Best known for it’s large inselberg, Piedra del Penol, Guatapé is one of the best day trips from Medellín. For me, Guatapé was the best surprise! Although Guatapé is typically visited as a day tour from Medellín, we decided to stay a night instead. Frankly, I wish we would have stayed the whole weekend!
Guatapé is vibrant, with some of the best people I met during my entire trip to Colombia. I traveled from the very north in Cartagena, to the very south in Ipiales, so that’s definitely saying something. It is tiny, but so peaceful and relaxing.
Finding the best things to do in Guatapé wasn’t difficult (because hello, known for its large inselberg?), but finding the best hotels and restaurants in Guatapé was a different story. We sorted through search results for hours trying to figure it out! I’m taking the guesswork out of your Guatape itinerary for you here:
Your Guide to Guatape, Colombia: The Best Things to Do, Restaurants, and Hotels
How to Get to Guatape from Medellin, Colombia
Transportation from Medellin to Guatape is as inexpensive or expensive as you want. Options range from just around $3 USD one-way on the bus, to booking a round trip with a private driver for $150 USD.
Booking a private driver from Medellín to Guatapé is definitely the easiest way to go. Although this is the most expensive option, you take all of the stress out of trying to navigate Colombia’s hectic traffic yourself.
We booked a private driver who came recommended by a local we met on our flight from Bogotá to Medellín. He charged us around the standard amount for tourists—$75 each direction. A local friend we met in Guatape (more on him below), told us that it was way too much, and found us a driver on the way back for $45 one way. I would not expect to get as low as $45 unless you know locals who can negotiate the price for you. Online, expect to pay $75-100 one way, when booked in advance.
When you reach Guatapé, you’ll be able to call tuk-tuks to take you all over town. You won’t find Uber or taxi cabs here.
Click below to book private transfers from Medellín to Guatapé:
If you’re tight on budget and looking to save on transportation, Guatapé is easily reachable from Medellín by bus. To book a bus from Medellin to Guatape, head to Medellin’s Terminal Norte.
When you reach Terminal Norte, find ticket booth #14 on the ground level (you’ll need to head downstairs). This is where all the bus companies and their ticket booths are located. Booth #14 is home to Sotrasanvicente & Guatape La Piedra, the main bus carrier from Medellín to Guatapé.
Bus tickets are 14,000 COP (approximately $3.05 USD), one way. Much cheaper than booking a private driver!
If you’re feeling brave, you always have the option to rent a car and drive from Medellín to Guatapé. Rental cars are readily available at Medellín’s airport, which is actually slightly closer to Guatapé than the city center.
The driver from Medellín to Guatapé is just 1.5 hours, according to Maps, but in my experience, it’s closer to 2-3 hours based on traffic. The first half of the drive is straightforward and on freeways, however the second half is windy rural roads that take much longer than predicted.
Be careful—traffic in Colombia is chaotic, unpredictable, always stressful, and sometimes dangerous. I do not, do not recommend driving in Colombia to anyone who is not an experienced driver. Even still, avoid driving on rural roads at night.
Guatape and Piedra del Penol Tours
If you’re looking for an easy, guided experience, you’ll be best suited with a Guatape and Piedra del Penol tour. Most tours to Guatape from Medellin are day tours, with just a few hours split between climbing Piedra del Penol, and taking a boat trip or having a kayaking or paddle boarding session.
Tours to Guatapé from Medellín are much more affordable than hiring a driver or rental car if you’re traveling by yourself, but are definitely a premium option to taking the bus. Click here to view current tours and rates.
Click below to find the best Guatape and Piedra del Penol tours:
Things to Do in Guatapé
Although most of the tourism to Guatape is centered around Piedra del Penol and Embalse El Peñol-Guatapé, the town center is just as worth the visit! I really wish that we would have spent an extra night in Guatapé just to be able to explore a little bit longer.
