Our second day trip from Medellin took us to Guatapé – another small town just a two hour ride away from Medellin by mini-van… although we are testament to the fact that with a super speedy mini-van driver it is possible to get there in an hour and a half… how good you feel on arrival is debatable though, and in reality depends on how well you can handle taking corners at VERY high speeds!?!? 😉
On arrival in the area our first stop for the day was just outside Guatapé at the famous Peñón de Guatapé (The Rock of Guatapé) – otherwise known as the Piedra del Peñol (The Rock of Peñol). Yep, usually places get one long name and then a shortened version for anyone local who can’t quite be bothered to use the official name… Here, however both are equally long as Guatapé and Peñol are names of the neighbouring towns – both of which claim the rock for themselves!
It’s easy to see why a neighbouring town would like to ‘own’ the rock – and not only for the tourist revenue it generates!?!
La Piedra (I’m trying to remain neutral by just calling it ‘The Rock’) is in fact EXTREMELY impressive and towers over the area unlike anything else in sight 🙂 The highlight of the visit is therefore clearly the view from the top of La Piedra… if however – like us – you arrive by public transport, you first have to tackle the climb to the carpark at the base of La Piedra!
Standing beneath La Piedra you can see the somewhat impressive engineering feat – yep, I’m talking about the stairs leading to the top! Looking at the side of the rock it seems impressive that they have built a stairwell into the huge vertical crack, but when you start the ascent and realise that it is in fact TWO stairwells and a sophisticated two way system (those going up are doing so completely independently of those going down) you can’t help but be in awe 🙂
It’s a pretty long way to the top – in truth I’m not sure how many steps there are to the top… somewhere between 649 and 740 depending on which online article you read… I didn’t count them on the way up (or on the way down) so I am unable to verify for sure how many steps we climbed that day… but I will say that I was a bit tired when we got to the top!?! It was however worth it – the view from the top was pretty spectacular, and even though it was pretty busy with tour groups, AND grey rainclouds were forming overhead (not sure which I liked the least) it was still worthwhile 🙂
After the descent it was time to work out how to get to the centre of Guatapé just 4km away… we decided not to walk as it might leave us short of time in Guatapé – and also VERY wet as the black rain clouds were looming in the sky! So after some time negotiating we jumped in a moto-taxi and had a dry ride to Guatapé even though it was pouring down 🙂 🙂
Guatapé turned out to be a very beautiful small town sitting on the shores of the lake that we had seen from the top of La Piedra… The waterfront area was being maintained while we were there – so water glimpses were limited for us – but we found a few spots from which you could see the water… and we also found the infamous BIG PLASTIC LETTERS spelling out Guatapé – that put a smile on our faces 🙂
To be honest though, the highlight of Guatapé was the centre of town – the main square was home to a lovely church, and the surrounding streets were filled with colourful buildings.filled with zócalos (colourful reliefs)… the zócalos in Guatapé come in all different shapes and sizes, depicting an array of images from single images of flowers and animals to more complicated scenes… Now I’m a fair-weather type of person, but even the rain didn’t stop me from admiring (and taking WAY TOO MANY pictures of) the beautiful buildings and zócalos of Guatapé 🙂
We had an awesome day in Guatapé, AND what better way than to end our day than trying a tasty sweet snack purchased from a local old lady selling them from her house!?! We had no idea what we were buying – BUT it certainly turned out well…
All that was left was to stroll to the bus station to catch a bus back to Medellin… but we couldn’t leave before we spotted one final zócalo…