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Guide to Climbing La Piedra del Peñol: Guatapé Rock

Guide to Climbing La Piedra del Peñol: Guatapé Rock

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

La Piedra del Peñol is the famous Guatapé Rock in Colombia and offers a 708-step climb to breathtaking views of a scenic scattered lake landscape.

For those visiting Guatapé either on a day trip from Medellín or for a few days, it’s difficult to miss Guatapé Rock, also known as La Piedra del Peñol or simply El Peñol. In fact, this geological marvel is a huge reason why so many people visit this tiny town, and it literally has put Guatapé on the tourist map!

Rising at least 656 feet (200 m) above the beautiful lakeside town, this massive granite rock is a popular tourist destination and offers a fairly easy ascent due to the stairs. After climbing the rock myself I’ve written this travel guide to help you prepare for your climb up La Piedra del Peñol, one of the best things to do in Guatapé for adventurers!

El penol, giant rock in guatapé colombia
The imposing Guatapé Rock overlooking the famous lake landscape.

How to Get to Guatapé to Climb El Peñol

Planning a visit to Guatapé? This is a great idea. It's one of the best places to travel in the country and it's really easy to get here from Medellín.

While I recommend staying in Guatapé for a few days as I did, if you are short on time, then you can book the popular full-day organized tour to Guatapé that includes climbing the Guatapé rock and a tour guide for the town as well.

Update: There are now several tours running from Medellín. However, the below tour is currently the most affordable way to get to the pueblo and to climb the rock from Medellín. Also, it has 1,000s of 5-star reviews on GetYourGuide!

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About the Famous Rock of Guatapé

La Piedra Del Peñol, also known as El Peñol, El Peñón de Guatapé, or simply La Piedra is a huge rock monolith found near the village of Guatapé in Antioquia, Colombia. Here are some important things to know.

  • It's one of the town's main tourist attractions and is culturally and historically significant to the residents of Guatapé.
  • This ten million-ton granite stone towers roughly 220 meters above the earth and is visible for miles in the Colombian countryside. It's known geologically as an inselberg, a lone, prominent rock in a mostly flat landscape.
  • El Peñol is almost completely smooth, but it features one long crack running up to the base of the face. This crack contains a 708-step masonry staircase allowing visitors to climb to the top quite easily. It takes about 15-30 minutes to climb to the top of the rock via this staircase, depending on your fitness level.
  • The current entrance fee is 20,000 COP per person to reach the top. This is just around $6 USD. While some complain about the fee, I think it's reasonable for the amazing views you get.
  • Opening hours currently are  8 am to 6 pm, Monday to Sunday. The best time to climb is in the early morning just after sunrise or in the late afternoon. We climbed at around 10 am and it was already a little busy and hot.

The indigenous Tahamí (Tahamí Indians, or Tahamies Indians) who are native to the area have long recognized the significance of this gigantic rock. They named it named it mojarrá or mujará (meaning "rock" or "stone").

Giant granite boulder in colombia

Don't Miss: Where to stay in Medellín (best neighborhoods)


Where is the Giant Rock in Guatapé?

The Guatapé Rock is located just a short walk or drive outside the small town of Guatapé Colombia, which is about a two-hour drive from the city of Medellín.

Although there have been disputes over the ownership of the rock between the neighboring town of El Peñol, the rock sits within the municipality of Guatapé. There are even two huge white letters that are part of an uncompleted graffiti staking the town's claim.

Map location of el penol in guatape

How to Get to La Piedra del Peñol from Guatapé

If you already find yourself in Guatapé, then getting to La Piedra del Peñol is quite easy. You can simply walk the road from the square (30 minutes). Or, take a tuk-tuk (tricycle taxi) from Plazoleta de los Zócalos or the main square (Parque Principal de Guatapé) for around 10,000 Colombian pesos.

Alternatively, if you have your own car, you can drive here as well. Note you have to pay 2,000 COP to enter the premises with your vehicle and park.

We decided to walk to get a good view of the massive stone from the other side of Guatapé Lake.

Tip: If you aren't in Guatapé yet, read my comprehensive guide to how to get to Guatapé from Medellín (four options). Otherwise, I've included a quick summary below.

