On the road... The colourful streets of Guatapè

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Colombia is so diverse. A quick trip to the man made lagoons of Guatapè two hours east of Medellin for a little bit of nature just as the Colombians do. We found ourself in Guatapè a once deprived declining tourism destination now a regeneration fantasy. During the holidays and on weekends Colombians and backpackers alike flood the colourful streets of Guatapè. A lot has been done to this small lakeside town to re-attract the city folk of Bogota, Medellin and even further afield. Pablo Escobar even used to holiday and own properties here once upon a time. I can only assume the demise of his operations had something to do with demise of Guatapè, but that's just speculation.


 Guatapè at a glance

✓ Language: Spanish

✓ Currency: Colombian Peso

✓ Restaurant food: $5-$10

✓ Getting here: From Medellin take the 2nd class bus $5

✓ Day tours from Medellin: Tours from $25 

✓ Where to stay: Lake View Hostel


All prices in US Dollar


The lake is peaceful and the surrounding areas are calm and quiet. There is just enough nature and just enough settlement to compliment the man-made lagoons of Guatapè. We arrived here to spend a could of days doing just as the locals do and enjoying what Guatapè  has to offer. It may not be much but its on the map and I can only expect tourism to increase to this picturesque little spot. 

Guatapè, Colombia, South America, Travel, travel blogger, travelsandmore, Medellin

Guatapè, Colombia, South America, Travel, travel blogger, travelsandmore, Medellin
A local Colombian lady enjoying the views of the manmade lake

Guatapè, Colombia, South America, Travel, travel blogger, travelsandmore, Medellin
The greatest Tuk Tuk of all time

Getting active in Guatapè

There are so many activities to discover in Guatapè, you can boat here, do lots of water sports, eat a lot of barbecued meats, go fishing, climb a big rock named El Peñol and even try your hand at a huge zip line. Most of the colombian families arriving in Guatapè fill up the boats quickly. Book an afternoon tour to avoid an overcrowded boat. 

Guatapè is all about family adventure and not much else but nonetheless it's an extremely attractive area of semi-natural beauty. The man-made lagoons are filled with fish, to Jamie's delight this meant he could chat fishing on the banks of the clear lagoon with some locals and holidaying Colombians. 

The regeneration efforts in Guatapè are a triumph to Colombia and Colombian tourism. Several years ago Guatapè was left to ruin, the lack of tourism meant the steets were empty for most of the year and the lack of activities didn't draw any locals let alone backpackers. The introduction of niche tourism and the regeneration of the Zocola and buildings has led to the streets being once again filled with colour and that familiar buzz of tourism. 

Escobar was a regular visitor of Guatapè, you can visit his lake side home whilst on a boat tour from Guatapè. Many people stopped visiting Guatapè  duing these days as they believe it was unsafe. People stopped coming and when Escobar also stopped coming Guatapè was left behind. 

It's impressive as someone who has a passion for tourirm to watch before you the reinvention of such a unique lakeside town. The concept of a man-made lake system is quite new to me. But Guatapè owns this well and the scenery does look very natural. I can see why Guatapè is always refereed to as an area of natural beauty. 

Around the Zocalo each building is brightly painted often representing an aspect of Colombian culture. It's so blissful to walk the stone cobbled streets and check out all the brightly coloured homes. Small changes in Guatapès appearance like this bring the streets to life along with the introduction of extreme watersports and all the other adventure activities. Many new up and coming backpacker hostels are also attractive to tourists coming to Guatapè to catch a glimpse of the lagoons and scenery. 

Guatapè, Colombia, South America, Travel, travel blogger, travelsandmore, Medellin
The colourful houses of Guatape
Guatapè, Colombia, South America, Travel, travel blogger, travelsandmore, Medellin
More of the amazing colourful buildings

Getting to Guatapè

It doesn't take long to get to Guatapè from Medellin either and there are many day trips to El Peñol  and Guatapè  from Medellin. We chose to take the second class bus to the man made lagoons of Guatapè expect to pay no more than $5-$6. We travelled from Caribe station and took a taxi from The Zona Rosa where we were staying in Medellin. 

Guatapè would would be Jane and Dan's final Colombian stop as they were still visiting us during this part of our journey. They would take a prebooked cab back to Medellin. This is another commonn way to get to Guatapè.

Guatapè is very different to the trendy El Poblado of Medellin, but many people choose to take the winding bus from Medellin to the lake shores of Guatapè which is mostly filled with holidaying Colombian families, especially over the weekend. 

Guatapè, Colombia, South America, Travel, travel blogger, travelsandmore, Medellin
The streets are alive with colour
Guatapè, Colombia, South America, Travel, travel blogger, travelsandmore, Medellin

Such vibrant colours
Guatapè is a small but quirky destination. There are enough restaurants for a tourist not to get bored and the right number of hostels for the backpacker presence in town. The fishing in Guatapè  draws in some crowds but most visit for the market stalls and water sports at cut prices.

The main Zocalo is small but well kept, the buildings are painted in vibrant colours as are the motor tuk tuks and taxis. There are some great bars around the central Zocola and a few independently owned crafts shops worth taking a look at.

I really like to see something from the past be revitalised and Guatapè certainly embodies revival. The days of Escobar are over and the lake side is seeing a new lease of life. Families travel from Medellin on the $5 bus to enjoy a weekend at the lake and this simplicity is now catching on in the backpacker communities across Colombia. The introduction of  a few small backpacker lodgings offers Guatapè a new economic boost. Which means the small town can feel the prosperity from the injection of managed tourism.

El Peñol de Guatapè

El Penol also known as that really big rock with lots of steps and incredible views. Is a 10-15 minute journey from Guatapè but the trip can be done as a day trip from Medellin.

You can take a motor tuk-tuk from the central plaza in Guatapè to El Penol. Taxis and tuk tuks can only take you to the ticket barrier and you must enter alone.

From there you can buy your ticket and join the masses up the long and winding steps of El Penol. Expect to pay around $5 for the ticket and the same for the taxi.

El Penol is definitely worth a visit if you're in Guatapè. The views are to die for!



500 steps up many more to go

Breathtaking views of Guatape
More views


Jamie at the top of the giant rock

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