Ever heard of Guatapé, Colombia? Read this detailed travel guide covering the absolute best things to do in the beautiful small town of Guatapé, just a short hop from Medellín in Antioquia.
Looking for an amazing side-trip from your visit to Medellín? Make sure to stop by Guatapé, Colombia! This incredible Antioquian town is known for its vibrant streets, traditional street art (called Zócalos), beautiful lake, and of course, its giant rock called La Piedra del Peñol.
However, the truth is that there are just so many more things to do in Guatapé.
That’s why, in this article, I will provide you with 37 inspiring ideas to make sure you make the most of your visit. Furthermore, I’ve also included a comprehensive Guatapé travel guide including how to get here, what to do and see, where to stay, and how long to visit!
About the Small Town of Guatapé Colombia
Guatapé, or the “Pueblo de Zocalos”, is a small town located in the Antioquia department of Colombia. With just over 20,000 inhabitants, it’s one of the most picturesque and colorful towns in the country.
Located in the rolling hills of the lush Colombian countryside, Guatapé was not much more than a small country pueblito, until it was purposefully flooded in 1970 to create the famous dam (lake).
Today, it serves as a popular tourist destination and is famous worldwide for its beautiful lake– which is often called the “Pearl of Antioquia”, its colorful zocalos, delicious food, and La Piedra del Peñol (the huge rock that overlooks the town).
However, as you’ll discover in this Guatapé travel guide, there is so much more to do and see, especially if you are a fan of adventure travel!
Don’t Miss: Where to stay in Medellín (best neighborhoods)
How to Get to Guatapé
The most convenient way to get here is to take a trip from Medellín.
Generally, there are four main options.
- Book a day trip from Medellín – best for those short on time
- Take the public bus – the cheapest option
- Take a taxi – 270,000 pesos fixed-rate (any driver)
- Rent a car – if you are confident driving in Colombia! (I recommend searching Discover Cars)
Below I’ll give you a quick rundown on the first two options. However, if you want a more detailed explanation, I’ve also written a detailed and up-to-date guide on how to get here from Medellín.
Day Trip Tour from Medellín
This is definitely the best option for those short on time. Guatapé is only a couple of hours away from Medellín, so it’s very possible to do as a day trip.
There are plenty of tour companies in Medellín that offer day trips and organized tours. The best tour companies will generally pick you up from your hotel in the morning and drop you off back in the evening.
Below I’ve linked to the best day tour, which has 1000+ 5-star reviews and is actually one of the most affordable ways to visit Guatapé. The trip includes transportation, lunch, a boat ride on the lake, and a climb to the top of El Penol.
Local Bus From Medellín Bus Station
If you’re looking for the cheapest way to get to Guatapé, taking the local bus is your best option.
The bus station is called Terminal del Norte (north terminal). You can take a taxi or Uber here quite easily from anywhere in the city for under 18,000 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 17,000 pesos per person.
The buses run pretty much all day long and will drop you off right in the heart of town!
Tip: There’s a ticket booth where you get dropped off. You can purchase your ticket back to Medellín here.
37 Fun Things to do in Guatapé, Colombia
With the logistics out of the way, let’s dive into this comprehensive travel guide for things to do in Guatapé!
This list of 37 activities includes all the main attractions, as well as some off-the-beaten-path hidden gems, so there’s something for every traveler.
1. Climb to the Top of the Rock (La Piedra del Peñol)
One of the most popular things to do in Guatapé is to hike up the famous rock. This is arguably the most famous attraction in the region.
The rock of Guatapé is known as La Piedra del Peñol and it is a single mass and standing at an impressive 200 meters (656 ft). If you make it to the top, you’ll get amazing panoramic views of the the lake and surrounding countryside.
The hike itself is much more of a stair walk than a strenuous rock climbing stint. It’s also pretty short and only takes around 15-30 minutes to reach the top. However, it can obviously be quite strenuous for some as there are a total of 650 steep stairs to make it to the top of the rock.
The entrance fee is 20,000 COP ($5.20 USD) per person, and you pay at the base.
2. The Guatapé Sign
Perhaps the most iconic thing to do in Guatapé, Colombia is to take a photo of the famous sign. The colorful letters that spell out Guatape sit on the edge of the lake along the eastern end of the Malecòn (concrete boardwalk).
As you might expect, this is one of the most photographed places in town. As a result, it can get a little busy.
