The best things to do in Guatapé include strolling down the colorful streets, admiring the unique zócalo murals, enjoying water activities on the lake and climbing the iconic Guatapé rock. As one of the most beautiful destinations in the country, Guatapé is one of the most popular places to visit in Colombia. The picturesque town is located in a beautiful lake area near Medellín near the famous rock La Piedra del Peñol. Visiting Guatapé is a popular day trip from Medellín that you should not miss. Or maybe you want to spend one or more nights here to fully experience the town and its lake area? This blog post will tell you about the best things to do in Guatapé and provide you with practical information on how to get there and where to stay in Guatapé.
How to get to Guatapé in Colombia
Guatape is located quite centrally in Colombia. The colorful village is known for its location near Medellín. Since Medellín is included in almost every travel itinerary for Colombia, visiting Guatapé won’t require any detour.
You can easily visit Guatapé on a day trip from Medellín. A pricey organized tour is not even necessary. Just take the bus at bus station Terminal de Transporte Norte (at metro stop Caribe). The bus will take you in about an hour to Guatapé – or the rock La Piedra del Peñol one stop earlier.
Visiting Guatapé as a day trip or spending the night?
Precisely because the village is mainly visited as a day trip, we recommend staying in Guatapé for a few days. That way you can also experience this colorful destination without the day trippers, at the end of the day and in the early morning. Although Guatapé is popular enough to be quite touristy, you can still experience a slightly more authentic atmosphere at those times. Moreover, you can also explore the beautiful lake area, if you stay a little longer in the village. Another bonus is experiencing one of the unique glampings in and around Guatapé!
Both Guatapé and the beautiful lake area offer great places to stay, although the choice in Guatapé itself is not very wide. There are a number of excellent hotels and hostels in Guatapé, but the beautiful glamping Bosko stands out in particular. Outside the village you will find many more beautiful accommodations with spectacular lake vies and idyllic locations.
The best hotels and glamping sites in and around Guatape:
#1 Bosko for a unique glamping experience on the outskirts of Guatapé. Although Bosko is located in the village, you don’t get that feeling at all because of the wide view over the lakes around Guatapé. Guests stay in attractive domes with comfortable beds and rain showers. There is a swimming pool, spa and restaurant.
#2 Hotel Santorini for a comfortable hotel with modern rooms and rave reviews. The hotel has a beautiful swimming pool with a magnificent view.
#3 La Madriguera for a well-priced accommodation with enthusiastic reviews. Above all, the hotel has a wonderful location. Due to its location on the edge of Guatapé, La Madriguera offers a beautiful view over the lake and La Piedra del Peñol.
#4 Glamping The Mountain for a beautiful glamping experience just outside Guatapé. Guests stay in wooden cabins with a king-size bed, a jacuzzi and a balcony with a view of the mountains. If you want to visit the village, the staff will take you across the water in a boat in a few minutes.
#5 The Boato Hotel for a 5-star hotel with rave reviews and high review ratings. All cottages have mountain and lake views. A boat tour of the lake is standard with your stay, and free kayaks and jet skis are available.
#6 Hotel Zocalo Campestre for a place to stay with rave reviews right next to the iconic El Peñón de Guatapé. The hotel offers rooms in the main building and bungalows, some with mountain, lake or garden views
10 best things to do in Guatape
#1 The colorful streets of Guatape
The highlight of Guatapé is the colorful street scene. It doesn’t get any simpler. In fact, there is not much to do other than wandering through the traditional streets. You don’t have to be afraid to get lost, the town is too small for that. One street is even more colorful than the other. There are plenty of nice coffee shops, terraces and restaurants to take a short break.
#2 Calle del Recuerdo
Photogenic, brightly colored houses can be found all over Guatapé, but one of the most famous streets is Calle del Recuerdo. The traditional street is known as the most beautiful place in the city with eye-catching zocalos and brightly colored facades. It is a replica of a historic street which was flooded in the 1970s for the construction of the El Peñol-Guatapé reservoir. The street is right on the main square and therefore easy to find.
#3 The zocalos of Guatapé
Guatapé is also known as the ‘Pueblo de Zócalos’. The word ‘zócalo’ is difficult to translate, but means something like a plinth. It refers to the painted strips on the lower part of the facade of the traditional houses in Guatapé. There are more colorful villages and towns in Colombia, but these special and authentic zócalos clearly distinguish Guatapé from all these destinations.