Behind a tuk tuk driver
Tuk Tuk in Guatapé - you'll pay around 10,000 Colombian pesos to the rock from Guatapé town.

How to Get to Guatapé Rock from Medellín

If you're planning to visit for a day, then the best way to get to Guatapé is by booking the day trip above. This is the cheapest option and the most convenient.

However, if you'd like to stay a few days as we did, then you have the option of paying a taxi driver (270,000 pesos flat rate) or taking the public bus. We chose to take the public bus. Here's what we did and what you still can do. I've verified prices to keep it up to date.

To take the bus to Guatapé, follow the instructions below.

  • First, head to the Medellín north bus station called Terminal del Norte. You can take a taxi or Uber here quite easily from anywhere in the city for under 20,000 COP.
  • Alternatively, take advantage of Medellín’s reliable and safe metro system to get to Caribe Metro Station. This joins Terminal del Norte.
  • Once you arrive, walk downstairs and head to kiosk number 14. The fee is now 20,000 pesos per person according to Jan, a recent traveler who gave me the updated price.

The buses run pretty much all day long and will drop you off right in the heart of the beautiful town of Guatapé. However, you also have the option of getting out at the base of the rock, and the driver always stops here before going all the way in.

Guatapé bus in medellín

My Experience Climbing Guatapé Rock

Now that you know all about the logistics required to get here, let's dive into the updated guide for the climb based on my experience.

The truth is, there are two different ways to climb the rock. The most common way is by taking the 708-step masonry staircase built into the vertical crack on its northern face.

The second option for the super adventurous (and experienced) is to book a rock-climbing tour. Of course, most people will be interested in the regular stair climb, so that's what I'll cover in this guide.

The giant rock of guatapé in colombia

Hiking the Staircase to the Top of El Peñón de Guatapé

The climb begins at the base, where you'll find a large area with loads of restaurants, a gigantic parking lot, and tourist souvenir shops. You'll climb the side of the rock (hill) to reach this flat section at the base.

Car park next to huge stone
Entrance with a vehicle is 2,000 pesos

Once we arrived, we walked straight to the ticket booth where we first needed to pay the 20,000 peso entrance fee to climb the rock of Guatapé.

Immediately to the right of the booth, the climb begins and is just one single vertical stroke up 708 steps to the viewpoint at the top! Keen to get to theand top capture the morning lialthoughtough we were a bit late), we hastily climbed the steps.

El peñol rock in colombia

At the halfway mark, we found a small place to rest right beside a small catholic shrine. This is also a great place to take some photos!

Girl walking up stairs in guatapé
Colombian catholic shrine

The Magnificent Views from the Top of the Rock

After the steep but relatively short climb of around 15 minutes, we arrived at a flat section where we found more food vendors, restaurants, and an observation tower.

The most beautiful views are at the highest part, where we climbed a quick spiral staircase to the three-story viewpoint tower.

Tip: From here, you'll get incredible 360 panoramic views of the entire countryside. I highly recommend saving your photos until you get to the true top area.

Top of la piedra del peñol (el peñol), in guatapé

On a clear day, you can see for miles and miles in every direction. To the north, you'll have an unobstructed view of Guatapé Lake, the artificial reservoir turned into hydroelectric dams.

View of guatapé and the lake from the top of the rock

To the south, you'll see a beautiful green landscape with rolling hills and picturesque villages dotting the surrounding countryside.

We spent a good half an hour at the top, enjoying the best view in the region as you can see from the photos. Note we flew the drone from Guatapé town as I believe you are not allowed to launch it from near the rock itself.

On the way down, you'll walk through a souvenir shop where you can buy memorabilia or small trinkets.

View of guatapé lake
Green hills with a lake

Related: La Cazuela – Awesome Guatapé Waterfall


How Was the Big Rock of Guatape formed?

This feature is a formation of the Cordillera Occidental Mountain Range near the Colombian Andes Mountains.

Similar to other Inselbergs like Uluru, these large rock formations are the result of an eroding landscape. This is often caused by flooding over a long period of time. In this case, this natural wonder is made of granite.

This is a type of igneous rock that forms when magma (molten rock) cools and solidifies deep underground. Since granite is very hard and durable, the massive rock has withstood the test of time and erosion.

The stone is estimated to be 65 million years old, according to geologists.