We walked past this sign numerous times a day during our visit and there were always tourists here getting a selfie or family photo.
3. Take a Boat Tour Past Pablo Escobar’s Mansion
Guatapé lake (Embalse Guatapé) is huge! It’s actually the second-largest reservoir in Colombia. The lake was created in the 1970s when a dam was built on the Río Guatapé.
The result is an absolutely massive body of water and one of the best ways to explore it is to take a boat tour.
There are several companies offering private boat tours from the waterfront. The cost varies but we paid 25,000 COP per person for a 1-hour tour around some of the islands.
We also stopped by Pablo Escobar’s mansion, which was bombed in 1993 and has been left as rubble.
If you’ve booked the organized day tour above, you’ll get a boat trip included!
4. Calle del Recuerdo (Memory Lane)
Calle del Recuerdo, or Memory Lane, is one of the most picturesque streets in Guatapé. While almost every building in Guatape town features zócalos, the colorful cobblestone streets of Calle del Rucuerdo is the most famous.
Zócalos are traditional Colombian paintings that depict a scene or tell a story and are found on the side of buildings throughout Guatapé and other parts of Colombia.
If you’re looking for the most colorful street in town, this is the spot!
5. Plaza Del Zocalo in Guatapé Town
Plazoleta de Los Zócalos, or Plaza del Zocalo, is the colorful square in Guatapé and home to some more famous zócalos in town. This is a great place to people watch and take photos of the colorful buildings.
There’s also an excellent cafe with a balcony view which serves some of the best coffee I’ve ever tried (I bought a 500g bag of their beans for 25,000 COP – $6.60).
This square connects to Calle del Rucuerdo and is where you will find the colorful umbrellas you will likely have seen on Instagram already.
6. Rent a Motorbike & Explore the Countryside
Guatapé is located in a beautiful rural area of Colombia and the best way to explore the lush green hills and nearby villages is by motorbike.
We rented a scooter from a company called Guatapé Motos for 60,000 Colombian pesos per day ($16 USD). Yes, this was a bit pricey, but we are still glad we did it.
Once you’ve got your set of two wheels, there are plenty of things to see and do. The guys at at the rental shop gave us a hand-drawn map with some of the highlights. Below are some things you can check out and are just a short stretch from town.
- El Peñol
- San Rafael
- Rio Bizcocho
- La Cazuela Waterfall
- Guatapé viewpoint
I’ve included quite a few of these attractions in the list below. So, keep reading for more inspiration.
7. Visit San Rafael
San Rafael is a small town located about 15 kilometers from Guatapé. It’s a much-less visited town than others in the region, and as a result, offers an authentic countryside Antioquia experience.
Getting here by motorbike is quite easy along the quiet but winding country roads. It took us roughly 45 minutes by scooter at a leisurely speed.
San Rafael is a steep-hill town with a few small cafes and bakeries worth checking out. Also, like with most towns in this region, in the main square, you’ll find a beautiful white church.
Tip: San Rafael is known for its traditional religious processions, which take place every year on Good Friday. The procession consists of a statue of Jesus Christ being carried through the streets on the shoulders of locals. If you’re in Guatape during Holy Week, be sure to check it out!
8. La Cazuela Waterfall
La Cazuela waterfall is a beautiful and serene spot located about 40 minutes from Guatapé by scooter or motorbike.
This awesome waterfall and freshwater swimming spot is very much a hidden gem. As a result, you won’t find many tourists here.
The road to the waterfall is a little bumpy and Google maps won’t be very helpful either. If you’re set on checking out this awesome Guatapé attraction, make sure to check out my guide (link above).
9. Swim at Rio Bizcocho
Rio Bizcocho is a beautiful freshwater swimming spot located about 30 minutes from Guatapé. I’m not sure where the river got its name from, because it’s definitely not shaped like a cake (bizcocho in Spanish).
While you can swim in Guatapé lake, a trip to the Rio Bizcocho swimming spot is definitely a more enjoyable experience. Here, you’ll find tranquil and clean waters, and even a few rocks to jump off.
To get here by motorbike or scooter, simply head towards San Rafael. Here are the exact GPS coordinates: 6.2939056,-75.0669167.
10. Hike to the Best View Point in Guatapé
You won’t find this mirador in other Guatapé travel guide or blogs!
If you’re looking for an epic view of the Pueblo with El Peñol in the background, I’ve got a spot for you. It’s located on the green hills just above the town to the east.
