About 80 kilometers to the east of Medellin lies the town of Guatape, a small resort town frequented by paisas on weekends. Guatape sits on the edge of a giant lake that formed after the installation of a hydroelectric dam. The lake is popular for jet skiing, fishing, and boating. Guatape itself is a great weekend getaway if you are staying for an extended period in Medellin.
But what you’ll find in between Guatape and Medellin may be the most interesting: “El Penon” or “La Piedra.” La Piedra is part tourist trap and part natural wonder. Essentially, it is a giant 220 meter rock that thrusts its way out of the top of a hill a few kilometers west of Guatape.
At the base, you’ll find a variety of restaurants and tourist vendors. And attached to the rock is a scary set of uneven, slippery, sometimes extremely narrow, and moderately dangerous steps that permit you to scale this national monument. While climbing, you definitely get the sense that no real safety standards were considered when constructing these steps.
If you are in poor shape, have bad knees, or generally feel like you couldn’t handle essentially climbing a 60 story building at 7,000 foot altitude, just admire it from the bottom. Trust us, just the view from the parking lot is what postcards are made of.
But if you do make it to the top, you’ll find a tremendous view and plenty of vendors willing to sell you a cold beer to enjoy. Just don’t drink very many, because the walk down is just as treacherous.
How to get to La Piedra from Medellin:
- Go to Medellin’s Northern Bus Terminal (Terminal de Norte). If you’re taking the metro, get off at Caribe Station and walk across the pedestrian bridge.
- We purchased our bus tickets with Sotrasanvicente (counter 14). There is no need to purchase online, simply walk up to the counter and let them know that you’re going to the rock (“Voy a La Piedra. Necesito un boleto.”). You can let them know what time you’d like to leave (buses leave every 20 minutes) or ask for el próximo autobús (“the next bus”).
- Note that there are three stops that you can get off on. I’ve listed the current ticket costs below, however please check Sotrasanvicente’s website for the latest prices :
- El Penol (COP$11.000): The town of El Penol
- La Piedra (COP$13.000): If you want to climb the rock immediately, get off at this spot – it’ll be at a gas station and you’ll see the stairs that you want to climb.
- Guatape (COP$14.000): You may want to come to Guatape first in order to grab a bite to eat or check-in to your hotel.
- The bus ride is about 2 hours, and is quite scenic. Quick warning, bus drivers drive hard and fast here. Try not to look at the window too much if you tend to get carsick.
How to get to La Piedra from the bus stop:
Once you are dropped off at the “La Piedra” stop, take the stairs behind the gas station. The stairs are also right next to a bathroom. These stairs are quite steep and it will take you up about 20-25 minutes to even reach the base of La Piedra. If you want the workout, go for it! About halfway into our climb, we saw a parking lot above us and we realized we probably could have hired a tuk tuk to take us to the base.
- Once you reach the base of La Piedra, purchase your ticket (COP$18.000) and begin your climb!
How to get to Guatape from La Piedra:
- We walked back to where the bus dropped us off (at the bus station at the base of the stairs) and there were a number of tuk tuks available. Simply let them know where in Guatape you’d like to be dropped off and off you go!
How to get from Guatape to Medellin: