Taking a day trip to Guatapé from Medellin is one of the most SCENIC things to do on your Colombia trip! Its postcard worthy views are known to be some of the best in the country. Imagine rolling hills and lush, green islands surrounded by a turquoise reservoir. Now imagine seeing it from 200 ft high!
Guatapé is a small, safe town located two hours east of Medellin. It sees a surplus of local and international tourists annually for its spectacular scenery, colorful zócalos, and small-town feel. Not to mention tons of water activities and vacation vibes. It’s the perfect way to escape city life for a day.
From easy public transportation to its charming feel, my day trip to Guatapé from Medellin was a highlight of my Colombia trip!
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Guatapé Planning Details
You can seamlessly visit Guatapé by booking a day tour or riding public transportation.
Medellin to Guatapé Tour– Most full 12 hour day tours are very affordable and cost less than $30. There are a variety of tour options to choose from.
Even though that’s a sweet deal, I recommend taking public transportation. Guatapé is very safe and riding the bus from Medellin felt very safe as well. I visited with a friend, and we look forward to opportunities to take public transportation in new cities. The public bus is a direct route with zero transfers, and allows a flexible itinerary for the day.
Bus from Medellin to Guatapé- Upon arrival at Terminal del Norte in Medellin, ask the workers which stand sells tickets to Guatapé. I waited at the bus station for 25 minutes before catching the next bus. Buses run frequently from Medellin!
Upon arrival in Guatapé, the bus first stops at Piedra de Peñol, and then in the town of Guatapé itself. I recommend hopping off at Piedra de Peñol first, climbing the rock, and then catching a Tuk Tuk to the town after your descent.
You will need to end in Guatapé’s downtown in order to catch your bus back to Medellin, so it makes sense to plan your trip in this order.
Bus from Guatapé to Medellin– How to get from Guatapé to Medellin? Getting back to Medellin is easy! Buy a bus ticket from the local station at the start of the town (it’s very easy to spot). Buses run frequently, about every 2 hours.
While you can show up at the bus station and purchase your ticket right before your bus, I do not recommend this. This can lead to standing room only on the bus. I myself don’t recommend standing on a coach style bus (if you can avoid it!) I recommend purchasing your ticket a couple of hours in advance.
Pro tip: If you get motion sickness like me, purchasing your ticket hours early also allows you to choose the most comfortable seat for you. For me, that’s in the front of the bus.
Guatapé’s elevation and proximity to the equator line (in Quito, Ecuador) make for a tropical climate with mild temperatures year round. Weather is divided into two main seasons: wet season and dry season. Annual temperatures see an average of 64°F to 77°F.
Dry Season: The dry season in Guatapé is December – February and June – August.
Wet Season: The wet season in Guatapé is March – May and September – November. While rainfall and higher humidity are more likely during this time, weather is still generally considered mild.
What to do in Guatapé
Most visitors come to Guatapé to climb Peñol Rock, but there is much more this charming town has to offer.
Climb Piedra de Peñol
A group of locals began constructing a set of 600 stairs into the famous rock in the 1950s. Visitors today can enjoy the sweeping views of the town’s turquoise reservoir from 200 ft high.
Climbing Peñol Rock is a very crowded experience. Plan to have patience with many visitors stopping throughout the steps to take breaks. This makes for the perfect opportunity to explore some small walk-out viewpoints built in between sets of stairs. I thought these made for some of the best views- even better than the views from the very top.
Visitors are rewarded with views and refreshments at the top of the rock! Several vendor stands sell snacks, popsicles, souvenirs, etc.
TECHNICALLY, you can walk up a final flight of winding, narrow stairs in a small tower to see the FINAL top view. However, its small, crowded space with high walls make for difficult views. If you are feeling winded at this point and want to skip it, rest well knowing you have already seen the best views.
Cost: $6 (cash only)
Wander the colorful streets
I could have spent HOURS simply walking Guatapé’s vibrant streets. They reminded me of Salento and Tepoztlan. Calle del Recuerdo is known to be the most colorful street. Close to the main plaza, there are two vibrant umbrella streets.
The main reason Guatapé’s streets are so beautiful is thanks to los Zócalos. Zócalos refer to the colorful shutters on the doorways and windows- and Guatapé is known for them. Correction- famous for them! The beautiful, bright zocalos remind me of Salento in Colombia’s coffee triangle.
Plazoleta de los Zócalos
Plazoleta de los Zócalos is Guatapé’s central plaza. The main square features a brilliant fountain surrounded by several restaurants, shops, and the beautiful red and white tiled Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen. Not to mention, lots of orange trees!
Guatapé Water Activities
Guatapé is famous for its reservoir, so it’s only natural to find a variety of water activities:
- Boat tours
- Kayak rentals
- Jet skiing
I didn’t have time for water activities on my day trip, but visiting a local waterfall and taking a boat rental are high on my list for a return trip. Tours can be purchased upon arrival in town.
Adventure Tours Guatapé
There are a variety of adventure tours on land you can choose to take once in Guatapé. Some of the most popular Guatapé tours include paragliding and ziplining. (I saved my paragliding experience for Baños, Ecuador).
Shops and Restaurants
Guatapé thrives off of its tourism industry, so visiting local shops and restaurants is the perfect way to support the local economy. While it’s not Colombia’s Coffee Region, you’re still sure to find a good cup of joe around town.
Pro tip: Don’t spend more than 2 mil on a small cup of coffee. I had a few shops that insisted on charging me 8 mil, which I discovered was a scam.
Where to stay in Guatapé
Extending your day trip? There are many hotels in Guatapé in addition to hostel choices for budget travelers. Glamping in Guatapé is also a popular choice.
Budget – Lake View Hostel
Mid-Range – Hotel La Madriguera Guatapé
Luxury – Luxe by the Charlee
Day Trip Costs
I spent about $40 on a day trip to Guatapé from Medellin including all costs from transportation to food and activities.
Bus from Medellin to Guatapé: $4
Piedra de Peñol Tickets: $6
Tuk Tuk from Piedra de Peñol: $5
Bus from Guatapé to Medellin: $5
You can lower the cost of your Guatapé day trip in the following ways:
- Not drinking as much coffee as me
- Packing a sack lunch
- Negotiating with the Tuk Tuk driver
Guatapé Packing List
Here are a couple of can’t-miss items to toss in your suitcase when exploring the best of Guatapé in one day:
Water bottle– 600 stairs = HYDRATION PLEASE
Supportive Shoes– Again, 600 steps.
Packable backpack– Easily rolls into your luggage so you can take it on fun day trips like this one!
Sandals– Keep a pair of comfortable sandals on hand if you plan to take part in water activities
Travel Towel– Also if you plan for water activities. This one is so compact and fits seamlessly into almost any luggage.
Where to go after Guatapé
There are so many places to continue enjoying your Colombia trip after Guatapé:
- Medellin– Experience Comuna 13
- Salento– Colombia’s coffee triangle
- Bogotá– Capital city
- Cartagena– Experience the coast
Is it worth taking a day trip to Guatapé?
It is absolutely worth taking a day trip to Guatapé! From its colorful zócalos, charming cobblestone streets, and views from Peñol rock, visiting Guatapé is unforgettable. This is my personal opinion, but I highly recommend it!
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