t worry, it’s easy and convenient!
1. Make Your Way to Terminal Del Norte
The bus to Guatapé from Medellín City departs from Terminal Del Norte. As the name suggests, this bus terminal is located in the northern end of Medellín.
Terminal Norte is the bus station catering to all routes heading north and east of the city. And, since Guatapé is approximately 2 hours east of Medellín, this is where you need to go.
There are several easy public transport options to get here from anywhere in the city. These include:
- Taxi – just tell them you’re going to Terminal Norte. All taxis in Medellín city are metered, and it should cost somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000 pesos from El Poblado or Laureles.
- Metro – Medellín’s metro system is very safe and reliable. You’ll want to make your way to the blue line (Line A) and get off at Caribe station (here’s a metro map). This is literally right next to the terminal.
- Uber – While technically illegal in Colombia, Uber is widely used in the city. However, just remember to get in the front and set the location to Caribe Station instead of the north terminal as a courtesy to the drive and to avoid conflict with taxi drivers.
Below I’ve pinned a map showing the exact location you need to get to.
Tip: Planning your trip to Colombia? Make sure you stay covered for accidents and mishaps with adventure travel insurance. I recommend World Nomads for the best value on short trips, and SafetyWing for long backpacking stints and Digital Nomads.
2. Head Downstairs to the Ground Floor
Once you arrive at the bus terminal, you’ll need to make your way downstairs to the ground floor.
This is quite a large terminal, and you’ll find loads of snack shops and fast-food outlets here. There are two main staircases and they are immediately obvious once you walk in.
If you’re coming in by taxi, take the staircase on your left, which leads directly down in front of the ticket booth for the Medellín to Guatapé bus.
3. Find the Medellín to Guatape Bus Ticket Booth
Did I mention this was a huge bus terminal? Yeah, there are over 50 ticket booths for different bus companies and transport routes!
What you’ll want to do is head to Ticket Booth Number #14. The bus company name is Sotrasanvicente & Guatape La Piedra and it is a red and white booth.
There’s also a large sign on the window reading Guadape. Don’t worry, it’s really easy to find by following the sequential numbers on the booths.
Once you arrive, purchase your ticket which only costs 17,000 pesos, which is just over $4 US dollars!
While you can buy a return ticket, this is also very easy in Guatapé town so you won’t need to.
We lucked out and got here right on time! The bus was leaving in just 5 minutes. Unfortunately this meant we missed out on buying snacks!
Tip: Buses leave every hour, 7 days a week from Monday to Sunday. I asked time they start and end, but unfortunately the staff said it depends. Not sure what this means but hey, get here at a reasonable time and you’ll get a bus.
4. Board Your Bus to Guatapé
Once you purchase your ticket, turn left, walk 20 meters and continue until you see turn-style gates on your right.
Make sure to check your bus ticket to find the gate and your seat number. Yes, the buses have assigned seats, meaning you don’t need to rush!
If your Spanish is lacking, puesto is your seat number, and rampa is your gate number.
Tip: Weekends are the busiest days and I’ve been told that buses do fill up on occasion!
The Bus Journey: What to Expect
Getting here 5 minutes prior to departure was really easy and actually quite relaxed. If you have large backpacks, don’t stress. These buses are more like coaches and have a large rear trunk space to stow your backpacks.
I had my camera bag with me and always keep it with me on buses. This was fine with the driver and I chose to stow it in front of my legs.
The bus journey from Medellín to Guatapé is quite comfortable and very scenic. You’ll notice that you’ll quickly leave hectic city life behind and enter the beautiful, rolling green hills of Antioquian countryside.
The bus will stop a few times to pick up locals heading east. Like most buses in South America, you’ll also find local salesmen boarding and offering snacks like candy, fruit, nuts, and drinks.
Overall, the bus journey to Guatapé from Medellín City takes only 2 hours.
Optional: Get Off at La Piedra Del Peñol First (the Guatapé Rock)
When you board the bus, the bus driver or staff stowing your baggage will likely ask you whether you are getting off at the Pueblo or at Piedra del Peńol.
This means, you have the option to disembark the bus at the town of Guatapé, or just at the base of the huge rock (10 minutes earlier).
Since we had our big backpacks with us, we decided to go all the way to the town and climb to the top of the rock afterwards. This is something you must do when in town, you’ll get beautiful views over the surrounding country side and the stunning blue lakes!
Option 3: How to Get to Guatapé From Medellín By Taxi
If you’re not a big fan of public transport and want to a private journey to Guatapé, then you can also just pay a taxi driver.
There is a fixed rate of 270,000 Colombian pesos in the city of Medellín for taxis to Guatapé. This is a little expensive (roughly $68 USD), but it is a long journey!
If you’re traveling solo, or even as a couple, this option doesn’t make much sense.
Instead, you’d get much more value out of just booking the Guatapé day tour (above), and telling the operator you don’t need the lift back– this is cheaper and includes a guide and a boat trip!
However, if you’re in a group of four, splitting this taxi fare makes sense, and is not too pricey!
Option 4: Drive to Guatapé Yourself
If you’re comfortable driving in South America, then you could also rent a car in Medellín quite cheaply.
I always use DiscoverCars when renting cars around the world. This is a “rental car search engine” that compares dealerships and cars available in your city.
This ensures you get a fair price and cuts out the need for passport deposits.
If you are set on getting a car, you’ll want to head east on the Túnel de Oriente towards La Palma. From here take a left at the big roundabout (Guarne-Aeropuerto José Maria Cordova.
Next, turn right at the big intersection onto Autopista Medellí-Bogotá. You’ll then follow this road all the way to Marinilla, At the end of the town, turn left onto Al Peñol, which is a narrower and winding mountain road leading all the way up to Guatapé.
Tip: The road to Guatapé from Medellín is actually quite relaxed once you get out of the city. There’s usually not too much traffic but keep in mind that the roads are a little winding and steep in sections.
Should I Visit Guatapé on a Day Trip or Stay Overnight?
This is a question I’m sure most will be asking! In my opinion, staying in Guatapé is definitely worth it if you have time time. I say this for a few reasons:
- The town is pretty much deserted after 4PM (when the day-trippers head home). This is a great time to explore Guatapé.
- There’s so much to see and do in the Pueblo and surrounding countryside.
- Guatapé offers a very relaxed, scenic, and authentic Colombian travel experience. It’s worth staying a few days to relax.
- There are many great hotels with lake views that are also very affordable.
On the other hand, if you have limited time, booking one of the day tours to Guatapé from Medellín is extremely good value and lets you see most of the highlights anyway!
It’s also one of the most popular day trips in the country, so that’s saying something!
Where to Stay in Guatapé Once You Arrive
Prefer to stay a night or two in this colorful little town? Below are my three best picks for where to stay in Guatapé.
- Casa Pastora – Budget pick (where I stayed). An awesome home-stay/co-work hotel that is very close to town, offers private rooms and costs less than $15 per night!
- Hotel Santa Maria de las Aguas Peñol – Amazing 4-star hotel offering views over the lake and the giant rock landmark
- Hotel Los Recuerdos – Huge resort-style hotel with huge open-glass windows overlooking the lake and the rock.
More Colombia Travel Inspiration
I hope that this quick guide for how to get to Guatapé from the city of Medellín by bus, taxi, a day trip, or independently has made your travel planning a little easier!
If you found this useful, make sure to check out some of my other guides and blogs below.