Guatape Colombia: A Weekend or Day Trip from Medellin

Located two hours south of Medellin, in the heart of Antioquia Colombia lies the picturesque town of Guatapé. It’s a favorite among travelers seeking beautiful landscapes and a colorful small town culture.

So you want to visit Guatape Colombia but you’re not sure where to start?

The first thing to decide is if you want to stay overnight or take a Guatape day trip from Medellin. Both are viable options and I’ve detailed each in this Guatape guide so that you can decide what’s best for you.

You may be surprised there are a variety of things to do in Guatape. The main focal points are Guatape Lake itself, climbing El Peñol (Guatape rock), and the colorful zocalos in the small town.

Departing by bus from Medellín to Guatape, I loved traveling through the lush landscapes of Antioquia with glimpses of rural life. While the urban vibe allures travelers to Medellin, Guatape offers a serene escape in nature without traveling too far from the city.

Continue reading to learn everything you need to know whether you decide to stay a couple of days or take a Guatape tour from Medellin.

A large bird soars above Guatape lake which looks like an expansive body of water with many coves and peninsulas jutting into the water.

This article may contain affiliate links. This means if you click a link on my website and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

Is Guatapé a day trip from Medellin?

Located just 2 hours south of Medellin in the mountains of Antioquia, it’s easy to take a Guatape day trip from Medellin. You can take a bus from the north terminal or book a Guatape tour.

Should you stay overnight in Guatapé?

If you have the time, I recommend staying overnight in Guatape. It’s a nice way to escape the city and spend time in nature. It will also allow you to experience the area without the crowds that visit on a day trip from Medellin.

Sandy islets jut out into blueish green water of Guatape lake with a mountain ridge in the background.
Continuous coves of green surround Guatape lake

Where to Stay in Guatape: Hotels and Hostels

When I was looking for the best place to stay in Guatape, I immediately realized it makes sense to find a Guatape hotel with a lake view. I’ve detailed a few below for every budget, as well as my favorite hostel in Guatape.

Guatape Hotel and Hostel Top Picks

($$$$) – Luxury private domes in a magical setting with gorgeous views and a swimming pool. Breakfast included at the restaurant.
Luxé by The Charlee ($$$) – Modern hotel with lake views from your private balcony. Beautiful swimming pool and areas to lounge.
Hotel Verony Guatape ($$) – Budget modern hotel with lake views and a swimming pool. Breakfast included.
Casa Encuentro Ecolodge ($) – With shared and private rooms, this Guatape hostel feels like a lake house you would rent with your friends. It has several areas to hangout. Breakfast included.

10 Fun Things To Do In Guatape

As you decide whether to stay overnight or take a day trip from Medellin, you’re probably wondering what to do in Guatape. You may be surprised that there’s actually quite a lot of things to do, some of it quite adventurous.

Okay, let’s dive into the things to do in Guatape.

1. Climb Piedra del Peñol

📍 Map Location
📆 8 am to 5 pm, every day
💵 20,000 COP

The most popular thing to do in Guatape is to climb the rock, Piedra del Peñol. It’s 220 meters (722 feet) to the top of the rock for stunning views across the seemingly endless lake.

At the top of Guatape rock, there is an open platform deck with a lot of tourists taking selfies and slightly overpriced cervezas for purchase. If you can, avoid the weekends and holidays when there are more people.

The Guatape rock juts out of the green hillside with a few cabins below.

If you’re taking a Guatape day trip from Medellin, the rock is a stop on the way to town. I recommend exploring it first and then catching another bus into town. This way, when you are ready to take the bus from Guatape to Medellin you catch it at the beginning of the route when it’s less likely to be full.

How long does it take to climb Guatape Rock?

It takes 15-30 minutes to climb Guatape rock depending on how many stops you make along the way.

How hard is it to climb Guatapé?

To climb Guatapé requires some mobility but it’s not that hard. In fact, I think it looks harder than it is. While there are more than 600 stairs to climb, there are plenty of lookout points to rest along the way and take in the beautiful views of Lake Guatape.

