07 June 2018

Beyond the Peñol: 5 Things to Do When Visiting Guatapé, Colombia

Posted in Blog

Located in Antioquia about two hours' away from Medellin, Colombia, the tiny town of Guatapé is most famous for La Piedra de Peñol, a giant natural monolith which rises high out of a man-made lake below, but there's plenty to do other than climbing the giant rock. Here are five more things to do when visiting Guatapé: 

Guatape, Colombia

Explore the Narrow, Colorful Streets

An afternoon stroll around the small town of Guatapé is a pleasure for the visual senses, where storefronts and houses burst with every color of the rainbow, accenting details of the unique Pueblo de Zócalos, another name given to Guatapé for its status as a trading town for farmers. Feast your eyes on decorative, square-shaped borders around small thematic paintings featuring modes of transportation, patterns, symbols, and even Disney characters. Be sure to bring your camera and take plenty of photos as you discover these intricate, often humorous, works of art unique to the narrow streets of Guatapé.

Shop the Kiosks of the Malecón

Souvenir-seekers will love the kiosks set up along the malecón, where vendors sell everything from small household gadgets and handmade sandals to wide-brimmed hats and fine-woven ruanas: ponchos traditional to the Paisa style of people living in Antioquia. Ruanas are loose-fitting but warm, especially when made of lana - sheep's wool - and are also available in cotton. If shopping isn't on your agenda, enjoy the simple food or drinks available on the malecón, including the arepa de choclo, a slightly-sweet, corn-flour pancake browned and served with slices of delicious white cheese or a mango margarita made with tart green mango, tequila, fresh lime and salt.

Guatape, Colombia

Enjoy a Meal on the Main Plaza

If wandering through Guatapé, Colombia works up an appetite, head over to the main plaza where several restaurants line the historic town center. Take in the view of the large, carved fountain and beautiful Iglesia de Nuestra Carmen Catholic Church as you savor a nice meal. Try the baneja paisa, or “countryman's tray”: a large plate full of Colombian cuisine featuring sweet plantains, white rice, saucy beans, and several meats including morcilla (black blood sausage), chorizo (sausage), and chicharron (fried pork skin), as well as avocado, fried egg and an arepa. With Guatapé's specialty being fresh lake trout, you may also want to try the daily catch, typically served with rice and salad. Whatever you choose, there's no question the people-watching from an outdoor table on the plaza is a perfect complement to your satisfying meal.

Hike the Mountains, Boat the Lake

For those seeking physical activity or adventure, book a tour with a local guide and hike to the nearby waterfalls. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and bring obvious essentials like insect repellent and drinkable water. The hike takes about four hours of walking through both open fields and shady forest paths before reaching the waterfall, which lies at the end of the trickling stream that appears occasionally along the hike. Take note that you will have to wade in some knee-to-waist deep water at a few points; for safety reasons, it's best to go with at least one other person. If you prefer a more relaxing experience, hire a boat and float along the lake, where you'll enjoy a picturesque view of the small town and its colorful buildings and rooftops. Group sails are available, as well as hiring smaller boats for two to eight people, for a more intimate experience.

Guatape, Colombia

Horseback Ride to the Monastery Santa Maria de la Epifania

If hiking isn't your thing, opt instead to rent a horse for a few hours and, accompanied by a local vaquero (cowboy, or owner of the horse), explore the rocky terrain along wide dirt roads winding through the mountains and up to the Monastery Santa Maria de la Epifania. Bring some small bills if you want to purchase religious items for sale inside the monastery, and plan for at least two hours to appreciate the area. Most horses are equipped with a saddle, bridle, and blanket, and the ride itself is inexpensive. Try to go early, when the air is crisp, and the view as the morning fog lifts across thick green meadows. Whatever you choose to do during your holiday in Colombia, you're sure to enjoy the pleasures of Guatapé, having seen the spectacular area in and around the famous Peñol.


About the author:

Kate Dana is an independent writer and international educator with five years' experience living and working abroad. She enjoys cooking, traveling and staying connected with friends around the world. Find her online at www.katedana.com