Do you have a trip coming up to Colombia and is Medellin part of your itinerary? Great choice, Medellin is an awesome destination. In my last post I already shared my 8 tips for this city. I definitely would like to advice you to stay for a couple of days in Medellin. Three days in my opinion the minimum, but more time is better. In the ‘city of stories’ there is enough to see, do and hear, but also in the cities surrounding Medellin there is lots to see. Colombia is the country of colorful pueblos (villages). Coffee towns Salento and Filandia are perfect examples, but also near Medellin you can find colorful towns. Meet Guatapé, an extremely colorful town only two hours away from Medellin. The short travel time and the colorful architecture makes Guatapé the perfect day trip from Medellin.
In search for the best zócalos
Halfway the morning we arrived in Guatapé and this was actually perfect timing on our part. The city was just waking up and the large tour groups had not arrived yet. Guatapé is a wonderful town for strolling around. It is small and compact. Just use the central square with the Iglesia del Nuestra Senora del Carmen as your focus point and wander back and forth to every side street. Houses are painted in almost every color of the rainbow and no color combination is considered too crazy. Pay attention to the lower part of the houses. Here you can see the zócalos, a unique part of the architecture of Guatapé. According to the local tradition the zocalos tell you more about the background of the family that lives in that house. Some zocalos have simple shapes, others show local life, animals or musical instruments. Fun to pay attention to these details when you walk around. I spotted white lamas, a Mona Lisa painting in Botero style and even the Dutch translation for ‘I love you’.
The most colorful square of the city is the Plazoleta de los Zocalos. The tri-colore steps are a bright collection of zocalos. And also the houses surrounding the square have the same look and are painted in bright colors.
Are you getting hungry and are you looking for a good place for lunch in Guatapé? A tip for the vegetarians and vegan amongst us: go to Namaste Café at the river side. The wraps were delicious!
Climbing La Piedra del Peñol
One of the things that I noticed in Guatapé were the many tuk-tuks driving around. The drivers offer tourists rides to La Piedra del Peñol, a gigantic rock just outside the city. It is also possible to walk, but it will take you around 45 minute or more. Most tourists skip the hike and go for the tuk-tuk ride. The reason why everyone wants to visit the La Piedra del Peñol is to see the amazing view from the top. An unintended but pleasant effect from a governmental project in the seventies. More than 6.000 hectares of land around El Peñol have been put under water to make the opening of a new hydroelectric dam possible. The result: a beautiful lagoon. According to the sign at the bottom of the rock you can admire the world’s best view on top of the rock. Well, I highly doubt that, but it still is an amazing view. The 649 steps up are exhausting, but at the top you will be rewarded with an amazing view over the islands of El Peñol.
Entrance to the El Penol is 18.000 COP. A tuktuk ride from the center is around 8.000 – 10.000 COP.
How to travel from Medellin to Guatapé by public transport
- Use metro line A and get off at stop Caribe. Metro ticket is 2.000 COP. Station Caribe is connected with a pedestrian bridge with Terminal del Norte (bus station North).
- Warning: Terminal del Norte is huge with more than 50 ticket sales windows. You really have to know which window you need. Tickets for the bus to Guatapé are sold at windown 9 or 14. Single ticket is 13.500 COP. Busses leave every 15 minutes, so you do not have to wait too long.
- After arriving in Guatapé, I recommend you to buy a return ticket right away. Guatapé is a popular daytrip destination, so it can get very busy and busses fill up fast. Make sure you have a ticket for the way back. Last bus back departs around 18.30. When we visited Guatapé it actually was quite okay, the busses were not that full. But still you never know!
Would you visit Guatapé?