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Over two months of travel across Colombia, I was captivated by the country’s incredible diversity, but one place stood out—Guatape. Truthfully, I was not looking forward to going, mostly because I thought it would feel too touristy and inauthentic. I was absolutely WRONG! Guatape was hands down our FAVORITE TOWN in Colombia. It’s charming, there are tons of things to do, the restaurants are delicious, and it’s incredibly affordable. To help you plan the perfect trip, we’re sharing the best things to do in Guatape.
After spending several days in Guatape, everyone in our family was looking for ways that we could extend our trip and make it longer. Truthfully, the kids were begging to stay just a couple more days (but our rental car company didn’t feel the same way). Guatape is incredible, and I fully anticipate that within the next few years, everyone will know how incredible it is and the place will be PACKED, so go NOW, before everyone knows about it.
The streets are charming, there’s a fun mix of locals and expats, and the scenery is absolutely STUNNING! I’m certain that you’ll love your trip there just as much as we did!
Where to Stay in Guatape
While Guatape is a pretty small town, it has a huge variety of places to stay, and a very diverse amount of experiences. Generally, we’ve found that the Guatape hotels that are a little bit outside of town are nicer and more affordable. While this may require you to have a car, or to be patient with taxis/tuk tuk drivers, it’s what we recommend most! Here are the best places to stay in Guatape:
Hotel Los Recuerdo – Hands down the best place to stay in Guatape. It’s got fantastic rooms and the views of the Guatape Rock really can’t be beat.
Ecolodge Bahia del Peñón – This ecolodge has a beautiful setting and lots of different room options. It’s pretty affordable and right on the lake.
BubbleSky Guatape – Spending a night sleeping in these glamping bubbles is an absolute dream! A perfect option for a really unique lodging experience.
La Pausa Hotelbistro – Best for families! Family rooms sleep up to 6 and include your own outdoor jacuzzi, swing, lake view, and a kitchenette. So perfect for a group!
Climb Piedra de Peñol
Truthfully, I didn’t get what the hype was all about. A giant rock with a staircase, overlooking a lake…oh and it’s super crowded. I wasn’t convinced, but we did it anyway. Turns out, this was the first of many times I was wrong about Guatape. Piedra de Penol is fantastic and the views from the top are incredible. Seriously, jaw dropping type of views.
Yes, you have to go up 700 stairs to get to the top, but it really sounds worse than it is. It probably took us about 10 minutes and the kids all did great (our youngest was 6 at the time). When you get up to the top, there are lots of little restaurants, people selling souvenirs, and tables to rest. Skip them all and go straight up to the top of the watchtower where the views are the best and the crowds are the smallest.
Read Next: 15 Fun Things to Do in the Yucatan with Kids
Visit Comfama Guatape
I don’t know if I can say enough good things about Comfama Guatape, because it’s just so amazing. Shockingly, in the dozens of articles that I read about Guatape, no one mentioned Comfama, which blows my mind. Comfama is packed with amazing activities and it’s incredibly cheap to get in. Below, I’ll share some of the best things you can do at Comfama Guatape.
Read: The Complete Guide to Comfama Guatape
Water Toboggan Slide
If you love speed, adrenaline, and water, then head straight to the water toboggan slide. Located right on Lake Guatape, you’ll sit in a snow tube, while you race down the hill toward the water. Sometimes you’ll flip over once you hit the water, and other times you’ll stay pretty dry – the unknown makes it more exciting.
Tip: we found that if you have the weight more toward the back of the tube, you’re less likely to flip over.
Play On The Floating Obstacle Course
We absolutely love Sibit floating obstacle courses and Comfama Guatape has the largest one we’ve ever seen. Just for kids ages 6 and up, all participants must wear a life jacket, which is a good thing since you’re going to fall in (don’t worry, the water is a great temperature year round).
Go Kayaking or Paddle Boating
If you want to explore more of the lake on your own, you can get a paddle boat or a kayak at Comfama and paddle around the lake. This is a great way to get away from the crowds and relax in Guatape.
Try Stand Up Paddleboarding
If you haven’t tried Stand Up Paddleboarding yet, this is the place to do it. Comfama has lots of SUPs that visitors can use to hone their paddle skills. While they don’t let you go very far away, it’s a great introduction to the sport.
Cool Down in the Splash Pad
If you’re visiting Guatape on a hot day, the splash pad at Comfama is the best way to cool down. It’s perfect for all ages, but it’s especially great for little kids who can’t go on the water obstacle course.
Paragliding in Guatape is absolutely AMAZING. It was the highlight of our trip for the kids and likely will be a core memory for them for the rest of their lives (it was their first time paragliding). The best thing about paragliding in Guatape is that the views are absolutely AMAZING!
From the moment we flew into Medellin, we were just blown away by the incredible mountains and valleys in Colombia, so getting an aerial view of Guatape while paragliding is the best way to see the area. We went paragliding with Paragliding Guatape and had an amazing experience, and I highly recommend flying with them. They allow kids ages 5 and older to go paragliding with them. On top of that, it was incredibly affordable. We’ve gone paragliding before and it was well over $200 per person. Here, we took our whole family paragliding for less than the cost of 2 people in other places. It’s a great value and so beautiful to go paragliding in Guatape.
