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The Colorful Pueblo of Guatape

The people living in Colombia's big cities, including Bogota, Medellin and Cali love to get away from their concrete jungles whenever possible.

The colorfully painted panels of Guatape.

Weekends and holidays are all reason enough for them to visit nearby pueblos, usually no more than an hour or two away by car or bus. Weekend homes in these pueblos are called fincas, and if you're lucky enough to be invited to stay in one by a Colombian -- go!

On one such occasion, my friend Troy and I accepted an invitation to Guatape, a popular weekend destination for paisas. Carrying toiletries and a change of clothes in a daypack, we paid no more than $10 for a one-way bus ticket.

We left on a Friday afternoon, with the bus ride lasted around two hours.  The Colombian woman seated next to me was a real estate broker in Medellin, who said she made the trip to Guatape every weekend.

Rolling hills surrounded by lakes create picturesque views.

As we neared Guatape, the landscape turned into rolling hills, with small lakes surrounding them.

Geographically, I hadn't seen anything like it before. The bus dropped us off in Guatape's central plaza, which was bustling with the usual mix of people, motorbikes, cars and buses.  Unlike the big cities, there were also motorized rickshaws.

I immediately had flashbacks to Thailand and Cambodia, though my first ride in one was actually in Flores, Guatemala way back in 2006.

We dropped off our bags at the friends' apartment, and grabbed a few beers and arepas con queso in the main plaza.

People continued to arrive via bus as it got dark, including another friend joining us for the weekend. In the evening, the four of us went out dancing at a small bar.  It was crowded, however we managed to get a table in a back corner, where a speaker was in perfect position to blast us with popular salsa and reggaeton songs.

Around 11 pm, several police walked into the bar, and an announcement was made, followed suddenly by a mass exodus of people.  Apparently the message was that kids under 18 needed to leave!

There must be a local ordinance, because the following night at the town's larger discoteca, the same thing happened.  Whatever the reason, it left more room for the adults.

On Saturday, we awoke to beautiful blue skies.  While walking along the lake, we were approached by several guides selling boat tours.

At the mention of Escobar's farm, I knew we'd be getting on one of those boats to visit the vacation homes of Pablo Escobar. Other lakeside activities include a fairly long zipline and renting jetskis.

A tuk-tuk parked outside Guatape's main church.

The rest of Saturday afternoon was spent walking around Guatape -- it's not large, however it's very idyllic, and as such, lends itself well to leisurely walks.

There was a popular game being played in a tent across the street from the church.  One of my favorite parts of the pueblo was the variety of panel art on the facades of homes and businesses, each depicting unique aspects of the regional geography, culture and lifestyle.

Saturday night, we found ourselves in a larger discoteca more reminiscent of what you'd find in the big cities.  In fact, it's safe to say a lot of the kids in there drinking and dancing that night were from Medellin.

Bandeja con Pollo is a traditional Antioquian dish.

Sunday afternoon was spent visiting El Penol, a monolith in a nearby town by the same name, and then we caught the bus back to Medellin, just as the sun was going down.

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Yulis Monday, 18 June 2012

Hi . I'm visiting Medellin & would like to visit guatape . Where do I take the bus from ? And are there cheap hotels to stay the night or should I return to Medellin the same day ?

Andres Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Hi Yulis u take the bus on the Terminal del Norte.. ( u can arrive in metro to the terminal. ) after take the bus with SOTRAPEÑOL or SOTRASANVICENTE - GUATAPE LA PIEDRA (12.000 pesos- 5-6 usd) :D Enjoy the trip.
u can climb the stone ( 5 usd)
I was the last wekend.. you must go to Comfama Park "la culebra" is cheap and u can pratice canopy and water sports is near to Guatapé and after visit the village, the Malecón and use sun block..Greetings from Medellin and Welcome to Colombia and Medellin ;)

David Lee
David Lee
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David Lee Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Hi Yulis. To get the bus to Guatape, you'll want to go to the Terminal del Norte (northern bus terminal). It's connected by a bridge over the highway to the metro -- just get off at the Caribe stop. Or you can take a taxi.

Yes, there's cheap accommodation in Guatape. As with most pueblos, the prices are higher on the weekends (Friday - Sunday) when Colombians leave the cities too. The bus will let you off in the main plaza, and you can usually find plenty of accommodation within a block or two in any direction.

Have fun!

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