Guatape is only a day trip away from Medellin, the city of eternal spring. After the build of a hydroelectric dam nearby, the area has been partially drowned. An important landmark in Guatape is ‘the rock’ also known as ‘El Penol de Guatape’. This attraction is the reason for most tourists to visit Guatape. You can travel here on a day trip, but if you have the time, we recommend staying for a few days.
The easiest way to get to Guatape is taking a bus from Medellin. The ride takes two hours and it is a little bumpy at times. We saw the warning when entering the bus. The driver’s assistant was handing out plastic bags to families with children. We could have known it by then. In short, we were very happy to finally arrive in Guatape even though the ride was reasonably short.
Guatape is the kind of village where you could lose yourself for weeks. It’s peaceful, quiet and life passes at a very slow rate. We could spend hours sitting in the main square just watching the daily activities unfold. All the houses have colorful paintings and carvings on their facades. The facade tiles usually show a picture of the purpose of the building and it’s a fun activity to walk around town to watch them all. Many of the tourists in town are Medellin weekenders who come to find peace at this waterfront village.
The Guatape area has been flooded in the sixties after building a dam. I guess it wasn’t all fun and games when that happened and people had to abandon their homes. But more than fifty years later, the area just looks stunning. Mountain tops or rather hilltops are sticking out of the water and it’s a surreal view. This also means that almost every location can be reached by boat instead of by car. There are a few bridges in the area, but some of the islands are only accessible by boat. Many of the mountain tops are inhabited and we saw a few locals making several boat trips to get all their camping gear and beers to one of the islands. The boat could hold two people and some gear, so they had to row many times to get six people and all their stuff over there. I must admit it was fun to watch them work for their ‘deserted island drinking fest’, while we were sitting next to the water with our own beers.
El Penol de Guatape is a strange looking rock next to the village. From the top, you get a stunning view of the region and the climb is definitely worth it. Although I don’t recommend doing it at noon, the hottest hour of the day. With its 750 steps, it’s not as high as some other popular climbs, but we definitely struggled. Maybe it was the burning heat or maybe it was the beers we had the day before, we gladly spend our pesos on ice cream and drinks near the top.