Guatapé is a small Antioquian pueblo known as one of the most colorful and beautiful towns in all of Colombia.
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Before Iberian conquerors reached Antioquia in the sixteen century, the territory was inhabited by indigenous groups, and ruled by Guatapé, who was the head of the tribe and so the town was named after him.
Guatapé was founded on October 4th, 1811, and has evolved politically and economically throughout the years. Initially, it was a farming town where its economy depended on agriculture and mining activities.
1970 saw the construction of a large hydroelectric complex, which forever changed the area as it was dammed, flooding the land yet creating a beautiful network of lakes and islands. Unfortunately, several small settlements, including the original village of El Peñol, were abolished to make way for the rising waters.
Guatapé thus became one of the most important electric-producing centers in the country.
Here in the Colombian countryside stands a vast monolith towering high into the sky, millions of years old and worshipped for centuries by the Tahamí Indians, El Peñol is a sight to behold. The rock offers panoramic views of the outstanding landscape.
Over the centuries, as erosion wore down the land, one distinct patch of granite rock held its own against the blast of the elements.
The rock itself is about 70 million years old. The region surrounding the rock has a varied geological history. At one time, millions of years ago, most of Colombia was underwater, as evidenced by marine sedimentary deposits that date to that time.
Sometimes a land formation is so striking that it forms the backbone of an entire universe of religious beliefs, rituals, cultural practices, and folk yore.
The rock is culturally significant and shows how geology can affect and excite the human imagination just as much as astronomical phenomena. Stories tell of the indigenous Tahamí people worshipping the rock, and today, shrines to the Holy Mary and other religious figures mark the iconic staircase up to the top.
The Tahamí, a South American agricultural civilization ruled by hereditary chieftains, were the original inhabitants of the land. It is not known what the Tahamí contemplated about the rock, but they appear to have been impressed by it. They likely believed it to be of divine worldly origin since there is nothing like the Piedra of Guatapé in the immediate region.
Various different indigenous tribes inhabited this part of Colombia. Their origin is uncertain, as experts believe that some came from the Caribbean islands and others originated from the interior of the Amazon.
The Carib, as they were known, occupied territory in Antioquia and were recognized in smaller groups called families. Some of the most prominent native families in the region include the Catía, Nutabe, and Tahamí who all inhabited the central region of Antioquia.
The historic Quimbaya, Carib, and Muisca tribes were the most prominent groups encountered by the conquistadors upon their arrival in Antioquia.
The Spaniards had a turbulent history of happenstances with the Carib. Although the tribe was numerous and known for its warring culture, this family became subjugated and exterminated by the Spaniards. As did all the native indigenous, they suffered extremely high mortality due to newly introduced infectious Eurasian diseases, from which they had no immunity.
At present, the autochthon population of Antioquia scarcely reaches half a percentage point of the total population, even though a vast majority of locals have a significant indigenous genetic component.
The climate in Guatapé is mostly comfortable and much of the time overcast. Over the course of a year, temperatures typically vary between 57f/14c and 74f/23c and rarely dip below 54f/12c or above 79f/26c.
Rain falls throughout the year with the most rain being in May, with an average rainfall of 9.6”/243ml.
The month with the least rain in Guatapé is January, with an average rainfall of 2.6”/66ml.
The observed humidity level in Guatapé does not vary significantly over the course of the year, remaining very low.
Get all the information you need to start planning your trip to this magnificent destination, check the weather and climate facts of Medellin and its surroundings here!
Guatapé is a colorful wonder of the Andes, full of culture, clear water, and gigantic granite boulders.
Popular for its excellent fishing, scenic islands, kayaking, and effectively every water sport imaginable, including parasailing. Unsurprisingly, swimming and sunbathing are always in vogue.
There is a fantastic range of hotels/hostels around the town, many in renovated historic buildings. They cater to backpackers looking for a fun night out, water sports fans, families traveling with children, and the more sophisticated traveler. Each offers its own unique benefits.
Casa Rosa Hostel
This charming little hostel occupies an old, renovated house almost in the pueblo center. The bus stop is close by, so no one needs to worry about transport home after a late night. Guests can choose between private rooms and traditional dorms. All have access to a unique common area, a tent-covered courtyard that lets you socialize in the fresh air regardless of the elements.
