Or as I like to call it, one big damn rock.
Also called la Piedra del Peñol (“the rock of Guatape”) or Peñon de Guatapé, la Piedra (“the Stone”) is one of the main attractions in Guatape, a daytrippable excursion from Medellin. Spend the night in Guatape if you like, but if you’ve left Medellin before lunch there’s a very good chance you can climb the rock, meander through the city, and even take a tour of the reservoir while still making it back to Medellin the same night.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
Let’s start with the view – a reminder you’re not in Kansas anymore:
The dam / reservoir is home to plenty of boats, but no swimmers.
If you can read this sign without putting on a Sean Connery accent, more power to you.
Before getting your tickets to ascend further, catch your breath and take in Don Luis Eduardo Villegas Lopez (1917-1996), a local and one of the first men to climb the rock in July 1954.
A few places to pick up some drinks before you head up… OK… deep breath… you can do this…
While I appreciate the notion of a handicapped space by the entrance, there’s no elevator up this way… Hidden from view is the path that goes to some vendors, although that path is almost as wheelchair-unfriendly.
The current incarnation of stairs features a distinct set of steps for each direction, and there’s only a couple of places to cross over. If you change your mind, a walk of shame awaits.
Go ahead, you know you’ve always wanted to say your Hail Mary’s hundreds of steps off the ground.
…but you’re not there yet. Keep climbing, slacker!
The center of the rock, anyone? The official count is 659 steps to this level, but you’ll want to keep climbing for the best pictures – a building holding a cafè and souvenir shops holds a few floors worth of stairs. You’ll know you’ve reached the very top when you see the 740:
The view does get better at the top, however, with a reservoir and hills as far as the eye can see.
Guatape is known as the village of murals, albeit not all that well by non-Spanish-speaking tourists. Plenty of similar murals are around the church in town.
Who stops at the souvenir store on their way up? Three different floors offered up essentially the same set of offerings – a bit of everything from shot glasses to t-shirts to these guys.
Enjoy a cerveza while up this way, or begin heading back to the bus stop. Motortaxis / tuk-tuks are around to take you back into town, or you can walk back down to the tourist information booth and wait for the next bus into town.
If time allows, get out on or over water with a zipline or boat tour around the lake. I personally thought the boat tour was nothing special, and little more than an opportunity for a group tour of twentysomethings to get out on the water, drink beer, and take selfies…
Overall, Guatape’s main attraction is a fine mainstream daytrip from Medellin. You’ll see an ample supply of Spanish-speaking tourists, but there’s very little English around.
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Name: La Piedra del Peñol (“the rock of Guatape”), Peñon de Guatapé, or La Piedra
Address: El Peñon de Guatape, El Peñol, Guatape, Colombia (GPS: 6.220784, -75.179122)
Directions: The easiest way to arrive is from Medellin’s northern bus terminal, which is connected to the Caribe metro station. Cross the pedestrian overpass, then head downstairs to buy your bus tickets at window #14. We paid 12,500 pesos a person for a two-hour ride. Your ticket should have the license plate number of the bus you need – use the electronic screens to help find the right one.
This bus will stop at a tourism information booth along the way to Guatape – jump off if you’re headed here first, or stay on until you reach Guatape proper in a few kilometers. The same bus heading back to Medellin from Guatape will stop here as well, and motortaxis (AKA tuk-tuk’s) make the 3km trip from Guatape to the entrance.
From the tourism information booth and main road, it’s a moderately steep 900 meter hike to the official entrance. Employ one of the passing tuk-tuks if you’d prefer to conserve your energy, or press on. The official stair count doesn’t start until you start up the stairs towards the ticket taker.
Hours: not posted, but presumably morning to late afternoon
Admission: 12,000 pesos
Ratings out of 5 globes (How do I rate destinations?)
Ease to arrive:
Worth the visit: