If you need to escape Medellin’s hustle and bustle, Guatape and Piedra del Penol are the perfect places you have to visit on a one day trip.
Colombia’s most colorful town Guatape is only a short bus ride from Medellin and the combination of zocalo-decorated town and nearby Piedra del Penol, a huge monolith overlooking a flooded dam, is worth a visit.
Colombia is a beautiful country, and we know it offers so many colonial cities that it is simply not possible to visit them all.
But if there’s one you should not miss, it is Guatape. There are several reasons why to visit this charming town in Antioquia Department.
First of all, it is the proximity to Colombia’s second-largest city. And even though there are so many things to do in Medellin, a trip to Guatape is not something you should skip.
Secondly, the city itself is a real gem, and even though it feels touristy during the busy season, the colorful houses and narrow cobblestone streets will make it up for you.
Last but not least, you can easily combine this trip from Medellin with the visit to Piedra del Penol.
Both destinations are worth to be explored on their own, but why not take advantage of seeing both of them in one day when they are so close to each other?
If you plan on visiting Guatape and Piedra del Penol independently on a one day trip from Medellin, keep on reading.
In this travel guide, we share with you tips on how to get there by bus, what to expect, what to see, and where to stay.
Even though you have several options on how to plan this trip, one of them is to enjoy a weekend getaway in Guatepe, feel free to follow our footsteps.
In short, we took a bus from Medellin, got off at Piedra del Penol, where we climbed the rock, then we continued to Guatape, spent a few hours here, and then we returned back to Medellin.
It is, of course, possible to go first to Guatape, but we think our way made sense, and we are confident to recommend it to you as well.
HOW TO GET TO GUATAPE AND PIEDRA DEL PENOL FROM MEDELLIN
Getting to Guatape and Piedra del Penol independently could not be easier.
Sure, you can hire a cab driver or join a tour, but we keep fond memories of traveling in Colombia by bus till this day. It’s an experience on its own.
Step number one is to get to Terminal Norte alias North Bus Terminal.
Remember how we told you in our post dedicated to things to know before traveling to Medellin, how useful is to stay near the metro station? You’ll appreciate it now.
The bus station is located at the Caribe station on metro line A.
Go inside the terminal and look for a company Sotrasanvicente that has office number 14 on the ground level.
Because the bus goes regularly, every half an hour between 6 AM and 7 PM, you don’t have to make a reservation in advance, it is fine just to show up let’s say fifteen minutes before the departure.
It takes a bit less than two hours to get to Guatape, and the ticket cost COP 14 000.
If you want to visit Piedra del Penol before continuing to Guatape, same as we did, the process is completely the same, you only have to get off at the monolith, which is approximately 10 minutes’ drive before the colonial town.
You won’t be most likely the only person getting off there, so we think you cannot miss it, but just in case, tell the driver your intentions.
If you want to save money, you can even tell your destination at the counter in Medellin, and the ticket will be only 13 000 COP.
HOW TO GET FROM PIEDRA DEL PENOL TO GUATAPE
After you climbed up the rock and enjoyed the views, you can carry on to Guatape.
Go back to a small parking lot where the bus dropped you off before and hire a tuk-tuk to Guatape.
There are many drivers waiting, and the ride costs COP 5 000 per person.
In Guatape, you’ll be dropped off at the bus terminal that is within walking distance from the town’s main highlights.
Our Tip: If you want to get back to Medellin on the same day, buy your return ticket right after you arrive in Guatape.
We tried to buy our ticket already in Medellin, but for some reason, it is not possible.
There are many buses between Medellin and Guatape, and we don’t think you would get stuck in the town, but especially on weekends, your preferred time does not have to be available at the very last minute.
Guatape, a small tranquil town in the Antioquia department, draws visitors’ attention, and we absolutely understand why.
It is a perfect one day trip, although feel free to stay longer and enjoy the vibe when most of the day-trippers leave.
Moreover, houses decorated with zocalo are incredibly colorful, even for the Colombia standards.
We have visited numerous colorful villages and colonial towns in Colombia with beautiful facades, so we have a lot of to compare to – and last but not least the town’s location in the middle of rolling green hills is just stunning.
WHAT TO DO IN GUATAPE
Guatape is exactly that kind of place, where you can wander its streets with camera in hand, sit in coffee shops and in short do nothing much but after the whole day, you will have a feeling of a nicely spend day.
No one exactly knows why and when local people in Guatape started to embellish their houses with zocalos.
Zocalo (the coat of cement) is a differently colored lower part of a house, that is usually up to 80 cm high, and this custom was probably imported to Colombia from Spain.
The original main reason to use zocalo was house protection from erosion.
But people of Guatape took zocalo to a new and better level when they decorated their houses with colorful symbols and paintings which very often depict their occupation, their believes or history of the family, or the house.
When you wander the streets, you can see, that everyone takes decorating of their house very seriously.
All buildings look well-taken care of, and we believe that there must be an unspoken rivalry among residents of Guatape whose house is the most beautiful.
Apart from colorful houses, there is the main square Parque Guatape with the town’s church and another small square La Plazoleta De Los Zocalos, which is known for its beautifully painted steps and busy restaurants, coffee houses, and shops.
In case you would like to avoid crowds, plan your visit for weekdays because weekends tend to be busy.
You might also be wpndering, how much time do you need for visiting Guatape?
We would say that two hours are enough because there are not many must-see places like in other destinations, it is more about the vibe and colorful streets.
Of course, you can easily decide to spend a night here and explore more thoroughly the area around the town, you can find tips on where to stay at the end of this post.