Casa Encuentro Hostel Boutique
An old farmhouse with private lake access, this hostel offers a wonderful stay in a beautiful setting.
Colorful, warm, and designed for relaxation, this hostelry will suit most travelers. There are bicycles available for hire. The magical setting is made even better with great food, free breakfast and there is also a gourmet café.
Lake View Hostel
Your room comes with not just a comfortable bed, but also fantastic views. The name is a true reflection of the best of Colombia. You can enjoy the view and relax for the evening, taking some time to unwind in the bar or fantastic Thai restaurant.
Casa Galeria Guatapé
This property offers stellar views across the water, the countryside, and even the big rock. You do not have to go far to reach the water as Casa Galeria is set right on the lake.
A good hotel in a great location in the center of town. The rooms are very comfortable and clean with a minibar and a good view. Breakfast is available at a nearby restaurant and is substantial. Great value for money.
Bandeja Paisa is a traditional feast from Antioquia, which includes Guatapé. In fact, it is so well-loved that it has been adopted as Colombia’s national dish. This hearty repast usually contains white rice, red beans, ground beef, plantain, chorizo sausage, corn, pork crackling, fried egg, an arepa, and avocado.
Arepas are the most common traditional dish in Colombia and are served as a complement or a snack. Arepas can come in various ways, including arepa de chocolo (made from corn and filled with cheese), arepa con queso (filled with cheese), and arepa de huevo (an arepa with an egg inside)). Each region in Colombia has its own traditional way of making arepas.
Av. El Malecón, Guatapé
Typical Colombian paisa food. Slightly off the beaten path of the town center, this family-run restaurant has great service and delicious food to match. Portions are large so do take heed.
Specialties are chicharrón with bean soup, totally delicious! Also, the bandeja paisa, while the many fish dishes are very popular.
Casa Cuba Bar Restaurant
Cl.30 #30-232, Guatapé
Take a table here to enjoy wonderful Caribbean dishes and the views of the Church of Nuestra Senora del Carmen. Refreshing ceviche, perfectly seasoned chicken, or a generous ropa vieja (traditional Spanish dish) at Casa Cuba.
Famous for its excellent mojitos! Prices are very reasonable for what you receive.
There are many different and enthralling things to do in and around Guatapé, catering to almost everyone. Here are some ideas:
For a fabulous aerial view of the lake fly around La Piedra in a helicopter.
CLIMB LA PIEDRA DEL PENOL
702 stone steps wind around the massive rock that dominates the landscape of Guatapé. Making your way up is a sort of pilgrimage that must be done. The views overlooking the reservoir are indescribable. One of the best miradors in all of Colombia. At the summit, refreshments are available before making the descent.
Be sure to visit before 10 am or after 4 pm to miss the crowds .*Book here a private day trip to Guatape.
HIKE THE SURROUNDING HILLS
A long trek through the lush green valleys of rural Colombia is invigorating. There are trails such as Pisto Reto Quimbaya or Camino del Sinsonte that are very enjoyable.
A DAY AT THE LAKE
Experience the beautiful lake by boat, kayak, jet ski, or sailboat. There is a variety of equipment available to rent, including tours on larger vessels.
Hang-gliding, paragliding, and mountain biking are all everyday activities here. A zipline too, but it certainly is not that exciting.
THE CHURCH OF OUR LADY CARMEN
In the main plaza, surrounded by restaurants and street vendors, is an impressive colonial church.
Aside from its aesthetic beauty, this is a great place to socialize and meet other travelers.
*Visit 2 heritage towns in the department of Antioquia, learn more about Jardín & Jerico here!
Guatapé has a great selection when it comes to handmade goods. Artisans’ handcraft bags, jewelry and a variety of other items are fairly priced.
COLOURFUL DOWNTOWN STREETS
Guatapé is a labyrinth of psychedelic streets with eccentric houses and tiendas (shops). Wonderful way to spend a couple of hours.
WATERFALLS OF SAN RAFAEL
An hour from Guatapé is the small and picturesque town of San Rafael.
Celebrated for its outdoor activities, there are vibrating waterfalls, hiking trails through the jungle to swimming hollows, and cataracts.
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