Again, here are the exact GPS locations to make it easy to find: 6.247188, -75.144692.
However, to get to the trail (which is more of a road), you’ll want to cross the bridge to the east, (on Guatapé-San Rafael Road), then take the second right turn down a dirt road.
From here, continue all the way up the hill until you reach the viewpoint. If you turn around at any time, you’ll get a great view. However, trust me when I say the amazing views are at the top are the best!
This hike is roughly 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) from town. But, much of it can be covered by motorbike if you’re renting one.
11. Try Paragliding
For the more adventurous and thrill seeker types, Guatapé offers some great paragliding opportunities when visiting Colombia.
There are a few companies that offer tandem flights for those who want to experience this epic sport for themselves.
The best part is, paragliding is super affordable in this part of South America, and the views are absolutely insane!
Book: Paragliding + Guided Tour (From Medellín)
12. Go Rock Climbing in Guatapé
If you’re looking for an epic advenutre activity to do in Guatapé, then rock climbing is the perfect option.
Leave the stair walkers behind and jump on a guided rock climbing tour in the link below.
13. Helicopter Flight Over Guatapé
Looking for an aerial perspective of Guatapé, El Peñol, and the stunning lake? Then, a helicopter flight is the perfect activity.
In fact, this is one of the most popular things to do in Guatapé! A helicopter departs from just underneath La Piedra del Peñol.
The experience only lasts about 15 minutes, which is pretty quick. However, this means it’s also quite affordable, especially compared to flights in other countries.
14. Stay Overnight at a Lake View Hotel or Hostel
If you’ve just come from the hustle-and-bustle of Medellín, then the quickest way to unwind and get back in touch with nature is to stay at one of the many lakeside hotels or hostels.
There are quite a few Guatapé accommodation options with stunning views over the lake and they vary from very expensive to budget-friendly lake view hostels.
Skip to: Guatapé Accommodation Guide
15. Eat at Thai Terrace
Colombian food is amazing. However, if you’ve been in the country a while like me, you’ll undoubtedly be missing a fresh Asian curry.
Luckily (and strangely), one of the best Thai restaurants in all of Colombia is located right on the edge of Guatapé. You’ll find it just above a hostel called Lake View Hostel, which is one of the most popular backpacker places in town.
Food is a little pricey at this Thai restaurant, but definitely worth it if you’ve been craving delicious Thai food like Pad Thai or Green Curry!
16. Hire a Jet Ski
If you’re up for more adrenaline-fueled fun on the lake, head down to the shore and rent jet skis!
This is one of the things I didn’t do personally but I’d say it’s definitely one of the best ways to explore the area on the water.
17. Catch a Tuk Tuk Ride
One thing that surprised me was that you can find tuk tuks (motor-trike taxis) everywhere in Guatapé! This brought me back to our time backpacking in India and South East Asia, where similiarly, this is the cheapest and easiest way to get around!
You can pay a tuk tuk driver to take you to many of the sites and attractions I’ve mentioned in this travel guide. The most common route is to El Peñol, which usually costs 10,000 for the trip.
18. The Artisanal Boutique Stores
Wondering the colorful streets of Guatapé, you’ll undoubtedly stumble across many artisanal boutique stores. If you’re looking for a souvenir, you’ll find some of the best shops on the streets just around the main square.
Here, you’ll find everything from hand-crafted jewelry to traditional Colombian clothing. Be sure to haggle a little bit as prices are usually quite high, especially for gringos and gringas.
19. Buy Colombian Coffee
It’s no secret that Colombia produces some of the best coffee in the world. Since it’s located in the “coffee belt”, Guatapé is the perfect place to stock up on some of Colombia’s best beans.
You’ll find a few small tiendas (stores) around town that sell locally roasted coffee, and even better– it’s really affordable!
Of course, the stores take a cut. But at the end of the day, you’re supporting an entire industry while getting some of the best coffee on the planet.
20. Dinner Boat Cruise
For those traveling to Guatapé as a couple and looking for a romantic evening out, consider dinner on a boat cruise.
There are many different boats that offer this service and the best ones usually sail around Guatapé Dam and back. You’ll be able to find these boats in the harbor near the main square.
The dinner cruise generally includes a meal and drinks.
21. Go Canyoneering
What? You can even go canyoning here? Yes!
Canyoning, or Canyoneering, is essentially hiking, climbing, and rappelling down waterfalls and flowing rivers/gorges. As far as I’m aware, there’s only one tour company offering canyoneering trips from Guatapé.
