If you’re ready to experience the magic of a colorful Colombian town and see a quieter side of Colombia, a Guatape day tour from Medellín is perfect for you! In stark contrast to the bustling hip city of Medellín or the Caribbean flair of Cartagena, you can see the adorable farming town framed with famous zocalos while strolling through town. Located just 2 hours from Medellín, Guatape makes the perfect day tour to see a different side of Colombia. You won’t want to miss the gorgeous plaza with its Instagrammable umbrellas and brightly painted buildings or the emerald green waters of the reservoir.
Taking a Guatape day tour from Medellín is rather easy and a must-do when visiting Medellín. In this article, you’ll learn all about why a visit to Guatape is a necessity. Keep reading to find out how to get to Guatape, what to do while you’re there, and if staying longer than a day is worth it.
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Guatape is a beautiful town of 6,000 residents situated on the shores of Lago Guatape. The lake is actually a man-made reservoir and dam built in the 1970s. Unfortunately, many small towns and farms on the other side of the reservoir were lost but Guatape thrived and became one of the most important electricity-producing towns in Colombia.
However, what this colorful town is truly known for are its zocalos. Zocalos are the murals on the bases of the buildings that depict pictures and can be seen on almost every building in Guatape. Zocalos have become an important part of Guatape’s culture and history. Some of the zocalos reflect a family’s personal history while some reflect the business and some are just purely decorative!
The town’s history is rooted in farming and you’ll still see many farmers and zocalos representing this heritage. But now, Guatape has a huge tourist market as well and you can see that through the many businesses that are flourishing thanks to tourism.
How to get to Guatape from Medellin
Every day, hundreds of tourists flock to Guatape from Medellín. It’s pretty simple–so even if you’re directionally challenged (guilty), you can find your way to Guatape.
First things first, let’s talk about timing. Guatape is a bit of a trip–a couple hours by bus. So factor in the trip there and back, you’ll want to get an early start on the day. Wake up early, grab a quick snack, and head over to the bus station at Terminale Norte to catch a 7 am or 8 am bus. Buses leave every hour on the hour. There’s no set “start” time because it depends on the day and time of year… but 7 or 8 am is a reasonable time to assume the buses will be running.
The location to buy tickets is on the ground floor of the terminal and you’re looking for booth #14. The bus company is called Sotrasanvicente & Guatape La Piedra. You can expect to pay around 16,000 pesos (perhaps a tiny bit more) for a trip to Guatape (at time of writing, December 2022). Hop on the bus and get going!
The bus will stop at both Guatape and La Piedra del Pinon. The first stop is La Piedra and I recommend conquering the rock first while you’re still fresh and wide eyed! After you climb the rock, just head back to the bus stop and make your way to Guatape for the rest of the day. To return, just do the opposite of everything you’ve already done! Voila!
If you do happen to need more in depth directions, no worries! I also love excruciating detail when navigating in a foreign country. I like these two articles on step by step getting from Medellín to Guatape by fellow travel bloggers: We Seek Travel and Half Half Travel.
What to pack for a Guatape day tour
The weather in Guatape is pretty similar to that of Medellín. You can expect mild weather with plenty of humidity and often a chance of rain. Even in the “dry” season, there are random showers throughout the day almost daily in this part of Colombia! Prepare for chilly rain showers with temperatures hovering around the low- to- mid 60s (Fahrenheit) but don’t be surprised if it’s sunny and mid-70s (Fahrenheit)! What I mean to say is, be prepared for any type of weather.
For a day trip to Guatape, you’ll want to pack the essentials. Make sure you grab a rain jacket and some comfortable, waterproof shoes. Pack sunglasses and a water bottle because you’ll be outside most of the day! Throw everything you need into a day pack (we love this one!) so you have plenty of room for your camera, a portable charger, and snacks. Never leave on an adventure without snacks! Especially if you choose to do a day tour, you may get one meal provided but won’t have much opportunity to snack.
Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat! If the sun is shining, you’re sure to get plenty of it when you’re exploring Guatape.
What to do in Guatape in one day
Luckily, Guatape is a rather small town so it’s easy to see most of it in one day. Even though it’s small, it packs a big punch! I guarantee you’ll be thinking of the precious zocalos and friendly people for weeks to come. Here’s what to explore on your day tour to Guatape from Medellín.
Plazoleta de Los Zocalos
You can’t visit Guatape without running into the Plazoleta de Los Zocalos, the colorful town square teeming with cafés and shops. There are two stories of shops and restaurants, giving you a view from both the ground and a bird’s eye view of this busy area. Grab a coffee and people watch, eat some ice cream on the steps, or grab a souvenir from the shops. This square is probably the most Instagrammable area in Guatape with the umbrellas overhead and the colorful zocalos on the bases of the buildings!
Take a boat tour on Guatape lake
Situated right on the shore, Guatape is the perfect launching point for touring one of the largest lakes in Colombia. The lake is actually a man-made reservoir formed by a hydroelectric dam that provides 30% of the electricity supply to Colombia. Hop on a cruise boat to explore this giant body of water and learn a bit more about its history and importance to Colombia. Many of the tours also offer alcohol, soft drinks, and snacks to make your trip more enjoyable. In addition to being an important electricity supply, you can also see some amazing hotels and homes… even an old home of Pablo Escobar’s!
