Guatape is a small town in Antioquia which is around two hours away from Medellin. There isn’t too much to do in the town but it’s very pretty and we would recommend anyone to take the time to pay it a visit for the day or overnight.
How to get there…
The best way to make your way to Guatape is by bus. We were making our way to Medellin from Cali, which is south of Medellin so we arrived in the south terminal. We found out that the buses to Guatape go from the north terminal so we had to make our way there. You can catch the 313 bus which runs from just outside the main terminal for around 1900 peso (47p or $0.65) the journey will take about 20 minutes. Once you get to the north terminal you just need to look out for the kiosk selling Guatape tickets this will cost you 13,000 (£3.25 or $4.48). We travelled on a Sunday so there weren’t so many people around but there seemed to be a lot of buses, one bus left and straight away ours pulled in. Ok now this part is important and we made a mistake and got off the bus at the wrong stop. The second stop is the stop to climb the rock, you can’t miss it as you will see the huge rock that your about to climb but if you don’t see that, its outside a gas station. If you’re only going to Guatape for the day we would suggest getting off here and climbing the rock first. The next stop in Guatape town this is where all the hotels/hostels are and of course the town centre.
Cali to Medellin…
So we decided to travel overnight on the last bus to Medellin so we could make it to Guatape as early as possible. Dani wanted to travel with Bolivariano, so Danielle being the overly organised one checked online and suggested maybe we should book in advance but Dani said ‘nooooo don’t be silly we can get it on the night’, so off we went to the station at 10.30pm ready to catch the 11.00pm bus that was fully booked!!!! We tried 3 other companies which were also fully booked, then we checked Flota Magdalena who thankfully had spaces 11.15pm, the journey only cost 50,000 peso (£12.50 or $17.24) and it took around 9 hours. The difference in the companies are with Bolvariano each seat comes with a TV set like on a plane, WIFI, seats are bigger and has a better reputation. But Flota Magdalena for Danielle was still very comfortable and much better than any of the buses that are used in the UK, the seats recline enough to fall asleep and are much wider. So if you want to travel with Bolivariano book in advance. On the way the bus was stopped by the police, Danielle was like whatttttt is happeningggg!!!!! Of course Dani says this is normal, the police come onto the bus and check everyone’s ID and then away the bus continues.
What to do…
1. Climb Piedra El Peñól (the Rock)
I’m sure most of you that are planning to come to Guatape this will be at the top of your to do list and everyone that visits Guatape must climb the Rock, the views are incredible. At the bottom of the rock you will have to pay 15,000 peso (£3.75 or $5.17) to climb the 740 steps to the top. The rock is 2135 meters above sea level which is nearly as high as Machu Picchu. To give you an idea how high this is, Manchester is 38 meters high yes 38!!!! This was Danielle’s first climb at this altitude and she thought she was dying!!!! It was the feeling of not being able to breath, like you can’t get enough air in, the body didn’t ache it was the breathing that Danielle found difficult. Dani took it in her stride but she is used to high altitude so she managed to take pictures of Danielle dying instead. We would advise doing to exercise to prepare yourself for the climb if you want to do it easily. The views on the way up are as beautiful as you get to the top so take it slow and enjoy the walk. There are two levels the first big photo stop with a couple of cafes and shops is at steps 650, to continue to the top 740 you have to walk inside a small tower. The views are so much better than the pictures can show, you have 360˚ views of Guatape, a perfect photo opportunity. On the way down we both got shakey legs and the steps are smaller than the way up so take it slow. If you didnt get off at the rock from the bus you got from Medellin you can either walk an hour from the town or get the motor taxi from the town center which will cost you about 10,000 (£2.50 or $3.55). You can start the walk from the gas station but this will add onto your assent as we got a motor taxi from the town he dropped us off at the rock entrance and we're glad he did as it would have been much harder if we had walked from the station.
2. Explore the town
Guatape is small but so cute. There are little colourful houses and buildings that line the streets so just walking around and exploring is nice. There is a small town square where their church stands. In the centre there are plenty of restaurants for you to grab a drink or some food and enjoy the view.
3. Try the local food
Our favourites were Bandeja Paisa which is a typical dish for the area Antioquia, so for Danielle there was so much going on, on one plate but it was delicious. The meal is fried egg, rice, chorizo, arepa, red beans, carne molida, avocado, Maduro and salad – all on one plate!!! And Trucha a la Guatape which is the fish trucha with shrimps covered with cheese. This is served is foil that you have to cut open, it is so tasty. We ordered both with drinks and in total it costs 45,000 peso (£11.25 or $15.51) we could have ordered one meal to share as they were so big, but I’m not sure Dani would have shared her trucha. If your ever stuck on what to order just ask the waiters and they will tell you the best local dishes to try out.
There was plenty of activities going on along the lake, jet skiing, boat trips, pedalos, bike hire and horse riding. One thing that did surprise us was the zip line, we saw it online before we arrived and it looked nice zip lining across the lake…well disappointed isn’t the word the line was around 200 meters long and 7ft above the ground so we decided to give it a miss.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Casa Encuentro Hostel which was located just out of town, about a 15 minute stroll further back from the main street. The hostel was lovely, we stayed in a private room for 90,000 peso (£22.50 or $31.03) for the room per night which included breakfast, but they have shared dorms if that’s higher than you have a budget for. The room was really comfortable, it had hot water, lockers, towels and a private bathroom we would definitely recommend anyone to stay there. Walking up to our hotel we saw another hostel that looked really popular called Lake View Hostel if you would like something more central maybe give this one a look.
We both really enjoyed Guatape, this small but cute town was a great first stop for our adventure. We are now on our way to Medellin to see what the city has to offer.