Guatape is known as “Pueblo de Zócalos y Colores” because its streets are alive with bold colours, and its little houses are all trimmed with creative “zócalos” or motifs. These motifs represent different symbols significant to the history and culture of the area or relate back to the products sold in the shop within its walls. From Flora and fauna to religious symbols, these bright designs and the unusual geography of the towns location have afforded the pueblo a nomination for the “2016 Most Beautiful City in the World” award. Two hours by bus from Medellin it’s worth at least a day trip, we found it a serine spot to unwind for a couple of days after the bustle of the city.
Only 79km from Medellin this little town gets very busy on the weekend with local tourists all flocking to the malecón (boardwalk) to enjoy activities on the lagoon. Colombians love taking boat rides on one of the many lanchas with their music pumping, out to visit Isla de Fantasia and pass Pablo Escobars old bombed out mansion. Another favourite activity seemed to be the flying fox “zipline” cable which takes you speeding over the lake and straight into a matress on the other side! As exciting as all this looked, we chose simply sipping on beer and enjoying the vibe. In this area there is a popular drink that they call a Michalada. I’d never had a Michalada before so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Beer, lime juice, salt, pepper and passionfruit… not something I’ll be lining up for next time, but sipping a cold beverage, playing cards near the lake and watching the people is a great way to spend a relaxed afternoon.
This lake is actually a giant reservoir which is connected to Colombia’s largest hydro-electric plant which was built in the 1960’s. This beautiful man made lagoon actually helps to power 30% of Colombia’s electricity!
Another thing Guatape is famous for is “La Piedra” or The Rock. Standing at over 650 feet and believed to be the product of a volcanic explosion, it’s literally a giant rock jutting out of the ground. It’s a 5 minute drive from the town (2000cp on the bus to the turn off or 10,000cp to the stone in a taxi) and has a staircase zigzagging up its side with 659 steps to climb for unbeatable views over the reservoir. It costs 15,000 to get up but it gives you a great idea of the vastness of this body of water and the images of the sky reflected on the surface of the lagoon are priceless!
We spent 3 nights and 2 full days here, but a day trip would certainly be enough if you were pressed for time. Getting here is easy by bus from Medellin as buses run every hour from Terminal del Norte (directly connected to the Caribe Metro Station), they pass through El Peñol and the entrance to La Piedra on the way to Guatapé. We paid 12,000 COP ($6aud) each. To get out we took a bus towards Medellin then got out on the main road, then we took a second mini bus towards Bogota and got out at Doradal to visit Hacienda Napoles. I wish we hadn’t because the place had barely any reference to Pablo Escobar and the animals looked sad and sick. Save your time and your money (it’s very expensive for what it is) and avoid that place! Spend another day in Guatape, the vibes are much nicer here.