From Medellin, the most popular day trip is probably the Guatapé tour. If you’ve been in Colombia for a while you’ve surely heard about this big rock that boasts breathtaking views from above. This is El Peñon de Guatapé (or simply El Peñol) , and it’s easy to get here from Medellin.
The easiest and most convenient way of course is to join a tour, and there are many tours to Guatapé being offered in Medellin. If your hostel doesn’t offer one, you can easily book one online via the Get Your Guide website or via Viator. These tours only cost 30-35 USD— really cheap considering the fact that breakfast and lunch are included. There are also both English and Spanish speaking guides. And aside from El Peñol and Guatapé, there’s also a quick stop at another town called Marinilla. These tours do not include the entrance fee to El Penol though which would set you back another 18,000 COP (a little over 5 USD).
Of course the cheapest way is to head to Guatapé on your own. Good things it’s easy to get there via public transport. Simply head to the Terminal del Norte in Medellin which is easily accessible via the Metro since the Caribe Metro Station is just outside the bus terminal. Here, there are buses heading to Guatapé almost every hour and a single journey ticket only costs 13,000 COP (about 4 USD). There are huge “Guatapé” signs posted on a number of ticket windows, you can’t miss them. If you plan on doing a day trip, then you’d better take an early morning bus because the journey lasts for about 2 hours. If you plan on spending a night or two in Guatapé, then it doesn’t matter. The last bus leaves at 7 PM.
These buses actually stop near the entrance of El Peñol first before heading to Guatapé. From El Peñol you can easily head to Guatapé because there are small buses and tuk tuks (I dunno what they call these in Colombia) near the entrance. Buses charge 2,000 COP while tuk tuks charge around 10,000 COP (about 3 USD). Alternatively you can just walk for about 45 minutes to an hour.
If you’re spending a night in Guatapé and you have your bags with you, you definitely won’t want to get off at El Peñol. No need to worry, it’s just as easy to get there. There are also lots of tuk tuks and buses in Guatapé and they charge the same amount to get to El Peñol.
As I’ve mentioned above, You’d have to pay 18,000 COP to be able to climb up El Peñol. There are 740 steps, and while that number seems daunting it’s actually not hard. And even if you feel tired you can take your time, the steps are wide enough so you don’t have to worry about blocking the path. 18,000 COP may seem much if you’re traveling on a really tight budget, but believe me the view from the top is definitely worth it. It’s no wonder the locals fondly refer to it as the best view in the world. On top of the rock you can buy food and refreshments, but I’d recommend just buying food once you’ve reached the ground. I expected the food being served at the restaurants below to be real pricey, but surprisingly there were lots of cheap food. I couldn’t resist these chicharones and potatoes for only 5,000 COP.
Guatapé itself is a quaint little town. It’s really laid back and I’d say it’s the perfect place to unwind. This is why I’d recommend spending at least one night instead of doing a day trip. It does get crowded in certain areas when those people going on day tours arrive, but once they leave the town reverts back to its normal self. Every house is colorful, and each facade enables each house to tell its own story. There’s an awful lot to see here, it would be a shame to rush through everything in an hour or two during a day trip. There’s a lot to see in the surrounding areas too. The view from the top of El Peñol gives you a bird’s eye view of the surrounding areas. Actually setting foot in those areas gives you the exact same thrill. If you prefer not to stay in Guatapé, there are a number of cheap hotels nearby that offer amazing views. And since you’re away from the town, these are perfect spots for relaxation.
It’s no wonder why the Guatapé day tours from Medellin are extremely popular. These tours bring you to one of the most beautiful parts of Colombia. If you have time though, set aside a few days to explore this area on your own. It would be a shame to cram all this beauty in just a couple of hours.