Last Updated on April 4, 2019 by Bryony Clapperton
A quick trip to the man made lagoons of Guatape, Colombia. Situated two hours east of Medellin just like the local Colombian’s do.
We found ourselves in Guatape, a once deprived declining tourism destination now a regeneration fantasy with colourful buildings to match.
During the holidays and on weekends Colombians and backpackers flood the colourful streets of Guatape.
Pablo Escobar used to holiday and own properties here once upon a time. I can only assume the demise of his operations had something to do with demise of Guatapè, but that’s just speculation.
Where is Guatape, Colombia
Guatape is located in the Antioquia Department of Colombia. It’s only a couple of hours from the popular city of Medellin and many people take a Guatape tour from the city.
The lake of Guatape, Colombia is peaceful and the surrounding areas are calm and quiet.
The houses and buildings have been brightly painted as part of a plan by the Colombian government to attract more tourism to the area. The lagoon/lake is also man made.
There is just enough nature and just enough settlement to compliment the man-made lagoons. Most backpackers come here to photograph the colourful buildings, as you can see we did too!
Tours and day trips to Guatape from Medellin are common. This is due to the location of Guatape and how accessible it is from Medellin. You can take a quick and easy bus from Medellin for as little as a a dollar.
If you want to take a Guatape tour from Medellin you can easily organise this from your hostel or do it independently like we did.
We chose to take the second class bus to the man made lagoons of Guatapè expect to pay no more than $5-$6.
We travelled from Caribe station and took a taxi from The Zona Rosa where we were staying in Medellin.
Things to do in Guatape, Colombia
There are so many activities to discover in Guatapè.
- You can boat here on the lake
- Do lots of water sports and other fun adventure activities
- Eat a lot of barbecued meats at the many restaurants
- Enjoy the brightly coloured buildings and streets
- Go fishing on the lake side
- Try your hand at a huge zip line
- Hike the surrounding area
Most of the Colombian families arriving in Guatapè fill up the boats quickly. Book an afternoon tour to avoid an overcrowded boat, but make sure this is on your list of things to do in Guatape.
The man-made lake
The man-made lagoons are filled with fish, so you can fish here like many of the locals do. Some even camp on the side of the lake.
Several years ago Guatape, Colombia was left to ruin, the lack of tourism meant the streets were empty for most of the year and the lack of activities didn’t draw any locals let alone backpackers.
The regeneration efforts in Guatape are a triumph to Colombia and Colombian tourism. The lake and regeneration of the local area now attracts a steady and growing flow of city folk and backpacker.
The colourful town
Th regeneration of the centre which is the colourful central square in Guatape. Has led to a specific type of niche tourism as photographers, influencers and backpackers visit the are to snap some pics.
The investment in the colourful buildings has led to the streets being once again filled with colour and that familiar buzz of tourism in a once declining town.
Although small there are a lot of shops, restaurants and bars around the central area. Check out the great pizza place called Pizzeria Luiji.
There are some great bars around the central town and a few independently owned crafts shops worth taking a look at. There is also a lovely authentic church in this area and during the evening it is often lit up making it a must see.
El Penol de Guatape
El Penol also known as that really big rock with lots of steps and incredible views. Is a 10-15 minute journey from Guatape, Colombia but the trip can be done as a day trip from Medellin.
You can take a motor tuk-tuk from the central plaza in Guatapè to El Penol. Taxis and tuk tuks can only take you to the ticket barrier and you must enter alone.
From there you can buy your ticket and join the masses up the long and winding steps of El Penol. Expect to pay around $5 for the ticket and the same for the taxi.
Escobar and Guatape
Escobar was a regular visitor of Guatape, you can visit his lake side home whilst on a boat or Guatape tour.
Many people stopped visiting Guatape duing these days as they believe it was unsafe. People stopped coming and when Escobar also stopped coming Guatape was left behind.
As part of the regeneration plan with the lake and colourful streets, the Colombian government have invested in this area to support changing its repuation.
This is a reputation among locals and tourists alike.
Why you should visit Guatape
Guatape is a small but quirky destination. There are enough restaurants for tourists not to get bored. There is also just the right number of hostels for the backpacker presence in town.
The fishing in Guatapè draws in some crowds but most visit for the market stalls and water sports at cut prices.
The main centre is small but well kept. The buildings are painted in vibrant colours as are the tuk tuks. As mentioned this is part of the rejuvination efforts.
It’s impressive as someone who has a passion for tourirm to watch before you the reinvention of such a unique lakeside town.
The concept of a man-made lake system is quite new to me. But Guatapè owns this well and the scenery does look very natural. I can see why Guatapè is always refereed to as an area of natural beauty.
Around the main town each building is brightly painted representing an aspect of Colombian culture. It’s so blissful to walk the stone cobbled streets and check out all the brightly coloured homes.
Many new up and coming backpacker hostels are also attractive to tourists coming to Guatape and more are springing up as tourism in this area grows.
Guatape is unlikely to be your favourite place in Colombia but it is certainly worth taking a Guatape tour from Medellin.