This is a full-day activity and very affordable. I’ve linked it below.
Book: Full-day canyoneering trip (from Guatapé)
22. Grab a Beer at the Floating Bar
For a more relaxed day, head to the floating bar which sits right in front of the town at Guatapé Lake. This is a great place to spend an afternoon and enjoy a cold beer while taking in the view.
There are actually a couple of these, and you’ll see them located just around the corner from the main square and boardwalk.
23. Guatapé ATV Tour (Quad Bike)
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you’ll know all my destination guides have a heavy focus on adventure!
So, if you’re up for a fun and active day out, consider joining an ATV (quad bike) tour in the surrounding countryside.
Below I’ve linked to the best ATV tour in Guatapé. This is a popular activity. So, make sure to book in advance and check availability before you arrive.
Book: Countryside ATV Tour (Quad Bikes)
24. Eat Trucha Frita
If you like fish, then you’re in for a treat as Guatapé is famous for its trucha frita! This dish is made with fried trout (fresh from the lake) and served with rice, beans, avocado, and plantains.
You’ll find this dish on the menu of most authentic Colombian restaurants in Guatapé.
25. Walk The Road to La Piedra del Peñol
Prefer to explore the area by foot or want to warm up those legs before the big stair climb to the top of El Peñol?
Instead of paying a Tuk Tuk, you can walk the 2.7 mile road to the rock. Along the way, you’ll cross a scenic suspension bridge and pass small townships on the outskirts showcasing more unique zócalos.
Just before the bridge on the way to the giant rock, you’ll pas Parque Comfama Guatapé. This is a small water park that is popular with kids.
26. Walk the Malecon (Waterfront Strip)
The Malecon is Guatapé’s boardwalk that runs along the edge of Guatapé Lake. Apparently this is a relatively new addition to the area has now moved many of the stalls from the main plaza to the waterfront.
The Malecon is a great place to go for a jog or just take a leisurely stroll while enjoying the fresh air. Additionally, you’ll find a wide variety of restaurants, cafes and street food vendors along this strip.
27. Discover Unique Zócalo Art
As mentioned earlier, this cute town is famous for its traditional Zócalo art.
Zócalos are the traditional street art of Guatapé and can be found all over town. These colorful mosaics depict scenes from local life and culture.
You’ll also discover that they are also used to describe the purpose of the building. For example, you’ll find motorbike art in bright colors at the mechanic!
We were fortunate enough to watch a local artist create a brand new mosaic right near the main square!
28. Visit the Guatapé Markets on Sunday
Some of the markets at Guatapé are open every day. However, if you want to see them in full-force, then one of the best days to visit is on a Sunday.
This is the perfect opportunity to buy some souvenirs and support local artists and artisans. You’ll find a mix of stalls and gift shops selling clothes, handicrafts, fruits, vegetables, and delicious street food.
29. Try Merengon (Meringue Desert with Strawberries & Ice Cream)
This dessert is a Guatapé specialty and it’s insanely delicious!
It’s made with meringue, whipped cream, strawberries, and vanilla ice cream. There’s one hole in the wall style spot in particular called Merengon Guatape, and you’ll find it on Calle 31 right around the corner from Parque Principal de Guatapé.
30. Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen
Located in the town center on the main square of Guatapé Colombia (Parque Principal de Guatapé) is a beautiful white and red-trimmed church called Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Our Lady Carmen Church).
The interior of the church is also quite stunning. The doors are wide-open all day to come in and take a look.
31. Eat a Delicious Breakfast in the Main Square
One of the best things to do in Guatapé is to wake up early and have breakfast at one of the cafes in the town square.
You’ll find a good selection of local and international breakfast options available. We ate at the cafe right on the corner of Calle 30 and Carrera 30 a few times and were big fans! In my opinion, they had amazing coffee and the most delicious Buñuelos (fried cheese balls).
The Main Square (Parque Principal) also has a beautiful fountain and there is also a fresh fruit and vegetable market located on the southern edge of the square.
32. SUP, Kayak, or Sail Around Guatapé Lake
Another great activity to do when visiting Guatapé is to explore the lake by SUP (stand up paddleboard), kayak, or sailboat.
There are a few companies that offer rentals and tours. Simply head down to the waterfront and you’ll have a wide selection.
34. Photograph The Pueblo From the Far Side of the Lake
Looking for another great view point of the colorful town of Guatapé with the giant rock in the background?
