Day Tripping from Medellín: Guatapé and Piedra del Peñol

If you have already read my blog post about our time in Medellín, you know we spent the second day traveling to the nearby town of Guatapé and the geographical tourist attraction that is Piedra del Peñol. Talk about a work out! After reading blog post after blog post about day trips you can take from Medellín, we decided Guatapé and la Piedra were our best bet. So, let’s talk about it!

Leaving from one of the bus stations in Medellín with a one-way ticket (Terminal del Norte if I can remember correctly), we caught a bus headed towards Guatapé (though technically the final stop was further on, but nonetheless it was heading in the right direction). The bus makes several stops throughout the countryside before reaching the Piedra del Peñol about 1.5 hours later. The particular bus we took dropped us off on the side of the road, next to a small gas station at the foot of the hill. So before we could even start the descent that is climbing the Rock, we had to hike up a hill to get there. However, writing this in isolation during the pandemic even has me missing sweating in the Colombian sun, climbing the hill and needing several breathing breaks…oh how the turn tables.

There are tour buses that take you to the parking lot directly next to the Rock but we’re not exactly sure which ones did that? However, if you’ve rented a car, you can park in the parking lot alongside the tour buses! Less walking, that’s for sure! The parking lot also sits along a marketplace and restaurant area where you can purchase hats and sunglasses to protect you from the very hot sun, as well as ice cream and alcoholic beverages to either give you a boost to climb the stairs or to treat yourself when you get down. At the very bottom of the rock is the ticket office to purchase your ticket to ascend the stairs. As of December 2019, the price per person was 18,000 COP.

The Rock of Guatapé rises 657 feet in the air and boasts 659 steps to reach the top. The winding stairs to the top allow plenty of room to take breaks and pass those taking breaks, so do not worry about it if you aren’t in the best shape (I certainly am not!!). Once you reach the top (I want to say it took us about 40ish minutes going up and maybe 10-15 minutes going down?), there is a man-made castle-like structure that offers a higher-up viewing point but it was so crowded that we did not see how it could possibly give us an even better view than we already had.

There are a few restaurants on top that sell snacks, drinks and ice cream. There are also restrooms if you need a bathroom break. The top offers a nice view but we did not stay for too long. We got our pictures, caught our breath and headed back down.

La Piedra and the town of Guatapé are pretty close together. To get there, you can wait for a bus to pass by (like the one we got off of) or take a moto taxi. The moto taxi drivers will stand next to you while you’re waiting to catch the bus to convince you take to ride with them instead but we passed on that fun experience…

Guatapé reminded me a little bit of the town of Salento in Quindío. It was small, colorful and full of tourists, shops and Menu del Día deals. We walked around for over an hour, browsing the artisan booths in the square, wondering inside the central church and walking the streets to take pictures of the brightly painted buildings. A LOT of the blog posts I read talked about fun photoshoots in the brightly colored streets so might I make a suggestion if that is your main goal for going: do that first and THEN do the Rock later. You will be so sweaty…your hair will be so frizzy…(I mean, in my experience) that you won’t have a very successful Instagram picture.

There is also a marina in Guatapé with a waterfront shopping area. The shopping area had probably the nicest bathroom I used while in Colombia. You had to pay a couple hundred pesos to use it (which I hadn’t spent money to use a bathroom since my European days) but I gotta say, it was worth it. God, I do not miss my Colombian parasite (or do I? Quarantine weight gain is going swimmingly, thanks for asking). The bus station is right across the road from this area. This is where you can buy a one-way ticket back to Medellín!

Overall, our day trip was a pretty laid back day apart from the great workout! Not sure that we’d ever do it again when we go back to Colombia but I’m glad we were able to do it then. My next post will be all about THE BEACH! As in Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, one of the most famous national parks and beaches in Colombia. I talk about how to get there, how many days you should stay, the best beaches, how to not worry about the footlong lizard under your tent and how NOT to get lost in the jungle when it’s pitch black at 5 in the morning.

Also a quick note I want to make: it may seem strange to write about travel during a time like this. The future of our world is SO incredibly unknown. Once we get out of this, our world is going to be a very different place than the one we knew two months ago. I don’t know when tourism will be back. I don’t know when we can gather in groups again. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I do know, for me, writing is a great way to express myself and enjoy a little piece of my day. I also like the idea of reading and watching travel blogs and videos as a way to dream of better days and inspire future trips (no matter how far in the future that might be). So, I hope you understand why I’m choosing to still write about travel during a time like this. Times are scary y’all, so don’t forget to take care of yourself, check in on your family and friends and find a way to channel your energy, fears or frustration into something healthy (for me, that has 100% been Animal Crossing: New Horizons–WHAT A GAME!!).

Stay safe out there and thanks for reading!

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