Guatapé: An Andean Mountain Getaway
Less than two hours from Medellin, it’s situated in the Eastern Highlands of Antioquia.
And has become one of the most popular day trips for both travelers and locals alike.
The bus seemed like a crapshoot, but it’s in fact tremendously reliable. Emblematic of all of public transportation in the country.
A bus monitor of sorts manages the oncoming and departing locals along the way.
We caught glimpses of lush beauty en route, when I could open my eyes during the rickety ride. Not ideal for those prone to motion sickness.
Guatapé is situated on a sizable, winding artificial lake.
Apart from being a quick getaway, it’s known for the fresco-like decorations of traditional houses.
The brightly painted walls portray detailed rural scenes and more ambiguous geometric shapes.
We stayed at the Mi Casa Guatapé Hostel—our last hostel experience of the year! And it was a good one.
The small hostel is run by a couple and felt more like a homestay,.
For about $70,000 pesos, or $22 USD per night for a private room, we were treated to stunning views of the lake from our back patio.
Next door, we found a surprise gem of a restaurant, Restaurante La Mona.
For less than four dollars, you can choose from set meals with a meat, plantains, arepas, soup, salad, rice or potatoes. It was all delicious., and quickly became our go-to spot to eat.
Our hostel was slightly outside of town, which is what we were looking for. Guatapé is beautiful, but everyone knows about it, and thus can feel touristy.
We were slightly over a mile away along the main road, which felt dicey without a sidewalk.
Naturally, there were alternative paths setup to cross the main road.
Walking into town put the colorful Guatapé into context.
The town is surrounded by high green hills, and filled with small little islands.
Hovering over the town is La Piedra, or The Rock.
It’s a massive monolith tower in the countryside right outside of Guatapé.
Guatapé is in many ways felt like a small town, and thus had a cohesive identity that I felt was more difficult to find in a larger city, such as Medellin.
Despite it’s popularity, Guatapé had distinct character, and felt emblematic of the surrounding region.
The town itself isn’t big, but lively in both color and in spirit.
In the main, cheery Zocalos Plaza, you can find plenty of trinkets for sale and loads of - very good - coffee shops.
And stands with local delicacies. I could never not get the mango dipped in chili and lime each time we passed it. I was addicted.
There was also a tremendous amount of history.
We learned mostly from looking at the zocalos, or plinths, known for their paintings of traditional local scenes.
You can practically learn the history of the town simply by walking around.
That first evening, we went to a surprisingly delicious Thai restaurant that we heard rave reviews, Thai Terrace. In addition to the view of the lake, the curry was a needed change up from the heavy, meat centric Colombian fare.
The following day, we woke up ready to adventure.
After a few wrong turns (re: nearly an hour of wrong turns) we were off!
We used the rock as a sort of north star from that point on.
There’s an older, unpaved road that used to be the only way to get into town. It’s almost eight miles.
Will stopped to answer a few work emails along the way, as he does.
Sometimes failing to share that no, he wasn’t at his desk.
But mostly, we talked about reality when we got back to the States. We chatted about what we feared and what we looked forward to.
We talk about always prioritizing travel, but looking forward to settling.
We talked about how lucky we were to experience this year together.
Once we started seeing a colorful house or two, we knew we couldn’t be far.
We reached town very ready for lunch, as we exhausted our last reserve of packaged peanuts.
We found the cutest restaurant along the bank, Namaste Cafe. And after lunch, we ensured our blood sugar was back up with some sundaes.
It was around 4 p.m. at this point, and though it seemed crazy, we decided to walk back.
The scenery was stunning. The company and conversation was great. Why not keep it going?
Although we tried to beat it, the sun inevitably set.
Fortunately, Colombians eat late, and our favorite restaurant was open by the time we reached our hostel.
Our last morning was overcast. Not knowing the next time we’d be by a body of water, we decided to take out a kayak.
It can get seriously disorienting on the water, but the rock helped us navigate again.
It felt like a suiting way to cap off our time in Guatapé.
Before hopping on the bus back to Medellín, we had one last meal at our restaurant.
We ordered the only thing they serve for breakfast: scrambled eggs, cheese, and an arepa.
Guatapé was awesome. It certainly lived up to our expectations, though we did make it our own.
That being said, in many ways, it felt bittersweet. We were heading back to Medellín with the knowledge that it was our last week. Our last full week of the year away.