GUATAPE, COLOMBIA: Eat + Sleep + Play

It’s easy to see why people love Guatape so much. And, Colombians LOVE Guatape (they always want to know if you’ve visited and what you thought of it). The tiny town is brimming with color and character (and brimming with folks from Medellin on the weekends!).

In the 1960s/70s, the Colombian government flooded some fields to make way for a hydro-electric dam, making Guatape lakefront property.

There’s not too much to do in Guatape other than eat, ride on boats and climb a (very) big rock (740 steps to the top!). But if you spend only a few days here, you’ll quickly see it’s more than that: the restaurant owners come sit at the table and chat with you and kids at the park run back home to get more snacks to share. We loved making it our home for a small time. There’s a small town feel here that you miss in big cities like Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena.

Luckily, there was a park with a slide right near our Airbnb and an ice cream shop (or 5) right next to that so if you’re wondering what we did with our time… that’s what we did all day every day. Probably should have climbed that big rock more than just once.

EAT

  • La Fogata: A very typical restaurant in Guatape (and, for that matter, Colombia), the grilled meats are heavy on the menu and a solid choice. But La Fogata has delicious food and great views of the lake, so we ate here not once but twice during our stay in Guatape. Fantastic food, great service and a fun atmosphere with plenty of people having fun — and easy to find on the main street.
  • Healthy food options at El Patito Modosito (The Snuggly Duckling): although it’s a bit pricy for Colombian standards, this place has delicious international food options, including salads and even seafood risotto. A great break from typical Colombian fare.
  • Sunset drinks on the lake … on a boat: Just as you turn onto the main street that snakes by the lakefront, several boats have turned themselves into dive bars, of sorts. We started off our date night here with great views. Just be careful and don’t drink too much: the way back up to the banks can be a bit dicy with all the sand bags!
  • Dinner at Casa Cuba: OK, this place is amazing. The owners, Oscar and his wife, make you feel exceptionally welcome from the moment you walk in the door. Oscar sits down at your table and chats with you and, by the time you leave, you feel like you’ve known them for years. Plus: the food and drinks are delightfully delicious. This place is a must do when in Guatape. (Plus, it’s located just outside the “main” town, so a quick 10 minute walk to an area you probably wouldn’t see otherwise.)
  • Plaza Zocolo may not be the beating heart of Guatape (that’s Parque Principal de Guatapé), but the nearby Plaza Zocolo truly takes the cake for the most colorful corner of the most colorful town. There’s several coffee shops along the square so grab a seat and take in the views.

SLEEP

Hurry! Head immediately to Airbnb and book Casa Dodo for your stay in Guatape. This is one of our best Airbnb experiences to date: excellent lodging (brand new renovation as of 2020), perfect location (one of the only places where your balcony view includes water + the rock) and the most hospitable hosts.

Valery and Javier live upstairs and have 2 Airbnb apartments below. From Javier picking us up from the Medellin airport to the kids having little wrapped gifts just for them upon our arrival, their hospitality was unmatched. Valery was ready with fantastic suggestions to make our stay in Guatape better than we could have imagined: she helped us find a babysitter + sent us to an amazing restaurant (Casa Cuba!!) for a much-appreciated date night.

We cannot recommend this Airbnb highly enough. It really made our stay in Guatape 10x better than if we’d stayed anywhere else.

PLAY

  • Boat rides are ubiquitous in Guatape. The hardest part is deciding if you want to go on a small + private speed boat (roughly ~$60/hour) or a larger, tourist boat (~$8/adult). Because we’re traveling with two little ones, we opted for the larger tourist boat (it even had baby life jackets!!) and we spent 1 hour floating around. Smaller speedboats will, of course, cover more “ground” and you can even see the spire from the church that was flooded when they made the dam.
  • Climb the rock (Piedra del Peñol), of course! Hail a tuk-tuk from town and for 10,000 COP (~$2.80 USD) they’ll drop you off at the base of the rock. Climbing the rock will take anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 (2-year-olds have short legs!) and you can relax at the top with spectacular views and a coffee or ice cream. Tuk-tuks are at the base of the rock so you can grab one for your ride back (or walk ~45 min back into town). This is obviously the highlight of a trip to Guatape.
  • If you’re really down for playing, Guatape has a brand new playground on the main road and waterfront that is perfect for kids. During the week we were in Gutape, we spent hours at this playground each day: plus, there’s multiple ice cream shops within a 3 minute walk so… win/win!

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