This post contains affiliate links.
Medellin is a fantastic base for your travels in Colombia because there are so many amazing day trips from the city. I’ve done plenty of them during my six-month stay, but Guatape, Colombia is undoubtedly my favorite. I enjoyed it so much that I returned again not once but twice when my family and friends came to visit!
Are you ready to see this colorful town for yourself?
Use this guide to learn exactly how to visit Guatape and see the lakes, climb the rock, explore the streets, and even visit the ruins of Pablo Escobar’s mansion!
Expect a lot of color (and picture-perfect Instagram shots) in Guatape, Colombia
How to Get from Medellin to Guatape
Guatape is one of the most popular Medellin day trips, and for good reason. It’s only a two-hour bus ride away from the city but it boasts an incredibly unique and breathtaking landscape.
To get from Medellin to Guatape you have to catch a bus at the Terminal del Norte bus station. You can take the metro to the Caribe stop and walk to the bus station from there, or just take an Uber or taxi. Ticket booths line the wall and you’ll see “Guatape” labeled on the sign above the one you need.
The buses leave fairly regularly, at least every hour, so there’s no need to book ahead. We had three ticket choices when we got to the counter: El Peñol, La Piedra, and Guatapé. It costs 4 usd to get to El Peñol, and the others are each about 30 cents more than the last.
El Penol is a small town and there’s really no reason to visit it. Instead, buy your ticket to La Piedra (the rock) because that’s your first stop on this day trip!
The view from the top of La Piedra rock
What to Do in Guatape, Colombia
After a two-hour journey, our bus driver stopped at a small cluster of shops near La Piedra rock and it was time to get our show on the road. Follow in our footsteps to do these three things in Guatape!
1. Climb La Piedra
La Piedra is a giant rock and the main tourist attraction in Guatape, Colombia.
From the bus stop there’s both a staircase and a road leading to the bottom of the rock and either one will work. Once we got to La Piedra, there were plenty of restaurants and a small marketplace to explore (aka buy snacks at) before gearing up for the climb to the top.
The rock has 740 steps snaking up its side and is actually believed to be a meteorite by some. It’s a plausible explanation, because the rest of the land around it is flat lakes, and the monstrous rock rising out of them is very out of place. Whatever it is, we were determined to make it to the top!
The climb took about 25 minutes (with a few rest breaks of course) and once we reached the peak the view was phenomenal. You honestly won’t believe you’re still in Colombia. The surrounding blue-green lakes are so vibrant that no photo will ever do it justice (although I’ll certainly take at least a hundred, just in case).
The smattering of shops and vendors at the top make it a perfect little place to grab a beer (you earned it!) and spend some time in the sun before making the long descent.
Guatape greeting us with a riot of color
2. Explore the Town of Guatape
After the climb we hopped into a tuk-tuk and paid 2 usd to continue to the town of Guatape, which is about a 10-minute ride away. I honestly don’t know what I enjoyed more, climbing the rock or exploring the small pueblo. Every home was decorated with ornate wood carvings and painted with the brightest colors.
Guatape, Colombia really has to be one of the most cheerful towns I’ve ever seen. The center is marked with a large square and a beautiful church, and it’s surrounded by lots of cobbled winding side streets to get lost on. We also enjoyed a walk along the lakefront and eating a lazy lunch in the sun!
Bombed out shell of Pablo Escobar’s old mansion in Guatape
3. Visit the Ruins of Pablo Escobar’s Mansion
If you have time, hop on one of many tour boats dotting the lakeside to take a trip out to Pablo Escobar’s home. His property is a 30-minute ride away, and the mansions built on the surrounding islands make for a beautiful trip.
We got a quick tour when we arrived. Pablo’s home included his own private discotech (which still runs today), as well as the bombed out shell of his favorite mansion, stables, private soccer field, and more.
The place was destroyed in 1993 by the Colombian Search Bloc just a few months before Pablo’s death, and the eerie ruins are all that is left of his legacy in Guatape today.
I am planning to return to Guatape again soon because the pueblo is so relaxing and beautiful that I didn’t want to leave – I have to say, Guatape just may be my favorite place in Colombia so far!
Want to turn your day trip into a weekend escape? Click here to book your stay in Guatape!
Garden in Santa Fe de Antioquia
Bonus Day Trip from Medellin: Santa Fe de Antioquia
If you spend any time talking to the locals in Medellin, you’ll be asked over and over again if you’ve made the trip to visit Santa Fe yet. The small colonial pueblo is one of the most popular day trips from Medellin because it’s only an hour and a half outside of the city. Finally, we had so many Uber drivers insist that we visit that we couldn’t put it off any longer.
How to Get to Santa Fe de Antioquia
To get to Santa Fe, we had to first go to the Terminal del Norte bus station. From there, it’s easy to find the Occidente ticket booth and buy tickets for the next bus out. I’m not sure how often they leave, but we ended up getting ours 5 minutes before the noon departure, which was great. Also great – they only cost 3.25 usd each.
The bus ride was fairly uneventful, with some sweeping mountain views to help the time pass. Once we finally reached Santa Fe, it was only a quick walk down the street to the outskirts of the cobbled, colonial town.
What to do in Santa Fe de Antioquia
Santa Fe was actually the capital of Antioquia until 1826 when it was moved to Medellin, and the town still holds an air of pride about it. To me, it felt like Santa Fe takes itself more seriously than the other pueblos in the country.
Unlike the colorful old towns of Guatapé and Cartagena, Santa Fe is starkly white all the way through. A few splashes of flowers here and there give the city some color, but the rest of the churches and homes are strictly white, giving the town a more formal feel than I’m used to in Colombia.
However, I still think Santa Fe is an interesting day trip from Medellin because of its many gorgeous colonial churches scattered around the small pueblo. I counted four on our first walkthrough, and I’m sure there are many that I missed. If you don’t want to hit up a mass or two, however, there are other options to pass the time, and fortunately for me, those options include my three favorite things: eating, drinking, and exploring.
After a huge seafood lunch at the colorful and quirky Porton Del Parque, (washed down with coco locos of course) we hit the town. Because Santa Fe is at a lower elevation (almost 3,000 feet!) than Medellin, the temperature was much hotter, and we soaked up some much-needed sun. Wandering through the little parks and plazas, up and down the hilly cobbled streets, and enjoying the surrounding mountain views was a perfect way to spend a day in my book.
Escaping to sunny Santa Fe was the perfect start to my weekend and a much-needed break from the early onset of the dreary rainy season in Medellin. If you want to do nothing for a day, Santa Fe is a beautiful place to do so!
Want to turn your day trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia into a weekend escape? Click here to book your stay in Santa Fe!
Plan the rest of your trip with the Colombia Series, where you’ll find 10 things to do in the Medellin and a guide to 3 easy hikes outside the city. Plus, learn how to create your own DIY Poblado bar crawl and much more!