The Top Things to See and Do in Guatapé, Colombia

Guatapé | © JoseDGL / Flickr
Photo of Kylie Madry
20 July 2021

Just two hours from Medellín, the tiny town of Guatapé was farmland until Colombia flooded the area in the 1970s to create a dam. Now, it’s a major draw for tourists looking to climb the Piedra del Peñol or take photos of the multicolored plazas filled with zócalos, painted panels adorning various buildings. Here are our recommendations of the best things to do in Guatapé.

Rent a jet ski to explore the lake

Natural Feature
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Panoramic view of Guatape Lake from Rock of Guatape in Medellin, Colombia
© Gökhan Bozkaya / Alamy Stock Photo

Hop off the dock and onto a jet ski – it’s the best way to cruise around the Peñol-Guatapé Reservoir, either riding solo or with a friend. From the water, soak up views of the town and the Piedra del Peñol. Alternatively, crank up the speed and get your adrenaline pumping as you fly around the tiny islands that dot one of the largest lakes in Colombia.

Go mountain biking

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature, Sports Center
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Scenic View Of River In Forest
© EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo

Venture out of the pueblo and into the Andes Mountains, where you can go mountain biking through the lush jungle. Catch your breath at the top, where killer lookouts above Guatapé and the dam await you. Then, glide down the mountainside, crisscrossing through the valley and riding along the highway; you’ll be back in town before you know it.

Try paragliding

Sports Center
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© Antoine Barthelemy / Alamy Stock Photo

There’s nothing like the view from the top – book an hour to go paragliding with expert guides to see miles and miles of rolling green hills, forest and, of course, the lake. You’ll land along the trickling Guatapé River upstream, where you can cool off with an afternoon swim before returning to town.

Hike to the El Cristalino waterfalls

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail, Park
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This trek isn’t for the faint-hearted. Set aside a few hours for a guided hike that takes you 700ft (231m) up the Andean mountainside to several waterfalls along the Cristalino Ravine. You’ll be climbing up a few, too, as you journey through the forest, hop across puddles and scoot along cracks to make your way to the outlook at the top.

Grab a crêpe from Guatacrep’

Creperie, Authentic
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The crêpes here are cheesy, along with the pizzas, lasagnas and ravioli. Keep it simple with a ham crêpe, piled high with fresh-grated mozzarella, or try the namesake Guatacrepe for mushroom, pork, chicken, tomato and onion all rolled into a thin, flaky crust. If you’re looking for a souvenir you can eat, take home some of the fresh-baked bread and Colombian-style cheeses.

Explore the Parque Comfama Guatapé

Natural Feature, Park, Sports Center
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If you’re looking for aquatic activities all in one place, visit the Parque Comfama Guatapé. Here, you’ll find kayaks, water tricycles, rowboats and pedal boats hidden away from the rest of the lake. Across the complex, the water park’s inflatable playground is like an aquatic jungle gym, where you can bounce, climb and jump along the lake’s edge before diving into the cool water.

Climb the famous rock

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Rock of Guatape (Piedra Del Penol) Guatape, Colombia
© Mario Gyß / Alamy Stock Photo

The main reason that people visit Guatapé is to climb the famous Rock of Guatapé – also known as El Peñón or La Piedra – and enjoy the spectacular view of the surrounding islands and lake. Get ready for a leg burner as there are a whopping 740 steps to reach the top. Alternatively, experienced rock climbers can scale the granite face with a local guiding company. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with an astonishing panorama at the summit.

Wander the colorful streets

Architectural Landmark
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Building facade in the town of Guatape, Colombia.
© Eric Nathan / Alamy Stock Photo

Guatapé itself is a charming little town, made all the more appealing by its brightly colored walls and hand-painted zócalos, featuring sunflowers and doves, along with more complex paintings depicting the town’s history. So, grab your camera because it’s one of the most photogenic spots on your Colombian adventure. Afterward, kick back with a coffee in the plaza and watch the world go by.

Rent motorbikes to discover the area

Sports Center
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Renting motorbikes is a traveler’s rite of passage in many countries, but there are very few places where you can do it in Colombia. Luckily, Guatapé is one of those places. You can rent motorbikes or scooters from several local agencies and set out to explore the beautiful Andean scenery surrounding the city. A particularly popular motorbike trip is down to the waterfalls of San Rafael; as the winding road is a real challenge, make sure you have some experience on a bike before undertaking it.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Chris Bell.

These recommendations were updated on July 20, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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