Walk down Calle de Recuerdo
Calle de Recuerdo, or “memory lane”, is undoubtedly the most beautiful street in Guatape.
Just wander along the streets of Guatape and you’ll pass dozens of adorable stores. This is the perfect place to search for artisanal, handmade crafts. No matter what unique gift you’re looking for, there’s an excellent chance you’ll find it somewhere in Guatape! The best part? You’re also supporting the local businesses!
See the cathedral
Continue along until you find the square with the cathedral… trust me, you’ll know it when you see it! The cathedral, Parroquia Nuestro Senora del Carmen, or the Church of Our Lady Carmen, will be hard to miss. It’s one of the most stunning buildings we saw during our time in Colombia! Take a seat near the fountain and watch people milling in and out of the church or even wander inside to see the beautiful indoor architecture.
The area around the cathedral is also beautiful with a fountain, plenty of restaurants, and sometimes street performers. Take a seat and enjoy the view (even better with ice cream in hand, in my opinion!).
La Piedra del Pinon
About 15 minutes from Guatape is the famed La Piedra del Pinon which has also been called Rock of Guatape in the past. This huge mammoth rock sits above the reservoir and has become a huge tourist attraction for visitors from around the world. The rock itself was formed over 70 million years ago and is over 200 meters high!
While I’ll say this isn’t something I’d do over and over again, it is definitely worth the visit on your first trip to Medellín! It only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to climb the 649 steps to the top of the rock to get some pretty outstanding views.
You’ll feel like you’re juuuuuust about to pass out when you finally get to the last set of steps. Once you get to the top, grab a mango michelada and enjoy the beautiful views of the reservoir and area surrounding the rock. The atmosphere at the top is almost like a mini-club with people enjoying drinks and the views. It’s all in the experience!
To get back to the bottom, you’ll pass through a gimmicky tourist shop and then can make your way down. Take your time–the way down is almost harder than the way up!
To get to and from Piedra del Pinon, you can take a taxi or a quick tuk tuk. You can’t miss the tuk tuks, called chivas, that are brightly decorated and waiting to take you where you need to go. This would be a fun way to get from point A to B!
Have a little bit more time to explore? Head out to the Guatape waterfall. The waterfall’s real name is La Cazuela and it’s just about 30 minutes outside of Guatape. You’ll need to find your own way there, like renting a motorbike. It will also be helpful to have access to some sort of GPS because I’ve heard it can be a little tricky to find. But once you’re there, you get (free!) access to a beautiful waterfall and small swimming hole–perfect for a hot summer day!
Guatape day trip or stay overnight?
Is it worth it to stay in Guatape overnight? Well, it depends. If you’re already short on time in Medellín, you’ll want to make your way back so you can maximize the time you have to see everything in Medellín! However, if you have a slower itinerary and can swing it… you will want to experience this magical town at night! Once the crowds depart, you can get a better (and quieter) feel for Guatape. Enjoy a quiet dinner at La Fogota for an authentic experience and then stroll the sleepy streets.
Where to stay overnight in Guatape
There are a couple different options for hotels. Check out Hotel La Madriguera Guatape for something within walking distance to the Plazoleta. Want a more resort feel? Closer to La Piedra you’ll find Hotel Los Recuerdos which has a pool, a restaurant, and its own nightclub! Looking for a unique and luxurious adventure?! Look no further than Bosko. Bosko is an incredibly luxurious text stay overlooking the reservoir. Count me in!
Another bonus of spending the night? You can get all those Insta-worthy pics before all the day trippers arrive!
Guatape Day Tours from Medellin
Don’t feel like a DIY day tour to Guatape? No problem! This little town is so popular with tourists there are no less than 14 billion tour companies that will take you to Guatape. Okay, I exaggerate a bit, but my point is you can certainly find an amazing tour for the day so you don’t have to deal with the headache of planning it yourself.
In fact, this is exactly what we did. After planning a full 2 week itinerary all over Colombia I didn’t feel like searching for bus tickets and taking taxis between Guatape and La Piedra del Pinon. So we booked a tour through Guatape Tours and it was fantastic. We got to climb the rock, see the reservoir by boat, and see the beautiful zocalos. The only thing you miss out on is seeing the town at night but we all have to make sacrifices sometimes, right?
Check out a few of these day tours to Guatape from Medellín.
Guatape is a tiny town located about 2 hours outside of Medellín and makes for the perfect day tour. If you just limit yourself to the big city, you’re missing out on a beautiful piece of Colombia’s culture! Take a day in your busy Medellín itinerary to head to Guatape and see the zocalos, climb the big rock, and enjoy this magical town. Whether you choose to design your own day trip or take a tour, you’ll be able to see the best of Guatape. I hope this guide has inspired you to book your own trip and explore not only the famous Medellín, but to take a day tour to Guatape, too!