Tucked away in the verdant landscapes of Colombia lies Guatape, a small, picturesque town that promises to captivate the hearts of travellers seeking a serene escape from the bustle of city life. With its brightly painted houses, cobblestone streets, and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, Guatape has earned its reputation as one of the most charming destinations in the region. Read on to discover the magic of Guatape and why this hidden gem should be on your travel bucket list.
A Colorful History: The Story of Guatape
Founded in the early 1800s, Guatape has a rich history evident in its well-preserved architecture and cultural heritage. The town was initially inhabited the Tahamí people, who were later joined by Spanish settlers. Over time, the fusion of cultures has given Guatape its unique character and identity. The town’s iconic ‘zócalos’ – colourful, ornate bas-reliefs adorning the lower part of buildings – nod to this rich heritage. Each zócalo tells a story, depicting local customs, legends, and symbols of the past.
The Rock of Guatape: El Peñol
One of the most popular attractions in Guatape is the majestic Rock of Guatape, also known as El Peñol. This immense granite monolith towers over the landscape at 656 feet (200 meters) high. It offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding lakes and hills. Visitors must climb 740 steps carved into the rock face to reach the summit. The effort is well worth it, as the view from the top is truly unforgettable. While some debate exists over whether the rock belongs to Guatape or the neighbouring town of El Peñol, there is no denying the awe-inspiring beauty of this natural wonder.
Wandering Through Guatape’s Vibrant Streets
The streets of Guatape are a visual delight, with brightly coloured houses adorned with intricate zócalos lining the cobblestone paths. Strolling through the town is like walking through an open-air art gallery, each building showcasing a different theme or story.
The town’s central square, Plaza de los Zócalos, is a perfect starting point for exploring the vibrant streets of Guatape. You’ll find a charming church, numerous cafes, and shops selling locally made handicrafts here. Be sure to take your camera, as the photogenic beauty of Guatape’s streets is not to be missed.
Watersports and Adventure in Guatape
Nestled among the lush green hills and surrounded by a vast network of lakes, Guatape offers many water-based activities for adventure enthusiasts. From kayaking and jet skiing to paddleboarding and fishing, there is no shortage of fun on the water. The nearby Guatape Reservoir is a popular spot for boat tours, which provide a unique perspective of the town and its surrounding landscapes.
Local Gastronomy: Tastes of Guatape
A trip to Guatape would only be complete with sampling the local cuisine. Traditional Colombian dishes, such as bandeja paisa, a hearty platter consisting of rice, beans, meat, and fried plantains, can be found in many local eateries. Try a delectable arequipe, a caramel-like confection made from milk and sugar, for a sweet treat. Indulge in a refreshing guanabana juice or a locally brewed coffee to quench your thirst.
Tips for Visiting Guatape
- Best time to visit: The climate in Guatape is pleasant year-round, but the dry season between December and March is ideal for outdoor activities.
- Getting there: Guatape is approximately 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Medellín, Colombia’s second-largest city. Buses depart regularly from Medellín’s Terminal del Norte, taking about two hours.
- Accommodation: Guatape offers a range of lodging options, from cosy hostels to luxurious hotels. Book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
- Language: While Spanish is the primary language spoken in Guatape, many locals involved in tourism speak English. However, learning a few basic Spanish phrases can be helpful and appreciated.
- Currency: The Colombian peso (COP) is the official currency. ATMs are available in the town, but carrying some cash for small purchases and tips is always a good idea.
Guatape’s alluring charm extends beyond its vibrant streets and rich history. The town’s proximity to the vast, shimmering lakes and lush hills makes it an ideal destination for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. Whether you explore the breathtaking countryside, delve into the town’s colourful past, or unwind and immerse yourself in the laid-back local culture, Guatape is a destination that promises a truly unforgettable experience.
As you bid farewell to this enchanting town, you’ll undoubtedly carry memories of its warm hospitality, vivid hues, and unparalleled beauty, leaving you longing to return to Guatape – Colombia’s hidden gem that has captured your heart.
Guatapé, Colombia is a unique little town that every tourist should visit. It is the most colorful (literally) place I have ever been to! But besides the picturesque streets, the tiny town offers visitors many different things to do and see. If you’re headed to Medellin then a short trip to Guatapé is a must!
The history of Guatape
Before the Iberian conquerors reached the Antioquia area in the sixteenth century, this part of Colombia was inhabited by indigenous groups, and ruled by a leader known as “Guatape”, which is the origin of the town’s name. Guatape means “stones and water” in Quechua.
Climbing the Rock of Guatapé
The monolith is 650 feet tall, and although it looks like a challenge to climb, it’s relatively easy. You don’t need to be particularly fit to climb to the top but it will provide you with a very good leg workout! I think it took me about 15 or 20 minutes which isn’t very long.
between 15 and 30 minutes
How Long Does it Take to Climb Guatapé Rock? It depends on your fitness level, but it should take you between 15 and 30 minutes to get to the top
The Guatape water reservoir, one of Colombia’s most visited tourist attractions, is slowly killed by algae and will become poisonous unless local authorities stop procrastinating.
The town is built on the shores of Embalse Guatapé, an artificial lake in the area. The town offers beautiful views of the surrounding area. The unique decoration stemmed from locals painting the outside of their houses in bright colours.
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