Located just 2 hours from Medellin, Guatapé is a beautiful, sleepy little town on the banks of a large reservoir created by the Colombian government in the 1960’s for a hydro-electric dam. On the weekends the town swells with visitors, I assume mostly from Medellin, and the lake front bustles with vendors selling booze, food, and crafts. There are rides for the kids, a zip line across the lake shore, and countless boat tours out onto the lake to see the ruins of Pablo Escobar’s old estate, bombed by the Cali Cartel in the early 90’s and now used as a paintball field, the steeple that rises from the water – the only evidence that a town once sat where the lake sits today, and El Peñol, a 1,200ft tall monolithic rock formation just outside of town.
We arrived on Sunday and after spending our first afternoon just lazily walking around town we decided to get out the next morning and take in the view from the top of El Peñol. There are some 650 steps built into the side of it allowing “easy” access to the top where you’ll find a snack bar and gift shop and another 100 steps to the top of the building for the best view of the surrounding lake. The view from the top is truly incredible and we spent an hour or so just soaking it in and enjoying the beautiful morning.
Once we were back in town we discovered that Guatapé is truly a weekend town. The waterfront was mostly silent. There were no vendors, few boat tours, and the zip line was closed. After having spent the previous 5 nights in Medellin we didn’t mind the silence and welcomed the opportunity to just relax and enjoy the colorful little town. Other than the previously mentioned attractions, Guatapé is known for its zócalos, colorful tiles that adorn most of the houses and businesses in town, many of them representing the trade or beliefs of the owner.
We intended to rent kayaks on Tuesday, our last full day, but it looked like it would storm that morning so we decided not to. It never did rain and by afternoon the skies were clear so we decided to take one of the few boat tours running during the week as we really wanted to see Escobar’s old place and I wanted to photograph the steeple in the lake. We chose our boat tour poorly and ended up on a senior citizen party boat. It was still enjoyable and we did at least get to see El Peñol from the lake as well as a bunch of elderly people dancing and drinking Aguardiente. One of the grandpas even pulled Angela on the dance floor for some salsa dancing (unfortunately, I didn’t get a video of it).
After 30 minutes the boat turned around. No steeple or Escobar estate for me. That’s okay, I have a feeling we’ll be back one day. I’ll see them next time.