Guatapé from the sky

History & More Interesting Things to Know About El Peñol in Guatapé

I hope this quick guide has convinced you to check out this awesome geological wonder. In the below se,ction I'll include a brief history of the rock, and answer some commonly asked questions.

Interesting fact: A German scientist discovered a new species of plant on the rock's face, which he named Pitcairnia heterophylla.

Guatapé rock in colombia

How Many Steps are there at La Piedra del Peñol?

When I first climbed La Piedra del Peñol, I counted 649 steps in total to climb the masonry staircase to the top of the rock. However, currently, the general consensus is that there are 708 steps in total– not that it really matters.

Climbing the rock of guatapé

Who Built the Zig Zag Staircase to Climb Guatapé Rock?

The stairs were built in 2006 by the Colombian government.

Climbing the stairs of the guatapé rock, la piedra del peñol

Who owns the Rock of Guatapé?

The truth is that the rock's historical significance and its value as a tourism icon means that there is a long-disputed ownership of La Piedra del Peñol between the towns of Guatapé and El Peñol.

As soon as you see the rock, I'm sure you'll see the huge white letters painted onto its face. This reads "GI", but the second letter is just a single stroke of the letter "U" in the unfinished painting of the town's name. I guess Guatapé decided to take this matter into their own hands to stake their claim!

However, the residents of El Peñol (a neighboring village), were not too fond of the town's claim, and a large mob ensured the painted large white letters would not be completed. They'd prefer if the name was the "stone of el Peñol".

From an outsider's perspective, I personally think the letters have tainted this beautiful national monument, and I'm glad that the graffiti wasn't finished. It's one of the most beautiful places in Colombia, and I'm sure you'll agree that it should be left as is.

To this day, the towns still dispute the ownership of the rock.

White letters on the stone of guatapé

How Long Does it Take to Climb Guatapé Rock?

It depends on your fitness level, but it should take you between 15 and 30 minutes to get to the top.

How High is the Rock of Guatapé?

The rock is about 200 meters tall (656 feet), depending on which source you read. I found that there was a lack of an official height on the internet. So, to settle it, I reached out to María from the Colombian Tourism Board, who told me that the official height of Guatapé Rock is 220 meters.

She assured me that this was taking the height figure directly from the top of the observation deck. According to my GPS watch, the elevation is 2,150 meters above sea level (7054 feet).

Guatapé rock

Best Accommodation Options Close to Guatapé Rock

Prefer to stay a night or two in this colorful little town? Below are my three best picks for the best Guatapé hotels and hostels. For more options, don't miss this up-to-date accommodation guide on where to stay in Guatapé.

  • Lake View Hostel- Budget pick. An awesome hostel that is very close to town, offers private rooms, with an excellent Thai restaurant above!
  • Bosko - Amazing igloo-styled accommodation offering views over the lake and El Peñón de Guatapé
  • Hotel Los Recuerdos - Huge resort-style hotel with huge open-glass windows overlooking the lake and the rock.
Guatapé waterfront accommodation
One of the amazing Guatapé hotels on the lake

I hope that you've enjoyed this quick guide to visiting Guatapé Rock or La Pedra del Peñol in Colombia. If you have any questions, make sure to drop a comment below.

Otherwise, check out some of my other articles for more travel inspiration to this epic country and beyond.

  • Medellín Travel Guide: Discover fun activities and top highlights in Medellín
  • San Andrés Island: Guide to Colombia's best Caribbean Island
  • Minca Travel Guide: Discover incredible hikes, beautiful fincas, epic jungle waterfalls, and all-around relaxing vibes.
  • Things to do in Guatapé: Travel to Colombia's most scenic Antioquian town, known for its vibrant streets, traditional street art, and the famous Piedra del Peñol.
Girl and sunset at coffee plantation in minca

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Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Teresa

Sunday 7th of July 2024

Hi! I would add the Casa Encuentro Ecolodge. I found it very special.

Olly Gaspar

Tuesday 9th of July 2024

Hey thanks this place looks good and has some great reviews. I'll keep an eye on them and do a bit more research and potentially add it to my recommended places to stay. Cheers!

Ron

Sunday 29th of January 2023

What is the cost to go up, and how long does the whole climb up and down take.