The most popular activity for tourists outside Medellin area is a trip to Guatape and La Piedra (The Rock). So of course we included it in our agenda for Medellin. Who wouldn’t want to climb 650 stairs to be on top of a rock?!?
Actually, La Piedra is one of the most interesting and weird sights we have ever visited. Plus that nothing beats the views from the top!
Right between two villages, Penol and Guatape, the rock was historically claimed by both parties. You can even see a gigantic “GI” painted on one side, as a beginning for “Guatape”. Luckily, this idea was stopped before doing much damage to the natural monument. Nowadays, tourists don’t really care which village has the right claim and call it either La Piedra del Penol or El Penon de Guatape.
La Piedra is an inselberg, a giant solitary rock rising more than 200m above the surrounding area. To reach the top, you will have to climb 650 stairs, zig-zagging through one huge crack in the rock. Don’t feel intimidated by the number, I’m not at all fit and I also carried 15 kg Eric on my back This means most people can get there with no issues. When you reach the top you will totally forget the struggle anyway. The scenery is magnificent, one of the best views I’ve ever witnessed! The landscape is mostly covered by blue waters, from a large hydro-electric dam, with countless small islets and an interesting shoreline.
After La Piedra, it’s worth to continue to Guatape, just a few kilometres away. Small village, its center consists of a few colourful streets organised around a central plaza. Guatape’s charm comes from the colourful bas-reliefs (zocalos) that decorate most of the buildings. In early afternoon sunlight, Guatape appears as a lively, happy place. Despite this, it is not (yet) overcrowded with tourists and maintains an authentic appearance.
There are lots of options to spend your time in the area, from hiking trails to water related activities, which would definitely worth to stay for few days. For a day trip to Guatape you could try kayaking or a boat tour, if you plan you time very well. Unfortunately Eric was too tired and we couldn’t add anything else to the day. We just walk through the picturesque streets and visited tiny shops with local souvenirs.
How to get there
There are lots of tour companies organising a day trip to Guatape and La Piedra. We preferred to go by ourselves, mostly because we like to organise at our own peace. This option also saves some money that are really not worth spending. It is easy, safe and fun to just go by yourself, on your own schedule.
In Medellin, you will need to take the Metro to Caribe station. The North Bus terminal is located right next to the Metro exit. Here, you can buy tickets to Guatape from counter number 9 and the bus leaves from line 9 also.The lady at the counter speaks a bit of English, so she will be able to guide you. The buses go every hour in the morning and return every 20 minutes in the afternoon, but it is worth checking the schedule in advance.
The bus trip takes about 2 hours. I advise you to stop at the rock first and only then go to Guatape. You need all your energy for the climb. From the bus stop there is a moderate 45 minutes uphill walk till the base of the rock or you can take a 5 minutes tuk-tuk ride. Make sure you negotiate the price, we paid about half of what we were initially asked, haggling for 1-2 minutes. After climbing the rock, you can easily walk your way back, it is a downhill path with spectacular views. Then take a tuk-tuk to Guatape or wait for the next bus.
Here is a summary of our spending (luckily Eric is too young to pay a child ticket yet):
- Metro tickets: 2*2*2,400 =9,600 COP
- Bus tickets: 2*2*14,000=56,000 COP
- Tuk-tuk to La Piedra: 6,000 COP
- Tuk-tuk to Guatape: 8,000 COP
- Entrance tickets: 2*18,000=36,000 COP
So we end up, for two people, with a total of 115,600 COP, which is around 42 USD at the moment. This means less than half the money we would have spend for a tour, for basically the same thing. I’d rather do something else with the money than paying for hotel pick-up and someone driving me together with a group.
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