Walk the Town
Guatapé is SO bright and colorful. This vibrant town has no shortage of color—from the buildings to the patterned tuk-tuks (of which, no two are alike!). Take your time, wander, and get lost in the streets.
Visit Piedra del Penol
It’s public knowledge—climbing Piedra del Penol (also known as El Penon de Guatape, or simply “la rock,” to locals, is the best attraction in Guatapé. Looking at it from a distance, El Penon is much more intimidating than it actually is!
Although the stairs are steep, we were up and down much faster than expected. For everything you need to know before climbing Piedra del Penol yourself, click here.
Plazoleta de Los Zócalos
Plazoleta de Los Zócalos is Guatapé’s brightest town square. The plaza is the heart of the city where locals come to socialize and hang out. It’s commonly home to street dancing performances.
Around Plazoleta de Los Zócalos, you’ll find charming patio cafés and cute coffee shops. Stay, sit a while, and take it slow.
Paddleboarding and Kayaking the Lake
If you go on a tour to Guatapé from Medellín, or are staying at one of Guatapé’s luxury clamping resorts, chances are that paddleboarding and kayaking Embalse El Peñol-Guatapé (Guatape’s manmade lake) are already on your itinerary.
Guatapé is a popular eco-travel destination in Colombia, so there’s tons of water sports and boating readily available on the lake. Even if you’re not staying at a hotel or resort that provides paddle boards or kayaks for you, you’ll still be able to rent them at one of the rental agencies in Guatapé.
Lake Guatapé Helicopter Tour
If the view from the top of Piedra del Penol isn’t quite high enough for you, book a helicopter tour from Medellin to Guatape.
You’ll be able to view the entire lake and El Penon from above, then touch down to climb the rock, and go for a boat ride.
Although this is a pricier experience than a standard tour, it’s certainly a more unique experience. Click here to view more.
Best Restaurants in Guatapé
Figuring out the best restaurants in Guatapé was a bit of a confusing task—for such a small town, there’s no shortage of places to eat! I spent an embarrassing amount of time sorting through search results, and trying to figure it out. Guatapé’s cuisine is surprisingly international—in recent years, there’s even been a few modern, fine dining restaurants to spring up, such as Oregano Restaurante Bar, Restaurante Folklore, and Koi Cocina Asiatica.
Although I’ve been known to be a sucker for a trendy, gastronomic restaurant, I’d skip it while in Guatapé and opt for these Guatapé dining staples. They not only have fantastic food, but here, the people make the place! I’m still thinking about how special these places are.
Cl. 32 #28-29, Guatape, Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
Donde Sam has a special place in my heart, and it’s probably not for the reason you think!
After Sean and I climbed Piedra del Penol, we were in desperate need of more pesos (Colombia is a cash-heavy country). We had our tuk-tuk driver take us to the only ATM in town (seriously), where Sean’s debit card got stuck in the machine.
All of a sudden, a line started to form (because again, only ATM in town), and we were pressed for time to get back to our resort, check out, and make our flight to Cartagena. Both of us speak only barely conversational Spanish, so to say we were stressing is an understatement!
Suddenly, a man reached out in line behind us and asked us in perfect English if we needed help. His name was Sam, and when we asked him what he did, he said he owned a restaurant—Donde Sam! We had actually almost ate at Donde Sam the night prior, but unfortunately couldn’t make it before closing, and ended up at Casa Cuba instead.
Sam was an angel, calling and talking to the police for us, and offering to float us cash to get to Cartagena if we needed it (luckily, we both had credit cards, so this wasn’t necessary). He stayed with us for over an hour, waving off our tuk tuk driver, before eventually heading next door to the mechanic to grab a large pair of pliers. He yanked Sean’s card straight out (and somehow, it was still useable)! Even the police were shocked.
Sam insisted that we head to his restaurant for tea and food. He was unbelievably friendly, and explained how he ended up in Guatapé by way of India and New York (he’s in the city frequently, and just a few blocks from me). His restaurant offers Indian and Chinese cuisine. I couldn’t resist a plate of samosas and comforting cup of tea.
