Day Trip to El Peñón de Guatapé: A Backpacker’s Guide to Colombia
You climb a stair, then another and another, your heart is pumping, and you’re trying to catch another breath. All of a sudden, you realize you’ve climbed 700 steps. A horizon of turquoise water dotted with dozens of tiny islands unveils before you.
El Peñón de Guatapé, or La Piedra de Guatapé, is a giant rock a few hours outside of Medellin, with around 700 stairs that look as though they’ve been stitched onto the cliff face. The view from the top looks out onto the magnificent Peñol – Guatapé reservoir, islets spreading through it like fingers.
How to get to El Peñón de Guatapé
After taking the metro to Caribe Station, cross the bridge to Medellin’s North Terminal, where you can buy a bus ticket to Guatapé.
A 2-hour bus ride will get you to a gas station (just ask to be dropped off at El Peñón), where a sign will indicate the direction of a short, uphill trail to get to the bottom of the giant rock.
The entrance fee to climb up is 18,000 pesos. It took Iris and I about an hour from the gas station (with one or two short stops) to climb to the top of La Piedra.
We reached the top breathless and speechless. Neither of us had ever seen a view quite like it, and it was undoubtedly spectacular. We settled our heart rates, took some photos, bought some beer from the small shop and settled down for a while to take in the view.
How to get to Guatapé
When we returned to the gas station, we took a tuk-tuk (rickshaw) to the town of Guatapé (there were a bunch there offering to take you for a small fare). You can also wait for another bus to come, which should be cheaper.
Guatapé is one of those picturesque towns, the streets lined with short houses painted in bright colors with traditional patterns. There isn’t much to do there besides eating (we found a great vegan restaurant called Namaste Café) and strolling through the small village and along the lake. However, just wandering the streets will make feel as if you’re inside an oil painting or a storybook.
From the town’s bus “terminal” (there’s a small ticket booth next to a parking space big enough for one or two buses- just ask someone where it is, the town is so small that no matter where you are it shouldn’t take you more than 10 or 15 minutes to walk there), you can catch a bus back to the terminal in Medellin.
Worth it? Definitely! La Piedra and the town of Guatapé were some of our highlights in Colombia – you won’t regret it.
What to bring: Camera, water, money, sunscreen, and motivation 😉
Questions or comments about El Peñón de Guatapé? Let us know in the comments below!