Guatapé is a tiny town in the Antioquian countryside. It’s on the tourist map for two reasons – its colorful streets and the nearby rock of El Peñol with it amazing views.
If you are planning a trip to Medellin, someone (a friend, a blog, a tour…) will inevitably suggest a day trip to Guatapé. “It’s a must do”, they’ll say. If you are a savvy traveler, you’ll do some research, and then get thoroughly confused. Hopefully, at this point, you will find my blog post, which tries to answer EXACTLY that question. Is a day trip to Guatapé actually worth it?
I’d like to answer this question by sharing my story of our day trip to Guatapé. However, for the impatient among you, the short answer is YES! It’s definitely worth it provided you wander off the tourist areas for a bit!
For our day trip, we hired a private car and driver through our wonderful hotel in Medellin. It cost around $110 for the whole day. If you have 3-4 people, hiring a private car is a no-brainer. However, if you want some low cost options, you could also take the bus there, or a taxi. If you do hire a taxi, make sure you can get one on the way back, or buy a bus ticket for your return journey. Our driver could only speak Spanish, but we were able to communicate just fine with the help of Google Maps, Google Translate and a handy cheat sheet our Spanish teacher had made us!
The drive out of Medellin is lovely. Zipping through lush green hills, peeking at the designer homes in the valleys, these were our first glimpses of Antioquia. And we were not disappointed!
The first stop on a day trip to Guatapé should always be La Piedra del Peñol. This is basically a giant rock, the ownership of which is fought over by two cities – Guatapé and El Peñol. The rock is totally commercialized now, with 625 steps hewn into it for people to get to the top. Fun Fact – the steps are numbered every fifty steps, so it’s easy to keep track of your progress.
Tourist trap? Not quite. It’s touristy, definitely, but if you get there before 10:30 am, you will find it quite tranquil and empty. The views are breathtaking, and it’s definitely some good exercise.
Don’t forget to bring water with you (you can also buy it at the bottom of the rock)! I found that the weather from the Weather Channel for Guatapé (and Medellin) was not accurate at all, it was always much warmer than predicted. At the top, I really enjoyed eating slices of green mango with salt and lime, while taking in the beautiful views. So refreshing!
We noticed that it got very crowded by noon, so make sure to finish your climb and get back to your car by then. Definitely not an activity one can enjoy with crowds.
From the Rock, it’s less than 20 minutes to Guatapé. Guatapé is a very walkable town, so we asked to get dropped off at the center near the church and arranged a time to meet up with our driver again. I think 3-4 hours are sufficient to walk around the town, eat lunch, drink coffee and generally have a good time! If you want to go out on the lake however, add some additional time.
We then walked on to the Plazoleta de los Zocalos – an explosion of color in the middle of an already colorful town! If you want to take pictures here, go before 2 pm. We wandered past it again once around 3 pm and it was packed, with people jostling each other to get good pictures.
At first glance, I was a bit disappointed in Guatapé. The coffee shop I’d bookmarked was closed, we couldn’t find the empanada stall that I read about from Along Dusty Road’s Guatapé blog, and the lunch we had was less than stellar. But, something clicked after my husband was served a beer bottle wearing a tie(!) and we tried to look on the bright side of things. We also resolved to do what we usually do – wander around past the touristy bits, and explore the real heart of a place.
We really didn’t have to wander very far to lose the tourists and peek a little into the local life. It was a lazy Saturday, and people were out grocery shopping, or having a chat on street corners. Some kept their doors open, and faint sounds from the television would stream out. I felt more at peace, and could then take in this town for what it was – a very pretty, colorful, sweet little town like no other.
On our rambles, we serendipitously bumped into a coffee shop called Cafe Sin P. I highly recommend you head there! Entering the coffee shop feels like entering a coffee lovers house – the kitchen is filled with different kinds of brewers, theres a delicious smell of fresh coffee. There is even a secret terrace at the back!
We ordered a Chemex brewed pot to share, and the lovely lady working there made it in front of us. We could see that it was a ritual for her, and she took us through all the steps, trying her best to explain it to us in English! In the end, we communicated just fine with a mix of broken Spanish (us), better English (her) and Google translate!
View this post on Instagram
We stumbled upon this cute cafe while walking around the colorful streets of Guatapè. It is called Cafe sin P – basically standing for a cafe with no pretensions. They offered fresh coffee with locally grown beans from Antioquia made however you like it! ⠀ We chose the Chemex (my favorite way to drink coffee!) and loved seeing the almost ritualistic way of making coffee! All my coffee dreams come true 😍⠀ The coffee is delicious, the little terrace at the back is perfect, and the people are so sweet! Our very minimal spanish, augmented with google translate, and their slightly better English was enough to have a lovely conversation ⠀ If you find yourself in Guatapè, definitely check out Cafe sin P!⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #tandrewtravels #guatape #guatapè #guatapeantioquia #coffeeshopvibes #coffeeshopcorners #coffeeeee #koffeecollective #darlingescapes #prettylittletrips #femaletravelbloggers #theeverygirltravels #flashesofdelight⠀ #dametraveler #sidewalkerdaily #gglocalgems #girlslovetravel #womenwhotravel #visitcolombia #explorecolombia #colombiatravel #travelcolombia #discoversouthamerica #colombiaissabrosura #colombiaessabrosura #loves_colombia #topcolombiaphoto #colombiancoffee
Cafe sin P just made us so happy! After that we decided to try our luck with the empanada lady, and could see the semblance of a stall being set up.
Someone near by assured us that she usually starts at about 3 pm so we off we wandered again!
Dancing through cobbled streets, making friends with different cats (my husband, not me). Admiring the pretty art that are the houses of Guatapé, each one so unique! I don’t think I could ever get bored photographing this town!
I know you are dying for an update on the empanadas. We finally got the freshest batch at 3:30 pm, delicious cheese empanadas like I had never had before. The cheese was perfectly gooey and the crust was just a little bit sweet. They were so cheap too! Four for less than $1. I wish I could have eaten them all! How to Find the Empanada Lady : Try after 3 pm, and go to the Quattro Esquina area. She will be on Carrera 28 right past Calle 31.
Our bellies full of delicious empanadas, we set off back to Medellin. We could have done more in Guatapé, like head out on the lake, or do another hike. If you would like to do those, I found this blog and this blog quite helpful!
I hope you agree with my answer by now! I believe that a day trip to Guatapé is totally worth it! I actually don’t think you need to stay there overnight if you (like most people) don’t have enough vacation. Know that you don’t even need to spend an ENTIRE day in Guatapé – you should try to be back in Medellin in time for dinner – and booking a dinner at El Cielo is a no brainer.
What do you think? Would you budget a day for Guatapé? Let me know!