Donde Sam overlooks Embalse del Penol, making it the perfect option for spending a slow afternoon in the sun with good food, and even better hospitality.
Cl. 30 #30-232, Guatape, Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
We ended up at Casa Cuba by way of a happy accident—Donde Sam closed by the time we managed to get a Tuk Tuk driver, but Casa Cuba, a Cuban restaurant, also had rave reviews and was open for just a few hours longer.
Casa Cuba is owned by Oscar, one of the most charismatic restaurant owners I’ve ever met (between him and Sam, they can hardly be beat)! Oscar made us feel unbelievably welcome. By the time we got to dinner, it was light, I was tired, and frankly, grumpy. Within just a minute of talking to Oscar, I was singing a completely different tune.
Coincidentally, like Sam, Oscar also had spent several years in New York. We figure out that for about a decade, Oscar lived just a few blocks away from me!
Don’t bother reading the menu, because Oscar will ask what you like, and what you’re feeling, and come up with something perfect for you! When he found out I was vegetarian, he came out with this vegetable stir fry—exactly what I needed after days of bread and cheese.
There’s good reason why Casa Cuba is one of the best restaurants in Guatape. The food is just as good as Oscar and his staff’s welcoming spirit. Sean still claims that Casa Cuba was home to some of the best meat he had in Colombia.
Where to Stay in Guatapé
While in Guatape, you have two options: stay in town and close to the action, or opt for one of Guatape’s luxury eco-glamping resorts in the nearby fincas. We chose to go for the glamping, and it was unlike anywhere I’ve ever stayed! Looking back at it, I’d definitely opt for a glamping resort that’s a little closer to town, to balance the best of both worlds.
Click below to find the best hotels in Guatape:
Vda. Los Naranjos, Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
Bosko is Guatapé’s best luxury glamping resort. Think domed tents, jungle views, and infinity pools overlooking the Guatape lake that would make an Instagram influencer jealous.
This luxury resort in Guatape has no shortage of amenities, with complimentary breakfast, paddle boarding, and kayaking for guests.
Bosko also can arrange helicopter or speedboat tours, wakeboarding, and tubing on Embalse del Penol for an extra fee! Plus, the resort’s location is just 1km from Guatape’s town, making it the perfect balance of being in nature and staying close to the best things to do.
Vda. La Piedra-El Anillo, Guatape, Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
If you’re looking for a glamping experience that’s a little more unconventional than Bosko has to offer, BubbleSky is the best luxury resort in Guatapé for you!
I stayed at BubbleSky while in Guatapé, and while there were a few hiccups, there was a lot to love about this luxury glamping resort also (such as the outdoor shower, and heated mattresses). To read my entire BubbleSky Guatapé review, click here.
Guatape is a little over 2 hours away from Medellin (around 78 km). Take all time estimations with a grain of salt—driving to Guatapé could take anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours depending on traffic.
Yes, Guatape is a very town in Colombia. The town is very reliant on tourism and is so tranquil. You won’t be able to wander too far here—Guatape is small, and the type of place where people really know each other. It’s got such a communal spirit!
When Sean asked our driver if Guatape was safe, he started chuckling because yes, Guatape is very safe. Of any city I visited in Colombia, I easily felt safest in Guatape, then Cartagena (read my Cartagena guide here).
Most tourists will visit Guatape as a day trip from Medellin, but I really recommend spending at least 2 nights and 1 full day in Guatape. It’s much better as a weekend trip from Medellin, than just a day tour!
With that amount of time, you’ll be able to climb Piedra del Penol, go for a short boat ride or paddle boarding session, and wander the town comfortably. If you really want to spend time relaxing and unwinding, I’d stay for up to 3 or 4 nights.
Find more popular things to do in Guatape by clicking below:
Looking for more of the best things to do in Colombia? Click here for more.
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