The town of Guatapé is about a 2-hour bus journey outside of Medellin in Colombia. Many people stop by looking for food or an afternoon of watersports after visiting the region’s star attraction – El Peñón.
Also known as La Piedra del Peñol, this oddly shaped monolith in the middle of the Colombian countryside is now a national monument.
Once worshipped by Tahamies Indians, today, a winding staircase of over 700 steps provides access to what is boldly advertised as the ‘Best View in the World’! You have to pay a fee of around 1000 pesos and you should allow a couple of hours to make it to the top and back down, with time for viewing the panorama, taking photos and enjoying a beverage from the tienda.
Although the views are great from the first viewing level (and this is also where the restaurant is located), you can wriggle your way up to an even higher viewing platform on what appears to be a small tower.
Take bug spray, as there seemed to be a lot of bugs milling around. In fact, one person was bitten so badly while we were there that she had to seek medical attention.
BEST VIEW IN THE WORLD?
The views of emerald lakes and small farm buildings are pretty good, but for me the most memorable sight that day was of Guatapé’s streets adorned in fluorescent shades.
If you’re on a day trip from Medellin to El Peñón, you should easily be able to fit in an afternoon visit to Guatapé, although some people choose to stay overnight and to explore at a more leisurely pace.
It’s only 3 km between El Peñón and Guatapé, but keep your thumb out in case a local can give you a lift.
Most of Guatapé is painted with bright colours, and there are small murals running along the walls. Even the pink panther made an appearance!
From the centre of town, you can take a pleasant stroll along the lakeside and perhaps even partake in some water sports. Pedalos, paddle boards, boat rides, jet skis and kayaks are all available. There’s also a zip line for the highly adventurous.
For continued scenic views, you can continue over the bridge to a picturesque local stream, which is ideal for a quick dip.
GETTING TO GUATAPÉ FROM MEDELLIN
From the north bus terminal in Medellin (or Terminal del Norte), there are buses approximately every hour that cost $11,000 each way. The terminal has a very obvious information centre if you have any trouble locating which kiosk to go to to buy your ticket.
Make sure you leave Guatapé in good time to get the bus back to Medellin, especially if you’d like to reach your hostel before nightfall.
While the journey should take between 1 hour 45 minutes and 2 hours, we had to contend with a broken down bus and a procession of about 100 horses in the road. This is South America. It’s always a good idea to allow more time than you think you’ll need!