With no plan of where to visit after Medellin, a simple leaflet at a hostel made us decide upon Guatapé.
A small picturesque town, with a huge rock to climb, only 2 hours from Medellin? What’s not to like?
We arrived at midday and checked into the wonderful Mi Casa Hostal a few kilometres from the town. Usually this would be a disadvantage but in this case it meant it was very close to the main attraction – El Peñon de Guatapé, otherwise known as La Piedra (The Stone).
Towering 200 metres over the surrounding countryside and flooded valleys, the rock can be seen from all around. Luckily 675 stairs have been built into the rock, offering a relatively easy climb and the promise of incredible views.
With Katy not feeling great and me a bit restless, I decided to climb the rock as soon as we arrived, knowing full well I’d have to do it again with Katy the next day.
It didn’t start well as I took the longest route along the road when there was a much shorter path right by the rock!
Even getting to the base of the rock was challenging, with some serious slopes. I paid my money and started on the stairs. Cleverly 2 flights, up and down have been built around each other so you don’t run into people coming down or vice versa.
I began bounding up the stairs and after a few flights it still felt really easy. After a few more it felt like I was going to die. I may have been taking it too quickly.
Eventually though I did make it to the top, with some tactical stops to catch my breath.
Honestly, the view was so good I felt guilty I hadn’t had to work more for it. 675 steps was nothing for such a view. For miles around, the flooded valleys created a scene that I’d never seen the like of before. I had to have a beer to take it all in.
Walking down was obviously fairly easy, but actually getting back to the hostel proved surprisingly difficult.
Because I hadn’t come the short way, I had no idea what the route was. I kept running into dead ends, paths leading to nowhere and locked gates. Eventually after 4 or 5 attempts I made it back. The worst part was that I ran into someone from our hostel on the way down and he later told me he could see me continually getting lost from above as he climbed it himself!
The next day we set out to see the town of Guatapé. From our hostel it was a 3-4km walk along a busy road, or you could catch a shared jeep, which is obviously what we did.
Guatapé town is small but stunningly beautiful and colourful. It is famous for its murals – every building has pictures and murals carved with plaster and painted in bright colours along the lower side of the walls.
It’s a lovely tradition and makes the town well worth a visit. There wasn’t a huge amount to do but it was one of those places which was great to just walk around and discover all the hidden corners.
After some coffee, empanadas and cakes, we got a tuk tuk back to the hostel, and prepared to climb the rock..again (for me).
It wasn’t any easier the second time around except that I knew to take it a bit slower. But it was still a tough but rewarding climb. We had an ice cream, admired the view and then realised there was a little tower to get even higher, complete with a pretty good gift shop.
We came down, and actually enjoyed the walk back this time, strange how it’s more fun when you aren’t getting lost…
Oh and if you’re wondering why the rock has G I painted on it, so did I, so I looked it up. The locals of Guatapé wanted to paint the town name on the rock, as there had long been a dispute with nearby El Peñol about who owned it. They only managed to paint the G and half of the U before the El Peñol residents noticed and forcibly stopped them!
If you end up in Guatapé you absolutely have to stay at Mi Casa Hostal. As mentioned it’s a few km from the town but it isn’t a problem at all. More importantly its great value and is run by a super friendly English/Colombian couple, Sean and Suzy who are so welcoming.
We ended up pretty much having our own apartment as the floor we were on didn’t have anyone else staying there, and we had a giant hammock outside to admire the view of the water.
The bus from Medellin’s northern bus terminal cost a massive 12,500COP (£3.12) and buses left very regularly. On the way back we simply caught a passing bus outside of the hostel.
The rock cost around 12,000COP to climb. Most importantly, a beer at the top cost 5,000 (£1.25)