Swim in the River in San Rafael
About 45 minutes outside of Guatape is the small town of San Rafael. Truthfully, the town isn’t anything special, but the nearby river is the perfect reason to come here. There are several spots where you can stop along the river and swim, and it’s just the perfect place to relax and soak up some nature for the day. Where we stopped, there was a combination of shallow and deep areas, and even a little diving board, which was perfect for the kids. The water was cool but comfortable, so even the little ones had no problem spending a couple of hours in and out of the water.
You can go all the way out to La Cristalina, but you really don’t need to go quite that far to just find some great swimming holes. Check out the closer options at Las Tangas or El Trocadero. We opted for Las Tangas, since it’s the closest swimming option to San Rafael and it was perfect for all ages.
Hop on a Tuk Tuk Ride
Taking a Tuk Tuk ride through Guatape’s colorful streets is an experience unlike any other. While most towns have taxis to get around the preferred way to get around Guatape is by tuk tuk. All the tuk tuks that we saw were brightly colored and the drivers were lively, so it’s a great way to get around the city. Taking a Guatape Tuk Tuk is a perfect, leisurely way to explore the town’s vibrant Zocalos—painted reliefs on the lower part of the houses that tell tales of local life and folklore.
Relax at the Central Square
The central square, also known as the Plaza Mayor, is a charming place to relax and soak in Guatape’s slow-paced life. With all the fun things to do around Guatape, taking a little bit of time to slow down will be a much needed change of pace. With its quaint colonial architecture, brightly painted buildings, and lots of restaurants, it’s an ideal spot to people-watch, read, or simply unwind. If you’re traveling with kids, this is a great place to get the kids an ice cream and let them run around for a while.
Try Fresa con Crema
As you wander through Guatape, you’ll come across numerous street vendors selling ‘Fresa con Crema’—a delightful dessert of fresh strawberries topped with cream. Our favorite also tios the strawberries with meringue and sweet sauces, and it’s a great Guatape dessert.
Enjoy the Lake
With Guatape Reservoir dominating the landscape, you can’t really come to Guatape without spending some time at the lake. Without a doubt, the best way to do that is at Comfama Guatape with all of the included activities. You can rent kayaks at the Malecon for about $20,000 COP per hour (more than the entrance fee to Comfama), and if you want to jet ski, rentals are about $100,000 COP per hour.
Wander the Colorful Streets of Guatape
The streets of Guatape are a kaleidoscope of colors. It’s hands down the most beautiful Colombian town, and everyone works hard to preserve the city’s colorful and charming ambience. Each building is adorned with bright murals, depicting stories and scenes from local history and culture. Wandering these streets is like walking through an open-air art gallery, and is something that the whole family will enjoy.
Tip: If you want to take pictures on the streets without other people there make sure to be out before 8am.
Eat ALL the Guatape Desserts
Guatape is a haven for dessert lovers. Truthfully, the number of yummy dessert shops is shocking…and wonderful! We all tried different desserts each night and were not disappointed with a single one.
Here are some of the best dessert shops in Guatape:
Guatacrepe – out of this world crepes also amazing for brunch and an early dinner
Zocarolls – several varieties of sweet rolls that are so yummy!
Lila – Best frozen yogurt
Picocono – Incredibly delicious gelato. It’s a little expensive but so worth the price!
Merengon – Best strawberries and meringue.
Obleas – Wafer street food sold all over – filled with caramel, cream, and jam – cheap and delicious.
Explore Plazoleta de Los Zócalos
This square, with its vibrant, decorated steps, is a popular photo spot. Climb up the steps, take in the view, and then enjoy a treat in one of the charming cafes around. The area is especially beautiful in the evening when it’s lit up. There are regularly musicians and street performers here in the evenings.
Shop at Local Artisan Shops
Guatape is home to numerous artisan shops where you can find a range of handmade products, from jewelry to pottery. Shopping here is a great way to support local artisans and take home a piece of Guatape’s culture. Guatape has the most diverse offering of souvenirs that we saw anywhere in Colombia, so if you’re looking to take home something special, Guatape is the place to shop!
Go Hiking in Guatape
Guatape’s surrounding countryside is a paradise for hikers. If you’re willing to get off the beaten path, there are some incredibly beautiful hikes near Guatape. Trails like Pisto Reto Quimbaya or Camino del Sinsonte offer a great opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, admire the local flora and fauna, and get some exercise. The hiking trails in Guatape can get pretty steep, so make sure to wear a good pair of hiking shoes, or sturdy athletic sandals with good traction.
Visit the Church of Our Lady of Carmen
A beautiful symbol of Guatape’s religious heritage, the Church of Our Lady of Carmen is well worth a visit. Its striking white facade stands in contrast to the town’s multicolored buildings, creating a serene ambiance. Step inside to admire the lovely stained glass windows. This is right next to the central square so a visit should be short and sweet.
