The trip out to El Peñon and Guatapé from Medellin is so easy to do on public transportation that there really is no excuse not to go, even for just a day trip. It takes about 2 hours (and COP 12,000) by bus from Medellin’s Terminal del Norte, and this bus will actually drop you off at the gas station at the bottom of El Peñon – a helpful tip that was not mentioned in my guidebook. From here it’s a short uphill walk to the entrance, a COP 10,000 ticket, and you’re ready to climb 740 stairs to the top of a gigantic granite rock (the sign says 659 but to the tippy top of the tower is actually 740).
The walk went surprisingly quickly, and the entire time I was just impressed with the feat of engineering that is these steps. They’re fit into a crevice in the rock, winding back and forth as you ascend. The descent is an additional staircase further inside the rock.
The view at the top is beautiful: green mountains and a network of lakes stretch before you for miles. Colombia is stunning. Just a few days ago I was on the beach, and now I was staring at rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Amazing. After a leg-shaking-inducing trek back down, it’s easy to catch an intensely colorful little bus straight into Guatapé (only COP 3,000).
Guatapé has to be the cutest town in the world. The streets are lined with colorful houses decorated with patterns and balconies, accompanied by decorative streetlamps. Its cathedral has so much character on the outside and a beautiful wood interior accented with stained glass. Even the tuk-tuks are adorable.
And what is that delectable aroma wafting through the air? Guatapé may also be the sweetest smelling town; I wanted to immediately consume whatever was creating that smell, but had no idea what it was. If anyone out there knows, please tell me.
I can see how people want to spend more time here – the lake offers a range of activities from jetskis to ziplines to multi-tiered boats with music and chairs and tables; I can only assume those are accompanied by booze. I could have also easily just sat at an outdoor table in the main square and enjoyed an afternoon of micheladas. But for me this was only a day trip, I had friends and Thursday night in Medellin to get back to. It was well worth making the trip out though just to see this charming town and lake-filled mountainous landscape.