Visiting Medellin? Click to read about more day trips from the city.

2. Admire the Colorful Guatape Zocalos

A colorful zocalo depicts a farmer pulling his mules with cargo in three panels.
This colorful zocalo reflects the owners’ profession.

You could spend hours wandering the narrow streets in town, admiring the colorful zocalos. The residents have made these reliefs an art form.

They depict the family business, a piece of history, or simply a feeling. Today they have become a source of pride with a covert rivalry among homeowners for who has the best zocalo in Guatape.

When I first read about Guatape zocalos I was confused since the word zocalo in Mexico refers to the main square. But in Colombia, it’s the name for the lower half of the building which is reinforced and painted to protect it from water. Actually, if you visit other small towns in Colombia, you’ll notice many of the buildings have zocalos, though none are as decorative.

Tip: To read more about the history of the zocalos, walk down Calle 29 near the Community Museum. There is a short pedestrian street with a fountain at one end and several banners that explain (in Spanish) the history of the zocalos. It was also one of my favorite streets to wander.

A cobblestone street, void of cars, with colorful houses lining the sides in Guatape, Colombia.
A colorful walk along the walking street

3. Go Sailing on Guatape Lake

📍 Meet at the Church
📆 Monday – Friday at 9:30 am
Read Reviews and Book

If you’re seeking a tranquil escape amidst the natural beauty, book this experience to go sailing on Guatape Lake. You’ll be able to admire the lush greenery that surrounds the lake and take in the stunning views of Piedra del Peñol from a different angle.

In addition to beautiful landscapes and mountains, you’ll pass by famous houses and the former estate of Pablo Escobar while picking up some sailing tips from your captain, Rene.

A view near Galeria Guatape Hostel of the Guatape lake where you can see a prominent house overlooking the lake andtropical banana trees in the foreground.
Viewpoint along a walk around Guatape Lake

4. Enjoy a Tinto in the Square

Sitting in the square with a coffee was one of my favorite things to do while traveling through the small towns of Antioquia, especially in Jardin Colombia. And this small town is another perfect spot to sip on a tinto while watching life pass by.

5. Visit the Plazoleta de los Zócalos

📍 Map Location
📆 Weekdays 10 am to 8 pm, Weekends until 11 pm

In the colorful pueblo de zocalos, Plaza de Zocalo wins the prize for the most colorful spot in town. The plaza, steps, and surrounding buildings act as a vibrant canvas painted with the colors of Colombian culture and tradition.

I recommend visiting in the afternoon when you can often hear live music. Order a coffee or a beer and soak in the vibrancy of Colombia.

6. Go Canyoning in San Rafael

📍 Meet in San Rafael
📆 Tuesday – Sunday at 9:30 am
Read Reviews and Book

The views on the road to San Rafael is enough of a reason to visit this simple town located along the river. The one hour bus ride takes you through vibrant green hills and beautiful mountain views. From town you can walk to several nearby waterfalls and swimming holes (see next).

Adventurous travelers will want to book this canyoning adventure in San Rafael which includes all the equipment you need. You’ll meet in San Rafael (transportation available) and then walk together to the starting point.

7. Explore the River and Waterfalls

📍 Meet at the Church
📆 Every day at 8:30 am
Read Reviews and Book

Along the river in San Rafael there are small beaches with crystal clear water for swimming. It’s a great way to spend the day and cool off. You can get to San Rafael by bus from the town and walk about an hour south of town on Carrera 26 towards Playa Del Rio Arenal.

Or you can book this River and Waterfalls tour which includes round trip transportation and a picnic (vegetarian option available) along the lake. It’s a private tour for an inexpensive price.

Love exploring the outdoors? Read my guide to Reserva Rio Claro Colombia, a true ecolodge located three hours from Medellin.

