The main reason that people visit Guatape is to climb the famous Rock of Guatape – also known as El Penol Rock – to enjoy the spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding islands and lakes of the artificial Guatape reservoir. There are 740 steps to get to the top, so it’s not exactly a relaxing experience, but it’s worth it for the stunning views.
Guatape itself is a truly lovely little town, made all the more appealing by its brightly colored walls and zocalos (wainscotting, basically). The zocalos feature paintings depicting the town’s history, and the colors make for a truly photogenic little town. Sitting in one of the plazas and watching the world go by with a fresh coffee is a must-do activity on any trip to Guatape.
Besides the famous rock, the other main reason to visit Guatape is to make the most of the vast, beautiful lake that surrounds the town. There are a variety of ways to enjoy the lake, but one of the best is to take a boat trip: you can join one of the cruises on the large boats moored at the jetty, or hire a smaller craft to buzz around the lake and explore all the coves and islets for yourself.
A trip to Guatape doesn’t have to be made up entirely of lazing around in cafes and relaxing on boats: whether you fancy hang-gliding, paragliding, flyboarding, or mountain biking, there are loads of different extreme sports on offer in Guatape too.
The rolling green hills surrounding Guatape are the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely hike and get some exercise – any road leading out of the town heads into the countryside so you can’t really go wrong, but there are some excellent round-trip hikes too, which any hostel or hotel can give you more details about.
Just one hour from Guatape – and a descent of over 1000 m in altitude – is the pretty little town of San Rafael. That huge change in altitude also makes for a truly tropical climate, and San Rafael, with its beautiful rivers and waterfalls, is the perfect day-trip for anyone looking to soak up some sun and take a swim.
The variety of food on offer in Guatape is excellent and much more diverse than in many small towns. There are great local options for trout and steak dishes, but also top quality vegetarian and vegan cafes, authentic Italian pizza and a really good Thai restaurant on the roof terrace of Lake View Hostel.
There’s perhaps no more enjoyable way of exploring the Guatape Lake than on the back of a jet ski, buzzing around the lake at top speed with some friends. It might not be the most relaxing or peaceful activity, but it’s excellent value for money and great fun at the same time, and you’ll certainly get your adrenaline pumping.
If you really want to say that you ‘climbed’ the rock then you can: there are several climbing routes up the face of the giant granite rock and tour agencies offering more experienced climbers the chance to actually scale the rockface for themselves. Travelers like to boast that they made it up the 740 steps, but this is the real way to climb the Rock of Guatape!
Renting motorbikes is a traveler’s rite of passage in many countries, but in Colombia, there are very few places where you can do it. Luckily, Guatape is one of those places and you can rent motorbikes or scooters from several local agencies and set out to explore the beautiful mountain scenery surrounding the city. A particularly popular motorbike trip is down to the aforementioned waterfalls of San Rafael: the winding road is a real challenge, so make sure you have some experience before you undertake it.