The first question that our hotel receptionist asked after the check-in in our hotel in Medellin, was how we are planning to visit Guatape. It was a bit of a surprise, but yes, we planned to visit Guatape for sure and do it using public transport. The receptionist was happy to hear about our choice. I think a Guatape day trip from Medellin is the best one you can take. 

So why Guatape?

Guatape is a small town about two hours from Medellin with just around 5000 inhabitants. Guatapé is located next to a huge man-made lake that was created for a hydroelectric dam in the late 20th century. The new landscape with the lake made Guatape popular as a travel destination. So, it’s now a lakeside village with many restaurants and cafes plus water activities in the area. But first and foremost, it is known as one of the most colourful towns in Colombia, mostly because of its colourful zocalos. 30 guatape P1900233

There is one more interesting attraction in the area and it is Penol stone, located a few kilometres before Guatape.

Penol stone

So our first stop on the way to Guatape was the Penol stone. If you want to follow our lead, you have to get off at the Zeus gas station next to the stairs to ascend the Penol stone area. First, we missed it because we thought that everybody would be getting out there, which was not the case, so we had to walk back a bit but we were rewarded with great photo opportunities for the rock because of that.10 penol stone guatape P1900166 Also known as Peñón de Guatapé, it is a huge 220 meter high monolith located a few kilometres from Guatape. The monolith stands out in the landscape, surrounded mostly by grassy plains and lakes. The stone was worshiped by the Tahamies who lived in the area before the arrival of the Spaniards. It is uncertain what the 70 million year old rock is, or how it formed. It is mainly composed of quartz, feldspar, and mica minerals.13 penol stone guatape P1900182

To reach its peak, you have to climb 675 marked steps and then some more to reach the very top of it. I assure you that it is worth climbing each step to observe the beautiful landscape and at its highest point you will find a truly impressive 360 degrees view. If there are some reasons why you can’t make it to the top, there is an observation deck halfway to it so you can stop there and observe the views. 15 penol stone guatape P190018516 penol stone guatape P190019817 penol stone guatape P190020118 penol stone guatape P1900208Luis Eduardo Villegas López was the first person to climb the monolith in 1954 and on the grounds you can see a statue in his honour. 19 penol stone guatape P1900214Take your chance to buy souvenirs in the shops at the bottom of the rock. 99 guatape colombia P1900225Then take a short tuk-tuk ride to get to Guatape to be impressed by its zocalos.

Zocalos of Guatape

The zócalo is the most outstanding architectural element that attracts the interest of the travellers who visit Guatapé. The word zócalo in Mexico means “town square” but in several regions of Colombia, it has been used to refer to the lower part of a wall of a house. It stands out slightly from the rest of the building, it is painted in a different colour from the rest of the wall, and it is made with cement, resistant to humidity and therefore also protecting the building. It all started in 1919 when local homeowner José María Parra Jiménez, also known as Chepe, painted on the front and in the hall of his house some sheep to protect the walls.21 guatape colombia P1900324 Now we see many different zocalos on the houses of Guatape, including simple geometric ornaments, scenes of the daily life of its inhabitants, farmers with their donkeys, marine scenes, flowers and birds, even Don Quixote with Sancho Pansa, Pink Panther and of course, sheep. So take your time and explore the streets of Guatape to find the most attractive zocalo for you.22 guatape colombia P190025523 guatape colombia P190025627 guatape colombia P190027728 guatape colombia P190027929 guatape colombia P190028330 guatape colombia P190028532 guatape colombia P190029233 guatape colombia P190032034 guatape colombia P190032235 guatape colombia P1900336 I hope you will not miss the interesting fountain with figures of men while strolling the streets of the town. 36 guatape colombia P1900254When visiting the main square of the town, pay attention to the Church of Our Lady of Carmen.

Church of Our Lady of Carmen

Church of Our Lady of Carmen, built at the end of the 19th century, is located in the town square of Guatape. Admire the striking facade of the building with gleaming white paint with red stripes. It certainly fits well in this colourful town. 49 guatape P1900234The interior of the church is mostly made of wood and even the religious figures are depicted in bright colours. 50 church guatape colombia P190033851 church guatape colombia P1900340It is also a place to spend some peaceful moments in contemplation. By the way, I was not surprised to find the image of the sheep in the church.52 church guatape colombia P1900341

Taste the trout of Guatape

Guatape is well known for its mouth-watering local specialty, freshly caught trout (trucha)! I'd recommend trying Guatape's signature fried trout dish. We did that at the Kennedy restaurant and bar and were not disappointed.69 trout guatape P190024470 trout guatape P190023771 trout guatape P1900242 So delicious even for me who is known as a non fish eater.

Buy souvenirs in Guatape

There are a lot of shops selling arts and crafts in the town. The souvenirs are colourful like the town itself and made in good taste. Buy them here. 40 guatape colombia P190025941 guatape colombia P190030242 guatape colombia P1900267It will be too late when you browse the shops at the airport when going back home. You will find that the prices are completely different and much higher than in Guatape.

Practical information

Guatape is a two hour drive east of Medellin. If you can choose your time for the visit, choose weekdays because there will be much fewer tourists and you can have the town to yourself. If you like me you decide to go to Guatape by bus, it departs from the North Bus Terminal (Terminal Norte) of Medellin. The bus terminal is a short walk from the Caribe metro station.62 bus to guatape P1900361 Then just go down one level and look for a sign for Sotra San Vicente & Guatape la Piedra window to buy your bus ticket.65 bus to guatape P190013866 bus to guatape P1900355Like it? Pin it?Guatape is a small town about two hours from Medellin. It is located next to a huge man-made lake. The new landscape made Guatape popular as a travel destination. Now it’s a lakeside village with many restaurants and water activities.  But first and foremost, it is known as one of the most colourful towns in Colombia, because of its colourful zocalos. For sure, Guatape day trip is the best you can take. #guatapedaytripfrommedellin #visitcolombia #travelblog #travelphotography

What did you think? Have you been to Guatape? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.

  • Published by Anita on December 13, 2019

    Author: Anita Sane

    Anita 03 18

    About the author
    Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, 
    travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterestTwitter and Bloglovin.


    We really loved Guatape, it's such a cute town! We stayed overnight and it was quite relaxing climbing el Penol and wandering in the streets during 2 days.
    Such vibrant colors your photos capture the heart and soul of this place xx
    madhu sharma
    Wow its such a easant and vibrant place.i never heard of it before. But love to visit for sure.
    Wow, everything is just so colorful, it's beautiful. I haven't been to Colombia but I've wanted to go ever since my friend's mom took a year off work and moved there to learn Spanish. She came back with so many stories that make me want to visit now
    I haven't seen colours like this before. So vibrant. Absolutely loved it!
    I recently say a travel vlog on YouTube about this little town and loved it. But I really love your photos of the zocalos. You've done a great job of capturing all the color an variations. If I ever make it to Medellin, this is definitely a day trip I will take.
    Just the colorful photos make me want to go. Love this! Thank you for sharing and making me put this on my list of places to go!
    Such colourful and stunning photographs. I was in Guatape last year and just loved this town. Your post reminds me of the charms of small-town Colombia.
    We adored Guatape and ascending El Peñón and it has been a pleasure to revisiting here again through your lens. The colors still set my heart ablaze.
    What a vibrant place. I love all the colourfully painted buildings - beautiful.

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