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37 BEST Things to Do in Guatapé Colombia: Travel Guide

37 BEST Things to Do in Guatapé Colombia: Travel Guide

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.

A travel guide to the best things to do in the beautiful small town of Guatapé, just a short hop from Medellín in Antioquia, Colombia.

Guatapé, is also known as “Pueblo de Zocalos”, is a colorful Antioquian town known for its vibrant streets, traditional street art (called Zócalos), beautiful lake, and of course, its giant rock called La Piedra del Peñol (the huge rock that overlooks the town).

I spent a few days exploring every corner of this amazing town and the surrounding countryside and found plenty of unique and fun things to do, from colorful streets and waterfalls to amazing viewpoints overlooking the lake.

This list of inspiring ideas includes all the main attractions, as well as some off-the-beaten-path hidden gems, so there’s something for every traveler.

Guatapé colorfull streets
Colorful streets of Guatapé

How to Get to Guatapé

The most convenient way to get to Guatapé from Medellín is to take a trip from Medellín. There are four main options.

  1. Book a day trip from Medellín - best for those short on time
  2. Take the public bus - the cheapest option
  3. Take a taxi - 270,000 pesos fixed-rate (any driver)
  4. Rent a car - if you are confident driving in Colombia! (I recommend searching DiscoverCars)
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37 Fun Things to Do in Guatapé, Colombia

Let's dive into my list of things to do! Also, below is a short video I made from my trip exploring the pueblo.

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 lake and the 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.

Tip: If you want to visit Guatapé on a day trip from Medellín, this popular trip includes a climb of La Piedra del Peñol, as well as most of the other highlights in the region!

El penol, giant rock in guatapé colombia
Top of el Peñón de Guatapé

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.

Guatapé sign
Haylea at the Guatapé sign

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!

Boat in guatapé, colombia

Did you know? Guatapé is located in the rolling hills of the lush Colombian countryside, and was not much more than a small country pueblito, until it was purposefully flooded in 1970 to create the famous dam (lake).

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 Recuerdo are 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!

Colorful streets in guatapé colombia
Strolling down Calle del Recuerdo

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.

Colorful plaza in colombia

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 the rental shop gave us a hand-drawn map with some of the highlights. Below are some things you can check out that 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.

Riding a motorbike

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!

San rafael church in colombia

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).

La cazuela waterfall in guatapé
La Cazuela is a great place to cool off!

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 toward San Rafael. Here are the exact GPS coordinates: 6.2939056,-75.0669167.

River in colombia jungle

10. Hike to the Best View Point in Guatapé

You won't find this mirador in other Guatapé travel guides 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.

View of guatapé town and el peñol

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)

Paragliding with a waterfall

12. Go Rock Climbing in Guatapé

If you're looking for an epic adventure 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.

Guatapé rock for sunrise

13. Helicopter Flight Over Guatapé

Looking for an aerial perspective of Guatapé, El Peñol, and the stunning lake? Then, a helicopter flight is a 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.

Aerial view of guatapé rock

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.

Read: Best Hotels in Guatapé

Guatapé lake in the colombian countryside

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!

Thai curry in colombia
Delicious Thai food at Thai Terrace

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.

Guatape jet ski on the lake

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 similarly, 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.

Colombia tuk tuk

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.

Souvenir stores in colombia

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.

Street photo of lady selling coffee in guatapé

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.

Guatape drone photo

21. Go Canyoneering

What? You can even go canyoning in Guatapé? 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)

River in colombia

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.

Floating jetty bar in guatpé

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 the 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)

Atv quad bike in the river

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 the most authentic Colombian restaurants in Guatapé.

Trucha frita meal in colombia

25. Walk The Road to La Piedra del Peñol

Prefer to explore the area on foot or want to warm up your 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 pass Parque Comfama Guatapé. This is a small water park that is popular with kids.

Girl watching the view at guatapé, colombia

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, and 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.

Drone photo of the waterfront boardwalk in, guatapé, colombia

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!

Zocalo artist

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.

Market stall in colombia

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.

Meringue desert

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.

White and orange church in the main square

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.

Guatape square in colombia

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.

The beautiful lake of Guatapé is nicknamed the "Pearl of Antioquia", and exploring it on the water is a great way to soak in its beauty.

There are a few companies that offer rentals and tours. Simply head down to the waterfront and you'll have a wide selection.

Sailing in guatape

34. Photograph The Pueblo From the Far Side of the Lake

Looking for another great viewpoint 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 isn't really the most beautiful place. However, the view of the town is great!

Town of guatape

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.

Girl hiking across a bridge in colombia

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)

El cristalino waterfall in colombia

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 Pueblo and you can have as much as you want without extra cost.

I highly recommend!

Vegan wrap on a plate

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: El Cristalino Waterfall Tour (From Guatapé)

Girl in colombian cave

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.

Man walking on colorful streets

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.

Guatapé rock in colombia

Where to Stay in Guatapé

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

FAQs About Travel in Guatapé, Colombia

How much does it cost to visit Quatapé?

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.

How many days should I spend in Quatapé?

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.

What are the best things to do in Guatapé Colombia?

As you've discovered in this article, there are so many fun things to do in Guatapé! The most famous is climbing to the top of El Peñol (the big rock), taking a boat trip on the lake, and browsing the street for amazing zócalos.

Can you swim in the lake?

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.

Where is Guatapé in Colombia?

Guatapé is a small town located in the northeast of Colombia, about two hours from Medellín in the region of Antioquia.

Is Guatapé worth visiting?

Yes absolutely! Visiting Guatapé was one of my favorite parts of my 3-month trip through Colombia!

How far is Guatapé from Medellín?

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.

How do you pronounce Guatapé?

The way to pronounce the word is "gwoh-tah-peh".

How safe is Guatapé Colombia?

Guatapé is a very popular tourist area and is therefore extremely safe. There is little to no violent crime in this region but it is frequently patrolled by the military.

How high is the area above sea level?

Guatapé Colombia is located at an altitude of 1920 meters above sea level.

I hope this travel 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 on 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!

  • 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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Colorful buildings
Guatapé lake
Beautiful doorway with flowers
Old doorway in colombia
Zocalo, traditional street art
Guatapé rock, el peñol
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.

Kevin Donnelly

Saturday 17th of December 2022

Great overview. Looking to retire and move to Columbia in March. Researched many locations in the country and decided i prefer a small quant location to live in verses a large city environment and therefore I really like Guatape. Do you know if the town has rentals and if so, how do you find them online? Thank you.

Erika Batista

Wednesday 27th of July 2022

Hi , I truly enjoyed reading your blog! My husband and I are traveling to Guatape for our second time. I am curious where the photo where you are walking across a bridge is, I would love to visit there! Thanks

Olly Gaspar

Saturday 30th of July 2022

Hi Erika, you'll have a blast! The photo is on the way from Guatape town to La Piedra Del Penol, just beside the main road.