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Medellin Day Trip: Guatape & El Peñol

We ditched Medellin for a day and jumped on a bus to explore some of the small towns outside the city limits. While Guatape was the tour’s namesake, we saw so much more than that and actually spent very little time in the town itself (the one complaint we had about this tour).

While you can transit to Guatape without a tour, we opted for the tour because we wanted a more relaxed experience. We also wanted to learn about the towns’ histories, and since we don’t speak Spanish, we would have been unable to do so without our bilingual guide. We’re glad we did, too, because there are so many interesting things about this area.

Tour Info

  • Tour: Guatape & El Peñol Tour
  • Tour Provided by: Tours Guatape
  • Tour Booked through: Toucan Cafe & Tours
  • Price: 79,000 COP per person (about $26 USD)
  • Duration:  8AM – 7PM

Our Experience

We left our apartment at 7:30 AM with intentions of getting coffee from Starbucks before our 7:45 AM departure. We figured Starbucks was our best chance of finding coffee that early because this city is so slow to wake up, but not even Starbucks was open!

Our first stop was just a side-of-the-road restaurant where we got breakfast (included).  While this traditional breakfast of arepas and cheese has quickly become my favorite food of Medellin, these particular ones were not my favorite. The chocolate caliente con leche (hot chocolate) was delicious though.

Arepas & cheese with chocolate caliente con leche

Next we stopped in the small town of Marinilla. I have a feeling this stop could be kind of boring, but we happened to be taking this tour on Colombian Independence Day. The square was an adorable scene of children getting ready for a parade, locals eating breakfast on cafe patios, and even a marching band, all set against the backdrop of their traditional Spanish architecture. It was really quite cute.

Marinilla town square on Colombian Independence Day

Our next (and my favorite) stop was El Peñol. The giant rock is the third largest in the world and the first to be accessible by stairs. It sounds like a tourist trap, but is actually quite cool! For an extra 18,000 COP (about $6) you can climb all 740 steps to the top of the rock where you’re treated to sweeping panoramic views of the mountains and lakes below.

Fun Fact: those lakes didn’t used to be there. They are entirely manmade and required moving entire towns in order to create a hydroelectric plant. It’s the most beautiful power plant I’ve ever seen.

Also, at the top, you can buy michelada de mango, which is beer with lime and fresh mango served with a salted rim and is incredible – especially after taking 740 stairs to get it!

Michelada de mango

Lunch was also included and served at a restaurant at the base of El Peñol. You could chose between this meat (chicken), that meat (pork), this other meat (trout) or a whole trio of meats (Bandeja Paisa, the local specialty). But if you’re vegetarian like us and our new friend from Whales, they’ll make you a collection of Colombian sides that are equally filling and quite tasty. (If you’re a strict vegetarian, you might need to ask about the beans because they tasted too good to not be cooked with bacon, but there are no actual chunks of meat in there.)

This vegetarian spin-off of Bandeja Paisa includes beans, egg, avocado, arepa, salad, rice & plaintain

We made our way (finally) to the town of Guatape! The town actually reminded me a lot of Wisconsin Dells with its touristy vibe, waterfront activities and small resorts. Our first activity was a boat ride which I loved so much! It was about an hour of beautiful views of El Peñol and the mountains with lots of sunshine and fresh air (extra refreshing compared to the constant smell of exhaust fumes in Medellin!).

Our last stop was the actual city of Guatape. We spent about 30 minutes walking the town with our guide learning about it’s history and architecture. In short, the town make a dedicated effort to beautify the city and torn it into a tourist destination, which they’ve done incredibly well. The streets are brightly painted and beautiful, and are full of shops and cafes that you could easy spend a day exploring. Unfortunately, after our tour, we had about 20 minutes.

After our time in Guatape, we got back on the bus for a two hour ride back to Medellin, which was a beautiful journey.


Did we enjoy the tour? Absolutely! Would we do it again? Probably not. While this was an incredible day trip and we did get to do so many fun things, we just didn’t get enough time in the town of Guatape itself. And even when we were there, most of the time was spent with the group, which meant there were tons of people in all your pictures.

If you’re looking to fill a day doing really fun and beautiful things, absolutely take this tour. If your heart is set on seeing Guatape and spending time there, this is not the tour for you.

What we’d do next time

We actually got a lot of recommendations from locals to spend an night in Guatape because the night scene was unmatched. Having seen the town and all the restaurants and bars that overlook the square, waterfront and colorful city streets, we absolutely can see how incredible that would be.

Unfortunately, we had already paid for our day trip (and our Airbnb in Medellin) so this wasn’t an option for us this time. When we come back to Medellin, we’d likely plan to spend a night at the start or end of our trip in Guatape.

Planning a trip to Medellin?

That’s awesome and we’re jealous! Our Medellin travel guide has everything you need to plan your trip and is a great place to start. We’ve got you covered on everything from our perfect 1-4 day Medellin Itinerary to our Medellin Coffee Guide for all things coffee. Be sure to check out our favorite things to eat, drink and do in Medellin plus a video of our Top 10 Medellin experiences. Wondering how much all this will cost? We’ve got you covered with our Medellin travel costs infographic.

Have you been to Guatape? Let us know how you liked it!