We just spent ten days in Guatape, a tiny lakeside pueblo two hours east of Medellin. We arrived in town expecting to stay for two nights but fell in love with the place could not leave. Here are ten reasons why we love Guatape.
1. The people
The people of Guatape and warm, hospitable and very friendly. Although only a few foreign tourists visit the tiny pueblo the locals are extremely open to outsiders. Like anywhere in Colombia people like to take their time and rarely express any desire to hurry or stress in anyway. Men wearing cowboys hats, boots and saddle bags can usually be seen filling up the small pool hall during mid afternoon while women selling empanadas gather on street corners together to talk.
2. The lake
Gutape sits on a beautiful lake surrounded by lush green mountains. The lake runs parallel to the town's main road and is lined with many boats, kids rides and even a zip line. Street vendors converge on the rivers edge especially on weekends, when the town is usually a hive of energy. We had some very relaxing afternoons kayaking and fishing on the tranquil lake.
Zocalos, or panel art has been painted on the facade of every house and business in Guatape. The colourful artwork characterises the rural lifestyles, unique cultue and some personal stories about Guatape and its people. We questioned a local about the house with giraffes painted on it. She told us that the tallest family in Guatape lives in this house.
4. El Penol
Most tourists come to town to climb El Penon, a huge rock which looms over the little town. The 220m high stone which was once worshiped by native Tahamies Indians is the second biggest rock in the world behind Ayes Rock. We rode bikes down the country road to the base of the rock and then climbed the 649-step staircase to the top. The view from the top of El Penon was amazing, we could see not only Guatape but a series of lakes and islands rolling hills surrounding the Pueblo.
5. Bike ride to San Rafael
After a couple of lazy days we decided to ride from Guatape to the neighbouring town of San Rafael. The 26km ride to San Rafael was beautiful, at first the landscape was quite flat as we past lakes and green fields. After a little while the road became extremely steep as we flew down the windy mountain road. A decade ago this area was not accessible due to FARC presence and road blocks. These days the beautiful area is peaceful and people can once again focus on enjoying their lives.
6. Tuk tuks
A ride in a tuk tuk is always a fun experience, especially when there is salsa music.
7. Bridge Jumping
Lucky celebrated his 24th birthday in Guatape. At the stroke of midnight Lucky and our friend Alex jumped from the Guatape Bridge into the lake. We were really lucky to be able to celebrate his birthday with some great new friends.
8. Lake View Hostel
Lake View is an amazing little hostel which sits right on the lake facing town. The hostel is one big happy family and we made some great friends there. While we were there we celebrated a couple of occasions including Luckys birthday, Thanksgiving, and had a delicious Arabic feast. We also learnt the art of bracelet making from fellow travellers.
9. Horse riding
Being a country town there is a strong love for horses in Gutape. We hired horses and rode up to a silent monastery in the mountains.
10. Army men let you hold their guns