After our stop at El Peñol, we were taken a few minutes down the road to the colorful town of Guatapé. We had a delicious lunch at a traditional Colombian restaurant serving fish and grilled meats at very reasonable prices.
We then had some time to walk around the town, which is known for its zócalos (colorful panels) lining the bottom of each building.
Some of the zócalos are simple geometric figures while others portray Antioquian life. Generally, when you see zócalos on a house, they depict the occupation of the owner of the house. You’ll see farmers, jeep drivers, carpenters, musicians, and more.
Others portray real life townspeople, including the mayor who delivered on his promise to put zócalos on every building in town. He made it a requirement for every building to have zócalos. This served several purposes, including beautifying the town, increasing town pride, and driving more tourism to Guatapé.
Even the church has zócalos, but it’s also worth popping inside to see the gorgeous wooden interior.
For COP$12,000 (as of July 2017) you can hire a tuk-tuk from Guatapé’s plaza and get a tour around town. The driver will tell you the town’s history and take you to some of the best zócalos, allowing time to stop and take photos. One drawback – it’s all in Spanish.
Calle del Recuerdo
Part of the town of Guatapé was also submerged with the creation of the lake, and one street in particular was dedicated to preserving the zócalos that were salvaged from that part of town before its demolition. The Calle del Recuerdo is only a couple blocks from the plaza.
Walking Around Guatapé
Wander around the streets within a couple blocks of the plaza and you’ll have a wonderful fill of zócalos and colorful buildings. One small block, Plazoleta de los Zócalos, has been designated for souvenir shops, and there are a couple of cafés to enjoy.
Along the lake, there’s a nice touristic walkway where you can jump on a small boat for a short cruise. The larger boats were suspended due to the terrible accident in June 2017 in which nine people were killed. During my visit, the boat was behind police tape on the other side of the lake.
For the more adventurous type, it’s possible to do zip lining across one of the legs of the lake. There are zip lines for one or multiple people and it looked like the people were having a lot of fun.
Doing El Peñol and Guatapé by public transportation is possible at a very low cost, but to save yourself the hassle of missing buses and to have a thorough explanation of the area, I highly recommend hiring Andrés and LandVenture Travel for this tour.
If you choose to do the tour by bus, buses leave from Terminal del Norte in Medellín. It’s connected to the Caribe metro stop. Once in Guatapé, you can hire a tuk-tuk to take you to El Peñol, which is only a few minutes down the road.
If you hire a car, there are plenty of places to park in Guatapé.