One of the best things to do in Guatapé is to search for the most beautiful zócalos. Often these frescoes are not just pretty and colorful, but you see cheerful motifs, fun images or entire stories. It is precisely these special murals that make Guatapé so incredibly photogenic. Look for sunflowers, rabbits, geometric motifs, sheep and flowers. Particularly interesting are the paintings that refer to the function of the building, such as loaves of bread on the bakery’s zócalo.
#4 Plazoleta de Los Zócalos
If you think that the houses have a lot of zócalos, you should check the famous stairs of the Plazoleta de Los Zócalos. The villagers have raised the zócalos to an art form and this square is the pinnacle of it.
Where the zócalos once graced only a number of traditional houses, nowadays every house is painted with a colorful mural. They are now part of what attracts visitors to this small village and that proved to be a good incentive for the villagers to carry out this tradition on a large scale. Iconic is now the color explosion on the steps of the Plazoleta de Los Zócalos, where every step is painted like a zócalo creating an enormously colorful staircase surrounded by equally colorful buildings.
#5 The main square
The heart of the village is the Parque Principal de Guatapé. The locals come together on the village square and there is a pleasant lively atmosphere. The most important buildings of the village can also be found here, such as the colorful town hall (‘Palacio Municipal’) and a beautiful white church. Just like in the rest of the village, the buildings on the square are very colorful and the Parque Principal is therefore a lovely explosion of color. Around the square are many restaurants where you can go for lunch.
#6 The Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Carmen
The Church of Our Lady of Carmen (‘Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen’) is one of the eye-catchers of the Parque Principal. The church is almost always open and certainly worth a visit. The interior is beautiful to see, though especially the white facade with red detailswhich makes it a photogenic structure.
#7 La Piedra del Peñol
The other big highlight of a visit to Guatapé is La Piedra del Peñol. This rock on the edge of Guatapé – also called El Peñón de Guatapé – has a beautiful view over the lake area where Guatape is located. The rock itself is also quite iconic. The huge mound of granite juts straight out of the ground with a staircase zigzagging to the top, like a kind of zipper. You will have to climb all the way up that staircase with a beautiful view as a reward. All 740 steps, which can be a challenge on hot days.
There is a bus stop at La Piedra del Peñol, so if you come by public transport from Medellín, you can easily get off here. Or just get back on the bus to return to Medellín. You can walk from the rock to Guatapé, but you probably don’t feel like it after that climb. Then take one of the colorful tuk tuks, which is not only practical but also makes a great experience.
#8 The reservoir Embalse Peñol-Guatape
Guatape is located in one beautiful lake area. The town is completely wedged between lakes. And by plural lakes, we actually mean one lake. The jagged edge makes it almost seem as if there are hundreds of small lakes, as you’ll see when you look out over the area from El Peñón de Guatapé. But actually there is only one big lake here.
The lake is artificial and was created by the construction of a dam in 1979, as the name Embalse Peñol-Guatapé already indicates (‘Reservoir Peñol-Guatapé’). You can rent a boat or book a boat tour to explore the lake. Such a tour often passes the iconic La Piedra del Peñol. The reservoir is popular among Colombians for water sports activities such as kayaking or paddle boarding. The nicest place to do this is of course from a unique hotel or cabana on the lake. Many of the beautiful glamping sites near Guatapé provide free kayaks, canoes or even jet skis to their guests.
#9 Glamping on the lake
Guatapé is lovely to visit, but it isn’t a big town and it can only entertain you for a day or so. What makes a visit to Guatapé unforgettable in our opinion is a unique place to stay in the area. Both in Guatapé and beyond you will find beautiful domes, cabanas and tents located in nature. The lush green surroundings, the luxurious camping and the beautiful view make these unique places to stay a highlight of any Colombia trip.
#10 Escobar’s vacation home
Many boat tours not only sail along the El Peñón de Guatapé, but also to the ruins of La Manuela Hacienda. It is the luxurious holiday home of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar. A once beautiful country house was situated on a huge piece of land of 8 hectares. The house was blown up in 1993, probably by relatives of Escobar’s victims. A few months later, Escobar was shot dead by police.
A visit to La Manuela Hacienda is not promoted and it is not an official attraction. Yet you can visit it for free. During a boat tour you can ask to stop at this now surreal villa that has been taken over by nature.