We had already decided before we started our trip that we wanted to stop by Guatapé, we just had to decide on if we wanted to take a day trip or spend the night there. When we got to Medellín, all the backpackers we met that had already been there or were planning on going were using a day trip, so we decided a day trip would be sufficient for us since we did not have that many days in Medellín.
We first took the bus to El Peñol, to see La Peidra; a big, random rock with steps to the top, not far outside of Guatapé. The view from there was supposed to be amazing! It was a cloudy day, and when we stepped out of the bus it started pouring. This was one of the highlights for me, so I was struggling to be positive. The bus does not drive you up to where the steps begin, but down by the main road where there are a few small cafés. There were a few men there offering to drive us up in a little car, or on horseback, but Lucas had read that the walk was short and easy – which it was – so we walked. When we got up to where the steps started we got our tickets and decided to get some breakfast. There are several little shops and cafés there, as well as on top of the rock. The stairs were easy but tight; luckily there is one way up and one way down. And even on a rainy day the view was amazing, every step of the way!
When we got down we took the first car we saw – a little blue Chevrolet without doors – to take us the short trip to Guatapé. The little town was as gorgeous and cute as we had expected, but a day trip was more than enough. While walking through every little street, we met a local little girl – Sofia – who followed us around town. She knew two English phrases: Amma gaaad, and How are Yooo? We also tried out some of the cute little cafés .
If you are visiting Medellín, a day trip to the colorful Pueblo of Guatapé is a must. First, let me tell you the best way to accomplish this without knowing Spanish:
If you don’t speak Spanish, public transport can be problematic. Seriously download the offline version of Google Translate. It’s a life saver. There are buses that leave every 30 minutes to and from the Guatapé, with the last bus returning at 18:00.
- Grab a taxi/uber and go to Terminal del Norte (North bus terminal). From the Poblado area this will take about 15 minutes and cost around 10,000 COP (3.33 USD). The metro is a cheaper option to get to the terminal but it takes longer and let’s be honest, 10,000 pesos is still pretty cheap.
- Walk to the center of the bus station and take two flights of stairs down to where all the booths for the bus vendors are located. They are numbered from right to left, starting with 1 to the far right.
- Start walking to the right until you get to platform 9. We recommend buying a one-way ticket with Sotrapenol to El Penol (this is where the big rock, La Peidra is). We took the 9:00 bus and it took about an hour and a half to get there. The bus makes random stops picking up and dropping people off along the way, but you’ll know when you’ve reached your destination.
- Walk the road leading to the rock. You can also take a tuk-tuk or ride a horse, but it’s only a 10 minute walk. Once you get there, purchase your ticket (18,000 COP) and begin the 740 steps to the top. The views are absolutely incredible, claiming that it is the best view in the entire world.
- Get one of the eager drivers at the base of the rock to drive you to Guatapé. There are tuk-tuks you can take for 4,000/person, but we opted for an open roof willy for 6,000. The ride down was a blast and he didn’t even have to start the engine until halfway there. The ride takes about 10 minutes.
- Buy your return ticket back to Medellín. The bus station is on the outside of town, close to the water. We purchased the 15:30 bus allowing us a little over 3 hours to explore Guatapé. You can definitely spend more time here, but this is plenty of time to walk all the streets taking loads of pictures, and enjoy a nice lunch in the square.