A Guide to Guatape: The Most Colourful Town in Colombia
So, let me start by saying that Medellin is nothing like the dark days of the 90’s, and if you think this city is anything like a scene from Narcos, then you couldn’t be more mistaken. Medellin, which was once known for violence and danger, is now recognized to be one of the most sought after destinations to travel to. This beautiful destination, nicknamed the city of ‘Eternal Spring’ has reinvented itself, offering much more than just its rich history, finger-licking good food, and pleasant people. Medellin is branding itself as the next art and design capital of South America!
- 1. About Guatape
- 2. Where To Stay in Medellin
- 3. Day trip to Guatape Medellin
- 4. Medellin to Guatape - 2 ways of doing it and getting there
- 5. What to do in Guatape
I have always been the type to go with the flow, and in this case, it was a good thing because once I arrived at Selina, I soon discovered the many tours and trips available, including a Guatape day tour. While I can go on and on about the beautiful street art and murals in Medellin which depict the history of Columbia, or the endless amount of places to wine and dine, the highlight of my trip was definitely the day trip to Guatape, Columbia’s most colorful town. Initially I was hoping to do the chunk of my travelling solo, but I met a really cool girl on the tour, and we ended up doing the majority of the trip together!
Where To Stay in Medellin
Medellin is a big city and choosing which area to stay in can get a bit overwhelming. Some of the popular places to stay in Medellin are El Poblado, Belen, and Envigado.
Belen is a popular neighborhood in Medellin, home to foreign middle and upper class residents. It’s a safe destination for tourists, with a growing number of trendy restaurants and an industrial feel to it, making it the perfect destination for those looking for a hip and trendy neighborhood to explore.
Another popular area is Envigado. It is known for its sense of calm and community, and is perhaps one of the most welcoming neighborhoods in Medellin. This makes it the ideal spot for those travelling as a family.
Lastly, one of the most popular neighbourhoods – which is where I stayed – is El Poblado. If you’re looking for a safe destination that still has a lot to offer such as cafes, renowned restaurants, and unbelievable nightlife, then I would definitely recommend staying in El Poblado.
Since I was travelling solo I was very particular about the type of accommodation I was looking for and I spent a lot of time researching my options. I wanted to find places that would facilitate meeting new people, while still offering a sense of luxury. It was when I came across the description “the digital nomad hotel,” I knew my hunt for the perfect place to stay was coming to a successful end.
Since I run an ecommerce store on the side, getting 1-2 hours of work per day is really important to me. Selina offers co-working spaces with meeting rooms, which I was able to make great use of. Plus, I met a lot of interesting people with very unique businesses along the way.
If working while traveling isn’t your thing, Selina also offers everything from photography workshops to morning yoga classes and meditation evenings. They have weekly programs with different events too, so you’ll never get bored.
Day trip to Guatape Medellin
As I mentioned earlier Guatape was the highlight of my trip. After spending a few hours wandering the area, it became clear to me how it earned its reputation as the most colorful town in the world. When walking through the streets of Guatape, I felt as if I was walking through a story book; every building was a work of art. Plus, the city’s residents paint their houses and shops in breathtakingly bright colors explaining their family history or the history of their businesses.
Medellin to Guatape – 2 ways of doing it and getting there
- Guided tours Guatape
A lot of people choose to join Medellin day trips to Guatepe which are incredibly easy to arrange. These Medellin Guatape day tours typically include a visit to El Penon, lunch in Guatape, and perhaps a boat ride on the lake.
- DIY (what I did)
If you like to go at your own pace then this option is definitely worth checking out. The challenge of how to get to Guatape from Medellin is easily solved by calling an Uber or taking public transit; it depends on how you like to travel as well as your budget. I used Uber because they are very cheap for the distance travelled, but people have told me that public transport is also straight forward.
What to do in Guatape
I personally really liked Selina’s Guatape tour because of the selection of stops. I do however, prefer to go at my own pace, so I decided to go on a self-guided tour using their itinerary. Check with your hotel to see if there are any packages, as there are a lot of guided tours available that include various different activities.
First stop: Climb El Penon – The Rock
You will hear El Penon de Guatape, El Penol, El Piedra, Piedra de Penol used interchangeably when referring to the rock; to reduce confusion, I’ll refer to it here as El Penon.
After climbing El Penon, it’s safe to say that the view from Medellin to Guatape definitely lived up to the hype. There are 740 steps from the bottom to the top, and the final few steps will cost you an extra 2,000 COP to climb (if the section is open). I recommend stopping to take pictures on the climb up, because on the climb down the view is quite obstructed.
Once I was done taking in all the views from El Penon in El Piedra, it was time to make my way over to Guatape. From this stop, there are three different ways to get there:
1) Take a taxi for about 5,000 COP/ person, which can be found at the ticket booth.
2) Walk to the bus stop and take the next bus for 1,500 COP.
3) Walk for about an hour. The road is simple, and easy to follow on a map.
Second Stop: Visit the colourful city of Guatape, Columbia
The weather in Guatape is typically warm, and when the sun is out I can’t think of a more photogenic and colorful town. Whether you’re wandering the streets with a camera in hand, taking in breathtaking art, people-watching in the main square or drinking coffee from fine china in one of the local coffee shops, you’re bound to enjoy your time there. This miraculous town and it’s zocalos are a must-see during your Guatape trip.
On the tour, you’ll have the option of grabbing lunch in one of the Guatape restaurants, but being the foodie I am, I was on the search for authentic street food. The locals suggested an area of town called Cuatro Esquinas- I still drool thinking about the homemade cheese empanadas. Just ask a local and they’ll gladly direct you!
Third Stop: Guatape Boat Tour on the Lake
Aside from the majestic views after rock climbing Guatape’s most renowned landmark, you’ll also see the different islands as well as the remnants of the old towns of El Penol before it submerged in the 1970s. If you book a guided tour then you’ll likely have a boat trip included in your package, however if you are DIY-ing it like me, you’ll find boat operators on Calle 32. I booked an organized boat trip, but I could have rented a kayak instead as an alternative.
Other Worthwhile Guatape Activities:
I stuck to the items listed above because given that it was a day trip, I was limited on time, and those were the things I wanted to see most. There are however, plenty of other Guatape activities to enjoy, especially if you are going for the weekend. If you are planning a longer trip, make sure to pre-book activities in advance as weekends tend to be busier. Below are a few others for you to consider.
Take a Guatape Hike on the Countryside
I was told by some of the Selina staff that hiking Guatape is the ideal way to enjoy the view while getting some exercise in as well. I’m not much of a hiker but there are tons of blogs out there that go into a lot of depth about the various hiking trails Guatape has to offer.
Engage in some sports
If you’re looking to take the pace up a notch, you may want to try a local sport. That way, you’ll take in the tropical views while hang-gliding, mountain biking, jet skiing or even kitesurfing.
Book a day-trip to San Rafael
If you’re up for a swim and exploring unbeaten paths towards secret waterfalls, then setting aside some time for a trip to San Rafael may be worth your while. This town is located about an hour out of Guatape.
All in all, I’m left with nothing short of incredible experiences from my time exploring both Medellin and Guatape. I look forward to planning my next stay at Selina in another one of their gorgeous destinations around the world- the local knowledge that they provided really enhanced my stay. If you’re a digital nomad with an itch for affordable luxury, or travelling while working and have an interest in meeting people from all around, then you’ll love what this beautifully-designed destination has in store!