How to take a day trip to Guatape and La Piedra del Peñol without paying for a tour. Join us for the perfect day trip from Medellin!
How to Take the Perfect Day Trip to Guatape
One of the best parts about living in Medellin as a digital nomad is that you get to experience the best of both worlds. In our day to day, we get to roam around the city, complete with unique cafes, diverse culture, traffic, a robust international food scene, and energy. However, if you’re craving a bit of greenery, a bit of nature and serenity, that too is just around the corner.
If you google “Things to do in Medellin” or walk by any of the local tour shops, one of the most recommend trips is a day trip to Guatape and the magnificent Piedra del Peñol, a massive rock that sits 650 feet above the ground.
With tours ranging anywhere between $40-$100 per person, we decided it would be cool to make our own tour. What would our day look like if we experienced it on our own? We could stop where we wanted, do what we wanted, and spend as much/as little time wherever we wanted along the way. If you visit Medellin, then Guatape is an absolute must. However, we recommend doing it at your own pace. It’s less expensive and more fun.
Here’s how to take a day trip Guatape and La Piedra your own way:
Rent a Car in Medellin
Renting a car in Medellin is as easy as doing it in the U.S. We used Localiza, and were able to schedule our rental via Whatsapp. When we got to the car rental location, we gave them our international driver’s permit, passport, and telephone number. The care cost about $30 per day with unlimited mileage.
Just be sure you can drive a stick shift! It takes about 1.5 hours to drive to Guatape, and there are a couple of inexpensive tolls along the way.
La Piedra del Peñol
We recommend getting to the rock as early as possible, as it gets quite crowded towards the middle of the day. We arrived around 8 am, although it was our goal to get their much earlier.
If you like photography, you will be able to see the rock from your drive in, about 20-30 minutes before you arrive. There are some absolutely beautiful shots worth taking, especially in the morning. Be sure to keep an eye out for an artistic vista to photograph the rock from afar.
Once you arrive, it’s easy to find out where to go. After all, it’s pretty hard to miss the rock. The base of the rock has tons of cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops for before or after your climb.
The ascent takes about 15 minutes and while it is a pretty steep climb, it’s over quickly. There are bathrooms, gift shops, and places to grab a beer/drink/snack at the top. Besides the mango micheladas, you’ll be absolutely blown away by the view. The rock overlooks miles of emerald-green waters dotted with tiny islands that were created after the region flooded due to a hydroelectric dam. We stayed at the top for about 45 minutes, soaking in the views, taking pictures, and marveling at what Mother Nature is capable of.
We didn’t do this, however, there is an option to see Piedra and the surrounding region by helicopter. There are signs for tours everywhere, should you want to get a bird’s eye view of the rock.
A Day in Guatape
After we were all rocked-out, we hopped back in the car and rode to the nearby town of Guatape. They have a couple of massive parking lots in the town, so parking is not an issue.
Guatape is a small, charming town with colorful buildings that line the cobbled streets. Shop around or grab some meringue (the town’s specialty) as you make your way through the town. Be sure to visit the central Plaza for a bite of some local, Colombian food (such as the grilled trout). While Guatape has grown in tourism over the years, we found it to be very authentic. The people are kind and the whole town as a relaxed, calm atmosphere that is perfect for spending an afternoon.
Enjoy the Water
Those emerald-green waters are great for exploring! In Guatape, you can rent jet skis, kayaks, and boat tours. If you kayak or jet ski, you can even cruise to La Manela, one of Pablo Escobar’s old mansions. It’s technically off-limits for tours on foot, but if you swim up to it, the rules are a bit murkier.
We decided to rent kayaks from one of the hotels along the road on our way out of Guatape. It cost us 25.000 COP (about 7 dollars) for a double kayak for one hour. There are also several water recreation areas with inflatables and water trampolines. We wanted to do this but they were shutting down for the day.
We returned to Medellin that evening just in time to drop off the car before the rental place closed. We were tired, tan, but so completely happy that we decided to take the day trip ourselves, rather than with a tour. Not only was it totally doable, but it was less expensive and more fun!