Guatape | Colombia
Walking along the cobbled stone street, surrounded by vibrantly coloured facades and square, I realised why Guatape was selected as one of the most beautiful towns in the world 2016. Guatape is a town and multiplicity located 79km from Medellin and is a popular recreational area for Colombians to take a break from the crazy city life, as well as it is a popular tourist destination.
Forest covers finger-like peninsulas that lie around the town, giving the town its beautiful landscape. This was a man made reservoir covering 7.2600 hectares, which was created for a hydro-electric dam in 1960’s. This artificial lake not only creates a beautiful scenery but generates 30% of the country’s energy.
Guatape is also known as the Pueblo de Zocalas and this is what its famous for. Zocalas are colourful tiles seen on the lower part of the houses facades. The Zocalas are not just any random art but they honourably display Guatape’s traditions and customs, trades and religion as well as flora and fauna. Ths tradition has taken off in 1920, in fact Plazaoleta del Zocalo, a famous vibrant spacious square was designed to commemorate the 200 years of the Zocalas tradition. This is a great square you can relax in, enjoy a cup of Colombian coffee and appreciate the artisan stalls is holds.
Another famous spot in the village is Calle del Recuerdo, a beautiful vibrant painted street built as a replica to remember the streets flooded by the reservoir. Here you can also find the museum, which is unfortunately closed at the moment due to change in administration.
A 10 minute ride in a moto chivas (tuk tuk) takes you to Piedra el Penon de Guatape for COP$10,000. This is a giant rock of 220 mtrs and has a 649 long staircase to heaven. The entrance fee is COP$15,000 and the climb is not an easy one, but take your time! On the top you find food vendors selling refreshing drinks and ice cream. A garigor , making it a total of 740 steps, takes you up in the built part on top of the rock out onto the lookout where you can enjoy the scenery of the beautiful lake islands and forest surrounding Guatape. This is the main milestone of the region.
El Malecon is a 900mtr extension of the reservoir specifically dedicated as a recreational area, where you can enjoy activities offered both on the lake or on land, enjoy a stroll along the promenade while eating some street food offered by the food vendors in the area. Here you can take boat tours to Isla de Fantasia and an abandoned Pablo Escobar farm. For prices ranging between COP$15,000 and COP$40,000, so shop around and check number of people and what’s included. You can opt to rent a self-drive boat to explore the Reservoir. Anclar the first pontoon down at el Malecon offers, rental boats from COP$40,000 to COP$60,000 per hour depending on the boat’s horsepower. I do not suggest the smallest horsepower boat as you won’t get that far. You can explore the lake in a slow relaxing kayak or a fast jet ski!
You can also zip line over el Malecon’s promenade for COP$12,000 which takes you up the hill itself, you don’t need to walk. If you have time there are also tous that take you on trekking adventures to waterfalls outside town for the day including lunch for COP$60,000.
There are plenty of restaurants and food vendors in Guatape you can opt for a typical one in the square or one with the lake view along the promenade. Street Empanadas only cost COP$600. Make sure you try their home made fresh fruit ice cream!
Accommodation to satisfy everyone’s budget can be found. Many hostels offer dormitory beds for COP$23,000, If travelling as a couple, private rooms could be rented at COP$60,000 or also at COP120,000 if I has a view! If you are a light sleeper avoid Parque Principal as this pjaza gets busy and noisy at night and the bells from Inglesia Nuestra Senora del Carmen, the main church will wake you up as early as 5am.
If you are going to Guatape direct to or from Medellin you can do so on a 2 hour bus at COP$13,000. However, going to Gutape from the airport there is no direct bus. You need to get the 340 bus to Rio Negro for COP$2150, a 40 minute colletivo (shared) taxi to el Penol for COP$6000 and from there a COP$3500 jeep ride into the town.