11 Things to Do in Picturesque Guatapé (So Inspiring!)

For many visitors a trip out to Guatapé has become an essential part of a visit to Medellín. The picturesque, colorful town sits alongside a huge reservoir in the shadow of a giant, towering rock perched at the top of a mountain with spectacular views.

People come for the rock and the view but there are many more things to enjoy in the region with delicious food, watersports, adventure, music, culture, nature and unique experiences on offer.

I have lived in Colombia for 15 years and visited Guatapé regularly and I have acted as the guide when family and friends have been in town. These are some of the classic must-do activities in the area plus some special, more unusual options to make your visit really special.

First, here’s a map to locate the things to do from my list:

1. Climbing the 659 stairs to the top of La Piedra del Peñol

el penol
If it looks like a lot of stairs, it is!

While there are many fun things to do in this part of Antioquia, it is the 656 feet tall, 66 million ton rock perched at the top of a mountain which inevitably grabs the attention.

The second-largest rock in South America has concrete steps built into a crack on the side and visitors can pay 20,000 COP (US$4) to climb to the top to enjoy the spectacular view of the reservoir and hills. The surrounding area is around half water and half land, so it really is something quite unique.

If you take the bus from Medellín to Guatapé, there is a stop at the rock before you get to the town outside a small restaurant by the street. From there you can walk up to the start of the rock, ride a horse or take a tuk-tuk. It is not a long walk but it is fairly steep and you may want to preserve your energy.

stairs to el penol
Coming by bus from Medellin? Before reaching El Peñol’s famous stairs, here’s a warm-up with even more steps!
el penol staircase
The ascent starts now: El Peñol’s stairway, a climb to remember.

There are 740 stairs from the bottom to the top of the rock, with various viewing platforms and rest spots along the way. It is a bit of a challenge but people of all ages are able to make the ascent, so just take regular breaks and enjoy the view if you are short on breath.

When you get to the top you will find an incredible 360-degree view with a couple of small restaurants to get an ice cream, a fruit juice, beer or a michelada (a refreshing local favorite with beer, some lemon juice and salt around the rim of the glass). There is also a circular building with some stores and an elevated viewing platform for the perfect view.

views from el penol
Conquered El Peñol and still smiling – the view is worth every step!
platform at the top el penol
At El Peñol’s summit: stunning 360-degree views, refreshing beers and micheladas, and the perfect viewpoint to take it all in.

There are dedicated up and down staircases on the rock and during your descent you will be deeper inside the rock out of the sun. At the bottom there are 5-6 decent restaurants offering solid local food with a nice view.

To get to Guatapé town you can take a tuk tuk or a taxi which should cost around US$3.

👉 https://lapiedra.com.co/en/

2. Wander the cobbled streets of Guatapé and admire the colorful zócalos

dorian in a colorful guatapé street
Dorian in a colorful street in Guatapé

Guatapé is a beautiful example of a typical, small Colombian town. Just over 6,000 live in the picturesque town but each weekend the population triples.

There is a main central square surrounded by restaurants and small bars. The Church of Señora Del Carmen stands as the tallest with a striking white facade with dark red details on the outside. The square hosts concerts and events at times and is very typical of the Antioquia region.

Guatapé central square
Guatapé central square

What sets Guatapé apart is brightly painted zócalos on houses and stores all around town. Each house has intricately painted designs which tell the story or background of the family or business that owns the building.

There are a lot of farm animals and priests, as you would expect in a rural town, but you can also find dragons, giraffes and zebras – which are surely accompanied by an interesting tale.

zocalo guatape

umbrella street in Guatapé

Plaza de zócalos is a more recent addition, with very brightly painted stairs and a shiny silver fish set up in a smaller square. This is more of a tourist-focused addition but it celebrates the tradition and designs which makes the town famous.

There are also often musicians performing in the square and it is a nice place to grab a coffee and relax.

plaza de zocalos in guatapé
Plaza de zócalos

Finally, you can go for a stroll along the Malecon, a waterfront boardwalk opened in 2019. You will find sellers with juices and snacks. At the end of the Malecon close to the bridge you will find the Guatapé sign for another good photo opportunity.

3. Buy handmade artisan souvenirs from the town’s boutique stores

 handmade cute bracelet
Coral bought this cute handmade bracelet
souvenir mugs guatapé
Those Guatapé mugs are so cute!

The town is filled with small shops offering a great array of handmade jewelry, clothing, paintings, homewares and decorations. You can find souvenir shops to get the perfect Colombian gift or go to an artisan boutique to get a great price on something special for yourself.

For a town that has become very popular with tourists, the prices remain reasonable and you will definitely find good value on some unique local pieces.

4. Paraglide high above the rock and enjoy the incredible scenery

You can book a 15-minute flight with experienced, certified instructors to pass above the famous rock, the lakes and countryside in the region.

