The picturesque town of Guatape, situated two hours from Medellin, offers visitors a chance to kick back and relax while exploring its flooded playground.
In the 1970’s the government decided to flood 5600 acres of hilly landscape to create a hydroelectric dam. The strategy worked and today the dam powers around 36% of Colombia’s electricity, while in the meantime creating some of the most spectacular landscapes you will see in the country.
The best view of this incredible landscape is from the top of La Piedra del Peñol, a monolithic presence that appears out of nowhere. The 600 steps up are enough to work off the arepas and hot chocolate you had for breakfast, and the view is good enough to make you forget the 600 steps. You can grab a cold beer at the top and breathe in the fresh air while enjoying the view.
Densely covered islands pop out of the weaving crystal water and tiny houses perch on peninsulas and lush hilltops. Deserted islands look seductive enough to make you consider emptying out your savings to purchase one.
From the rock you can take a local chivas bus back to town and wander through the colorful streets and peaceful squares. Guatape is known as “the town of Zocalos” due to the beautifully carved and brightly painted 3D motifs of village life that adorn the bottom of almost every building in the historic city center. Don’t miss visiting Calle del Recuerdo (Memory Street), a quaint avenue that was built as a replica of the main street in Old Guatape before it was inundated.
On weekends the waterside promenade is filled with locals selling home made goodies such as empanadas, cakes and jewellery. It is here you can take part in one of the many water sports on offer such as jet skiing, paddle boating and water skiing or climb onboard a cruise boat for a tour of the intricate coves and bays.
The Lake View hostel, a few minutes walk from town offers affordable accommodation and can organize boat tours to visit local sites such as Pablo Escobar’s country house, the local history museum and the site of the now-submerged Old Guatape town. They also offer hiking tours, horse back riding and fishing trips.
Due to the heavy rains that have hit the country over the past year, the lake is at record levels. This has created an incredible man made waterfall at the site where water is released from the dam, with water being pushed out through tunnels and shoots off the concrete slope like a canon, creating a powerful waterfall. This rare sight can only be seen by taking a boat trip across the lake to the drop site.
To get to Guatape, you can take a bus from the Medellin north bus terminal. The bus costs COP11,000 ($6) and leaves hourly.