Guatape: Inexplicably Undervalued

Skip downtown Medellin and head instead to this charming lakeside town
Guatape: Inexplicably Undervalued

The charming town of Guatape is located in a geographically striking landscape dominated by lakes and mountains and offers a host of fun activities including boat trips, ziplines, swimming, kayaking, and climbing. The area is greatly, and somewhat inexplicably, under-visited by foreign tourists, yet the spectacular scenery and ample entertainment options make it well worth the short trip from Medellin.

What to see and do in Guatape

One of the must-do activities is to climb La Piedra, a 200m rock formation jutting out of the landscape. The entrance fee is around 10,000 COP and there are nearly 700 steps to reach the summit. The ascent is moderately challenging (it takes about 20 minutes), but is well worth the effort. From the top, visitors can enjoy a chilled beer whilst taking in the spectacular 360° view of the lakes and mountains scattered across the landscape. On a clear day, visibility is often excellent, allowing tourists to enjoy views of natural features lying up to several miles away.

Climb La Piedra for a spectacular 360° view of the hundreds of lakes and mountains scattered across the area

In Guatape itself, most activities are based around the reservoir which runs alongside the town. Boat trips leave from the jetty in the centre of the town, which will take you on a scenic tour of the surrounding water features. A fast boat can be hired among 5 people for 200,000 COP per hour or you can go on a public tour in one of the larger boats, fitting about 40 people, for around 10,000 COP per person. If you prefer to travel around on your own steam, you can hire kayaks, paddle boats and stand up paddle boards at various spots on the water front for around 20,000 COP an hour.

Extreme sports are also popular in Guatape. For example, the area hosts Colombia’s longest zip-line, which takes visitors on a 600m trip over the reservoir. Moreover, with the large number of rocky outcrops in the area, climbing also constitutes a popular activity. Short courses and tours are available lasting between one and three days. These vary greatly in difficulty level, but generally cost around 200,000 COP per person. Another high adrenaline activity is bridge jumping; a sport similar to bungee jumping, but which involves leaping off bridges and falling into a pendulum-like motion. There are various bridges used for this in and around the town, with the height of jumps varying from 15m to 35m.

Guatape hosts Colombia’s longest zip-line, which takes visitors on a 600m trip over the reservoir

Though the major attraction in Guatape is the natural environment and related activities, the town itself is also pleasant. Houses are built in a distinctive local style, with colorful fronts and painted murals depicting traditional scenes. It also has the typical features of a Colombian town, namely a main square overlooked by the Señora del Carmen Church. A number of dining options, mainly local Colombian fare, are available here and along the Malecon, a kilometre-long promenade offering great views over the water.

Getting to, from and around Guatape

Guatape lies about 1 and three-quarter hours’ bus ride from Medellin’s northern bus terminal. Shared taxis also run the route between the terminal in Medellin and central Guatape, and the journey is about 20 minutes faster. If in a group of several people, shared taxis work out to be only marginally more expensive than the bus, and are often substantially more comfortable.

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Travel within Guatape itself is either on foot, or via the small tuk-tuk style taxis which operate in the town. Journeys within the town cost approximately 3,000 COP, though the slighter longer run to La Piedra costs in the region of 10,000 COP.

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