Head over to the other side of Laguna Guatapé! This is within walking distance, so you don’t need a motorbike for this one. We found it was right next to Apartamento Cada De Campo on Google Maps.
Since this spot is technically part of the marina, it is isn’t really the most beautiful place. However, the view of the town is great!
35. Go Hiking
If you’re visiting Guatapé for the adventure, you’ll want to go check out some of the hikes! I’ve mentioned a few already, including the short walks to El Peñol, La Cazuela waterfall, and the viewpoint above town.
However, if you want more trails, check out Pisto Reto Quinbaya and Camino del Sinsonte as well.
35. El Cristalino Waterfall
Another epic waterfall near Guatapé is El Cristalino.
This waterfall is located about a 30 minute drive from town. It’s not as popular as some of the other spots, so it’s perfect for those who are looking for a more secluded experience. However, keep in mind you’ll need to be prepared for a winding trail.
For this reason, it’s best to book this with a local guide, who will show you the way.
Book: El Cristalino Waterfall Tour (From Guatapé)
36. Eat at Namaste Vegan Restaurant
Over the full 3 months of our Colombia trip, we found that Namaste Vegan had the absolute best vegetarian and vegan food in the country.
They offer a wide variety of both cooked and raw vegan dishes. We tried the vegan hamburger and their vegan empanadas were absolutely huge!
This restaurant also has some of the best homemade salsas in the Pueblo and you can have as much as you want without extra cost.
37. Go Caving
As if By now, you’ll have realized that the other guides covering things to do in Guatapé, Colombia have missed just how much adventure potential this region has!
To wrap up this travel guide, there’s another shock activity, you can even go caving! There is one company that runs caving tours, and I’ve linked to their booking site below.
Book: Caving tour (from Guatapé)
What About the Pablo Escobar Paintball Tour?
Paintballing in Pablo Escobar’s old mansion was once one of the most popular activities in Guatapé. However, as you’ll have found out if you visited Medellín’s Comuna 13, Paisas really don’t like talking about the man, or glorifying tourism surrounding his name.
As a result, the Colombian government has actually shut down all tourism activities surrounding his previous mansions.
How Long to Spend in Guatapé?
As you’ll see by now, there are so many fun things to do in Guatapé!
While Guatapé is a great place for a day trip from Medellín if you want to experience everything the town and surrounding area has to offer, I recommend spending at least one night, or even better, two nights.
We ended up staying here for a week and were flat out! In fact, you could easily stay here for several weeks, especially if you want to take some time to relax and really soak in those beautiful views.
Where to Stay – The best Guatapé Hotels
Prefer to stay a night or two in this colorful little town? Below are my three best picks the best Guatapé hotels and hostels.
- 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.
FAQs About Travel in Guatapé, Colombia
The cost of visiting Guatapé really depends on your travel style. However, I found that we could get by spending about $30 USD per day.
This again depends on what you want to do in Guatapé. Many choose to just spend a day trip here but I’d recommend at least a night, but you can have a great time if you stay 4-5 days.
As you’ve discovered in this article, there are so many fun things to do in Guatapé! The most famous are climbing to the top of El Peñol (the big rock), taking a boat trip on the lake, and browsing the street for amazing zócalos.
Yes, you can swim in the lake! However, it’s best to take a tuk tuk or walk a while to find a spot outside the town. There are many horses and boat traffic in the area and the water isn’t the cleanest.
Guatapé is a small town located in the north-east of Colombia, about two hours from Medellín in the region of Antioquia.
Yes absolutely! Visiting Guatapé was one of my favorite parts from my 3 month trip through Colombia!
The distance between Medellín to Guatapé is roughly 50 miles (81.2 km). If you’re taking the bus or driving, expect roughly 2 hours.
The way to pronounce the word is “gwoh-tah-peh”.
Guatapé is a very popular tourist area and is therefore extremely safe. There is little to no voilent crime in this region but it is frequently patrolled by the military.
Guatapé Colombia is located at an altitude of 1920 meters above sea level.
More South America Travel Guides & Blogs
I hope this ultimate guide to visiting Guatapé, Colombia has convinced you to explore more in this beautiful town and given you some travel inspiration for what to do your visit.
While you’re here on my blog, make sure to check out some of my other guides for some more recommendations and travel inspiration! If you’re wondering where in Colombia to travel to next, make sure to check out Minca!