Famed for its colourful houses decorated with bas-reliefs, Guatape is an Andean resort town in Colombia’s north-west. It lies alongside the vast Peñol-Guatape Reservoir, created by a hydroelectric dam in the late 1960s and now a popular destination for water and recreational sports.
Guatape is affectionately known as the “Pueblo de Zócalos” for the beautiful depictions of village life which adorn many of the buildings in its cobblestoned town centre. It’s a popular weekend destination for Medellinos who come to wander along the waterfront Malecon where market stalls sell local food and handicrafts, as well as take to the waters of the Peñol-Guatape Reservoir. The Cable Vuelo zip-line offers incredible views over the lake, while boat tours explore the former town of Viejo Peñol which was submerged during the reservoir’s creation and is now marked by a giant cross. Pablo Escobar’s now derelict and graffiti-covered lakeside mansion, La Manuela, also stands on the edge of the lake, while the picturesque Fantasy Island nestles in its centre, offering magnificent views from its swimming beaches. The area’s most famous attraction is the 200-metre high rock outcrop, Piedra del Peñol, which is known locally as La Piedra “The Stone”. More than 600 stairs lead up this natural wonder to a viewpoint offering panoramas across the town and lake. Other landmarks of note in Guatape include the “Calle Del Recuerdo” which was the only street to survive when the town was flooded to create the reservoir, as well as the beautiful Parish Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen.
There are direct buses available from Medellin to Guatape, with many continuing to San Rafael. Both buses and jeeps are the main means of getting around Guatape and to Piedra del Peñol, as well as moto-taxis which are readily available.
The name “Guatape” refers to a cacique who controlled many of the indigenous ethnic groups which inhabited the region prior to the arrival of Iberian conquistadors in the 16th century. The town was officially founded in 1811 by the Spaniard Don Francisco Giraldo y Jimenez, with agricultural, livestock and mining among its major industries. In the late 1960s, the hydroelectric complex was built and transformed the town into one of the most important electric production centres in Colombia.
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