While doing research for this trip, I read two travel blogs that said we’d be making a huge mistake by coming to Medellin and not doing a day trip to Guatape, a small town located about two hours east of Medellin and has about 6,000 people. It is known for la Piedra de Penol, or the Penol Rock, which has 740 steps to get to the top, from which you can see incredible views of the massive (man-made) lake below and all of the little “inlets” and “islands” within it. 740 steps doesn’t sound like much… until you do it and are doing it on an incline. It definitely felt a bit rough, probably also for us with the difference in altitude. But the views alone were worth that moderate hike. I kept staring at the turquoise-teal waters and the bright green trees and shrubs everywhere, wondering how something this stunning was actually right before us. More people need to come here, I thought. How can a place as gorgeous as this only have had two travel blogs that I found mention it?! Most of the tourists who were climbing with us seemed to be local Colombians (or maybe traveling from other South American countries, as they were mostly speaking Spanish).
As a town, Guatape is known to be the most colorful town in all of Colombia, if not the world. The houses and shops are all lined with “zocalos,” or little rectangular friezes that are painted in bright colors, often decorated with something that family is known for (e.g. florists have orchids painted on theirs, bakers have breads and pastries) or that the family likes. When walking up and down the streets, it’s almost like a play land of color everywhere. I felt like all I did was go house to house, taking photos of everyone’s gorgeous and vibrant zocalos! The colors were overwhelming. After visiting a place as vibrant and brightly colored as this, almost every other place will seem dull and plain in comparison. Walking up and down the streets and stairs and hills, I felt like this was one of the cutest, quaintest, most charming little towns we’ve ever visited. And of course, we had delicious local food there, from the pan de queso made with local farmer’s cheese, to the local trout grilled and smothered in garlic, to the sancocho, or old hen’s chicken soup. We also had refajao for the first time, which is a mix of local beer, soda, and juice, and enjoyed our very first freshly squeezed passion fruit juice of this trip, so fresh that a thick layer of froth awaited us on the top of the glass.
Chris originally wondered whether we were really giving ourselves enough time to see Medellin if we were dedicating nearly a whole day for this trip to Guatape, as visiting Guatape would really mean we’d have only one full, proper day to see Medellin. But every minute of today I loved, and I have zero regrets for planning this excursion. This was already one of the biggest highlights of this trip — a “highlight” literally because of how bright it was there.