You take off strapped in to an expert who will talk you through the process, help settle any nerves and take you on a thrilling trip. The cost for 15 minutes is 240,000 COP (US$60) or 290,000 (US$70) with a GoPro recording of your experience. You can also book a combination of paragliding and speed boat ride for 370,000 COP (US$90).

👉 https://www.guatapecolombia.net/portfolio/parapente-guatape/

5. Cycle around the lakes and mountains to visit nearby towns

From Guatapé there are a number of short or long cycling routes which can take you to nearby towns, beautiful landmarks and allow you to enjoy some of the spectacular views.

You can take a 15km route of moderate difficulty to Vuelta al Anillo or San Rafael which is 27km. San Rafael has amazing crystal clear rivers where you can cool or while Veulta al Anillo has amazing views and you can visit the Benedictine monastery on route. Puente Colgante is 23 km but is a more challenging and adventurous route.

It is possible to rent mountain bikes for 35,000 COP per day here, with the option to reserve online in advance. There are also tours you can book here or here.

👉 https://www.guatapecolombia.net/portfolio/bicicleta/

6. Learn to sail as you explore the beautiful lakes of Guatapé

guatape sailboat
Photo credit: abustaca on Visualhunt

One of the best ways to enjoy the lakes surrounding Guatape is by sailboat. Rene offers a great experience which includes the chance to learn how to sail yourself or you can just relax and enjoy the amazing views.

Local fruits and some tasty wine is offered while you head out towards the dam, past beautiful scenery and the destroyed former residence of Pablo Escobar. Rene is an excellent guide with a good level of English and you can meet you at the church in the central square or down by the water.

👉 https://www.viator.com/tours/Medellin/GO-SAILING-GUATAPE/d4563-214376P1

7. Sip cocktails in a hot tub as you cruise around the reservoir

Majestic Yate is an impressive glass boat which allows perfect 360 views for a fun 2 hour trip around the Guatepé and El Penol.

The boat leaves Saturday at 5.45pm and Sunday at 1.45pm and costs 89,000 COP (US$22) for two people. Included in the price is a buffet lunch or dinner plus 2 strong cocktails. There are tables throughout, sunbeds and hot tubs in each corner of the 2-story boat.

It is a great way to take in the stunning landscapes of the region in comfort with some pretty good food.

The boat leaves from Hotel Los Recuerdos. There is a discount for hotel guests but anyone can reserve a place online here.

👉 https://hotellosrecuerdos.com/experiencias/

8. Marvel at the incredible views on a helicopter around the rock

We’ll meet at the scheduled time at the Hotel Los Recuerdos in Guatapé to start this exciting helicopter ride. Ready to take to the skies?

You can take a helicopter flight that starts at the Guatapé Reservoir, one of the most spectacular dams in the region, and the huge rock perched on top of the mountain. You fly over the myriad of archipelagos then continue on to Malecón de Guatapé, the promenade alongside the town.

The flight leaves from Hotel Los Recuerdos, lasts 6 minutes and costs US$67.50 per person.

👉 https://www.civitatis.com/en/guatape/helicopter-ride/

9. Enjoy delicious food, tasty cocktails and an amazing welcome at Casa Cuba


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Una publicación compartida por Casa Cuba (@casacubaguatape11)

Casa Cuba is a charming restaurant with a well-earned superb reputation. Oscar the owner is extremely welcoming and he loves to tell stories and learn about the guests. There is a real buzz in the restaurant and they have great salsa music on rotation plus live musical performances.

The food is also exceptionally good with ceviche, seared tuna and Cuban sandwiches some of the standout options. The cocktails are also great and there is a really nice view over the water. The restaurant is a bit of a walk outside of town but it is well worth the effort and Casa Cuba is rightfully the top ranked option on TripAdvisor.

The food is great and the welcome is unmatched.

👉 https://www.instagram.com/casacubaguatape11/

10. Challenge yourself to get round the floating, inflatable obstacle course

Comfama, a national insurance company that also offers health, entertainment and wellbeing activities, has a natural park with lots of fun options for children and adults.

They have a 7.6 hectare area with kayaks, boats, kiosks, water bikes and a large inflatable obstacle course with slides. The cost is 17,200 for adults and 8,600 for children if you are not a Comfama member.

This is a really fun, challenging way to spend the afternoon on the water with a range of activities plus fresh fruit and tasty snacks on offer.

👉 https://www.comfama.com/cultura-y-ocio/parques/parque-guatape/

11. Learn to wakeboard on the calm, clear waters of the reservoir

wakeboard guatapé

You can learn to wakeboard at Wakeboard Guatapé’s aquatic center. They have experienced instructors who can teach you step by step through the technique or give you some tips to master your skills if you are more experienced.

They have a good range of high level equipment available and you can take your pick sport and professional boats. The sport boat is 105,000 (US$25) for 20 minutes or 315,000 (US$78) for 1 hour while the professional boat is 205,000 (US$50) for 20 minutes or 630,000 (US$150) for 1 hour.

The waters of the reservoir are very still which makes it a great place to learn the basic or to improve.

👉 https://english.wakeguatape.com/

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