Guatapé is a small, very pretty lakeside town in Eastern Antioquia, about 1.5 hours from Medellín, Colombia.
The picturesque town of Guatapé is known as the Pueblo de Zócalos, named for the beautifully sculpted and painted depictions of village life that adorn the lower half of most buildings in the town center. On weekends, the waterfront malecón (boardwalk) fills up with local vendors selling beautiful Paisa art, food, and souvenirs, and the adventurous can take a ride on the Cable Vuelo, a canopy zipline over the lake. Popular boat tours visit the former site of Viejo Peñol, a town which was submerged by the creation of the reservoir, which is now marked by a giant memorial cross. Boat trips can also include a trip to see La Manuela, Pablo Escobar´s now bombed-out lakeside mansion, and ¨Fantasy Island¨, a pretty refuge in the middle of the reservoir, which has a swimming area, cabañas for rent, beautiful views of La Piedra, a tienda selling snacks and beer, and a pair of friendly resident scarlet macaws.
To/From Medellín: Direct buses from Medellín leave from the Terminal del Norte (directly connected to the Caribe Metro Station), passing through El Peñol and the entrance to La Piedra on the way to Guatapé (about two hours). Two companies provide service: Sotrasanvicente, (4) 861-0595, and Sotrapeñol, (4) 851-5912. Each company provides service approximately every hour starting at 6am. The average fare is 12,000 COP (negotiable). Many buses continue to San Rafael. The last bus from Medellín to Guatapé is at 7:00pm. The last bus from Guatapé to Medellín is at 6:30pm (7:45pm on Sundays and Holiday Mondays). Return buses to Medellín fill up quickly on weekends – buy your ticket in advance.
Around the Region: Moto-taxis (314-731-2184) provide service from the Parque Principal in Guatapé to La Piedra (9000 COP, negotiable) and around the local area. Buses and Willys (Jeeps) also provide service between Guatapé and El Peñol (3000 COP), passing by the entrance to La Piedra (2000 COP). Men generally hang off the back, which allows for excellent views. To get to La Piedra, ask to be dropped off at the Zeuss gas station, from there it is a 1km walk uphill. Chivas provide service to the remote countryside.
The majestic surroundings of the Embalse El Peñol – Guatapé, one of the country's largest lakes, were created in part by the construction of a hydroelectric dam that provides 30% of Colombia’s electricity supply. It's hard to miss the region's most famous attraction, a 200+ meter high rock outcropping that towers over the surrounding area. It's officially named El Peñon de Guatapé, but more commonly referred to simply as La Piedra (The Stone). Over 600 stairs have been built into the side of this enormous geological marvel, allowing safe access to the top, where a viewpoint offers spectacular views of the lake and surrounding areas, as well as souvenirs and snacks.
The following activities and tours can be arranged in and around Guatapé and El Peñol, with English-speaking guides upon request: Hiking, Scenic boat tours, Paddle Boat rentals, Kayaking, Fishing, Trips to hidden waterfalls and swimming holes, Arts and Crafts shopping, Canopy Zipline, Mountain and Road Biking, Horseback Riding, Rock Climbing, and free tours of the local museum.
On weekends, local merchants line the waterfront malecón selling a wide variety of arts and crafts and souvenirs.
A trip to Guatapé wouldn´t be complete without sampling the local specialty, fresh trout served in your choice of many delicious preparations. There are many good restaurants along the malecón and around the central park offering everything from traditional bandeja antioqueña to pizza and Mexican food. On weekends, local vendors also sell a variety of tasty snacks along the malecón.
There is a new restaurant at the main square called "El Rincón Canario", they offer a very nice budget menu with vegetarian and healthy option and local food as well (7.000), the fish is delicious. It is located in front of the church.
Bars, clubs and discoteques are located in "la calle del comercio" very close to the square, there is a place called coco loco, it's not expensive and nice and the owner speaks good english.
There are a wide variety of good hotel accomodations fit for every budget. Most are located around the central park or along the malecón.