Guide To Guatape, Colombia: Things To Do

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GUATAPE | Guatape is a town and municipality in Antioquia Department, Colombia, and is popular with visitors looking to do a day trip out of Medellin, which is about a two hour drive away.

It’s a city with quite the history. It was originally inhabited by several indigenous ethnic groups. “Guatape” is a Quechuan word related to “stones and water”. Post Spanish colonisation in 1811, the town’s primary industries were livestock, agriculture and mining. In the 1970s a large hydroelectric complex was built in the area and much of Guatape’s surrounds were dammed. Many long standing industries became impossible to perform and the town, while becoming an energy production centre, fell on hard times.

Today, the area is undergoing another transformation, with a focus on eco tourism and various activities for visitors to partake in. Guatape is still very much a town in transition, but there’s a lot to reward visitors who make the trip. Here are a few of the things to do when in Guatape.

Climb El Peñón De Guatapé (El Peñol)

El Peñón de Guatapé (El Peñol), is a 200 metre (650ft) granite monolith located just outside the town of Guatape. 659 brick steps take you to the summit and once you reach the top you’re treated to a brilliant 360 degree view of Guantape’s surrounding lakes and islands. A further 81 steps gets you to the top of the structure atop the rock.

Take A Lake Boat Ride

The damming of Guatape meant that much of the area’s arable land, and a few small villages, were lost, however an upside to this was the creation of several beautiful lakes. The water is crystal clear and there are hundreds of tiny islands full of luscious vegetation to wind your way through.

Admire The City’s Colourful Zocalos

Most of the buildings in Guatape are decorated with fresco-like tiles and plaques called zocalos. It’s a tradition that dates back to the early 1900s (nobody knows why) but has really taken off in recent years as a way to beautiful the city and attract visitors. The zocalos feature an assortment of things. Some advertise what the business inside is, for example a baker might have a zocolo of someone baking bread, while others tell stories, or commemorate historical residents and events. They’re beautiful, and part of why many call Guatape the most colourful town in the world. Calle de los Recuerdos, a steep cobblestone street is a great place to admire some zocalos, as is Plaza de Zocalos.

Enjoy Some Colombian Coffee

It’s not a revelation to say that Colombia is home to some of the best coffee producing regions in the world, and Antioquia Department is one of these regions. The coffee grown here is exceptional, but it can actually be hard to find good coffee in Guatape due to the fact that historically locals have had to drink tinto – that is, the low quality beans that aren’t good enough for the export market. In recent years things have changed however, and there are now places where you can find quality coffee in town. Visit Momoto Cafe (formerly Black Hole), for coffee brewed in a variety of ways. Their plain coffee is fantastic, as are their espresso based concoctions.

Eat Local Delicacies

Avoid the restaurants by the waterfront and instead eat at some of the hole in the wall spots frequented by locals in the centre of town. Helados (ice-cream), empanadas and arepas await, just follow your nose and the locals. There’s even great vegetarian and vegan food in town too.

People Watch

Guatape is extremely slow paced – a world away from the hustle and bustle of Medellin. Once you’re done exploring, head to the town’s main square. It’s full of park benches, some greenery, and has Guatape’s Catholic church,Parroquia Nuestra Senora Del Carmen, on one side. It’s a perfect spot to sit under the sun, relax, and watch the daily life of the town unfold.

Get Involved In Extreme Sports

Extreme sports isn’t really my thing but Guatape is really making an effort to attract those who are into it. Whether it’s jetskiing, hang-gliding, paragliding, flyboarding, kayaking, mountain biking, motorcycling, or more, you can do it in Guatape and its surrounds.

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Paul
Paul founded The City Lane back in 2009 as a place to share photos of his travels around Europe with friends and family. The City Lane might have changed quite a lot since those early days but one thing that’s remained constant is Paul’s passion for food, travel and culture, and a desire to photograph and write about his experiences.Paul has a strong inquisitive nature that drives him to look beneath the surface in order to discover what really makes a city and its people tick, and what better way to do this than over a good meal or drink, with a city’s locals, at places that people who live in that city actually frequent. Paul is also a co-host of The Brunswick Beer Collective, a podcast that may or may not actually be about beer.

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