8. Ride in a Helicopter Over the Lake on a Tour From Medellin

📍 Pickup in Medellin
📆 Every day at 7, 8, or 8:30 am
Read Reviews and Book

If you want to take in the expansive views of Guatape Lake, book this helicopter tour over the lake which includes a boat ride and tour of the town with time to climb Piedra del Peñol.

You’ll be picked up at your accommodation in Medellin in a private car and driven to the boat dock in Guatape. After a boat ride around the lake, you’ll have lunch and explore the town before taking off in a helicopter for beautiful aerial views.

You’ll then climb the rock before returning to Medellin. If you’re considering a day trip, this is the way to do it.

9. Go Rock Climbing in Guatape Colombia

On the backside of the rock is an area where you can literally climb Guatape rock. Well, about a third of the way up is your goal – a hammock to rest after the somewhat strenuous climb (or so I heard). While I didn’t climb the rock, I spoke in-depth with a girl at my hostel that did.

To organize the rock climbing, she ventured down the trail behind La Mona Restaurant to the climbers’ house which appropriately has a rock climbing wall on the front. It is the meeting point for climbers that also promote the importance of taking care of Piedra del Peñol.

When she couldn’t find anyone at the house, neighbors said they would leave a message. Later that evening, the hostel received a phone call and she was set to meet the guide at 11 am the next morning. While she is not an experienced rock climber, I could tell she thoroughly enjoyed the climb and view from the hammock. 

10. Ride a Jet Ski on the Lake

📍 Meet at the Marina
📆 Every day at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, or 3 pm
Read Reviews and Book

Another fun thing to do in Guatape is to rent a jet ski and adventure around the lake. This highly rated jet ski experience is available for 1-2 people or more as a private tour.

You’ll meet at the marina where your guide will give you a brief instruction to ride the jet ski so that you can see a large part of the reservoir. You’ll cruise around admiring the landscapes and other sites.

How to Get From Medellin to Guatape

Wondering how to get to Guatape? There are basically three options – rent a car and drive from Medellin, book a day tour, or take the bus from Medellin to Guatape.

Bus From Medellin to Guatape

The Medellin to Guatape bus leaves from the North Terminal every 30 minutes which you can book online here. It takes about two hours to get to Guatape from Medellin.

Tip: You can save money on transportation to the North Terminal by taking the metro to the Caribe station (be aware of rush hour times especially if you have luggage). Look for signs to the North Terminal as you exit the metro.

How to Get Around Guatape Antioquia

The easiest way to get around the area is to flag down a bus, jeep, or tuk-tuk from the main highway. The most affordable transportation will be the bus or jeep since they make stops and carry more people.

But honestly, when I visited Guatape I took whichever came first as none are very expensive. It is possible to walk from some Guatape hotels but I the street is narrow.

Final Thoughts on Guatapé Colombia

While it’s definitely a tourist destination, the amazing views, impressive rock, and colorful town are more than enough of a reason to visit Guatape.

Just make sure you take the time to relax, slow down, and enjoy while you are there. It’s a great way to take a break from Medellin and enjoy a different part of Colombia

Pin this Guide to Guatapé to Read Later

Foggy view of Guatape rock with text overlay "Guatape Colombia"

FAQ About Guatapé Antioquia

Is Guatapé Colombia worth visiting?

Yes, Guatapé, Colombia is definitely worth visiting. It’s a great way to get out of the city whether you decide to take a Guatape day trip from Medellin or stay overnight.

What is Guatape Colombia known for?

Guatapé is known for its colorful zócalos that adorn the facades of buildings throughout the town as well as the large rock that offers stunning views of Lake Guatape from the top.

How many days do you need in Guatapé?

You can enjoy the highlights of Guatapé in a day trip but if you decide to stay overnight, I recommend staying for 2 to 3 days. This allows for a more leisurely pace to soak in the scenic beauty of the area.

Is Guatape safe?

Guatapé is considered safe for tourists, with low crime rates and a welcoming local community. As with any travel destination, it’s advisable to take common precautions such as keeping your belongings secure and being aware of your surroundings.