Planning a trip to Medellin, Colombia? Be sure and put the picturesque little town of Guatapé on your list. A two-hour bus ride away, Guatapé sits on the banks of the Peñol – Guatapé reservoir, created with the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the late 1970s. This beautiful lake covers a vast area in the central Colombia highlands, and
the best way to appreciate it is to climb to the top of El Peñon de Guatapé, jutting incongruously out of the lakeside landscape. It’s 740 back-and-forth steps to the very top of the lookout platform, but the view is worth it!
El Peñon is about a 30-minutes walk, or a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride, from Guatapé proper. We wandered for several hours through the town and marveled at the colorful and beautifully painted bas-relief “zocalos” gracing almost every house and business. These zocalos are a uniquely Colombian art form, and they represent everything from the surrounding natural world to the type of business you might find in the building, or the occupation of the family that lives within.
To do Guatapé right, spend at least a night there. We stayed in
one of the hotels right on the waterfront, which we don’t recommend – the street fronting the lake is NOISY into the late night and then early the next morning with truck and bus traffic.
Guatapé is a very popular weekend and vacation spot for Medellin residents, and – since we were there just after Christmas – it was packed. Next time we go, we’ll make sure it’s not a holiday.
Getting there from Medellin is easy and inexpensive. The busses leave from the north bus terminal every hour, and the fare is about $12,000 COP (about $4 US).