From Medellin to La Piedra and Guatape
The main reason people choose to jump on a 2 hour bus journey from bustling Medellin to the colorful pueblo of Guatape is for it’s main tourist attraction: La Piedra del Penol – “the stone of El Penol” or “the rock of Guatape”. Towering 1263ft. above the ground and 7005ft. above sea level, La Piedra is truly enormous. After putting off my visit to La Piedra for a solid week (Medellin has great nightlife that I couldn’t help but experience for myself. Unfortunately, this meant that I continued to be too tired for the prospect of climbing up 740 stairs the next morning) I finally woke up on Saturday morning ready to go.
To reach Guatape you need to take the metro to Medellin’s Caribe station. From there, walk over the bridge into the bus terminal. If, like me, you are stumbling through each day on no spanish and little more than a miracle, just look for a teller that has a sign for Guatape. The ticket should cost you roughly $13,000 COP (about $5 CAD) and the bus will take you directly to the stop for La Piedra.
Be prepared for men on mototaxis and tuk tuks bombaring you as soon as your sandals hit the pavement, offering you a ride to the beginning of the steps of La Piedra. You can definitely choose to do this or you can grab a snack and some extra water at the little shop on the side of the road, find the concrete steps beside the bathrooms and make the trek uphill for free. I couldn’t tell you how long the walk uphill was because I kept stopping to take photos of the view (while secretly taking a minute to catch my breath) but it’s a nice little warmup for the 740 stairs you’re about to climb up anyways.
The entrance fee to climb up to the view is something like $15,000 COP and then you’re free to begin climbing up the man-made steps installed into a crevice in the side of the rock. These 740 steps (have I mentioned that already?) zig-zag all the way up to the very top of the lookout tower and I saw people of all fitness levels making the climb, stopping every so often to take a breath and snap some photos of the view below. Trust me, the walk to the top is absolutely worth it – La Piedra has one of the most breathtaking 360 degree panoramic views I have ever seen. But please, wear appropriate footwear. I did the entire thing in a pair of $3 Walmart flip flops and was fine but most people had running shoes or comfy sandals on.
Once you reach the top you can reward yourself with a cold beer, some food, or simply by chilling out and marveling at the scenery around you. I went to La Piedra on a Saturday and was expecting the crowd at the top to be much worse than it was but I suppose if you choose to do an organized tour you might expect more people.
When you’ve had your fill of the scenery, make your way back down the stairs and grab a tuk-tuk to spend the rest of the day in Guatape You can’t go wrong with anything in Guatape – from the boat tours on the lake, the zip-line over the water, the cheap pedicures that you can find in some of the smaller side streets (I paid only $11,000 COP for a full pedicure), tasting the local food or just wandering around admiring the charm of the little town. Had I known, I would have spent a night in Guatape rather than just the day.