Dinner Boat Cruise
This is one thing that we wished we had time for in Guatape, but we just couldn’t squeeze in. We didn’t know how great the cruises on Lake Guatape were until our last day, and everyone said it’s one of the best things to do in Guatape. Enjoy a meal while floating along the serene waters, surrounded by the twinkling lights of the town. It’s a unique dining experience and an unforgettable way to appreciate Guatape’s beauty.
How Kid-Friendly is Guatape? Best Things To Do With Kids in Guatape Colombia
Guatape is undoubtedly a family-friendly destination. The town is safe, the locals are warm and welcoming, and there’s a wide range of activities suitable for all ages. We traveled with our 5 kids ages 6-16 when we visited and everything was perfect for kids those ages. After asking them for their own input, here is what they recommend:
Visit Comfama Guatape
Over and over again, each of our kids said that Comfama is the best thing to to in Guatape. We spent just an afternoon there but could have very easily spent a full day or more at Comfama Guatape. There’s tons to do and it’s incredibly affordable!
Go Paragliding in Guatape
Each of our kids had their first paragliding experience in Guatape and it was just perfect. The views are stunning and the rides are the perfect length for beginners,
Head to San Rafael for the swimming holes
Our kids always appreciate downtime and there was plenty of that on our swimming day in San Rafael.
Eat Dessert – ALL THE DESSERT
There are no shortage of dessert options in Guatape and our kids were in HEAVEN being able to have so many choices. Mom and dad loved that it was all affordable and in close proximity to everything else.
Hike The Guatape Rock
While all of our kids liked hiking up the Guatape Rock, it wasn’t the highlight of their trip. In fact, I was shocked that they ranked it so low. It’s a cool view, it just wasn’t as great for them as some of the other experiences we had.
Play at the Playground, Juegos para Ninos, Guatape Cancha
The playground in Guatape was surprisingly good. It’s right across the street from the Guatacrepe restaurant so the kids can play while you keep an eye on them while waiting for your food.
Best Places to Eat in Guatape
Guatape has a huge amount of restaurants for the small population. That’s fantastic news for visitors since it means that you can get a wide variety of dining options, AND since there are so many restaurants, you can usually get a table right away. The odd thing is that EVERY RESTAURANT that we ate at had super slow service. Every. Single. One. And the odd part was that it wasn’t just because we have a large family. One place, we were the first people there when they opened up, and we waited over an hour for our food. A single guy came in right after us, and his food took over an hour to come out as well. If you’re going to a sit down restaurant in Guatape, give yourself plenty of time. Here are the best restaurants in Guatape.
Guatacrepe – Really amazing savory crepes that are HUGE and stuffed full.
Thai Terrace – Good Thai food, but not as mind-blowing as most reviewers say. Worth a visit if you like Asian food.
El Patito Modesto – Fresh European fusion menu – really delicious options.
Antonia Italian Food – Fantastic Italian food, with lots of options. The lasagne is especially good.
Namaste – Vegan restaurant with lots of good breakfast options. The smoothies are really great here.
NY Pizza – The best option if you want your food FAST! The pizza is great, and the frozen yogurt is really yummy as well.
Guatape is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Medellin, which takes approximately 2 hours by car or bus.
Absolutely YES! While there are lots of fun little things to do right nin town, if you want to really get into nature and see more of the surrounding area, or stop at any of the cute towns on the way to Guatape, you should absolutely rent a car. Car rentals are very affordable from Guatape and it gives you a lot more freedom to see more of Guatape.
Yes, Guatape is a popular day trip from Medellin due to its proximity. However, you won’t be able to do a lot in just one day (it’s a 2 hour drive each way, which limits the amount of time you can actually spend in Guatape.
At a minimum, you should spend 2 days in Guatape, and to really enjoy some of the surrounding areas, I recommend 3 days.
There’s plenty to do in Guatape, from climbing the famous Piedra del Peñol and enjoying the panoramic views, to paragliding, hiking, kayaking and swimming.
Yes, Guatape is generally considered safe for tourists. As always, take usual travel precautions like watching your belongings and staying aware of your surroundings. Overall, it felt like one of the safest places in Colombia, and we felt significantly safer in Guatape than in Medellin.
While the climb to the top of the Piedra del Peñol is not overly strenuous, it does require climbing over 600 steps. You don’t need to be in peak physical condition, but a moderate level of fitness will make the climb more enjoyable. I mean, our 6-year-old did it and didn’t take a break, so as long as you can keep pace with a grade schooler, you’ll be fine.
Guatape’s weather is fairly mild and temperate due to its altitude. Average temperatures range from 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C) year-round. However, it can be quite rainy, so it’s a good idea to pack rain gear.
Given the mild weather, comfortable, casual clothing is appropriate for Guatape. If you plan on climbing the Piedra del Peñol, wear sturdy shoes. And don’t forget a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect against the sun.
It also frequently rains in Guatape, so a rain jacket is always a good idea.