Having limited time in Medellin, we decided to book a full day tour to the colorful town of Guatape. We booked the Viator tour that was $30USD each, and totally worth the money. We started our day by meeting in Parque del Poblado plaza, which was a quick walk from our hostel, and then stopped to pick up the rest of our tour group at Hotel Nutibara. While we waited for the rest to load on the bus, we were given about 20 minutes to wander around Botero Plaza to see all the Botero Statues.
From there, we drove about 45 minutes to our first pit stop, which was a tiny cafe that served us Aguapanela, or sugarcane tea, and a traditional arepa with a slab of salty homemade farm cheese.
The next stop was a small town called Marinilla, where we were given a tour of the town square and local historical sites. The town had a huge town center with many people around and a beautiful white cathedral.
The next stop was Penol Rock, where you climb over 600 steps to the top of the giant rock. At the top, you can wander around and take pictures, have a beer from the bar, or shop for souvenirs. The climb is beautiful and the view from the top is amazing. There are hundreds of little islets in the bright, blue water down below. At the bottom of the rock, there are plenty of restaurants and shops selling souvenirs. Though the place is pretty toursity, it is definitely one of the best views in all of Colombia, and worth the trip. Our tour did not include the $18,000 pesos ($5.50 USD) entrance fee, but the fee was worth the nicely maintained stairs and facilities.
We loaded back on the bus and headed to our lunch stop. Lunch was included in our tour, which was one of the reasons we picked it. We had the opportunity to try the local cuisine of Bandeja Paisa, which is essentially a giant platter of meat. Our plate consisted of sausages, ground meat, rice and beans, a fried egg, avocado, plantains and an arepa. We tried to takedown this calorie-filled cuisine, but were unable to finish the whole thing.
Finally, we started our tour of the town of Guatape. The town is made up of colorful houses and a bright town plaza. Each house has their own colorful zocalos on it, which a picture depictions showing who lives there. The pictures might express your occupation or interests (example: blacksmith, baker, boat enthusiast, gardener). You can spend hours wandering through the cobblestone streets and admiring the artwork and colors on all the house.
Even though we were still full from our lunch, we had to try a few treats while wandering around the town. In the main plaza, there is storefront that sells fresh baked cinnamon rolls. We also wandered into Ice Cream Colossus to try Salpicon de Frutas, which is essentially a fruit cocktail with sparkling soda, condensed milk and ice cream. Ours was filled with papaya, pineapple, apples and bananas.
The whole day was worth the $30, and the bus ride home was quiet and relaxing, as everyone was so tuckered out that many people just slept on the way home. We made it back by the evening, in time for dinner and, if you wanted, a night out on the town.